Nikon D200 Operation



If the D200 is your first approach to a digital SLR, its bounty of buttons and dials could appear daunting at first look. After only a short time working with it though, the control layout becomes quite intuitive and very fast to navigate. The D200 offers a few changes in its control and menu layouts relative to previous Nikon digital SLRs. We were particularly happy to see Nikon drop the awkward mode dial of the D100 design in favor of the combination of a Mode-select button positioned next to the shutter button and a 3-button control for selecting White Balance, Quality and ISO, on top of the mode dial on the left side of the camera. This combination of mode button and 3-button control layout have been common on Nikon's higher-end models for some time now, and it strikes us as much more efficient than the all-in-one mode dial design of their consumer cameras and the previous D100 model. The collection of functions assigned to the three-button controller is different than that of the D2x, and several of the functions have been moved around on the camera body.

Top Panel Comparison

One force driving these changes was the need to make room for the large LCD display on the camera's back, which was done by moving the aforementioned WB, Quality, and ISO buttons to the top panel, and dispensing with the monochrome data-readout LCD that was below the LCD on the D2x's body. Relative to the D2x, the Bracket function has been moved from the top of the camera body to the upper left corner of the rear panel, within easy reach of your left thumb in some grip positions. The displaced playback button has been moved down to the top left corner of the LCD screen, also a good place for it. Other controls are in more or less the same positions, but the awkward door latch protector scheme of the D2x has been replaced by a neat rotating lever on the D200.

Back Panel Comparison

Overall, the control layout places the main shooting controls on top of the camera and the rest on the back panel, for ease of use. Changing shutter speed, aperture, metering mode, etc. is quick and simple, with changes shown on the small black & white data readout on the top panel of the camera, and some of them in the viewfinder readout display as well.

The main LCD menu system itself is well-organized and simple to navigate, with five main menu pages. The Custom Settings menu has been reorganized into banks of settings, for a bit tidier appearance and easier navigation, a very welcome change. For example, the Autofocus bank relates to focus settings only, so you can quickly change a focus operation without having to fish through several screens of options. There's also a new menu page that holds the most recently set options, useful if you're not sure about a setting change recently made, or if you want to return to one very quickly, without having to page through the main menu system. When shooting, the detailed information display in the viewfinder window does a good job of communicating current camera settings. Anyone already familiar with Nikon's SLRs, whether film or digital, will have no trouble operating the D200. For less experienced users, an hour or two spent with the manual and camera together should be enough to get comfortable. (This is definitely a camera that you'll want to spend some time shooting with though, before going on a trip or taking it on a critical shoot.)

As with most Nikon DSLRs, the top-panel data readout LCD communicates a lot of information about current camera settings, and provides an interface for setting many camera functions, when used in conjunction with the various buttons and Command Dials. The illustrations below show the meaning of the various icons and readouts in this display.

Color temperature indicator
"Beep" indicator
Shutter speed
Aperture (f/-number)
Exposure compensation value
Aperture (number of stops)
Flash compensation value
Bracketing increment
Sensitivity (ISO equivalency)
Number of shots per interval
White balance fine-tuning, color temperature, or preset number
Maximum aperture (non-CPU lens)
Number of shots in bracketing sequence
PC connection indicator
Number of intervals
Aperture stop indicator
Focal length (non-CPU lens)
Flash compensation indicator
Flash sync indicator
Exposure compensation indicator
Flexible program indicator
Auto ISO sensitivity indicator
Exposure mode
Flash value (FV) lock indicator
"Clock not set" indicator
Image comment indicator
Image size
Wide-frame focus area indicator
Image quality
Custom menu bank
Focus area
Shooting menu bank
AF-area mode
Bracketing Indicator
White balance mode
Electronic analog exposure display
Number of exposures remaining
Exposure compensation
Number of shots remaining before buffer fills
Bracketing progress indicator
PC mode indicator
PC connection indicator
Preset white balance recording indicator
GPS connection indicator
"K" (appears when memory remains for over 1000 exposures)
Multiple exposure indicator
Battery indicator
Interval timer indicator
Flash sync mode


Click on the other sub-tabs above or below to read about the Nikon D200's Viewfinder, Controls, and Menu system.


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