Professional picture quality, high-resolution, extensive accessory options and a competitive price tag make this camera a great choice for serious photographers.[ia] With a top resolution of 10.2 megapixels, Nikon’s latest DSLR, the D200, sits between the popular 6-megapixel D70/D70s model and the 12-megapixel D2X. Similar in size but slightly heavier than the D70s, the D200 is lighter and much less bulky than the D2X and much more comfortable to use. The new model has plenty to offer to professional photographers but its pricing will please serious enthusiasts with a suite of legacy Nikkor lenses. . . [more]
With a top resolution of 10.2 megapixels, Nikon’s latest DSLR, the D200, sits between the popular 6-megapixel D70/D70s model and the 12-megapixel D2X. Similar in size but slightly heavier than the D70s, the D200 is lighter and much less bulky than the D2X and much more comfortable to use. The new model has plenty to offer professional photographers but its pricing will also please serious enthusiasts with a suite of legacy Nikkor lenses.
The D200 is both well built and elegantly designed. Its rubberised magnesium alloy body has been sealed to exclude moisture and dust, and whereas the D2X lacks a built-in flash, one is provided on the D200. In short, the new camera combines the best features of the pro camera with much of the handling convenience of the consumer model, and includes some neat new additions for all photographers. [ia]
The review camera was supplied with the new AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens, which is an excellent ‘partner’ to the camera. A full review of this lens can be found on page ??. Distributor, Maxwell Optical Industries, is offering the camera as a body only (RRP $2899), body plus 17-55mm lens (RRP $5299), body with 17-55mm and 70-200mm lenses (RRP $7999) and body plus the 18-200mm lens we used for this review (RRP $3999). Details can be found on the company’s website.
Sensor and Image Processing
Nikon has returned to CCD technology with the D200’s sensor, which measures 23.6 x 15.8mm and has an effective resolution of 10.2 megapixels, plus a pixel pitch of 6.05 x 6.05 microns. Image files from this chip are 3872 x 2592 pixels at top resolution and data is read out across four channels simultaneously for fast data processing. We’re not sure who makes it but it’s unrelated to the CMOS and LBCAST chips in other Nikon pro cameras. A new Optical Low Pass filter reduces the incidence of moirø©, colour fringing and colour shifts.
The D200’s image processing system replicates the D2X and supports NEF-RAW output as well as three JPEG sizes and compression settings. It can also capture RAW and JPEG files simultaneously at each image size setting; not just at highest resolution. Nikon’s standard three Colour Mode settings are included, but are separate from the choice of output colour space for JPEGs, which can be sRGB or Adobe RGB.
Two types of noise reduction are provided, separately covering long exposures and high ISO settings. Three levels are available for the former, with four (including an off setting) for the latter. The long-exposure noise suppression appears to involve dark-frame subtraction as it roughly doubles image processing times. The high ISO suppression system has little or no effect on processing times.
Because sensor data is processed all at once, all exposure times are controlled by the camera’s mechanical shutter – which is rated for 100,000 cycles. For this reason, flash synch tops out at 1/250 second, although higher-speed synch is possible with Nikon’s SB-600 and SB-800 Speedlights.
The camera will ship with a new version of Nikon’s consumer-level PictureProject software but, given past experience, it may take time for third-party software developers like Adobe to add it to their RAW converters. .An alternative is to purchase Nikon’s Capture Version 4.4 (RRP $349) or download the latest version of Nikon View (free) from Maxwell’s website.
Controls and Functions
Considerable thought has been devoted to overall handling and the three most frequently-used settings – white balance, quality and ISO – are now clustered together on the top left panel instead of being shared with playback buttons on the back as they are in the D70s. The drive control wheel, which has a push-button lock, sits beneath them, making it easier to select the self-timer and continuous shooting modes.
ISO settings start at 100 (instead of 200) and range to 1600, with ‘pushes’ to 2000, 2500 and 3200 provided, and you can set the incremental adjustments to 1/3, ½ or full f-stops. The auto ISO setting is more flexible, allowing you to set the shutter speed limit for increasing the ISO and the top ISO to use.
The D200’s viewfinder is nice and bright and dioptre adjustment of -2 to +1 is provided. It covers 95% of the sensor’s field of view, which is irritating when you require precise framing of subjects for technical shots but fine for general photography. ISO data has been added to the finder’s information display and on-screen grid lines are selectable. Overlay reminders show low battery, no memory card and B&W mode selection.
The top panel also boasts the largest LCD data panel on any current DSLR. It’s easy to read and replete with all the shooting data you require. Shifting the power switch to the right activates a backlight so you can read the display in the dark. Behind the shutter release are buttons for accessing the shooting modes and exposure compensation. The latter extends from -5 EV to +5 EV and is adjustable in 0.3 EV increments. There’s a neat two-button ‘auto reset’ for returning to normal exposure, which is handy as exposure is not reset when the camera is switched off. In addition, the D200 includes time-lapse and multiple-exposure modes.
White balance is infinitely adjustable, with auto, pre-set and manual modes plus several levels of fine-tuning. Kelvin temperature settings are included, along with white balance bracketing of two to nine frames in increments of one, two or three 10-mired steps. The high-resolution 2.5-inch LCD monitor on the rear body panel provides comfortable viewing for menus and Nikon’s use of white letters on black with coloured highlights is very easy to read. RGB histograms are individually selectable and the graph is large enough to be useful. A clip-on monitor protector is provided.
The 11-area AF system and 7-wide area AF are the same as the D2X, as is the focus mode selector on the front body panel, which has Continuous-servo AF, Single-servo AF and Manual focus positions. An AF assist light is also provided. Four AF area modes are provided: Single-area AF, Dynamic-area AF, Group Dynamic-area AF and Dynamic-area AF with closest subject priority.
Metering modes include 3D Colour Matrix Metering II for type G and D lenses, colour matrix metering II for other CPU lenses, centre-weighted average and spot metering. Colour matrix metering is also available with non-CPU lenses if the user inputs the lens data (focal length and maximum aperture) via the Non-CPU Lens Data setting on the shooting menu. This allows use of many legacy Nikkor lenses and conversion attachments, although non-CPU lenses must be focused manually and can only be used in A and/or M mode, with spot or centre-weighted average metering. Kudos to Nikon for supporting its loyal customer base.
The D200 also has a programmable function button just below the depth-of-field preview button that can be programmed to give quick access to a specific camera control, such as metering modes, bracketing, duplicating the AF-L/AE-L button, turning off the flash or locking the flash exposure. The built-in flash has a GN of 12 (m/ISO 100) and synchs at 1/250 second. It can also be used with Nikon’s SB-R200, SB-600 and SB-800 Speedlights for iTTL cable-free multi-flash set-ups, without requiring a commander unit – the wireless control is built into the camera. Another great feature is the Help button, which displays a text explanation of the selected function.
The D200 performed well in both shooting and bench tests. The AE system was accurate and autofocusing was generally fast and spot-on. The camera powered up almost instantaneously and was ready to shoot in 0.2 seconds. Capture lag was negligible and shot-to-shot times were too brief to measure accurately. The burst mode recorded at 5 fps for both RAW and JPEG files. We were able to capture 21 RAW images or 29 high-resolution JPEGs at full speed before the frame rate began to slow. It took almost a minute to clear the buffer when RAW files were captured and just over 25 seconds for the JPEG files.
Imatest evaluation showed the D200 to be capable of both high resolution and high colour accuracy. Colour saturation was well controlled and there was no evidence of over-sharpening or other processing artefacts. Noise levels were generally low, with excellent noise control at higher ISO settings. Some granularity can be detected in shots taken at ISO 800, becoming slightly more apparent at the default maximum of ISO 1600 but ISO 3200 is usable for prints of A4 size – or slightly larger. Applying noise reduction tends to intensify colour saturation and can reduce colour accuracy a little.
Nikon vs Canon
Readers who are interested in the D200 may also be considering Canon’s EOS 5D, which was released slightly ahead of the D200 and essentially targets the same market. The D200 has a significant price advantage over its rival and its built-in flash and easy support for multi-flash set-ups will appeal to many pro photographers. It also supports faster burst shooting (although its buffer memory is much smaller), multiple exposures and time-lapse. GPS data can be recorded in image files via an optional adaptor.
However it’s difficult to dismiss the benefits of the EOS 5D’s 36 x 24mm CMOS sensor, which allows 35mm lenses to be used at their designated focal lengths and maintains their optical quality. Even though the 5D’s resolution is higher, its pixel pitch is larger (8.2 vs 6.05 microns) which gives it the edge in low light performance and allows it to offer ISO 50 sensitivity. It also offers a wider range of image parameter controls. 
Image sensor: 23.6 x 15.8mm RGB CCD with 10.92 million photo detectors (10.2 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF coupling and AF contacts)
Lens multiplier factor: 1.5x
Image formats: NEF-RAW (12-bit compression), JPEG (Exif 2.21)
Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/8000 sec. in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV plus Bulb
ISO range: 100 to 1600 in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV with additional settings up to 1 EV over 1600
Dimensions (wxhxd): 147 x 113 x 74mm
Weight: Approx. 830g (body only)
Focus system/modes: TTL phase detection by Nikon Multi-CAM 1000; single-servo AF (S); continuous-servo AF (C); manual (M) modes; predictive focus tracking automatically activated according to subject status in continuous-servo AF.
Exposure metering/control: TTL metering; 3D Colour Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); colour matrix metering II (other CPU lenses); colour matrix metering available with non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data; metering performed by 1,005-segment RGB sensor 2) Centre-weighted:3) Spot: Meters (about 2.0% of frame) centred on active focus area (on centre focus area when non-CPU lens is used); P, A, S, M exposure modes.
White balance: Auto (TTL white balance with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor), six manual modes with fine-tuning, colour temperature setting, preset white balance, white balance bracketing possible (2 to 9 frames in increments of 1, 2 or 3)
Flash GN (m at ISO 100): 12
Sequence shooting: 5fps in high-speed shooting mode; buffer limit – 22 NEF-RAW or 37 JPEG/Fine images
Storage Media: CompactFlash (Type I and II) and Microdrive
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentaprism; 19.5mm eyepoint
LCD monitor: 2.5-in, 230,000-dot, low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD, brightness adjustment
PC interface: USB 2.0, 10-pin remote socket, PC sync and NTSC/PAL video out
Power supply: EN-EL3e rechargeable lithium-ion battery
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