Clean & sharp images

The D1 was the first digital SLR to bring us such a smooth clean image, the Kodak DCS's certainly had relatively clean images but there was always the underlying annoyance of blue channel noise. The crops below are a very basic example of how the D1 keeps flat areas clean and smooth while maintaining detail and sharpness. This is true of both ISO 200 and 400, noise really only becomes apparent at ISO 800 and higher.


Not long after the D1 first hit the streets we started to read complaints from owners about a "magenta cast" or colour shift, hunting for the answer to this question many people came up with methods of correction such as Photoshop Actions, third party programs and other systems. Later we established that probably the best method for correction was a profile to profile conversion from NTSC to whatever your output space happens to be (sRGB if you're producing images for web publication).

This is certainly the method I prefer to use, but it begs the question, why? After consulting Nikon we got this answer:

When the D1's colour is set up (tuning colour by matching the colour seen on a monitor against reference patches) the engineers use monitors which have NTSC phosphors. Nikon re-iterated that this does not mean the D1 is shooting in any defined colourspace (certainly not NTSC 1953), however the NTSC profile conversion should produce the closest match to the initial intention. For exact colour space output Nikon recommend using RAW file format and Nikon Capture (which allows you to select the output colour space).

Click here for the official Nikon Europe Tech Support article on this subject

Here's an example of how such a profile conversion affects colour:

Original JPEG (NTSC 1953) After profile conversion (sRGB)

In the above example I used the following procedure (Photoshop 6):

  • Image -> Mode -> Assign Profile
    • Profile: NTSC (1953)
  • Image -> Mode -> Convert to Profile
    • Destination Space: [your space here]

Typically [your space here] would be either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998).

Here are some more examples of D1 JPEG originals run through this procedure:

Original JPEG (NTSC 1953) After profile conversion (sRGB)
Original JPEG (NTSC 1953) After profile conversion (sRGB)

Once you understand why the colours straight out of the camera look the way they do and you get some colour correction procedure into your workflow the D1's colours are as good as (if not better than) any other, accurate, vibrant yet not overpowering or oversaturated. I personally didn't and don't have a problem with the D1's colour once I introduced the profile conversion into my workflow.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range simply defines the range of light the camera is able to capture before it either loses detail in darkness (shadows for example) or blows out a highlight (edges of chromed metals are good examples of this). Most consumer digital cameras only have a 8-bit analog to digital converters, plus their CCD's are not built to have a particularly large dynamic range. The D1's sensor has a 12-bit analog to digital converter.

Metering, as we'd expect was excellent (at ISO 200), Nikon's much lauded Matrix metering system working extremely well, if you're uncomfortable with that or have other requirements you also have center-weighted average and spot metering (which can also be customised). We found that at higher ISO's a positive exposure compensation was required to produce a good exposure (across the whole brightness scale), typically in the region of +0.7 EV for ISO 400 and higher for higher ISO's.

Using our new dynamic range measurement method we measured the D1's dynamic range as:

(Higher numbers are better except for noise)

Camera ISO Noise Range Bits Density dB

Nikon D1

Native JPEG

200* 0.09 470:1 8.9 2.7D 53
200 0.11 380:1 8.6 2.6D 52
400 0.18 269:1 8.1 2.4D 49
800 0.40 152:1 7.2 2.2D 44
1600 0.82 97:1 6.6 2.0D 40
3200 1.04 92:1 6.5 2.0D 39
6400 2.55 59:1 5.9 1.8D 35

Nikon D1

RAW converted to TIFF with Nikon Capture**

200 0.10 600:1 9.2 2.8D 56
400 0.17 371:1 8.5 2.6D 51
800 0.40 196:1 7.6 2.3D 46
1600 0.87 122:1 6.9 2.1D 42

* In-camera sharpening disabled
** No curve applied, Unsharp mask Intensity 10%, Halo 5%

These results reflect what we've seen in pictures from the camera, very wide dynamic range with noticeably better performance shooting RAW, indeed RAW D1 images at ISO 200 and 400 have the widest dynamic range of any digital SLR we've tested, only to be beaten by the Fujifilm S1 Pro at ISO 800 and 1600.

Night photography

The D1 is really VERY good for night photography, the below samples are both 15 and 30 seconds, certainly there's some noise visible noise in the 30 second exposure but nothing too imposing. The 15 second shot is almost completely clean with lots of detail and a really amazing exposure. Top marks for the D1 at night.

ISO 200, 15 secs, F5.6
ISO 200, 30 secs, F6.3