Nikon D1

This section is now well dated but it’s being left up for the time being for historical interest.

June 15, 1999: 

After much anticipation Nikon has announced its first "affordable" digital SLR. This camera will, I believe, be the shot across the bow of the camera industry that leads to the wide-spread adoption of digital SLRs by the photographic community.

First, some links. Hereis the official Nikon U.S.A. press release. Hereis a very good write-up by Maxwell, Australia’s Nikon distributor, andhereare photos and more details on theDigital Photography Review.  These should provide you with all the technical details needed.  In the months ahead the D1 will be analyzed in depth by the major monthlies, and by early October you’ll be able to play with (or buy) one at your local dealer.

In a nut-shell, the D1 will ship in late September ’99 for U.S. $5,580.   Cosmetically, it looks like an F100 and it has a 2.74-megapixel ship.  On the downside is that the resolution (2,012 x 1,324) still isn’t high enough to replace 35mm film — even for an 8X10" print.  For that we’ll need at least 2,700ppi. But, for photojournalists and others this camera is a groundbreaker — at least in terms of cost.

Now that the first serious shot of the SLR digital camera wars has been fired we can expect to see announcements of new higher resolution models from the major manufactures become a regular occurrence.  The D1, at well under $6,000, opens the door to digital SLRs that can be afforded by professionals and well-heeled amateurs. (Previous digital SLRs were $30,000, or more.) The floodgates are about to open.

I fully expect that I will be using a digital Canon SLR (we’ll want to keep our lens investments intact) before the end of 2000, and will replace the use of film in my 35mm work completely before the end of 2001.

The discussion above started with the word "affordable" — if over U.S. $5,000 can be considered such.  It’s worthwhile remembering that the current (summer ’99) state-of-the-art cameras are theKodak DCS 560and newly introduced DCS 660 cameras, which each have a 6 Megapixel chip v.s. the Nikon D1’s 2.7 Megapixels. Of course they cost at least 6 times what the D1 costs!   (The DCS560 is based on the Canon EOS1 and takes Canon lenses while the DCS660, which is otherwise identical, is based on a Nikon F5 body and takes, of course, Nikon lenses.)

There has just appeared (June 30, 1999) the first hands-on comments about the D1 by a photographer.  It can be foundhere, at photographer Bjørn Rørslett’s excellent web site.

What do you think of the D1?  Why not voice your opinions onour forum?  There is also a new discussion topic under the Photographic Equipment topic.

Update: November 23, 1999

I had an opportunity today to have a hands-on session with theNikon DIat a local dealer in Toronto. The unit was tagged as an engineering sample (#256) so they may still be a while away from introduction. September, the original introduction date, has obviously come and gone. There was a final-looking multi-page glossy brochure with a printing date of Oct 30 though, so they are getting close.

I was impressed, but impressed in the way that one might be to a dog that can talk. Not so much for what it has to say, but that it can talk at all.

TheD1may suit the needs of a certain segment of the photographic community; press photographers and the like, but I don’t see it or similar cameras meeting the needs of a more general audience just yet. It’s still a relatively low resolution device. At 300dpi one gets a 5X7 print. Not what most photographers would regard as adequate for demanding applications.

Interestingly, they were showing 11X17" inkjet prints that looked quite good. They apparently had been ressed-up usingGenuine Fractals. Iwasimpressed though with the dynamic range of the images and the cleanness of histograms. I was less impressed with the news that the application software needed to really get the best from the camera, including the export of 12 bit images and direct studio / computer control, is extra cost. Common Nikon. That’s tacky.

So, where does that leave us? I still believe that theD1is an important camera. Not for what is is, but for where it’s pointing — to a day not far off where digital images from single-shot cameras and backs will be of a quality level to replace film. Just a few years more.

Update: December 1, 1999

It now appears that production Nikon D1s are starting to appear in photographers hands. As one might expect the feedback and debate has started as well. 

A Danish photojournalist and early Nikon D1 owner,Kristian Linnemann, has comments, criticisms and photographs athis web site. The excellent magazinePEI(Photo Electronic Imaging) has a discussion forum with a lively group of Nikon and Kodak digital camera owners. Check it out.

Addendum:The plot thickens.  Kodak seems about to steal some of Nikon‘s thunder.

August 3, 1999— Adding yet another weapon to its arsenal of digital cameras, Kodak introduced the DCS 330 last week. The three-megapixel camera, which features an Indium Tin Oxide CCD capable of reducing noise, a burst rate of one image per second, and an ISO range of 125 to 400, will retail for about $6,000.The DCS 330’s combination of price, portability, and features is intended to appeal to commercial photographers as well as professionals who use cameras in the course of other work, such as law enforcement and forensics.The camera has a Nikon Pronea 6i SLR camera body that weighs 1.08 kg. Kodak regularly makes cameras with bodies that are manufactured by its competitors, and the DCS 330 should face some heavy competition from Nikon’s own D1 SLR, a 2.7-megapixel camera that can shoot 4.5 frames per second and retails for $5,580.The camera has already begun shipping. For more information, visitKodakor call 800-235-6325.

Or, clickHEREfor a link to Kodak’s DCS330 page, andHEREfor a very good First Look.

Update: March, 2000

TheNikon D1has been shipping in quantity in most countries for a few months. Consequently a number of pros and serious amateurs have now gained extensive experience and have started to write-up their impressions. One of these isMoose Peterson, the well regard wildlife photographer and experienced Nikon user.His impressionsare well worth reading because they clearly indicate that a digital body like the D1 is eminently usable for professional quality wildlife work.

Bjørn Rørslettis another pro who has embraced the D1.His commentsare informative and again echo a very positive response to this emerging technology.

Now if only Canon would get off their collective asses and produce a comparable digital EOS body I’d be happy.

Update: January 31, 2001

There has been a "leak", and the word is now out thatNikonwill be announcing two new digital SLRs at the PMA show on February 11, 2001. TheNikon D1Xis a 5.3 megapixel camera otherwise similar to the existing D1.