There's very little to fault about the Nikon D200. It's very robust, has great ergonomics and a wide array of features, while handling superbly and delivering excellent image quality. In use it performed very well and we struggled to find any downsides to list at the end of the verdict - indeed we felt almost churlish criticising Nikon for the way it zooms-in on images during playback, although it has to be said, simple zoom in and out buttons really are much more intuitive.
The D200 really is a world apart from its predecessor the D100 and is measurably superior to Canon's EOS-20D. Of course to be fair, the 20D is now showing it's age, and following Canon's track record we'd be very surprised if a successor isn't announced for the PMA show at the end of February.
The more recent Canon 5D is a tougher rival though, boasting higher resolution, lower noise levels at high sensitivities and of course the expensive full frame sensor. In the D200's favour, it's cheaper, handles quicker, has greater features and feels more robust too. Ultimately though, we believe the 5D is a unique proposition which will be bought by people who really want its full frame sensor and can justify the price difference. The D200's true competitor from Canon is surely the yet-to-be announced 20D successor - and without anything other than speculation on that front, we'll have to move on.
So if it's better than the 20D, and the 5D isn't really a direct competitor, what is the D200's closest rival? As far as we're concerned, it's actually the Nikon D2X. From the first moment you pick up the D200, you know you're handling something which can truly be described as a professional camera. The build quality and overall handling are quite simply superb, there's little in terms of extra features or accessories you could ask for, and the results are excellent. So why would you spend almost three times as much on the D2X?
The main advantages of the D2X are its slightly higher resolution, built-in portrait grip and high-speed 8fps cropped shooting mode. Beyond this the differences are more subtle, with the D2X featuring an external white balance sensor, voice note recording, 100 per cent viewfinder coverage, and slightly superior build quality. While these all make it a no-brainer for the most demanding professionals, almost everyone else will quite simply find the D200 represents a much more compelling purchase. Many will also prefer its more discrete, compact dimensions and be happy to swap the external white balance sensor for a popup flash.
Ultimately until the market responds, Nikon has delivered the best mid-range digital SLR yet, boasting professional quality at a highly affordable price point. It'll appeal equally to those wanting a step-up from a budget model as it will to Pros wanting a back-up body. Indeed we wouldn't be at all surprised to find many Professionals using D200 as their primary body, and that's high recommendation for a camera at this price.