Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nikon D200

For a 2014 update on the D200, scroll down to the bottom of this page

A pretty good camera, even today, as it has a lot of features and customization. At base ISO it's more than capable of delivering great images. As its age starts to show, however, one needs to consider other factors as well (=price) to judge whether this would be a good purchase

+ superb customization and options/features
+ forget the "semi" prefix. This is a true pro camera, in its build quality, set of features, and complexity
+ very good value, you can get a very capable camera for very little money

- a very complex camera, clearly not for people who don't want to spend time on learning it
- old technology, although it can still deliver great images with the proper care.
- the 10MP CCD sensor is somewhat noisy at ISO 1600 - at least compared with modern standards. But it's the pleasant kind of grain-like noise.

The D200 sensor can hold its own when there is good light.
It would've been a far noisier image without the strong light source

Intended Users

Great for:
  • advanced users who need a photographer's camera with a lot of customization but are on a tight budget
  • if you need a backup for your D300 and can't afford another similar, the D200 is the next best thing
  • users who want to try a complex but wallet-friendly camera before committing to a more modern (=expensive) option.

Not for:
  • people who want to use cameras in auto mode - there is no auto mode(s) in this camera
  • people not willing to spend time and effort to learn their camera
  • people who want/need small/light cameras

Final Verdict
Very good value. But not excellent - notice how on the "Great for" section, all three suggestions involve one's budget. The thing is, this is not the cheapest possible Nikon DSLR that still makes sense (that would be the D70 for me at least), but its technology is somewhat on the "getting older" side. Can you take great shots with this camera? You bet your blue eyes you can. If, however, you plan using it at ISO 3200 all the time, don't expect any miracles. Ultimately, this is the camera to get if you absolutely need the features and you can't afford anything better. If you don't, the D90 for about the same money is a better camera in a sense of overall balance, while the D70 is the cheapest possible option.

October 2014 update:
I decided to add a couple of words on the D200. You might find this weird. After all, it's an old camera, much older than other cameras, such as the D300 or the D7000. So, what's the reason. The answer is: You, dear readers! For one reason or another, the D200 article is quite popular on AmateurNikon - most people find it by Googling "Is the D200 still good in 2014", or similar queries in that direction. 

The answer to this question is: Yes, it is still good value. In fact, I would tend to amend my 'Final Verdict' above, and say it's close to excellent value. Its price has fallen to new lows (I've spotted a good copy sold for $150 somewhere - that's a rare steal) and, remember, it's a very competent camera features-wise, with a sensor that can definitely hold its own until ISO 400. Things do fall apart at higher ISO values, but if you're looking for a feature-rich camera, packed in a robust body (better than the D7000 or anything below), and your budget is minimal, yes, the D200 is still great in 2014.


  1. Probably no one will read this comment but here goes.
    I purchased a used D200 in November of 2012 for $300. I was in a camera store in South Portland, Maine and saw it in the used gear display case. I had been toying with the idea of making the move from my D70s that I had been shooting with for 4 years (a reconditioned example from Cameta). Moving up from 6mp to 10mp was my primary motivation. So I took the plunge and walked out of the store with it to my wife's obvious reluctance as she sat in the car waiting for me. My sister later bought my D70s offsetting my out-of-pocket for this new toy by half.

    Since then I have taken several thousand frames to feed my main interest in landscapes and scenic. Along the way I acquired a Epson R2000 printer as well.

    After every project around the state from Acadia to Baxter State Park, I was still left wanting and not entirely happy with the results I was getting. On a technical level, everything was done correctly and people said the images I was producing were quite good; but something was nagging inside me. I am my own worst critic. In all honesty, I was starting to regret selling my D70s to my sister. I had produced several solo exhibitions, been published and sold many pieces out of that camera.

    In was apparent that I had stepped into unknown territory and if I was master this camera I would have to step-up my skill sets as well. So I starting reading everything I could about the D200, Photoshop and producing fine art prints.

    Along the way, I discovered that two of my three lenses are okay at 6mp but not up the task at 10mp. My Nikkor 18-35 AF-D is now my go-to lenses. I produced a panoramic print of the lake at camp last weekend printed at 20x30 that blew my wife away. She wants a copy for her office.

    I also created a 6 foot wide panoramic of the Crib Works section of the West Branch of the Penobscot River that is looking good on the monitor. I am still working on the logistics of printing and displaying it.

    I was on the cusp of dumping the D200 and getting a D300 or better yet a D700 but now that I seem to have found the camera's sweet-spot and improved my computer skill-sets, I plan to keep it for a while. After all, who can really argue with a net cost of $150 to make this jump.

  2. Hi Scott, and thank you for your comment - at least I read it! And I'm sure many readers of the blog can recognize themselves in the situation you're describing.

    When buying new equipment, it is almost inevitable that some things will be different. And especially if you can't pinpoint where the issue is, it can surely be a frustrating situation. Someone going from the D70 to the D200, like you, perhaps isn't used to the modest colors the (more pro-tuned) D200 produces. Same goes for the exposure, which is more "careful" with the D200.

    I have to say, however, and without knowing what lenses you're referring to, that the leap from 6MP to 10MP is not such that will reveal any significant flaws, at least in my opinion and based on my experience. Certain basic, kit lenses, can show differences when you go from 6MP to 24MP, that is indeed true. But even the humble 18-55mm (perhaps the most basic kit DX lens) can hold its own at 10MP.

  3. Hi Chris,

    Learning the art form fundamentals certainly pays higher dividends than newer better gear assuming it will turn you into Ansel Adams overnight.

    On the subject of gear however, good glass is unavoidable. In my first post, I mentioned that 2 of my 3 lenses were letting me down. I was kayaking last week with my cousins on the lake and I took the camera with my Nikkor 35-70 3.5-4.5 af along for the ride. That night on the computer I printed some to 8x10. Just about all the images were soft bordering on blurry. This was surprising since this was my favorite lens for aerial work with the D70s.

    The other lens on the Injured-Reserve list is a Nikkor 70-300 AF-D (Non-VR). On the D70s, it was passable. I thought that this might be due to the 6mp so the expectation was that 10mp would improve on this. No such luck, even on a tripod with a remote release and using Mirror-Up. Still too grainy and certainly not ready-prime-time if I wanted to exhibit prints.

    Faced with the reality of needing new optics, I went to Best Buy and tested the Nikkor 35mm 1.8G, 50mm 1.8G and the 70-300 3.5-?? G-VR. I took the files home and worked with them that night.

    Conclusion -
    The 35mm was a disappointment.

    The 50mm was real good. I could easily see that as my primary lens for panoramics. One shot of the salesman came in very clear with no distortion. I could count the threads in his shirt and the hair on his head with no moire; even under store lighting. Text and graphics on displays were exceptionally sharp and readable even up to 100% on the monitor with stair-stepping just starting to creep in at 200%.

    I ran side-by-side shots with the 70-300's. The VR and newer glass made all the difference in the world.

    They both just made my Christmas Wish List.

    I also turned off of the built-in enhancements in the camera. After working the NEF images in CS3 or Capture NX2 with these camera processor tweaks incorporated, it appeared as if very subtle artifacts were lurking just below the surface and the image just didn't look right. So I now make those adjustments as part of my normal work-flow instead.

    Well that in a nutshell is my experience with the D200 so far. Good luck.

  4. If it works for you, that's all it matters!
    I agree about the 35-70 being on the bottom of the food chain. Still, I don't think the difference should be visible from 6 to 10MP. I also have to disagree about the 35mm f/1.8. It's an excellent piece of glass.
    But again, what's important is what works for *you*.
    Best of luck!

  5. I also upgraded from a D70 to the D200 and initially used the 18-35 that Scott mentions. These days I use mainly MF Nikon glass that I've fairly painstakingly accumulated in South Africa where we don't have the same numbers available used, and the camera/MF glass combinations are excellent. I even have a very old reflex Nikkor 500mm lens and have had some super images. As Chris says elsewhere post processing is part of the image creation process and by judicious sharpening (very low radius of 0.2 pix, threshold 1) when resizing I've had really good results.

    Remember this camera was state of the art only about 6 years ago and "old" pics taken by the best photographers are still great.

  6. Thanks for your comment Peter, and you have a great point in your last paragraph.

  7. Hello I too have just come from a D 70 to a D200 money was big factor like everyone else I seem to be finding the D200 MUCH more sensative than D70 i move the camera 1 inch i have to adjust settings.I have only been shooting for 6 months with D70 I started a online photography course so i figured the move to D200 was a good move but way more sensative,practice makes perfect i guess it will all come with practice thank you all for your comments they have been very helpfull