Beater Camera Follow Up - Nikon D2H - The Beast

DSC0130.jpgI have had a number of interesting email conversations with some fellow Nikon shooters. Some who use Aperture and some who Don't. A lot of people that I have had conversations with are sending me NEF files so that I can develop some presets for cameras that I do not own. I thank you and promise to get to it very very soon. I am working on a bunch of cameras right now.

One of the side conversations that I had surrounded Nikon color, the "beater camera" post that I put up a few  days ago, and believe it or not conversations about one of my personal "beater" cameras. The Nikon D2H - The beast. There are a lot of shooters out there that are not super familiar with this camera except that they know it is "only" 4.1 megapixels. Some new found buddies wanted to know if I really still shoot it and why I would ever shoot it when doing workshops, etc. etc.

Well at the risk of repeating myself I will give you a random bunch of thoughts on this camera and why I still shoot it. Not as my main camera but just for the heck of it. All of the photos in this post are 100% crops of images that I shot very quickly - I was shooting on the same days and shooting freehand full length and 3/4 length shots. These are NOT tripod shots of head shots they are really small portions of the 4 megapixel frame. So the lighting is optimized for 3/4 length and full length shots and is a bit "off" for a head shot.DSC0043.jpg

The D2H was and still is one of the most responsive cameras ever made. It feels so close to my D3 you cannot tell. You turn it on and shoot. Shoot shoot shoot and shoot some more. It takes the same batteries as my D3's. I dare you to wear out the battery on the D2H - there is a good chance it will wear you out first. The focusing is fantastic. Even if you shoot wide open at large apertures. Fast - Fast - Fast.

DSC0121.jpgThe files are small - even RAW files - JPGs are tiny. When I tether the camera via wireless the images show up almost as fast as I shoot on a giant monitor that I use for demos. Why the heck would I want bigger files to do that - they are already 2x as big as HD anyway. Oh and the files look fantastic - "tonality" is awesome. Color is awesome. They look fantastic at ISO 200 and I rarely need more - actually never - in a lighting workshop. I could actually use less. Especially when I mix flash with full sun. The only place this camera "fails" is at high ISO or when you need a big big file.

This is the very first digital camera that I ever owned that I took seriously. When I bought it Iwas shooting mostly medium and large format film for my commercial work. The imagesDSC0049.jpgfrom this camera looked like film. Really. I actually used this camera for some commercial work that was not destined for larger print sizes. Yep no kidding. I shot film and I shot the D2H on most occasions. I really didn't care too too much about the 4 megapixels I cared much more about the ability to differentiate tones and capture color that was out of the realm of possibility for digital at the time. Some cameras still have issues with certain colors and differentiating subtle hues within troublesome ranges. When I shoot color I care about color.

DSC0013.jpgThese crops are from the out of Camera JPGs with NOTHING done to them. The camera settings were "flat". Normal, normal, normal, normal - across the board. 80% were color mode I and the other 20% were color mode III. You can tell which ones where which as they are night and day different color. The reason they look warm is because my lights are 5500K  - my camera was set to 6300K. That is the equivalent of somewhere between an 81 and 85 series warming filter in sunlight. No problem If I want neutral color - I shot RAW+JPG.

The biggest thing about this camera was the color and the ability to differentiate tones - a year or two later I bought a Hasselblad H1D with a Leaf back it had great color as well. It was not nearly as fast - sometimes that is way more important. The biggest workshop mistake I ever made was using that camera when it was brand new - nobody wanted to talk about topics that mattered. Everyone wanted to talk about that camera. That is another reason that I use the D2H - nobody gives a crap about that beater.DSC0093.jpg The other fantastic thing about the D2H was and is how it handled highlights - sort of "film like" - yes you can still blow highlights - but it looked a whole lot like slide film. No funky strange colors and even when the highlights went through the roof the transitions did not look at all "digital". Some of the colors and the values they are rendered at in these photos used to throw other digital cameras into fits and looked horrible - not the D2H. Yes the D2x is just as good, so is the D3. But hey this was way back in 2004. That is like ancient times in digital.

DSC0008.jpgThe funny part is that the D2 cameras handle and feel exactly like the D3 cameras. Except the D2H is a tad lighter - another reason it is one of my favorite beater cameras. I know what you are thinking - it is not a light camera - no it isn't but… If you stick a vertical grip on other cameras it is just as heavy and they are not nearly as comfortable as the D2H. Comfort, speed, good color. decent dynamic range, sharp, did I mention fast. Why wouldn't I shoot this camera in workshops.

This is probably my favorite beater camera - you don't have a beater camera that you can use to train yourself not to be so worried about your camera. Get one of these. You can probably get them for like 200 bucks. I doubt used ones are broken - even if they are ugly. These things are like hammers. As a bonus for your 200 bucks you will get to see what kind of difference shooting a pro body is like vs. a not pro body. I am serious on this point. If you have a D5000 or a D80 or something like that and have ever wonderedDSC0116.jpg why people pay a lot more money for a camera that cannot really do a whole lot "more" technically you will know after shooting a $200 beat up D2H. This thing is so much faster and more responsive - so much more comfortable and the controls are so much better there will not be any doubt in your mind as to "why". Of course that may make no difference in your images. Then again it might make a world of difference and suddenly you will find yourself in the market for a used D2x - also a song or a used D3 in a year instead of the next biggest baddest D5002 with 25 megapixels and HD video.

Well - there you have it. I know that is a bunch of strange stuff but maybe it will be some food for thought for a couple of folks out there one way or another. It may also give you an idea of why I am such a crazed lunatic when it comes to the perfect work-flow tool (Aperture) that screws up the perfect colors on my perfect camera (Nikons). Sane folks just accept things - I do not and cannot accept things. I must change reality and bend it to my will.

Any other D2H questions?


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