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|| News Item: Posted 2001-07-27

Hands On With the New Nikon D1X
By Lucas Gilman, Jackson Hole News

(Editor's note: Lucas Gilman's image of a swimmer training at the Olympic Training Center ran double truck recently in Sports Illustrated caused quite a stir because it was shot with the new Nikon D1X. Gilman has been deluged with calls about the D1X and consented to write a piece about his impressions on the new professional digital camera.)

Photo by Lucas Gilman

Photo by Lucas Gilman
My first opportunity to use the D1X was at Rich Clarkson's Sports Photography Workshop in June. I've been helping Clarkson with his workshop for the last four years teaching arena lighting. Teaching arena lighting to two groups of students a day is rewarding, but there is definitely some down time between instruction and giving them some hands on time shooting with strobes. I figured I'd experiment with the X see what it would do. I've been shooting the D1 for over a year, so I had a benchmark.

Right off I was thrilled - NO MORE WAITING! One of the coolest things about the X is the instant thumbnail on the camera's LCD, also known in some circles as the auto chimp mode.

The D1 was great as a Polaroid. It took much less time than the tradition Polaroid back, but you still had to wait a few seconds to see your image. I tried to beat the X. I'd shoot a frame and then push the view button as quick as I could. Needless to say the camera came out on top every time.

The custom function menu is greatly improved. I no longer have to carry around a cheat sheet for custom functions the menu has them all clearly written out.

Another bonus is the ability to zoom in and scroll around the frame on the LC D. You can pretty much tell if your shot's sharp when you zoom in on a detail area-a huge improvement over the D1.

Photo by
I like the fact that you can view the shot you just took the shooting data and the histogram all with a click of the toggle switch. All of you who ate up batteries with your D1 faster than John Candy finished an all-you-can-eat buffet will be pleased to find that the X has improved power management.

The batteries last much longer than they did with the D1. I shot swimming all day chimping to my hearts content and only used two batteries.

Enough with the custom function improvements and on to what we all care about the most, QUALITY. That's right. The X produces top-notch images, with the ability to write files in three different formats: RAW in 12 bit depth, three JPEG settings (fine, normal and basic) and TIFF.)

The D1X will shoot a burst of three frames a second and has a nine-frame buffer. And that's in any capture format!

The issue of noise is fairly well taken care of, and I couldn't find any noise at the lowers ISO's. Shooting in JPEG format, there is virtually no noticeable JPEG artifacts. A note on ISO: The 1/3-stop increments and low end ISO of 125 is a godsend! (The top ASA in camera is 800 but you can get a one (ASA1600) or two (ASA3200) stop "push" via software.)

If I haven't convinced you yet, take a moment to flip through the July 16, 2001 Googledygook swimming photo in the "Leading Off" section of Sports Illustrated. Notice the detail in the water and the good color saturation. Yes this photo was taken with the D1X. The reproduction is superb.

We're in a transition time right now. Magazines across the county are on the fence regarding digital. Just a couple of weeks before I took the "Leading Off" swimming photo, I shot a rodeo. I e-mailed the photo to Jimmy Colton at SI. I got an immediate response"Great photo! Ship it off. Is it chrome? (Do you have) any more?"

I replied, "No, it's digital." There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Granted the photo had a bit of noise but nothing glaring.

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
A similar thing happened with a shot I sent in from a SnoCross event. Again, "Great photo. Have any more. Is it chrome?" The bottom line is the X is going to change all those misgivings about the digital medium. I do a several assignments a year for Sports Illustrated and have had two "Leading Offs" in the last two years.

With the D1X, I think I can produce a superior product, thus increasing my chances of being published. The Googledygook swimming photo was a simple two- light setup. The D1X was set at ISO 125, aperture f/5 and the shutter speed was 1/500/sec., my white balance was set on flash, tone compensation set on auto and sharpening on normal.

I was shooting in the RAW mode in Adobe 1998 Colour space. I had a SB-28dx set manual at 1/2 power covered with a full CTO gel. Above and behind the swimmer was an Elinchrom 600S monolight set at 500-watt seconds. The monolight was covered with a Roscoe Sapphire Blue gel. The full CTO warmed the swimmer while the Sapphire blue gel gave the water that brilliant color. I used Nikon Capture 2 to convert the RAW image into a 16-bit TIFF. Even ESPN Magazine, which I shoot 6 to 8 assignments a year for, is starting to use digitally captured images. It won't be long before film is the other medium.

Nikon is king of the hill with the new D1X. Sure, Kodak makes a great product - the DSC760 is a wonderful camera if you're looking to retire with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. And the Cannon D30 isn't too bad if your looking to get some shots of the kid's at soccer camp - hell, you'd probably pay for it with all the print sales you make to all the soccer moms.

Don't get me wrong I'm not trying to badmouth those other cameras, they just don't do what the X will. If you're looking for maximum quality in a professional digital SLR the X is the way to go.

What will they think of next? I don't honestly know. It could be a microchip planted into your upper Medulla Oblongata linked to your retina, constantly uploading 300 frames per second via satellite to your friendly photo editor back at the office. Boy that will be the day!

All your images coded to your DNA - which' sure take care of some copyright issues. We're not there quite yet, but if the boys at Nikon keep hitting homers like they have with the D1X Mark McGwire better start looking for a job at the local burger joint.

(Lucas Gilman resides in Jackson Hole, Wy. where he is the Chief Photographer for the Jackson Hole News. He left a freelance career in Denver, Co. to flyfish and giving up the trout buck to Capt. Ron. Email:

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