Sunday, October 30, 2005

The D200: how does it fit in Nikon's DSLR range?

It looks likely that the much anticipated Nikon D200 digital SLR will be launched shortly from the plethora of images available from leaks - either semi-officially or by accident. Amongst all the excited (even hysterical) comparisons between it and the Canon 5D, even with few accurate details of the D200 available, there has been little consideration of how this camera fits into Nikon's range of DSLR.

Many commentators consider that the Nikon D70 DSLR is a semi-pro camera, and based on my experience with it, it can certainly produce very high quality results. However it is built around the body and camera feature set of what Nikon term as 'hobbyist' in their film-based SLR camera range. Then there is the D100 which is clearly long-in-the-tooth, has leached considerable sales to the D70s (due to better post-processing and a better price!), and which was the semi-pro camera, but still based upon a 'enthusiast's' body not a semi-pro. Of course there are the Pro bodies clearly aimed at ex-Olympic weightlifters.

Comparing Nikon's current range of film-based SLR cameras with there DSLRs then there is a gap - a F100 equivalent. I don't use my F100 much these days, but it is an excellent work-horse camera that has a great range of features covering a wide range of uses and has never let me down in 10 years. From what can be gleaned from the images of the D200 so far, it has many similarities to the F100: magnesium alloy body, possible weather sealing, a separate power grip that has controls for use in portrait orientation, and a very similar layout of controls.

With all the Nikon vs. Canon histrionics going on in the photographic message boards & blogs, few have noticed the clear ethos and strategies the two companies are taking. With the D200, Nikon have finally put the last product in their DSLR that matches their film-based SLR strategy (of many years): hobbyist (D50), enthusiast (D70s), semi-pro/pro (D200), professional (D2H, D2X). You may have noticed I've left out the D100, well I believe this model is somewhat an anachronism being surpassed by both model nominally below it and above it in the range, and therefore will be dropped. Of course, this is all speculation, but will I be buying a D200, probably.

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