Over two years have passed since Nikon announced the D7100, which sat at the top of its APS-C format range. Its successor, the D7200, changes very little at first glance. However a closer examination of the spec sheet reveals of raft of refinements and subtle additions. And as is often the case with these updates, minor tweaks can add up to make a significant difference to the handling and performance of the camera. We put the D7200 under forensic examination to discover just how it has been improved...
Features & Build
The driving force behind much of the improvements with this latest release is the inclusion of Nikon’s newest image processor: the EXPEED 4. It means the ISO sensitivity has been advanced to offer a range of 100-25,600. The previous native range of the D7100 was limited to a top setting 6400, so this gives an extra two stops of performance in low light conditions. However, if you want to use the expanded ISO settings of the D7200 (up to 102,400), then you’re limited to shooting black & white only. Nikon has chosen to do this because there’d be so little accurate colour detail left at such high sensitivities.
One big improvement as a direct result of the imaging engine is the buffer capacity of the camera. Like its predecessor, the D7200 can shoot 100 JPEGs in a continuous burst. But Nikon claims you can now fire off up to 18 14-bit RAWs in a burst before it slows – three times the amount of the D7100.
Despite the new and improved processor, the D7200’s shooting speeds remains the same. It’ll fire at a rate of 6fps (JPEG only, RAW is capped to 5fps), or this can be increased to 7fps when set to the camera’s 1.3x ‘crop’ mode. This crop mode has two key benefits. Firstly, it’ll extend the reach of lenses, almost doubling the telephoto effect of FX lenses, meaning you can get much closer to your subjects. It also enables the AF points to cover the entire frame, so you can accurately focus on any part of the scene.
The AF system is one of the more notable improvements made to this release. The Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500 II AF system has been introduced, and is the same AF system used in the full-frame D750. It uses 51 AF points, with 15 of them being the more advanced cross-type for faster focusing. It’s sensitive down to -3EV, giving an extra stop over the D7100 to get sharp shots in the dark.
Also new is the inclusion of NFC (Near Field Communication) and Wi-Fi connective technologies. These enable you to wirelessly transfer images to a smart phone or tablet so you can upload them to the web.
The Wi-Fi function will also allow you to remotely operate your camera, so you can use your phone to frame up and fire the shutter. To use the Wi-Fi function, you’ll need to download the free Wireless Mobile Utility app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
The sensor in the D7200 remains the same as the previous incarnation. It’s a 24.2Mp APS-C sensor without an anti-aliasing filter, giving sharper detail. It measures 23.5x15.6mm and has a resolution of 6000x4000px.
Although there’s a few new components inside the camera, the externals remain the same as the D7100. There’s no new button layout, the dimensions and 765g weight mirror its predecessor and the 3.2in monitor has the same 1229k-dot resolution.
Performance & Handling
In the hand the D7200 sits very comfortably. The grip and textured rubber pads gives an excellent purchase, and the ergonomic layout places the controls firmly under your fingertips. There are front-and-back rotating command dials dedicated to controlling the aperture and shutter speed, so you never need to drop the camera from your eye to make exposure adjustments.
Tweaking other settings is a breeze, too. Both the button layout and internal menus are intuitive, and the i button gives quick access to some frequently called-upon controls. Both the Function and Preview buttons can be customised, so you can assign them to controls that suit your preferred style of shooting.
The viewfinder is large and bright, and offers 100% frame coverage. If you want to frame up from challenging angles it has Live View, but unlike some of its rivals the rear screen is fixed, so you can’t flip it out from the body for extra framing accuracy.
Focusing when using Live View is noticeably slower than when using the viewfinder. It often hunted back-and-forth as it attempted to get a sharp lock. This isn’t unique to the D7200 though. All D-SLRs suffer the same issues, as the less effective, sensor-based contrast-detect AF is used when the mirror is up.
For the best AF performance you’ll need to use the viewfinder. We found it to be smooth and accurate, even in low-light conditions. The AF-assist lamp kicks out a beam to help find focus when the light was even more scarce. The focusing was however a little slow when forced to make big distance adjustments in, but it still delivered sharp shots, despite the slight wait.
We found the EXPEED 4 processor actually outperformed Nikon’s claims. When set to shoot RAW at a top speed of 5fps, we managed to fire off 22 frames before the buffer filled. These files took just 3.4secs to be saved to our 95MB/s PNY SDHC test card. A single RAW took 0.6sec to be saved. Switching to JPEG, we rattled off a 100-shot burst before the camera came to a halt, and these were written instantly, with no need to wait to review the files.
Value for Money
The D7200 comes bundled with the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and costs £1119, or it can be purchased for £939 body-only. This price places it on par with some of its key competitors.
If you’re looking to spend under £1000, the Canon 70D costs £939 and comes with a 18-135mm lens. It’s got 19 cross-type AF points, shoots at 7fps but has a slightly smaller 20.2Mp sensor.
If it’s a superior speed you’re after, the Sony A77 II fires at 12fps and has 79 AF points. It costs £1199, including the 16-50mm lens. Alternatively the Pentax K-3 will shoot at 8.3fps, and costs £1029 with a 18-135mm lens.
The D7200 is a great top-spec enthusiast D-SLR, but it’s difficult to envisage many owners of the D7100 rushing out in their droves to upgrade. But if you’re coming in fresh to the market, it’s worth paying the extra £190 to get this latest model. The new processor makes the biggest difference. It provides an impressive buffer which will keep you shooting for longer, and the increased ISO capability will get you more detail in the dark. The new AF system proves its worth too, even if we did occasionally find it a little sluggish. Not all users will take advantage of this model’s connectivity, but those that do will find it a useful feature and the accompanying app is well designed. However, if you’re looking to take your photography to the next level, you may want to consider going full-frame, as at £1119, the D7200 is only £80 cheaper than the D610 body (£1199).
- Resolution: 24.2Mp (6000x4000px)
- Format: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: APS-C CMOS (23.5x15.6)
- ISO: 100-25,600
- Shutter: 30-1/8000sec & Bulb
- AF system: Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500 II with 51 AF points
- Focusing modes: Single-servo (AF-S), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A) and Manual focus (M)
- Metering: Matrix, Center-Weighted and Spot
- Burst rate: 6fps
- Monitor: 3.2in 1229k-dot TFT LCD
- Viewfinder: Eye-level pentaprism
- Pop-up flash: Yes Hotshoe: Yes
- Video: Full HD 1080p @60fps
- Write speeds: 0.6secs RAW, 0sec Extra Fine JPEG
- Storage: SD, SDHC and SDXC
- Weight: 765g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 135.5x106.5x76mm
- Visit: www.nikon.co.uk
This review was first published in the May 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.