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Nikon D100 Digital SLR Review

Nikon D100 Digital SLR Review - Nikon D100 Digital SLR Review

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Nikon D100
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Nikon D100 SLR reviewThis camera is something of a first for Nikon. It is the only Digital SLR in their range ever to be available new for under 2000. In the past, this area of the market has been dominated by Canon, with their D30 and Fuji, with their S1. However, now Nikon want a piece of the action and to ensure that they are competitive, they came up with the well specified D100.

Main features

  • 6.1 megapixel CCD (magnification factor x1.5)
  • 3,008x2,000 pixel images
  • CompactFlash I and II
  • 10-segment matrix metering sensor
  • Top shutter speed of 1/4,000sec. and flash sync speed up to 1/180sec.
  • Five-area autofocus with dynamic AF
  • ISO equivalency 200 - 1600 (can be boosted to higher ISO equivalency)
  • Three colour setting modes
  • On-demand grid lines
  • LCD monitor 1.8-in., 118,000-dot, low-temp. polysilicon TFT LCD with LED backlighting
  • CompactFlash I & II
  • USB transfer
  • Nikon View 5 software (for image transferring and viewing)
  • Weighs around 700g
  • Dimensions - 144 x 116 x 80.5mm
  • For detailed specifications from Nikon click here.

Body and handling
When the D100 was announced early in 2002, I was able to have a hands-on with a pre-production model at the Focus on Imaging show. My first reaction, was what a great feel the camera had. After having used the production camera for some time recently, this feeling has lessened slightly, but I still enjoy using it.

Nikon D100 SLR review

Unlike the high-end Nikon D1x, the D100 uses a smaller, lighter body that is similar in appearance to the Film-based F80 body. In terms of handling, the F80 and D100 are very different bodies, with the Nikon D100 offering all the benefits of digital technology (and some of the flaws).

Nikon D100 SLR review

Nikon have created a simple control layout on the D100. Five buttons to the left of the LCD control many of the menu functions, used in combination with the four-way controller to the upper right of the LCD. After much stabbing of these buttons, giving the menu system a real workout, I have no complaints of the system.

Nikon D100 SLR review

Build-quality is of a high standard, comparing well, but by no means competing with the Nikon D1x/h models. With the D100 being priced significantly lower, compromises have had to be made, so no water-resistance claims are offered. Still, holding the camera, I got a very similar solid and re-assuring feel from the body and controls as I did from the D1x.

Nikon D100 SLR review

Camera operation speeds are generally very good. After switching the camera on it is ready to shoot almost instantly. Similarly, it shuts down very quickly. The one area it can be faulted on, is on RAW mode writing speeds. Here you may find yourself waiting some time before being able to shoot again, after the buffer has been filled.

Most of the connections for the camera are hidden under a sturdy rubber flap on the left of the body. Unlike the professional D1x body, you get a pop-up flash.

Nikon D100 SLR review

Software
As we've already seen with Canon's D30 Digital SLR, extra functionality can be obtained by directly connecting Digital SLRs to your PC/Mac. The Nikon D100 provides this same functionality.

When using the Nikon Capture 3 software, you can control most aspects of camera control remotely. Ideal for a studio setup, the software is also available in a time-limited trial form, should you want to evaluate it before buying.

Menu system
The menu system is straightforward, and is operated by the four-way controller adjacent to the LCD. It is responsive and fast, as are the playback functions. The amount of settings and options available are comprehensive and outlined below:

Nikon D100 SLR reviewThe playback option offers six pages of information on each photo you've taken. Page 1 is just a basic view of the photo. Page 2 shows information on the date and file name. Page 3 shows more detailed information on the settings used, as does Page 4. Page 5 offers a histogram showing the distribution of tones. The last page shows any highlights in the photo by blinking them between black and the original.

Nikon D100 SLR reviewPlayback menu: This has 6 options, all shown by the capture to the left.

Shooting menu: This allows you to set up Bank Select, Image quality, Resolution, White balance, ISO, Image sharpening, Tone comp, Colour mode and Hue adjustment:

Custom settings: These are extensive, allowing you to - Reset CSM menu, Custom setting bank, Image review, Disable shutter if no CF card, ISO Auto control, Long exposure noise reduction, File number sequence, Monitor off delay, Auto Meter-Off delay, Self-timer delay, EV steps for exposure control, Bracketing set, Bracketing order, Assign Command dial, Assignment of AE-L/AF-L button, AE Lock button, LCD Illumination, Focus area select, Focus area illumination, Grid lines display in viewfinder, Dynamic AF, Single-servo, Dynamic AF, Continuous - Servo, AF assist illuminator, Built-in flash Mode, Anti-mirror-shock mode, Assign Battery Pack AF-ON Button, Adjust playback volume.

Camera modes
Nikon D100 SLR reviewTo change modes on the D100, there is a straightforward system using a dial on the left of the camera. This allows you to switch between P (Auto multi program), S (Shutter-Priority Auto), A (Aperture-Priority Auto) and M (Manual).

Also on this dial, are controls for ISO, White balance, Image quality and AF-area modes. The problem with this system is it adds an extra element of fiddling, trying to change the ISO, then turn the dial back to the correct mode. For a sports photographer, or anyone else in a hurry this system could be improved upon. As well as controlling these latter settings through the dial, you can use the in-camera menus.

Directly below this mode/setting dial is another switch. This controls the selection of shooting modes, with single frame, continuous and self-timer being available. When in continuous mode, with JPG files, the D100 can manage to hold six frames in the buffer (four when using RAW mode). When you have the noise reduction feature enabled, this number drops down to three photos (or two in RAW mode). The number of frames per second will vary slightly, but is around 2.5fps. If you're shooting in continuous mode or single mode, the LCD display shows the number of remaining images that can be stored in the buffer.

Viewfinder and LCD screen
Nikon D100 SLR reviewThe viewfinder on the D100 offers diopter adjustment (-2 to +1 m-1) and an optional grid overlay, selectable through the menu system. The quality of the viewfinder is slightly lacking, compared to the D1x, but is still very usable.

Unlike some other manufacturers, Nikon provide a plastic cover for the D100 LCD. When out in difficult conditions this could be an LCD scratch saver. It's also easier to take off and clean than the direct LCD surface.

Connections
The connection options for this camera are a sign of the cost-cutting measures applied. Some photographers will be sad to see the use of a USB 1.1 connection instead of the faster Firewire. This will make the biggest difference in performance for those who want to shoot tethered to a Laptop or Desktop computer. As well as the USB 1.1 connection you also get the standard PAL/NTSC selectable Video out.

Through the shutter release, you can connect a remote release terminal. Or if you prefer an electronic system, you can purchase the optional Battery pack which has a 10-pin remote terminal.

Battery-life
The D100 relies on a rechargeable Li-ion battery for power. Included in the box for this battery is a quick charger. In some of the D100 product literature, Nikon state that around 1,600 shots can be taken with the D100 battery fully charged. Whilst we can't confirm that this is true, we did find that battery life was very impressive, with very few charges needed during testing.

Image quality
The Nikon D100 can't afford to fall down on any area, with rivals Canon, Fuji and soon Sigma, offering similarly priced and specified models. Before receiving our loan camera from Nikon, we had quite high hopes from reading the D100 specifications. Talk of a six megapixel CCD, noise-reduction, wide ISO range, three colour modes and more, all sounded promising.

Through the course of a couple of weeks usage, the image quality of this camera has been of a high standard. Costing around 2000, it produces the results we'd expect. Although there have been one or two odd shots where we've been a little disappointed, the majority of the hundreds of shots taken have been good.

We used an AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5g lens and a 55mm Micro-Nikkor throughout testing. The 24-85mm was kindly loaned to us by Nikon, the Micro-Nikkor belongs to Peter, so we knew what it was capable of.

The focusing on the Nikon D100 is good, in bright light it is fast and accurate, as we'd expect it to be. Put in a more challenging environment of low light, the AF-assist light worked well at getting a focus-lock. The display through the viewfinder worked well, by clearly highlighting the active focus point.

The range of ISO settings provided are very welcome, providing a great deal of flexibility. Noise levels were low up until the highest settings. With longer exposures the noise-reduction feature helped a lot, though did add to the processing time required.

The majority of shots taken with the camera were detailed and the camera is certainly capable of producing high quality, high resolution images. With the Micro-Nikkor the camera performed excellently, showing it to be capable of producing very sharp images. Results weren't of such a high standard with the 24-85mm AF-S lens, but they were still good. The default in-camera sharpening seemed on the conservative side, but a fair amount of in-camera control on this setting is provided.

Sample pictures

Nikon D100 SLR review

Nikon D100 SLR review

A lot of detail is present in the darker shadow areas, with very little noise present. As you can see by the 100% crop of the tiny people in the centre of the image, the D100 produces sharp images.


Nikon D100 SLR review
Nikon D100 SLR review
This 100% crop of the full image above was taken with the Micro-Nikkor lens. The results speak for themselves.

Nikon D100 SLR review
Nikon D100 SLR review
Another Micro-Nikkor shot and fine details on the sole of this show can be clearly seen.

Nikon D100 SLR review
Shot with a thirty-second exposure, this lighting shot showed very low levels of image noise.

Nikon D100 SLR review
Fine details of the fabric have been well recorded.

Nikon D100 SLR review
This shot is a crop of a much larger image. There was still enough detail to get away with a reasonable size print thanks to the high resolution.

Verdict
As the first product to enter this sector of the market from Nikon, the D100 is a fine example of what they are capable of. High specification, good handling and high image quality are some of the main strengths that the D100 can offer. It's not perfect, but no camera is. The problems we had with this camera never extended beyond a minor niggle.

For the seasoned professional, looking for the best featured body, it might not be ideal. It could probably cope with most of the rough treatment they would throw at it and the image quality is approaching the same league as the pro bodies. Yet it is aimed primarily at the enthusiast photographers through relatively low pricing. Still, whether you're a pro, an enthusiast, or a well-off amateur, we'd say the D100 is more than worthy of your attention.

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D100

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