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D90 vs D200

Robert Pierrard , Oct 18, 2010; 06:55 p.m.

I'm interested in comments and suggestions from people who've used either (or preferably both) a Nikon D90 and D200, both of which I'm considering for my first DSLR.

Personally I plan to do a lot of landscape photography with a long telephoto, as well as low light shots (I know the D90 is very good for those) with standard and wide lenses, and some long exposures and macros (I plan to get the reverse ring setup for those).

If there are any extra details I should provide, please ask :)

Thanks for your help!


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Frank Field , Oct 18, 2010; 07:30 p.m.

I have been using a pair of D200 bodies for about 3.5 years now and do primarily landscape photography. Much of my work is at focal lengths of 35 to 200 mm. I have never been a huge fan of very wide angles for landscape photography so I do not feel pinched by using a DX-sized sensor and, in fact, prefer the added "reach" provided by the cropped frame sensor. As a landscape photographer, much work is done in the damper early and late hours of the day so I appreciate the moisture sealing in the D200. With depth of field a key priority for landscape work, one really does not want to go beyond a 10-12 MPixel DX-format sensor. Diffraction limits start to set in beyond f/11, I find f/13 to be a practical working limit and find that losses due to diffraction at f/16 tend to cancel out any advantage from added depth of field. Situation only gets worse if one opts for a camera with more pixels on the same size sensor (e.g., D7000). Most of my shooting is done at ISO 100 or 200 from a tripod; I will occasionally shoot hand-held at ISO 400. Noise performance of the D200 is OK at these ISOs while it starts to become quite noticeable at ISO 800. The D200 features mirror lock-up; I can't imagine doing serious landscape work, especially with longer lenses without this feature. Lastly, the D200 has the older style (~250 kPixel) monitor while newer bodies are more like 800 kPixel. Not enough resolution to judge critically focus accuracy tho fine for overall composition and display of three channel histogram data.

I have only thought of two features missing from the D200 that I would like to have: live view (for use as a focusing aid when doing macro work) and the ability to fine-tune autofocus. (The D700 has both of these features.) As such, I have not been tempted to upgrade to the D300 tho that would be my current DX-body of choice if I were to make a first purchase today.

Both of my D200 bodies have been trouble-free - one was purchased new and the other used. One now has 30k - 40k shutter clicks.

I don't have personal experience with the D90 tho it clearly has been a popular advanced amateur body. Data at dxomark.com suggest that it is the best performing DX-format sensor in Nikon's line (best in terms of noise performance, slightly beating the D300). I would suggest you check closely for features like mirror lock-up.

I have found a working 'kit' of one D200 with a 17-55mm f/2.8 and a second D200 with an 80-200mm f/2.8 meets most of my needs, keeps the 'kit' fairly simple and maximizes interchangeability of accessories. The lenses spend about 90% of their time on one body and I've had much less challenges with dust on the sensor since I minimized lens changes in the field.

All the above comments are from someone who primarily does landscape work. I know that would have different criteria and evaluation if I did distinctly different types of photography (e.g., weddings, etc.).


Allan Armstrong , Oct 18, 2010; 07:40 p.m.

I have no personal experience with a D200 but believe that I have heard that the D90 image quality is better and high ISO.
Regarding the D90, I have one and it is a fine camera. It's value will likely plummet as the D7000 is hitting the market. Once Nikon sells their existing stocks, the used price could drop further. If you can wait 1-2 months more, you might get a better price.

Joseph Wisniewski , Oct 18, 2010; 08:02 p.m.

Why a D90 is better than a D200...

  • Liveview, the best way to focus a macro.
  • Better low light performance, and not just a little better, I'd estimate about two whole stops.
  • It goes about twice as long as a D200 on a fully charged battery.

Why a D200 is better than a D90...

  • Can meter with old manual focus lenses, like those $100-200 55mm f2.8 Ai-S Micro-Nikkors that you can find at KEH or the bay.
  • Can meter with a reversed lens, a PB-4 bellows, a microscope, pretty much anything.
  • Mirror lockup, a great way of reducing vibration on macro and long telephoto shots.
  • More rugged than a D90.

Dave Wilson , Oct 18, 2010; 08:25 p.m.

Frank, I'm about 20 months and several thousand exposures into a pair of D200s I bought new at a great price. Those too were my first rip into digital, I mostly use 6x6 format and black and white, so there's definitely been a learning curve. I really don't have one complaint about them, but I'm not a high ISO shooter. I hang mostly around 100-400 and use 800 with NR on maximum. I post in PS Elements 6 or 8 depending on which computer, shoot mostly in RAW but do use the JPEGS which are really pretty decent for quick stuff. I do use some older lenses so those bodies work out for me and I have extra batteries charged so if one craps out I'm gtg. I tend to bang my stuff around so I prefer a more durable machine. I like the mirror LU and the set up of non-cpu lenses in the menu for the older lenses and metering. But, it's an outdated machine, so, you have to take that into consideration.

David Haas , Oct 18, 2010; 08:32 p.m.

D200 - nice camera - I have 2 that I got for a song new a couple of years ago. I also have D300's and a D700. I grabbed my D200 yesterday and did a complete senior portrait session with it.

Results - every bit as good as with my D700. ISO 100 - using an sb800 for fill and effect.

D200 vs D90 -
Compact flash vs SD
Metal body vs plastic
150k shutter rating vs 100k
I can get usable images up to ISO 2400 with my D200 - and some creative noise reduction.


Peter Hamm , Oct 18, 2010; 09:23 p.m.

Low light? Get the D90. It's FANTASTIC in low light. And YEARS newer than the D200...

ross b , Oct 18, 2010; 11:53 p.m.

The D90 has a higher dynamic range which is important to landscape photographers. The D200 has ISO 100 which is very helpful for slower shutter speeds in the case of showing water movement and such. The D200 can only be had as a used camera and the D90 is available new currently for $799.00 at BHPhoto. They are both good camera's but I would go for a new camera with warranty if I had a choice.

Eric Arnold , Oct 19, 2010; 12:13 a.m.

if you plan on shooting above ISO 800, the D200 doesn't make a whole lot of sense at this point. but at base ISO, it's certainly "good enough." i'd personally go for a d90 if i were you, since the low-light ability is one whole generation better.

Dave Lee , Oct 19, 2010; 01:24 a.m.

The D200 is a pretty old camera by now, but still at ISO 100 it does produce nice clean files. That being said the D90 has a huge list of improvements, namely high ISO performance, a gorgeous rear LCD screen, Live View, video, and just plain better image quality overall. I'd go for a D90 over the D200 in a heartbeat.

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