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by Bart Arondson

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I am the owner of a Nikon D200 and an assortment of DX lenses. I am considering upgrading the body to something better, but I am hesitating for a few reasons.

First of all, I am reasonably satisfied with the D200. My main gripes is the exceedingly bad battery life, and the now surpassed high ISO performance. Of those two, the battery life is the worst. I never get more than a couple of hundred exposures before a recharge is required. I bought a second hand MB-D200 battery grip, but I was very disappointed to learn that the it actually depletes the batteries even when the camera is turned off. Battery power is used to brighten the viewfinder display. This is impossible to turn off, and I have to take the batteries out of the grip to prevent power leakage.

Secondly, I do not see a clear upgrade path. The D300(s) is too similar to justify the cost, and the D700 would require me to upgrade the lenses also. I have seen rumors of a D90 replacement coming "soon", which may or may not be relevant. Video, on the other hand, is not important to me.

I always thought "wait for the D400", but playing the waiting game is hard.

What would you do in my situation?

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This question is really specific to a certain point in the camera-release timeline of a specific manufacturer — and to your particular battery problem. –  mattdm Mar 26 '11 at 2:52

5 Answers 5

The battery question was answered sufficiently elsewhere, but I'll chime in on the upgrade path to D700 and beyond.

I found myself in a very similar position a few months ago, and decided to pick up a used D700. The important question you want to ask yourself now is, what do you want your gear bag to look like 5 years from now? Do you see value in moving to the "professional" world of the D700/D3, etc? Consider that lenses matter much more than your camera body when it comes to getting reliably good shots. For most serious photographers, the lens collection cost dwarfs the camera body investment over time. So think about whether you want to stay committed to the prosumer lens line (DX), or do you cut and run at this point, sell your gear, and upgrade to FX and start fresh.

Where do you take your pictures? If you tend to shoot in well-lit environments (outdoors, sunny climate), then you don't have much use for the low-light performance of the professional cameras. But most professionals want the flexibility to shoot anywhere, so they pay a premium for incredible high-ISO performance. For instance, the D700 takes printable shots at ISO 3200. It's mind-blowing.

I figured that eventually I'd like to build up a portfolio of some top-notch zoom lenses, and keep them for at least a decade, or even a few decades (which they should last for, in theory). And the best zoom lenses Nikon has to offer are in the FX format (the 24-70/2.8, the 14-24/2.8, and the 70-200 VRII), so I made the switch and have been very pleased. My D300 sold for a decnet amount on Craigslist, as did my DX lenses, so that all subsidized my used D700 and my first professional lens, the 24-70/2.8. If you ever think you are going to upgrade, there is no point in continuing to invest in the "professional" DX lenses, knowing that you will eventually liquidate them anyway.

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I have a D80 that uses the same battery & charger as D200 and my battery can go 500 shots or more at least and also have the battery grip. I am not certain why you have a bad battery life, but here are some guess:

  • You use built-in flash often. In this case, maybe getting a strobe (like SB 600) is not a bad idea
  • You use VR lenses pretty much the whole time. I would try to turn off VR is not needed (like wide angle shots, high shutter speed, on a tripod, etc)
  • You always drain the battery before recharging. Lithium batt is best when it is topped off most of time. Try recycling your batter or get a new one.

If you want to upgrade, I recommend D700 (since they are closing out I think - so you can get them cheaper) or wait until new model comes out. D700 handles DX lenses nicely (although you only get ~6mpix). During light travel, sometimes I bring my D700 paired up with 18-200 DX for convenience.

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If your main concern is battery life, I'd replace those first. As far as I know, most rechargeable batteries lose their ability to hold a decent charge after 18-24 months.

Waiting for the a new body may be best. Beyond that, I'd consider the D90.

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It does sound like new batteries would solve a lot of your issues, if you haven't already tried them. Personally, I would wait. There are a lot of pretty neat features that aren't quite done in the current generation of camera bodies (video is a big one, and low light performance just seems to get better and better), and putting things off will help.

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I don't think I'd ever upgrade unless there was a specific issue that could only be cured by doing so. You mention a few, so I'll give my thoughts on them. With the battery life have you tried new batteries? They do lose their oomph over time. Did you buy a Nikon battery grip, or was it a third party one? If it was the latter, would a Nikon prevent the battery-drain you describe? Or is the battery grip faulty? A new battery grip is cheaper than a new body, and cheaper means you have more money to spend on other things (lenses and accessories).

As for the noise at high ISOs, I guess the only question you can really ask yourself is if you need to use high ISOs a lot, and is the noise so bad that you can't fix it in post (Noise ninja, or Lr3, for example) if you only encounter it rarely.

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Yes, I did purchase an extra battery, and the battery grip is an original Nikon MB-D200 that I bought second hand. When the battery grip is connected to the body, the body uses the battery to brighten the display, even when the camera is switched off. Which means I have to open the battery grip and remove the batteries when the camera is not in use, otherwise I'll come back to a dead camera. So the bottom line is that I don't use the grip much. And sometimes I forget to bring or charge that extra battery. –  Leif Jul 26 '10 at 14:11
    
I am not sure what you meant by "brighten the display, even when the camera is switched off". Did you mean the top display showing the number of exposure left on the card? There was a period of time when I did not use my camera for almost a month, and when I picked it back up it still had 80% battery life in it (not dead). –  Johannes Setiabudi Jul 27 '10 at 16:50

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