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Nikon D200 Review: My Thoughts After 5 Years Of Use!
This is part 3 of my Nikon D200 review (storage, battery, build, LCD, flash and summary). To go back to the start, click here, or navigate to the section you want using the table of contents below:
|Colour||Noise||Build Quality and Ergonomics|
The best prices can often be found here.
The D200's CF card slot opens up on the right, from a switch on the back:
The Nikon D200 uses CF memory cards, and the card slot is located in an accessible position on the side of the body. There are 7 available options for saving files to the card:
JPG Basic, JPG Medium, JPG Large, Raw, Raw + JPG Basic, Raw + JPG Medium, Raw + JPG Large. The option for saving Raw + JPG files is really useful, especially when I need to send an image off somewhere quickly (e.g. picture desk, colleague, friend etc.), but would like to spend some time processing it carefully later. The file type can quickly be selected by using the 'QUAL' button on the top of the camera next to WB and ISO.
The D200 also has a 'buffer', which is the word given to digital cameras' internal cache of memory. The main purpose of the buffer is to allow you to capitalize on the 5fps, without being slowed as images are written to the card. So when you take several images in quick succession, they are instantly saved to the buffer, which in turn transfers them to the CF card.
The buffer can store 25 JPG's, 21 Raw images and 19 shots when Raw + JPG has been selected as the quality option. Personally, I don't think I've ever come close to utilizing the full buffer memory. Even if I were to reel off 25 shots in 5 seconds (using the full 5fps), some of these would have been written to the card within that time, leaving me yet more shots.
So, basically, for high speed photography, like sport and wildlife, where lots of images need to be taken quickly, the D200 will never slow you down with slow saving. Moreover, you can even review photos on the LCD before they have been written to the card, thanks to the buffer. So you can work at a fast pace with no no frustrating interruptions.
The D200 is a prosumer DSLR model. It's long been favoured by professionals as a back up body to their full frame camera (as well as by keen enthusiasts who want the best possible pictures). This puts it in a category of cameras that provide high specifications in a smaller package. That spells bad news for the battery!
Nikon D200 battery and battery door on the bottom of the camera:
What's That Nikon, 1800 Shots?
Nikon claim that you can expect to take around 1800 shots per battery charge. The very best of luck with that. I'm afraid this is an example of unambiguous BS from Nikon! Under no conditions have I ever been able to return anything like 1800 shots per charge. Frankly, I'm doing well to achieve half that number, and I don't tend to spend ages ogling the LCD screen (which runs down the battery more than anything else).
So owning a D200 goes hand in hand with being well organized on the battery front. I always have 1 in the camera, 1 in the bag and 1 charging. For long shoots 2 spare batteries is a must.
Battery Info Displays
All that being said, the way the D200 displays battery info is very helpful. The top LCD constantly shows a little graphic of the battery, with remaining charge. There are 5 bars, each representing 20%. It's very easy to check on the exact percentage remaining in the menus: Setup>Battery Info. Additionally, you get a little early warning sign of low life through the viewfinder, where a graphic flashes up once the 20% mark is reached.
Build Quality and Ergonomics
Build and Weight
I've mentioned already how great the build/ergonomics of the D200 are, particularly in reference to exposure controls above. It's a weighty item, coming in at 830g, stripped of battery and memory card, thanks to the robust magnesium alloy.
The rubberized back is both tactile and weather proof, whilst the thumb grip is perfectly positioned to make hand-holding for long periods of time very comfortable.
Back view of the D200:
It's obvious from the first time you hold the D200 that's it's a high quality item. What becomes clear the more you use it is how intelligently everything has been positioned. I've already mentioned most of the major buttons/switches under the Exposure, Autofocus, Colour, Noise and Storage sections. So I won't repeat the same points.
Suffice to say that I make a lot of settings adjustments without actually looking at the camera. The shutter speed and aperture wheels are extremely easy to get the hang of. The trio of buttons on the top left: ISO, WB and QUAL are easy to access and I use them a lot. I often feel for the AE-L/AF-L (exposure and focus lock) button whilst looking through the viewfinder, in order to recompose without impacting focus or exposure. Likewise for the M, S, C focus modes buttons on the front of the camera.
The Nikon D200 pretty quickly becomes an extension of you! I honestly can't praise the design and ergonomics enough. The presence of so many physical buttons means I almost never have to go into the menus during a shoot, which is great. Plus, for the clumsy amongst you, you'll be pleased to know that the hefty magnesium alloy build is well capable of taking a few knocks here and there.
There is a 2.5" colour LCD on the back of the D200, as well as a larger than normal LCD on the top of the camera. The back LCD displays the menus and plays back photos, whilst the top one shows settings.
Large, with lots of settings displayed:
The top LCD is nice and big, making all settings very clear and easy to read. Indeed, this is even the case at night, thanks to a backlight which can easily be toggled on.
Bright and unaffected by the angle viewed from:
The back LCD has excellent resolution and colour quality. It gives you a better feel for the shots you've taken than many other LCD's I've used. It also accounts for the fact that you can't always take too much time to study shots mid-shoot by displaying images with even light from all angles. In other words, if the screen is not at a perfect right angle to you, it doesn't matter. The image does not appear any brighter or darker.
Navigating the menus is pretty easy. Some other users I've spoken to feel that there are often too many steps needed to reach a given setting within the menus. But, personally, I tend to set everything up pre-shoot and then make use of only the physical buttons (of which there are many) during the shoot itself.
Scrolling it done with the arrow wheel on the back of the camera, which has 4 points in addition to a 'push' function for selecting. One handy shortcut that I use a lot is for instantly zooming in on a photo to check its sharpness. All you have to do is press the centre of the arrow wheel and it takes you straight to a zoomed in shot of the precise focal point (even taking into account which of the 11 focus sensors you used). To set this function up, go:
Custom>Controls>Center Button>Playback Mode>Zoom On/Off>High Magnification.
The Nikon D200 features a built-in flash, which can be very useful particularly as the higher ISO settings produce a lot of noise. There is a handy Flash Compensation control, located just below the flash pop-up button, with which you can intensify of weaken the flash strength by 3 stops either way. I make use of this a lot, generally to reduce the harshness of the flash.
Probably the most notable thing about the D200's built-in flash is the excellent exposure it produces in P mode. Let's face it, flash is pretty ugly at the best of times (built-in flash that is, where it can't be bounced off surfaces). But I rarely have a problem with extreme hot spots using the automatic exposure with the flash up on the D200. I'm always pleasantly surprised by the results it produces.
So, having owned my D200 for several years now, how do I feel about it? Well, despite the fact that it's long since been surpassed by later models, the fundamental strengths of the D200 have made it a joy to use for all this time. When it was released, it marked a new beginning for Nikon, which they have built on with the D300, D300s, D700, D800 and D800e etc.
Although I do have my eye on the D700, there's not really been anything to tempt me away from the D200 (in my price bracket) over the past few years. By pairing it with an increasingly good quality range of glass, it's been a brilliant servant for my photography.
The 1.5x crop factor can be a pain, as it took me a while to get a lens that enabled me to produce wide angle shots. It does strugle a bit to keep noise to acceptable levels beyond ISO 800, and on long exposures in the blue colour channel. But, to an extent that's mitigated by a decent in-built flash with excellent exposure control.
Battery life is rubbish; probably the biggest weak point of the whole camera. But this is a double edged sword, because it results from the fact that the D200 is a small camera with many pro specifications. That's always going to impact battery life. Carrying a spare battery or two is a must.
I love the colour quality of the D200, and the ability to fine tune it with numerous menu and WB settings. The AF system is fast and accurate, whilst metering with matrix mode is on the mark 9/10.
But perhaps the best thing about the Nikon D200 for me, is that even after more than 5 years, I still love the feel of it in my hands. It's a beautifully made piece of kit. It's the product of extremely thoughtful design and testing, resulting in excellent ease-of-use. The range and location of physical controls often make me feel smug when I look at the cameras my friends are using! When I read about a new technique somewhere, and then turn to my D200 to see how it's done, I'm often struck by how easy it has been made.
So, if you love taking pictures and feel the need for a high level of control over your shots, the Nikon D200 is a brilliant option. You will go on learning new things you can do with it all the time, and never get frustrated with the design and controls. It's also a great option for pro's who need a good quality back-up camera.
Finally, some quick reactions to the D200 from elsewhere on the web:
|DPReview: "Highly Recommended" / "It's one of those cameras you look forward to picking up".|
|Digital Photography School: "The D200 provides excellent quality and it's built to last".|
|Bythom: "Worthy of pro aspirations. Beyond consumer aspirations"|
|Camera Labs: "Professional quality at a highly affordable price point."|
The Nikon D200 can be found (along with plenty more user reviews) at Amazon, where the best prices tend to be found. It's also worth scouting eBay sometimes:
The best prices can often be found here.
Nikon D200 Review Part 1: Specification Overview / Colour / Exposure
Nikon D200 Review Part 2: Autofocus / Sensor / Noise / Sharpness
|Colour||Noise||Build Quality and Ergonomics|