Today I got an exclusive hands-on with the Nikon D1 at the Singapore Camera Show, Basement 2, Takashimaya Mall. Not only did I get to take photographs of the camera but I actually shot with it.

Please note, this WAS a pre-production "mock-up" camera.

Nikon Stand

Nikon had an interesting stand with one side dedicated to just digital (Coolpix 950, Coolpix 700 and D1) the rest showing their traditional 35mm, APS and compact range, Hasselblad also had a section on the Nikon stand.

On one side of the stand were A3 sized prints from the D1, looking VERY impressive even at that large size. Images from the D1 are at the highest resolution 2000 x 1312 (2.62 effective megapixels). At A3 that means these prints were printed at about 120dpi (trust me, the looked great).

NOTE: This is NOT a review, simply a quick preview of a pre-production camera, full review coming soon.

All images of the camera are (c)1999 Phil Askey and may not be used without prior permission.

Then came the camera

Side view of camera Top view of camera

I should say that this is still a pre-production camera and it did have it's share of crashes and hangs (to be expected), that didn't however stop me shooting for a good hour.. I should also apologies for the quality of the shots of the camera, they were taken with my 950 either hand-held or on a mini-tripod with no flash and at +2.0 sensitivity, so there is some noise.

First impression are of a heavy, well built camera right up their with the F5 and F100, slghtly lighter and much smaller than the Kodak DCS620 (pro digital, based on the Nikon F5), controls are laid out logically enough.

Rear view Battery pack

The back of the camera is where the real work goes on, top left is that nice big (and I can report.. bright) LCD in what seems to be industrial quality casing, next to it is the four-way jog wheel which is used to navigate images and menus and choose focus points. Below the LCD is a drop down metal cover which hides the ISO, WB, Quality, Lock, Resolution and various other controls (used in conjunction with the command wheel (top right)). Note bottom left that there is a second command wheel and AF-ON, that's because (just like their Pro and the Kodak Pro cameras) you can rotate the camera 90 degrees, grip the base just the same and their's a (lockable) shutter release at your fingertips.

The battery pack is a self-enclosed unit which slots into the base of the camera as a whole (including the latch and door).

Compact Flash compartment Compact Flash compartment

The compact flash compartment is on the back of the camera on the right hand side and has to be accessed by opening a flip-up lid and pressing an open button, this opens the CF compartment. I can confirm the width of the CF slot is obviously type II compatible (IBM Microdrive et al.).

Front: video out, power in Back: Digital (serial??), FireWire connector

On the back you'll also find a FireWire (IEEE1394) connector, at the front are the power in and video out sockets.

Top left controls (from back) Top right controls (from front)

Top left you've got controls over the program, focus, flash, continuous and bracketing settings. Along with the LCD on (review only) and Delete button. Top right are exposure compensation (+/-), shooting mode (Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Full Manual), Power Off/On and LCD backlight switch.

Side of viewfinder Top LCD display

On the side of the viewfinder is the metering mode selector (with lock button), and a dioptric adjustment. The second image here is of the top LCD in shooting mode (full Manual mode), here you can see the exposure readout, metering output (on the +...o...-) indicating well below the correct exposure, remaining and taken shots indication (77 remaining, 17 taken), focus points, battery status and shooting mode.

In use

Wow.. even though this was a pre-production camera it was FAST, very FAST, shooting was just like a traditional high-end SLR, just shoot as you want, in playback scrolling between images and switching to thumbnail view is almost instantaneous and you get a really good shoot-the-moment feeling from this camera. Interestingly, there isn't a distinction between shooting and playback modes, if you switch the LCD on you're reviewing images you've shot and the jog wheel no longer operates the focus points but you can still shoot images, turning the LCD off and the jog wheel controls focus points once more (unless you lock it).

This camera really is aimed at the traditional pro (semi-pro, prosumer) photographer who prefers his controls in a traditional layout and a camera which FEELS like a Pro SLR.

Overall I had a blast of an hour shooting (sorry, no samples).

Read more: The Nikon D1 infosheet