Nikon D100, Day One

Unpacking and getting ready

Ok, unpacked the stuff and read the "quick start" guide: I want to go out and take photos ASAP (you know what I mean). I've just to wait for the Li-Ion rechargeable battery to charge, in the meantime I double-check every accessory is present and fill the warranty forms.

First of all I do some throw-away shots indoor, just to test the equipment. The feeling is excellent: the D100 is very similar to my F80, so my fingers find the right switch at once. Only the pad for selecting the focus sensor has been moved and its feedback has changed (the D100 uses it also for other functions). On the Internet somebody said it feels bad, but I don't think so. The other buttons on the back, mainly for reviewing photos on the LCD and for navigating the menus, are very easy to learn. I find myself using most of them without having read but a few pages of the manual (I'll go deeper into it later).

Top: the D100 (left) compared with the F80 + MB16 (right).
Bottom: the D100 (left) compared with the F80 without MB 16 (right).

The D100 weighs as my F80 plus MB-16 grip and that's fine. I don't think I'll ever buy the MB-D100 grip since the D100 is a bit taller than the F80 and extends at the bottom. It's just fine for my hands, which are small, and the standard Li-Ion rechargeable battery has a very good reputation on the Internet reviews, so no need to use AA rechargeables. It is to be clarified that the MB-D100 needs a second accessory to fit AA batteries, and some reports - e.g. Nikonian's Battery Guide - say that AA batteries work badly with the D100. Other reports (such as Digital Dingus) are not so pessimistic, but what everybody is saying is that the Nikon battery performance is superior.

No need for the grip is big a plus to me. I like the MB-16 since it allows me to better handle the F80, but on the other hand I've found that the locking knob is flimsy and if I mount the camera on the tripod it looks a bit unstable (this is not such a big problem since most critical lenses, i.e. telephotos, have their own tripod mount). Now I can attach my Kirk Arca-like plate directly to the D100 and everything seems rock steady (BTW, the Kirk plate I have is customised for the F80 and perfectly fits the D100).

A really disappointing bad news is the viewfinder. It "looks" smaller than the F80, just like the sensor size of the D100 is smaller than the F80. I must confess I missed this detail even if I read so many reviews and I am really surprised. That's a pity: with the F80 viewfinder it seems that you're inside the frame, while the D100 viewfinders just look so small; but I'll have to live with it. For sure I need a different eye rubber cup than the really useless standard one, and the same third-party brand I use with the F80 fits perfectly the D100.

The AF works well with all of my lenses (AF 24 f/2.8, AF 50 f/1.8, AF 85 f/1.8, AF 180 f/2.8, AF-S 300 f/4, even with the Nikkor TC 20E II teleconverter; I'll test the Kenko Teleplus 300 Pro 1.4x in the next days).

Also the flash is ok (fortunately last year I bought the SB80 DX, which is digital-ready), but there is a small "bug". The SB80 DX is able to shape the light beam accordingly to the mounted lens, so there is no light "wasted" outside the angle of view (at least for focals up to 105mm). But it does not compensate the 1.5x factor of the D100, so when e.g. the 50mm is mounted, the flash still shapes the beam for the 50mm, even if the angle of view is indeed equivalent to a focal of 75mm.

Ok, the battery is ready. Now let's go through the menus and set every parameter. This is just an initial setting, in which something comes from F80 experience, other from general consensus on the Internet; I'll change parameters about sharpening and colour later, after having done extensive test. For what concerns Custom Settings:

# CSM Value Why
0 Bank Select A -
1 Image Review On One of the most useful features of a DSLR is the capability of immediately look at the results and eventually apply a correction and retry; so I'm going to always use image review.
2 No CD Card? Off It's unlikely that I'll ever remove the MicroDrive, but just in case I don't want to spent a wonderful photo session without recording data.
3 ISO Auto Off No, I want to manualy select ISO using 200 whenever is possible.
4 Long Exp. NR Off This cuts at half the buffer size and increments the processing time, so I'll enable it only when needed (Nikon suggests it only for time > 1/2s).
5 File No. Seq On
6 Monitor Off 10s
7 Auto meter off 6s
8 Self timer 10s
9 EV Step 1/3 This is the option which gives you the finest control in exposure.
10 Exposure comp Off
11 BKT Set AE & Flash -
12 BKT Order MTR/Under/Over -
13 Command dial Off
14 AE-L / AF-L AE Lock Hold This is the setting I use on my F80.
15 AE Lock Off
16 Illumination Off
17 Focus Area On
18 AF Area illum Auto
19 Grid display On I find the grid very useful for avoiding tilted horizons.
20 Dyn. AF AF-S Off
21 Dyn. AF AF-C Off
22 AF Assist Off
23 Flash mode D-TTL I've got the SB80DX which is digital ready.
24 Anti-shock Off This increments the shutter lag, I'll enable it only when I'll need it.

Now the photo settings:

Setting Value Why
Bank Select A -
Image Quality Raw The Raw format captures all the possible detail from the sensor and makes it possible further manipulation on the PC after downloading the image files.
White Balance Cloudy -3 Maybe I should leave "Sunny", but I've read that many people use this setting, so I'll try it. After all everything can be modified in a second step with Raw files...
ISO 200 It will be my preferred settings since it procudes the least noise; I'll need higher ISO values when faster shutter is required.
Image Sharpening Normal Just a starting point.
Tone compensation Normal Just a starting point.
Color mode Adobe II (RGB) This mode delivers the widest color gamut.
Hue Adjustment 0 Just a starting point.

Finally, on the "Display mode" menu, I enable both highlights warning and histograms. Well, now I'm ready to go out.

In the field

Indeed it is not the best day for outdoor photography. It is hot, the weather does not know what to do (there's some sun which often hides, lots of dull-gray clouds, annoying haze - and did I say that it's hot?), but I just want to start with the "feeling-on-the-field". So I pack all the lenses (but the AF-S 300 f/4 and the teleconverters): they all fit in my belt-mounted holders. And no tripod for today (too hot and I'm already sweating).

I drive to the Old Harbour, near the Aquarium and park the car. The first feeling is excellent! First, I like to write down every detail about my photos, and taking out the notepad every three-four shots is really a pain in the ass; but today my D100 is automatically recording everything in the EXIF data embedded in the photos. I don't have to carry along a bag with half-a-dozen film rolls, and I don't have neither to decide if today I'll go for Provia, Velvia or Sensia. nor if I need pushing: I can just change the ISO from 200 to 3200 whenever I want. As you will read below, this feature is going to prove its utility in a short time.

Summing up: looks like I'm just going enjoy taking photos. :-)

Moreover I can see the shot after a few seconds. Indeed the LCD is very bright but in the daylight it is not easy to judge the results. On the other hand, the histogram and "flashing" highlights options prove to be very useful to understand if the exposure was ok.

I start with the AF 180 f2.8. It's indeed a bit strange to start a camera test with that lens (and considering that with the D100 its angle of view is equivalent to 270mm), but it's my favourite lens and I love to extract details from the landscape. I will later switch to the 24mm and 50mm, but the best shots are the ones with the 180mm (I'm not talking about the sharpness, but about the subject - after all I've already said that I like details in landscapes). As I stated before, it's one of the worst days to do landscape photography, but after all it's only a test.