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Nikon D2X; Nikon’s New “All-Things-To- All-Pros” D-SLR

Mike Stensvold, July, 2005

We Rate It
Camera: Nikon D2X
Category: AF Digital SLR
Autofocus Perfomance
5
Metering Performance
4
Feature Set
5
Ease Of Use
5
Ergonomics
5
Value
5
4.8 Overall

For the past several years, Nikon has offered two versions of its top of the line pro digital SLR: a high-resolution X model, and a high-speed H model. The company still offers two versions: the new high-resolution D2X that is the subject of this report, and the recently upgraded high-speed D2Hs. But the D2X also provides a High Speed Cropped Image mode that shoots just as fast as the D2Hs (8 fps), at considerably higher resolution (6.8 megapixels vs. 4.1 megapixels)—as well as its standard extremely high 12.4-megapixel resolution when you can “settle” for a 5 fps shooting rate.

An added benefit for sports and wildlife shooters is that the High Speed Cropped Image mode results in a 2x focal-length factor, rather than the camera’s standard 1.5x factor—a 200mm lens used on the D2X frames like a 300mm lens in full-res mode, and like a 400mm lens in High Speed Cropped mode, while it frames like a 300mm lens on the D2Hs.

So why does Nikon still make the D2Hs? Because it will do more shots in a single burst at that 8 fps rate, it costs somewhat less, and most photojournalistic shooting doesn’t require more than 4.1 megapixels—in fact, more megapixels can be a disadvantage there, filling up memory cards more quickly and taking longer to transmit. But I suspect that most pro Nikon shooters will go for the new D2X, for its image quality and versatility. And with a $4999.95 street price, it’s a great value considering the resolution and performance.



Naturally, the D2X is designed and built to withstand the rigors of hard pro field use. It’s also extremely fast. Switch it on and it’s ready to go instantly, shutter-release lag is a minimal 37 ms, it’ll shoot those 12.4-megapixel images at 5 per second and 6.8-megapixel images at 8 per second, and AF performance is extremely quick.

Focusing
The Nikon Multi-CAM2000 high-speed AF system in the D2X employs 11 AF sensors: 9 cross-types laid out in a rule of thirds pattern, plus a line sensor to each side. A switch on the camera back lets you select among four AF area modes. In Single-area AF, you can choose any of the 11 sensors yourself, via the handy multi selector just above the focus-area switch. In Dynamic area AF, the camera will establish focus using the area you select, but switch to adjacent AF areas to maintain focus if the subject leaves the original area. Group dynamic AF works like Dynamic area AF, except you select a group of AF sensors—handy for erratically moving subjects. In Dynamic area AF with closest-subject priority, the camera uses the area containing the closest subject in the image area.

Wildlife shooters will appreciate the camera’s new High Speed Cropped Image mode that provides fast operation while delivering 6.8-megapixel resolution.
Photo by Mike Stensvold

You can choose among single-shot AF, continuous AF, and manual focusing via the lens’ focusing ring. In both AF modes, the camera will automatically activate predictive focus tracking when it detects subject movement.

Exposure
Nikon’s acclaimed 3D Color Matrix II metering uses a 1005-pixel RGB sensor that evaluates color and subject distance information when type G or D Nikkor lenses are used, for extremely accurate exposure in a wide range of situations. Also included are center-weighted metering (most weight is placed on an 8mm circle in the center of the frame; and you can change the size of this area to 6, 10 or 13mm via Custom Setting b6), and spot metering (the meter reads only a 3mm circle—approximately 2 percent of the image area.

Nikon’s best D-SLR ever, the high-speed, high-res D2X features an easy-to-access control layout and is built tough to withstand the rigors of use in the field.

Exposure modes include shiftable program AE, shutter- and aperture-priority AE, and metered manual. You can lock the exposure by pressing the AE-L button, apply ±5 stops of exposure compensation (the manual recommends against using exposure comp in 3D Matrix Metering mode), and activate automatic exposure bracketing.

ISO settings run from 100 to 800. There are also HI-1 and HI-2 settings, which correspond with ISO 1600 and 3200, respectively (they’re marked that way to remind you that image quality is reduced at these high-speed settings). You can also use Custom Setting b1 to activate ISO Auto Control, which automatically adjusts the ISO between 100 and 800 as shooting conditions warrant.

Photo by Moose Peterson

Flash
Like most pro SLRs, the D2X has no built-in flash unit. But it has a hot shoe that accepts Nikon Speedlight flash units and gives you access to Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, plus a PC terminal for studio flash. The Creative Lighting System (available with the optional Nikon SB-800 and SB-600 Speedlights) includes TTL off-camera wireless operation, i-TTL flash control, FV lock (like AE lock, but locks the flash exposure), Flash Color Information Communication (for optimum color accuracy in flash shots), Auto FP High Speed Sync (lets you shoot with flash at all shutter speeds, up to the camera’s top 1/8000), and Modeling flash for previewing the flash lighting.

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