Anyone who has seen or used the F80 (N80) will find the D100's appearance very familiar. Indeed it appears as though much of the camera design and layout was based on the F80. The single most obvious difference is in the camera's height, where the F80 finishes just below the lens mount the D100 has approximately an additional 20 mm (0.8 in) of body. The D100 has all the echoes of a modern Nikon SLR, good clean design with plenty of functional control. Nikon have this ability to produce modern SLR's which still have the control appeal of a full manual camera.
The D100 is a camera which feels 'just right' in your hand, the hand grip size is almost perfect with a good sticky rubber coating. Overall weight balance is very good, the camera feels relatively light but solid and can easily be shot with one hand. Adding the optional battery pack / portrait grip gives you the option to shoot vertically as well as adding extra battery power, a remote jack, speaker and mic for voice recording. Overall I preferred the way the D100 feels compared to the EOS-D60.
Here we can see the two cameras which, for some buyers at least, will be going head-to-head. On the left Nikon's six megapixel D100 with its modern design and yet 'manual appeal'. On the right Canon's six megapixel D60, a proven camera design but now slightly lacking in the tactile control feel of the D100. Although you would think there is more in it the D100 is just 9 mm (0.4 in) taller than the D60, the higher position of the Nikon lens mount perhaps making the D100 seem taller than it is.
The D100 has a sharp and bright 118,000 pixel 1.8" LCD monitor. This provides image review and menu control display. The screen itself is mounted directly below the viewfinder and despite not having the excellent anti-reflective coating of its bigger brother's (D1, D1H, D1x) monitors is still fairly easy to see in sunlight thanks to its high output. Nikon supply the D100 with a transparent protective cover (BM-2) for the LCD, this simply hooks on just above the monitor and clips below. This cover ensures you won't damage the screen but can continue using it. Kudos.
For those who are new to digital SLR's it's worth noting that they don't provide a live preview image like consumer digital cameras. This is because of the reflex mirror, mechanical shutter and design of the sensor (which can't be used to provide a video feed). The LCD is only "On" if you have image review enabled (after taking the shot), when you're navigating menus or reviewing images in play mode.
The D100's status panel (found on the top right of the camera body) provides information about both the photographic (exposure, focus, drive etc.) and digital (image size, white balance etc.) side of the camera. This is a notable improvement over the D1, D1H and D1x which have two separate status panel's. This new status panel provides a one glance summary of the camera's overall setup as well as a readout of the current exposure.
The D100's status panel is backlit, this can be activated by pressing the small backlight button beside the LCD or it can be programmed to come on with any button press (via a custom function). One interesting 'left over' from 35 mm cameras, the D100 is the first D-SLR I've used which leaves the frames remaining counter on the status panel even when the camera is switched off.
Through the viewfinder you'll see the center-weighted metering circle and five indicated AF area markers. Note that the active focus area darkens when selected. The on-demand grid lines can be turned on via custom function 19, these are useful for ensuring alignment when taking landscape or architectural shots.
Along the bottom of the viewfinder view you will see the status bar. This provides you with an overview of camera (photographic) settings as well as exposure settings. The multifunction display gives you a readout of available frames before the half-press and remaining buffer space (e.g. r06) with the shutter half-pressed.