Review: Nikon D100
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002
Thursday, September 12, 2002
few months I have the enviable task of reviewing expensive digital
SLRs. The latest one here at the DCRP Labs is the Nikon D100 ($1999),
which has a whopping 6.1 Megapixel CCD and every manual control
you could dream of.
other SLR cameras, the D100 is sold without a lens. Those with an
investment in Nikon lenses will be all set, but newcomers will have
to fork out the cash for a lens. Nikon included a very nice 24 -
85 mm (F3.5-4.5G) lens with my review unit.
more about this exciting camera in our review!
in the Box?
D100 has a very good bundle (for an SLR). Inside the box, you'll
6.1 (effective) Mpixel Nikon D100 camera body
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring NikonView 5
page manual (printed)
already mentioned that the D100 does not include a lens. Another
important item not included is a memory card. It's up to you to
pick up a CompactFlash card (Type II / Microdrives supported). Since
this camera takes such huge images, a large card is recommended.
D100 uses the EN-EL3 Li-ion rechargeable battery. This one looks
an awful lot like the BP-511 used by Canon, but I don't believe
that they are compatible. The EN-EL3 has a whopping 10.4 Watt/hours
of power, unmatched by nearly all other digicam batteries. Nikon
estimates that you can take about 370 photos per charge, based on
50% flash use (among other things).
it's time to charge the EN-EL3, you can use the included external
charger. It takes about two hours to charge the battery.
power options include an AC adapter (model EH-5) and battery pack
(MB-D100) which attaches to the bottom of the D100.
D100 has a myriad of accessories available. They includes flashes,
filters, remote shutter releases, connecting cords, and more. You
name it, the D100 probably supports it.
includes NikonView 5.1, as well as a demo copy of Nikon Capture
with the D100. NikonView is a general photo downloading/organizing
tool included with all of Nikon's cameras. Nikon Capture, which
will cost you $100 after the demo expires,
gives you control of the D100 from your computer as well as batch
manual included with the camera is pretty good, especially considering
the complexity of this camera. It's not going to win any awards,
but it will get you started in using the D100.
D100 has as traditionally-styled SLR body, just like your 35mm film
camera. It's exceptionally easy to hold, with plenty of room for
both hands. It's built very well -- maybe not as well as Nikon's
D1X, but it's still very solid. It's not the lightest camera
around, and it won't fit in any pockets -- but you already knew
official dimensions of the D100 (sans lens) are 5.7 x 4.6
x 3.2 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs 700 grams (25 ounces) without
memory card, battery, or lens.
us begin our tour of the D100, starting with the front of the camera.
here we are. I've taken off the lens since you won't be getting
one with the D100 (unless you get a bundle). The D100 is compatible
with nearly all AF Nikkor lenses. Nikon has a list in the manual
of non-compatible lenses. They encourage you to use D or G-series
CPU lenses. If you have a non-CPU lens, you can only use it in manual
little button to the left of the lens mount is the depth-of-field
preview. On the opposite side, you can see the lens release as well
as the focus dial (manual, single, continuous focus).
above the lens mount is the D100's pop-up flash. Flash distance
depends on ISO and aperture. At ISO 200, the working range is 2.0
- 8.5 m. You can also use an external flash -- more on that in a
and left of the flash is the autofocus illuminator, which doubles
(triples?) as the redeye reduction and self-timer lamps.
the left of that, you can catch a glimpse of the sub-command dial
(as Nikon calls it), which is used for adjusting settings in manual
now is the back of the camera, which is totally covered in buttons
D100 has a 1.8" LCD display, which is (sadly) larger than on
most of Nikon's other cameras. In case you're new to digital SLRs,
you can not preview images on the LCD before they are taken,
like on a regular digicam. It's only for reviewing photos and using
the menus. The LCD is bright and easy to see, and Nikon includes
a plastic cover to protect it from the elements, as you can see.
above the LCD is the huge optical viewfinder. It covers 95% of the
frame. A diopter correction slider will help bring things into focus
if your vision isn't perfect. Just below the window in the viewfinder
is a line of exposure data, like shutter speed, aperture, exposure
compensation, shots remaining, etc.
it's time to cover all those buttons. I will start with the five
buttons directly to the left of the LCD:
mode (in playback)
(for menus) / Zoom (in playback)
are two buttons above those:
(exposure + flash, exposure, flash, or white balance)
exposure compensation (-3.0EV to +1.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
the other side of the LCD are more buttons. They include the four-way
switch (for menus and focus-area selection), a lock to disable the
four-way switch, and the delete photo button.
that is the metering dial, with the AE/AF lock button in the middle.
Your metering choices are ten-segment matrix, center-weighted, and
spot. You can customize the AE/AF lock button as well (more on that
the right of that is the main command dial. LIke the sub-command
dial, it's used for changing things like aperture and shutter speed.
below that is the CompactFlash slot. This is a Type II slot, so
your Microdrive will work just fine.
we move onto the top of the camera. Up here you'll find more buttons,
the mode wheel, hot shoe, and LCD info display. I will start on
the left side.
mode wheel includes four shooting modes as well as four important
settings. It's nice because it means less "hold down the button
and turn a dial" like on the D1X.
choices on the mode wheel include:
Mode - camera picks best exposure settings. There is also a flexible
program mode which lets you pick from a few other combinations
of shutter speed and aperture.
Priority Mode - you choose shutter speed, camera picks appropriate
aperture. Shutter speed range is 30 sec - 1/4000 sec.
Priority Mode - you choose aperture, camera picks shutter speed.
The aperture values will depend on what lens you are using.
Mode - you choose aperture and shutter speed. This enables bulb
mode, which will keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter
release button is pressed, for up to 5 minutes (!). This pretty
much requires a remote shutter release cable and a tripod.
(200 - 1600 in 1/3EV increments; HI-1 and HI-2 are equivalent
to 3200 and 6400, respectively).
Balance (Auto, incandescent, fluorescent, direct sunlight, flash,
cloudy, shade, preset) - not surprisingly, lots of white balance
modes, including full manual mode. You can also fine tune white
balance ±3 in all WB modes except auto and preset.
(NEF RAW, TIFF-RGB, JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, JPEG Basic) - more
on these later
Mode (Single, dynamic area)
Below the mode wheel is the "drive"
switch. The choices are single-shot, continuous shooting, or self-timer.
In continuous shooting mode, you can take up to 6 shots (4 in RAW
mode) at 3 frames/second.
the right of the mode wheel is the D100's hot shoe. The D100 supports
most Nikon Speedlights, and if you have an 80DX, 50DX, or 28X, you
can use D-TTL flash control as well. Non-Nikon flashes will work,
though the manual tries to discourage you from trying. Unlike the
high end Coolpixes, the D100 supports all of the features of the
Speedlight, such as the zoom head.
D100's LCD info display, located to the right of the hot shoe, is
filled with all kinds of settings. I won't go into them here --
that's what the manual is for. It is backlit, by pressing the light
button right next to it. I should add that the backlight button
combined with the bracketing button will let you format the CF card.
the info display, you'll find the flash sync and exposure compensation
controls. The flash sync choices include front-curtain, rear-curtain,
slow sync, red-eye reduction w/ slow-sync, and redeye reduction.
The exposure compensation has a much larger range than I'm used
to. It's -5EV to +5EV in 1/3EV increments.
final items on the top of the camera include the shutter release
button, which has the power switch wrapped around it.
much to see here. That switch you see is on the lens, not the camera
is a rubber cover though, and underneath it you'll find quite a
few I/O ports. Let's take a look.
ports shown here include DC in (for optional AC adapter), video
out, and USB. Unlike the more expensive D-SLRs, the D100 (like the
Canon D60) uses USB rather than FireWire for connecting to your
to mention on this site of the camera.
here is the bottom of the D100. You can see the metal tripod mount,
battery compartment, and the the EN-EL3 battery.
the Nikon D100
D100 starts up about as close to instant as possible. Since there's
no lens to extend, the camera just needs to read the CF card and
it's ready to go. When you depress the shutter release button halfway,
the D100 locks the focus very quickly. This will depend on
what lens you're using, by the way. As you might expect, fully pressing
the shutter release results in a picture without delay.
not surprising is the shot-to-shot speed on the D100. You can shoot
as fast as you can compose. Even in RAW or TIFF mode, the camera
is ready to take another shot before you know it. The one exception
to this is compressed NEF mode, which will take forever to write
(nearly 40 seconds!), but you can still take pictures while you
D100 has a number of image quality choices. Here's what they are,
and how many you can fit on an average sized (96MB) memory card.
of images on 96MB card (not included)
3008 x 2000
2240 x 1488
1540 x 1000
3008 x 2000
2240 x 1488
1540 x 1000
3008 x 2000
2240 x 1488
1540 x 1000
3008 x 2000
2240 x 1488
1540 x 1000
chart is pretty confusing, but hopefully you can tell that there
are many, many choices for image size and quality! The RAW (NEF)
format contains RAW, unprocessed data from the CCD that take up
even less space than TIFFs. You must use NikonView or Nikon Capture
to process this data into a more common image format.
D100's menus are very similar to those found on the D1X. They aren't
as complex as you'd think, considering the camera. There are menus
for playback, shooting, and setup. There is also a custom settings
menu where you can really get down and dirty. Let's take a look,
beginning with the Shooting Menu.
- Bank Select (A, B) - stores two different sets of camera settings
Quality (NEF-RAW, TIFF-RGB, JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, JPEG Basic)
(Large, medium, small)
Balance - choices described earlier in review
- described earlier
sharpening (Auto, normal, low, high, none) - more on this later
compensation (Auto, normal, less contrast, more contrast, custom)
- in custom mode, you can import a tone curve you created in Nikon
mode (sRGB, Adobe RGB, sRGB) - the first sRGB is for portraits,
the second is for nature or landscape shots
adjustment (-9° to +9° in 3° increments) - lowering
the hue makes an image more blue, while raising it makes it more
that was the easy one, here comes the Custom Menu. Here's where
you can really tweak the D100:
Bank Select (A, B) - you can have two sets of custom settings
1. Image review (on/off) - whether image is shown on LCD after
it is taken
2. No CF card? (on/off) - sets if you can still release the shutter
w/o a CF card inserted
3. ISO Auto (on/off) - when turned on, ISO will go up to properly
4. Long exposure NR (on/off) - turns on noise reduction feature
for shots slower than 1/2 sec
5. File number sequencing (off, on, reset) - file numbering system
6. Monitor off delay (10, 20 sec, 1, 5, 10 min) - how long before
the monitor turns off when not in use
7. Auto meter-off display (4, 6, 8, 16 sec, 30 min) - how long
camera measures exposure while it is idle
8. Self-timer delay (2, 5, 10, 20 sec) - how long of a delay with
9. EV steps for exposure control (1/3, 1/2 step) - change the
increments for exposure options
10. Exposure compensation (± & CMD dial, CMD dial only)
- how you change exposure compensation
11. AE/Flash bracketing (AE & flash, AE only, Flash only,
WB bracketing) - what exposure settings change during auto bracketing)
12. Bracketing order (MTR>Under>Over, Under>MTR>Over)
13. Assign command dial - choose which dial is primary
14. AE-L/AF-L button (AE/AF lock, AE lock only, AF lock only,
AE lock hold, AF-On) - define how this button locks exposure;
When AF-On is used, the shutter release button will not focus
15. AE Lock (AE-L/AF-L button, + shutter button) - whether exposure
will lock when the shutter release is pressed halfway
16. LCD illumination (lamp on switch, any button) - what turns
on the LCD backlights
17. Focus Area Select (no wrap, wrap) - whether the focus areas
18. AF Area Illumination (Auto, off, on) - whether or not the
active focus area is highlighted in red in the viewfinder
19. Grid Display (on/off) - turns on grid lines in optical viewfinder
20. Dynamic AF, single-servo (closest subject, select AF area)
- whether the camera focuses on the closest subject in the mentioned
21. Dynamic AF, continuous-servo (select AF area, closest subject)
- same as above
22. AF Assist (on/off) - turns AF illuminator on/off
23. Flash mode (D-TTL auto flash, manual flash) - you'd use the
latter if you had a slave flash setup
24. Anti-mirror-shock mode (on/off) - when on, the camera will
wait a few moments after the mirror is raised before taking the
picture. Helps eliminate blurring from the mirror movement.
that enough for you? It is for me! If you are wondering why I numbered
each of those, it's because Nikon does too - and that's how they
are referred to in the manual.
talk about the picture quality now!
thing that really impressed me was the D100's ability to
take shots at high ISO, with very little noise! And I have a real
world example too. I love taking fireworks pictures, and I had the
D100 with me at Disneyland back in August. I was able to take good
quality fireworks pictures without a tripod, by using high ISO settings.
Here's an example:
pictures like this without a tripod isn't advised. But believe me,
getting a tripod into Disneyland on a summer night is not
easy. You can see more of these fireworks including the full-size
pictures on this
page on my personal site.
night test shot looks pretty good at the size you see above, but
when you blow it up, it's actually very soft (an issue with the
D100, as I'll explain below). The noise levels are very low, thanks
to Nikon's noise reduction system.
D100 did an excellent job with our 3" tall macro subject. The
colors are very good, though again, the image is softer than I'd
like. The minimum distance to the subject depends on what lens you
to the placement of the flash away from the lens, and a good redeye
reduction system, the D100 produces a redeye-free test shot, as
you can see above. You can see a small reflection of the flash but
there's no red to be found!
D100 produces images with stunning resolution and very accurate
color. It's one of the best out there, without a doubt. There were
two things about it that really bugged me. The first was that images
were consistently underexposed by about two stops. When I spent
a full day at Disneyland with the D100, I kept the exposure compensation
at +0.7EV and got good results. At normal exposure settings, photos
were always too dark.
issue that has been talked about elsewhere is the low levels of
sharpening used at the "Auto" setting. What's even stranger
is that the amount of sharpening applied also depends on whether
you're using RAW or JPEG for the file format. Have a look:
RAW mode (converted to JPEG)
saved in RAW mode (and later converted to JPEG) are sharper than
images saved as JPEGs. Both of the samples above were taken with
sharpening set to "auto".
a crop of our macro subject at each of the sharpening settings so
you can get a better idea of what's going on:
think it should be pretty easy to see the differences there. There
are many people out there who don't like the camera to over-sharpen
images -- after all, that's what Photoshop is for. But I feel that
at the auto setting, in the JPEG format, images are way too soft.
best way to judge the image quality is to view and print samples
yourself. You'll find tons of pictures in our standard
D100 does not include a movie mode.
D100's playback mode is pretty good. The usual features such as
slide shows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and thumbnail
mode are all here.
zoom and scroll feature is activated by the Enter button. You can
scroll around the image to check focus.
camera moves very quickly through the images on the LCD, which is
impressive considering their size. You use the up and down parts
of the 4-way switch to navigate through the photos on the memory
the greatest screen shots, but you get the idea. Note that I
didn't show all of the info displays above.
the four-way switch to the right shows increasing amounts of information
about your photos. You can find out just about everything, and there's
a histogram too. You can also see the highlights (bright areas)
of your image if you turn that option on via the playback menu.
nice feature is the ability to delete a group of photos -- instead
of just one or all of them.
Does it Compare?
all of the D-SLR's I've tested (which isn't very many), the Nikon
D100 is a superb camera that does whatever you ask of it. Resolution
and color is excellent, performance is amazing, and it has nearly
every manual control you could dream of. On the downside, it consistently
under-exposed images by a stop or two, and images are very soft
in the Auto sharpening setting in JPEG format. If you're hung up
between the D100, Canon D60, and Fuji S2 Pro, the first thing to
consider is which lenses you already own. The S2 Pro is a Nikon
body and therefore takes Nikon lenses. If you're new, I really suggest
trying them in person, as they all offer excellent performance.
Pick the one that you like best -- you really can't go wrong.
good photo quality
shot-to-shot, focus, shutter lag speeds
low noise, even at high ISOs
manual control ever conceived
Type II slot -- Microdrive works great
backlit LCD info display
use existing Nikon lenses and Speedlights
D-SLR at the moment
I didn't care for:
still expensive, especially once you start buying lenses
- Images soft at JPEG, auto sharpening setting
- Underexposed most of my images at 0.0EV
easy to learn (but easier than D1X)
rather than FireWire
Capture should be free with this $2000 camera!
already mentioned the competition: the Canon EOS-D60 and Fuji FinePix
S2 Pro. I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the D100 and it's competitors before you buy! Note that you'll need
to go to a real camera store to find these (not Best Buy).
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the samples in
our standard and Disneyland
a few more opinions?
second, third, and fourth opinions from DP
Digicams, and Imaging
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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for personal camera recommendations.