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Nikon D2x Test

Nikon D2x Review

For the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw for converting your raw files using Photoshop CS2 go here:http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html

 

For specs on the new Nikon D2x please go here: http://www.imagingspectrum.com/cgi-local/SoftCart.exe/Nikon_D2X_digital_camera.html?E+scstore

Imaging Spectrum Inc. is a  photography store for professional photographers. I have found them to be very helpful, honest, and with excellent prices (I receive no remuneration for this endorsement).

Basis for comparisons. I have either owned or tested extensively the following digital cameras:

1- Sony 990

2- Olympus E-10

3- Fuji Pro S2

4- Kodak SLR/n

5- Nikon D70 (my son's camera)

6- Canon 20D (a close friend's camera)

7- Nikon D50

8- Nikon D2x

9- Nikon D200

TEST and OBSERVATIONS

HANDLING: Let's start with the camera's  handling qualities. As stated by others in their  tests, this is one fast camera! Boy, do I concur here.  All the controls are easy to reach, adjustments can be made with one hand, and the ergonomics are very comfortable. The camera is well balanced and easy to use.

The battery and CF card drawers are very easy to open. The CF card comes out easily, even with big fat fingers (mine). The dials are logically placed, even for vertical shooting. This part I love because most of my shooting is vertical  (old shooting for magazines habit). I was a little concerned in the beginning over the additional weight over the D70 or even the Fuji S2.  Actually, the camera is so well balanced I hardly noticed the additional weight. 

The Nikon D2X offers fast continuous shooting at a speed of up to 5 frames per second at 12.4 megapixel resolution, and an impressive 8 frames per second at 6.8 megapixels; no other camera provides the same versatile solution.

Fast image processing is possible with implementation of a high-capacity buffer that allows for continuous shooting of RAW images at a rate of 5 frames per second for a total of 15 images.

SPEED: Ah, the essence of the D2x! Here is the nitty gritty. The Nikon D2X offers fast continuous shooting

Fast image processing is possible because of the very high capacity memory buffer that allows for continuous shooting of RAW images at a rate of 5 frames per second for a total of 17 images. That's a bunch. Then it takes 40 seconds to catch its breath and finish processing these 17 images

With JPG Fine it will take 22 frames - or with crop mode on at 6.8 megs at  8 Whew!  I can remember when 3 fps was considered fast. Anyway, what we have here is fast FPS, fast memory, fast handling, and a large buffer. 

Sync speed is 1/250 unless you use the SB 600 or SB 800 - and then you can use fast sync mode (over lapping flash) at 1/500 or even higher. Of course the faster the shutter speed, the more light you lose with this mode. Works great with your subject within 10'-12'.

RESOLUTION: Or, the reason I bought the D2x! 

In order to make a meaningful comparison for myself, I compared it against my Fuji S2. Now the S2 is a camera that, with images shot in raw and converted with EX, produced images almost identical in resolution to Canon's 1D Mark II (see Phil's test on www.dpreview.com). I made my first test using my  Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 wide angle zoom - a lens I have tested many times and know its capabilities. For both camera bodies I used ISO 100, raw, and shot at f8 at 1/200 second from a tripod. The results were very impressive for the D2x. The resolution difference was considerable - even more than I expected.  Here is a sample of the D2x resolution at ISO 100.

 

 

Please keep in mind this is equivalent to a 5 FOOT image. It is a very, very small section of the original image. This is a 100% view and even at this magnification show incredible detail.

 

Here is the whole frame. Overcast, cloudy conditions. Hand held using the f2.8 17-35. 24mm at f8.5 at 1/100.

 

COLOR: This was my second biggest concern. As it turns out, this might well be the D2x's strongest suit. The color was wonderful. Very real. Skin tones are awesome, as are scenics. Of course by shooting raw and using Nikon Capture 4.2 all sorts of adjustments and curves are possible - including the built in 5 color modes, 4 tone modes, 3 saturation modes, and your own custom modes. Plus, there are a ton of other adjustments too numerous to mention.

DYNAMIC RANGE: I am going to defer this to those with better testing equipment. However, my own subjective opinion is that it is excellent. I did look at the two photographs above (as TIFF files, not JPGs) by going into PS CS and using Image - Adjust - Shadow/Highlight - and pumping the shadows up 50% and then 80%. I saw the blacks in the D2x image hold up very well - better than the S2 (which has excellent DR). pretty impressive in my book.

NOISE: My first tests were done at ISO 100. Wow. I have always considered the S2 to be one of the least (if not THE least) noisy cameras out there so this was an honest test. (see www.dpreview.com for detailed noise tests on the S2. Pretty damn impressive.) Anyway, I really could not see any difference! Of course I used tiff files that had been directly converted from RAW - so as to not introduce any JPG artifacts. Basically, at ISO 100 the D2x is noise free. The D2x noise was also better than an old SLR/n image I still had around as a tiff. This was NOT a direct comparison, though. Pretty unscientific.

As most of my shooting is done in raw at ISO 100, these tests were the most meaningful for me.

 

A TEST AT ISO 320 (

This is a small 100% section. At the 72 dpi resolution of your monitor this represents a 5 foot wide mural. ISO 320, f7.1, 1/320, hand held. This elk herd was found at the 12,000 foot level of the Rocky Mountain National Park in late August of 2005. The photograph was taken hand held at 200mm and is the 35mm equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens,

 

And here is the full frame but down sampled version.

 

D2X TESTS at ISO 100 to 3200

Conditions of the test:

1- High noon

2- Hand held with Nikon 17-35 set at 35mm. The house is roughly 1/3 to 1/2 mile away!

3- All photos shot in raw and converted in Adobe Camera Raw

4- Raw Conversion settings were done with ACR defaults. Nothing was added or changed.

5- Images were converted from 240 dpi (D2x default) to 72 dpi to better fit on the web and viewing monitors.

6- A section was cut out of the center so a 100% view would be available.

7- Here is a full frame shot of the first photo. Again, at 72 dpi. The originals all had some sharpening as provided by the default settings of ACR.

ISO 100 FF.jpg (257586 bytes)Click to open larger version.

Conclusions and caviats:

1- All print well on 8.5 x 11.

2- Use NR as provided by Nikon or Adobe when opening ISO 1600 or 3200. I did not for the examples shown. It does make a difference! When I ran Adobe Color Noise Reduction during 1600 and 3200 conversion and used maximum setting, I saw a large difference - for the better.

3- Be careful NOT to under expose when shooting at 1600 or especially 3200. A one stop under exposure at 3200 can produce pretty ugly results!

 

Comparison Noise Tests by Others

1- Imaging Resources (see link under Photo Links)

Of course the real test is to view a 13 x 19 inch print of your intended subject matter. For what I shoot I have found ISO 1600 to be perfectly usable. 3200 will work if you must have it, but do not under expose and expect noise in the shadows. The other day I forgot to change the ISO from 320 back to 100 - and was amazed how GOOD the photos looked. Pretty amazing. Of course everyone really should do their own tests.

 

 

 

ISO 100 at 100% at 72 dpi
ISO 200 at 100% at 72 dpi
ISO 400 at 100% at 72 dpi
ISO 800 at 100% at 72 dpi
ISO 1600 at 100% at 72 dpi
ISO 3200 at 100% at 72 dpi

The original files are HUGE and are stored on pBase.com. Even then, the original tiffs had to be saved as level 10 (out of 12) jpgs. These files will have some jpg artifacts which will combine with noise and produce even grainier results than the original tiffs. As the original tiffs are 35 megs this was the only way I could get the complete files on pBase.com. You can find them here:

1- http://www.pbase.com/steve963/image/49309739

2- http://www.pbase.com/steve963/image/49309649

3- http://www.pbase.com/steve963/image/49308765

4-

5- http://www.pbase.com/steve963/image/49308050

6- http://www.pbase.com/steve963/image/49307900

Lastly, be sure to view a print before you start complaining about the noise. Simply right click and "save as". Then resample to 10" wide and print your own. Here was my results:

1- Printing just as a tiff resampled to 10" wide looked great. Very close inspection revealed some small grain in the sky.

2- Using Adobe PS CS2 I then went Filter - Noise - Reduce Noise. I chose settings of Strength 10, Detail 60%, Reduce Color Noise 100%, and Sharpen Detail 12%. The quality on a 10" print was such that my wife could not tell the difference between it and an ISO 100 print (and neither could I). Pretty amazing. Of course shooting under very adverse and dark conditions will produce different results. Much different.

 

 

General D2x Solutions

Focusing problems with your new D2x? Here is an excellent tutorial on all the options available. http://www.digitaldarrell.com/Article-UnderstandingNikonMultiCAM2000AF.asp#2000

Converting RAW files using Adobe Camera Raw with Photoshop CS2. I much prefer Adobe Camera Raw over the previously mentioned Nikon Capture. It is much faster, handles batch processing much better, preserves highlights better, and has plenty of advanced controls - like getting rid of chromatic aberrations. I use the following settings:

1- I turn sharpening OFF. I turn smoothing OFF. I turn Color Noise Reduction OFF (unless I am shooting at higher ISOs). 

2- I use "as shot".

3- After I "open" the image (convert to a tiff) I use Unsharp Mask and set Amount at 200%, Radius at .3, and Threshold at 0. This will take care of your basic gaussian blur caused by the camera's AA filter. Additional sharpening may be needed depending on print size and use.