Nikon D1

SAN FRANCISCO (08/29/2000) - Rating:

PROS:Looks, feels, and handles like a professional camera.

CONS:Images need cleaning up.

List Price:$5,999

COMPANY:800/645-6687, Nikon Corp.

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Advice:Once Nikon fixes the D1's image-quality issues, this camera could become the model Nikon set out to produce. It's just not there yet.

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Nikon has decided the best way to ensure the success of the D1, the company's long-awaited entry into the professional digital-camera market, is to make the camera's feature set transparent to users of Nikon's professional film cameras. In this endeavor, the company succeeds admirably - veteran Nikon shooters will immediately be comfortable with the look-and-feel of the D1, which incorporates many of the best features of Nikon's F5 and F100 35mm cameras. The D1's image quality, however, is disappointing.

The Write Stuff

The camera has three modes: Play, Single, and Continuous. Play is for viewing stored images or displaying the camera's menus. You can't capture additional images in Play mode; you must switch back to Single or Continuous. In the latter, you can capture as many as 10 frames in Nikon's proprietary Raw file format. The temporary memory buffer, where images are stored before they're written to the storage device, is available only in Continuous mode. (The D1 uses CompactFlash storage cards, including the new CompactFlash Type II cards and IBM Corp.'s 340MB Microdrive.)Noise ProblemYou can capture images in two TIFF formats and at three levels of JPEG compression. The Raw format produces the best image quality, but to use it you'll need to purchase Nikon's $500 Capture 1.0. This software lets you apply image-editing techniques, such as color correction and unsharp masking, to Raw files and then export them to a Photoshop-compatible format. The current version has several bugs, however - wait for version 1.1, whose enhancements include a completely rewritten unsharp-masking algorithm.

Even with the Capture software, we were disappointed with the D1's image quality, which is roughly similar to what you'd get with a comparable professional digital camera. Images contained significant levels of noise, especially in the red channel. Skin tones carried a noticeable magenta cast, and shadow details frequently lacked definition and exhibited increased levels of noise.

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