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Nikon announces the D2Xs

Nikon announces the D2Xs

Nikon has announced an updated version of its top-of-the-line D2X digital SLR. The new version, called the D2Xs, still has the same 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor but adds a bunch of minor tweaks to the successful pro-level dSLR. As was the case when Nikon updated the D2H to the D2Hs, the new D2Xs will replace the D2X, and while it isn't an earth-shattering update, it does add some cool new features. According to a company spokesperson, Nikon has no plans yet to offer any of the added features as an upgrade for current D2X owners. The Nikon D2Xs is expected to sell for $4,699 starting next month.

Like the D2X, the Nikon D2Xs has two continuous-shooting modes; one captures up to 5 frames per second at 12.4 megapixels, the other captures up to 8 frames per second but crops the image down to 6.8 megapixels--this is especially useful for pro sports photographers. The original D2X had small hash marks in the viewfinder to mark the crop, but the new D2Xs uses a built-in liquid crystal polymer network to darken the unused portion of the viewfinder in the high-speed crop mode, so it's now perfectly clear what you'll get when shooting in this mode. Plus, the camera's exposure and autofocus systems have been retailored so that the camera meters only within the cropped area, and all nine of the cross-type autofocus sensors remain active, in high-speed crop mode.

Tweakers will be pleased with some of the new functions, such as the new camera's ability to save custom camera settings onto a CompactFlash card and load them onto any Nikon D2Xs. You can also upload custom tone curves to the camera, choose the length of time that the focus-tracking feature tracks a moving subject (also great for sports photographers), and program the automatic ISO setting to boost the camera's light sensitivity (a.k.a. ISO number) when the camera drops below a certain shutter speed. Nikon has made the Adobe RGB color space available in all of the camera's three color modes and added the same black-and-white mode that appears in its 10.2-megapixel D200.

Taking a cue from compact cameras, Nikon has built in some in-camera editing functions. The D2Xs will let you trim photos down from the camera's full size of 4,288x2,848 pixels (or 3,216x2,136 in high-speed crop mode) to sizes ranging from 2,560x1,920 down to 640x480 pixels. The trim function preserves the original and saves a new trimmed version as a separate file. If you shoot raw files, you can also overlay one photo on top of another to create a new merged photo. Similarly, the Nikon D2Xs has a built-in multiple exposure function to create a single image from up to 10 separate exposures. Lots of film cameras, even some point-and-shoots, can do this, but few digital cameras can, and almost none allow up to 10 exposures.

Other minor improvements include a wider viewing angle for the 2.5-inch LCD, the addition of 1/3-stop steps between ISO 800 and the first of the camera's two ISO boost settings, and a higher-capacity lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The new battery, called the EN-EL4a, boasts 2,500mAh--up from the EN-EL4's 1,900mAh--and lets you capture up to 3,800 shots per charge, according to Nikon. The D2Xs comes with a USB cable that uses a rubber gasket to attach more firmly to the camera so that the cable won't accidentally fall out when shooting while tethered to a computer or during a file transfer.

The only other major addition with this camera is Nikon's new Image Authentication function, which will likely not matter outside of legal or law enforcement circles. Available as an optional package, it comes with special software that reads information recorded to a USB key during image capture to ensure that the image, EXIF data, date and time stamps, and GPS information have not been altered since capture.

Should D2X owners upgrade? That depends mainly on whether any of the added features make a big difference in your shooting. Sports photographers who rely heavily on the high-speed crop mode will no doubt love the new viewfinder mask, and police departments will likely want Image Authentication to protect their evidence chain. Most D2X owners probably won't find a pressing need to upgrade, but new buyers will probably want to wait a month for the Nikon D2Xs instead of grabbing the D2X today.