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Nikon D7200 Review

Nikon D7200 Review
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Review / 10/01/2015
Author: Photoleet avatarPhotoleet
recommendations 1, rating 4


 

SOFTWARE

 

The usual menu system is still here, but now another section has been added, so there are six in total: Playback, Photo Shooting, Movie Shooting, Custom Setting, Setup, and Retouch, as it can be seen from the following illustrations:

 

  

  

Basic menu pages: groups Playback, Photo Shooting, Movie Shooting, Custom Setting, Setup, and Retouch

 

SHOOTING RESOLUTION

 

The images can be saved in the JPEG or RAW format, as well as in the RAW+JPEG combined. Defining the image quality can be performed independently for the RAW and JPEG formats. The RAW image quality (which is a version of the Nikon NEF) has two levels. One defines the color space ‘depth’, and it can be 12-bit or 14-bit, while the other determines the compression level. The Nikon D7200 offers the ability to store the RAW format in the so-called lossless compressed and compressed quality. The lossless compressed, although constricted, delivers an image without any losses concerning quality, since the reverse compression algorithm has been used. The obtained file is thus minimized by around 30% (in relation to the sensor material), and the quality has been preserved. The other aspect of the compression does not include the reverse algorithm, so a tiny fraction of quality has been irretrievably lost, yet with the obtained file being smaller by 40-55%. Unfortunately, contrary to the D810, which brought the Small RAW, the D7200 features only the maximum resolution RAW. The only way to obtain the Small RAW is by using the 1.3x. The NEF resolution in the DX format is 24MP (6000 x 4000), in the 1.3x is 15.3MP (4800 x 3200).

The JPEG is much more flexible regarding resolution and quality. It is offered in both formats, with three resolutions and compression levels each. In the DX format: Large is 24MP (6000 x 4000); Medium is 13.5MP (4496 x 3000); and Small is 6MP (2992 x 2000). In the 1.3x crop format: Large is 15.3MP (4800 x 3200); Medium is 8.6MP (3600 x 2400); and Small is 3.8MP (2400 x 1600). The other level of JPEG quality control is in compression priority, which can be the Optimal quality, when the emphasis is on higher quality, regardless of the size of an output file, or the Size priority, when the emphasis is on the size of a file, at the expense of quality. There are three defined compression levels: Fine (compression level 1:4), Normal (1:8), and Basic (1:16).

 

OPTICAL ANOMALIES CORRECTION

 

The best effect of the correction of optical anomalies with lenses is obtained by processing RAW images in specialized applications. However, for quite a while processors have been at the level at which they can cope with a huge amount of material in real time, so the D7200, as well as most DSLRs, demonstrates an ability to correct optical and/or geometric imperfections with lenses in real time. Of course, only in the JPEG format. For years, Nikon has been famous for high quality algorithms for correction, which includes corrections of ‘barrel’ geometric distortions (recommended for G and D lenses), as well as chromatic aberrations. The chromatic aberrations correction functions pretty good, so even lenses that display this phenomenon excessively are corrected superbly. In post-processing, chromatic aberrations can be removed somewhat more accurately and with fewer losses in the contour sharpness; however, since such processing is recommended solely for the RAW format (which, by the way, is not affected by corrections), the automatic correction is more than welcome.

 

ACTIVE D-LIGHTING

 

The Active D-Lighting algorithm is one of the first attempts to compensate for the weak dynamic range of the digital sensor with a real-time software correction inside the camera while shooting, without the user having to intervene, aside from defining the level of action. The Active D-Lighting (hereafter, ADL) is very similar to the Shadows/Highlights option in graphic applications, where a narrow dynamic range is compensated for by lighting shadows, while more strongly exposed parts of images are darkened – thus achieving balance. Too strong contrast is reduced, but without negative consequences, such as usual bringing the contrast below zero. On the recommendation of Nikon, the ADL is most effective when it is used in combination with the Matrix mode of light metering. There are four levels of correction, and apart from them, there is the Auto mode as well, by means of which the needed level is automatically determined, immediately before releasing the shutter (except in the manual photo mode, when the Auto mode acts as the Normal level). In the following example, we can see the four levels in comparison to an image without turning the ADL on:

 

Demonstrating the Active D-Lighting option, from left to right: off, Low, Normal, High, and Extra-high intensity

 

In the image above, it is easy to see the effect of this algorithm on the entire tonality, and the balance of the shadows and lighted parts. Its effect will not be seen in this measure in all situations, and it is noticeable only when strong contrasts dominate the scene. There are situations in which it is not advisable to emphasize the use of the ADL since a strong intensity of lighting the shadows can be negatively manifested – in the form of color noise and deformed colors in the darker parts of an image. Moreover, we noticed that in certain situations, just as in the case of the ALO algorithm on Canon cameras, the ADL can be counterproductive, since it causes odd color reproduction, to say the least, so its use is recommended in the cases when the RAW+JPEG format is used, because disturbed color is easier to recover in that situation. In some cases, one can give bracketing a try, since it is offered in combination with the ADL as well. Therefore, the ADL Bracketing will enable shooting a series of photographs, whereby each of them will be characterized with a different level of the ADL.

Although we have no doubts that a certain number of users will still find this function interesting, we must point out that it has become surplus in the last couple of years since the dynamic range of Sony sensors that Nikon employs has widened so much that far more effective results can be achieved with simple post-processing. Nonetheless, if one needs instant results, the ADL will serve its purpose.

 

HDR

 

In relation to the Active D-Lighting, the HDR stands for the next level of complex processing. The HDR (High Dynamic Range) as a concept is not new, since for years it has been the favorite function in a little more extreme image processing, yet being a real-time function, it appeared on cameras only a couple of years ago, and it is aimed primarily at beginners and all those who want instant results. By definition, the chief purpose of the HDR is not ‘bling-bling’ processing that brings tears to one’s eyes, but dealing with, i.e. controlling one of the biggest imperfections of all man-made light receptors in relation to the human eye – the dynamic range. By using the HDR, theoretically it is possible to provide a dynamic range very similar to the one which our vision has at its disposal, so the extremes (too strongly lit parts or the ones in complete shadow) are brought into balance with the other tones within the frame. This is achieved in post-processing by using at least two images (3-5 are desirable) that were taken at different exposure durations, when their best parts are merged into a whole, and in that way the purpose of the HDR as such is achieved. In practice, the HDR is often used inappropriately, so its effects are emphasized to such an extent that the content of the photo is pushed in the background.

The HDR implemented into the D7200 operates with a little bit of limitations, but the ultimate goal is the same – getting an image with a wide dynamic range, without additional processing. The camera achieves this with two images – one underexposed and one overexposed. By combining them, the ultimate JPEG HDR is achieved. There are limitations, which is usual for cameras of this class. First, the HDR cannot be activated as long as the NEF format is used. The format has to be switch to the JPEG in order for the HDR option to be available in the first place. Preferably, the Matrix metering should be selected, whereas the flash cannon be used. Additionally, continuous shooting is also unavailable.

The camera offers an option of selecting the intensity, so by measured use it is possible to achieve moderate and less moderate results. It is interesting that the camera will also allow combining the HDR with the Active D-Light option. A series of different images of the same scene taken with different settings of the HDR function can be seen in the following example:

 

Effect of the HDR mode (from left to right): off, Low, Normal, High, and Extra-high intensity

 

Everybody is probably aware that we cannot expect this option to attain results at the level of specialized tools, but now and then it can serve its purpose. In addition to the predefined levels, the camera offers the automatic one – based on the information received from the light meter, the ratio of shadows to illuminated areas, the camera determines the needed level on its own. Nonetheless, owing to the imposed limitations, we recommend that in important situations you stick to the RAW and subsequent processing.

 

CUSTOM SETTING

 

A constituent part of all the Nikon DSLRs of the higher class is a separate Custom Setting section, which combines options specific for a particular part of operations. There are seven subsections inside it, and they are divided according to letters and colors: Autofocus (a), Metering/Exposure (b), Timers/AE-Lock (c), Shooting/Display (d), Bracketing/Flash (e), Controls (f), and Movie (g). They include virtually everything that you may ever need, while as with everything else, by pressing the Help control (while in the menu), you can get a short description of each single option, which deserves nothing but praise. We direct criticism only to the slightly confusing organization, due to which you will constantly look for some options at a wrong location, which is also contributed to by an insufficiently clear separation of certain subsections. In this way, it is possible to open the subsection Shooting/Display (d) and end up in the Timers/AE Lock (c) options, since the scroll is infinite and cyclically lists the offered options of all the subsections together. Please have a brief gaze at the available options in the following screenshots from the display:

 

   

  

Seven subsections of the Custom Settings section

 

SPEED

 

A new process always brings greater theoretical speed, but in practice this is not always the case. When there are differences, however, they are usually so profound that they justify the introduction of the new camera in relation to the old one. When it comes to the continuous shooting rate, it is equal to the one offered by the D7100. 6 fps is a standard for this class, and overall, that shooting speed is quite enough for most needs. Much more critical is that seemingly secondary bit of information – for how long the camera can hold on shooting at that speed. It is precisely that aspect that has been drastically improved! So, the D7200 can fire as much as three times more images in the RAW format (more precisely, 18), 100 in JPEG, and more than respectable 11 when shooting in the RAW+JPEG mode. Of course, in the maximum quality! Slightly greater burst speed (7 fps) can be achieved by using the 1.3x crop mode, but we do not consider that a particularly significant piece of information. The principal objection to the predecessor was a very poor capacity of the memory buffer, so we welcome the decision that that segment is finally fixed.

Taking account of the overall impression about the speed, we can say that the new camera is quite fast – the controls are agile, everything operates without delay, whereas the only thing that we do not find appealing is the fact that the view tends to be late in the LV mode, which we mentioned earlier, and which (to tell the truth) is not an ailment that has to do only with the Nikon D7200. The controls are arranged in such a way that after a certain period of getting acquainted with the camera, everything seems well organized, aside from the ISO and WB controls, which require either remapping (ISO) or adjusting to the state of affairs. After switching on, the camera is almost instantaneously ready to use, and the only serious lagging occurs if you fill up the buffer after continuous shooting. Emptying takes place quite slowly, and at those moments the camera is practically unusable.