Nikon D200 High Speed Performance
© 2006 KenRockwell.com
Film vs. Digital About these reviews
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HIGH SPEED PERFORMANCE
My D200 is fast, smooth and quiet. Unlike my D1H, my D200 makes less noise and vibration. It doesn't feel as macho, and allows me to shoot in more places more discreetly. At five frames per second it just hums along sweetly, compared to my bigger cameras which always felt like something was going to come flying off of them from all the clattering.
Buffers versus Memory Card Memory
The D200 uses two very different kinds of memory for storing images.
We're all familiar with the CF cards used to store hundreds of images. These aren't that fast and card makers rate them for write speed. The D200 uses these for recording your images.
The D200, like all professional digital cameras, has a second very high speed internal cache memory called a buffer. You never touch this. This buffer memory stores 25 frames of JPGs, 21 frames of raw or 19 frames of raw + JPG.
The buffer memory is fast enough to store all these frames at the full 5FPS rate, or faster.
The D200 is never slowed by memory speed card. The D200, like other professional cameras, has a second independent set of processors which handle writing the contents of the fast buffer memory to the slower CF card. Because this writing is done with a second set of processors you never know it's working except for the green CF light on the back. The D200 can be busy for over a minute writing to the CF card and you still have the complete ability to shoot at 5 FPS and play back.
The buffer is so deep that even under the heaviest shooting it's unlikely that you'll ever fill it. Even if you fill the buffer you can still make photos and playback, just that the maximum shooting rate will lower a bit until the buffer write and frees up at least one frame.
It takes it a 100 seconds to write 400 MB of data from 19 uncompressed RAW + Large FINE JPG files to my 40x 1GB Lexar card. As a photographer you don't care how long it takes to write. So long as the buffer isn't full the camera works as fast as ever. Even if it is full you can shoot the next shot as soon as the buffer clears enough room. You don't have to wait for everything to write to make a next shot. Even with my slow 40x lexar 1GB card, a constipated buffer and huge compressed raw + JPG Large Fine files I can make a new shot every 3.2 seconds. With uncompressed raw + JPG Fine Large I can get off a new shot with a full buffer every 3.7 seconds. If you ever get to these limits you're doing something stupid. Just shoot JPG and you'll never be able to fill up the buffer faster than you can shoot. With Large FINE Optimal Quality JPGs the buffer clears at the rate of 1 FPS. With Large Basic Optimal Quality JPGs I can run at 2 FPS even with a full buffer. Use the smaller image sizes or the Size Priority JPG setting and you can shoot as fast with the buffer full as empty!
I've had to do seriously stupid tests to fill it up.
Shot Buffer Readout
A shot buffer is fast memory inside the camera which stores the shots you've just made. Your memory card is written from this buffer. Even with the slowest card on earth you can shoot as fast as you want, since it all sits in the buffer until written. Your card is recorded in the background while you shoot. The green CF light tells you this is happening.
The size of this buffer is how many shots it can hold while allowing you to shoot at 5 FPS. If it gets full the camera slows to only as fast as your card will accept data, which is about one frame per second . These buffers are why you don't need to worry about card speed.
I've never filled up more than 9 shots in a buffer. I don't shoot that fast. With a 25 frame buffer the D200 has far more than I'll ever use.
This is the number you see while the shutter button is pressed halfway. It usually looks like [r25], which means it's empty and can hold 25 more shots. Normally you'll see a big number like  or [ 1.3]k, which is how many shots are left on your card. As you shoot fast sequences you can see this number drop. When it drops to [r00] your buffer is full and the camera slows down its shooting until the buffer is recorded to the card. It's fun to look at when you get your camera, but since I never fill it up I don't worry about it. You'd have to be shooting many long high speed sequences continuously with a slow card ever to use much of this.