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Nikon D2xI like this camera, and I like the images it produces. I've said that a few times in the past when something new comes along with new abilities and quality and will most likely say it again in the future. I'm also darn tired of writing these things. I'd much rather be out shooting with the D2X then writing about it! I'm presenting this D2X User Report for those photographers out there who are about photography and not counting pixels. It's my hopes I can give you a jump start using the D2X so I can sit back at night and enjoy your images. Yeah, there are a lot of pixels to count in the D2X but there's a lot more to the camera then the quantity of its pixels. It's the quality of the D2X pixels that has me liking this camera and how you, the photographer, that person behind the camera, can make them jump!

Unlike the D2H, I have a small pool of other photographers to talk to and compare notes with on the D2X. Talking with other shooters like Dave Black, (only the best sports photographer in the world) we've been able to confirm our findings. I can happily report that we all have come to the same conclusion. The D2X is a vast improvement in many areas and a great best tool for us to be successful photographic communicators!

Unlike previous User Reports, I'm not cutting to the chase. You want the information, you're going to have to read it all. And there's more information here then I've ever presented on the web on a new camera (including the F5!). I have no doubt that what I have to say here will be misreported on the web, don't care. What I do know is what I can do with the D2X and what the D2X can do for my photography. What I do know is what it can do for your photography. The challenge for you is to rise to the potential, and surpass it.

There are three basic pages at this time on the D2X, The Overview, New Features, and Noise. There is a page of Moose Settings that will help some of you get up and going even faster. More pages will be added as time goes on such as a page on Nikon Capture and the WT-2A along with greater gained knowledge. In the not to far future, you'll be able to download our D2X User Guide. So without further ado… here it is.

Overview

Snow Frost © Moose Peterson
Snow Frost, 70-200VR w/CU Filter

Yeah, I really like this camera! I've shot with one for a while now and from the very first images that I printed 24x30 on the Epson 7600 without any of my normal workflow, I was quite impressed. Taking a High-speed Crop (HSC) Jpeg at ISO 100 and printing it 24x30, doing nothing to it in the digital darkroom other then size it, and have it turn out blowing away viewers was way cool. I have to admit that I thought HSC was kind of a hokey idea when I first read about it. In actuality it is a pretty darn cool tool. This is just the start of some of the new innovations and updates that make the D2X the most user friendly tool so far.

The new Jpeg Optimal Quality shot in HSC produced a print that was pretty hard to believe. This is in part do to the new Sony Sensor that produces an amazingly clean file. It also has to do with the new engine driving image processing. You don't have to take my word for any of this. You'll find on all of these pages images you can download and check for yourself. And if you read carefully, you'll find print offer you won't believe!

The D2X is in the exact same body as the D2H/s, as in the exact same. The weight of the two cameras is identical at about 2.4lbs. If you own a D2H, you'll find that all of the external buttons on the D2X are the exact same as the ones on the D2H (though now they have some added features). The D2H & D2X share the same battery, the EN-4, remote cord and lenses but they do not share the same wireless unit (WT-1A & WT-2A respectively). They share same basic file quality options but in no way the same file quality.

3D Matrix II Metering

The 3D Matrix meter had been around for awhile with few, minor updates in the past. The Matrix II is still based on the same 1005 pixel RGB color matrix system of the past. The original 3D Matrix meter came out in the F5 in 1995. How does the 3D Color Matrix Meter work? It has 1005-pixel CCD which are what actually reads the light. The amazing thing to me is not the 1005-pixels, but that each pixel has incorporated in it one R (red), G (green) or B (blue) filter. Each sensor then not only evaluates the scene's brightness and contrast, but also the scene's color.

The information received from the 1005-pixels including scene brightness, contrast, selected focus, distance information and the scene's color characteristics is analyzed. This information is then processed by a powerful microcomputer and its database said to hold at least 30,000 exposure possibilities. This is where the new 3DII is different. It has a database of 300,000 compared to the original's 30,000.

Artist Drive, Death Valley © Moose Peterson
Artist Drive, Death Valley, 24-120VR

How well does this work? For those who know light, this new metering won't make a radical difference to in their general shooting. Those who don't understand light, the 3DII will make your life a whole lot better.

One of the improvements I noticed with the 3DII is in shooting in fog. All previous Nikon DSLR meters underexposed the scene when shooting fog by about 1 stop. The D2X nailed the exposure every time which I found to be a great surprise. I was also surprised that with this new 3DII the D2X suffers from the usual digital factor in low light. One of my favorite times to shoot is in low light levels. Every DSLR I've ever shot with pumps light into low light situations to the point I often need to dial in minus 1 stop if there is a mood I want to preserve (of course the flip side is going with the “overexposure” which I use as well). The 3DII suffers from this just like all the other DSLR meters.

Wow... the Color

Wow is right! The nuts and bolts behind the improvement is proprietary and all I can report is what Nikon has published and my results (see Noise User Report). Nikon states that “because of support for sYCC range and support for the broader range of colors in the Adobe RGB profile, improvements in color across the board, especially in the Jpeg, will be experienced.” It could be as simple as more pixels, more information, more color.

I think that once you view the images on the Noise User Report (calibrated monitor required to see the differences in color) you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Now with this said, is the color in the D2X perfect? No, you still have the digital factor that under certain conditions like overcast sky or smog, there is a color cast. You still have to use Black Point / White Point in either NC or PS to remove that cast. This is no different then when we all shot film just that now it's a lot easier to deal with in post.

AF System

Stovepipe Well Dunes, Death Valley © Moose Peterson
Stovepipe Well Dunes, Death Valley, 24-120VR

The D2x AF System is an “updated” version of the D2H. What are the updates? Basically refinements to the system mostly centered on the lens drive algorithms. Software improvements, not hardware changes. Can you actually see an increase in acquisition time and AF speed? I don't think so though technically it is there. What you can see is an improvement in locking focus in lower light levels and with lower contrast levels.

The D2x is sporting the Multi-Cam2000 AF sensor like the D2H. This makes possible the 11-area Autofocus System. (The 2 AF sensors outside of the HSC are not active when in HSC mode.) We have eleven sensors in a 3 – 5 – 3 pattern. Nine of these eleven AF sensors area cross-type sensors (the center 9 AF sensors). Cross-type refers to the shape of the focusing area. The Cross-type sensor can read focusing information in both horizontal and vertical sections of the viewfinder image. This feature greatly enhances the camera's ability to recognize difficult AF subjects and work in lower light levers and contrast ranges while tracking subjects (which helps with the TC-17e but not so much with the TC-20e). As a side benefit, this speeds up AF operation in general though there is no way to quantitatively express it. In specific though, the increased AF sensitivity at the top and bottom of the viewfinder/image does make it possible to track subjects for that type of composition that wasn't easy to do before.


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Firing Rate / Image Storage

My heart sank when I put my 4GB 80X Lexar in the D2X the first time and the counter said 126! The maximum number I got on a 4GB card was 282 (that's Raw +Jpeg Fine, Large, Optimal) which is 564 files. Shooting compressed Raw, the average Nef is 15MB and Jpeg is 4MB. In the IB, Nikon states that Raw +Jpeg Uncompressed is 26.6MB full sensor and 14.9MB HSC. When using compressed Raw the file size should be 45-50% smaller. But this varies depending on the scene being photographed and how much it can be compressed which can vary greatly. I have some Nef files coming in as large as 19.8MB and as small as 10.7MB.

What's really weird is to change the shooting from full sensor to HSC on the fly (Func button / Cmd Dial) and look at the counter to see it all of a sudden you have lots of space. Then turn the HSC off and see it come crashing down again. But obviously when you're shooting in HSC mode, you can capture more images per burst (28 compared to 16 with a max of 35 if just shooting Jpeg Fine, large) because you're only capturing 6MP compared instead of 12MP.

Cracked Mud, Death Valley © Moose Peterson
Cracked Mud, Death Valley
70-200VR w/CU filter

And there is so much more!

While kind of a retro fit, the D2X (& D2Hs) now accept the WT-2A wireless. I've not had the opportunity to get one yet. Once I do I'll post a page on setting it up and its operation. I ~really~ like the WT-1A so improved speed and range will be a big boost!

The D2X can have its firmware upgrade by users like the D2H.

The D2X has some new features that deserve more then a cursory write up, so we've created a number of pages dedicated to these new innovations and features. You're going to want to read the New Features User Report and Noise User Report and once you have your D2X in your hand, you'll probably want to refer to Moose D2X Settings.

As time goes on and time permits, I'll post more information here. A D2Hs User Report will be posted once time permits.

Finally, I've received hundreds of emails and phone calls, perhaps more, asking me if I'm going to buy a D2X. Of late, I've been asked which I'm going to buy, the D2X or D2Hs. I can tell you that I have one D2X and what I'm going to do for a second body, I'm really not sure yet. The D2X does a great job for everything I'm doing right now, wildlife, landscapes, documentary and sports work. When I have a D2Hs in my hands and can give it my usual shake down, then I'll decide.

Winter Tree © Moose Peterson
Winter Tree, 24-120VR

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