Nikon D200 Digital Camera Reviewed

by Bjørn Rørslett  

1. Introduction

Once upon a time, Nikon DSLRs had just a few pixels on their imagers. Then the competition had more, so Nikon played catch up, to end with the successful pro-calibre D2X camera (launched end of February, 2005). Now, almost a year later, they've catered to a wider audience with their D200 providing a healthy 10 MPix in a neat, well-built camera package.

Ice on Fence, by D200

First Ice on Fence at Sunset

Taking on huge scene contrasts, with utmost ease (D200 with AFS Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8, 100 ISO equivalency)

© Bjørn Rørslett/NN

The design of the new D2-series, encompassing the current D2HS and D2X, indicated Nikon seriously believe in their "DX" concept. Adding the new, attractively priced yet feature-packed D200 just serves to underscore that impression. The new camera, unlike the flagship D2X, uses the traditional CCD type of imager, rumoured to be produced by Sony.

I will not spend too much time on describing all the features on the D200, because plenty of this information is floating around on the better web sites already. Or, you may get a brochure from a dealer, or download a PDF file from one of the official Nikon sites. Relevant points and issues are covered during this review article. For a user of the D1- and D2-class models, the interface of the D200 will be quite intuitive, and I think most people will take an instant liking to the feel and sheer handling ease of this camera.

For each new series of a digital camera, I as an end user sincerely hope they have finally come of age. I simply wish to go on shooting as I always have done, not needing to pay much attention to the actual media within the camera itself, be it film or digital. So far into the digital epoch, hopes have as a whole gone unfulfilled, although the digital image quality has all along endeared the technology to me. With the D2X, I for one saw the ghost of the film era laid to rest, and with the D200, obtaining more or less the same quality just might be feasible for the masses as well. Read on to find out more.

This time, for some inscrutable reason, Nikon evidently did not wish to provide samples of the new camera to reviewers ahead of its official release. So I was figuratively overrun in the initial stampede to order D200 cameras and had to bide my time. A very frustrating situation when my e-mail inbox and web boards were flooded with questions to which no tested and tried answer could be given.

Eventually I managed to lay my hands on a sample D200 after struggling for about one week. The camera came straight out of an unopened box with factory sealing and thus had never been used before, so I was facing a novel camera like any other customer - certainly no cherry-picking here.

The hectic research and testing of the last couple of weeks have eclipsed my picture-taking activity, and the recent invocation of Murphy's Law leading to a severe server disk crash and a temporary loss of all my test shots with the D200 didn't help the situation either, so please bear this in mind when you read the article as a whole. I'll come up with better images later on, when the conditions settle back to normal. Moreover, I'd like to have any factual or writing error(s) or pointed out to me, because you do tend to miss them in the last publishing stage (if you disagree with my findings, this is of course perfectly OK, but disagreement doesn't constitute an error as such).

A final point worthy of mention is that you cannot really isolate just the camera from testing: lenses interact with a digital camera to much greater extent than with silver-halide technology, and we are left to the mercy of the raw file converting software to get quality results from the camera, or depending on the manufacturer to achieve the same when using the built-in jpg engine of the camera. All this now tends to bloat the testing procedure to a level nearly insurmountable for an unpaid reviewer like myself. Might sound like I'm whining, which I'm definitively not, but I struggle to strike a balance between delving into what's really needed to learn against what benefits the reader audience. I try my very best to make that balance with a photographer's perspective in mind. After all, this is a camera, and a camera is nothing more than a tool for acquiring pictures. Never lose that perspective to become hooked on the camera itself.

Nikon D200 Reviewed

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Last update 18 January, 2006