Nikon’s new mid-range digital SLR has been three years in the making and haskept a lot of people wondering what it would be like. Like their lenses, Nikon have stated they will keep to a continuous line with the DX sized sensor and, true to form, they have. Well, the wait is over and we take a look at what’s inside the D200.
- 10.2 megapixel CCD
- ISO100 to 1600 sensitivity in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV with additional settings up to 1 EV over 1600
- CompactFlash Type I/II and Microdrive storage
- Compressed NEF (RAW): 12-bit compression, JPEG: JPEG baseline-compliant
- Auto TTL white balance with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor, six manual modes with fine-tuning, color temperature setting, preset white balance, white balance bracketing possible (2 to 9 frames in increments of 1, 2 or 3)
- 2.5in , 230,000dot, low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor with brightness adjustment
- Full frame, thumbnail, zoom and slideshow playback with RGB histogram indication, Shooting data, Highlight point display and Auto image rotation
- NTSC and PAL Video Output
- Compatible Lenses: Nikkor AF and DX Lenses
- Picture angle is approx 1.5 times lens focal length (equivalent in 35mm format)
- Fixed eye-level pentaprism type viewfinder with built-in diopter adjustment (-2.0 to +1.0m-1)
- Type-B BriteView Clear Matte focusing screenwith superimposed focus brackets and On Demand grid lines
- Viewfinder coverage approx. 95% (vertical and horizontal)
- Autofocus TTL phase detection by Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus module with AF-assist illuminator (approx. 0.5m to 3.0m)
- Detection range: EV -1 to +19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature: 20°C/68°F)
- Single-servo AF (S); continuous-servo AF (C); manual (M); predictive focus tracking focusing
- 11 area focus with single and wide focus options
- Through-the-lens (TTL) exposure metering with 3D colour matrix metering II, center-weighted and spot options
- Exposure Metering Range EV 0 to 20
- Programmed, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and manual metering
- ±5 EV exposure compensation in increments of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV
- Auto exposure lock and auto exposure bracketing with 2 to 9 exposures in increments of 1, 2, or 3
- Single frame, continuous low speed and continuous high-speed shooting mode (5 frames per second)
- Mirror-up mode
- Shutter speed 30 to 1/8000sec in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV, bulb
- Flash synchronization at up to 1/250 sec.
- TTL flash control with front-curtain sync, red-eye reduction, slow sync and rear-curtain Sync
- Built-in Speedlight guide number 12 (ISO 100/m)
- Flash Compensation -3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
- Standard ISO hot-shoe contact and sync terminal
- Electronically controlled self-timer with 2 to 20 seconds duration
- Depth-of-field preview
- GPS NMEA 0183 (Ver. 2.01) interface standard supported with 9-pin D-sub cable (optional) and GPS Cable MC-35 (optional)
- Power source is one rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e, MB-D200 battery pack (optional) with one or two rechargeable Nikon EN-EL3e Li-ion batteries or six AA alkaline (LR6), NiMH (HR6), lithium (FR6) batteries, or ZR6 nickel-manganese AA batteries, AC Adapter EH-6 (optional)
- Dimensions Approx. 147 x 113 x 74mm (W x H x D)
- Weight Approx. 830g without battery, memory card, body cap, or monitor cover
- Box contents: Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e, Quick Charger MH-18a, Video Cable, USB Cable UC-E4, Strap, Body cap, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Rubber Eyecup DK-21, LCD monitor cover BM-6, PictureProject CD-ROM
Where the D200 fits in the marketplace
The D200 is a mid-range camera, aimed at advanced amateur or semi-professional users. It re-acts faster than the D50/D70s; packing more pixel power and greater control, but is not quite as fast as the D2x series (although it's not far away).
The magnesium body has an enhanced sealing system to protect it from casual moisture and dust. Seals are evident on all openings, which is reassuring. With a price tag of a little under £1200 at launch, which I am sure will come down here once the initial hype is over, it's pitched at a point similar to where entry-level cameras were a couple of years ago. The performance is such that I can see professionals buying it as a second body, especially as the controls bear more than a passing resemblance to the D2x series.
Build and handling
The D200 is not a beefed up entry-level camera, but more of a cut down pro model. The general feel of it gives an instant confidence in its abilities. Not too heavy, but certainly well put together. On un-packing, the battery looks the same as the EN-EL3 of the D70. However, batteries from the D70 will not fit this camera and on closer examination, the supplied EN-EL3e has an extra contact and a different keyway. The newer batteries will, on the other hand, fit the older camera and work!
Once the battery is charged, the next operation is to fit a Compact Flash card and here I must admit to being delighted! A release catch on the back of the camera, below the focus mode switch, is moved anti-clockwise and the CF door pops open on the end of the body. Not on the back, as with the D70/D2x cameras and it opens a good 140º making it easy for large fingers to get at the card inside. No need to grow fingernails to extraordinary lengths or fumble with two hands trying to get the card out. This one is easy!
The control layout is very similar to the D2x series bodies, although the area of the battery compartment on those cameras is missing. A separate battery pack is available and some of the buttons have moved. The 2.5inch monitor dominates the rear with a row of five buttons down the left side that call up the display mode, menu, navigation, key-lock and enter functions.
Left of the viewfinder are the delete and bracket buttons. To the right is the AE-L/AF-L button, surrounded by a knurled ring that adjusts the metering mode between spot, average and centre-weighted. Between this and the rear control wheel is the AF-on button. To the right of the screen is the lockable rocker wheel which is above the previously mentioned focus mode control and CF door lock.
On the top left of the camera is the circular panel with three buttons controlling ISO, white balance and picture quality, surrounded by a knurled wheel that controls shooting modes from S (single frame), Cl (cont low), Ch (cont high), timer and mirror lock-up.
To the right of the pop-up flash/prism housing is a second LCD screen giving full details of the set parameters. On the top of the grip, the on/off switch surrounds the shutter button with a spring loaded position to illuminate the LCD when needed. Two buttons behind the release control exposure compensation and shooting modes that, on a camera in this class are restricted thankfully to program aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual.
The front control wheel sits comfortably just below the shutter release. The front of the camera contains a depth-of-field preview, a Func button, that can be set in the menu, and the mount release, as well as the single/continuous/manual control for focusing. There's also a flash compensation button and a ten-pin remote socket on the front to the left of the lens as you hold the camera.
All controls are well built and positioned and intuitive to use. They are neatly marked in white for shooting controls and in gold for the playback controls.
D200 fitted with the recommended 17-55mm f/2.8 DX
The new CF door location is a great improvement.
Top view showing secondary LCD and controls
D200 with flash raised. Fitted with 17-55mm f/2.8 DX
Modes and features
As is right and fitting for a camera aimed at advanced amateurs and professional users, the automatic modes on this camera number less than their junior brethren, leaving just program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual) modes. These are configurable in a multitude of ways through metering modes, autofocus modes, image quality and ISO parameters and a host of other variables controlled through the menu system. All imaginable scenarios are catered for.
The menu system, accessed by the button on the left of the large screen (the one that says Menu), is straightforward to navigate through with the eight/nine way rocker control on the right of the screen. The ninth way is to press the centre of the wheel which confirms selection, an operation that can also be achieved by the enter button, bottom left. All the screens, which are subdivided into the five divisions of playback, shooting, custom setting, set up and recent settings, are clearly labelled and self explanatory. A full explanation is given in the accompanying manual. Items such as white balance, ISO and picture quality can also be set with the appropriate buttons along with the front and rear control wheels. These are configurable through the menu.
Rear view showing 1 st menu screen on the large LCD
The 2.5inch screen gives a good idea of what you have on the file and navigation is simple with the rocker control. Left and right scrolls through the files on the card while up and down scrolls through the various screens for each file including shooting parameters and histogram and these again are configurable through the menus. Press the magnifying glass to bring up the zoom control and zoom in to an area with the rear control wheel and the thumbnail button. Press the magnify button again to return to normal. Thumbnails can be full screen, four or nine to the screen or can be set to give a slide show.
Shooting mode overrides all others with a half press of the shutter button. Metering is excellent in all of the settings and particularly accurate at spot settings. There were no occasions that I managed to fool it.
The fitted autofocus is the new CAM1000, although the nomenclature is a little misleading as it is nearer the CAM2000 of the D2x series than the CAM900 of the D70s. Using a total of 11 AF points, it can be set to single area (selected with the rocker), dynamic area, group dynamic area or dynamic area with closest subject priority. It proved fast enough to cope with AF-S11 lenses with apertures of f/4, something the CAM900 modules cannot. The focus modes are also easy to use with the excellent rocker.
Nikon claim a total of 37 shots continuously at the high rate of five frames per second using a Sandisk Extreme 111 card when shooting large fine Jpegs. My tests showed a total of 44 shots before the camera slowed down and this was with a Sandisk Ultra 11 card. However, the frame rate achieved was a touch under 5fps, although this was only slightly under and would vary anyway with shooting conditions.
10.2MP is a considerable jump from the 6MP of the D200’s smaller siblings and not far short of the D2X’s 12MP. The D200 however, still has a CCD sensor, which has had a lot more development time than the CMOS of the D2X. See here.
The spot metering proved highly accurate on this shot, taken in poor lighting conditions at ISO400, 1/80 at f/5.6 and 400mm setting of the 200-400mm f/4 VR.
The full matrix metering area also produced good results. ISO500, 1/60 at f/4.5 and 120mm on the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. Click on photo to see full size version.
1/60sec at f/11 with the 18-70mm DX lens set at 60mm. Click on photo to see full size version.
1/125sec at f/11 with the 18-70mm DX lens at 70mm. Click on photo to see full size version.
The files from the D200 certainly appear to be less noisy at higher ISOs than those of the bigger brother, although I must stress that this is an impression rather than actual test results. The D200 will record in seven different qualities including RAW, RAW+Jpeg (3 qualities) and three Jpeg only. It will record the Jpegs in three different sizes (both with and without the RAW file) giving a total of 19 options for recording files. A 1Gb CF card will hold approx 60 RAW files or 167 Jpeg large fine files. At the other end of the scale, small basic Jpegs can be shot to get 2200 on the same card!
After a long wait the replacement for the D100 is a good step forward in all the areas that its predecessor was looking rather long in the tooth. It's a giant step up from the D50/D70s in all areas and it has all the attributes that a tool of this nature needs, with all of the technology being bang up to date. Nikon’s metering system, autofocus system and flash system, each in their latest guises have all been brought together to place an image on a sensor that is able to perform more than adequately enough for nearly all purposes. Noise levels are at a level that has been virtually unseen on a CCD sensor in the past and even at the launch price, this camera is well worth the money as it covers many of the shortcomings of other models without a price tag that is in fantasyland for most.
In summery, the positive points of the D200 are:
Excellent build and good sealing.
Fast and accurate 11 point autofocus system a good step up from the older CAM900
Good noise control (for a CCD sensor)
Full range of easily configured controls, good metering and TTL flash systems.
Much improved CF access.
Excellent value for money.
The negative points are:
RAW Software included is abysmal. Capture 4 is extra and still not good.
Not compatible with the EN-EL3 battery used in the D50, D70 and D70s
Viewfinder only 95% coverage (minor niggle)
Check the latest price of the Nikon D200 here
Test by Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.co.uk
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