Help, I've got DBS!
Well, I might not have it personally, but my D200 certainly suffers some from some kind of disease, and DBS - Dead Battery Syndrome - is a very likely diagnosis. I have mentioned it before in my podcast: my D200 will sometimes go into spasms and start blinking wildly in the veiwfinder. The focus points will turn on and off and the viewfinder will dim slightly for every convulsion. Of course the camera fails completely when it happens, and usually won't react at all - not even turn off.
I had the problem yesterday during a shoot, but while the camera usually fails completely, it did fire yesterday, but right after the exposure the image in the viewfinder would jerk due to a sudden erratic motion in the VR in my 70-200 f2.8 - and worst of all: the camera wouldn't record any image. It focused, the VR worked, it fired, but then a total failure and no image.
I could turn off the camera, but when I turned it back on, it would a few times shortly report a completely flat battery and die. If I removed both batteries in the grip for a moment and put them back in, the camera would turn on with no hassle. It also seemed that turning off VR on the lens would completely remove the problem.
It only happens with my D200 combined with my 70-200 with our without a teleconverter, and it seems to be yet another version of an error generally called DBS or Dead Battery Syndrome. Many Nikon owners have reported similar problems, and not only with D200's, but also with D80's, D300's and even D3's. The error seems to be most common with longer lenses and zooms with AF-S, and some non-Nikon lenses can also trig the error.
My good friend and fellow Nikonian Henning keeps on nudging me and telling me that I need to let a Nikon repair shop look at the camera. I have DBS, a very dodgy flash hot shoe and some rubber slowly peeling off the grip. But the thought of letting go of the camera for even a few days doesn't really suit me. But I may have to give in and leave it to Nikon service to try to find the error and fix it. But I'm sure to trip to Nikon-land would do the camera good. I'm not really nice to my gear, and it's very likely that the mount has seen just a bit too much water - some of it saltwater.
It seems that most reports and thoughts about this error circles around mechanical and electrical errors in the lens mount. Some users report that cleaning the mount and the contacts will help, some can fix the error by un- and remounting the lens and some by merely turning it slightly in the bayonet. On the D300 there has been reports of a more consistent fix through a firmware update, but no one has seen the problem disappear in other camera models after updating.
My favorite fix is the guy who put a piece of paper in the battery chamber of his D300, preventing the battery from going too far into the chamber and in this way removing the random error. I may choose a solution, which is just a little more advanced.