The complicated but efficient autofocus system helped reduce shutter lag so much that it was almost undetectable at 0.1 seconds under high-contrast lighting conditions. The D200 didn't even need its autofocus-assist lamp to lock in focus in about 0.3 seconds under challenging low-contrast lighting.
Even those who were hoping the Nikon D200 would have the same 12.4-megapixel sensor as the Nikon D2X won't be disappointed by the results they'll get with this camera. Its image quality is clearly an upgrade from that produced by the 6-megapixel D100 it replaces, as well as that of the low-end Nikon digital SLR cameras.
Some early adopters have expressed concern over high-ISO performance and excessive banding under certain low-light/high-contrast conditions, but we had few problems in these areas. We were surprised at the effectiveness of the D200's noise-reduction feature at the equivalent of ISO 3,200 and didn't see significant banding in any of our test images. We couldn't find much difference between the D200's images and those generated by the D2X, and even preferred the less expensive camera's images at high ISOs under low light levels.
Indeed, the D200 performed very well at ISOs ranging from 100 to 800. We've never taken an image with our D2X at ISO 1,600 or ISO 3,200 that we were happy with -- and we still think the Canon EOS 5D's noise control is better -- but the D200 produced quite acceptable images at both ratings, especially when we set the High Exposure Noise Reduction adjustment to High. Speckles were reduced with only a slight loss of detail. The D200 also has a separate Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting that worked well.
We tested this camera with the new 18mm-to-200mm, f/3.5-to-f/5.6, G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor, as well as with a variety of other Nikkor lenses. The new VR lens worked well, providing good sharpness throughout its range, albeit with moderate chromatic aberration (chiefly some cyan fringing around the edges of backlit subjects) and a little barrel distortion at the edges at the wide-angle end of its range. The vibration-reduction system let us shoot at shutter speeds about two increments slower than would be required normally, although this lens's f/5.6 maximum aperture at 200mm would have severely limited its use at an indoor concert had the D200 not performed so well at high ISO settings.
Image defects stemming from nonoptical causes weren't overpowering, except for the JPEG artefacts that cropped up even with minimal (Fine) compression. Our images had good exposure and dynamic range, although reducing exposure to limit blown highlights also tended to produce flatter, low-contrast images. Colours were accurate and neutral, but the warm tones produced under incandescent illumination helped us appreciate the D200's white-balance adjustment tools.
Edited by Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by Nick Hide