In the course of reviewing the D1x I handed it to a photographer friend (not a professional), the very first words out of his mouth were "wow, it really feels like it means business". And that's exactly how I'd sum up the design and feel of the D1x. Nikon knew they'd got things right in that department with the D1, this body design is sublime, weighty, well laid out, well balanced and feels as though it could survive several wars and still be shooting...
If you didn't know better you'd be forgiven for thinking it was carved from a solid piece of metal, it weighs in at a hefty (yet reassuring) 1.1 kg (2.5 lbs), and that's without the (large) battery and a lens. Once you've handled the D1x you know you're using a professional tool which is more than capable of taking the occasional knock and will more than likely out last you. The D1x is also designed to be used in some of the most adverse environments, with water droplet resistant seals around compartment doors and deep rubber insets covering terminals and connectors.
Many parts of the D1x bear more than a passing resemblance to other members of the Nikon SLR family such as the F5 and F100. Indeed when I was 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 D1x 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 strength.
Balanced perfectly and with that excellent grip it's unlikely that you could ever really complain about the job Nikon have done with the D1x's 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 D1x's design, balance and build quality (apart that is from the original D1 and D1H!).
Rear LCD Display & Cover
Although the dimensions of the D1x's LCD are the same as the D1 (2" diagonally) this is a new 130,000 pixel unit with 'white LED backlight' which provides higher resolution review as well as a brighter, clearer image. Once more the LCD itself has a very effective anti-reflective coating, unfortunately it isn't grease proof, its location means that it's often covered in smears of grease from the photographers nose (you do seem to find yourself polishing the LCD).
My only gripe with the new LCD was that I (personally) found it difficult to judge the exposure without having the histogram visible, the screen is bright enough but the 'gamma' of the display system seemed to leave the image looking underexposed (although were later seen to be perfectly fine on a computer monitor), this may inevitably lead to incorrect exposure compensation being set by the photographer.
This year Nikon have produced a semitransparent white protective cover for the LCD, it allows for at least some of the image / menu system to be seen through the cover, however I'd still like to know why they couldn't have put a completely transparent window in the cover like Hoodman's Hoodcap.
Top Information LCD
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
The second "control panel" LCD on the rear of the camera is located next to the menu / digital control buttons. This display is used to review and set the values of the more "digital" side of the camera such as ISO sensitivity, white balance mode, image quality and custom settings.
Details of this display below (changed slightly since the D1).
* 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
Notable improvement: ISO sensitivity is the default display on this LCD panel (although it can be set back to frame count through custom function 35).