Updated June 2019 – First published ~2007 . The D200 was a great camera, right now on Amazon the D200 sells for about US$90. Amazing I paid close to US$1500 for it in 2007! Honestly for the price it will take great photos even today. I currently use a D500. On Amazon the D500 costs about that same $1500 as of June 2019. The D500 has some key improvements such as 4k video and overall better dynamic range, quicker focusing, and other little things.
I’ve been using the Nikon D200 for about a week and a half, here is a collection of my first impressions and a general review of it’s performance vs. a Nikon D70.
There are a couple of decent reviews of the Nikon D200 out there. Many focusing on all the key improvements over the D100 or D70. This is one of them 🙂
Out of the box the D200 feels a bit like a heavier D70, the biggest improvement is noticable before you even turn on the camera, the larger LCD screen on the back and more importantly the extra switches and buttons that mean you won’t be stuck navigating menus whenever you want to change your shooting mode in the least. As a professional photographer who used a D-70 on non-wedding photo shoots I can say this is the biggest difference from an ease of use standpoint to me. The D2x has all of these knobs and switches too, and also has a $5000 price tag to go with it. It’s nice to see these features on a sub-2k camera.
The picture quality is excellent out of this camera, and you’d expect no less. Something that a lot of people don’t realize though is that a picture from a $700 D50 and a $5000 D2x can look both look great at print sizes up to around 16×20. The sensors are great across the Nikon line. If you have poor image quality and are hoping that the D200 will fix your woes, there are probably better places you can spend your money. A nice lens on a D70 will make a nicer picture than that old kit lens on a D200. If you have somewhere you can rent lenses in your area, I recommend trying out a couple of $1000 lenses before you look to spend $1700 on a camera. I bet you’ll be surprised! On a job I regularly carried a $800 D70 with 3k worth of glass. The lenses make the difference far more when comparing modern digital SLRs. Pics
At the risk of losing all my bandwidth forever, I have posted 2 JPEGs right out of the camera here: Pics from the D200 Please be gentle 🙂 (Ed Note 2019: Yes in 2006 the idea of two multimegabyte photo files was enough to make a webserver choke)
What’s important to me
The main reasons I purchased a D200 are improved autofocus (both more autofocus areas and faster focusing on non AF-S lenses), more buttons and switches (more below), better flash control with CLS, and fast 5 fps shooting speed.
Buttons & Switches
This sounds almost silly, unless you take your camera to somewhere with dynamic situations. Most of the professional photographic work I do is with pets and animals. This can involve a variety of scenes over a half hour or hour shoot. Most people want some pictures of them with their pets in a “formal” style portrait. In this mode Single-Servo focus and center-weighted metering are my preferences; however then clients usually want some pictures of Fido running thru their yard or playing with their kids.
Here I usually like matrix metering and continuous-servo focus to try and keep up with the rapidly moving animal and unpredictable lighting. With a camera like the D70 that I would often use on these shoots, I found myself going thru the menu a lot to make these changes. Now focus mode, meter mode, and focus area all have dedicated switches. As a side benefit this gives the camera a more “pro” look. A lot of being a photographer is working with people, and they want to feel like they are getting what they paid for. If you paid a photographer to come to your house and they showed up with a disposable camera how would you feel? It’s somewhat silly, since with a little extra effort you can get great pictures out of a cheap camera, but impressions matter.
5 fps shooting and larger buffer I never had trouble with the D70 buffer except when shooting RAW, which is something I rarely do. Now I can see no problem with the D200s large 25 picture buffer. The 5 fps is also nice for taking action shots, as with animals it’s hard to predict what they are going to do or where they will look next. I’m not saying hold down the shutter release and hope for a good shot, but the fast recycle time means you will never push the button and not get a shot.
Large top Display & Viewfinder
This is another place the D200 has improved a lot over the D70, the top display now shows a bit more information on exposure, bracketing, and battery remaining. It’s quite useful to have all this information at your disposal.
The Viewfinder is much improved over the D70, still not as good as a D1 or D2 model, but that’s to be expected. Looking thru the viewfinder the image is bright and clear, makes manual focus easy and quick. Also Nikon has improved the status line here showing more information most importantly ISO, which was hard to find on the D70. This is a huge improvement for anyone that does night or other photography where the the D70’s little dark viewfinder caused troubles.
So far this article has talked mainly about the improvements in objective terms that you could get from comparing the manuals of the two cameras. How about the subjective. Well the hand feels is great, a bit better grip than the D70, although not the tremendous improvement most people seems to claim. (I also almost always have a 28-70 f/28 AF-S or 80-200 F/2.8 lens on the camera, so a small weight change is not as large to me as someone who always shoots with a smaller plastic lens.
The image quality is superb, I haven’t noticed any of the banding artifacts that others have complained of. The two pictures at the top bar of the website were take with a D200, the puppy with the 80-200 and the picture of a lens with my macro lens . Some people have complained about the battery life, I think this is more just that there is now a better gauge by which to see it draining. In the D70 and D50 cameras the meter would often go from full to none in a few shots. Leading people to think that they had a full battery after 400 shots when in fact they didn’t have that much left at all. I will need to take the camera on more shoots before I know the extent of this problem. I always carry a spare battery anyway so I don’t think this will be that large a concern to most people.
Personally I feel that it was cheap of Nikon to lose backwards compatibility with the old batteries, this is clearly just a marketing ploy to get more accessory cash. The old batteries are physically unable to go into the D200 due to a small notch, I hope someone on the web with more guts than me will dremel it out and let us know if the older batteries still work. Another problem with batteries is there is no longer an option to use an sort of “over the counter” battery without buying the expensive MB-200 grip. The D70 came with a nice holder for 3 lithium batteries that meant any drug store could get you shooting again in minutes.
If you’ve never shot a camera with a high fps count before this mode may shock you a bit. You can easily take 2 pictures just because you are used to holding down the shutter release too long. This is great for action photography or sport photography. There is still a lot of anticipation involved, since if you have a shutter speed of 1/500 of second and take 5 shots in a second, your shutter was still closed for 495/500 of the time. So this can give you a higher probability of success, but still won’t guarantee you that magic shot. That’s where the most important part of any camera comes into play, the part behind the viewfinder.
Only one small one: The camera strap mounts are slightly different and when I rotate the camera for a vertical shot I find that the straps will often fall in front of the view finder. That’s really it so far.
This is a great camera for the price. It has many features of the $5,000 D2X but is only $1700 US. If you want a great camera that will do you well for years to come, this is it. The D2X does have many advantages over the D200 that don’t quite justify calling the D200 a D2x light, but most of these features are not worth the extra cost to all but the richest pros. (or ones that can get their company to spring for it) The D200 is far and above the D70 in terms of image quality and features; however the features may be considered not worth it to many D70 owners or prospective buyers. If you leave your camera in one mode for large periods of time, aren’t interested in 5fps and don’t plan on blowing up your prints beyond 16×20, then the D70 is a great camera and you won’t benifit from the features of the D200 enough to justify doubling your outlay. Get a D70 and spend $900 on a good lens and you’ll be much happier.
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