She sits next to me, runs a finger over her lips and says, "Boy, that's a BIG camera."

The Nikon D1X is a six megapixel digital SLR based on a modified F5 body. Designed to be used in conjunction with the rest of the Nikon system, a photographer may use any virtually any Nikon lens with the body and achieve results mimicing film. In fact, the response of the optical/electrical system yields results immediately transferrable to film. That is, if an exposure is perfect taken with a specific lens at F2.8 - 1/200, it will be the same with negative film of the same speed at F2.8 - 1/200.

The only issue is that the image will only be 85% of the size of a 35mm frame. Thus, looking into the viewfinder one will see an image that is slightly smaller. This can be unsettling to professional photographers who mentally frame everything they see. In addition, the image you get will be cropped by 85% compared to a 35mm film camera. Thus, a 50mm lens will yield an image size equivalent to what you would get with an 80mm lens but without the magnification.

That aside, the D1X is fabulous for training yourself on the ins and outs of perfect exposure. One can use the D1X in a rapid-fire mode, choose the correct exposure by observing the images, histograms, overexposed/underexposed regions in its monitor--and then setting an F5 film camera to the same parameters for excellent results.

The camera will mimic film speeds from 100 to 3200ASA. The trade off is noise (more at higher speeds).

She wanted to know why I had to have such a big camera. She was sitting so close our knees knocked at the bar. I handed her a beer. She handed me two, and a couple of Jack Daniels' chasers.

"Are you trying to get me drink?" I said. "Drunk?"

"What do all those buttons do?"

The Nikon D1X operates in aperture or shutter priority modes. There is also a programmed mode and of course, manual mode. Shutter speeds from several seconds to 1/2000. Works with all the autofocus lenses.

Metering modes are spot, center weighted metering, and Nikon's proprietary matrix mode that uses some simple AI techniques to choose exposure.

She's blonde. Six feet tall. Mountain climber. Deep blue eyes. Smiles when I talk about being in love with the ice, her tongue at the ridge of her teeth. Biologist. She's counting rotifers in the lake. I'm counting photons from the sun. Turning them to electricity.

"Are you married?" she asks me.

"Last time I checked. Why? Did my wife leave a nasty message somewhere?"

"How about here? Are you married here?"

The D1X performs JPEG compression internally. Images can be saved in B&W (all three color planes set to the same luminosity--no data reduction) or color. File sizes range from 0.5Meg to 6Meg. To get the highest resolution you must output the images in Nikon Electronic Format. There's a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop that will allow you to read NEF files directly. Otherwise, you need to use the Nikon Capture software to convert NEF to JPEG, GIF, or other formats.

No one this gorgeous has ever asked me that question before. All I want is the right answer--I don't care which one it is.

"Why wouldn't I be?" I say, crossing my fingers.

The D1X has a firewire port for easy connection to modern PCs and laptops.

The biggest weakness of the D1X is in the nature of its lightpath. At some point in the picture taking process, the CCD must be exposed to the lightbox's environment. If there's dust in the lightbox, it can be attracted to the electrostatically charged CCD. When this happens your images will become spotty. The only solution is to manually clean the extremely sensitive and expensive CCD. When you do this you will scratch it, wrecking a $5000 camera.

What a conundrum. Great camera--makes spotty pictures. There's no way around it. It's impossible to prevent dust in the lightbox. Every time you change a lens, the lightbox is open to the elements. It's no-win.

She's not sure how to respond to me. Puzzled. Does she escalate or run? She does neither. Poses the question again. I'm not ready for this.

"Some people, they come down here to the ice, you know, and they're, like, not married anymore..."

"What do you think about that?" She wasn't ready for that one. Swallows. Grabs another beer. The bottle of JD. Fills my shotglass.

As of this writing, the only flash that will work with the D1X is the Nikon SB28-DX. It's specifically designed to mate with the digital camera series, though it will work with the Nikon F5 just as well.

Another weakness of the D1X is it's lunky as hell. Bigger even than the F5, it's like having a tank around your neck, especially with one of the fast autofocus lenses attached. Two pounds. This aside, it's the most fantastic toy a boy could want.

Except for a crazy blonde ice lady.

"I guess I don't know how I think," she says, smiling, downing a Jack shot before she sips her beer. Her bangs flip backward when she knocks back the shot. She's been drilling and diving today. Dry suits. Tanks. Instant death on equipment failure. This woman isn't afraid of most things, and that's scary cool. We're getting drunk and falling in love with now. Tomorrow is another day.

This is going through my mind: Oh shit right now I would like nothing more than to be about have sex with you.

This is what I say: "When I used to travel on business, guys used to go to other countries and claim they weren't married there. I thought they were pigs."

She flinches when I say, "pigs." Like I slapped her.

I am either doing the right thing, or totally fucking this up. I can't tell.

You can shoot bursts of nine frames of full six-megapixel pictures at three frames per second. Its sibling, the Nikon D1H, has all the same parameters with two exceptions. It has a smaller (two megapixel), faster CCD (by two stops). You can take bursts of forty frames at five frames per second. This is good if you're a sports photographer, capturing action at a football match or a car race.

Had you a D1H, you could snap an eight-second virtual movie in two-megapixel frames. You could have taken a two-megapixel-per-frame movie of me totally fucking up my first male-female interaction on the ice.

"That's the way you feel?" she says.

"About me--I mean. I don't mean to be judging people here. I just mean me."

"Yah." She gets up. "I wanna talk to you after you get back from the field. See if you feel so judgmental then."

She goes away. Within an hour, the entire base knows I'm probably a self-righteous, judgmental, puritanical asshole. What do I have to do to change this? Is it worth changing?

The Nikon D1X is powered by either eight AA cells or a rechargable pack they say will last 300 exposures. The pack recharges in about an hour. One should go through three recharge/refresh cycles to "condition" it before first use. So conditioned, I've found it to last about 200 shots before requiring recharging. The camera uses compact flash type-2 cards. I've used it successfully with 1GB IBM Microdrives, even on the ice.

I say to Martin: "Look, I don't wanna have to go sleep with someone just to get accepted by this crew. It would be pretty crummy to be out in the field for two weeks in close quarters and have people not like me--or forget to show me the way home from a long hike."

Martin says, "She just wants to know if she can accept you or not. It's okay if you don't fool around. Just don't hold her to a standard that might not mean as much down here as it does up in the world."

When I came back from the field, I went to her office. She already knew everything that went on out there. I didn't even have to show her the pictures.

I started telling her about my Nikon D1X and she pulled one out of a drawer and slammed it on the desktop, smiling.

"Wow. That's a BIG camera," I said to her.

"All the better to SEE you with," she said.

"How do you like the shutter lag?" I asked her.

"There isn't any fucking shutter lag," she said. Then she stood up and kissed me.

Or maybe I kissed her. Who can remember?

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