Nikon D2Xs

I first purchased Nikon’s D2X back in 2005 when it was their flagship camera.  Today, this camera is used as my second body and backup to my Nikon D3.  Previously, I had been using the Nikon D100, which, while a fantastic camera, was limiting my photography.  The D2X was my first experience with a professional camera and the difference was astounding.  For me, the upgrade meant three things: better construction and ergonomics; faster frame rate; and improved image quality.

Bar-tailed Godwit, The Entrance, Australia

Today I am using the D2Xs, the slightly upgraded version of the D2X.  The differences between the D2X and the D2Xs are not much and certainly were not worth the upgrade if you were already a D2X owner.  Knowing this, Nikon released a firmware update for the D2X that basically made it a D2Xs except for a few rather minor physical changes to the body.  Mostly the upgrades were software based.  In any case, I switched from the D2X to the D2Xs after my D2X, lens, and tripod were knocked into the Southern Ocean by a large wave while I was photographing on a beach in the far southwestern corner of Australia.  Quite simply, saltwater, sand, and electronics just don’t mix, and my D2X now functions as a nice doorstop.

Construction and Ergonomics

A camera can have all the fancy gizmos and gadgets, but if you aren’t comfortable using it, then what’s the point?  One seemingly simple feature for me is a large body with what is known as a vertical grip.  This means the camera body has a second shutter release, located on the bottom right corner of the main body.  If I want to take a vertical photograph, I simply rotate the camera in my hand and there’s another shutter button right where it needs to be.  It allows me to hold the camera solidly with my right elbow tucked into my chest, like it should be, while taking both vertical and horizontal images.  Otherwise, for a vertical image, my elbow has to go way out to the side and up high in order to reach the normal shutter button as it rotates around.  Sounds like a simple request right?  Well, this wasn’t available on the D100 without the addition of an extra battery grip that just didn’t have a good solid feel.

For my hands, and I have fairly large hands, the D2X fits perfectly.  All the controls are where they need to be and easy to reach.  I don’t spend time searching for buttons and they are intuitively placed for fast and accurate operation.

Additionally, the construction is far superior to the D100.  The camera itself is made of metal rather than plastic and while it’s not waterproof, it is at least “weatherproof.”  Considering I am often working in wet, dusty, sandy, or muddy conditions, this quality construction can be a lifesaver.

Faster Frame Rate & Buffer

As a wildlife photographer, I was missing a lot of the action with the D100.  With a frame rate of about 2.5 frames per second and a miniscule 4 frame buffer, I struggled to capture the exact moment I wanted during fast action such as a heron striking a fish.  The D2X shoots RAW images at 5 frames per second with a buffer of 17 images.  This single difference was one of my main reasons for upgrading.  I felt like I had pushed the limits of the camera and wanted to be able to improve my action photography.

Image Quality

Making the jump from the D100 to the D2X meant a new and improved focusing system as well as exposure meter.  It also meant I went from about 6 megapixels to over 12 megapixels.  I am not one to judge cameras by their number of megapixels, but looking back today on projects shot with the D100 and others with the D2X, the images from the D2X are much more versatile.  It was a significant increase in megapixels as well as the quality of the images produced.

Drawbacks

The D2X was a great camera when it was released, but it fell short in several categories.  The primary complaint was digital noise in the image.  I discuss this in depth in my Nikon D3 post but for now, I’ll just say that it was pretty bad.  If the light was low, I wasn’t going to get the shot and I know I missed more than one image while in Australia due to this.

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