Nikon D100 Review

The D100 was Nikon’s fourth digital SLR (after the D1, D1H, and D1X), but introduced its second DSLR body style. Released in 2002, It eschewed the extra battery grip and some of the extra buttons and connections from the D1 series for a more streamlined standard camera body. It cost $1,999 and was one of the first DSLRs under $2,000, significantly less than the $5,000 D1 series.

Two grand got you a camera mostly based on Nikon’s N80 film camera with a screen, some buttons, and some extra space added to the bottom for circuitry. It included a 6.1 MP CCD produced by Sony (the same as the D70 and and *ist D), ISO 200 – 3200 sensitivity, five area user-selectable autofocus, 1/4000 second max shutter speed, and 3 fps continuous shooting (for 1 or 2 seconds depending on file format).

It looks remarkably like one of Nikon’s current cameras with an LCD on top, a mode dial on the left, front and rear control dials, a rotary on/off switch around the shutter button, and an LCD preview screen in the middle with a column of buttons to the left and a control pad to the right. The D100 represents a huge change in ergonomics compared to the D1 series because it moves the screen to a more centered position and puts buttons to the side, making them much easier to access. Most Nikons DSLRs use this button layout to this day. It’s a bit chunkier and heavier than the D70, which is nearly the same camera with a smoother design, better ergonomics, improved controls, better display, faster processing, and lighter weight. While the buttons don’t do exactly the same things on my D750 they are all located in about the same places.

Its controls do have some quirks though. Like the D70, the buttons are pretty small and difficult to push. Unlike the D70, the buttons are not dual-mode, so same button can’t control one thing in playback mode (like zoom) and another in shooting mode (like set ISO). This relegates the ISO, white balance, and quality controls to the mode dial. You have to rotate the button out of your current shooting mode (aperture priority or whatever) into ISO, for instance, change the ISO with the command dial, and then rotate back into your shooting mode. You cannot take images when in ISO, white balance, or quality modes, making these adjustments very inconvenient. The D100 is the only Nikon DSLR to have this control scheme; the D200 adopted the dial and mode button scheme from the D2 series.

It also includes a viewfinder grid display just like my D750. As far as I know it is Nikon’s first DSLR with this feature (the D1s don’t have it). It’s actually inherited from the N80 film body (circa 2000) on which the D100 is based. I’ve owned two intermediate Canons (50D, 7D) and neither have this. I don’t know if any other Canons have it but it’s one of my favorite features. It’s neat to know where it came from.

In terms of daily use the D100 works and feels very much like the D70 but with more heft. They use the same battery and I’ve swapped CF cards between them with ease. The D70 is definitely faster, especially when zooming into RAW images, and because it’s faster it only supports compressed RAW files which nearly doubles the number of shots on a card. The D100 supports compressed RAW but it takes 15-30 seconds to save each image. The D70 also auto-rotates images taken in a vertical orientation, a feature I didn’t know I relied on so much until I realized the D100 didn’t have it.

As they use the same CCD image sensor, images are similar between the D100 and D70, however the D70 seems to have better noise performance at ISO 800 and up. The D100 exhibits a pattern in its noise that is very distracting. Reviews state that JPEG output is a bit better but I only shoot in RAW anyway so it doesn’t matter. The D70 also has more accurate white balance; I had to make adjustments to several of my D100 images taken outdoors that were too green and blue. RAW latitude is pretty good; I was able to pull details from the sky by reducing highlights and pull details from the shadows by brightening them. Outside of that the images exhibit the same high-contrast saturated quality of the D70 and *ist DL.

The auto white balance was way too green and blue in many cases and needed to be adjusted
I pulled detail out of both shadows and highlights in this image

I enjoy this camera for the design evolution that is evident between it and its successor, the D70. They are both blocky, but the D70 shows a bit of evolution with dual-mode buttons, a redesigned mode dial, a bit less height, and a bit less heft. It may be 18 years old, but it can still produce good images too, which are below.

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