Body & Design

The original D1 can be considered a true design classic, it was a breakthrough camera from a price, form factor and quality point of view. It was the digital SLR which change everything and it set very high standards for anyone to follow. In the eyes of many (and I admit to being part of this) the D1 was (and still is) an object of desire.

The D2H therefore had a very strong basis, and Nikon weren't about to make any radical changes which would destroy people's expectation of what the brand means and what the single digital 'D' digital SLR means. Just like the D1 then the D2H has almost square proportions (from the front), is made from a very strong magnesium shell and feels 'brick solid', you only have to pick up the camera to realize that it is built to last, ready for any type of environment. There is also something intangible about cameras like the D2H which simply make them far more satisfying to shoot with.

A closer look at the new design shows that Nikon have listened to the photographers rather than the marketer's and have made logical, functional, ergonomic changes which make it a better overall 'instrument for photography'.

In summary the changes are:

  • Front of camera - External White balance sensor above Nikon badge, larger lens release button, repositioned focus mode switch, new customizable FUNC button below DOF preview button, new front control dial for vertical hand grip
  • Top of camera - Shutter release panel now slopes forward at a more acute angle, exposure mode dial also slopes to left slightly, much larger top control panel
  • Side of camera - All digital connectors (USB, A/V out, DC-IN) have been moved to left side of camera, now with full rubber covers
  • Rear of camera - Larger and easier to press buttons, a new column of four buttons beside the LCD display, big 2.5" LCD monitor, LCD moved to center of body and fitted more flush to body, uncovered ISO/QUAL/WB buttons and rubberized control dials. Also new is the addition of a front control dial on the vertical hand grip

Environmental seals

As you can see from the skeleton diagram below Nikon has added numerous rubber gaskets between body portions, controls and compartment doors to improve the camera's environmental sealing. They aren't claiming the camera to be waterproof but at least more 'weather proof' than the previous D1 series. Remember that the camera is only as weather proof as its weakest link, this is includes the lens mount and only a few of the more recent Nikkor lenses have rubber seals around the mount ring.

Side by side

Here you can see the D2H beside it's direct competitor, the four megapixel, 8 fps, Canon EOS-1D. Both cameras have similar proportions and similar levels of build quality (although Canon make stronger claims about environmental sealing). The D2H weighs in at 1.24 kg without a lens but with its battery compared to the EOS-1D's 1.58 kg, a weight saving of over 340 g. This can be in part attributed to the D2H's lighter (yet higher capacity) Lithium-Ion battery pack which is about half the weight of the EOS-1D's NiMH pack.

In your hand

In your hand the D2H feels amazingly solid, natural and comfortable, the design of the grip is excellent, right down to the small 'finger tuck' on the inside lip of the grip, the hook grip and the sculpting of the rear of the camera. Add to this the fact that controls are excellent and easy to use, big buttons help a lot, the entire grip areas is covered in excellent sticky high quality rubber and I have no problem stating that the D2H wins my award for the best ergonomic design (yes, it's better than the EOS-1D in this respect).


LCD Monitor

New to the D2H is its big 2.5" 211,000 pixel LCD monitor. This big screen provides a very big and bright image, that said I didn't feel that image playback was as sharp as it could have been. The screen also doesn't have an anti-reflective coating and so can suffer from reflection in sunny conditions. The camera is supplied with a clip-on screen protector which has a clear center which has no detrimental effect on image brightness and will help to protect the screen.

Top & Rear Control Panels

The D2H has two control panels, in the same tradition as the D1 the top concentrates mostly on photographic settings (shutter speed, aperture, bracketing, focus etc.), where as the smaller rear control panel covers the digital aspects such as sensitivity, white balance, image size/quality. Both panels have a green backlight which can be illuminated by flicking the power switch to the lamp position, it's spring loaded and returns to 'ON', the backlight stays on for the 'auto meter-off' time (CSM c3). You can also choose to have the backlights come on with any button press (CSM d7). You can customize the information displayed on the rear control panel and viewfinder display via CSM d6.

Each panel is shown below along with a diagram of all information displayed.

Top Control Panel

*1 • Shutter-speed
• Exposure compensation value
• Number of shots in bracketing sequence
• Number of intervals for interval timer photography
• Focal length (non-CPU lens)
• Sensitivity (ISO equiv.)
*2 • Aperture (f-number / number of stops)
• Bracketing increment
• Number of shots per interval
• Maximum aperture (non-CPU lens)
• PC mode indicator
*3 • Number of frames remaining
• Number of shots remaining before buffer fills
• Capture mode indicator
*4 • Electronic analog exposure display
• Exposure compensation
• Bracketing progress indicator
• PC mode indicator

Rear Control Panel

*5 • Sensitivity (& high gain)
• Number of frames remaining
• Length of voice memo
• White balance fine tuning
• Color temperature
• PC mode indicator

Diagrams reproduced with permission from the Nikon D2H manual.