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Nikon D200 Striping, Vertical Stripe, Banding and Corduroy Effect
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

I bought mine from Ritz here. I bought another D200 from Adorama here. Also try Amazon here. Adorama usually has D200/18-70 kits in stock here. It helps me keep adding to this site when you click these links to get yours.

Introduction

14 February, 2006: I've made over 13,000 images on my D200. I have no problems. My D200 gives me better images than any digital camera I've ever owned.

You can read Nikon's reply to this issue here.

13 January 2006: Some people, not me, have seen some weird and fine vertical stripes in their images. My readers write than those people sent their cameras back to Nikon in Melville, NY who fixed it within the week. Nikon replaced the "Memory Compression" and all was back to normal, free.

If you see a problem send it to Nikon for free repair or back to your dealer for exchange. If your D200 is fine, like the three I used, don't worry about it. This also shows you the importance of buying legitimate USA product and not gray market. Now on with my article:

Every time a new camera comes out there are those who have to jerk it around looking for problems more than I've been jerked around by the used car department at Irvine BMW. I respect and admire camera hackers' curiosity, however they often discover effects which are insignificant for actual photography. Once they post them on the Internet these scare others who don't understand how hard the hackers have to work to see these things.

It's such a non-issue I'd never have found it if I hadn't tried to repeat it out of curiosity. I've made over 8,000 shots with my D200 and have never seen this except for when I tried to reproduce it.

The D70's non-issue was an infinitesimal hue shift only slightly visible at 1/8,000 of a second at ISO 200, which of course was a condition under which no one would ever photograph.

The D200's non-issue happens if you severely overexpose (blow out) a large portion of the image at ISO 400. When viewed at 100% there may be a mild vertical striping, banding or corduroy effect in moderately exposed sections. You have to blow out a large portion of the image in exactly the right way to cast exactly the right striped veil over the darker parts of the image. Images that show this striping are so blown out that my grandma would be smart enough to delete them in the camera before she ever got to looking for this nuance on her computer at 100%. Even then these bands only appear under just the right combination of bad exposure.

It's all the same effect although different people call it banding, striping or corduroy. This striping almost looks like a much more subtle version Mac OSX 10.1's gray horizontal stripes which I always liked.

On My D200:

This doesn't happen with decent images.

This doesn't happen with correctly exposed images.

This doesn't happen at ISO 100.

This doesn't happen at ISO 1,600 because it's literally lost in the noise.

Just pop up the built in flash to correct the lighting ratio and the problem goes away.

Even if you like to make hideously blown out images you probably still won't see it unless you look very carefully at the haze cast over the darker sections from having blown the front end of the CCD's read circuits to smithereens. If you worry, just avoid ISO 400.

D200 Banding - correct
Nikon D200 Banding Sky
Correct exposure using pop-up flash for interior.
Exposed for sky without flash.
Nikon D200 Banding light
Nikon D200 Banding
Exposed for interior, five stops more than above. The sky is completely annihilated.
100% crop from left image. This is enlarged 13 times more than the other images. Can you see the tiny vertical stripes? That's what the fuss is!

I had to work very hard to reproduce this on my D200. You need to do all this:

1.) ISO about 400. Lower ISOs show no such problem and higher ISOs hide it in the noise.

2.) Most of the image must be blown out to bang the daylights out of the CCD and it's related circuitry. You have to waste most of your image. Moderate areas of washout don't cause this.

3.) The exposure has to be just right to cast a haze over the darker section. Give even more exposure and the bands wash themselves out. Give less exposure and they're also invisible.

4.) Look carefully at 100% magnification. No one will ever see this on a print or when the image fills the screen.

You have to do all of these things at the same time to see this.

The D200's noise reduction tries to repair much of this. You can see this better if you further jerk your D200 around by:

5.) Noise reduction should be turned off under SHOOTING Menu > High ISO NR > Off. Otherwise my D200 cleans some of it up!

6.) Shoot in JPG FINE LARGE Optimize Quality. I usually shoot in JPG BASIC Large Optimize Quality which also tends to smooth this over.

For the example above I had to do 5. and 6. Otherwise it was much harder to see.

This is a subtle texture on the verge of visibility. The smart noise reduction and JPG algorithms often smooth this over, without removing the stronger image detail. This is so subtle that Adobe's Image Ready, which I use to format images for this site, also was smoothing over the subtle effects. I had to do a Save For Web at 80% quality (not my usual 40%) to prevent them from being cleaned up automatically in Photoshop!

For instance, merely pointing my D200 straight into the sun causes hellacious overload which leads to a huge enlarged nuclear burst effect around the tiny solar disc, but none of that fine banding:

Laguna Beach

Last photo made before blindness, Laguna Beach, California, 07 January 2006.

The reason for the nuclear blast is the severe overload from the bright sky. This shot is from my 18 - 200 VR set at 35mm; the actual disc of the sun is tiny.

This is very different from blooming, which happens in most CCDs and to which my D200 is particularly resistant. Blooming would draw bright blobs horizontally or vertically from the disc of the sun above.

You can read other's views maybe even see an example here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I read they see it with both JPG and raw.

I Like It!

I think this striping issue is an great new feature where the D200 automatically marks poor images for deletion. Not that my photos are all winners, but I can't think of any reason why anyone wouldn't delete a shot with such awful lighting that it excited this oddity. The problems with any shot in which I've seen this effect are far worse than the banding!

Wasting time looking for this stuff ensures you'll never get out and make real photos. My D200 has amazed me with the way it treats cool lighting better than any other digital camera and how it makes my wife's eyes look better than any other camera, too.

Why It Happens

It seems obvious to me, although I doubt anyone at Nikon is commenting yet. The only ones who really know speak mostly Japanese.

The D200 uses a four channel CCD read system for better speed. If these four channels have slightly different overload and bleed characteristics you'll see that manifested as different levels of bleed in the shadows for each channel. If these channels are read vertically you'll see this difference in bleeding as dim vertical stripes. Big deal, just stop blowing out half your frame and these go away.

I suspect all of these effects come from the parallel processing readout from the CCD and DC level variations among the channels. This is a small price to pay for the ability to crank at over 50 megapixels per second (5 FPS @ 10 MP) compared to cameras that run more slowly or have less resolution.

If it is as I suspect then different cameras may have different problems in different conditions. If you get a dud then send it back or in for free repair. All three D200s I've used have been fine.

If others are seeing worse problems than I I suspect it's caused by some defect in the analog front end reading from the CCD. It's not likely the CCD, but how should I know? Nikon didn't ask for my help in designing the D200. I used to design this stuff 15 years ago.

Again, I have no problem. The only problems I see are when people have uncontrolled highlights and look too hard.

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