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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


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 CF Card]
  • 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 travelling bag
  • 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.

PictureProject 1.6

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.

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