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Using the Nikon D2x®
Nikon D2x Review
© Darrell Young
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If you've used a Nikon F4 or F5, you'll feel right at home with the D2x.

The F5's body weighs in at a little over 2.6 pounds (1.2 Kilograms). The D2x is pleasantly lighter at only 2.4 pounds (1.1 Kilograms). This allows you to use a slightly heavier lens and carry the same weight as when you used your Nikon F5.

The D2x is no less robust than the F5, though. Consider it a heavy-duty camera, with enough "build" to satisfy the most demanding of users.I'd feel comfortable taking this camera into the hot sands of the desert, or the cold snow of the mountains.

 

It is sealed well, with rubber o-rings and seals in all the important places. It's not an underwater camera, but a little light rain won't harm it. The D2x has a rubbery coating in all the places your hands touch. It is easy to hang onto. Even persons with large hands will have plenty of room to wrap their mitts around this hunk of metal, glass, and electronics.

If you have small hands, that's not a problem, since the ergonomics of the D2x's grip makes it easy for even small hands to grab this camera. Of course, it is not a tiny camera, so if you have really small hands, you might want to look at Nikon's D200. It is a lower-cost version of the D2x, with many of the same functions and controls, but a smaller size.

IMAGE SIZE

The D2x image file is large and luxurious! If you printed an image directly to your printer at 300 dpi with no enlargement, the resulting photo would be slightly over 9 x 14 inches in size. That's just the starting point. With the pixel density of the D2x's CMOS sensor being so high, it resolves detail like a much larger format camera. Here is a chart of D2x image information:

Pixels
4288 x 2848
Megapixels (Effective)
12.2 mp
Image Size @ 300 dpi
9 x 14 inches
100% Enlargement
18 x 28 inches
200% Enlargement
27 x 42 inches
TIFF Image Sizes in 8-Bit
35.5 mb
TIFF Image Sizes in 16-Bit
71.6 mb
NEF (RAW) Image Size Compressed
11 mb
NEF (RAW) Image Size Uncompressed
20 mb

In the past, when I shot images of distant objects using 35mm film, I was often disappointed with the fine detail in the subject. I moved up to medium format and got better detail, but the cost of shooting was significantly higher, and took a lot more time. I even tried a large format view camera for a while, seeking the ultimate image. The 4x5 view camera gave me incredible detail, but the camera was very slow, and it was quite difficult to work with the giant transparencies later. I was looking for a 35mm-sized camera that could give me detail like the large format cameras.

When I bought my D2x and shot some images on a tripod, I was simply amazed at what I saw later in the computer. I was pulling up detail like I had only seen in medium format and 4x5 images.

When I printed those images on my Epson 2200, I simply had never seen anything like it. I'd worked in my wet darkroom for years without seeing detail like this. The difference was in the complete lack of grain, the incredibly smooth color, and the resolving of things like tree leaves at a distance.

 
 
Click for Larger Image
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With the very fine 5.5 micron pixel size, the D2x has less problems than some cameras with moire. Since the pixels are so small, they can record smaller details in fine grid-like subjects without so much rainbow colored moire waves in the detail. Moire can be a problem with lesser cameras, and honestly with any camera having larger pixels, like with a full-frame 35mm sized sensor. The DX sized sensor on the D2x is a marvelous benefit. It allows smaller diameter lenses, greater depth of field, and less moire, while resolving finer detail.

I've now shot about 7000 images with my D2x, and am completely amazed at the incredible resolving power of this CMOS sensor. I read that it resolves 90 line pairs per millimeter, which is almost 10 times what the human eye can resolve. The sensor on this camera requires using good glass. Don't expect to get the best results with cheap lenses, since this sensor actually resolves detail so well that only the best of lenses can keep up with it. It will point out problems like Chromatic Aberration quickly if your lens suffers with it.

It's not a big problem if you don't have lenses that cost as much as the camera body. I use Nikon's medium quality glass, such as the VR 24-120mm and VR 80-400mm lenses and get excellent results. See some of the images in my samples at the end of this article.

Image quality on this camera is honestly better than with ANY camera I have ever used in the past; period. That's a very strong statement, but true. In fact, as I look back at over 30-years of photography, I have not found many images I would consider "sharp" by the standards of the D2x. I always shot with Provia and sometimes Velvia in the past, and yet, the results I get with the D2x simply look better to my eyes. I don't see how a Nikon camera can make a better looking image than this. But, I haven't seen the D3x yet, either. It seems that each generation of digital technology gets better and better. I find shooting film to be somewhat burdensome to me now; almost a waste of time.

For the BEST in image quality, buy a D2x and don't look back!

 
BIG 2.5 INCH TFT "LIQUID CRYSTAL" IMAGE MONITOR
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I really enjoy the image viewing LCD on the back of the D2x. It's a huge 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) so you can really see the images well. It uses a bright white backlight so that the LCD colors are more accurate.

It has 235,000 dots resolution, so even very fine details are viewable. That's important, since you can zoom in past 100% in viewing images.

Doing a slide show is great fun with the D2x, since others can actually see the images from a distance. After shooting some nice nature images, go into a restaurant and set up your camera on a napkin box.

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Start a slide show so that you can watch while you are eating. Soon, you'll have several people hanging around your table to see the show. I've not figured a way to charge admission yet, but I'm thinking about it.

The LCD Monitor is very bright and contrasty, so even in the direct sunshine you will have little trouble seeing the image you just took. It has adjustable brightness levels in case you want to turn the brightness up or down. From the factory default setting you can set the camera +2 or -2 levels of brightness. Of course, the brightness level will affect battery life, but, since the D2x has a large Lithium-Ion battery it is of no great concern.

The D2x includes a clear plastic cover for this large monitor. It protects from scratches, fingerprints, and noseprints. The cover is called the BM-3, and is available in replacement form for less than $20 USD. I keep a spare, because I want to protect that big, luxurious, sharp LCD Monitor. I'd rather scratch the low-cost cover than the expensive monitor.

With a monitor this size, you can investigate the image accurately. You can zoom in on parts of the image to check for sharpness and scroll around looking at the details within the image.

And, one of my favorite features is the ability to display multiple histograms at the same time on the large monitor.

The D2x shows the image and four histogram displays, all at the same time.

It provides a histogram for each channel of the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and an extra one for the three combined. Talk about image accuracy-this one has it!

 
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BATTERY LIFE & LIFESTAGE MONITORS

The battery life in the D2x is simply outstanding. Nikon claims up to 2600 images can be taken with the 11.1 volt Lithium-ion battery. In real life, I find that I can easily get 600-700 images while using my VR lenses, and a lot of LCD viewing of images.

On the top "Control Panel" LCD the camera shows you a 5-step battery charge guage, so you'll have a much more accurate estimate of remaining battery power than with most other cameras.

In the Battery Info screen in Figure 3, the D2x will let you know how much battery charge has been used (Battery meter), how many images have been taken on this battery since the last charge (Picture meter), whether the battery needs "calibration," and in what stage of "Charging life" the battery exists.

The D2x goes a step farther than most cameras. Not only does it keep you informed as to the amount of "charge" left in your battery, but it also lets you know how much "life" is left. After some time, all batteries weaken and won't hold a full charge. You'll know when the battery needs to be completely replaced with the "Charging life" meter. It shows 5-stages of battery life, from New to Replace (0-4), so that you'll be prepared for replacement BEFORE your battery gets too old to be of many-shot use.

Do not confuse the 5-Step Battery Charge meter, with the 5-Stage Charging Life meter. They are two separate things. If you are confused, look at Figure 3 again, and re-read the last few paragraphs until it makes sense. The D2x is a professional camera, and pros do not want to be left guessing about the charge, or life, of their batteries.

It is important to use Nikon® brand batteries in your D2x, so that they will work properly with the camera. Aftermarket batteries generally do not charge correctly in the D2x battery charger, nor do they report correctly in the Charging Life section of the battery menus. There may be an aftermarket brand that works correctly, but I've not found it personally. Instead, I choose to use the batteries designed by Nikon to work with this camera. I am a bit afraid to trust a camera that costs this much to a cheap aftermarket battery of unknown origin.

Here's a picture of a genuine Li-Ion Nikon® EN-EL4 battery, at approximately life-size, for battery identification purposes:

Here are Nikon's published tested maximum battery life figures. For more information, please see the D2x manual on page 261:

Battery Life Test Case One - 2600 Images Taken

  • Nikon D2x with a AF-S VR Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 IF ED Lens
  • Fully charged 1900mAh Nikon® brand EN-EL4 battery
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR) set to OFF
  • Room Temperature at 20C / 68F
  • Motor Drive set to CH - Continuous High Speed
  • Autofocus set to AF-C - Continuous Servo AF
  • High Speed Crop set to OFF
  • Image Quality set to JPEG Normal
  • Image Size set to Large
  • Shutter Speed set to 1/250th Second
  • Shutter Release pressed 1/2 way for three seconds
  • Focus cycled from infinity to minimum range three times each shot
  • Every six images LCD monitor turned on for five seconds, then turned off
  • Cycle repeated after meter shuts off normally

Battery Life Test Case Two - 850 Images Taken

  • Nikon D2x with a AF-S VR Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 IF ED Lens
  • Fully charged 1900mAh Nikon® brand EN-EL4 battery
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR) set to OFF
  • Room Temperature at 20C / 68F
  • Motor Drive set to S - Single Frame
  • Autofocus set to AF-S - Single Servo AF
  • High Speed Crop set to OFF
  • Image Quality set to JPEG Normal
  • Image Size set to Large
  • Shutter Speed set to 1/250th Second
  • Shutter Release pressed 1/2 way for six seconds
  • Focus cycled from infinity to minimum range once for each shot
  • Every image LCD monitor turned on for two seconds, then turned off
  • Cycle repeated after meter shuts off normally

From the above information, I would think that the biggest drain on the battery is the use of the big 2.5 inch LCD monitor. So, if one uses the monitor a lot, you can expect to get from 500 to 1000 images from a freshly charged Nikon battery. At least, that's my own experience.

AUTOFOCUS MODES

The Multi-CAM 2000 Autofocus Module found in the Nikon D2x is a radically improved version of the famous Multi-CAM 1300 autofocus module found in the Nikon F5 35mm film SLR. Where the Multi-CAM 1300 was limited to only Single Area AF and Dynamic Area AF, the Multi-CAM 2000 adds two more modes and several more AF sensors.

The autofocus modes are many and varied, and give you extreme flexibility in using your D2x.

From Single Area AF using one sensor, to Dynamic Area AF using all 11 sensors, the D2x and its new Multi-CAM 2000 AutoFocus module focuses better than virtually any other camera brand available.

For detailed information about how to use this powerful autofocus system, please read our instructional article, Understanding the Multi-CAM 2000 Autofocus System.

With features like Predictive Focus Tracking and Focus Tracking with Lock-On® the D2x has the power to take images of rapidly moving subjects. Using Predictive Focus Tracking it will actually predict how far the subject will move from the time one presses the shutter button until the image is actually taken. (37 milliseconds) It will also use Focus Tracking with Lock-On technology to attach itself to the area of your subject, and track the subject as it moves across the viewfinder. With Lock-On enabled the D2x refuses to respond, for several seconds, to other objects moving between the camera and the subject. This allows one to accurately track a moving subject.

By using Focus Priority, one can force the D2x to take ONLY images with confirmed focus, or use Release Priority to allow the D2x to take an image at one's command, no matter where the focus lies. Many professional photographers use Release Priority and the AF-ON button to focus the D2x, instead of the normal shutter release button. That way they can completely control the focus points of the image, and override thre camera's selected focus points. Other professional and advanced amateur users will leave the focus attached to the shutter release button, and select Focus Priority to let the camera select the focus accurately on whatever is under the viewfinder's selected autofocus sensor. Either way the D2x will get the image!

The D2x has four basic autofocus modes:

  • Single Area AF
  • Dynamic Area AF
  • Group Dynamic AF
  • Dynamic Area AF with Closest Subject Priority

These four modes cover virtually anything you want to focus the camera on. They are explained in detail in the Multi-CAM 2000 article mentioned above.

CAMERA SPEED

Have you ever experienced a camera firing off 8-frames in one second? It's quite an exhilarating experience. Using "High-Speed Crop Mode," the D2x can fill up even a large Compact Flash card very quickly with 6.8 megapixel images. Normal 12.4 megapixel images can be taken at up to 5-frames per second.

I simply love the INCREDIBLE SPEED at which everything works on the D2x. It turns on ready to go immediately. There is no appreciable shutter-release delay at only 37 milliseconds, so when you press the shutter button you capture images instantly. The mirror blackout time is only 80 milliseconds so you'll just see a brief flicker when you take a picture.

Even photographers that have used such fine cameras as the D100, D70, or D50 are amazed at how fast the D2x is. The D70 feels fast until you use a D2x. Only then do you realize how much faster the professional D2x feels by comparison. It's hard to understand unless you've actually taken a picture with this speed demon of a camera.

If fast wildlife, sports, or blazing rocket launches are your forte, the D2x is so fast that you'll capture images you were missing before. Its motor drive will take 5-images-per-second in full 12.4 megapixel resolution for up to 17 RAW files, or 22 JPEG images.

If you use the new "cropped mode," the resolution of the CMOS chip drops to 6.8 megapixels and speed increases to an 8-image-per-second frame rate, as mentioned above. By using the cropped mode the buffer will now hold up to 29 RAW files or 35 JPEG files. If highest speed is your concern, look no farther than the D2x. It is one of the fastest cameras on the planet, and makes some of the best looking images too!

Amateur Rocket Launch

Using AF-S, or even simple AF lenses the Multi-CAM 2000 autofocus module simply snaps the image into focus. In AF-C or continuous focus mode, the D2x will follow your subject while instantly refocusing as the subject moves. There is no waiting for the autofocus to kick in. Once you get the the shutter button halfway down the AF system immediately finds the focus and the green light comes on. You'll actually hear the lens make quiet chattering noises as the powerful autofocus motors speedily refocus on the moving subject.

The incredible thing is that the autofocus system can do this in -1EV light, which is very dim. I am constantly amazed when I walk into a darkened room and can instantly focus on relatively low-contrast subjects. I don't recall ever having experienced this with any other camera, except my Nikon F5.

When it comes to speed...the D2x has it all!

EXPOSURE MODES

A full range of exposure modes are available on the D2x. One can use the camera as a fully automated computerized winder-cam, or go fully manual for absolute control over all aspects of the exposure.

 
Nikon D2x
Programmed Auto with Flexible Program (P)
Yes
Shutter Priority (S)
Yes
Aperture Priority (A)
Yes
Manual (M)
Yes

Here is a list and brief description of each of the modes mentioned in the chart:

Programmed Auto with Flexible Program (P) sets the camera up to make all the aperture and shutter speed decisions. It works along with the Metering Modes to obtain an accurate exposure when you don't have time to think about it. If you would like to override the Programmed mode, you may. By turning one of the command dials you adjust either the aperture or shutter speed. When you change one, the camera adjusts the other to get an accurate exposure. This the the "Flexible Program" part of Programmed Auto mode.

Shutter Priority (S) is for times when shutter speed is the most important thing. Maybe you are trying to capture a golfer at the peak of his swing, and know that you must have a fast shutter to keep from blurring the picture. With Shutter Priority, you set the shutter speed, and the camera will set the aperture.

Aperture Priority (A) is designed for those who want to control the aperture most often. A nature photographer will want to control depth-of-field in a macro shot with a small aperture. A portrait photographer might want to eliminate as much background focus as possible, and so will use a large aperture. In this mode, you set the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter speed for you.

Manual (M) is for those times when you simply want full control over your camera's exposure modes. YOU set the aperture and shutter speed for each exposure and use your light meter and histogram to control exposure in a very exact way.

For my own use in nature photography, I often use the Aperture Priority mode. It allows me to control the ever so important depth-of-field, while letting the camera handle shutter speed adjustments automatically. Here is an example of one day I was out doing nature work and saw a few "dears" in the woods (three of my kids):

But, when I am at a family get-together and simply want some great snapshots, I'll often set the camera to Programmed Auto mode (gasp! DD does that too?) so that all I have to think about is composition. I can then shoot quickly for those cool candid shots that are so much fun. Here's a sample:

For sports & action shooters, portrait & wedding pros, natural history, architectural, and photojournalist & event photogs, the camera's exposure modes allow plenty of flexibility for virtually any style of shooting. If you have a need to shoot in difficult circumstances, the D2x can deliver images when other cameras simply can't. It is expensive, but worth it!

There are no "picture" modes such as Mountain, Sports, Night, or Child, such as found in less expensive cameras. Not only would this waste needed menu space, but would also imply that this is merely a snapshot camera. In fact, the D2x is a premium professional camera with a level of complexity that would make many newbies have a difficult time using it initially. This is a thinking person's camera. It requires some study time to wrap one's brain around all the professional features. Once a person understands the relationships between the exposure modes, shooting and custom banks, and autofocus modes, then one can use the camera to do things other cameras struggle to accomplish.

ISO SENSITIVITY RANGE

I usually shoot my D2x at 100 ISO, since at that ISO, there is simply NO digital noise in the image. But, there are times when I might need to push the ISO up to higher ranges so that I can get some action shots with higher shutter speeds, or close down the aperture for greater depth-of-field.

 
Nikon D2x
ISO Sensitivity Range
100 to 800, plus HI-1(1600) and HI-2 (3200)

In the higher ISO ranges, some digital noise tends to creep in. The noise from the D2x looks a lot like film grain. It doesn't have chromatic or color noise like many low-cost cameras. People are used to seeing grain in high ISO images, and in fact have come to prefer it for certain types of images. Kodak Tri-X film was quite popular a few years ago, simply because it added a grainy effect that many loved.

Here is an image taken with direct flash and is a camera-created JPEG at 400 ISO. I cut out a small 100% portion of the cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower and then oversharpened it slightly (216 in Photoshop CS2). Oversharpening tends to really show any grain in the image. What do you think?

My experience, so far, is that the D2x has very little grain up until around 800 ISO. After that, the Hi-1 and Hi-2 modes are pretty grainy, but with excellent edge sharpness. A small amount of noise reduction in-camera or with Nikon Capture tends to reduce even the worst grain (noise) to a quite viewable level.

In my opinion, the D2x has a well-controlled noise level in high ISO images. Since it uses a DX-sized sensor, there will be more noise in the higher levels, but none of it is the ugly color flecks found in cheaper cameras, but is, instead, a form of uniformly dark random grain-like spots, like we see in any high ISO film. The D2x can be used for creative high-ISO purposes with no worries. Here is a side-by-side comparison of an image taken at 100 ISO and 3200 ISO with no noise reduction applied:

I honestly feel that my D2x gives me images that compare to or exceed the best of films I shot in the "olden days" about three years ago. Even at high ISOs, I am very satisfied with the camera's output and noise levels.

WHITE BALANCE

The D2x is no slouch when it comes to white balance! With its external and internal white balance sensors it is able to handle any lighting situation with an ease of use unheard of even a few years ago. Even using Auto White Balance Mode is quite satisfactory with the D2x. The external sensor on top of the D2x's prism finder allows the camera to instantly adjust to varying lighting situations. You can use various presets such as "cloudy" or "flash", or you can set the white balance directly in Kelvin color temperatures.

Remember, the color temperature shifts from "cool" values to "warm" values. The D2x can take a picture with any color temperature from 2500K (very cool) to 10000K (very warm), and any value in between. There's no need, any longer, to carry different film emulsions just to deal with differing light types. The D2x has them all built right in the White Balance settings!

Here is a sample of an image at different white balance settings:

As with the camera's other features, the white balance is easy to use, and very effective. Just think of the flexibility you will have to change the white balance to deal with tungsten or fluorescent lighting indoors, and then immediately reset it to sunlight or cloudy for outdoor use. i have never owned a camera before the D2x with such amazing flexibility!

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Now, let's look at some images taken with the camera, and detailed camera body overviews. Plus, we'll examine a detailed feature chart of the D2x:

SAMPLE IMAGES TAKEN WITH A NIKON D2X

All sample images Copyright © MMVI by Darrell Young, a.k.a. Digital Darrell, All Rights Reserved

IMAGES OF A NIKON D2X BODY

All sample images Copyright © MMVI by Darrell Young, a.k.a. Digital Darrell, All Rights Reserved

 

FEATURE OVERVIEW

 
Nikon D2x
Type of Camera
Single Lens Reflex Digital Camera
Megapixels
Effective 12.2 mp (Total 12.84)
Recorded Pixels

Normal Mode: (L) 4288x2488, (M) 3216x2135, (S) 2144x1424

High Speed Crop Mode: (L) 3216x2136, (M) 2400x1600, (S) 1600x1064

Image Sensor
CMOS (RGB)
Sensor Size
23.7 x 15.7 mm
ISO Sensitivity
100 to 800, and HI-1 (1600), HI-2 (3200)
Storage System
NEF (12-bit compressed or uncompressed RAW), TIFF (RGB uncompressed), JPEG (Compressed 3-levels) - EXIF 2.21, DCF 2.0, and DPOF Compatible
Storage Media
Compact Flash (CF) Card, Types I and II
Image Capture Rate (a.k.a. Shooting Modes)
S - Single Frame
CH - Continuous High
CL - Continuous Low
Self-Timer
M-UP - Mirror Up
Autofocus Modes
AF-S Single Frame
AF-C Continuous Frame
M-Manual
AF Area Modes
1. Single Area AF,
2. Dynamic AF with Focus Tracking with Lock On®,
3. Group Dynamic AF,
4. Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
White Balance
Auto
Manual
Preset
Kelvin Manual Color Setting
WB Bracketing
LCD Monitor
2.5 Inch, 235,000 dot, low-temp TFT LCD with white backlight, adjustable backlight level
Interface
USB 2.0, FTP with Wireless Transmitter WT-1 /1A or WT-2/2A. Supports IEEE802.11 b & g per transmitter used, CF-Card Slot
Voice Memo
Automatic or Manual Recording. 60-seconds maximum, 1 second minimum. WAV file format.
Flash Sync Modes
Front Curtain Sync,
Red-Eye Reduction,
Red-Eye Reduction (with Slow Sync),
Slow Sync,
Rear-Curtain Sync
Built-In Speedlight
None
Flash Control
iTTL (CLS), D-TTL, AA, Non-TTL, Range-Priority Manual
Depth of Field Preview
Yes
Power Source
One EN-EL4 Lithium-Ion Rechargable Battery
Exposure Compensation
+/- 5 EV Steps in 1/3, 1/2, and 1 EV
Autofocus
TTL Phase Detection, Nikon MULTI-CAM 2000 AF module. EV -1 to +19
Exposure Meters
3D Color Matrix Metering II, Color Matrix Metering II, Matrix Metering, Center-weighted, Spot
Viewfinder Frame Coverage and Magnification
100% @ 0.86x magnification
Dimensions
157.5 x 149.5 x 85.5 mm
6.2 x 5.9 x 3.4 inches
Weight
1070g or 2.36 lbs

 

CONCLUSION

I've been shooting Nikon cameras for nearly 30 years now. Each generation of cameras has given me more power and flexibility to make my images. With the latest digital cameras, Nikon has provided some of the most incredible cameras I've ever used. My D2x gives me the BEST pictures I've ever made in my life. No other camera of any format has been this powerful and chameleon-like in its adaptability.

The word "Ultimate" comes to mind. The Ultimate Camera! I honestly feel that way. Once the initial learning curve is done, you can use the D2x as an extension of yourself. After a few weeks of use, it becomes a valued tool in your creativity. Sure, it is more expensive that all of Nikon's other cameras, but there's a reason for that. There is so much technology crammed into this camera that it can be considered a multi-processing computer. But, the computerization does not get in your way, it is simply there to assist you.

With a D2x and your creative photographer's eye, you'll be able to release your passion to create images like you've only wished for in the past. The future of photography is here, and it's the Nikon D2x.

Keep on capturing time...

   
Copyright © MMVI by Darrell Young, a.k.a. Digital Darrell, All Rights Reserved