Amazing image quality and shockingly low noise.
The D200's 5 fps burst mode makes it as fast as the D2x and Canon's 30D. But in our test, it captured 30 fine-quality JPEGs at a time, not the 37 that Nikon claims.
Nikon did a great design job on the D200's menus and image controls. They're easy to navigate, relatively uncluttered, and you can select them with just your thumb using the four-way dial. Several new controls help improve image quality and fine-tune noise reduction. For example, you can set JPEG compression to either Size Priority or Optimal Quality-besides setting it to Basic, Normal, or Fine. Size Priority compresses each JPEG to roughly the same storage size, independent of scene detail, although highly detailed parts of a scene can suffer a bit. Optimal compression takes scene content into account, typical of most cameras.
Choices for noise reduction include a setting for long exposures or shooting at higher ISOs. In our tests, turning on the higher-ISO noise reduction allowed the D200 to reach Extremely Low noise levels at ISO 1600. That coincided with a 5-percent drop in resolution-a great tradeoff for anyone needing low-light, ISO 1600 shots without flash that rival those taken at ISO 100 by most other DSLRs in bright light.
More proof of the D200's pro pedigree is its 44 custom settings, allowing you to fine-tune everything from the burst speed to the Optimized Image compression algorithms. Nikon dedicated nearly 30 pages of the owner's manual to custom functions alone.
If you're willing to spend the extra $300 that the D200 costs over the Canon EOS 30D, and you don't have a Canon lens stockpile, then choosing the D200 is a no-brainer. If you're a pro, the choice is harder. Sure, Nikon's D2x can take more abuse and has a longer-life shutter, but you could buy two D200s, a battery grip, a few lenses, and a flash for the price of one D2x body. And the only advantage an EOS 5D has over the D200 is its full-frame sensor, which gives you the same field of view on a lens as on a 35mm SLR. Is that worth $1,300 more? You decide.
The eye above is a 100 percent crop made from the full sized version of the portrait, shot with the D200, shown below.