Yesterday I went to a local botanical garden to see a light show, which was basically massive display of Christmas light decorations. I decided to bring my trusted Nikon D200 with me to take some family photos. I also stuffed my little Canon Powershot S95 in to my pocket. I thought I could use it to take some videos because the photo quality would suck but it could take high definition videos with decent quality.

The lights were impressive and the garden was crowded even though it was freezing cold. However I had a heck of time trying to make a few good shots of the kids. The auto focus hunted like crazy in the dark and very often it wouldn’t let me take photo at all.

Growing impatient, my wife took my Canon Powershot S95, put it in Auto mode and started shooting. It worked nicely and focused each time. The preview image on the LCD screen looked great. I was stunned. How could Nikon D200, once expensive top of the line DX format DSLR camera, fail so miserably?

Not until the bright orange focus assist light from Canon Powershot S95 shined on my eyes a few times, I realized that the focus assist lamp on my D200 wasn’t turning on at all. I checked the camera settings, built-in AF-Assist illuminator was actually set to on. Did I have a burnt lamp?


It turned out that the focus mode switch was somehow at “C” position, which means the D200 was in continuous auto focus mode. In this mode, the focus assist lamp is designed to not turn on. After I flipped the switch to “S”, the camera’s auto focus started to work normally again.

Nikon D200 AF mode switch
It was a little late when I finally figured it out. The family could no longer stand the cold and decided soon to leave. So the D200 didn’t get the chance to take many family photos.

At home, after the photos were downloaded to a computer, the photos that looked good on the LCD screen of my Canon Powershot S95 turned out to be pretty bad. I could see noisy pixels. Red eyes were in every photo that had faces looking at the camera. On the contrary, the pictures I managed to take using the Nikon D200 showed much higher image quality.

Posted in: Tips and Techniques on December 24th, 2011. Trackback URI
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