The Nikon D200, a long-awaited successor to the company's D100, offers serious amateur photographers and value-minded professionals a compact, sub-£1,500 digital SLR with many of the specifications, features and build characteristics of Nikon's high-end pro cameras.
Although not quite the junior version of the top-of-the-line D2X that some had hoped for, the D200 offers a significant step up from Nikon's low-end D70s and D50 models, with 10.2-megapixel resolution, a rugged moisture- and dust-sealed magnesium-alloy body, a large viewfinder, a 5fps drive mode and bountiful fine-tuning and customisation options. Accessories including Nikon iTTL external flash units, a Wi-Fi transmitter, a burgeoning line of digital optics and third-party GPS units give the D200 enough versatility to compete effectively with its pricier midrange competitor, the £2,000+ full-frame Canon EOS 5D.
Overall, the Nikon D200 raises the bar a notch in the midrange digital SLR class, providing extra features and a more robust body than those of the Canon EOS 20D for only a few hundred pounds more, and most of the good stuff found in the 12.8-megapixel Canon EOS 5D -- with the obvious exception of the full-frame sensor -- for much less money.
Experienced SLR users will feel right at home with the midsize 147 by 112 by 74mm Nikon D200 in their hands. Its 816g body has a more solid, professional heft than the low-end D70s but is much less bulky and easier to wield than the top-of-the-line D2X. That model has a built-in vertical grip, while the D200's MB-D200 grip/battery pack is optional. Pros who want to use the D200 as a backup camera to their D2X will find just enough difference in control layout to slow them down.
Most surfaces are dotted with controls, and the control placement is logical and easy to master. Once we learned the layout, we were able to change many settings in near-total darkness at a blues concert we attended during testing, including ISO, focus and exposure modes, and playback with zoom.
Many controls fall within reach of your left or right fingers when you hold the camera in a comfortable shooting position. For example, with your right hand curled around the grip, it's easy to press the depth-of-field and user-definable Function buttons located on the front next to the lens. With your right index finger, you can turn the camera on or off, release the shutter and change shooting modes or EV settings by pressing dedicated top-mounted buttons while operating the rear-panel main command dial with your thumb.