If you’ve never had the opportunity to use a camera like the Nikon D1, let me tell you – it produces the highest quality pictures I have seen from a digital camera. However, only professional photographers are likely to be able to justify the expense – with the lens and flash, the price approaches £6,000.
Why does a 2.7-megapixel camera cost so much? Because, it isn’t like the average CCD (charge couple device).
In most two-megapixels cameras, the CCD that picks up light information is tiny. The D1’s CCD is 23.7-x-15.6mm – almost double the normal size, meaning that each pixel on the CCD is bigger. On other peripherals, such as printers, bigger pixel size means poorer quality. In cameras though, it’s a good thing. It means more light is gathered by each pixel, radically reducing the visual noise that’s a feature of most digital cameras. There was no noise in any of the pictures I took with the D1.
The only thing that looks different from a normal SLR camera is its LCD screen – which is hidden under a plastic cap.
Like its analogue cousins, the D1 is capable of amazing results using a wealth of automatic features. These include 3D colour-matrix metering, tone compensation and white balance. Also, programmed shutter priority and aperture priority mean automatic-precise exposure. The most impressive automatic feature is the lens, which uses a Silent Wave Motor to quickly and perfectly adjust the focus.
Images can be stored using a selection of compression methods, or, for purists, it can record raw data for processing later. Uncompressed data can be as much as 7MB per image, so a 64MB CompactFlash card is provided. The card can be used with a bundled PC card adaptor. Or, if you are lucky enough to have one of the new FireWire-equipped PowerBooks, there’s a FireWire port. This means that transferring big files is instantaneous. With some additional Nikon software, you can record the images directly to the desktop via FireWire. This makes a huge difference. No more pre-shoot Polaroid test shots, no more swapping film backs, and, most importantly, no more film developing and scanning. This can save a studio thousands of pounds, and hours of work.
It’s studio and newspaper photographers that this camera will to appeal to. It offers real advantages over traditional film cameras. A quick tot-up of monthly outgoings is bound to show that the D1 will pay for itself – and quickly.
The continuous-shot mode enables 4.5 pictures per second to be taken. Quick processing makes it possible to shoot up to 21 pictures at a time. When pausing, the camera continues processing the images – and it gives a running total of how many more can be shot in one go. Pictures are instantly available to picture editors
The world of professional photography is a broad church, accommodating telephoto-touting paparazzi, to Hasselblad-wielding portrait artists. This camera will not appeal to all photographers, but it’s going to make major inroads to those who need the speed and flexibility of digital photography. There are other cameras capable of this kind of image quality, but, historically, they have started at £10,000 – and gone up from there. The D1 will revolutionize the market with its low price. Although £3,800 may not seem cheap, it can save so much time and money that it’s worth its weight in gold.