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Nikon D2H review: Nikon D2H

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The D2H battery is, by far, the best in its class.

The Nikon D2H handles like a top-of-the-line professional camera should. Its shutter is similar to the one in Nikon's professional F5 film SLR, the camera turns on quickly for instantaneous shooting, and autofocus is fast and sharp. The shutter lag is only 37 milliseconds--according to Nikon--so you can get exactly the picture you expect.

Shooting at the fastest high-resolution frame rate of 8 frames per second, the D2H will hold 40 JPEG images or 25 RAW files in its huge buffer. With a fast CompactFlash card, it also flushes out the buffer quickly--about 26 seconds for 24 RAW+JPEG shots.

The D2H's new 11-point autofocus system does a wonderful job keeping up with even the fastest moving subjects. With a little practice, I had no problem switching sensor points for the most accurate focus at any given time.

One of the best features of the Nikon D2H is its large 2.5-inch LCD. Viewing images on the bright screen is a pleasure, and menu text is easy to read. The best part is that you can review your images almost immediately--even while a burst is still being written to the card. Nikon has also included a zoom function so that you can make sure your pictures are in focus.

The D2H battery is, by far, the best in its class. I shot three basketball games without recharging and was still at 68 percent capacity according to the detailed battery monitor available in the menus--amazing. Canon's pro SLR battery is physically larger, but it had to be charged before the first game was over.

The camera has a fast USB 2.0 interface for transferring images to a computer, although I always prefer to use a separate FireWire or USB 2.0 card reader.

For the price of this camera, its resolution should be more than 4.1 megapixels. Granted, not all pixels are created equal, and you can't judge image quality solely on resolution. However, the Nikon D2H's main competitor, Canon's EOS-1D Mark II, offers 8-megapixel resolution.

Overall color from the D2H is very good: punchy and saturated. The automatic white balance does an excellent job, probably because of the new ambient light sensor on top of the camera. It's also possible to store five custom white-balance settings on the D2H. This is very helpful if you shoot in a handful of venues often. You can set each one up in advance so that you don't have to do a new custom balance each time.

The camera's ISO range runs from ISO 200 to ISO 1600 and can be extended to ISO 6400 with a menu setting. Even at ISO 1600, noise didn't spoil the D2H's images, although for the highest-quality magazine and commercial work, noise levels will probably be unsatisfactory above ISO 800. You can use third-party software to remedy that problem somewhat, but I generally do not shoot above ISO 800 for Sports Illustrated.

To get the best results from this camera, your exposure must be spot-on. Underexposing will bring out more noise in shadow areas. I found that setting the tone compensation on Normal gave much better results than using the Auto setting. In tricky light, you'll get inconsistent results from frame to frame when the camera has to guess what you want. Lastly, the built-in infrared filter on the Nikon D2H is relatively weak. Fabrics reflect IR light differently, and some can cause a color shift in your images. A professional camera such as the D2H should not need any additional filters, but putting a hot mirror filter onto the lens really helps. With a little work, you can obtain high-quality images from the D2H.

Click here to see some of David Bergman's photos taken with the D2H.

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