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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D200 DSLR

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D200 DSLR Review

Review Date: Nov 20, 2006

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Nikon D200

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2006 Nikon D200 wins DIWA Gold Award Nikon D200 wins DIWA Platinum Award

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon D200 DSLR is in all respect a pro digital camera not only in its exhaustive number of features, but also in superb handling, operations and excellent image quality. Positioned between the affordable D100 and the professional D2X, the Nikon D200 is priced closer to the D100 but performs closer to the D2X. No wonder then that the D200 is a favourite of pros and advanced amateur photographers alike.

Nikon D200

As far as DSLRs go, the D200 is considered compact with a rugged, lightweight magnesium alloy chassis and body (the D100 is high impact plastic). The metal in the body adds about an extra 130 g (body only) to the D100; the D200 is approx. 240 g lighter than the D2X. Another reason why it is a favourite for pros is that not only is it built tough but it is also sealed against dust and moisture.

The lens mount system used in the Nikon D200 is the Nikon "F" mount with a 1.5x field of view crop. All AF-DX, AF-D, AF-G, AF-I, AF-S, and AF VR Nikkor lenses provide full AF and metering operation. AI-P lenses provide manual focus w/ electronic rangefinder and full metering operation. AI lenses provide manual focus w/ electronic rangefinder, Aperture Priority and Manual exposure mode, C/W and Spot metering operation.

The Nikon D200 uses the CompactFlash (CF) Card (Type I and II ) and Microdrive.

Here's how the top DSLRs measure up against one another, without lens attached and without battery and card:

Camera W
(mm)
H
(mm)
D
(mm)
Weight
(g)
Nikon D200 147 113 74 830
Panasonic L1 145.8 86.9 80 530
Canon 30D 144 105.5 73.5 700
Olympus E-330 140 87 72 550
Nikon D50 133 102 76 540
Sony A-100 133 95 71 545
Pentax K100D 129.5 92.5 70 560
Olympus E-500 129.5 94.5 66 435
Canon 350D 126.5 94.2 64 485

As you can see, it's not so much the dimensions but the weight of the D200 that you'll notice.

If you attach the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor lens, add in a further 390g (14.8 oz.).

If you attach the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor lens, add in a further 560g (19.8 oz.).

STYLE
- Colours: black body with white letterings
- Looks: very professional
   
FEEL
- Ergonomic but heavy
- Controls & menu are overwhelming at first until you get used to them
- Controls feel soft, mushy
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Hefty and feels heavy even carried with neck strap
- Dimensions: 147 x 113 x 74mm
- Weight: 830g
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500mAh
   

SPEED OF OPERATION

(using SHQ)

- Startup is quasi instant
- Shot to shot time as fast as you can press the shutter.
-

Burst: H - 26 frames in about 5 sec.; then slows down

Burst: L - 22 frames in about 5 sec.; slows down after about 32 frames

I used a SanDisk Ultra II SDCFH 512MB and the camera was set to Manual mode.

The burst rate slows down to about 3fps when the battery displays 2 bars.

- No practical shutter lag
- Overall, superb performance
   

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery that can take from anywhere between 340 to a remarkable 1,800 shots (depending on lens used, servo motor used, flash used, etc.) on a fresh charge (CIPA) and a Battery Charger BCM-2 (with power cord) that will recharge a new battery in about 2.15 hrs. An optional MB-D200 Multi-Power Battery Pack (which can also function as a vertical grip) provides an AF-on button, vertical firing release with lock and front and rear command dials; you can use two EN-EL3e or six AA batteries in it.

Nikon D200 Top View (without lens)

Even though there are a total of 7 control buttons on top of the camera, the design is clean. The D200 has a nice handgrip and your index finger falls naturally on the shutter-release button. The Power Switch is around the Shutter-release button with 3 settings: OFF, ON and backlighting for the information LCD. Behind it are the Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons. The Mode button allows you to select PASM.

The large rectangle is the LCD information panel that displays all your exposure settings.

Just in front of -- and a little under -- the shutter-release button is the Sub-command dial. This Sub-command dial is operated with your index finger. On the left side there are 3 push buttons for Image Quality, WB and ISO. Depress the lock release pin just to the left of Image Quality and you can also rotate the Mode Dial to set the Drive mode, select self-timer or lock the mirror in the up position.

Nikon D200 Back View

The D200 has a large 2.5-in. high resolution LCD monitor with wide-angle viewing and the 230K pixels are put to the best use with beautifully legible text and graphics. There is no live view and this LCD is strictly used for Playback. There is bright and large viewfinder with approx. 95% coverage. AF is lighting fast: half-press the Shutter-release button and your subject snaps into focus.

Nikon recommends blocking the viewfinder when using the self-timer to avoid stray light from the viewfinder skewing the exposure metering. To do that, you need to remove the eyepiece cup and insert the eyepiece cap. It would have been nice to have a built-in eyepiece shutter.

There are many control buttons on the D200 so there is not much need to resort to the Menu. Falling under your thumb is the Main command dial.

You use the Main command dial and Sub-command dial to quickly set your exposure values.

In Manual mode, the Main command dial and Sub-command dial allow you to control the shutter speed and aperture, respectively (you can switch this in Custom Setting Menu - f Controls - f5 Command Dials - Change Main/Sub - On).

In Shutter-Priority mode, use the Main command dial to change shutter speed.

In Aperture-priority mode, use the Sub-command dial to change aperture.

In Programmed Auto [P] mode, rotating the Main command dial switches you into Flexible Program [P*] mode (i.e. Program Shift) and allows you to select different combinations of shutter speed and aperture while keeping the same exposure.

This all gets a bit tricky if you select Easy Exposure Compensation (Custom Setting Menu - b Metering Exposure - b5 Exposure Comp. - On). Now, to dial in an Exposure Compensation, you do not need to press the [+/-] button down and rotate Main command dial. In P and S modes, simply rotate the Sub-command dial; in A mode, rotate the Main Command dial.

I love the fact that exposure compensation is defaulted and can be easily and directly dialed in. However, the "0" mark blink continuously, which I find unnecessarily irritating. Neither the viewfinder nor the Control Panel displays the actual value dialed in but tiny bars display along a bar to give an indication of the value. In addition, the [+/-] graphic is also displayed to indicate an exposure compensation has been dialed in. You'll have to press the [+/-] button to see the actual value. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of not having to press that button in the first place. Improvement suggestion is to display the actual exp. comp. value.

Note that even with Easy Exposure Compensation ON, you can still press the [+/-] button and rotate the Main command dial to set an exposure compensation.

Using the Multi selector, you can specify one of 11 AF areas you want the camera to focus on. There are 4 AF Area Modes to choose from. The Framing grid and the focus brackets are fine black lines which blink red when you half-press the Shutter-release button.

Nikon D200 Left View (with 18-200mm lens)

Underneath the camera, as expected, the metal tripod mount is located in line with the center of the lens and the imaging focal plane. You should be able to change the battery with the camera mounted on a tripod.

As you would expect, there are tons of customizable settings to choose from, more than we can reproduce here (unless we reproduce the whole manual).

SHOOTING MENU 1 of 3

- Shooting Menu Bank (A-D)
- Menu Reset
- Folders
- File Naming
- Optimize Image
- Color Space
- Image Quality

SHOOTING MENU 2 of 3

- Image Size
- JPEG Compression
- RAW Compression
- White Balance
- Long Exp. NR
- High ISO NR
- ISO Sensitivity

SHOOTING MENU 3 of 3

- Lomg Exp. NR
- High ISO NR
- ISO Sensitivity
- Image Overlay
- Multiple Exposure
- Intvl Timer Shooting
- Non-CPU Lens Data

SETUP MENU 1 of 2

- Format
- LCD Brightness
- MIrror Lock-up
- Video Mode
- World Time
- Language
- Image Comment

SETUP MENU 2 of 2

- Auto Image Rotation
- Recent Settings
- USB
- Dust Off Ref Photo
- Battery Info
- Formware Version

RECENT SETTINGS 1 of 2

- Screen depends on the settings you recently set/changed

RECENT SETTINGS 2 of 2

- Screen depends on the settings you recently set/changed

CUSTOM MENU

- Bank Select (A-D)
- Menu Reset
- Autofocus
- Metering/Exposure
- Times/AE&AF Lock
- Shooting/Display
- Bracketing/Flash

EASY EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

- Easy Exposure Compensation (found by following "b5", i.e. Setup - Metering/Exposure ("b") and then the 5th option.

PLAYBACK MENU 1 of 2

- Delete
- Playback Folder
- Slide Show
- Hide Image
- Print Set
- Display Mode
- Image Review

PLAYBACK MENU 2 of 2

- After Delete
- Rotate Tall

PLAYBACK INFO 1 of 2

 

PLAYBACK INFO 2 of 2

 

HISTOGRAM

 

RGB HISTOGRAMS

 

HIGHLIGHT

 

PLAYBACK FOCUS

 

The Nikon D200 is probably not the camera you want to "move up" to if you are coming from the world of compact non-DSLR digital cameras. But it certainly makes a perfect second backup (and affordable) digital SLR for a pro. I like the exceptional ergonomics of the Nikon D200 (though it took me some time to get used to the controls, as you'll read in the User's Experience section) and the fact that you can customize the camera to almost any way you like. A thorough read of The Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with the D200 (aka User Manual) is necessary to make the most of this versatile camera.

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