White balance can be set automatically via six factory-preset values, Kelvin temperatures, warmer or cooler fine-tuning, or four presets captured from scenes or existing image files. You can assign names to user white-balance presets for convenient retrieval later. If colour balance is especially critical and you don't want to fiddle with white-balance adjustments in your raw processing software later, you can bracket the white balance for as many as nine successive shots. The D200 can also bracket exposure, flash or both simultaneously.
ISO direct settings go from ISO 100 to as high as ISO 1,600 (instead of ISO 800 with the D2X) plus a one-stop boost to ISO 3,200 (the D2X has one- and two-stop boosts to ISO 1,600 and 3,200). Image tweaks include six preset looks: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait (low contrast), Black-and-White (which is not found in other current Nikon digital SLRs), and Custom, which allows setting contrast, sharpness, colour, saturation and hue individually.
This camera has a built-in flash similar to those of the D70s and D50, but with two cool added features: a modelling-light option and a repeating-flash function, both similar to features found on recent Nikon external flash units. The modelling light fires a low-power flash for several seconds, allowing you to preview the flash illumination on your subject. In repeating mode, the flash fires again and again while the shutter is open. You can select output levels (from 1/2 to 1/128 power), the number of flashes (2 to 15) and frequency (from 1fps to 50fps).
As with the D70s (but not the D50), the Nikon D200's flash can function in Commander mode to wirelessly control additional external flash units such as Nikon's SB-600 and SB-800. The flash has an ISO 100 guide number of 39 and integrates smoothly with Nikon's iTTL flash exposure system, whether used alone or with compatible external speedlights. Action photography might be hampered by the 1/250-second top flash sync speed, which can cause ghost images under high ambient light conditions, but the low-end SLRs in the line are still the only Nikon models to offer 1/500-second sync.
Nikon Capture, which includes useful features such as tethered time-lapse photography, 'defishing' of fish-eye photos and advanced raw file manipulations with batch capabilities, is an additional £89 option that's far superior to the supplied Picture Project tool.
The Nikon D200 doesn't deliver quite the speed-demon performance of the D2X, especially during continuous shooting, but it's still an impressive machine. You won't wait to shoot under most normal conditions -- if it's powered on, this camera is ready for duty. It was difficult to measure the D200's scant 0.6-second wake-up-to-first-shot time, and thereafter we were able to snap off pictures nearly as fast as we could press the shutter release, about 0.75 seconds between shots.
Capturing raw files was nearly as fast at 0.89 seconds between snaps. The flip-up flash slowed things down a tad to 1.13 seconds per shot. The flash tended to overheat after about a dozen quick shots when using the modelling-light feature, forcing us to pause a few seconds before continuing.