| Nikon D200 composition and screen
The Nikon D200's optical viewfinder delivers a wealth of shooting information. Details
on view include the metering mode, shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode, exposure
compensation, number of shots remaining and the ISO sensitivity; the latter is
useful to have on view at all times, as most cameras force you to first hold a
button down or check a menu.
Following earlier Nikon digital SLRs, a number of items can also be optionally
overlaid on the main viewfinder frame itself. In the lower left corner is an
indicator for Black and White mode, and like the D50, there's also icons for
low battery and card not present; all three can be disabled using a custom function.
Also in the custom function menu is an option to overlay a three-by-three grid
like the D70 series, which can greatly aid composition; this is a feature we'd
like to see on every digital SLR and makes the physical swapping of a focusing
screen (as required with higher-end Canons) seem almost prehistoric.
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The viewfinder also shows the 11 focusing points of the newly developed Multi-CAM
1000 AF sensor, each of which becomes ringed or lit red when active, depending
on the focusing mode. It's also possible to configure the focusing system to
a 7-wide area for better tracking of moving subjects. The viewfinder itself
is bright and like the D70s offers 95% coverage, compared to 96% of the Canon
EOS-5D and the full 100% of the D2X and Canon 1Ds Mark II.
a welcome trend for digital SLRs, Nikon's fitted the D200 with a large and bright
2.5in colour monitor, sporting 230,000 pixels for sharp, detailed images. The
benefit of extra pixels goes beyond image playback though, as Nikon has redesigned
its user interface to feature large, smooth fonts with graduated backgrounds.
And before you have any concerns over presentation, it's a very clean and classy
design which makes navigating the wide array of menu options and the 45 custom
functions much more pleasant. The display itself is also protected by the traditional
(and removeable) Nikon plastic cover.
During playback, up to five pages of information can be cycled through, any
of which can be enabled or disabled using the Display Mode menu. Two pages provide
the choice of either a conventional brightness histogram, or separate red, green
and blue histograms; unlike a combined histogram, separate RGB graphs can uniquely
reveal if only one channel is responsible for clipping, when the others may
in fact be fine.
Like other Nikon digital SLRs, image magnification during playback is achieved
by first pressing the magnifying button, before holding another and turning
the thumb wheel to adjust the size of a marquee. When you let go, the image
is magnified and the multi-selector used to pan around. While standard practice
on Nikon digital SLRs, we personally feel it's unnecessarily complicated compared
to just having simple zoom-in and out buttons like most digital SLRs.
Sensor and files
The Nikon D200 is equipped with a new 10.2 Megapixel CCD sensor which measures 23.6x15.8mm
and conforms to Nikon's DX format - this means any lenses you attach effectively
have their field of view reduced by 1.5 times, so the 17-55mm f2.8 lens we used
for most of our tests effectively performed like a 25.5-82.5mm lens on a 35mm
The maximum image size measures 3872x2592 pixels, which is a big step up from
the 3008x2000 pixels of the D100, D50 and D70 series. If you're reproducing
at 300 dpi, this allows the D200 images to be printed around 3.5 inches larger
on their diagonal. The difference between the D200 and D2X is much closer though,
with the D2X images only allowing an extra 1.5in diagonally beyond the D200
at 300 dpi. This is roughly equivalent to the step-up from the D200 to Canon's
Images can be recorded at three different resolutions, each with the choice
of three different JPEG compression levels; best quality JPEGs typically measure
between 3 and 6MB, with most working out around 4.5 to 5MB each. Images can
also be recorded in Nikon's NEF RAW format, either with or without compression,
although the former does introduce minor losses. RAW files can be recorded with
or without an accompanying JPEG at any quality setting.
The D200's supplied with Picture Project software which can process NEF files,
although to make the most of them you'll need additional software such as Nikon
Capture 4. Along with RAW processing and remote control of the camera over a
USB cable, Nikon Capture 4 supports the D200's dust reduction option where a
reference frame is taken and used to automatically remove dust from subsequent
images. It's not 100% effective, but any active approach to combating dust is
welcomed. A 30-day free trial of Nikon Capture 4 is available to download from
Sensitivity is offered from 100 to 1600 ISO in one-third EV steps with three
further extended options known as H0.3, H0.7 and H1.0 - these correspond to
sensitivities of 2000, 2500 and 3200 ISO respectively. A custom mode allows
you to change the ISO increments to half or one EV steps.
Four noise reduction modes are available: the default Normal setting applies
reduction automatically at 400 ISO and above, High and Low adjust the degree
of reduction, while Off disables it at or below 800 ISO, although minimal noise
reduction will still take place at 1600 ISO. There's additionally a long exposure
noise reduction option for shutter speeds longer than 8 seconds which employs
dark frame subtraction.
Colour and white balance
Along with Auto and manually preset white balances, the Nikon D200 offers separate
Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy or Shade options,
or the option to manually enter a temperature from 2500 to 10000K.
A selection of Image Optimisation modes offer presets for sharpening, tone,
colour, hue and saturation. Modes include Normal, Softer, Vivid, More vivid,
Portrait, Black and white, and finally, Custom for your own choices. We used
the default Normal preset for our Results and Gallery pages and it produced
well-balanced JPEGs out of the camera, although those who wish to apply sharpening
to JPEGs afterwards will be better served by a softer option. Colour space can
be switched between sRGB and Adobe RGB.
The Nikon D200 sports a number of additional built-in features. The Multiple Exposure
option allows up to ten exposures to be combined into a single image, while
the Image Overlay function lets you create a composite image in-camera from
two RAW NEF files - the opacity of each can be adjusted and the result stored
as a new file, leaving the originals untouched.
The Interval Timer Shooting option allows you to program the D200 to take shots
at preset intervals. You can enter the start time, the interval in hours, minutes
or seconds, the number of intervals and the number of shots to be taken at each
Image processing and handling
The Nikon D200's sensor features four channel output which allows it to share the
same image processing engine as the D2X. This allows the D200 to enjoy high
speed continuous shooting, and in our tests with a SanDisk Ultra II 1.0GB CF card, it certainly performed very close to Nikon's quoted specification of 5fps.
With the D200 drive set to Continuous High and the quality set for Large Fine
JPEGs, we managed to shoot a burst of 27 frames in 5.5 seconds before the buffer
filled; this equated to a speed of approximately 4.9fps. Letting go of the shutter
release at this point then took 32.5 seconds to clear the buffer and finish
writing data to the card, although as the buffer was being emptied it was of
course possible to fire off shorter bursts. If the shutter release was held
beyond the buffer's capacity, the Large Fine JPEG shooting rate reduced to around
With the D200 quality set to uncompressed RAW mode (without an accompanying
JPEG), we shot the same composition and captured a burst of 21 frames in 4.5
seconds before the buffer filled; this equated to a speed of approximately 4.6fps.
Letting go of the shutter release at this point then took around one minute
to completely empty the buffer, although as before you could fire off shorter
high speed bursts during this process. If the shutter release was held beyond
the buffer's capacity, the RAW shooting rate reduced to around 1.5fps.
In terms of overall handling, the D200 is a dream: it starts in just 0.15 seconds
and responds very quickly to any request or operation. The AF systems snap static
or moving subjects into sharp focus, while the excellent 3D-Colour Matrix Metering
II rarely requires manual compensation - see our Gallery page for examples.