A pro DSLR by any other name is still a pro
Click here for a gallery of images of the Nikon D200
We love to watch the king-of-the-mountain game that Canon and Nikon play with every DSLR they introduce. Usually, Canon starts a round with a model that offers unrivaled image quality and performance for its price. A few months later, a feature-packed Nikon tries to steal the spotlight.
Now, after nearly a year at the top, Canon's 8.3MP EOS 20D ($1,300 street, body only) may have finally met its match in the new Nikon D200 (estimated $1,699 street, body only). It boasts a 10.2MP CCD sensor with potentially higher image quality than the EOS 20D, a super-tough body with moisture and dust seals, a faster burst rate of up to 5 fps, a larger 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and other impressive capabilities. But is the Nikon D200 built well enough to compete against Canon's more expensive, full-frame 12.8MP EOS 5D ($3,200 street, body only) or to be taken seriously by demanding pros?
After handling one of the very first D200s off the assembly line (serial number 0000002), we think it is. Unfortunately, our D200 still had a few firmware revisions to go before we could run it through the Pop Photo lab test gauntlet. (Look for Certified Test Results for image quality, AF speed, and other factors in an up-coming issue and in coming weeks at www.PopPhoto.com.)
Nikon doesn't call the D200 a pro model, but it could pass for one, considering the features it shares with the more expensive pro 12.4MP D2x ($5,000 street, body only). These include a high-strength, two-piece magnesium-alloy chassis, with some durable polycarbonate components. Though its Canon rivals have a similarly rugged construction, they lack the new D200's moisture and dust seals, which should give it the upper hand in the harsh environments that plague news, nature, and sports photographers.
From the front, the D200 looks like the shorter baby brother of the D2x. The height difference is mainly due to the D2x's larger battery compartment, vertical shutter release, and taller prism housing. The size distinction diminishes if you add the optional MB-D200 battery grip (price not available at press time) which accepts two EN-EL3e lithium-ion batteries or six AA cells, and also sports a vertical shutter-release button and control wheel.
On the back, the D200 has a beautiful 2.5-inch LCD with approximately 230,000-pixel resolution and superwide viewing angle. The screen's high resolution makes it easy to read and navigate menus. In playback, it shows crisp image detail, even when set to display multiple thumbnails. You can also set it to view tons of image data or thumbnails plus RGB histograms. The D200 supports CF type I and II cards, and Microdrives. To keep the CompactFlash door closed (and sealed from moisture and dust), Nikon put a handy door-lock lever next to the LCD.