Nikon D7200 Digital SLR: Australian Review

There's a sweet spot when you're buying a camera, where you get amazing image quality and an excellent feature-set without having to splash out maximum cash on a top of the line, chunky pro-grade digital SLR, lenses and accessories. Nikon's D7200 is just about as refined as a digital SLR for non-professionals can get.

What Is It?

The $1249 (body only) Nikon D7200 is a semi-professional digital SLR that sits at the pinnacle of the camera company's APS-C crop sensor line-up. It's smaller and more portable than the full-frame D750, but a hell of a lot more powerful and versatile than the lesser D3300 or D5500; built around a 24-megapixel, 24x16mm, 6000x4000 pixel sensor, the D7200 snaps 3:2 photos at up to 6fps.

The D7200 has a weighty native ISO range of 100-25,600; that's extendable up to 51,200 if you want colour and 102,400 if you don't mind shooting in monochrome. That 6fps continuous shooting speed is true even if you're snapping away in RAW, although you'll probably need sizeable and fast SD cards in both the D7200's dual UHS-I compatible SD card slots. You can set one to capture RAW and the other JPEG, or use one for video and the other for photos, or simply use slot two as an overflow from the first.

Nikon has improved the D7200's videography credentials from its ancestors -- it can now shoot 1080p60 video in the H.264 format, cropping to 1.3x of the sensor to get a more pixel-perfect readout and crisper output -- although there's still no on-pixel phase detection during live view or recording. The D7200, too, has an appropriately tough and sturdy body for a DSLR with professional aspirations; its magnesium alloy chassis is dust- and water-sealed against the elements when you're using an equally sturdy and weather-resistant lens.

The D7200, too, is Nikon's smartest camera yet. It's odd in the world of digital SLRs that it's usually the entry-level cameras that have the best built-in sharing features -- like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC -- and that it trickles upwards in the range. The D7200 inherits the same Wi-Fi functionality and complementary iOS and Android apps that the D5500 and D3300 have; you can use the app on your smartphone or tablet to review photos and shoot remotely. For regular photo work, the D7200 has a USB 2.0 port (but no charging its EN-EL15 battery from there).

What's It Good At?

The D7200 captures the best photos that I've seen any crop-sensor digital SLR capture, hands down, over a wide range of lighting conditions.

Specifications
  • Resolution: 24 Megapixels
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F Mount (DX format)
  • Screen: 3.2-inch
  • ISO: 100-26,500 Native
  • Storage: 2x SD (SDXC Compatible)
  • Warranty: 1 Year

This is true both of its 24-megapixel straight-outta-camera, out of the box JPEGs -- which are contrasty but with excellent detail and gradation heading into both shadows and highlights alike -- and in its 14-bit (maximum) RAW image files, which tip the scales at 35MB or more, but contain a ridiculous amount of extra data. You can under-expose your photographs by a good three stops and restore them in Lightroom or Nikon's Capture NX-D.

Nikon has also made some very smart decisions in the D7200's usability; chief amongst those is an excellent Auto ISO mode that is incredibly useful in M mode; it will raise ISO as your shutter speed drops below a threshold, and will do the same for increasing focal length on a zoom lens. A number of on-body buttons are customisable to jump straight to more in-depth feature adjustment -- like D-Lighting shadow boosting -- if those are things that you use on a regular basis. After a couple of minutes shooting, everything just clicks, and the D7200 feels entirely natural to shoot with.

The controls are just about as flawless and perfectly honed as any digital SLR that I've ever used. Unless you're a professional used to the larger form factor of a D4s, there is literally nothing that I would change with the way that the D7200's controls are laid out when you're shooting with your right hand on the camera's grip and your left holding the camera's right edge. That stance lets you access the twin dials and exposure compensation and video recording buttons, as well as the ISO and white balance and menu buttons for changing more complex settings.

Autofocus performance on the D7200 is impressive not only because it works extremely well and extremely quickly in good light, but also because it continues to work well -- extremely well, in fact -- in much less ideal lighting conditions. In laboratory conditions it's a matter of milliseconds between competing cameras -- and the difference is largely academic anyway -- but in the real world, misfocusing or missing focus entirely can ruin your chance to capture a photo at all; even in dim lighting the D7200 remains sure-footed. I don't think I had it fail to focus on an object (of reasonable contrast) more than a couple of times in my month's testing.

What's It Not Good At?

The Nikon D7200 struggles when it comes to video recording. Well, it doesn't struggle -- for a crop-sensor digital SLR it's certainly up at the head of the pack; it captures lovely 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. There are caveats, though -- that 60fps only comes at a 1.3x digital crop, and at MPEG-4 H.264 there's no fancy high-compression format (like HEVC H.265) to reduce file sizes. The introduction of a new 'Flat' picture profile makes for less contrasty video capture, which means better editing versatility.

Part of the issue with the D7200's video is the fact that its live view autofocus is mediocre at best. It lacks the on-sensor phase detection pixels of its competitors, and is left with relatively slow (but accurate) contrast autofocus detection, which runs slowly and makes the D7200 inadquate for that 'home movie' recording that the best DSLRs can aspire to. For this, you'll want to look to a mirrorless camera, designed to focus via the sensor rather than a dedicated autofocus prism. And there's still no control of aperture in movie or live view modes. It does OK, just not great.

Nikon's implementation of Wi-Fi, too, is OK but looks a bit stark compared to category leader Samsung's. The aptly named Wireless Mobile Utility has the useful extra of integrated NFC for one-tap pairing on Android, but the interface of the app -- divided into Take Photos and View Photos -- leaves a lot to be desired. The live view photography interface is extremely basic, only letting you set the focus area and fire the shutter from your smartphone, and the review interface takes a while to load every photo on your DSLR and then only offers a straightforward option to download to your device -- no one-step sharing to social media.

For limitations as a stills camera, the Nikon D7200 has only a few. When you're shooting at 6fps in RAW mode -- a feat that many lesser cameras would struggle with if they were even able to in the first place, as a limitation of smaller and slower buffer memory -- the D7200 will only capture frames at 12-bit quality, a slight drop from the 14-bit single-shot setting in terms of dynamic range. Autofocus performance is pretty damn good, though, especially across the centre grouping of the 51-point autofocus coverage.

Should You Buy It?

The $1249-plus Nikon D7200 takes the best photos that I've ever seen from a APS-C, crop-sensor semi-professional or enthusiast digital camera. It bests the Samsung NX1 handily in photo mode, although video is anyone's game and almost comes down to your personal preference and what you're planning to use the camera for. Crucially, it's strong competition in usability for the Canon EOS 70D, the camera that most people will be comparing it against.

Nikon D7200
83

Price: from $1249

Like
  • Beautiful, detailed images.
  • Peerless control layout.
  • Excellent autofocus.
Don't Like
  • Mediocre Wi-Fi implementation.
  • 12-bit RAW in bursts.
  • Mediocre live-view autofocus.

It's absolutely true that the Nikon D7200 is a subtle and evolutionary upgrade over the two-year-old D7100; it's likely to only tempt Nikon shooters from the D7000 or older models, or upgraders looking to make a significant jump from their D3200-era entry-level models. Nikon has got the D7200 to a point where any upgrades that need to be made are already made, though -- it's a refined and powerful and complete camera in almost every aspect.

The D7200 struggles somewhat with video when you compare it to mirrorless competitors like Panasonic's GH4 or Samsung's NX1, both of which can shoot 4K at higher bitrates with more videographer-friendly features packed inside. It's a little bulky compared to these and other equally capable stills snappers like Sony's A7II range, too, so is a little less desirable if you're a traveller that doesn't want to lug a large body.

But with these caveats in mind, when you go out and actually take photographs with the Nikon D7200, I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed with them. For its price point, for its hardware, for its complementary lens line-up, the D7200 just gets all the fundamentals right. It has excellent high-ISO noise control, its RAW images are incredibly detailed, it's very well constructed and also has convenient features like Wi-Fi integrated. For the photography enthusiast the Nikon D7200 is a very easy recommendation from me.


Comments

    That felt like I was reading about a camera from 2008, that's when the Canon 5D Mk2 came out. This camera sounds pretty similar to that. Sony are decades ahead of the game right now.

    Nikon cameras have 2 years warranty if you purchase Australian stock

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