Nikon's New D100 Digital SLR
Putting the Camera Through Its Paces in Vail, Colorado
TEXT AND IMAGES BY DIANE BERKENFELD
During a recent trip to Vail, Colorado, I had the opportunity to
test Nikon's much talked about new D100 SLR digital camera. Braving
the dust of an off-road excursion into the Rocky Mountains and the
heat of the June sun while exploring a local ranch, I put the
camera through its paces.
The D100, a prosumer camera with a street price of $1,999 and 6.1 effective megapixels resolution, is a serious camera for about half the price of a D1X SLR body.
"We developed the D100 in response to the high level of interest among photographers looking for a camera with advanced digital competence and high image-quality in an intuitive SLR design," explained Richard LoPinto, vice president for SLR Camera Systems, Nikon Inc.
In essence, the D100 is a high-performance camera designed to fill the gap between high-end digital SLRs and digicams that don't offer an interchangeable lens system. For starters, the D100 is built around the N80 body, using the Nikon F mount for lens attachment. It accepts certain non-AF lenses; check the manual for lens compatibility. Anyone with prior experience shooting with Nikon SLRs will have no trouble picking up the D100 and shooting immediately.
Twenty-six custom settings are available for individual customization of the camera to each photographer's style of shooting. Auto ISO is one of the new custom settings the D100 offers. When using the Auto ISO, the camera will automatically bump up the ISO if the light is too low.
Speaking of lighting, like its older digital SLR siblings, the D100 must use Speedlights with the DX suffix in the model number, such as the SB-80DX.
SHOOTING IN THE RAW
Shooting in RAW mode, which saves images as Nikon Electronic Files (NEFs), gives you an 8MB file, (uncompressed NEF). NEF files contain the RAW image data and act as an electronic negative. The RAW data isn't changed when corrections and adjustments are made. Two different software programs can convert the NEF files to JPEGs or TIFFs.
NikonView 5 software ships with the D100. It's mainly a browser and only allows the most basic adjustments to the NEF image files.
Nikon Capture 3 software, which is sold separately, allows users to manipulate the RAW files. The Capture 3 software allows a variety of changes to be made, including adjustments to color, hue, saturation, brightness, contrast, curves, and other tonal characteristics. Changes made on NEF files don't alter the RAW data that has been captured.
Photographers who have used the D1 or D1X/D1H cameras-shooting NEF files and working with previous versions of Nikon Capture-will be familiar with the software and appreciate the enhancements in this new version.
ON THE TEST TRACK
The D100 was a pleasure to use. Its menus are easy to navigate, so I was able to quickly make changes to file format, white balance, and other menu options without missing a beat.
Compact and lightweight, the camera fits as easily in the hand as it does in a camera bag, with room to spare.
The built-in Speedlight, which offers 20mm coverage, is a great addition. When shooting outdoors, it's a fill flash, and output level is easily adjusted when the situation demands it. I use it as a back-up flash when I'm using a Nikon Speedlight on the hot shoe.
One of the main differences between the D100 and the D1X/D1H is the absence of a PC cord terminal connection on the D100. Nikon's AS-15 accessory hot shoe adapter offers one, however, giving you the ability to use a sync cord to connect to studio lighting equipment or a radio transmitter to fire studio strobes.