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If the ultimate test of a good camera is low light performance, the Nikon D7200 is set up as an easy winner. The D7000 line has always been a solid DSLR, Nikon's 2015 enthusiast camera takes the fully featured D7100 and enhances the sensor even more, for images with rich, yet true-to-life colors and excellent noise reduction. This is a camera for the photographer who likes to push the limits of ISO, that needs more than just a one-trick pony, that knows his or her way around manual modes and camera settings.
No, the Nikon D7200 is not for the faint of heart and certainly not one for the beginner yet to become comfortable in manual modes, but put it in the hands of a enthusiast or budding professional and this camera can do some pretty serious damage. Yes, there's a few minor annoyances, but the Nikon D7200 is shaping up to be the top enthusiast DSLR so far this year.
Body & Design
On the outside, the D7200 looks nearly identical to its older sibling. In fact, the two cameras have the same dimensions and weight. The camera certainly isn't a lightweight and comes in quite a bit heavier then the Nikon D3300 and D5500, weighing about a pound and a half with just the body. The body is also weather-sealed, however, and feels much sturdier than the D3300.
The trade off for that heavier camera? More controls. The camera is designed with enthusiasts in mind. Nearly every camera setting can be changed with a button and/or a dial. The secondary screen on top displays the vital shooting information while limiting the use of the LCD screen (which helps achieve the 1,100 shot battery life); flipping the on/off toggle one more direction will light up that screen for shooting in the dark.
The mode dial rests to the left of the hot shoe slot, on top of another dial that selects the shooting options like burst and timer. The shooting dial is nice—it's rather frustrating when some camera models revert to single shot mode after one image using the timer. Both dials have a button that needs to be pressed in order to turn the dial—presumably to prevent accidental adjustments. But I shoot with an older entry level Nikon and I can count on one hand the number of times I bumped the mode dial into another setting: 0. It takes at least two fingers to adjust the mode or shooting settings, a minor annoyance on an otherwise excellent design.
There are two control wheels on the D7200—one at the top of the grip and another in the back near where the thumb rests. In manual mode, they control the shutter speed and aperture. Pressing and holding different buttons on the top, front and back of the camera changes the function though, making it possible to change a dozen different settings without taking your eye from the viewfinder, once you're acquainted with the camera anyways. The front includes the buttons for adjusting focus mode and area, flash, bracketing and a customizable function button. At the back are the options for white balance, ISO and image quality. At the top, users will find a shortcut for adjusting metering and exposure value, plus a dedicated record button for video.
On one side, there's two slots for SD cards—the second one can be used for when the first is full, to backup the files, or to record JPEG on one and RAW on another. The left side houses ports, including HDMI and USB. The battery access is at the bottom, positioned so it's unobstructed by a tripod head.
That's a whole lot of controls—but one enthusiast's dream is a beginner's nightmare. A Nikon shooter already, it took me a few shooting sessions to really get to know where everything is, and I have the feeling I still haven't explored all that this camera can to. To a beginner, learning the controls on top of learning manual modes and metering would likely be rather frustrating—Nikon offers the D3300 and D5500 for beginners, options that are much simpler to learn with.
Thanks to the abundance of physical controls, there's not much reason to access the menu, though that has been reorganized a bit from the D7100 to include a dedicated move menu and a dedicated photo menu. It makes things easier to find, but certainly isn't a selling point. Nikon has also included a custom menu—so users can add their most frequently accessed settings into one place.
With its large amount of physical controls and large size, the Nikon D7200 is designed for enthusiasts and not those just starting to switch off of auto. It's a bit heavier, but the extra controls and imaging power is well worth the weight, and it's comfortable to grip, unlike narrower cameras.
User Experience & Performance
There's a handful of automated modes as well as manual modes on the Nikon D7200, but (hopefully) no one buys a $1,000+ camera and stays on auto. Outside of those manual modes, there are several enthusiast features that are pretty impressive. The Time Lapse feature will create a time lapse video without any extra triggering equipment or needing to combine the files later in post processing. The auto bracketing can be customized to take multiple shots each time the shutter release is pressed, or there's a handy High Dynamic Range feature that includes a few different options as well. The D7200 includes a built-in double exposure option as well.
The D7200 has the same burst rate as the older D7100, 6 fps, but it has a much larger buffer—the D7200 will snap 100 JPEGs in a row to the D7100's 33, or 27 12-bit RAW files without pausing. The burst rate is about average for the category. Single shots can be taken in quick succession as well, with very little lag time in between.
The autofocus locks on pretty quickly as well. The updated processor in the D7200 helps the camera achieve focus in low light, a full stop better then the previous version. The only time I had trouble locking the focus was when I was too close (using the kit lens, not a macro lens) or when I was testing out the Live View.
Live View is where a few minor performance issues popped up. A few times, the camera indicated that the exposure was locked with a green box, but the image was actually out of focus. There are two different Live View modes as well—users can still take pictures with the video Live View, but it's a wide angle image and there's limitations in the manual settings. Using the photo Live View mode takes care of those limitations, though there is still sometimes trouble with focusing using the LCD. Most users will be using the optical viewfinder for a majority of their shooting though.
The Nikon D7200 has an impressive range of functions. It can reach a higher ISO then previous versions; add in a lens that's a bit faster then the kit and there's a very wide range of possibilities. Toss in the extra features like time lapse, and the D7200 is well-suited for a wide variety of different types of photography, from landscapes to sports.
Nikon's DSLRs have always offered solid image quality, and while the new sensor design is subtle, it offers even more sensitivity then we saw on the D7100. Colors are rich, yet realistic. There's just something to the way the D7200 captures window light that gives the image an excellent feel straight out of the camera.
The D7200 is the second camera in this line to remove the optical low pass filter, which leads to more detailed images. Edges are sharp, as expected for a camera at this level.
Noise reduction is where the Nikon D7200 really shines. Most cameras, when pushed to their limits, have obvious noise even when looking at the LCD screen. That's not the case with the D7200. Of course, there is noise at 12800 and a little earlier—but the D7200 is capable of being pushed much further then a DSLR from five or even three years ago, or even the D7100. Once I tested the ISO range on the D7200, I wasn't afraid to push the ISO limits much further then I would with another camera.
The noise reduction is a big help to low light images. But even with challenging lighting, the camera still does a pretty decent job of capturing color and ambient lighting.
Image stabilization is built into the lens, not the camera body. Switching the stabilization on and off on the kit lens made a big difference in handheld shots.
The picture quality on videos captured with the D7200 is similar, with excellent color production and solid performance even in challenging low light scenarios. There's a handful of advanced features, like selecting the audio frequency range. With DSLRs offering a larger sensor then similarly priced camcorders, it's easy to see why many videographers are opting to pick up a DSLR instead of a camcorder.
The D7200 offers full time autofocus in video mode as well—users can choose to either adjust the focus themselves by pressing the shutter release halfway, or to use full autofocus that operates more like a camcorder and follows the subject automatically. However, there's one catch—the D7200, like most DSLRs, uses contrast detection autofocus when shooting video. This type of autofocus system works basically by trial and error until it finds the sharpest point—so you'll notice the camera focusing in and out a few times before locking on the subject.
Nikon D7200 vs. D7100
At first glance, the differences between the D7200 and D7100 are minor, but after spending some time with both models, there's a bigger difference then the tech specs originally led us to believe. They are both wrapped up in the same size body and they have similar speed.
Nikon updated the sensor on the D7200, however, making it more sensitive. That means the D7200 handles high ISOs a bit better then the D7100.
The processor is new as well, which leads to an expanded buffer, or the amount of burst photos that can be taken without a pause. For JPEGS, it's 100 for the D7200 and only 33 for the D7100. Most photographers don't find themselves shooting 100 photos in a row, but the buffer is expanded for RAW as well, 27 shots compared to just 7, making it more feasible to shoot something like sports in RAW without a big impact on speed.
There's a handful of new convenience features as well, mainly the addition of wi-fi and NFC to share images from the DSLR almost as quickly as you can share snaps from a smartphone camera. The wi-fi and app can be used to remotely trigger the camera as well. The battery has also been improved, rated at 1,110 shots vs. 950.
Those improvements are not much of a reason for current D7100 owners to upgrade, but when choosing between the D7200 or the less expensive D7100, that enhanced ISO performance and wi-fi can be a big draw.
We liked the D7100—Nikon gives us even more reasons to like the D7200. It's not for beginners, but it's an excellent enthusiast camera with an impressive range of capabilities and excellent image quality to boot. Of course, it costs a bit more then the more beginner-friendly D3300 and D5500 at about $1,200 list price for just the body, and $1,700 with the 18-140mm kit lens.
While Canon has been producing some solid looking advanced DSLRs lately, they have little to compare with Nikon's APS-C line. Canon's closest competitors to the D7200 are either about $500 more or $500 less. The $850 body-only Canon EOS T6S has a secondary shooting screen at the top as well, but just 19 autofocus points to the D7200's 51 and half of the battery life. Canon's 7D Mark II has a very impressive 10 fps burst mode and 65 point autofocus, but comes in at a much higher $1,700 just for the body. Canon doesn't seem to be working on much sensor technology for their APS-C models and still utilize the optical low pass filters in many of their models—however, they do seem a bit ahead on autofocus technology, introducing a dual pixel autofocus that offers smoother autofocus for video instead of that in-and-out focusing motion before locking on the subject in the contrast detection used in Nikon's Live View mode. Not to be left out, the Pentax K-3 II has no optical low pass filter, an 8.3 fps burst mode, image stabilization built into the body, weather sealing and a 720 shot battery life.
The Nikon D7200's enhanced sensitivity and the ability to push the ISO limits is pushing the camera itself towards our top choice for 2015 enthusiast DSLR.