Powerful and wonderfully designed, Nikon’s new D200 fills a gaping hole in the company’s line-up of digital SLR cameras. Ideal for professionals and serious amateurs, this 10.2-megapixel camera fits nicely between the 6.1-megapixel D70s and Nikon’s top-of-the line and extremely costly 12.4-megapixel D2X. I predict that many D70s owners will want to upgrade to the D200’s higher-megapixel count and more sophisticated controls.
Nikon built the D200 with a beefy magnesium body that feels like something you could pound nails with. Nikon also loaded it with dedicated buttons and dials. The D200 is clearly a descendent of the D2X, though not quite as bulky. Even so, it still feels weighty (with the battery, it comes in at over 900g).
Two of the D200’s more intriguing features are its GPS connectivity, which lets you add location information to photos – very cool – and the ability to shoot multiple exposures to the same image file. This latter option is exceptionally rare in digital cameras, although you could achieve the same effect by layering multiple images later in an image-editing program.
The D200’s controls are more intuitive than those on previous Nikon models. The menus, for example, while no less multi-layered, are nicely organised, well labelled, and colour-coded – all of which help speed navigation among them. Still, the sheer number of options means that finding specific controls when you first pick up this camera can take time. The Recent Settings menu assists with this, as does the built-in help system.
The D200 has a huge, almost bewildering, selection of focusing options. The autofocus was dead-on accurate for most of my informal shots, with the surprising exception of a few scenic photos – usually the easiest type of picture for autofocus systems to handle. This lapse may be a case of my selecting the wrong type of autofocus, however. The camera was generally quick and accurate, even with such challenges as capturing birds in flight.
As you’d expect with a 10.2-megapixel CCD, the images I shot with the D200 looked sharp, living up to my high expectations, although the D200 didn’t earn the highest score for image sharpness in our tests. It did, however, earn very high marks for the absence of distortion in its images. Only the Canon 20D is better.
Like many digital SLRs, the D200 tends to underexpose slightly in auto-exposure settings. Colour saturation was a mixed bag – a bit muted with earth tones, but nicely saturated with bright whites and reds.
Until now, the Canon 20D was the leading candidate to become my next digital SLR. But the D200’s higher scores for colour quality and exposure accuracy make it a tempting proposition as well. Now I have the luxury of choosing between two exceptional cameras.