Jewish World ReviewDec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves5763

Digital Nikon camera a winner, at a price

By Mark Kellner | Those old enough to remember will recall when a catchy little tune, one with words that actually meant something (as opposed to the now-hot "Ketchup Song"), paraded across the FM and AM dials. The song, "Kodachrome," by Paul Simon, was an ode to the vivid memories of youth, and included what may have been the first product placements in a Top 40 hit: "I got a Nikon camera/I love to take a photograph/So mama don't take my Kodachrome away."

The world has, of course, changed. Kodachrome still has a meaningful place in photography, but film-wise Kodak is heartily challenged by Fuji Photo Film of Japan. And Nikon, whose name and reputation was built on excelling at film photography, is triumphing in the digital realm, just as it has with conventional film.

Recently, Nikon Inc. loaned me one of its higher-end digital cameras, the D100, along with a AF-S Zoom-Nikkor (stet) 24-85 mm lens. The combination lists for $3,000. The pricing means this isn't a low-cost device for the neophyte, but rather a professional-level tool for the dedicated user.

I'm not a professional photographer, but the D100 made me feel rather close to one. From the start, getting good pictures seemed a rather easy matter: the through-the-lens viewfinder showed the sharpening image as I adjusted the focus ring on the Nikkor lens. (Though the lens is an "auto-focus" lens, I found it helpful to make minor adjustments before shooting.) There's a built-in flash that worked well in many indoor situations; getting a more traditional flash unit, which can be attached to the camera via a "hot shoe" connector, is probably a good idea.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of the D100 is that it really feels like a SLR film camera. Those accustomed to using the larger cameras, with their interchangeable lens systems and other accessories, will feel right at home with the D100: this is a professional-grade system that has the heft and bulk needed for comfort and control when out shooting pictures.

Of course, the difference here is that the camera records the images digitally, on a Compact Flash (or CF) compatible memory card; the D100 also supports IBM Corp.'s Microdrives, offering a vast number of images on a single micro-sized hard disk. Currently, the IBM Microdrive can be had with as much as 1 Gigabyte of storage, and even the smaller 340 MB Microdrive I'd used was more than adequate. The actual number of pictures stored on a given memory device varies both by size of the device and the resolution of the pictures.

If you shoot at the lower JPEG resolutions, more than enough for the Web or e-mail, you can store hundreds of pictures easily. Go for the maximum resolution of 6.1 megapixels - a quality that could create a magazine cover - and the larger storage devices can hold a fair amount; that small Microdrive registered around 141 of the ultra-high resolution shots, as I recall. (Even regular CF cards are helpful, with a 64 MB card holding more than enough pictures at basic or standard resolutions.)

Transferring the photos to an Apple iMac involved no more than connecting the USB cable to both camera and computer, then powering on the D100. Apple's iPhoto software ably handled the rest, although Nikon includes its own software suite for Windows and Mac systems, which can also be used to remotely control the camera, say in a studio setting.

The proof of the camera, of course, is in the images, which are extremely clear, detailed and of a quality - even at the lower resolutions - that is tough to beat. If it can be said of some exemplary people that they make us want to strive to achieve more, then Nikon's D100 makes me want to apply myself more to the study of photography, to make myself a better shutterbug. For those with a taste for the best in digital photography - and the bank account to match - the D100 is a great camera. For the rest of us, we can only await more and more of this advanced technology to move through the digital camera world.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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