The definitive upgrade-to-Nikon-D200 review

August 13, 2007

d200 dslrThe Nikon D70 was my first digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera.

The D70 was a "downgrade" from my previous Canon EOS 5 in terms of freedom of expression but it was an upgrade in terms of photo quality (some would argue this) and time delay from taking a shot to publishing it online (this is obvious).

After 1.5 years with the D70 I felt I was happy with the results of my new digital work flow and wanted a DSLR that allowed for a bigger technical elbow room.

Meanwhile slightly better models (D70s, D80) had been introduced by Nikon but I felt only the D200 was a significantly more advanced DSLR worth aiming for. The various D1 models were of course too expensive and too professional for my "happy snapping".

The first thing I noticed while holding the shiny new D200 was the difference in size, weight and build quality. The D200 weighs 35% more (920g vs 680g), has a slightly larger frame and a metal body (D70 is plastic).

Initially your arm will suffer from the extra bulk of the D200 and you will intimidate your subject more easily.

Another thing my wife noticed right away was the lack of scene modes. While the D70 has a few modes for the most common photo situations (sport, beach, portrait, flower and etc.) the D200 lacks them. On the D200 you have to know which camera features to adjust to achieve the same result.

For portraits, aperture priority mode may be used to minimize depth of field, during sports shots you may want to use shutter speed priority with an appropriate speed, photographs of mountains may benefit from manual focus on infinity and so on.

The shooting speed is greatly improved. While I barely managed to get out 2-2.5 RAW NEF frames per second with the D70, the D200 manages up to 5. The shooting speed is dependant on several other factors like shutter speed, memory card quality and resolution but the D200 "feels" at least twice as fast.

The D200 has an overwhelming amount of detailed settings to alter capture properties (saturation, exposure and etc.), button assignments and much more.

It is a bit overwhelming in the beginning but once you know your way around the menus, then all this flexibility will give you a lot of freedom to create unique photographs. The D200 has four setting memories that allow you to swap quickly between favourite groups of settings.

Other notable D200 benefits would be larger view finder and LCD (2.5" vs 1.8"), multi-channel histograms (YRGB), more autofocus zones (11 vs 5), better resolution (10.2MP vs 6.1MP) and more.

The only thing I miss from my D70 is being able to use the lightweight IR remote control (ML-L3). I used the remote control heavily during night shots (mirror lock-up mode). There is a cord remote available for the D200 (MC-30 or MC-36) but it isn't as convenient as the ML-L3 was.

My wife finds it more difficult getting sharp photos with the D200 and I suspect this is because the D200 has higher resolution and is overall more sensitive.

This means that some (novice) users may have to practise their techniques (light shutter finger, holding their breath, pan with subject, support arm on something steady and etc.) to get great shots.

With all this flexibility and complexity of the D200 I continuously keep improving my shots. This entry will be a living document where I will be adding any new D200 tricks, tips and techniques I discover and find helpful. Bookmark it and come back for any updates!

1. I often find my self taking several (2-10) shots of the same subject and scene. Afterwards I browse through the shots and eliminate any that are obviously bad (blurry, bad exposure, bad crop).

A great way to do this is to assign the centre of the navigational dial as high zoom and further assign the back command dial to browse between photos.

When you want to review a series of shots, hit the new convenient zoom button and use the command dial to switch between next and previous shots. Because the focus point remains the same while you browse photos, you can now easily compare a subject between multiple shots even if the subject is off centre.

2. I have programmed the front user button to focus. Sometimes I have pushed the shutter button half way but the subject moves and I need to re-focus quickly without loosing exposure lock and composition.

3. I use Vivid colour mode and 1 step of extra sharpness which I find results in photos that require very little post processing and just POP.

4. The auto ISO function is well thought out because you can program it both for the lowest shutter speed you are comfortable with (I use 1/30s) and the highest ISO you are comfortable with (I use 400).

Then you can be sure that the camera will not use a higher ISO for a shot if the exposure can be achieved with or above the shutter speed you have selected.



I went to Beachy Head, UK

March 05, 2007

...and all I got was this photograph of a wigged rock.

N 50°44'32.701", E 0°12'2.923"

Last Saturday was a very sunny - albeit windy - day and ideal for taking nature photographs.

I used Google Earth to find a few picturesque locations in the South East of England. Panoramio.com then provided a layer with geo-tagged photographs submitted by online users which gave me an idea of interesting subjects in the ara.

Sunday came one day later and brought with in non-stop rain. Ideal for organising photographs and (digiatally) developing a few of them.



Rainy Brighton

February 26, 2007

One of the things I have been missing lately is to be out for a whole day looking for photo opportunities.

At the moment I have a bit more spare time on my hands now that my wife is in Brazil for work (she took our little one with her). So last Sunday I finally got a chance for photography while on a day trip to Brighton, England.

That day I was met with typical South East England weather: heavy rain, sunshine and strong winds changing every 40 minutes.

brighton seaside and rain1/320s F/5.6, 20mm F/2.8

During one of these heavy rains I took shelter under the Madeira Drive arcade. The sun was shining from far West and because it was getting late the sun was characteristically yellow.



Heavenly light in Scotland

August 01, 2006

heavenly-light-in-scotland.jpg

I often find it difficult catching an optical phenomenon on film (or on digital memory more recently).

Just like me, you probably pull out your camera when you see that gorgeous rainbow, sunset, aurora borealis or reflection on water. More often than not it comes out nothing like it was in real life.

The other day I saw some wonderful sunlight beaming down through a narrow opening in the clouds. To my surprise the captured version creates same amazement as the real thing did.

The tiny head in the bottom right corner is the top of a statue.

As always there are plenty more photos from Scotland in the Photo Gallery.



Torino 2006 Olympic figure skating photographs

March 02, 2006

figure-skating.jpgLast week we attended two evenings in the figure skating competition at the Torino 2006 Olympics.

(cut the talking and just show me the photos will you)

This was a nice opportunity to snap away with a big zoom lens and gave me a first hand experience in what I think can be called (amateur) photo journalism.

This included the taking and managing of a large amount of photos and finding an efficient RAW workflow.

During each evening there were 25 couples on the ice. On average I shot 10-15 photos of each couple. Using the built in LCD, I then quickly checked the photos and erased the obviously bad ones. This got it down to 4-6 photos per couple.

I can only fit 180 raw shots on the 1 GB compact flash (CF) memory card I use so the erasing of bad shots in between skating couples was necessary.

The equipment I used was a Nikon D70 (digital SLR) and a Sigma 70-300 mm (100-450 35mm equivalent) zoom lens.

The camera model is a fairly sophisticated SLR and includes some of the required features: shutter speed priority metering mode, continuous focus and continuous shooting mode.

Usually I can get steady shots at 1/30s using a 35mm lens but with the 300mm lens I could not go below 1/180s. Once I had noticed this, I locked the camera's shutter on 1/180s.

This created many underexposed shots but it was only by .5 to 1 step underexposed and I knew I could compensate for this since I was working with raw images.

If I have to choose between blurred images due to camera shake and 0.5 step underexposure, I choose the underexposure any day.

With continuous focus I could follow the subject and the camera kept re-focusing continuously.

One drawback with the D70 is that it doesn't have eye controlled focus. This forced me to keep the subject in the very middle where the camera focuses in order to stay in focus while in continuous focus mode.

On my older EOS-5 one can position the subject off center but by looking at it in the camera view finder, the camera keeps focusing on the subject.

The lifts were in my opinion the most beautiful and breathtaking part of the performances. In order not to miss any action shot, I let the camera fire 3 shots in quick succession during the lifts.

To travel light, I had not packed the camera battery charger with me. As the days progressed, I kept wondering when the battery would give in.

It did so after 5 days of shooting and after more than 370 shots. This included frequent use of the LCD screen and I find that impressive.

Back at home I was first overwhelmed with the large amount of photos. It took me a few days to summon the strength to start sorting through them.

With a large cup of tea next to me I started by viewing the photos on a large monitor and assigning a score between 0 and 5 to each one. At the same time I deleted the ones that were too blurry.

Several cups of tea later I could finally filter for photographs with a score of 3 or higher.

Had the project required more photographs I might have included score 2 as well. Had the project required just the best of the best, I would have only included photos with a score of 5.

At the moment I find this to be the best method to control a large collection of photos.

I then soldiered on by adjusting the white balances (mainly a batch process to majority of the photos since they all were from same light conditions) and exposure compensation.

figure-skating2.jpgNormally I try to present photos just as they are captured without added cropping. This requires composing the image in the camera viewer as much as possible at the moment of capture.

However due to the fast nature of figure skating, a 450mm lens and awkward spectator seats the photo compositions were all over the place.

So my last step was to reposition and crop each photo individually. I made sure to stay with the 3:2 proportions of my camera.

If you are up for it, there are many, many more photographs in the Torino 2006 Olympic figure skating photo gallery. View slideshow, delay 1 or 3 seconds, max size: no limit.

It was a lot of work but a great experience.

Update 2006-03-07
A here is the professional version of photo journalism (via Kottke).



Digital Black and White Beach

February 06, 2006

digital black and white sea urchin

Converting to digital SLR was great fun but I was missing black and white photography.

I quickly discovered that digital black and white is not achieved by converting digital colour images to grayscale; this only resulted in bland, contrast-less photos.

1 year on and having played with colour channels, curves and blending of layers I am starting to get somewhere. Hopefully I will get a chance to sum it all up in a future post.

For a few more photos in this beach series, see the digital black and white photography album.



Panning in the park

November 16, 2005

Camera panning is a technique where you select a slow shutter speed, track a point on your moving subject and press the shutter release geeently.

If all goes well you will have photo with a blurred background and a subject that is relatively sharp which makes it stand out.

Panning is the ideal way of capturing a sense of motion in a photograph.

Getting the correct shutter speed is tricky because it depends on the speed of subject, distance to subject and the focal length (zoom) used.

If you do select a slow shutter speed but keep the camera still then the subject will be blurred just as the background and not be very distinguishable.

If you select a fast shutter speed then all of the image will be frozen in time and look as if motionless.

Having a digital camera helps immensely because you can check the results after each shot and adjust accordingly. You can also snap away and select that one gem in the comfort of your home and your favourite RAW image editing software.

Below are some photos from one fine sunny Autumn day in the park with a few dogs. The first photos are quite abstract because the shutter speed was too slow.

The last photo is kind of OK.

camera panning

1/8s @ 105mm (35mm eq.)

camera panning

1/15s @ 105mm (35mm eq.)

camera panning

1/4s @ 105mm (35mm eq.)

camera panning

1/30s @ 105mm (35mm eq.)

Now get out there and snap!



More photographs of golden retriever puppies than you can shake a stick at

July 19, 2005
Golden retriever puppies Golden retriever puppies
Golden retriever puppies Golden retriever puppies

And there are plenty more photos in the gallery of Golden Retriever puppies photographs.

A few of them are still available for sale. If you live in or nearby London and would be an exemplary owner, do contact me! Not anymore



Sunset over the River Thames

July 13, 2005

thames river sunsetNikon D70, Nikkor 20mm 2.8D, f/8, 1/60s

On my way back from a recent run I couldn't help noticing how wonderful the evening sky was over the River Thames.

So I prolonged the late jog by rushing home, grabbing my camera and snapping away.

The camera was only hand held which resulted in a little blurred shot but nothing noticeable at web resolution only.



Bankside - London

September 21, 2004



(~35mm, Sony DSC-FX77) - click for larger version)

Every time I venture down town London I get reminded that I should do so more often. London is a breath taking city but this fact is easily forgotten during the every day working life.

This splendid view was from a Greek restaurant, just by the Shakespeare Globe Theatre.

In the foreground you can see the (controversial) Millennium bridge and in the background the magnificent St. Paul's cathedral.

PS Brownie point if you can guess what the light/item in the top left corner is...



Colour vs Black and White photography

July 19, 2004

One recent subject was photographed both in black and white (with an SLR camera) and in colour (with a digital camera).

I think that showing them next to each other highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the two different mediums.

Here are some more black and white photography images to feast your eyes uppon.

The black and white photo is moody and the focus is on the subject, shadows and composition.
(28-80mm, Canon EOS5, Ilford 125 FP4)

The colour photo more impresses with its range of colours and nuances.
(~35mm, Sony DSC-FX77)

Due to the low resolution, I don't think the example highlights differences in digital format vs. 35mm film.



A beach with a view

December 29, 2003

The two islands outside of Barra du una can only be reached by boat. This is why its beaches are almost deserted.

The islands are minuscule and you can easily walk around each one in half an hour. During the walk you'll find some nice views of the ocean and the mainland.



Building a future

December 28, 2003

Brazil is a country that is relatively young; 500 odd years old. Despite its youth it is quickly catching up with some of the most developed countries in the world.

The people have a zest for life and work hard. The optimism for a brighter future was further fuelled with the recent election of peoples favourite Lula as their new president.

Things can only get better.



A cloudy day

December 26, 2003


Tristesa não tem fin,
felizidade sim. -Jobim

Just a cloudy day at the beach, life could be worse.



Cheese bread house

December 23, 2003

Casa do Pao de Queijo is a welcome break for any serious shopper or just a hungry soul.

Here you will get a fix for your cheese bread craving and they also serve decent coffee and fruit juices.

Would be great to see one of these back in London; please someone with money to invest consider it!



Water and stone

December 22, 2003

I have always liked water and water sports, ever since my dad insisted on me learning to swim at the age of 4.

Whenever I feel stressed or depressed the one thing that helps the most is a couple of laps in a swimming pool.

Recently I read that Cancers are affectionate to water and it made sense.



Two friends in Hyde Park

November 06, 2003

twofriends
Canon EOS-5, Canon 28-80mm, f/5.6, Ilford 400 Delta Professional B&W Film

I associate this composition with two friends, one chubby the other tall, one early Autumn morning.



Wildlife photography III

October 26, 2003

insect
Canon EOS-5, Sigma 300 mm macro, f/5.6, Fuji Superia 100

This photo was taken by Carla. It is of an indigenous insect as it was hanging leisurely of the beautiful flower. It is not so much wild life photo as it is stunning composition and colours. I only wish I had taken it my self!

(This series of wildlife photographs is to highlight the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003 Award and exhibition).



Wildlife photography II

October 24, 2003


Canon EOS-5, Sigma 300 mm, f/5.6, UV Filter, Fuji Superia 200.

We were on a half day cruise along a river in Lengkawi, Malaysia. With us was a very knowledgeable biologists that was explaining about everything around us; from plants to eagle habits.

The highlight of the trip was following around 15 eagles circling around our boat. I felt I really pushed the EOS by using eye focusing, tracking and shutter-priority mode. See more eagle photos.

(This series of wildlife photographs is to highlight the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003 Award and exhibition).



Wildlife photography

October 22, 2003


Nikon F6006, Sigma 80-250 mm, f/5.6, UV Filter, Fujichrome Sensia 100.

One of the most annoying things while travelling along the Amazon river, Brasil is the amazing amount of mosquitos. The shot was during sunset.

(This series of wildlife photographs is to highlight the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003 Award and exhibition).



Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003

October 19, 2003

I have just been to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2003 Exhibition at the The Natural History Museum, London. It had an amazing display of photographs in various categories like Animal Portraits, Composition and Form, The Underwater World, In Praise of Plants and more.

It was great to always see the equipment used and the exposure settings. One amazing photo was taken in the middle of the night, with three subsequent flashes and a shutter speed of 24 minutes (!). It only took the photographer 6 months to make exposure tables to enable him to take the shot.

If you cannot attend the exhibition then at least browse the web site and be inspired.

To highlight this occasion I have searched my collection and will be showing some wildlife photographs during the next week.


Nikkon F6006, Nikkor 300mm, f/11, UV Filter, Fujichrome Sensia 100.
A native bird drinking in the Los Flamencos National Reserve, Chile.



Rooftops in Krakow

October 16, 2003

This view is from the The Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland. It was quite late and I was lucky that there was enough light to capture the roof tops with the moon in the background.

Of course I used the self timer to avoid motion blur, just like described in earlier advice on low light photography.



Old meets new

October 14, 2003

Hidden in the back streets of East London you will find some breathtaking views.

Like the proud remainders of a 14th century building with a futuristic 21st century tower in the background.

Once there lived one of London's richest business men in the old building; now the modern tower is occupied by a multitude of offices.



Evil Baby

October 01, 2003
I friend (Pedro) pointed me in the direction of a photography manipulating tool called FaceFilter. It lets you change the facial expressions of a subject fairly easily by using a set of default templates.

While you would be able to do most of the tricks in your favorite photo editing software, FaceFilter will let you do the manipulations much quicker.

You can also discover some things about facial expressions that you might have realised before.

I tried the 7-day trial and had loads of fun with the "evil baby" below, see for your self.

Original baby

Angry baby

Chubby baby

Making a face

Making another face

Mean baby

Not my baby

Sleepy baby

Young (?) baby



Luckiest man in the world wide world and possibly the rest of the universe; this and any parallell

September 23, 2003

Just wanted to point out that there are new B&W photos from the Polish wedding in Zakopane.

Most were taken by Carla (you are getting good) some by me and some by various drunk guests.

Photos



Low light (night) photography

September 09, 2003

Night shots are characterized by low light. The camera shutter needs to be open for prolonged time to get enough light for a proper exposure. The drawback is that there is risk for blurred photos if your camera is not steady enough.

One common tricky scenario is a foreground (FG) object, e.g. a person, in combination with a back ground (BG) view, e.g. a night time city sky line.

Below are some easy steps that that will let you take better night shots.



En route to work

September 02, 2003

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(En route)



Portrait shots

August 27, 2003

dofHow to get crispy shots of the subject with a blurred background? You need to know what depth of field is and what determines it.

Although the exact focus occurs in a single point there is a range (in distance) in which there appears to be focus in your photo. This is the Depth of Field (DOF).

The DOF is affected mainly by apperture size and focal length (zoom). The bigger the aperture (lower f-number) and the longer the focal length (more zoom) the smaller the depth of field is.

So next time you are taking a portrait shot, max up the aperture and use a zoom lens (80mm+).

Of course, you can also use the portrait mode dial.gif if you have a newer SLR camera and it will do exactly the above for you.

More on depth of field

PS Photo taken by Tomas Hancka (more photos)