Nikon D200

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Nikon D200

Pros

  • Excellent image quality, attractive design, easy to use.

Cons

  • Underexposed on auto exposure setting.

Bottom Line

An exceptional camera with a long list of excellent features and impressive image quality.

Would you buy this?

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Powerful and wonderfully designed, Nikon's new D200 fills a gaping hole in the company's lineup of digital SLR cameras. Ideal for professionals and serious amateurs, the 10.2 megapixel camera fits nicely between the cost of the 6.1-megapixel D70s and Nikon's top-of-the line and extremely costly 12.4 megapixel D2X. We predict that many D70 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 you could pound nails with it. 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 battery it tips the scale at around 2 pounds).

Two of the D200's more intriguing features are its GPS connectivity, which lets you add location information to your photos - very cool - and the ability to shoot multiple exposures to the same image file. This last option is exceptionally rare in digital cameras, although you could achieve the same effect by layering multiple images 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 multilayered, are nicely organized, well labeled, and color-coded - all of which help speed navigation. 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.

Nikon gave the D200 a huge - almost bewildering - selection of focusing options. The autofocus was dead-on for most of our 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 the operator selecting the wrong type of autofocus, however, and 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 we shot with the D200 looked sharp, living up to our high expectations, though the D200 didn't earn the highest score for image sharpness in our lab tests. It earned very high marks for the absence of distortion in its images. Only the EOS 20D scored higher.

Like many digital SLRs, the D200 tends to underexpose slightly in autoexposure settings. Color saturation was a mixed bag--a bit muted with earth tones, but nicely saturated with bright whites and reds.

Until now, the EOS 20D was the leading candidate to become our next SLR. But the D200's higher scores for color quality and exposure accuracy, make it a tempting proposition as well. Now we have the luxury of choosing between two exceptional cameras.

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