Someone once told me "once you've held the D1 you won't want any other digital SLR", and I have to agree it's probably the first thing you notice, super solid construction.Formed from what feels like a solid slab of magnesium alloy it weighs in at a hefty 1.1 kg (2.5 lbs) without a lens or batteries. That weight though is reassuring, you know you're using a professional tool which was designed and built to be used in a wide variety of environments.
Many parts of the D1 bear more than a passing resemblance to other members of the Nikon SLR family such as the F5 and F100. Indeed when I was first introduced to the D1 I was told that its design was half F5 and half F100 (it's difficult to see which halves, but sufficient to say strength wise it's closer to the F5).
The hand grip is chunky and well shaped, hugging the inside of your palm and with enough depth to grip well right up to your fingertips, almost the entire front of the camera is covered in rubber as well as the rear compact flash compartment door which doubles as a thumb grip. As the D1 has a portrait grip built into it there's a second shutter release and command wheel on the base of the camera. This makes the whole camera appear almost square from head-on and, probably, adds to its overall resistance to knocks.
In your hand it feels like the ultimate photography tool. Balanced perfectly and with that excellent grip it's unlikely that you could ever really complain about the job Nikon have done with the D1's build and design. Construction Quality is second to none, there's simply no other digital SLR on the market (at the time of writing this review) which can rival the D1's design, balance and build quality.
Here's a size comparison of the D1 beside the only other "own brand" digital SLR currently available, Canon's EOS-D30 (at the time of writing this review).
Rear LCD Display
Rear LCD Cover
The D1 comes supplied with a plastic clip-on cover to protect the surface of the LCD from scratches. An intelligent decision which begs the question "why wasn't it clear?". Never fear, after market products are here! The Hoodcap from Hoodman is a clear replacement for Nikon's standard cover, and appears to work quite well.
Top Information LCD
The top LCD on the D1 provides a multitude of information from camera exposure details and settings to storage card, battery and connectivity information. Many of the elements of the display are reused in different modes (eg. for displaying simple text messages).
Details of display below.
Logically, all of the details (apart from current frame and card activity) on the top information LCD are related with the photographic features of the camera (exposure modes etc.), details of "digital" settings are found on the rear control panel LCD (below).
Rear Control Panel LCD
Multi-Function Display, depending on mode and buttons pressed this read-out may display: Number of Exposures Remaining / ISO Sensitivity / File Type / Custom Setting number & value