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Nikon D200 Hour Long Exposures
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The Constellation Orion by Moonlight.
D200, 28mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4, 10 seconds, ISO 100 (LV -2.3), no NR.

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.

See also my D200 Dark Exposure page

How to Make Long Exposures

I set my D200 to Manual and Bulb.

I use my MC-20 cable release. It has a built in backlit timer with an H:M:S display perfect for long exposures. I bought my MC-20 6 years ago used. I don't know if there's a new version you can get today.

The MC-20 has three settings. One is like a regular cable release. Forget this unless you want to stand and hold it for an hour. In this mode the MC-20 displays "- -- --."

The second is LONG EXPOSURE. You can set the MC-20 in hours, minutes and seconds up to up to 10 hours. Set it, press it, and go to sleep. It will release itself after your preset exposure time.

The MC-20's third mode is TIME. It clocks off your exposure on a counter. Press it again to stop the exposure. The counter also stops and holds your total time. Press it again and a new exposure starts resetting the timer.

If you want to use the mirror-up (Mup) function on the top left of the D200 you'll need to press the shutter on the D200, not the MC-20, to release the mirror. If you press the MC-20 first you'll confuse things. For these long exposures I don't worry about mirror vibration.

Maximum Time per Charge : 80 Minutes

My EN-EL3e battery limits my maximum exposure time to 80 minutes at room temperature. The bottom of the camera gets warm, especially the side just below the ENTER button. I presume this is solenoids holding open the shutter.

I can make only one 80 minute exposure on a full charge. Actually I made a 22 minute exposure which took my battery from 100% to 74%, I then let my D200 run until it quit for a second exposure. My D200 stopped the second exposure after 56 minutes with the battery icon blinking.

Exposures Longer Than 80 Minutes

The hand grip holds two batteries, so It should be good for 160 minutes. I haven't tried. I don't plan to buy a hand grip. I love the small size of my D200 and the grip makes it bigger.

If you intend to make a lot of very long exposures I'd suggest investigating one of two solutions. One is the right way and expensive, one is a hack but cheap.

The Right Way

The right way is to go buy the $75 Nikon EH-6 AC Power Supply Adapter and power the D200 from an AC wall socket.

People doing star trails usually do this out in the middle of nowhere. There are no wall sockets. You'll need a DC power inverter to convert the 12 VDC from your car's power socket to 120 V AC for the EH-6 to power the D200. This will run all night. If you hike in, you can haul a smaller 12 V battery pack to power the inverter. The idle current drain of the inverter will also limit your time. Astronomers usually have this figured out, so if you 're visiting with them there may be another socket they've brought along for you to use.

The Wrong Way

The wrong, but cheaper, simpler, lighter and more efficient way is to jam your own DC power into the D200 straight from a bigger battery. Any of these ways is a hack, since I don't know of any Nikon DC cords for the D200.

One way is to hack out an old EN-EL3e battery and drive the D200's DC input from a bigger 7.4V battery at the other end of a cord. You can make one from 6 Ni-MH cells, or five alkaline cells. You could also design a linear or switching voltage regulator and derive 7.4V directly from a 12VDC car power cord or 12V pack. This will be far more efficient and let you use a much smaller battery, but also far more likely you'll blow up your D200.

Of course you could scam your way into a mating connector for the DC connector and use that. I have no idea what the voltages are. You could buy an EH-6, measure the output voltages under load, then chop off and throw away the electronics just to get the cord.

Only attempt these with a degree and experience in electronic engineering and the willingness to destroy your D200. You people know who you are. If you do this let me know how you did it and if it worked or not.

I calculate the D200's DC draw from the battery to be about 1 Amp with the shutter open. The EN-EL3e is rated 1.5 AH. I have no idea what the current drain is from the DC-in port, since I have no idea of the voltage. Remember: no engineering degree, no screwing around with electricity. Electricity kills.

Nikon might make a 12VDC cord for it, and if they do, this would be a great way to go.

Purple Haze

My Nikon D1H and D70 would show purple haze (fog) in the corners with long exposures. My D1H would show this with just a 30 second exposure at ISO 1600. My D200 is better than both of these cameras, but after an hour you get it anyway.

If you're crazy enough to make hour long exposures that you'll get a little purple haze in the corners. It looks fine at 20 minutes.

Long Exposure NR (Dark Frame Subtraction)

The Long Exposure NR setting eliminates the purple haze.

Long exposure NR takes an additional time as long as the primary exposure, so I don't have enough patience to use it for twenty minute exposures anyway.

Since you're limited by battery life you won't have any more power available to use Long Exposure NR with an hour exposure. There will be no power left for making the second dark frame exposure.

I haven't yet experimented to see what the maximum exposure is with dark-frame subtraction. The shutter stays closed which should draw less power, but the meter and electronics stay on. I'm unsure if the D200 is smart enough to calculate when it needs to stop and make a dark frame exposure, or if it dies and loses your shot, or according to Bjorn it simply records your image and skips the dark frame exposure.

File Recording

The good news is that you can leave the shutter open and the D200 will stop and record the file before it shuts off. No worries about losing your exposure when the battery dies, at least the one time I let it expose until it died. You know your exposure is done when the mirror flips up and the battery icon is blinking.


The time recorded in the EXIF data is the time the file is recorded, which is the end of the exposure. Start an hour exposure at 10 PM and the EXIF data will read 11 PM.

The exposure time in the EXIF data is recorded in seconds, to the tenth of a second. My 56 minute exposure read 3375.2 seconds.


The exposure of the stars above is only 10 seconds. It looks perfect. The examples below are extreme examples. These examples are shots of my lens cap. They should all be black.

D200 20 minute exposure

Nikon D200, 20 minute exposure at ISO 100, no long exposure NR.

This twenty minute shot looks fine at ISO 100 without NR. I'd not bother waiting 20 more minutes to eliminate what I can't see.

D200 one hour exposure

Nikon D200, one hour exposure at ISO 100, no long exposure NR.

This still looks better to me than the hassle of using an external power source and waiting another hour for the dark frame. I'd just ignore this purple haze and make good photos. I don't have enough patience for exposures this long.

Increase the ISO and you'll get more haze. This is normal. You probably will hit a sweet spot at ISO 400, which has next to no grain, and will cut your waiting times.

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