The Nikon D7200 is quite a small camera and is the perfect DX DSLR for reportages, outdoor or travel photography and probably the best aps-c camera currently available. As an outdoor photographer, since I was looking for a DX body, I was quite interested in this new camera when the D7200 came out. And after some time and treks using it, I can say I am overall impressed and really like it. I consider myself a “field guy” and I am quite practical when it comes to equipment choices, basing my choices on what would make life in the field easier. The Nikon D7200 is such a camera, not afraid to work in tough conditions.
The specs that really intrigued me were
– IMAGE QUALITY
– ERGONOMICS AND CONSTUCTION
– SIZE AND WEIGHT
– VIDEO CAPABILITIES
Early winter snow storm in the Alps
Gear Used. I have been using the Nikon D7200 mainly with Zeiss 25mm f2.8, Zeiss 50mm f1.4, Nikon 105mm f2.5, Nikon 300mm f4, plus Atomos Ninja Star, Rode, Manfrotto and Chrosziel gear for video.
Size and weight. Shooting often after hours of trekking, this was an important factor for me, especially since I have to carry everything myself. Mirrorless cameras would be a better choice for size and weight, but they have so many drawbacks that I still prefer the feeling and the ruggedness of a DSLR. And, after all, any DSLR can operate like a mirrorless, while the opposite cannot be said. The D7200 weights a little less than 700 grams, and the first feeling you get by grabbing this camera is that it is a solid piece, build to last.
Holding the Nikon D7200 with gloves
Ergonomics and construction. I really like it! It just fits perfectly into my hands, even using big and bulky mountaineering gloves. It does not feel too small or too big. As a result of the solid construction in magnesium alloy, the Nikon D7200 not only feels solid in the hand, but it can also take a harsh treatment (it’s labeled as tropicalized in fact). I took it several times in my backpack just wrapped in a shirt, left it under snow and drizzle for long, and it never showed any problem. It has not the brawny aspect of the admiral ships like the D3 – D4 models of course, but holding it I can fill my hand with it. The amount and distribution of the several commands and dials is practical and intuitive: most of what you need for your shooting is right at the fingertips and after a short habituation period everything will appear normal e instinctive.
Even wearing mountaineering gloves I can access almost all the principal buttons and dials. The only ones I have some troubles with while wearing gloves are the release mode dial and the OK button on the keypad, which are a bit too small. I appreciate the usual turret on the left, and the position and size of the depth of field preview button in the front, which I tend to use a lot. The only caveat in the ergonomics is the dedicated iso button missing. Iso settings can be done with the iso/zoom out button on the left, which is fast to do anyway, but you need two hands for the procedure and you also need to take off your eyes from the viewfinder. So I decided to reassign the red button for video to the ISO selection, this way I can select the iso settings with just just one hand. While using the D7200, I had to consult the manual only a few times and mainly for the timelapse settings (it’s called “Interval Shooting”). The viewfinder was also quite a surprise. It has 100% coverage and is not only quite bright, but also useful for manual focusing. It features all the necessary info, including the virtual horizon (the Function button can be assigned to the virtual horizon feature, speeding up operation and composition).
Image quality. The image quality is probably the best in the dx league at the moment. The 24mp is a dense sensor (scaled up to full frame would give about 56mp), but not so much that it becomes too difficult to master. The lack of the AA filter means fine details will be rendered better, something I could notice as soon as I opened the NEF files and looked at them at 100% magnification.
The first image is a glimpse of the bell tower of Church of Saint John in Saluzzo, Italy, seen from an alley near the town’s belfry. The image below is a 100% crop, pixel per pixel: the dense sensor can capture fine details, allowing almost to count the individual bricks.
This nice sensor can output really clean low iso images and it can hold its own up to 6400! After, the noise starts to be visible even at normal magnification, but the situations requiring using more than 6400iso are quite rare. Values between 100 and 800 iso are safe to use. For iso values between 1600-3200, a small use of noise reduction software will mitigate visible noise and produce clean images. The camera’s RAW files are extremely versatile, with a good dynamic range and shadow recovery capabilities: a little touch on the slider will create some important changes. Basically, this simply means you don’t have as much work to do in post, a very nice feat
Ice cracks forming geometric patterns in a frozen lake in the Alps. Original image above and 100% crops, pixel per pixel, showing noise at 100, 3200 and 6400 ISO. These shots are from the .nef files straight out of the camera, with no sharpening or noise reduction applied.
Hardware. Probably I am not the most qualified to judge in depth the AF system. First of all, I use many manual focus lenses, second my usual subjects don’t move that fast and third, I usually prefer to use less AF points, take the AF reading and then recompose. What really impressed me instead was the precision of the green dot when using manual focusing lenses. It’s probably one of the most precise focus confirmation aids I have used so far. It’s not perfect so that it can be relied upon on a 100% basis, but it’s a great aid anyway (selecting single AF points) while focus bracketing. And it’s good not only on bright light and high contrast scenes, but also in dim light and low contrast scenes.
The RAW buffer has been significantly increased over the previous model. The highest and most resource consuming setting, full resolution raw 14bit lossless + jpg fine, would fill give you a buffer of 10 images at 5fps, then the camera keeps shooting at a slower pace of about 1 fps. A resting period of about 6-7 seconds allows the camera to resume its gait.
Battery life. Something that quite surprised me was battery life. The camera is rated to be able to take about 1100 shots for a fully charged battery and under controlled conditions, at least 150 more than the previous model. While these data are just a guideline since personal preferences, Wi-Fi, temperature can greatly alter battery consumption, I regularly found that with a fully charged battery I could take at least 800 shots in the field (sub-freezing temperature included) with a generous use of liveview (as for focusing with MF lenses, reviewing images and video), turning off Wi-Fi and recording some videos.
Video. The D7200 can record progressive video in full HD at 24, 25 and 30 fps and 50 and 60 fps in crop mode (x1.3). On the left side there are individual ports for a headphone jack and an input minijack. The “flat” profile is available for better color grading, there is the zebra pattern for the highlights overexposure but unfortunately there is no focus peaking. The camera can record internally in the .H264 compressed codec or can feed uncompressed video via the HDMI port to an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja, permitting to record ProRes video in 4:2:2 color space.
It features also nice timelapse settings (up to 9999 images) with auto exposure compensation, making a small movie directly in camera or recording each separate shot for later work. Considering its dense 24 MP sensor, it can produce timelapses with almost 6k resolution! 4k timelapses are a possibility.
A time-lapse video of a late afternoon snow storm in the Alps: 380 images recorded with a 10 seconds interval, post processed to 24fps.
Conclusion. The Nikon D7200 has an ideal mixture of bulk, proportions and functions, packing a really nice sensor, in a well-constructed body, fast to operate and easy to handle. The AF system is the same found on the D4s admiral ship and its green dot is a valid aid even for manual focusing. Its 24 MP are a lot of pixels but this camera has more than that: noise control and dynamic range are all there. While the images it produces are good straight out of the camera, I prefer to use the rich 14 bit raw format since it is a solid platform for post processing. The sensor alone would be a valid reason to get this camera.
What I do like:
– image quality
– battery life
– video capabilities
What I do not like:
– lack of GPS. I would probably seldom use this feature, but it would be nice to have it for the occasional geotagging
– I wish focus peaking was available for video
– a bigger release mode dial lock, easier to use when wearing gloves
– the scene menu (for me it’s useless)
Last crumb… In the initial image there is actually some wildlife, did you see them…? Can you see them on the full resolution, 100% crop? When I was there, I did not notice the small herd of chamois grazing on the snowy slope, they were more than 500-600 meters away. But I saw them when processing the image in post. That image was taken with a 25mm lens (which has a wider field of view compared to human vision) and this is a dense sensor to capture some small details!