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Testing / Performance
Color*(8.24)*We tested the color reproduction of the Nikon D200 by shooting several photographs of a GretagMacbeth color chart at the camera’s various settings. We imported the results into Imatest Imaging Software, which contrasts the camera’s produced tones with the correlating ideal from the chart. Most prosumer and professionally-designed cameras will provide multiple color modes and image parameters which impact the tone, saturation, and contrast. In this section we are evaluating the camera’s color accuracy in its default setting – with NR on Normal. We elaborate on the individual parameters available in the Image Parameters *section of the review. * Below is a modified GretagMacbeth color chart produced by Imatest imaging software, illustrating the camera’s produced tones in the outer square, while the corresponding ideal is in the vertical rectangle. The inner square is the ideal, corrected for luminance.
Below is another chart produced by Imatest displaying the D200's color accuracy. The information is the same as above, but displayed in a more quantitative manner.
When set to its default parameters, with high ISO NR on Normal, the D200 earned an overall color score of 8.24. This is a bit lower than expected, but given the degree of post-processing that most users will employ, the camera shouldn’t stand in the user’s way. In its default settings, the D200 over-saturates color 4.9% and had an overall color error of 7.37. **Still Life Scene**Loyal readers with recognize the image below, but for those new to DigitalCameraInfo.com, permit us to introduce you to our standard still life scene. This is a shot of it captured with the Nikon D200.
Click on the image above to view the full resolution file (CAUTION: the linked file is VERY large!)](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=D200-StillLife-LG.jpg)
Resolution / Sharpness*(5.73)*The D200 is backed by a 23.6mm x 15.8mm DX-sized CCD sensor, with 10.92 million total pixels, 10.2 of which are effective for imaging. To test the resolution and sharpness of the D200, we recorded a series of images of an industry standard resolution chart at varying aperture values and import the files into Imatest Imaging Software. We report the highest score attained. The image below was shot at f/6.3 using a Nikkor 60mm macro lens and the camera’s default parameters.
Click on the above image to view the full res. image](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=D200-ResCH-LG.jpg)
Typically, resolution results in analog cameras were given in lp/ph, representing line pairs per picture height, although this does not account for varying digital camera sensor dimensions. Therefore, we report our results resolution in LW/PH, which stands for line widths per picture height, to standardize results.
We found the D200 with a Nikkor 60mm macro lens resolved 1918 LW/PH horizontally and 1897 LW/PH vertically. While this is a strong performance, it is slightly below our initial expectations, but given the quality of glass available and the price, of the D200, it makes sense. Overall, image quality will not be a problem for most.
Noise – Auto ISO*(10.25)*The D200 enables users to determine the sensitivity range when the D200 is set to Auto ISO, which helps control noise by limiting the max ISO. In testing the camera’s auto ISO noise control, we left the limit at 1600 and shot at just under 2000 lux. This is about a third of the illumination of typical bright daylight. The results could be read as mixed; the camera selected an ISO speed of 800, which is a bit higher than was necessary, but the resulting noise was on par with ISO speeds of 80 and 100 on many compact cameras. **Noise – Manual ISO***(12.28)*With as many options to reduce noise as it has options to control color, the D200 has multiple noise reduction mechanisms in place to help produce images with acceptable clarity at higher ISO settings. Below we have included our typical noise graph which plots data produced by images taken with the D200 in its default settings, with long NR ON and HIGH ISO NR set to Normal. In the low light section below, we have included a chart displaying the noise levels when varying degrees of in-camera noise reduction are used.
In its default settings, the D200 performed well beyond expectations in terms of noise suppression -- it produced the third lowest noise scores we have attained behind the Fuji S3 pro and Canon EOS 5D (but not far!) Above is a graph showing the D200’s noise performance at the various sensitivity settings available. As you can see, the chart has a steady, gradual incline, only jumping once it hits its ISO 1250 settings. This is impressive. The camera produced far less noise when NR was increased, but with sacrifices made to detail, color saturation, and color accuracy. **Low Light Performance***(7.0)*We tested the Nikon D200, as we test all our cameras, at decreasing light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. 60 lux is equivalent to the light put out by a reading lamp, and 30 lux is about the light put out by a reading lamp with a very unsuitable bulb. 15 and 5 lux equate to candle light; 15 lux is maybe a handful of candles, whereas 5 lux is only 1 or 2. Shooting in both of these latter two near-darkness conditions would not likely be attempted without a flash by many shooters; however, the D200 extends up to ISO 1600 and beyond, enabling users to shoot with existing light in dark situations. We test all cameras at all four light levels to determine the rough limits of the sensor. The low light shots below were taken with Long Exposure NR ON and HIGH ISO NR on HIGH. Because of the myriad noise suppression options on the D200, we have presented the data in a single concise chart rather than a handful of graphs, illustrating the impact of various degrees of in-camera noise reduction on color accuracy, saturation, and obviously noise.
**Speed / Timing**
Speed and Timing tests on the Nikon D200 were conducted with a freshly-charged battery. We used a 1GB SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash Card. *Start-up to First Shot (9.84)**
The Nikon D200 got off its first shot 0.16 seconds after being switched on.**
Shot to Shot (9.81)
*The Nikon D200 burst mode shot at 5 frames per second when shooting either RAW or JPEG files. When shooting JPEG Large, the D200 managed a burst of 30 frames at full speed, and then got bogged down. It took 25.16 seconds to clear the buffer after a 30-frame burst. In RAW mode, the D200 shot 21 frames before slowing down, and took 58.99 seconds to finish writing the files. *
Shutter to Shot (9.02)
*The Nikon D200's shutter lag won't be a problem for those intent on capturing "The Decisive Moment." We measured a lag of 0.03 seconds between pressing the shutter release and the shot itself.
Front*(8.0)*The front of the Nikon D200 will seem familiar to users of other Nikon DSLRs, particularly users of the D100, D50, and D70s. The handgrip has Nikon's signature red triangle just below the control dial, like its predecessors. The grip itself is thick and covered with leather-textured rubber. The edge of a control dial protrudes near the top of the grip, just below the shutter release. The Nikon lens mount dominates the front of the D200, but it's small compared to the Canon mount and some others. The mount is on a platform that projects from the front, and the platform is integrated with several controls. Above the midpoint on the left side of the mount’s platform, there’s an electric depth of field preview button. Above that is the Autofocus assist light. Below the depth of field preview is Nikon's Func. Button, which can be customized to provide access to several different shooting controls. On the right side at the mid-line of the mount’s platform is the lens release button, with the autofocus mode switch below. High on the right side is the flash exposure compensation button, and higher up, the button to pop up the integrated flash. On the far right, off the lens mount, is a 10-pin terminal for remote controls and compatible GPS units. The viewfinder hump sports a large white Nikon logo. At the far right, above the 10-pin terminal, the camera is labeled D200. **Back***(8.0)*Again, the back of the D200 is similar to other Nikon DSLRs, with changes that most users will regard as refinements. At the upper left corner is the bracket button, and next to it on the inside is the trash button. In a vertical column along the left side of the LCD are the Playback, Menu, Playback magnification, Lock/Help, and Enter buttons. They're larger than the corresponding buttons on the D70, and they are labeled in beige. The 2.5-inch LCD contains 230,000 pixels, just the kind of LCD a high-resolution DSLR should have. The viewfinder has a large rubber eye cup; it’s not round like the cup on the D2X and D2H, but sort of rectangular with the top corners cut off. The viewfinder window is larger than the D70's, and much smaller than the D2X and D2H’s. It has a dioptric adjustment dial on the upper right, hidden partly behind the eye cup. Nikon users won't be surprised to find the exposure and focus lock button to the right of the viewfinder. The crenellated ring around it sets the meter pattern. The AF-ON button is next to the AE/AF lock button, and to the right of this, near the D200’s right edge, is the rear control dial. The four-way controller is to the right of the LCD. It looks like the D2H/D2X controllers, surrounded with a locking ring. A rotary switch below the controller selects the autofocus sensor pattern, and below that is a latch to open the memory card door. The leather-textured rubber of the handgrip wraps around from the front of the camera to cover the curving thumb indent on the right. **Left Side***(8.0)*The PC flash synchronization terminal is at the top of the left side of the Nikon D200. The shoulder strap lug is at about the same height, but towards the front edge. Most of the remainder of the left side is taken up by two rubber doors, one to cover the video out port and the power supply jack, and one to cover the USB 2.0 port. The power supply door is very large in relation to the power jack.
**Right Side***(8.0)*The right side of the Nikon D200 is smooth. Most of it forms the door over the memory card slot. The strap lug is set very high, out of the way of the grip.
Top*(9.25)*The D200's large control dial on the left side of the top is mechanically similar to dials on the D2H and D2X, with three large buttons atop the dial itself and a locking control ring around the perimeter. On the D200, the three buttons allow direct access to Quality, White Balance, and ISO, while the locking ring sets the drive mode. The pop-up flash covers much of the pentaprism (it really is a prism and not a pentamirror, the latter of which is the less-expensive technology Nikon and others use on their lower-end DSLRs), and the top of the viewfinder hump has a dedicated hot shoe. A large monochrome LCD status display covers most of the right side of the top. The shutter release, surrounded by a ring-shaped on-off switch, is on top of the handgrip towards the front. The mode control button and the exposure compensation button are between the shutter release and the LCD status display. The right-side strap lug is more or less at the corner of the right side and the top.
Bottom*(8.0)*The Nikon D200's bottom has a large rubber-covered patch, which prevents the camera from sliding too easily on smooth surfaces. That's a welcome safety feature that might keep the camera from falling off tabletops here and there. The tripod bushing is just where it should be, directly under the optical axis. The battery compartment door is right on the underside of the grip. It closes with a secure latch.
Viewfinder*(8.5)*Early speculation regarding the D200 indicated that the presence of a pop-up flash, and the relatively small size of the viewfinder hump, would signify a small optical system using a pentamirror instead of the superior pentaprism technology. Fortunately, this was not the case; the D200 sports a pentaprism, and a bright, large viewfinder. As with many features of the D200, the viewfinder is an improvement over previous prosumer models, and an improvement made by borrowing a characteristic from the pro D2H/D2X cameras. Unfortunately, the D200 doesn't borrow every helpful characteristic: the Nikon D200 viewfinder shows only 95 percent of the final image instead of the 100 percent that the top cameras do, and though the viewing window is larger and much more comfortable than the D70’s window for users who wear glasses, it is still smaller than the viewing window on the big cameras. Further, the crop is imbalanced, primarily affecting the bottom of the composition instead of all edges of the frame evenly.
The viewfinder shows Focus, metering AF/FV lock, flash sync mode, shutter speed, aperture, exposure, exposure compensation, ISO, Exposure mode, flash exposure, frames remaining, and active autofocus area. The D200's diopter ranges from -2.0 to +1.0, and its eyepoint is 19.5 mm. It shows the world at a .94x magnification (50mm lens at infinity).**
LCD Screen***(8.25)*Up from the 1.8-inch 118,000 pixel LCD on the D100 and 2.0-inch 130,000 pixel display on the D70s, Nikon has equipped the prosumer-oriented D200 with a 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD screen, more like those found on their professional D2-series cameras. Colors displayed on the screen are reasonably saturated with a good deal of contrast and the size and detail of the screen make it easy to check focus. Users can adjust the brightness of the display +/-2 within the Setup menu. A grayscale appears horizontally across the top of the menu to help gauge the appearance of the tonal scale in the selected illumination. . The rear LCD has a wide angle of view that remains visible at nearly 170 degrees to either side. The angle of view is not quite as expansive vertically, but still a strong improvement over the D70 screen. **Flash***(9.25) *
The D200's built-in flash has a guide number of 39 (in feet) at ISO 100. (For those who never had to calculate flash exposure in their heads, that's about f/4 at 10 feet.) We found its coverage to be fairly even, but our exposures as a whole at f/4 at 10 feet were a bit underexposed. The built-in flash is capable of balanced fill flash, and we expect it will see more use providing fills and acting as a trigger than as a main light source.
The D200 syncs to 1/250 – a big plus for location shooting, though we're sure that some D70 users wish it had that camera's 1/500 sync speed. The D200 offers the typical range of sync settings: front-curtain, rear-curtain, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync and slow sync only. In a feature our staff wedding shooter is delighted with, the D200 offers two custom settings for sync speed – first, the default sync speed can be set, so the camera defaults to 1/250, or whatever speed the user sets below that; and second, the user can set the slowest shutter speed the camera will use in aperture priority or program mode when the camera has a flash connected in slow sync mode.
The D200 offers flash exposure compensation from 3 stops below the metered exposure to 1 above in 1/3 or 1/2-stop intervals. Flash bracketing can be manually set from 2-9 EV in increments of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or 1 stop.
The D200 also offers iTTL control with SB-800, SB-600 or SB-R200 dedicated flashes (which can attach via the 4-pin hot shoe) as well as multi-flash control with the pop-up unit when set in Commander mode. In commander mode users can control up to 3 groups of SB-800, 600, or 200 flashes with the in-camera unit. Each group can have any number of flashes, and a 200, 600 or 800 attached directly to the camera can also act as the commander. Balanced fill flash iTTL will produce a good ambient exposure for the background and a good flash exposure for the subject with the pop-up or the 800, 600, or 200. Balanced fill activates a pre-flash for exposure measurement. It's notable that flashes older than the 800 are not invited to the party – only these three offer TTL (Through The Lens) exposure automation. This appears to be one of the major distinctions between the two leading camera manufacturers: Canon’s recent EOS models were all designed for compatibility with all EX-Speedlites.
The D200 also has a PC sync terminal, for use with non-dedicated flashes.
**Lens Mount ***(9.0)*The D200 is fitted with Nikon’s F-mount and accepts all current Nikon lenses. The current AF G and D lenses and the AF I and S lenses allow 3D metering and autofocus. The D200 even offers manual and aperture priority exposure metering with most of Nikon's decades-old manual focus AI Nikkor lenses. Users can enter maximum aperture and focal length data for AI lenses via the D200 menus, allowing the camera to display the selected aperture. The D200 will not accept most pre-AI lenses, unless they have been converted for AI. There are some unusual pre-AI lenses that the D200 will take – the Medical Nikkor, the PC Nikkor, and some reflexes. Because the D200 uses an APS-format sensor, its field of view is cropped relative to 35mm form. The D200, like other Nikon DSLRs, gives a roughly 1.5x magnification over full-frame 35mm format.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(9.0)* The Nikon D200 looks bulkier than the D70, although it's not much bigger. Like its predecessors, the D100 and the F100, the Nikon D200 is a bit more square – in spots where the D70 tapers, the D200 has filled-out corners. All Nikon DSLRs share certain stylistic touches, such as a small inverted red triangle towards the top of the handgrip, the leather-textured rubber body covering, and angular contours on the viewfinder hump. The D200 is no exception; it looks like a member of the family. The viewfinder profile of the Nikon D200 holds a pop-up flash, so it juts forward, like the D70s and D50 viewfinders. The D2X/D2Hs shapes aren't as pointy, though they do bulge a bit. In this respect, the gap between the midline Nikons and the top ones is visibly apparent. **Size / Portability***(7.25) At 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 inches, the Nikon D200 has roughly the same maximum dimensions as the D70. The distance from bottom to top of the hot shoe is the same for both the D70 and D200, but the D200 fills out that space more completely. Weight proves it. Nikon says the D70 tips the scales at 600 grams, or 21 ounces, while the D200 goes 830 grams, or 29 ounces. This gives the D200 a denser feel than most 35mm bodies that don’t include a vertical grip. The D200 will probably feel heavy to some, but it’s a solid, stable type of weight, indicating the type of construction and build quality that went into the camera.
**Handling Ability**(9.0)*We found the Nikon D200 easy to hold and operate. The grip is comfortable. The rubber covering is the same material that's on the D2H grip. It's stickier than the coating on the D70, which gives it a more secure feel. The media card door is not covered with rubber, unlike the D2X and D2H, but it's a much smoother contour than the D70 grip. The swooping thumb rest on the D200 is comfortable, and positioned well to allow the user to operate the four-way controller and the rear control dial. The gap created by the door's hinge is much less noticeable on the D200. The camera strap lugs on the Nikon D200 are up and out of the way, and the camera balances well. The right one is more or less on top of the camera, and won't get in the way of the user's hand. The left one is high, too, mounted near the junction of the front and side panels. The rubber covering extends to the left front and side of the D200, so users who find themselves gripping the camera, rather than the lens, with their left hands will still find a good texture to grip.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(9.25)*The majority of the control buttons on the Nikon D200 are large and mechanically very good. Their travel, and the slight resistance they exert against the finger, gives reliable tactile feedback to the user. Nikon uses two jog dials for major shooting settings on all of its DSLRs except the D50. Like the other cameras, the Nikon D200's dials are at the back and front of the handgrip, placed for use by the thumb and forefinger, respectively. The Nikon D200's dials are large and made of a rubbery plastic, like the ones on the D2X and D2H. They are easy to turn, and an improvement over the smaller, hard plastic dials on the D70. The four-way controller is large, and appears to be exactly the same as the controller used on the D2X/D2H. Its operation is quick and smooth. Pressing the center of the control prompts an action related to the current function of the arrows. For instance, when one is using the sides, top, and bottom to scroll around an image, pressing the center of the dial will scroll to the center of the image. The ring surrounding the four-way controller turns to disable it in some functions. In shooting mode, the lock prevents the controller from switching autofocus areas, but leaves it enabled for menu navigation. The D200 has a customizable function button below the depth of field button on the front of the camera, a welcome feature it shares with the D2X/D2H. On the D200, the options for the function button include temporarily changing metering patterns and exposure options. We expect that most users will find access to their shooting shortcuts via this dedicated button quite useful. The three buttons on top of the burst mode dial to the left of the viewfinder control ISO, white balance, and quality (image resolution and compression), providing convenient and quick access to key camera functions.**
Menu***(8.0)*Nikon continues to use tabbed menu interfaces, but they're getting prettier—the D200 features white type on black and dark gray backgrounds, with some yellow accents. The D200 menus are readable, even in bright light, and well organized. The sanserif text is large and well-rendered, with a vertical bar of tabs on the left side of the screen, a heading at the top, a list of settings in the middle, a narrow gray vertical bar on the right showing current statuses for each settings, and a very narrow scroll bar at the far right. The D200 has a contextual help system. Pressing the "?" key brings up text about whatever menu item is active. Users of point-and-shoots or SLR-like compact cameras have gotten used to live views, which superimpose menus over the viewfinder image. Since this is an SLR, the D200 doesn’t offer this.
A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.
**Ease of Use***(6.5)*The D200 offers an extensive list of customization options and was not designed as a beginners' camera; however, the major controls are easy to find and operation is straightforward. The camera offers a Program mode for fully automatic exposure, though it only goes so far; it doesn't offer the Scene modes that the D70, D70s, D50 or Nikon Coolpix cameras do. On the other hand, the D200 offers manual overrides to tweak both its automated readings and its preset values. The overrides are easy to access, and can make pronounced changes in the final images. Also, the inclusion of a pop-up flash with commander mode makes it easier and more affordable to shoot with wireless multi-flash setups.
Auto Mode*(7.25)*The D200 dropped the beginner-friendly scene modes found on the D50, D70, and D70s, but it can be plenty automatic. By combining Program mode, Auto white balance, autofocus, and Auto ISO, a D200 user can have a very automated experience.
The Nikon D200's automated settings can be tweaked. Program mode shift allows the user to shift the aperture and shutter combination without changing the exposure value, biasing for a particular aperture or shutter speed or visual effect. **Movie Mode***(0.0)*Like all DSLRs, the D200's sensor is covered by the shutter when it's not actually used to capture an image, and is therefore not capable of shooting movies. Two DSLRs offer live focusing modes: the Fujifilm FinePix S3 and the special astrophotography edition of the Canon 20D can send live sensor data to their LCDs for focusing. The cameras' mirrors flip up and their shutters open in the process, but neither records the live view data. **Drive / Burst Mode ***(8.25)
*The D200's maximum burst speed is 5 frames per second in Continuous High mode. Continuous Low mode can be set to 1, 2, 3, or 4 frames per second. We shot 22 RAW files in a 5 frames-per-second burst. The D200 got 37 JPEGS in a 5 fps burst, while shooting full-resolution, fine-quality files. Nikon notes that its 4-channel output boosts speed in continuous shooting.
The D200 also boasts a self-timer that can be set from 2 to 20 seconds. The burst mode dial also includes the mirror lockup mode. With it, photographers can reduce camera vibration by flipping up the mirror up to 30 seconds before taking the exposure.
**Playback Mode***(8.0)*The Nikon D200's playback mode offers a range of options. When the user presses the playback button, the last image recorded comes up. Pressing the enter button engages the magnification control. Once it is engaged, the user can press the magnification button and turn the rear control dial to magnify and provide enough enlargement to check focus; in the other direction, turning the dial to shift to thumbnail view shows either 4-up or 9-up displays. In single-image view, the Nikon D200 can show a standard histogram, separate RBG histograms, shooting data, and highlights for each color channel. The D200 can also rotate vertical images. The Slide Show option shows all images in memory, except ones that have been "hidden" via the menu. There are no slick transitions available, but the user can choose intervals of 2, 3, 5, or 10 seconds. The user can delete single images, selected ones, or everything on the memory card.
Custom Image Presets*(0.0)*The D200 does not have custom image presets, such as "Sports," "Landscape" or "Portrait" to bias exposure for fast shutter speeds or extra depth of field. Nikon put presets on its entry level DSLRs, the D50 and D70s, but not on the D2X and D2H, or the D100, this camera's predecessor. The D200 does, however, offer a black and white mode, although in most cases you will probably get better results shooting in color and converting the image to black and white post-capture.
Manual Control OptionsThe Nikon D200 offers a full set of manual controls: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and focus. The D200 also offers manual settings for a variety of image parameters and a JPEG compression control. **Focus **
*Auto Focus (8.75)
*The D200 is equipped with a newly designed TTL phase detection, CAM1000 AF system, fitting between the CAM900 system on the D70s and the CAM2000 system in the D2X and D2Hs. Users can select between an 11-area or 7-area AF array. The Wide-frame 7-area AF utilizes larger AF sites, which will remain on a moving subject for longer and provide increased accuracy when tracking moving objects.
There are two autofocus modes included to select from: Single-servo AF or Continuous-servo AF.
Users can also select the AF-area mode, using the small switch to the right of the LCD screen. There are four AF-area modes in total: Single-area AF which utilizes a single AF site that is manually moved around the frame with the multi-selector; Group dynamic AF, which isolates a section of AF sites for the user to move to a desired region of the frame (the frame is divided into five regions in total – top, bottom, center, left, and right); Dynamic-area AF, which also allows the user to select a portion of the frame to focus on, but retains information from the other AF sites to help focus on subjects that move beyond the manually selected region; and Dynamic-area with closest-subject priority, which identifies and focuses on the area containing the nearest subject to the camera. The D200 allows the user to choose from two sets of autofocus area groups via the custom menu.
In practice, the D200’s CAM1000 system performed impressively, clearly surpassing the capabilities of the D70’s AF system. However, the D200 system only contains one cross-type sensor in the center. This does show in vertical shooting when compared with the D2-cameras, but it still handles the rotation reasonably.
In low light, the AF was extremely sharp, requiring very little contrast and even less illumination to lock in. Focus was fast and accurate and for the most part, tough to fool. We did notice though that autofocus reliability fluctuated slightly with different lenses.
Manual Focus (8.5)*The focusing screen on the D200 is bright and full of contrast, so it's fine for manual focus. Many newer Nikkor lenses feature a focus mode switch to allow manual focus, or manual override of autofocus. The D200 has a focus mode switch of its own. In manual focus, the camera won't adjust the lens, but an icon pops up in the viewfinder to confirm focus. *Metering*** (8.5)
*The D200 offers three metering modes in total. The overall metering mode is called 3D Color Matrix Metering II with applied type G and D lenses, color matrix II metering with other CPU lenses, and plain color matrix metering with non-CPU lenses. There is also a spot metering mode when more specific measurements are desired, which meters a 3mm circle (2% of frame), centered on the active focus area. The third metering mode is center-weighted, which defaults to 75% of the frame, although this can be adjusted in custom menu b6, which sets the center area from 6 to 13mm.
Metering modes are placed on a rotating button to the right of the eye cup, making it easy to switch without moving your shooting hand away from the shutter.
Exposure ***(9.25)***The D200 offers the basic exposure modes: Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program Auto, and Manual. Exposure compensation is available in an expanded +/- 5 EV range that can be set to full, 1/2, or 1/3-stop increments. The +/- 5 EV range has become synonymous with Nikon’s higher-end products and provides far more exposure latitude than competing cameras that generally only extend to +/- 2 or +/- 3 EV beyond the metered exposure. Exposure bracketing is also provided and can be manually set from 2-9 EV in increments of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, or full stops. Bracketing is easily engaged with a dedicated, "BKT" button, positioned on the upper left portion of the back of the camera. To the right of the eye cup, there is also an Auto Exposure Lock (AE-L) button, logically placed aside the AF-ON button and jog dial, creating a row of exposure controls accessible with the user’s right thumb when in shooting position.
White Balance*(8.5)*The Nikon D200 white balance system is typical Nikon, with 6 presets, fine-tuning, an Auto setting, a Kelvin scale, and 4 custom white balance settings. The 6 presets are: Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, and Shade. The fine-tuning option allows three steps above or below the set value. Except in the fluorescent setting, each step is about 10 mired, according to the camera manual. (A mired is a unit of color temperature.) Fine-tuning doesn't work with custom presets or with direct Kelvin settings. White balance bracketing is enabled for 2 to 9 shots in increments of 1, 2, or 3 steps on the "fine-tuning" scale. The Nikon D200's white balance system is flexible, accurate, and capable. Unlike the Canon system, it sticks to a straight linear model. Canons offer a two-dimensional fine-tuning system, allowing the user to adjust on both a green-to-magenta axis and an amber-to-blue axis.
ISO*(9.0)*The Nikon D200 offers ISO settings from 100 to 1600 in 1/2 or 1/3-stop increments, plus an extended range with three "settings up to 1 EV over 1600," according to the manual. Why Nikon isn't comfortable saying "3200," we don't know. On the camera interface, they're called H 0.3, H 0.7, and H 1.0. Adobe Photoshop doesn't read an ISO setting in EXIF data, and Iview Media Pro shows an ISO of 1.
Shutter Speed (9.0)The Nikon D200 offers shutter speeds from 30 sec to 1/8000, in 1/3, 1/2, or 1-stop increments, plus bulb. The maximum sync speed for conventional electronic flashes is 1/250.
Aperture*(0.0)*The Nikon D200 controls aperture electronically, with the control dial at the front of the handgrip as the user interface for changing it. When an old, manual Nikon-mount lens is attached to the camera, the lens's aperture ring controls the F-stop, and the Nikon D200 can read the setting. The D200 is not marketed in a kit with a lens, though an 18-200mm VR zoom lens was announced simultaneously with the camera. That lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to 5.6, from wide to telephoto.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(9.0)*The Nikon D200 offers RAW file capture and three levels of JPEG quality in three resolutions. The range of files sizes and quality is very wide; a 1GB CF card will hold approximately 60 RAW files, or about 2,200 "Basic" JPEGs at the smallest available resolution. The camera can also shoot RAW (NEF) and JPEG files simultaneously, with the JPEG at any size and compression setting. The D200 can compress JPEGs in two ways. Size-priority mode compresses JPEGs to a relatively consistent size, and Optimal Quality compresses varying amounts, depending on the complexity of the image. Nikon has typically used a size-priority JPEG algorithm; the Optimal Quality is a new addition. At full resolution and fine quality, we found that Optimal JPEGs were consistently larger than Size-priority, but that the sizes of files from both methods vary with subject matter and shooting conditions.
Picture Effects Mode*(8.5)*The Nikon D200 offers control of sharpness, saturation, contrast, and hue via the "Optimize Image" menu. There are 6 presets, and the option to create custom settings. The presets are Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, and Black and White. Softer apparently cuts down on in-camera sharpening, while the two Vivid settings boost sharpening, contrast, and saturation. Portrait lowers contrast. Creating custom settings on the D200 involves adjusting several parameters. Sharpening is adjustable on a 6-point scale from "-2" to "+2," plus "None." Nikon refers to "Tone Compensation" and "Contrast" more or less interchangeably. It can be set to Auto, Normal, Less Contrast, or More Contrast. For more flexibility, the user can create a new contrast curve in Nikon Capture 4 software. Capture 4 is not included in the sale price of the D200, however. Color mode can be set to I, II, or III. Nikon recommends I for portraits, III for landscapes and II for images that will be post-processed. Saturation can be set to Auto, Normal, Moderate (less saturated), and Enhanced (more saturated.) "Optimize Image" provides a range of controls for making both subtle and bold changes to image quality. As a group, the parameters indicate how significant in-camera processing is to image characteristics. Nikon warns that when any of the parameters are set to automatic, results can vary from shot to shot, depending on exposure, the subject, the position of the subject in the frame, and so on. Though "Optimize Image" is clearly powerful, it has a somewhat less clear, less flexible interface than the Canon equivalent, which is present on the EOS 5D and the 1D series cameras.
Connectivity / Extras
Connectivity*Software (7.0)*The Nikon D200 ships with PictureProject 1.6, a downloading, sorting, and printing program with limited editing tools. A slow and limited RAW converter is included, along with P2InTouch, an Internet photo sharing program. The software seems stable on our machine, but it's more or less what Nikon ships with its point-and-shoots. It does not offer the controls that a serious D200 user needs – particularly, good options for RAW conversion. Those controls are available in Nikon Capture 4 – and Nikon charges extra for that. *Jacks, Ports, Plugs **(8.75)*The Nikon D200 has USB 2.0 connectivity, as well as analog video out and a 4-pin hot shoe for Nikon's dedicated flashes – or for non-dedicated flashes, a PC flash sync post, a 10-pin jack for remote control, and the capacity to connect to compatible GPS units. There is also a jack for an external power supply. WiFi connectivity is available through optional accessories.
Direct Print Options *(8.0)*The Nikon D200 supports DPOF and PictBridge printing. The user can select the print size, the number of copies, whether to print a date stamp, and whether on not the image will print with a border. The user can also set the camera to use the printer's default settings. The D200 can also be set to create index prints. Note however that RAW images cannot be printed directly from the camera. *Battery**(7.0)*The Nikon D200 uses the EN-EL3e – a lithium-ion battery similar to, but not the same as, the batteries manufactured for the D100, D50, D70, and D70s. The new battery weighs 2.8 ounces and functions in older cameras, but the older batteries do not fit in the D200. Apparently, the difference between the EN-EL3e and its predecessors is the new battery's ability to send precise data about its charge status to the camera. It has a third contact that the previous batteries lack. The D200 body we tested gave us a scare with its battery. After charging the camera the morning we got it, and shooting into the evening, we charged the battery overnight. The next morning, the D200 said the battery wasn't charged. We popped it back in the charger, but the charger said the battery was ready to go. We put the battery in a D70, and the D70 said it was charged. A few more swaps of the EN-EL3e from charger to D200 to D70 and back, and then, for no reason we could discern, it started working. Maybe the battery – or camera – just needed to be broken in, or maybe there is a more serious problem. Time will tell. The optional MB-D200 forms a vertical grip for the D200, and can hold two of the EN-EL3e batteries or six AA batteries.
Memory *(3.0)*The Nikon D200 accepts CompactFlash cards, but does not have permanent internal memory for image storage. CompactFlash is the most popular storage medium for DSLRs. It's available in large capacities, it's relatively durable, and all of the other Nikon DSLRs, except the lonely D50, accept it.
Other Features (6.5)*Combine Two RAW images – Through the playback mode, the user can overlay two RAW files into a new single image.* *Multiple exposures in-camera* – The D200 can shoot up to 10 exposures onto a single frame, and it includes a feature to automatically compensate for the exposure shift. *Dust-Off reference photo* – The D200 can save an image of dust on the sensor, for use in Nikon Capture 4 software, to digitally remove dust spots from images. Nikon Capture 4 software does not come with the camera. *Mirror lockup for sensor cleaning –* Bowing to reality, Nikon made a provision on the D200 for users who clean their imaging chips. *Shutter delay* – A custom menu allows a 0.4-second delay between the mirror movement and the exposure. The feature should reduce vibration problems in some long exposure shots. For those who typically use compact point-and-shoot cameras, the delay creates the kind of responsiveness and speed they're used to.
*MB-D200 battery pack *– The D200 accepts the optional MB-D200 external battery pack, which can accept two li-ion batteries for longer shooting sessions. The pack also forms a vertical grip with shooting controls, and gives the camera a form factor very similar to the D2X and D2H, which will be appealing to users who like the weight and shape of those cameras.
**Value***(9.0)*For about $1700, the D200 is a big step up from entry level DSLRs. The Nikon D70s and D50 have less than two-thirds the resolution of the D200, and significantly inferior autofocus. The D200's metal body is far more robust than the plastic D50 and D70s. Its viewfinder and controls are far superior as well. We expect plenty of midrange wedding photographers to pounce on the D200, perhaps instead of the Fuji FinePix S3, or to use it as a backup – maybe shoot the formals with the S3, and the reception hijinks with the much faster D200. How does it stack up as a value proposition against the competition? It seems as though Nikon and Canon don't quite go head-to-head on either price or capability. The D200 lands somewhere between Canon's 20D and 5D in price and resolution. Clearly, no one would pay $1300 more for the 5D unless they really wanted a full-frame sensor. On the other hand, paying $700 more to step up from a 20D to a D200 requires some judgment calls: is a 2 megapixel advantage significant in one's work? Does a 2.5-inch, high-res LCD matter that much? How about the autofocus performance difference? Whether those factors should tip one's buying decision is an individual matter, but they certainly justify the price difference.
Comparisons*****Nikon D100 -* The Nikon D200 is more than a souped-up version of its 2002 predecessor, the D100. The D100 has fewer megapixels (6.1 instead of 10.2), a smaller LCD screen (1.8 inches and 118,000 pixels, as opposed to the D200’s 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel screen), a slightly smaller shutter speed range with no 1/8000 option, fewer frames in auto exposure bracketing, and a slower flash sync speed at 1/180 instead of the D200’s 1/250. One of the biggest improvements is the autofocus system. The D200's CAM1000 is faster and more accurate, and has 11 sensor areas, while the D100 has 5.
The D100 actually has the advantage in very few areas: it’s 5 ounces lighter, has a slightly larger diopter adjustment range (-3 instead if -2), and offers two additional self-timer options. Still, the D200 is a much more polished camera. It's more rugged, more flexible and better thought-out. The nearly four years between the D100's introduction and the D200's have taught Nikon a lot about DSLRs, and it shows.
Canon EOS 5D - Announced in August of this year for $3299, the Canon EOS 5D is notable for its full-frame sensor and solid performance, especially its excellent noise suppression. Nearly double the cost of the Nikon D200, the 5D offers a few more megapixels (12.8), and has a burst rate that can continue for an incredible 71 JPEGs at 3 fps before choking. Despite the D200's 5 fps frame rate, it appears that the 5D has the more efficient data flow.
ISO range and shutter speed options are the same, though the 5D’s sync speed is a touch slower at 1/200 and it has 2 fewer AF points, as well as no built-in flash. Also, the exposure compensation and bracketing options are not as expansive.
The 5D is undoubtedly a great camera. At half the cost and with much of the same options, and even some improvements in some areas, the D200 provides some competition. The 5D's full-frame sensor is its major strength, and it delivers great color and low noise – though the D200 is not far behind. The 5D's image parameters are also easier to set and a bit more flexible.
Fuji FinePix S3 Pro - The Fuji S3 Pro has the best dynamic range of any DSLR on the market, period. If details in both highlights and shadows in the same image are what you seek, there’s no contest between the S3 and other DSLRs, including the D200. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a bit more thinking. Both cameras use Nikon lenses (the S3 has a Nikon F-mount) and can take CompactFlash cards. The Fuji also uses harder-to-find xD cards. The S3’s screen is 0.5" smaller and it has 2 percent less vertical frame coverage in the viewfinder. It has a slower sync speed of 1/180, only 5 AF areas, and a narrower exposure compensation scale to boot.
The S3 offers only 6 megapixels, but uses 91 percent of its advertised pixel count—a rarity—to create sharp images. The S3 had even less noise at higher ISO settings than the Canon 5D; with noise at ISO 1600 comparable to the 5D’s noise at ISO 400.
The S3 is relevant only because of its image quality and dynamic range. It is beastly slow in every way. File writing is slow. Burst mode is slow. Autofocus is slow. Still, until brides start wearing gray wedding gowns, the S3's dynamic range will be indispensable to some shooters.
*Nikon D70s -*The Nikon D70s and Nikon D200, both released this year, are very comparable cameras. The differences make the D70s favor slightly less experienced users; the D70s is more point-and-shoot friendly with six scene modes and is ten ounces lighter, while the more serious D200 has better autofocus and a metal body. The D200 also has more ISO, diopter adjustment, and AF mode options, in addition to a larger LCD screen with 100,000 more pixels—and of course, 4 more megapixels of resolution.
The D200 is superior overall, but the D70s can be found online for $800 or $900 with a kit lens and extras, or for under $500 for the body only. The budget-conscious may be unable to resist the D70s for a price like that.
Canon EOS 20D - The Canon EOS 20D, which can be found for as low as $800 online for the body only, is also quite comparable to the D200. The 20D has a couple fewer megapixels (8.25), less-capable autofocus and a lower quality LCD screen (1.8 inches at 118,000 pixels). It also has a narrower exposure compensation scale and 5 scene presets. Other than these few differences, the cameras have very similar specs—the same shutter and sync speeds, frame coverage, metering modes, burst mode, expanded ISO scale. The Nikon D200's metal body is both tougher and better-sealed than the 20D, and the Nikon gets the nod for autofocus speed and accuracy.
Nikon and Canon are the top DSLR manufacturers worldwide, so it’s no surprise that they have models that compete with each other. The price difference between the 20D and D200 may make some hesitate, but the $800 price quoted earlier is rare, and it’s more likely that buyers will find a 20D body for around $1,000. The 20D however is over a year old, and its MSRP at the time of release was more comparable. Both manufacturers are known for quality, so either the 20D or the D200 is probably a safe bet.
Nikon D2X - The Nikon D2X is actually the closest thing on the market to the D200 in terms of specs, even more so than the 20D or the D70s. For as low as $2,800 online, the D2X delivers a couple more megapixels and 100 percent frame coverage, but a surprisingly truncated ISO range with an option that only goes up to ISO 800 – with its own "High" mode that adds an extra stop. Other than that, the cameras’ specs are extremely similar.
The D2X costs more for reasons that professionals appreciate. It's a tougher body with vastly better autofocus and a much better viewfinder – that 100 percent coverage matters to those getting paid for their shots – on top of higher resolution.
**Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters - The Nikon D200 is not a point-and-shoot, even among DSLRs. If point-and-shooters want to swap lenses, they ought to look at the Nikon D50, the Canon Rebel XT, or the Pentax *ist DL. With those, they'll get scene modes and spend almost $1000 less.*
Budget Consumers - *The D200 is a step-up camera, better and more expensive than entry level DSLRs. For users who want to keep their outlay down, it's not a likely choice, unless they have to get 10 megapixels. A budget buyer would do better to buy less resolution and better lenses.***
**Gadget Freaks - *Paired with the 18-200mm VR zoom lens that Nikon announced with it, the D200 is a bona fide gadget. It's not a barrier-breaking, full-frame Canon EOS 5D, but its little sack of nifty features – separate highlight warnings for each color channel, switchable JPEG optimization, the option of compositing RAW files in-camera, for goodness' sake – should compensate for the emptiness in any gadget freak's weary existence.* *Manual Control Freaks - The Nikon D200 has excellent manual controls. They're complete and efficient to use. The D200 even offers useful ways of manually influencing its automated controls, so the manual control freak is likely to be soothed by the D200.* *Pros / Serious Hobbyists* - The Nikon D200 is aimed right at this market segment. Good controls, good performance, a solid camera, but not too big, and much cheaper than the top end models.
**Conclusion**The Nikon D200 delivers excellent 10 megapixel images, and it's easy for the experienced photographer to operate. It's an excellent step-up camera for photographers buying a second Nikon DSLR, or for experienced film users who are finally jumping to digital (do such people still exist?). The D200 combines advances and refinements that Nikon fans had every reason to expect: higher resolution, lower noise, faster autofocus, and a more polished interface. If there is anything shocking about the D200, it's the fact that nothing is shocking about it. With the D200, Nikon delivers a solid performer. Canon, in contrast, keeps on delivering surprising cameras – the 5D has a full-frame sensor for less money than people expected. The 1D Mark II n cranks out 8.5 frames per second (and does it at 8 megapixels for a faster burst rate at twice the file size of the Nikon D2Hs), and the 1Ds Mark II brought photographers 16.7 megapixels at under $8,000. In short, Nikon has delivered an excellent camera, but has still left the headlines to Canon.
Specs / Ratings
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