On the right flank of the LCD is a knob that prevents you from accidentally changing the autofocus zone. There is also a switch with autofocus area mode options that include single-area autofocus (the user chooses between 11 or 7 focus zones), dynamic area (the camera can override the selected focus zone), group dynamic autofocus (a cluster of zones is used) and dynamic AF with priority given to the closest subject. We found the Nikon D200's autofocus options excessively complex to master, but the system was extremely accurate once we deciphered the correct settings for a given situation.
The camera's main connectors are located near the left side and include a standard PC/X socket, Nikon's proprietary ten-pin jack for flash and other accessories, plus USB 2.0, DC power and AV connectors hidden under rubber covers. A hotshoe for dedicated and third-party external speedlights sits on top of the pentaprism.
The big, bright viewfinder offers 0.94x magnification with a 50mm lens focused at infinity and shows 95 per cent of the image in the frame. There's a full array of status information available in the finder, which includes optional grid lines and highlighted indicators that show which of the 11 focus-area zones (or seven wide-area zones) are active. We missed the D2X's built-in internal eye-piece curtain, which improves metering accuracy for tripod-mounted shots, and this model doesn't accommodate interchangeable focusing screens. Nikon also cut a corner by eliminating the D2X's antireflective LCD coating, which makes the D200's screen subject to glare.
During the vigil that preceded the introduction of the Nikon D200, speculation was rife as to exactly which features would be trimmed from the D2X to arrive at this midlevel design. Considering that its price is about one-third that of the D2X, Nikon has been able to retain a surprising amount of features and functions.
A 10.2-megapixel CCD subs for the pro Nikon's 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, and the 8fps cropped-burst mode has been ditched, along with the built-in vertical grip, the ability to save photos in TIFF format, and a few miscellaneous features such as voice recording, specialised colour-space options, battery calibration and interchangeable focus screens. The D2X also uses a faster, more-advanced Multi-CAM 2000 autofocus system, instead of the new Multi-CAM 1000 system that the D200 uses.
However, the Nikon D200 virtually matches its pro sibling in many other areas. It has the same 30 seconds to 1/8,000-second shutter-speed range, four separate banks for storing any of 45 different custom settings, a 64mm LCD and a rugged body. Unlike the low-end D70s and D50, this camera has an aperture coupling ring that allows autoexposure functions in Aperture-Priority mode and manual exposure metering with most older AI or AI-S manual-focus lenses produced since 1977.
As with other digital SLR cameras in this class, the Nikon D200 offers a multitude of user options and is eminently customisable. Although the scene modes found in the D70s/D50 are absent, most users of cameras in this class don't rely on them anyway. The D200's 3D Color Matrix Metering II is a versatile exposure system, but you can opt for spot metering (using a 3mm-diameter circle) or centre-weighted (which gives 75 per cent of metering emphasis to a user selectable 6mm-, 8mm-, 10mm- or 13mm-diameter circle.) Exposure compensation ranges over a full five exposure values in 1/3EV, 1/2EV, or full EV increments.