A Great Camera with an Undeserved Reputation

In 2003, Nikon introduced what they thought would be an ideal camera for photojournalists like me, the D2H. The camera capitalized on developments in ergonomics and high-speed computer processing, and the result was outstanding in every respect. It features the excellent CAM-2000 autofocus module, a blazing eight frames per second burst rate, a battery that never seems to run out, completely superb ergonomics, and sports-car-like sexiness.

Sadly, the misguided photographic community, caught up in the shallow flurry of consumer electronics one-upsmanship, came to some errant conclusions about this camera, and labeled it as not being up to the task for which it was designed.

One of my Nikon D2H digital cameras
One of my Nikon D2H digital cameras

Many decided that the camera produced JPEG files that were too noisy, particularly if they were shot with the wrong white balance. I can’t really address this issue, since I have, quite honestly, never shot a JPEG with the D2H. I only shoot RAW files, and the RAW files from the D2H are simply superb. I also read on several of the internet photography mogul’s websites that the sensor in the D2H was plagued with blue-channel noise pollution, presumably because the filter in front of the sensor didn’t remove enough ultraviolet light from the scene. This too, is either not a factor with RAW files, or I’m just not seeing it in my particular cameras.

The biggest blow to the reputation of this elegant machine didn’t come from its design or its features, but from its competitor, Canon, who introduced a direct challenge to the D2H in the form of the 1D mkII. Canon’s original 1D was very similar to the D2H, but the “mkII” added… you guessed it… more pixels. In their misguided thirst for higher image quality, consumers, particularly wealthier amateurs, paid out dearly for more pixels, and decided that Nikon’s offering was, “too little, too late.”

I shoot news and magazine for a living, and image quality is very important to me. I get good image quality, great image quality, superb image quality, through lenses and light and finesse and paying attention to what I am doing, not through spending thousands of dollars on a new camera every couple of years.

This senseless consumer lust for the biggest and shiniest toys has worked to my advantage, since I now have three D2Hs in my bag, each bought on eBay for less than $500 from someone who was “upgrading.” If you get the chance to do the same, I highly recommend it.

2 Comments

  1. Are you still using your D2H’s in 2019? I just bought a pair on eBay for $300. One of them has less than 1800 actuations. The color is really film like. People laugh when they hear “4 megapixels”. (•‿•)

  2. By this moment in imaging history, the D2H is certainly a secondary tool in the toolbox, the kind you hand to an intern and see what they can dig up for the sidebar stories. That said, I have three surviving D2Hs, and they all make great pictures within their own framework: low ISO, high frame rate, accurate focus, and tough, no-nonesense handling. Until they die, I’ll have some place for them in my work.

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