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I have a history of using analog Nikon camera equipment, owning a Nikon F601AF and a Nikon FG body plus these lenses:

  • AF Nikkor 1,8/50
  • AF Nikkor 3.3-4.5/35-70
  • AI-S Nikkor 1,8/50
  • AI-S Nikkor 105/2.5
  • AI-S Nikkor 135/2.8
  • MF Soligor 28-200/3.5-5.3 (not on purpose, came with the FG)

I shot the last picture with this equipment about five years ago, gradually replacing the SLRs with digital P&S cameras, first with a Canon Digital Ixus, later replaced with a Ricoh GX100.

I am a casual photographer, mostly doing family pictures and being interested in any sort of "graphical" structures. My eight year old son does Judo, so doing photos in a dim-light no-flash sports hall would be interesting as well.

While the P&S cameras definitelly have their qualities, I am somehow missing working with an SLR. I would love having things I have been used to, like usable depth-of-field, decent metering, better image quality or even feeling build quality in your hand. Especially the 105/2.5 can do really great pictures if used properly.

Now I am thinking of buying a used Nikon DSLR body in order to make use of the lenses again. Due to Nikon bodies lens mount "evolution", I would need at least a semi-professional DSLR body for using the AI-S lenses with metering. Seems that the cheapest alternative would be a used Nikon D200, these come around 400 Euro/$500 on ebay. Newer models (D300, D700, D7000), even used ones, come at a much higher price which I am not really prepared to pay.

On the other hand, the D200 is years old, this is probably ages in the digital world. So I am wondering if the D200's sensor is "good" in todays terms.

What do you think? Does it make sense to invest in this equipment? Is the D200 a sensible choice. Or should I abandon what I have and start over, probably with a different system?

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4 Answers 4

At that price point, I'd avoid the D200 and go for a D90, you'll still be able to use all your lenses and the D90 has a built in AF motor.

Advantages:

  • Same sensor as the D300/D300s.
  • Smaller and lighter than the D300/D200
  • Similar amount of control (ISO, WB, EV compensation, etc)
  • Video

Disadvantages:

  • Not weather sealed
  • Plastic body
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Will the metering still work? (e.g. My d700 let's me program in these older lenses, and then the knows what aperture I'm using. Does the d90 have this feature too? –  Kreegr Dec 6 '10 at 15:54
2  
It will not meter with old manual lenses. If that's an important feature to you, you'll have to go with a more advanced body like the D200 or D300. –  CadentOrange Dec 6 '10 at 18:33

I've used both the d200 and the d300 to shoot weddings, and the d200 certainly produces great photos. The difference between the two cameras is that the d300 improved on all the rough edges of the d200. Consider:

  1. The D300 has one stop better noise handling. I feel comfortable shooting up to ISO 800 on the d300, 1600 in a pinch. Halve those numbers for the D200.
  2. The D300 has the same basic controls as the d200 (ISO button, quality button, etc) but everything just felt far more streamlined.
  3. D300 has 'live mode' (which I very rarely use).
  4. The D300 has much better battery life than the D200. When I'm traveling, I can have two batteries for the D300 last for several days (3 or 4), which is handy when there aren't many outlets nearby. The d200 batter lasts for maybe 1/3 the amount of time (meaning I need about triple the number of batteries to last the same amount of time).

Having said all of that, the d200 is a very capable camera, and a definite step up from the D70 I used before that.

As for starting over, well, I guess the important question there is budget. If you're not comfortable going for a d300 in price, I'd imagine that swapping out your lenses for a new set of primes would not be cheap as well. I would say that using manual focus lenses on a DSLR is not easy, because the crop factor makes it difficult (at least for me) to focus easily.

If your son's judo is a priority, take a look at this question here: Fast prime vs. expensive zoom for indoor sports photograhy?

Depending on the lighting, the d200 coupled with your fast primes will almost certainly be able to handle the load. Being able to shoot 5fps in burst mode also helps.

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I got a D200 specifically to be able to meter with non-AF lenses. While it's a nice feature, you can go a long way by setting the exposure manually and checking it on the rear LCD.

The D200 and D300 are well-built and rugged, but that implies that they're rather large and heavy. There's also a wealth of options to be set that can be daunting for the casual photographer.

I'd go for a D90 as cheapest body able to use screw-drive AF lenses

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To answer your exact question, the D200 is a very sensible camera. Just because something newer came along, does not immediately downgrade it. You need to look at what the differences mean to YOU. Would higher ISO help? Would you take advantage of the faster drive? etc.

For me the most significant difference and the reason to pay at least $500 more for a D300, D300S or D7000 is that all these cameras have a 100% coverage viewfinder. Once you know you can see everything that will make it into your picture, there is no going back. Its a great relief to not have to worry about something entering the frame at the edge and damaging your composition. You can crop if you feel like it but that's more work and means you have to touch your images.

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I have a Pentax K-5 that has a 100% viewfinder, and I can honestly say that I think it's a marketing gimmick. This is especially true if you correct lens distortion in post-processing as you tend to lose the edges. –  CadentOrange Dec 6 '10 at 18:31
    
Oh no! ;) I have a K-5 too, and a K-7 and had a K20D before that. I can say with 100% certainty that the experience is another world entirely. There is no way I would regularly shoot with a cropped viewfinder again. I frame my shots the extreme accuracy and fill the frame with my subjects, leaving as little unused pixels as the aspect ratio will low. The K20D I often had to guesstimate by how much to zoom-in to get the framing I wanted, NEVER again! –  Itai Dec 6 '10 at 18:40

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