The Current Issue
Nikon Owner Issue 17
NIKON D200 - IT'S NEARLY HERE! By Simon Stafford
After months of speculation the newest addition to the Nikon digital SLR line is announced.
THANKS TO MODERN ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION systems that transmit words and pictures around the globe in a matter of seconds rumour-mongers have never has it so good! In this environment the level of speculation and conjecture surrounding Nikon's long awaited replacement for its aging D100 D-SLR reached fever-pitch recently, fuelled by some unfortunate leaks across the Internet.
Finally, on the 1st November, Nikon introduced, officially, the D200, a digital SLR with a DX format sensor that has 10.2 million (effective) pixels, which can record images in uncompressed, or compressed NEF RAW formats, and JPEG standard files at up to 5 fps. The camera is due to go on sale in the U.K. on 15th December 2005 at a price of £1300 (the price is expected to be $1700 in the U.S). It combines an impressive list of features in a body that is smaller and considerably less expensive than Nikon's flagship D2X; thus, as heir apparent to the crown of Nikon's mid-range D-SLR it looks set to have a long, memorable and highly successful reign.
I must add one caveat before I go any further - all my comments here are based on pre-production samples of the camera that I have handled; some specifications may change on production models. At the time of writing Nikon have yet to release an example of the camera that can be used to shoot test pictures, which they consider will be representative of the image quality attainable using a production camera.
THE D200 SPECIFICATION AT A QUICK GLANCE:
The D200 has an all-new DX-format (23.6mm x 15.8mm) RGB CCD sensor with 10.92 million pixels (10.2 effective), which uses a four-channel output for high-speed data transfer.
Each photosite (pixel) is 6.05µm square, and the sensor has an all-new optical low pass filter (OLPF) to help reduce the effects of moiré and colour fringing. Apparently new coatings also reduce the influence of IR and UV wavelength light.
The D200 is built around a magnesium alloy chassis and is sealed extensively at all points against ingress of environmental elements. It weighs 830g (26oz) without a battery, which is not too far behind the D2X at 1070g (34oz).
Layout and functionality of its controls draws heavily on those of the D70s and D2-series cameras, hence, overall, the handling will be familiar to users of these cameras.
The only significant change to handling is the catch for the CF card port, which is now located on the rear panel of the camera as opposed to being in the vicinity of the port itself.
The new Multi-CAM 1000 AF module has eleven AF areas, some of which can be combined so the system acts as a seven-area AF system with wider coverage in specific sections of the frame.
There is i-TTL flash exposure control for both its built-in flash and compatible Speedlights; the built-in Speedlight includes a Commander mode for remote wireless triggering of other compatible Speedlights, which offers the control of two additional groups of flashes (an SB-800 used in its Commander mode can control three additional groups).
Nikon claim the D200 will record up to 37 JPEG (Large, Fine), or 22 NEF RAW frames at a sustained 5 fps. Storage is to either CompactFlash Type I/II cards, or Microdrives.
Metering for ambient light uses the now familiar pairing of the 1005-pixel RGB metering sensor and 3D Colour Matrix Metering II algorithm (Note: there is no ambient light sensor in the prism head as found on the D2-series cameras); metering modes include Matrix, Centre-Weighted (in a 75:25 ratio with a user definable area) and Spot (2% of frame area).
The camera has a sensitivity range equivalent to ISO 100-1600 in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV step increments, plus a Hi-1 setting equivalent to an ISO 3200 (approximately).
White-balance control mirrors that available on the D2X, with Auto, a selection of manual settings including direct selection of a colour temperature in Kelvin values, and a pre-set option.
The D200 has a very quick 150ms startup time; for all intents the camera is ready to start shooting as soon as you switch on the power.
Its shutter mechanism is tested to over 100,000-cycles, and has a speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8000 second, plus Bulb; a standard top flash sync of 1/250 but it is compatible with the FP High-speed flash sync with compatible Speedlights.
Shutter lag is an impressively short 50ms compared with 37ms on the D2X; the mirror blackout time is quoted at 105ms.
The ability to perform multiple exposures, and the image overlay feature for combining two NEF RAW files has been migrated from the D2X.
The D200 has a 2.5" (diagonal), 230,000-dot TFT rear LCD screen on its rear panel with a wide 170-degree viewing angle (Note: this is not the same screen used in the D2-series cameras). The menu interface has been modified to aid navigation, and the camera can display RGB histograms as well as a single composite channel histogram.
Connection ports include: High-speed USB 2.0, 10-pin remote accessory socket (Note: Nikon will introduce a new remote release lead, the MC-36), PC flash sync socket and NTSC/PAL video out.
The D200 is powered by a single EN-EL3e battery (Note: the camera is NOT compatible with the earlier EN-EL3 and EN-EL3a batteries), which Nikon claims is capable of capturing 1800 frames per charge. The new battery has a grey outer case to distinguish it from both the EN-EL3 and EN-EL3a types. There is a detailed battery-status screen within the Set-up menu.
The D200 can be fitted with an additional grip / battery pack, the MB-D200 Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D200, that provides an additional shutter-release button, second pair of command dials, and AF-ON button for vertical shooting. The MB-D200 can accept up to two EN-EL3e batteries to double the shooting capacity. It can also take six AA batteries as an alternative power source.