It’s now more than a year since we saw Nikon’s D7200 first hit store shelves. It’s a line of cameras I’ve always greatly admired, with nicely sized viewfinders, fancy autofocus and great metering systems, it’s always been a range I’ve been particularly fond of, especially when you take into account the abundance of physical controls. Nikon’s D7 line is ideal for avid photographers who want professional-level features but can’t quite justify the high price of a full-frame digital SLR.
Two years after we saw the Nikon D7100, at first glance it looks like not all that much has changed with the D7200. Both models look pretty much exactly the same, aside from the name badge, WiFi and NFC logos. The thing is, the lack of design change isn’t really a bad thing, the layout of controls with the older model was pretty much perfect and one of my favourite things about the D7100, so there isn’t much point in messing with a winning formula.
Wi-Fi is probably the most tangible new feature but there are lots of other improvements under the bonnet. Battery life has increased from 950 to 1,100 shots. There’s a faster processor and larger buffer for longer bursts of photos. Video capture is now at up to 60fps at 1080p. The autofocus sensor retains its 51-point array but this time they work better in low light, quoted as being sensitive down to -3 EV compared to the D7100’s -2 EV. There’s a new sensor with an ISO range that’s increased by two stops, although the highest 512,000 and 1,024,000 settings are black and white only.
We’ve always liked that Nikon’s controls lend themselves to two-handed use. Hold down one of the buttons to the left of the screen and the dual command dials are reassigned accordingly. This technique isn’t ideal when supporting a heavy telephoto lens but otherwise we find it easier than Canon’s approach where everything is done with the right hand, which can get a little fiddly.
We’re surprised that the D7200 no longer uses its top-mounted passive LCD screen to communicate white balance and JPEG/RAW quality settings during adjustment. Instead the rear screen lights up to show the selected setting. Ideally we’d have liked this information to be shown on the passive LCD and in the viewfinder display. The viewfinder can display exposure-related settings, the autofocus mode and selected point and remaining card and buffer capacities. For other settings, you’ll need to take your eye off the viewfinder and onto the rear screen. The Canon EOS 7D Mk II takes a clear lead here with its ability to show a much wider range of settings in the viewfinder.
There’s no dedicated Wi-Fi button but it’s not too laborious to enable it in the menu. Phones and tablets that support NFC can simply be held up to the side of the camera to establish a connection. Nikon’s iOS and Android apps are simple but effective. Thumbnails are transferred on connection to allow for quick browsing on the connected device, and photos can be transferred at a choice of full, 2-megapixel or VGA resolution. The remote viewfinder mode only offers a shutter release and touchscreen autofocus function, but that’s good enough for capturing self-portraits.
There’s also an option to take photos on the camera in the normal way and transfer them instantly to a connected device. This is great for checking shots on a tablet, especially for collaborative work. However, photos only transferred when browsing thumbnails on the connected device; switching to a full-screen view stopped further photos from being transferred until you went back to thumbnails. Overall, we’re glad to see Wi-Fi making an appearance here but Nikon lags behind the pack for the sophistication of its wireless features.
There are a few other minor improvements. Bracketing is now in groups of up to nine frames, which could be handy for capturing very wide dynamic range shots in preparation for HDR merging. Auto ISO is now available in Manual exposure mode, which allows the shutter speed and aperture to be set manually but with the exposure set automatically via the ISO speed – a particularly useful feature for video capture. Videographers will also appreciate the ability to display Zebra patterns to highlight overexposed areas of the frame, as well as the Flat Picture Control preset that provides a useful starting point for colour grading. There’s finally a dedicated menu tab for the Movie mode. Not only does it make these settings easier to find, but it also allows various settings and button assignments to be made independently for photo and video capture.
VIDEO, AUTOFOCUS AND SPEED
The introduction of 1080p video at 60fps comes with strings attached. It’s only available when a 1.3x crop is selected, and recording time drops from 20 to 10 minutes per clip. The 60p option is simply greyed out until the sensor crop is adjusted elsewhere in the Menu, but there are no clues to help users. We’re happy to stick to 24 or 25fps frame rates but would have liked to see a move to 4K capture. Even so, video picture quality remains excellent with flattering colours and crisp details. The clumsy autofocus is only suitable for casual use, though. Keen videographers will prefer to focus manually, but we can’t imagine many of them choosing the D7200 over the Panasonic GH4.
The improved sensitivity of the autofocus sensor is hard to test objectively, but we were extremely impressed with the speed and precision of autofocus when pointing the camera at gloomy, indistinct subjects. The time between pressing the shutter button and capturing a photo was somewhere between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds, except in exceptional circumstances. This contributed to the D7200’s ability to capture a photo every 0.25 seconds in normal use – almost twice as fast as the D7100 managed.
Continuous shooting was at the same speeds as the D7100 but was sustained for much longer. Whereas the D7100’s 6fps mode lasted for 18 JPEGs or five RAW frames (only seven JPEGs when lens distortion correction was enabled), the D7200 captured 48 JPEGs and 13 RAW frames before slowing to the speed of the card. This was the D7100’s weakest area so it’s great to see it rectified this time around. One slight frustration remains, though. The highest-quality 14-bit RAW files are limited to 5fps capture, with 6fps only available for 12-bit RAW. Continues on Page 2