on February 24, 2006
No matter how you slice it, this is a great camera.
If you're considering this camera you likely to be in one of two camps: A Nikon person trying to determine whether or not to buy the N50, N70 or the D200; or you already know you want something more on the pro end of the pro-amateur spectrum and are trying to choose between a Nikon and a Canon. If you're in the latter camp then you can't go wrong with either the D200 or any of Canon's offerings. They both make excellent cameras. If you're already a Nikon person, get the Nikon; if you're already a Canon person, get the Canon.
That said, I'm a Nikon person, and after 5 years of having fun with my film-based N80 I wanted to make the leap into real digital photography. I say real, because I've had a Canon Sureshot for 4 years and it's great for snapshots, but when it comes to landscapes or dealing with any kind of lighting issues, it just doesn't measure up. Since I'm a Nikon person (all my lenses work with the new digital SLRs) I looked at the N50, N70 and D200. There are plenty of sites out there that compare these three cameras (against each other and the competition) to death, so I won't bother with all the details.
We buy cameras to take a variety of different pictures and my choice was driven by my needs, so my review is going to be colored by the kinds of pictures I tend to take. My favorite pastime is landscape photography. For this, any of the three cameras will take great pictures. The 6 mega pixels on the N50 and N70 are more than enough to take great pictures - I've got a 20x30 poster of Yosemite's Half Dome taken with a friend's N70 that is as crisp as anything I've seen. Having 10mps gives me more room to play with when it comes time for cropping, though, and that's always nice, but hardly a reason to shell out an extra grand.
My next favorite photography subject is my yellow lab, Happy. If he's standing or sitting still, then all three of these cameras take excellent portrait shots. But when he's moving, such as launching himself off the end of a pier to fetch a toy in the lake, the D200 really shines. Its 5fps burst mode takes perfect pictures. It focuses each shot and with its rich 25 picture buffer built into the camera, I've yet to fill it up. What this means is that it doesn't matter what speed your memory card is. The camera takes its pictures and puts them into its buffer. Then a separate set of processors moves the picture from the buffer to your memory card. I would have to hold the button down for over 8 seconds before the burst mode would slow down (it would simply slow down to the speed of your memory card here - it wouldn't stop taking pictures). This clarity of the pictures in burst mode is what made me choose the D200, and with the 18-70mm DX kit lens you'll get some brilliant photos.
While all three cameras let you take great picture, the D200 makes it very easy to change the most often used settings. Picture quality (e.g. resolution and depth), White Balance and ISO can be changed by holding down a single button with your left hand and rotating the command dials with your right. This means you don't have to take your eyes off of what you're looking at through the viewfinder in order to change these settings, and I find myself changing at least one of these on almost every picture I take. To be sure, you can change them on the N50 and N70 as well, but just not as quickly or easily.
Other things I liked about the D200 are:
o Build. It's made of metal and has a very nice heft to it. The D50 and D70, much like my N80, are made of a very good plastic, and I've never had any problems with the N80, but the D200 just feels good
o LCD. The 2.5 inch LCD makes it easy to determine whether or not you're happy with a picture in the field.
o Color. The auto white balance for the D200 is awesome and the colors are brilliant.
o 4 settings banks. You can preprogram four settings (ISO, WB, Picture Quality, etc) so you can get to it quickly.
One last point - the D200 is very difficult to get a hold of these days, but it's slightly easier to get in kit form (which comes with a lens). The 18-55mm lens is nice, but I prefer the 18-70mm (remember, with digitals you have to multiply the focal length by 1.5 to compare it with their film counterparts, so the 18-70 for digital is more like a 28-105 for film). The 18-70mm kit will run you about $300 more than the body itself, and it's worth it.
If you don't already have a big zoom lens then the new 18-200mm Nikon VR lens is awesome (equivalent to 28-300 for film). It takes stunning pictures and has all the zoom you're likely to need. It runs between $700 and $800 and is even harder to get than the D200 (which is why I don't have one yet :-).
In summary, you can't go wrong with any of these Nikons. The D200, however, is definitely the king of the hill. Happy picture takine!
on January 10, 2006
I just had the opportunity to use 2 nikon D200 cameras on a trip to Antarctica. All I can say is "wow"! I have been hesitant to make the move to digital due to the relatively low resolutions of the early amateur digital SLRs. The specs for the D200 caught my eye. Of particular interest were the 10.2 MP resolution, the magnesium body and the enhanced environmental sealing. In fairly adverse conditions the cameras performed flawlessly. Particularly notable were their ability to work in cold conditions, something I was concerned about at the beginning of the trip. While other people's cameras were having battery issues in the cold, the D200 kept shoothing. The camera handles very well and is easy to shoot with. There is a bit of a learning curve to understand all the custom settings and menus. The good news is that most of the controls build off of familiar Nikon concepts so they are not hard to pick up. The output of the camera is amazing and while I have not had the chance to review my shots on anything but a laptop, the early returns are very positive. The new autofocus system is quite good, though one of my few complaints is that it sometimes seemed balky with certain subjects. I am willing to write this off as perhaps my not have a full understanding of the various focusing modes, but time will tell. The monitor on the camera is really good and viewable in bright light. Being able to shoot at 5 fps was nice when trying to shoot diving humpback whales. In this case the DX size sensor comes in handy, extending effective focal length by 1.5 the 35mm equivalent. With wide angle the DX is a little more frustating and I see a new lens in my future. I am very happy with the D200. I think Nikon is feeling some heat from Canon and had to come up with an offering that upped the ante on the price performance curve. The D200 looks like they got a lot of it right.
on March 18, 2006
When the D200 was announced with its feature set and price, I was shocked at the low price. I was on the wait list at several places, but luckily picked up one at BHphotovideo. I've had one or two minor glitches such as the mirror/shutter locked up. A quick call to NikonUSA and tech support told me to reset the menus. I did that and I was back in action in 10 minutes. The images it produces are incredible. I upgraded from my Nikon D70 which is also an excellent camera, but I wanted several features that the D200 has. My AI/AIS manual focus Nikkor lenses can be used on the d200 and exposure metering & Aperture Priority mode are features I really wanted. This makes macro photography a snap with my AIS lenses. Other added features included Mirror Lock Up, 5fps drive, faster read/write on the CF cards, vertical grip, improved focus speed and the list of other improvements is long.
Image Quality - This is was photography is all about. The colors jump out at you as they are vibrant. The 10mp images allow for cropping when necessary and you can still print large. The b&w mode is great. This camera beats the medium format film cameras and I have a Hasselblad and a Rollieflex as well. So when I want higher quality than my d200, I have to grab my 4x5 camera...
Shooting raw NEF the files are about 16mb. But shoot compressed raw and the files are only 8-10mb and no one has been able to tell the difference in quality.
Cons: Still very hard to find as demand is so high. Need big CF cards, get 2gb or 4gb CF cards as you will not want to stop shooting this gem.
Bottom line: The D200 is a pro quality camera body for a consumer price. Wedding photographers have embraced it. There are few photographers who could outgrow it. It's got a ton of features so be sure to read the manual while you're charging up the battery. Unless you shoot high speed action sports, this should be all you need. If you need a faster motor drive, then get the D2x.
The Nikon D200 is a professional camera which is also aimed at the serious amateur digital photographer. It is essentially the upgrade unit from the D100/D70s, and it incorporates solid improvements over those excellent cameras.
The most obvious upgrade feature of the D200 is the 10.2 megapixel images that it creates. The advantage of more megapixels is twofold. Firstly, many digital photographers "crop" their images in post-processing. For example, if you take a photograph of a flying bird such that the bird occupies only a quarter of the image, you may want to crop the image such that you eliminate half of the image, leaving the bird dominant. More megapixels means more detail will survive the cropping, which is essentially a form of magnification. Secondly, if you wish to print images larger than about 8 x 10, more megapixels again equates to more detail.
In my opinion the most impressive improvement in the D200 over the D100/D70s is the autofocus system. The D200 gives the user numerous different autofocus modes over and above those offered by the D100/D70s. These are designed to make it easier and more effective for the user to photograph moving and erratic subjects, such as fast-flying birds, or athletes on the playing field for you sports photographers. This, combined with another big improvement of the D200--the fabulously bright and wide viewfinder--makes it much easier to photograph difficult fast-moving subjects. The D200 viewfinder is wonderfully bright, making acquisition of difficult subjects much easier. Combined with the improved autofocus, I am bringing home more "keeper" photographs of erratically flying birds in which these photos are in perfect focus.
The D200 also offers up to 5 frames-per-second continuous shooting, and has a big buffer so that the camera will not slow down to write to the CF card. This is really useful when shooting fast-moving subjects. When combined with the excellent autofocus system, the user can shoot fast shots with confidence that most or all of them will be in focus. This is another improvement over the 3 FPS of the D70s.
Another obvious improvement of the D200 is its body construction. The quality and durability of the D200, which is housed in an all-metal body which is weathersealed at all critical points, has to be experienced to be appreciated. The unit is built very solidly, but happily does not sacrifice weight for durability like some Nikons (remember the F5?) have done in the past. Despite being all-metal, the D200 is light enough that you will probably not mind carrying it all day on vacation (like I like to do) or during outdoor photo shoots. Although this camera body is of pro-quality, it nevertheless retains enough lightness and is sufficiently compact that amateurs will not feel overwhelmed by its size or weight when carrying it around on vacation or whatnot.
Other reviewers have noted that the D200 is much more similar to Nikon's other professional cameras, and I am inclined to agree with this. I am only an enthusiastic amateur, and I am convinced that the D200 is about as much camera as virtually any amateur can effectively appreciate.
The D200 menu system is very good, and it is an improvement over the already very good menus contained in the D100/D70s. The camera allows the user to set up four "banks" of settings that are completely independent of one another. Thus, you can have one bank with settings optimized for portraits, one for fast-moving subjects (e.g. birds), one for landscapes, and one for point-and-shoot "party" shots. (This is how I have mine set up, credit to "Nikonians"). While this sounds complicated, the way Nikon set up their menus actually made this quite easy to grasp, and after about thirty minutes of playing with the camera I was quite proficient with the menus. Good job Nikon.
By the way, the exposure system on the D200 is also an upgrade from the D100/D70s. Nikon really spared no effort to make the D200 a quantum leap over its already excellent line of amateur DSLRs. This is the first amateur digital camera that I have used that seems to get exposures as good as my old F5 film camera (one of the great Nikons during the film era) although the D100 and D70s came pretty close.
With the D200 Nikon continues its tradition of offering a nice on-board flash. This flash is fine for snapshots and fill-flash of close subjects. Serious shooters will want either the SB-600 or SB-800 external flash units. Again, here Nikon has given the camera pro features--the D200 built in flash can act as a "command" unit for other flashes. Serious amateurs and pros will appreciate this feature.
As if to prove that it re-engineered the D70s/D100 from the ground up, Nikon also improved the battery situation with the D200. The D200 battery has built in voltage testing, which means that the battery indicator on the D200 is actually accurate, a first in my experience with any DSLR camera. This means that when it says that the battery is half-discharged, that is actually the case. (On other, earlier units, when the battery indicator moved from "full" this usually meant full discharge was imminent.) This is important because the D200 does go through a battery significantly faster than did the D100/D70s. This is partly because of (yes, another upgrade) the larger LCD viewer on the back of the camera, and partly just to the more complex electronics in the unit. Serious users will want to buy one or more extra batteries to stash in one's pocket or vest.
The 18-70 DX kit lens is a very nice little lens. It features some ED glass for better contrast in the images. Since it is a DX lens, it is small and light, while sacrificing nothing in image quality. This is a great first lens or walkaround vacation lens for portraits, snapshots, and landscape shots.
One very minor quibble with the D200. The default sharpening settings are somewhat soft. Some users have been unhappy that when they take the D200 out of the box and start shooting, that their images are not tack-sharp, as to be expected from a high-end camera. Not to worry, simply set sharpening to +1 or higher in the camera and it will produce sharp images. Better yet, experiment in post-processing with sharpness settings. Bottom line is that the unit will and does produce tack-sharp images, but not with the default menu settings.
Overall, the D200 is a pro camera at amateur pricing. It is used by pros and serious amateurs, and with its feature set and impeccable quality and ergonomics, it is an impressive offering by Nikon. This is one of those cameras that is really fun to use, and it produces fine, sharp, and bright images limited only by the skill of the photographer. Highly recommended.
on January 30, 2006
The excitement over this camera is justified!
We've all heard about the excellent build quality and it is true.
This is in many ways the best camera I have ever owned. The interface is intuitive and really is beyond compare in my experience. Every adjustment is right there at your finger tips making it fast and easy to change settings as different lighting and situations present themselves. This camera fits my hands like a glove!
So far the matrix metering is impressive. The amount of detail captured in the shadow area is exceptional!
Contrary to rumors I have read the D200 does offer capture in black and white mode.
Nikon has done a lot right here!
One other thing the software is another excellent feature. You can import existing pictures, regardless of brand camera used to capture. The upload is quick and offers the ability to tag, export, mail, adjust, resize and more. Very nice and comprehensive user interface there as well.
Packaging and accessories are first class!
One side note, the battery does not last anywhere near the 1800 captures described in the descriptions I have read. One battery does not get me through a day of shooting, particulary when using a VR lens. Plan on getting a couple of hundred shots in between charging possibly more if using manuall focus and shutting off frequently.
Overall I am very happy with the purchase of this camera. It's the best value on the market in my opinion.
*Continued assessment after even more extensive use.
Ok...I am even more impressed than I was when I wrote the above portion of this review.
The amount of well thought out features on this camera expand the photographers capability greatly.
Start with having four custom menu's that can be set and ready to use just a click away. For instance, one set-up for sports, one for flash portraiture, one for night capture and so on.
This camera produces the best life-like as witnessed at the time of capture color I have expereienced since discovering photography almost 30 years ago.
I mean superb color! Pariculary in the greens and blues. Every color really!
The images produced have the least amount of digital noise I have seen. This means better pictures, enlargements and best of all a lot less time spent in the processing. I even jack the ISO(International Standards Organization) up to 800 or a 1000 with excellent results! There is some noise at 1600. About the same as some of the other cameras I've used when set at ISO 200.
The EV(Exposure Variation) adjustments are easy to access and you can set the increment value to 1/3, 1/2 or 1 full stop depending on personal preference.
Oh! You can do picture Overlays in the camera! Yes right in the camera as long as they are captured in RAW and on the same memory card.
Add to that multiple exposure capability as well.
This camera puts a lot of capability in your hands!
on June 15, 2006
Very few people are going to give an accurate review of the new Nikon D200, but I'm going to try. I'm NOT going to review the D200 on its own. That's not realistic or representative of how shoppers will seek out this camera. At such a high price, most buyers will have experience with digital cameras and DSLRs and be matching the D200 against other models. This review examines the new Nikon in that regard. IF you are actually thinking of this as a FIRST DSLR, please STOP. This is most likely not a good 1st DSLR due to it's complexity and steep learning curve. Please consider a D50 or D70s or the Canon 350XT which are also in the hands of plenty of professionals.
All others please read on....
The Nikon D200 is fairly advanced DSLR which uses interchangeable lenses and works with the Nikon flash system to produce professional results. It has a lighting fast auto focus system, though this is augmented nicely by the additional SB 800 flash which increases AF accuracy even further. For 1699.00 you know this is a serious unit that can take amazing photos, but the real question that MOST people will ask is this:
Do I need this level of camera over the D70s or D50 which cost a thousand dollars less? The question can be answered quite simply. If you shoot action, such as sports or birds or any fast moving objects, the D200's speed can serve you well, bringing a higher success rate. For more typical shooting, such as family, portraits and scenic, the advantages are questionable.
Don't let the higher mega pixel rate fool you. Prints from these cameras look just about the same. The D200's higher resolution gives you more cropping ability, but the D70 or D50 are more than capable in this area as well. The D200's higher ISO abilities are quite limited and this has been a major disappointment for users who have been honest about it. The Nikon D50 is better in this regard, as is the D2Hs. This is a major stumble at this price point. Some users will claim good ISO, but it's not forgiving in the least.
The viewfinder of the D200 may be the single most improved area at this price point. It's both bright and sharp compared to less models. This is not something to be taken lightly. A bright viewfinder is key for proper composition.
Handling of the D200 is beyond excellent. Like all of Nikon's DSLRs, the D200 just gets it right in a way than Canon continues to miss. This is yet another reason why people buy Nikon as it seems to be designed by people who actually shoot. The D200 is a work of art in this regard.
Picture quality is excellent, but this is NOT a camera for beginners. Higher resolution also means less sharp results without proper hand held technique. The D200 also employs VERY mild in-camera sharpening and this should be done in post. This is the polar opposite of cameras like the D50 or Canon 350 which deliver good shots right out of the camera. The D200 was designed to deliver as RAW a file as possible and allow the photographer final say in the digital darkroom. Because of this the D200 requires a fairly modern and fast computer with Photoshop or some other powerful post software that can handle the large files.
So what you're paying for here is a professional camera with superior focusing and shooting speed. Picture quality is about on par with other DSLRs. While some folks will claim otherwise, ALL DSLRs take great pictures in experienced hands and you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart. Pro's and enthusiasts buy more for handling than anything else. In that capacity the D200 does not disappoint.
Current Nikon owners take note! The higher resolution of the D200 may expose lower end optics. The D200 must be used with better glass to see it's potential. So we're talking about a serious investment here. I currently use a 18-200VR, 12-24, Tamron 90mm Macro, 70-200VR, 50mm 1.4 and so on. Add the flash, filters and so on all ad up. The cost of a DSLR and lens package can easily hit 5K and the D200 encourages you to spend more. This is not a camera to slap 200 dollar lenses onto.
In the end, with a D200 sitting next to my trusty D70, I can't say that the D200 takes better photos. What it does do is allow YOU to take better photos. If it had better ISO range it would be a 5 star camera. I've given it 3 stars because at this point Nikon should have matched Canon in this area. And by now Canon should have built a camera with proper handling. Choose your poison, folks, but I must question the value of the D200 for the high ticket price. I don't see 1000 dollars worth of advantage over a D70s. Not even close.
I feel that the Nikon D70s continues to be the best DSLR on the market for the money....but if money doesn't matter and you are an advanced shooter...buy the D2Xs for 4.5K and be done. I also see the D2Hs as a superior camera even with 4MP. And the D2Hs handles noise far better. Very experienced shooters don't need 200% cropping in most cases.
Does this all mean I don't like the D200? No, it's a great camera. It's just not a stunning value and should be priced at 1299.00 at the most.
I upgraded from a d70 and holy moly ...no comparison. The biggest diffrence is the feel and usability of the camera. The feel is all nikon pro..build fit and finish is amazing and compared to the d70 head and shoulders above. The pictures are great but really it is about getting to the picture that makes the diffrence with this camera. easy access to any commonly changed feature like wb, iso, file size and type, metering, focus point, shooting speed, ect...you will find joy again in shooting with this camera. I can only say if you have ever owed a 6006 or an 8008s and you enjoyed those film cameras...welcome home...finally a digital that feels and shoots like a film ...really its seamless...so far nothing and I mean nothing to complain about...I have the battery grip and use an 800 speedlight and 4/6 Hit. micro drives...beware it need a lot of space if your shooting raw +
ps: if your looking beware the people promising to have them in stock and then not delivering...even normally reputable stores. I got mine through best buy...check often and you might get lucky like I did...sucks to pay tax but free shipping and had it in 4 days via regular ups...I was on the Ritz waiting list for 2 months before I gave up on them and found out about the best buy thing from a nikon bulletin board...good luck.
on March 23, 2006
I have been doing the digital side of photography for some time now. Before that, and still now, I used film. My first digital SLR was the Nikon D70, and I really loved it. It had a lot of options and good resolution for a fair price. Later I bought a Fuji S3 Pro 12.4mp digital SLR. It produces some of the most wonderful images with extreme dynamic range. My only problem with it, is that it is a bit slow in it's burst rate.
It finally came to the point where I needed two fully professional camera bodies. After waiting for the D200 to come out, I finally got down to Penn Camera to see what it felt like in my hand. Unfortunately, nobody had them in stock (At least a non-gray market one) for at least another six to eight weeks. I ordered mine off the internet (Which I'm not a huge fan of, but sometimes it's required.) for a small premium and had it the next day.
What a WONDERFUL camera! This was supposed to be a backup camera, and is now my primary. The way it feels in my hands is awesome. It has all the options I need and it produces wonderful looking images. The white balance options let me cut down post production in a huge way. Combined with my ExpoDisc, it produces perfect WB. Even the auto WB is something else. The metering in this camera is also a huge upgrade from the D70.
I did also purchase the MB-D200 battery pack and vertical shutter release. Over the S3 Pro, I'm happy with this because this actually has command dials on it. One great thing about the MB-D200 is the fact that you can run on either one EL-EN3e batteries, two EL-EN3e batteries or six AA rechargable batteries.
Overall, this camera is a massive step up for Nikon. It produces beautiful images and has all the options a pro could need. It's at a reasonable weight and is easy to handle. This is by far the best producing and best feeling camera I have ever owned.
on November 20, 2006
For those who loved the versatility, dependability and price of the F100 for Nikon film shooters, the Nikon D200 is your new digital workhorse. After using the D100 and D70s, I purchased a D200 and quickly sold my older digital bodies to buy a second D200 for my backup. It is hard to succintly describe which aspects of the D200 make it a superb camera, but certainly not impossible.
The burst rate and the speed at which it can acquire targets through auto focus make it a superb camera for wildlife as well as sports photography. In addition, the camera's processor allows me to shoot off several RAW images without ever losing time to pause to buffer the images. With the D100, I could only shoot 3 or 4 RAW images before the camera would have to pause for 30-40 seconds to buffer the files, truly a madening feature when doing portrait photography: "Hold that smile a little while longer..."
The D200 also, along with the D2X, is the only digital camera by any manufacturer that allows me to do in-camera multiple exposures. Along with the interval exposure feature -- setting the camera to take photos at regular, specified intervals -- the multiple exposure feature returns to the photographer in-the-field creative tools that have been lost with digital. It returns creativity in the camera, rather than relying so much on Photoshop or other photo editing tools.
Finally, the larger LCD display in the back is a wonder in the field. I also found the brightness and contrast of the display to be far more accurate to the true image than previous digital bodies. While I still rely on my histogram for accuracy of exposure, it is nice to have a display that is more true to the image when evaluating my capture in the field.
This is a sturdy, tough digital camera. I have, as it does happen, dropped my D200 a couple of times in the field with no adverse effects. I am confident that with the D200, with all of its features and functions, as well as the quality of its sensor and its speed, that I will be able to capture everyting I need on an assignment. My only complaint is one that I have with both of the major digital manufacturers, and that is the susceptibility of the sensor to dust. I find it appalling and irritating that neither Canon nor Nikon have taken steps to protect or provide self-cleaning mechanisms for the digital sensors. That should be an R&D priority.
on July 9, 2006
I photograph weddings for a living. This year, after ten years in business I decided to go all digital. I am now getting my second D200 body. Why?
I bought a Nikon D100 three years ago and still love and use it. I still think it's the best .jpg mode camera I own.
The D200 is a bit of a strange beast. Overexposures don't tend to blow out as much as they bleed. Honestly, I am not very impressed with the .jpg conversion of the D200. To me, it's the major weakness of the camera. But, stick the camera into the RAW mode and you have one hell of a system.
My only other major gripe is that the battery tends to die fairly quickly. I am waiting for the introduction of afermarket batteries. When they are less than $20 each I can pick up a bunch of them and keep them in my bag.
The D200 uses the Sony sensor, which is what I believe to be the same as what Sony is using in their consumer A100 DSLR camera system using the now defunct Minolta lens line.
I can see from other reviews many amatures are buying the D200. It's a good choice for a camera. I would highly suggest learning how to put the camera into the RAW Mode and playing with the images afterwards in PhotoShop CS2 with Bridge.
This is a third generation digital camera body. It's very good. I used to shoot only medium format film. With this camera, especially in the RAW mode, and used very carefully, I am getting very comparable image quality to medium format.
If you have a D50 or D70 and you are happy with the images it produces an upgrade to a D200 may not make a lot of sense. I would suggest enjoying what you have for now, and waiting for the next model in a couple of years. I've heard people who have been less than thrilled with the quality of the .jpg images as compared to the D70 (which is one of Nikon's best .jpg bodies ever!). If, on the otherhand, you can shoot in the RAW mode, and want a beefier body, more megapixels, and more bells and whisles, this is a good choice.
As for me, I don't even use this camera in the .jpg mode anymore. I am hoping that Nikon will come out with a firmware update to improve this camera body's .jgp conversion. When I shoot this camera in the RAW mode, I love everything about it! My medium format gear is now retired.