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Nikon D200 DSLR Review
|Review Date: Nov
Advanced Amateur - Prosumer
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- Nikon D200 dSLR w/Body Cap
- No memory card [though I received a 1GB Team
- BM-6 LCD cover
- Eyepiece Cup DK-21
- Eyepiece Cap DK-5
- Shoulder Strap
- Li-Ion Battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500 mAh, MH-18a
Quick Charger & power cord
- Interface Cables: A/V; USB
- Instruction Manuals (English and French):
Quick Start Guide, Guide to Digital Photography
- Software CDs: Picture Project
- AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 G ED
VR Lens w/lens hood, lens cap, rear cap, and
- I also received the SB-800 flash
Not having used a pro DSLR for quite some time,
I picked up the Nikon D200 DSLR and immediately
made the following observations: it is big, it
is heavy -- and what a wonderful feeling holding
a camera again that felt luxurious to the touch!
Handling is superb, with a very comfortable handgrip,
though I had to get used to the soft, too squishy
feeling of the control buttons (perhaps all that
rubber is needed to maintain the weather-proof
capability of the camera?).
Next was, of course, the large and bright optical
viewfinder. Followed by the smooth manual zoom
ring, the convenience of the Main command and
Sub-command dials, the instant response of the
camera, and the satisfying kachunk of the mirror.
I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively
compact the 18-200mm zoom lens was.
When I took the camera out for my first shooting
session, I had no idea the previous reviewer had
set Easy Exposure Compensation on. As it is really
easy to rotate the Main command dial and/or
the Sub-command dial (the ergonomics is so good
that by just picking up the camera your fingers
fall naturally on the dials -- and rotate one
or both dials in the process) and set an exposure
compensation (usually an under-exposure). I did
not see any exposure compensation value in the
viewfinder (I missed the tiny bars). Imagine my
surprise on seeing so many of my first shots come
out way under-exposed!
It seemed that no matter what I tried, the pictures
came out dark. On reviewing them in Playback,
I found that many were -3EV underexposed! I was
puzzled, admitted defeat that first shooting session,
and headed back home to crack open the manual.
And there I found what I was doing wrong: the
camera was set to be in Easy Exposure Compensation
and everytime I picked up the camera, my thumb
would naturally rest on the Main command dial
and rotate it a bit. What I was doing was in fact
dialing in an underexposure while in A mode. Why
I did not notice the underexposure is probably
because the exposure bars are so tiny.
So, I guess if I had to print one complaint about
the D200 is how tiny the exposure settings display
in the viewfinder. The actual exposure compensation
value is also not displayed (unless you half-press
the shutter release button) and so you have to
peer hard at the tiny bars to deternine how much
positive or negative exposure compensation you
have dialed in.
So once I got the hang of the Main command and
Sub-command dials -- and were extra careful not
to rotate them inadvertently -- the pictures came
out correctly exposed.
For one who uses mostly compact digital cameras
and long zoom digital cameras, my first impressions
are mixed. It feels heavy but handles superbly.
Nikon provides a very comfortable shoulder strap.
I am a bit puzzled by the feeling of soft rubber
coating everywhere. Even the Shutter-release button
and some of the controls feel "soft"
as you press them -- they don't "click"
-- but instead have a "mushy" feeling.
The Multi selector (4 Way Arrows Pad) is likewise
operated without any distinct click to indicate
you've pressed one of the arrows. It takes a bit
of time to get used to it all. In contrast, the
Shutter-release button provides a very nice tactile
feedback so you know when half-press is up and
you're about to take the shot.
You can display a Framing Grid in the viewfinder
but I find it difficult to see the fine lines
clearly and do not quite like the red color (I
always associate red with alarm so you can imagine
my stress level rising every time I take a picture).
Since the lines are not physically etched on the
focusing glass but drawn onto it electronically,
I would have liked the ability to customize these
lines and color.
At first, there seems to be gizzillions buttons
on the D200. Control settings lurk everywhere,
even on a Mode Dial that is hidden under what
used to be the film rewind button on a 35mm film
SLR. The Mode Dial here serves the purpose of
selecting a "Shooting Mode" or what
we know as "Drive Mode" -- i.e. Single
Frame, Continuous Frame (low speed, high speed),
plus Self-timer and Mirror up.
The self-timer can be set to release after 2,
5, 10 (default) or 20 sec. and you choose the
delay via a Custom Setting in the Menu. Unfortunately
only the one selected setting is then available
when you switch to self-timer mode. It would have
been nice to be able to use the main command dial
to simply dial in a desired delay time.
The supplied software, PictureProject 1.6, is
relatively easy to use and provide basic editing
functions. It can convert a RAW picture into JPEG
but unfortunately you cannot tweak any conversion
parameters. For that, you'll need to purchase
the optional Nikon Capture 4.4.
If you move a group of pictures from one folder
to another outside of PictureProject (I used Windows
Explorer to move them), then PictureProject will
of course not be able to find them anymore and
will display a "?" on top of each thumbnail.
Right-click on one of the pictures and select
"Recover..." and then "Find..."
the new folder where it has been moved. PictureProject
will recover the thumbnail. What is cool is that
it will also then attempt to recover all the other
pictures which was moved from that folder.
The Nikon D200 is a professional-grade
DSLR with lots of exposure flexibility and excellent
image quality up to ISO 400. On the other hand,
an advanced and knowledgeable photographer will
be able to use RAW file format and noise reduction
software to tweak out the best of higher ISO images.
The Nikon D200 is probably not suited for someone
new to DSLR. The average amateur photographer
will also not need all the functionality of the
D200. The pro who has clients with specialized
needs and the business owner with specialized
photographic needs will appreciate the D200's
extensive customization features.