Nikon D2X Digital Camera Reviewed

by Bjørn Rørslett  

1. Introduction

We waited, waited, and waited with infinite patience. All time nibbling at even the tiniest scraps of new information from the remote Headquarter in the Country of the Rising Sun. Or feeding on rumours and tantalizing glimpses of "unofficial" and poor quality "test " pictures. Only the true at heart Nikon fans would so such a thing. For what? A new digital flagship from the drawing board of the Nikon enginereers, of course. Now Nikon D2X is here, with a healthy 12.84 MPix CMOS imager inside. Read along as I take the new pet through its paces.

Night at the Harbour, by D2X

Night at the Waterline

Taking on huge scene contrasts, with utmost ease (D2X with AFS Nikkor 17-55 mm f/2 8 lens, 800 ISO equivalency)

© Bjørn Rørslett/NN

Great hope, expectation, and also a fair share of doubts, have been put on the new D2-generation from Nikon. The first model, D2H, has been met with mixed response, and the timing of its release clashed with that of Canon's 1 D Mk.II. So everyone, yours truly included, waited for Nikon to make their next move.

The design of the new D2-series, now encompassing D2H and D2X, indicates Nikon seriously believe in their "DX" concept with an imager less generously sized than the 24 x 36 mm heritage of the 35 mm film-based era. They have advocated the virtues of the "DX" sensor for some time now, and the fact that the new top-of-the-line flagship D2X has a "DX"-sized chip for its imager is very significant. Nikon probably had chewed over more than they really liked with the upfront new LBCAST technology for their D2H camera, the predecessor of the D2X, so went along better explored avenues with the CMOS technology applied to the D2X model.

I will not spend too much time on describing all the features on the D2X, because plenty of this information is floating around on the better web sites already. Or, you may get a brochure from a dealer or download a PDF file from one of the official Nikon sites. Relevant points and issues are covered during this review article. For a user of the D1/D1X/D1H/D2H models, the interface of the D2X will be very intuitive, and I think most people will take an instant liking to the sheer feel and handling ease of this camera.

For each new series of a digital camera, I as an end user sincerely hope they finally have come of age. I simply wish to go on shooting like I always have done, not needing to pay much attention to the actual media within the camera itself, be it film or digital. So far into the digital epoch, my hopes have been unfulfilled as a whole although the digital image quality all along has endeared the technology to me. With D2X, the ghost of the film era might eventually be laid to rest - or is this hope not yet fulfilled? Read on to find out my observations.

I managed to get my eager hands on a production-level D2X camera well in advance of the offical launch in Europe, and have spent considerable time shooting with it. A camera with this level of complexity really needs more than just a few weeks' time of field testing for an in-depth assessment, so I certainly will continue to update the present review as I gain more practice and experience with the D2X. I also will rerun a number of lens tests to see which lenses live up to the potential offered by the D2X concept. Some comments as to lens compatibility are interspersed in the text and I'll add more later.

A few days before this review was finalised, I got my personal D2X camera. OK, not "got" as such, I sure have to pay up for the pleasure. This anyway allowed me to compare some earlier test tests to ensure they were representative for production runs of D2X. I needed this reassurance because I had tidings from Nikon Europe BV claiming my earlier test camera wasn't a production unit, which after all it demonstrably was. So much for company hush-hush and secretive ways, all of which contribute to make an unpaid reviewer's work even harder.

The hectic research and testing of the last couple of months have eclipsed my picture-taking activity, so please bear this in mind when you read the article as a whole. I'll come up with better images later on, when the conditions settle back to normal. Moreover, I'd like to have any factual or writing error(s) or pointed out to me, because you do tend to miss them in the last publishing stage (if you disagree with my findings, this is of course OK, but disagreement doesn't constitute an error as such).

Nikon D2X Reviewed

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Last update 26 February, 2005