The Nikon D200 Revisited

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One question: What were you doing this time in 2005? Yes, I know that’s such a broad spectrum question that it’s almost impossible to answer. How about if I narrow it down for you by asking…as a camera freak, what were you doing this time in 2005?

If you’re a camera freak, a digital camera geek, chances are very likely that you were waiting with high anticipation for the release of the Nikon D200 digital SLR.

Today we will take a look back at the D200, but let me say this is not a Nikon D200 “review” in the traditional sense. Yes, we will talk about some technical and operational aspects of the camera, but everything you need to know technically about the D200 has probably already been written by many other review sites.

I want to take a look back in time, back in history, to the time before, during, and after the release of the Nikon D200.

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“Smile” 2017. Nikon D200, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor. Straight out of camera jpeg in “Fine” setting. On my screen the skin tones run a little red but that’s easily fixed.

AS A CAMERA

The Nikon D200 is a 10.2 megapixel DSLR that was marketed as a highly specified semi-pro or “enthusiast” model. Indeed the build quality was, and is superb, even by today’s standards with its durable magnesium alloy body and confidence inspiring heft. Though it was the follow up to the D100 of 2002, the D200 was in a whole different league.

The 10.2 megapixel sensor was APS-C sized with a crop factor of 1.5X and 10 megapixels were big back in them days!Β The camera has a shutter speed range of 1/30 to 1/8000. Though you may never use it or need it, the 1/8000 or higher shutter speed is always a sign of a high end camera.

The D200 had an ISO range of 100-2500 and 3200 with boost. This was well before the era of ISO 100K plus.

The camera had a built-in flash (Speedlight as Nikon calls it) which comes in handy if you need flash in a pinch. However, back then, some criticized the move fearing it might compromise the structural integrity of the camera. As you know, in the years since, many high end cameras now include built in flash as a common feature and people don’t complain about it as much πŸ™‚

THE ANTICIPATION

Ah, I remember it so well. Yes, once I heard about the D200, once I saw the specs and the “leaked” photos, I knew I had to have it!

Just like many of you, I was probably on fredmiranda.com or photo.net every damn night reading all the speculations about a camera none of us had yet.

Many speculated that the D200 would be the mini D2X we desired at a much lower cost. But we all know if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The D200 most certainly was not the D2X, but take heart that in some ways it was better. I’ll explain later on in the article.

I checked many stores in the NYC area. All of them had long pre-order lines. I got my name on one of the local dealers and eventually got it from them. Here’s a shoutout to the local dealers! There are too precious few left. Please support your local camera dealers!

THE ARRIVAL

So one day in December of 2005, a few days before Christmas, I got that call from my local camera dealer telling me my D200 was in. Hot damn, I was so excited!

It’s kind of sad that I rarely get that kind of excitement these days from any camera I get. I guess it must be “camera saturation” as I call it. After all these years and many, many cameras later, it’s hard to get that excited.

Anyway, needless to say I quickly rushed off to the dealer and picked up that beautiful golden box that said “Nikon D200” πŸ™‚

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From 2005, this boy was sure happy when he received his D200! πŸ™‚

I think I paid around $1800 for the body, which seemed like a bargain at that time for such a highly specified camera.

THE TOUCH, THE FEEL, THE LOVE

After opening the box, going through all the accessories, I finally got to the baby! Upon first touch I knew I was in love. This was a big, beautiful hunk of steel and photographic sex appeal.

I snapped a few shots. The dampened sound of that instant return mirror was like music to my ears.

I could tell by all the features I found in the menu that this was an advanced camera. However, for me, that wasn’t as important as the fact that I was able to figure it out easily without the manual. I could appreciate all the advanced features, and I might eventually get to some of them, but first and foremost what I care about is how quickly I can access the controls, how quickly I could get a shot out of the camera. And after that, as long as it takes a good picture, I’m pretty happy. The D200, build quality and ergonomically speaking, was a Nikon through and through.

The first few shots revealed nice images with some really beautiful colors.

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“Lost In Love” 2005. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2 DC Nikkor, ISO 100. The D200 can produce excellent sharpness and pleasing skin tones.

AFTER THE HONEYMOON

Not long after getting my D200, I started having doubts about the camera. Main issue for me, and apparently most early D200 users were “soft images” and disappointing high iso performance.

Ok, I can hear it now. Someone out there is saying…”I get incredibly sharp images from my D200, this dweeb don’t know what he’s doing!” πŸ™‚

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“Christ Is King” 2006. Nikon D200, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S Nikkor, Lucban, Philippines.

Ok, I got ya, I hear ya!! But yes, I too have many many sharp images from the D200. Heck, I probably don’t know what I’m doing hah but for your sake, just look up “D200 soft images.” Take yourself back to 2005-2006 and see what I’m talking about.

In the years since the D200 was released till now, for many cameras that came after the D200 (and some before) you will see in camera reviews a lot of something like “jpegs are slightly soft, but sharpen up well.” Today, it wouldn’t bother me much, but in 2005 it did.

Keep in mind, back then I had used a Canon EOS 20D, 5D, Nikon D1X, D100, D2H and D70. All, with the exception of the D100, produced sharper images straight out of camera than the D200.

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“Mr. Bojangles” 2005. Nikon D200, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S Nikkor. Despite all I’ve said about the D200’s “soft” images, the camera is perfectly capable of producing very sharp images. Just as sharp as Mr. Bojangles πŸ™‚

So I’m not sure if it was just the jpeg processing. I think it’s been stated by various websites that the D200 had a fairly strong AA filter which funny enough has been done away with altogether in many cameras today. Back then, there was such concern over the possibility of moire from a lack of an AA filter. But today, it seems the trend or fad is to sell cameras without the AA filter as a selling point because it may produce “sharper” pictures without the filter. I’m good with that, but when or why did this still conservative industry decide that they were cool with it too?

I’m guessing that, one, the industry saw that a large majority of the people were wanting low pass filter-less cameras, preferring sharpness over the rare possibility of moire. Second, by not including the AA filter, they must be saving money on it.

Anyway, I know I’m drifting off topic, but the D200 images did not have that “pop” I was getting with my other cameras, at least not without some post processing work. All the images here from 2005-2006 were post processed and resized as I was posting to online photo sites at that time. Unfortunately, I do not have the original files any longer. So much for digital files lasting forever, although you can blame me for this πŸ™‚

The high iso performance was also disappointing to me at that time. Anything over 1000 or 1600 seemed noisy. I had a 5D at the time and it set a new standard for high iso performance. Sure, you may say today that the 5D is not great either at high ISO’s but you’re saying it from today’s perspective. In 2005, it was considered great! And for me, it is still better than a lot of other cameras, but that’s another topic.

In hindsight, it was unfair to compare the D200 to the 5D as the 5D was using a full-frame sensor which in itself is usually an advantage for high iso capabilities and also in hindsight, the D200 wasn’t all that bad at high ISO’s.

The AF was fast, but slightly slower than I had been used to from the D1X and D2H, but I could’ve lived with it.

Today, with the power of hindsight, I guess I was expecting 2017 performance from the D200 back in 2005! πŸ™‚

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“Atlas” 2005. Nikon D200, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S Nikkor, ISO 1000. The D200 was much better at ISO’s higher than ISO 800 than I thought twelve years ago. Unfortunately, I don’t have the original files to post here.

THE D200 REVISTED

Well, I should say revisited again. And again. Let me explain.

In 2007, I got that itch and thought that maybe I was a bit too hard on the D200. I decided to get another one.

After using it for a while, and trying hard to like it, I came to the conclusion that no, I just don’t like the images I get from it. Not really sure why. Maybe because my first impressions of the camera in 2005 weren’t so good? Maybe because in 2007, it was still rather expensive? Maybe my perceived “soft” images? Perhaps I pixel-peeped too much back then?

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“Smile” in B&W. Processed the image for a filmic look. The slight softness in the original image actually helps when you want to emulate the look of film.

Again, don’t be mad for me constantly mentioning the D200’s supposed “soft images.” It’s not that they didn’t sharpen up well, they did. The images just seemed to lack bite. Even when using it with top glass such as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, the images lacked the “snap” I’d gotten from my other cameras.

I’m sure some of you are asking “Did you try shooting RAW brother?” Sure I did! I spent many nights using Nikon Capture to open those big, slow NEF (Nikon RAW) files. Anything to convince myself to keep the camera! Unfortunately for me, that didn’t help much. Yes, it was better but the time it took my slow computer to process the files were just too much to handle.

I sold the camera and never looked back. Until last month! I got a used one for around $85 shipped. Wow, a huge difference from the $1800 I paid for a new D200 in 2005. Such is digital right? This is a great time to buy these old digital classics!

I look at the D200 images I’ve taken recently and even back to the ones from 2005-2006 and even though I had to process those images to where I wanted them to be, I think now that I may have been too hard on the poor D200. Considering it’s a camera from 2005, it’s a stellar performer!

Remember I said the D200 was not the D2X but in some ways better? Well, first it’s not the D2X because the AF is not nearly as fast, at least from my experience. I used a D2X from around 2008-2010. The AF on the D200 is accurate, but the D2X is very slightly better but don’t let that scare you. On the whole, D200 will deliver in autofocus.

Where the D200 betters the D2X is in the sensor. But “better” is relative though. I mean, if you want higher resolution, the 12.4mp D2X has it. The 2mp difference is not really a big deal, but the D2X just takes sharper looking photos in my opinion. But the D200 I feel has a more flexible and forgiving sensor.

The D2X has a very particular sensor that can produce superb results but does not do very well once you go past ISO 400. Yes, I’ve gotten great pics from the D2X at ISO’s higher than 400, but if you’ve shot with a D2X you know what I mean. It’s almost like slide film but more extreme, there’s little room for negotiation with your exposures. The D200 has a gentler transition as you move up the ISO scale and has more headroom to work with.

What about the “measely” 10.2 megapixels? Come on friend, you should know by now 10 megapixels is just enough to be good for nearly anything right? πŸ™‚

Ok yes, it’s not 36 ot 42 or even 50 megapixels but seriously do you need that much? If you’re not printing for huge billboards I would safely say you really don’t. Ok, I will speak only for myself…I don’t! πŸ™‚

Yes, I still believe there is a certain “softness” in the images compared to a lot of other cameras, but they do sharpen up very well. The D200 taught me a lot about post processing. And a slightly softer image is almost always better for portraits, especially for female portraits.

In some ways, that softness helps when trying to create that mythical and oversold “film-like” image. Despite what many film afficianados might want to believe, a film image, or shall I say a 35mm film scan usually comes out softer than what you’d get from a typical digital camera but that’s where the beauty of film comes in. The rolloff from sharp to soft is usually a bit smoother and not as harsh in the film images and so too it is with the D200.

In 2005, digital photography was just coming into its own. Now in 2017, I can tell you that there are many cameras I wouldn’t have given a chance then, that I would today. Many cameras that produce images that look horrible pixel-peeped at 100 percent, but look great when printed. The D200 did NOT look horrible when pixel peeping at 100 percent and prints up beautifully. Therefore, I’d say now that it’s a winner!

Also, I stated it once but probably not enough in this article, the D200 produces beautiful colors. Yes, skin tones can still lean towards the typical Nikon warm, but for the most part images are wonderfully saturated and balanced.

THE BOTTOM LINE & THE FUTURE

The future? What future you might say! What future for a 12 year old obsolete digital camera?

Well, I look forward to using the D200 a lot more and with the power of hindsight and experience, I can appreciate this camera much more than I did back in 2005 or 2007.

The Nikon D200 is a Camera Legend that upped the game for cameras in the semi-pro/enthusiast category. It was loved by many as well as criticized (rather unfairly) by many others (myself included).

So let me make a public apology to the D200…D200, my friend, I was too harsh on you. I’m sorry if I wronged you. Third time is the charm and I’ll make it up to you! πŸ™‚

In hindsight, the D200 is a very complete package that is capable of shooting almost anything you might want it to. And in today’s world, it’s a bargain of a powerhouse camera for what you pay for it.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The D200 fortunately is plentiful on the used market and prices have been trending from around $90-150 with an average of around $120.

Please buy from our affiliates through our links and support Camera Legend so we can continue bringing you more of your favorite superstar as well as forgotten Camera Legend cameras! Thank you.

***NEW CAMERA ALERT***

So you say you’re not interested in oldies like the D200? You want the latest and greatest? Well, the Sony a7R III Mirrorless Digital Camera BodyΒ is here!! This 42.4mp monster has it all…10fps, 5 axis optical stabilization, ultra high resolution 4K video? Heck man this will probably take over the Nikon D850 as the hottest camera out right now! It’s probably going to be sold out, but if you want the chance to be one of the first on the streets with one, please click on the link above to pre-order this Sony mega-monster camera!

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Photo Of The Day: “Lost”

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“I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see” -John Newton. I’m not particularly religious, but I do think Amazing Grace is an amazing song. Shot with a Zenza Bronica S2A, 75mm f/2.8 Nikkor-P, Fuji Neopan 400 developed in T-Max developer.

Black & White Portraits

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“The Tsingtao Boy” 2009. Canon F-1N, 50mm f/1.4 FD lens, Tri-X. Chinatown, NYC.

While I do love color photography, there’s just something different about black and white photography that really endears me to it. And when you combine b&w with people (or animals!), that really takes it to another level for me.

These are just some b&w images taken over the years. Like I’ve said before, sometimes I do want to remind myself that I love shooting almost as much as I love cameras…I think! These are also images from cameras I am planning to review for you, cameras like the Leica M8 and the Canon F-1N, which is one of my favorite Canon bodies ever, past or present.

It seems almost unbelievable to me that it has taken this long, but after two weeks I’m finally getting my main working computer back today! As I mentioned before, this really set me back as far as content for this website is concerned and I’m just beginning to catch up. Thanks to those who continue to visit and I do appreciate your time and comments.

This is admittedly going to be a busy week and writing a blog with any kind of content takes a lot of time. Even my shortest article takes me almost half a day. I admire those who can do this consistently on a daily basis, I know I can’t!

Hope you all have a good short week in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA.

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“Man In The Middle” 2011. Canon Powershot G10, Paranaque, Philippines.

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“Imported From The Past” 2011. Nikon F4s, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS. The great Louis Mendes stands out like an icon from the past with his old school Speed Graphic and sharp, retro outfits.

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“Vimeo” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. I was buying a lens from this man and I took this shot while testing it. I found out a couple of years later that he is apparently one of the founders of the video sharing site Vimeo!

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“The Competition” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Sometimes facial expression tells you everything!

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“Time Will Not Wait” 2011. Leica M8, 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon. Koh Samui, Thailand.

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“Brother Blues” 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Washington Square Park, NYC.

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“My Door Is Open” 2011. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Nonthaburi, Thailand.

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“The Godfather Of Bangkok” 2011. Minolta CLE, 40mm f/2 Summicron-M, Tri-X. A scene from a restaurant on the side streets of Bangkok, Thailand. With one hand on his meal, the other hand reaches for the plate before anyone else could get to it first. Don’t mess with the Godfather of Bangkok! πŸ™‚

A couple of my favorite portraits from the selection above were done with Sigma lenses. Our affiliate and friends at Adorama is offering some incredible savings on SIGMA lenses which only runs through 11/30/15 so if you wanted to pick up some of those super sharp “ART” lenses, this is a good time to do it! And if you order within a certain time, they make every effort to ship same day, which is a great benefit to buying from Adorama versus the competition.


 

Flashback Friday: The Nikon EM

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“The Nikon EM” 2015. Nikon’s smallest, lightest, and cheapest 35mm SLR from 1979 seen here with the 50mm f/1.8 Series E lens, which is a great match for the camera.

The Nikon EM is a 35mm SLR introduced by Nikon Corporation in 1979. It was at the time, considered the smallest SLR Nikon had ever produced, and also the cheapest.

The camera was supposedly meant to be marketed to beginners and women in particular, but it wasn’t a hit for either targets. Apparently, many women avoided it with the belief that Nikon’s position of selling them an “easy to use” camera was sexist and insulted their intelligence. You got to remember, this was the late 70’s early 80’s! πŸ™‚

In addition, it alienated some hard core Nikon users who felt the lower quality build of the EM was a sign of bad things to come, especially for a company known for their tough and heavy duty professional cameras.

The Nikon EM is basically an entry-level camera. It relies on two S76/A76 or one 1/3N battery. The camera features aperture priority only camera with no full manual mode. However, it does have something lacking on many Pro cameras and that is an emergency 1/90 mechanical shutter which can be called upon in case of battery failure.

With the EM, Nikon also introduced a set of lenses that matches the EM’s position for price and lowered quality. These lenses were called the “E Series” lenses. While lower priced than Nikon’s AI or AIS equivalent lenses, these E series lenses have developed Β cult following for their price to performance ratio.

I have used the Series E 50mm f/1.8 and the 75-150mm f/3.5 zoom and they are both excellent lenses, optically anyway.

While there is nothing particularly special about the EM, I believe that time has helped the EM to achieve a “cute” status when people think of it. I mean, even for me, when I thought of what to profile tonight, the Nikon EM came to mind and I said…oh yeah, that cute little Nikon from the 80s πŸ™‚

IN THE HAND

Despite the negatives, when you actually use the EM, it feels nice in the hand. Small,Β light yet adequately solid. This is a Nikon that you wouldn’t mind carrying around all day.

And while Aperture Priority may seem limiting, it is in fact the mode that seems to be preferred by most photographers. The fact that it has no manual override, well that I don’t like.

If the camera is too small for you, you can “bulk it up” by using the MD-14 motor drive which not only makes the camera grippier, but also has the added benefit of being about to do about 3.2 frames per second.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE EM

Cameras, like music, are objects that have the very good ability to bring you back to another time in your life.

I remember in 1981, as a kid, my Mom’s brother came from overseas with a couple of friends. They went downtown and came back with a camera, the Nikon EM. I believe it was one of my first encounters with a Nikon camera. My very first Nikon experience actually was being in Rockefeller Center in NYC and seeing this huge Nikon telephoto/telescope which was a 2000mm f/11 Cassegrain telescope. Same as the one being sold in this eBay auction.

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BOTTOM LINE

The Nikon name evokes powerfully passionate emotions from photographers and even those who don’t know cameras, they know the Nikon name. It was, is, and probably will always be one of the greatest names in photography.

And while the Nikon EM is not the best representative of a classic manual Nikon SLR, it is a Nikon nonetheless, an interesting one, and perfectly usable in capable hands.

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“David & Goliath” 2015. The Nikon EM on the left shown for size with brute of the Nikon family, the F4s. Sorry for the poor quality photo. I didn’t feel like dragging out the studio lights tonight πŸ™‚

Prices on the EM go anywhere from $10-40 and don’t pay any more than that.

The Nikon EM itself may never be a Camera Legend, but it is an interesting tidbit, and time capsule into Nikon’s direction going into the 1980’s.




Some Film Images Part II

I had so much fun going down memory lane last night, I decided to do it again, one more night. This time the focus is on people and portraits. Back to reviewing cameras soon, I promise πŸ™‚

Again, captioned with these images are equipment that I have profiled or am planning to profile. Most of the gear I no longer have, except for the negatives and memories I have of them.

And again, while I love reviewing equipment, I love the equipment even more if it helps me take a decent pic!

Also as mentioned in the last article, a lot of these photos were posted for photo sharing sites long before I started blogging on WordPress. As such, some were resized much smaller than I’d like, but it would take me forever to locate the originals and work on them again. I thank you kindly for taking a look.

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“Separate Your Colors” 2011. Contax T3, Fuji Reala. Manila, Philippines.

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“The NWA” 1990. Minolta X-700, miscellaneous brand 80-200mm. No this is not Dr. Dre and the “West Coast” NWA. This is “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the original NWA πŸ™‚

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“The Young & The Restless” 1988. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. Los Angeles, California. I was at the Farmer’s Market in L.A. and checking out magazines at a newsstand when I spotted two (then) very popular soap opera stars, Tracey E. Bregman and Doug Davidson, who were also checking out magazines. They must have been on a break from their show which was being filmed at CBS Studios nearby. I asked them for a photo and they graciously obliged. I was most impressed that they had no movie star “issues” and smiled for a geeky teenager with a camera πŸ™‚

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“The Gentle Giant” 2011. Nikon F4s, 28mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160. I ran into NYC icon Louis Mendes, a photographer well known for his old school Speed Graphic camera and sharp retro outfits. Lou takes unique Polaroid portraits and has made a living and a legend out of it. I’ve bumped into Mr. Mendes a few times over the years and he has always been a willing a gracious subject for my cameras. Thanks Lou!

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“Bangkok Bride II” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Native New Yorker” 2015. Leica M4P, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in D76. NYC is a melting pot of cultures. No matter where you come from, you can quickly transform into a New Yorker!