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Nikon D200

Reviews summary

Overall rating
3.20 star(s) 5 ratings
Keith Reeder does not know what he is talking about...I own a Nikon D200, and it captures excellent pictures without any effort. Beautiful color rendition, easy to use, and I can put all my old AI/AIS/non AI lenses on this camera and shoot. No other camera company is doing this to my knowledge...sure as heck not Cannon, they took a crap on their old lens users.This is a link to a photo I took with an old Vivitar non AI lens...just a grab shot, no meter... - http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=255708872&size=o . Granted the build quality is not that of my D2H's, it won't be as durable...but it works like a dream and captures excellent images. And here is a great action grab shot I took with it.. - http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=275677969&size=o

So I don't know what you are talking about Keith ...this is a damn fine camera...
  • build, image quality, functionality
  • autofocus can hunt
The camera is a big improvement over the lower models from Nikon. The build & feel are much better, as is the functionality.

The autofocus still hunts in poor light, like most cameras - especially nikons. The AF can be customized to use 11 small zones or 7 larger zones. The AF response can be changed from slow to medium to fast. There is just a lot of customizing that can be done to suit a photographers specific application. I still have never been satisfied by Nikon autofocus, but I have never used an F5 or F6 which use the best AF systems on the market (I have been told).

As far as image quality, of course images are going to be grainy at high ISO settings. I have still managed to get good pictures until I hit ISO 800. Correct exposure is critical at these high ISOs; detail will be lost on either end of the spectrum with <1EV variance. People become far too complacent with the forgiving nature of a digital sensor and forget about getting the right exposure from the beginning. Calibration needs to be run on the exposure meter, just like with a film camera. When shooting in uniform lighting, presetting exposure using a grey card or any neutral object gives great results, as does setting a custom white balance. I have had mixed results shooting at ISO800, but find that better light and exposure result in better photos. At ISO400, images have been awesome. Shooting macro, I get to see just how much detail is captured at lower ISOs - and it is good. As far as metering goes, the D200 does a better job than the D70 - one of the first things I noticed.

There are some great features that I have been needing that the D70 did not provide. Mirror lock-up and delayed shutter release have helped immensely with macro shooting. The mirror is also smaller than that in the D70, and is better dampened.

Overall, it is a great camera for the money. It has got good color and detail. Autofocus still underperforms, but AF can be more of a crutch than anything.

*Photography is as much a science as an art, so knowledge is just as key as a good eye. I am still learning, so mistakes are not always bad.
  • Superb build and image quality and good value.
  • Requires good glass, high ISO performance, dust.
Like many others I rushed to place an order as soon as the D200 was announced. Several months later, and I became the lucky owner of a camera from the second batch to reach the UK. I paid 1200, a 100 reduction on the RRP of 1300. By all accounts Nikon have been unindated with orders, and at the time of writing (June) are still struggling to make enough to fill backorders.

The D200 is my second digital camera. A year earlier I bought a D70 and rapidly became a convert to digital. The D70 is a very good camera, but it does have some serious limitations, including a poor viewfinder and no mirror lock up. Hence my impatience for a more serious camera at a reasonable price.

The D200 is in all respects a better camera. It has a better more solid build, the controls are more accessible, the viewfinder is bright and clear, it has professional grade features such as mirror lock up, and of course the image quality is noticeably better.

In the remainder of this review I will highlight some of the features. A list of reviews can be found at www.NikonLinks.com.

The camera is built round a magnesium frame, with rubber pads to aid grip and comfort. I heard someone say that it is built like a tank, and that is not far off the mark. Some parts such as the CF chamber door and the flash housing are plastic, and presumably are more vulnerable to damage than the metal body. The finish is superb as is so often the case for Japanese products. The camera is weather sealed, though not waterproof. If only the lenses were as well sealed.

The ergonomics are excellent, with well placed controls, and large buttons. The layout follows the pattern established by earlier cameras such as the F80, the F100 and the D100. If like me you have small hands, then you might find the D200 on the large side. But when compared to professional bodies such as the F5, or the D2x, the D200 is compact, and light. For those who like manual shooting, the D200 is especially well designed.

Shooting Mode Dial
The shooting mode dial, on the top left of the camera, allows selection of single frame, continuous low speed, continuous high speed, self timer and mirror lock up shooting modes. Unlike the D70, the self timer remains enabled until the selected mode is changed. I will come abck to mirror lock up a bit later.

LCD Monitor
The LCD screen is humungous, especially for anyone used to a D70. Yes, it really is big. It is also remarkably bright and clear. Images can be reviewed on the screen, and using the rocker control, information can be superimposed on the image, including exposure data, and a histogram, either composite, or three separate RGB graphs. The user can zoom in on part of an image, using the rear thumb wheel and rear command dial to select the degree of zoom, and the frame placement. I find the zoom surprisingly easy to use, much more so than the D70 version. Unfortunately the screen can be hard to view in bright sunshine. This seems to be a failing of all LCD screens.

Top LCD Screen
On the top right of the camera is a huge LCD screen that displays current exposure settings, including exposure mode, image file size and type, white balance mode, aperture, shutter speed and the battery usage indicator. It is also used in combination with the thumbwheels when configuring the ISO, white balance mode, image size, shooting mode, exposure and flash compensation and exposure and flash bracketing. Phew. Although it sounds complicated, it isnt. In fact it is remarkably similar to manual cameras of old, and in my opinion that is a high complement.

The camera provides the usual suspects, namely M, A, S and P. There are no so-called idiot modes. Metering modes are spot, partial, matrix (with non D lenses) and 3D matrix (with D lenses). Matrix metering uses a 1005 pixel colour grid as per other top end Nikon cameras. The camera will matrix meter with AIS lenses that lack a CPU. My experience is that the metering is accurate but not perfect, and not infrequently I have to dial in exposure compensation.

Exposure Bracketing
Exposure may be bracketed, in one third or one half stop steps.

Unusually for a high end camera the body comes with a built-in flash. Not only can this provide flash, but it can be used to control one or more wireless flash units without the need for connecting wires. Although many people question the value of a small flash on such a high end camera, there is no doubt that it is useful for fill flash when you want to take some snapshots, and dont want to carry a bag full of kit.

The usual flash modes are supported, namely rear curtain sync, front curtain sync, red eye reduction etc.

Flash exposure compensation may be set in one third or one half stop increments, from +1 to 3 stops. In addition flash may be bracketed in one half or one third stop increments.

Self Timer
The self-timer is activated using the shooting mode dial on the top plate. The camera can be configured to trigger the mirror 0.4 seconds before the shutter is released, in order to avoid the vibrations from the mirror causing camera shake during the exposure.

Mirror Lock Up
Mirror lock up is enabled using the shooting mode dial on the top plate. Once enabled, the first press of the shutter button raises the mirror, and the subsequent press of the shutter button triggers the exposure. In practice most people will use the MLU in combination with the remote control unit.

There is also a cleaning mode which locks up the mirror to give access to the sensor. This mode is accessed via the menus. It is quite distinct from the MLU shooting mode.

The view finder shows 95% of the image at a magnification of 0.94 X. It is clear and bright, and considerably better than the rather pokey D70 viewfinder.

The diopter adjustment wheel is positioned next to the viewfinder. It is stiff and will not accidentally move once set. (A severe failing of the D70 was the tendency of the diopter setting to drift if like me you had to remove the eyepiece surround.)

Accessories such as the DR-3 right angle finder simply clip on to the view finder, although in the case of the DR-3 you will need to purchase a small plastic adaptor. I find it curious that weight for weight this small piece of plastic probably costs more than solid gold.

Viewfinder Information
Visible in the viewfinder are the focus sensors and, if the option is enabled, the on demand grid. Also present are the ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc.

Depth of Field Preview
Depth of field preview is activated by pressing a button at the side of the lens mount.

Image Files
Images can bes saved in basic, medium and fine sizes, and in JPG, RAW or JPG and RAW formats. In addition RAW files can be compressed, although the compression is not lossless and hence some image data will be lost.

There are 11 auto focus sensors, spread over a fairly wide area, and they are user selectable using a thumbwheel on the back of the camera. I do not normally use auto-focus, preferring instead to focus manually, but I found the AF to be effective when tested in a room lit by a dim 60 watt bulb. With AFS lenses the autofocus is lightning fast.

In continuous mode the camera can shoot at a maximum frame rate of 5 frames per second, although the rate reduces considerably once the buffer is full. For maximum performance high speed compact flash cards should be used. For a detailed analysis see the review at www.dpreview.com.

The ISO can be set in one third stop increments from ISO 100 to 3200. For some reason Nikon refer to the top most three values 2,000, 2,500 and 3,200 as
H0.3, H0.7 and H1.0 respectively. Well, I suppose it keeps them happy.

Noise Reduction
In camera noise reduction can be activated via the menu system. Above ISO 800, noise reduction is always applied, though by default only at the lowest level. Noise reduction works well, although there is some loss of image detail.

There is also a long exposure noise reduction mode, enabled via the menus, that takes a second exposure with the shutter closed, in order to subtract noise from hot pixels.

The sensor is APS-C sized, or DX in Nikon speak, and measures 24mm by 16mm. It has 10.2 million effective pixels. The actual number of pixels is slightly larger as the sensor is slightly over-sized. Though not directly visible in the image, the pixels at the edge of the sensor do play an important role as they are used by the processing algorithms when calculating values for pixels at the edge of the visible frame.

Image Quality
The image quality is quite remarkable. At ISO 100 there is as expected no visible noise, and the resolution is outstanding. I compared shots taken with the D200 to some taken on Provia 100F, and the D200 image. The D200 image had slightly more detail and lacked the coarse grain that marred the film image when viewed at high magnifications. I have no doubt that the D200 image was a substantial improvement on the film one.

One point worth making is that the D200 images required careful processing to extract all of the detail.

As expected, D200 images were noticeably sharper than D70 images, with higher resolution and noticeably less artifacting due to the greater pixel density. On an A4 print the difference would be noticeable though not blatant, whereas on an A3 print it would be obvious.

At ISO 100 images are noise free. Noise was also low at ISO 200 and ISO 400.

At ISO 1600 noise was obvious, though not severe. Application of noise reduction in Nikon Capture produced an acceptable result although there was a noticeable loss of detail compared to the ISO 100 result. At ISO 1600 the noise is mainly luminance and has the appearance of film grain.

At ISO 3200 noise was obvious. Application of noise reduction in Nikon Capture produced a considerable improvement, but with a considerable loss of detail. ISO 3200 though useable is best avoided unless there is no choice.

But, and here is the catch, at ISO 3200 when I underexposed by one stop, the results were awful. Noise was very obvious, even after the application of noise reduction in Nikon Capture. At ISO 3200 accurate exposure is essential.

Dynamic range is excellent, and an improvement on the D70 which I thought tended to clip highlights. According to other sources such as dpreview, the D200 sensor can record approximately 8 stops of information. For comparison colour slide film records about 5 to 6 stops, and colour print film records about 11 stops.

Diffraction is apparent at about F13, and at smaller apertures the image becomes progressively softer regardless of the lens used. Note that this is due to the physics of optics in combination with the pixel density and is not specific to the D200. In practice I find that the image quality with high quality lenses stopped down to F16 is excellent:

Note that in-camera noise reduction can be increased above the default level. I did not have enough patience to test the in-camera noise reduction settings.

I have posted some sample test pictures taken with a new 200mm macro lens here:


Clearly the D200 is capable of producing very sharp high quality images.

Nikon supply a CD containing Picture Project. This is basic software for cataloging images.

Nikon also provide at additional cost Nikon Capture, a software package that converts RAW files, and provides limited image processing capabilities, including chromatic aberration removal, noise removal, curves, etc.

At the time of writing Nikon Capture costs about 100. A new version has been announced, developed in collaboration with a respected software house, it offers significant enhancements, including speed improvements. To be honest a speed gain is not hard to achieve given that NC is phenomenally slow, and in my opinion it is unuseable for simultanously editing more than two or three images.

Incidently, the current Nikon Capture does not include distortion correction. PT Lens, a free software package, includes data for a wide range of lenses including most Nikon auto-focus lenses.

Interval Timing
The camera can be configured to take a series of exposures, from1 to 9, separated by a constant time interval, from 1 to 999 seconds, allowing for simple time lapse photography. Thus if you want you can photograph the passage of clouds across the sky, the rotation of a Sunflower as the sun moves across the sky, (the rather elegant French name for his flower is tournesol), or whatever else your imagination can think of.

The camera is supplied with a rechargeable battery and charger. Apparently the battery life improves after a few charge-discharge cycles. Although it looks like a D70 battery, it is a new type incorporating technology to accurately gauge the remaining charge. Note that although a D200 battery may be used in a D70, the reverse is not true.

Storage Media
The camera has one compact flash (CF) slot, with a plastic cover. The door is unlocked by means of a stiff lever. To my eyes the door seems a tad flimsy and hence vulnerable to damage - compared to the rest of the camera, though I am probably worrying over nothing.

Data Transfer
Nikon supply a USB cable allowing data transfer directly between the camera and a PC, or Mac, using USB 2.0. I find it much more convenient to read the media card directly using a card reader attached to my PC.

Things Ive Missed
Im sure that Ive missed lots of important features, including GPS, the external sockets, the optional grip, and so on.

According to many sources, many cameras in the first batches displayed banding, whereby parallel bands could be clearly seen at high contrast boundaries in images viewed at 100%. By all accounts this was due to incorrectly calibrating the internal signal processing firmware/hardware. Defective cameras can be sent to Nikon for adjustment. As far as I know the problem has been solved in later batches and is not a fundamental flaw.

Incidentally, when banding was first reported, many people, especially Canon users, rushed to attack Nikon, condemning them for poor quality control. What was not well publicised at the time was that many Canon cameras have suffered from banding. As an example, the Canon 5D can display banding at high ISO settings. (The source is interference from the focus motor in certain lenses.) The truth is that digital cameras are highly complex products, and all manufacturers have their fair share of niggles. For this reason many people avoid buying a product until it has been on the market for at least 6 months, so that the gremlins can be removed.

My camera, which came from the second UK batch, does not suffer from banding.

For some reason I have had a lot of trouble with dust on the sensor. Over the past few months I\'ve had to clean the sensor several times, despite only weekend amateur use. Cleaning is not hard - I use Pec Pads, Digi-pads and Eclipse fluid - but it is tedious.

Compared to the D70
Anyone moving from the D70 to the D200 will be taken aback by the huge improvement in all areas. Not only is the resolution markedly higher, but everything is easier to use, and there are added features. Buttons are large and easier to press, the LCD monitor is the size of a football pitch, the diopter wheel does not move, the self timer mode does not need to be engaged for each shot (aaarrrghhh), there is a mirror lock up mode, and the camera will meter with old AIS lenses. And of course the build quality is on a completely different level. The D70 is an excellent camera. But the D200 is far better.

The D200 is a superb camera and in the right hands can produce superb images. But be aware that it is a merciless judge of lenses and photographic technique.

Requires the best lenses, as the sensor is merciless.
Requires good technique, due to the high resolution.
High ISO performance, though excellent, is not on a par with full frame cameras from Canon.
Price: much more expensive than a D70.

Excellent build.
Excellent ergonomics.
Feature rich.
Excellent image quality.

Other Reviews
See www.NikonLinks.com for a list of equipment reviews.
  • Build quality, ergonomics, speed
  • The image!!
Not a review, but my experience of the D200, warts and all.

Sadly, while there are many positive things to say about the D200, they are all pretty irrelevant in my view.


Because in the experience of many D200 users who have used the camera in less than perfect light (myself included), this camera is incapable of capturing detailed, acceptably low noise images.

I mean pretty everyday shooting conditions too - just the kind of dull day we see for much of the year in the UK: as soon as you venture beyond about 400 ISO, the D200 turns even your best efforts into a ridiculously noisy, smeared, over-processed mush...

These two 100% crops are - believe it or not - pretty representative of what many of us have seen out of the D200, in normal shooting.

http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=46937&stc=1&thumb=1 http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=46938&stc=1&thumb=1

The first is admittedly underexposed (only by -2/3), but note - 100 ISO!!!

The second has +2/3, and is 560 ISO.

Apart from NEF-jpeg conversion (using Nikon Capture) and cropping, nothing has been done to these pictures, and all in-camera processing was off.

They are disgusting.

You will read Nikon obsessives blame the photographer for shots like these, usually accusing us of under exposing the image then pushing it in post processing.

Not so. The camera simply will not function well in less than ideal light, or so many of us have concluded.

Bear in mind that with bird photography, you often want to dial in a bit of negative EV to avoid blowing highlights: yet we\'re told to over expose to avoid noise - but then you end up in a world of blown highlights..!

The exposure sweet-spot is so small, and so hard to get right first time (birds do not generally allow you to take an exposure reading, shoot, check the histogram, adjust the exposure, recompose and shoot again) that in a very real sense the D200 is effectively unusable in a lot of the shooting situations I and many other users encounter day in, day out.

I believe that by shoe-horning an extra 4 mps into an APS sized sensor, the sensitivity of each individual photosite has been reduced so much (smaller photosites = less light per photosite) that the camera needs to over amplify the signal from the sensor to make up for its low native sensitivity.

Unfortunately, rather than providing hi-fi amplification, they seem to have used the equivalent of a Marshall stack, resulting in the most horrendous distortion of the image.

Furthermore, I think that Nikon has realised this, and has implemented very crude in-camera noise reduction processing which I believe is on all the time, and not only at 800+ ISO as the manual would have you believe.

The NR processing is very good at smoothing out noise, so if you want to shoot low light gig shots, weddings, parties - anything where detail is not important - then the D200 will probably serve you well: switch to Auto-ISO, switch the in-camera NR on, and blast away.

But if you want to capture any fine detail, then unless you are in light that allows better than 400 ISO (bearing in mind your required shutter speed and aperture) then - well, have another look at those pictures...

There are also known focussing issues with the D200. Nikon has implemented biggest in class AF sensors, which is great for some shooting, but which will readily overlap your intended subject if it does not fill much of the frame, meaning that the auto focus will acquire something else.

Nikon has acknowledged this issue, providing the following helpful advice:

find a better AF target at the same distance and use focus lock, or use manual focus!

Yeah, that will work for bird photography...

It also appears that there is an metering issue with the D200. Simply put, it would seem that the meter sees less light than (say) my D70 in a given situation, using the same lens and camera settings, as far as I can match them (I shoot in Manual mode all the time, incidentally).

This means that if you use Auto-ISO (which I consider to be a brilliant option), the camera will ramp up the ISO value higher than it needs to be. If you use one of the auto modes, then you will either get a lower shutter speed than you would expect, or a different aperture than you might anticipate.

To get an idea of what I mean, search for D200 in the gallery. You will find some good shots, and some horrors.

Almost without exception the good pictures are in great light.

Many - most - of those in poorer light display exactly the kind of blocky, smeared, horribly noisy, no-detail mush that my pictures above display.

Furthermore, there is a significant amount of chatter on internet discussion groups about D200 noise.

I am by no means the only one who feels this way about the D200.

Oh - banding is still around too, with most if not all D200s (even the newest) being capable of producing this artifact, and again, often in normal shooting conditions. Both of my D200 bodies have had banding in addition to the other problems I mention.

To close this user report, I have to say that as of today (15 June 2006) I no longer own a D200, having finally wrung a refund out of the retailer. This money is buying me a Canon 30D.

I can guarantee though, that this negative report will result in a fervent rebuttal of my observations - doubtless hinting at it being a lack of technique that is at fault.

Well, I can point anyone who is interested at a wealth of evidence to support what Ive said about the D200 as a bird photography camera, if they care to PM me.

In any event, I am keen to hear what it might be about my technique (or the lack of it) that would explain those marsh harrier images...

To closely paraphrase another ex-D200 user who now happily shoots with a 30D, if my technique was to blame for my problems with the D200, I am making exactly the same mistakes with my 30D, and yet I get much better results...
  • Best bang for the buck.
  • None
I could not ask for more for the price I paid. This camera has lived up to all my expectations. 5 FPS and weather resistant which is ideal for birding; 10 megapixel on a DX format is ideal for telephoto work. I wish Nikon would produce more 500 f/4 and 600 f/4 lenses as it is almost impossible to to get your hands on this glass.