D90 or D200?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by wogears, May 8, 2009.

  1. So I find new D200s and refurb D90s at about the same price. I never thought I'd ask a question like this, but I'm curious to see what people say.
    The D90 has better low-light performance, an excellent screen and ~2 more meggy-pixels. The D200 is more solidly built, with weather sealing and more rugged parts. (And possibly better accutance.) I sometimes shoot in low light, occasionally hand held. I also travel and carry cameras in my saddle bags on rare occasions. So I'm a little torn. Any advice? (A D300 is too expensive. For the price of the 90/200 and a good ultrawide zoom, I could get a 300 body only.)
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    There are a number of recent threads on similar topics. E.g. http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00TF00

    However, people are getting new D200 bodies for about $600 from Best Buy. Can you get a refurb D90 for that cheap?
    Additional factors to consider: the D200 can meter with CPU-less AI/AI-S lenses while the D90 has the video mode. Do those capabilities matter? Only you can decide.
  3. Shun: Thanks for the link. I have to get better with the search engine. :)
    Refurb D90s are USD 699.00 at J&R currently, and were similarly priced at Roberts very recently. Both are reputable dealers, not Chinese scammers. :))
    Didn't know that about the unchipped lenses. Thanks very much--something to really consider.
  4. For me the metering with AIS is about the most important D200 feature. One of the reasons I chose it over the D80 two years ago. Still one needs to figure out which features mean the most to them. High ISO can be very handy also.
  5. Unless weatherproofing is important, I would choose the D90 for its superior sensor and processing power.
  6. The D80 was very close to the D200 in terms of overall image quality, however, the D90 isn't as close to the D300. Though the high ISO performance of the D90 is pretty impressive.
  7. I was considering the D90. I have a D80 at work and a D40 at home. We recently bought two D90s at work, so I was able to familiarize myself with them. However, I couldn't resist that $599 deal on the D200 at Best Buy, and that's what I went with. No regrets -- wouldn't trade it for a D90. So I'm retiring at the end of this month with a D40 and D200 at home. Sweet.
  8. "D90 isn't as close to the D300" Can you elaborate? According to the results I have seen from hundreds of actual D90 pictures and test sites like DXOMark, the two cameras give pretty much identical results.
  9. Ditto on the questioning the veracity of that claim. The D90 has the same sensor, plus upgraded processing algorithms. Multicam is a "less than" but metering deficiencies can always be overcome...
  10. You might get a used D300 for the price of a new D90. Pricings about the same here on ebay.
  11. Elliot, take a look at the dpreview D90 review. They have a side to side comparison between the RAW files from both cameras. The D300 is noticeably better.
  12. "The D300 is noticeably better."
    that's because they have slightly different internal guts--dpreview suspects the low-pass filter is different. for jpeg shooters, though, the differences in IQ are minimal, and overall, nikon did an excellent job of putting a high-performance engine in an enthusiast compact with the d90. the D300's advantages are in its other features, such as better AF system and mag-alloy chassis.
    for the OP: that's tough call. for me it would hinge on how much i shot at high ISO vs. how much the additional ruggedness of the d200 would hold up over time. i'd probably lean toward the d90 unless i felt that shooting at iso 800 max was suitable. still, a new d200 for $600 is a very good deal.
  13. Stephen:
    Checked eBay. D300s selling used, no warranty (some w/o batteries, etc) for about USD 1000 incl shipping.
  14. The D90 has a real advantage in high ISO performance over the D200, a better rear LCD, video (for those who are impressed by that sort of feature on a dSLR, I'm not), and better zoom controls for playback on the LCD. Not to mention the D90 is lighter weight and slightly smaller. As long as the D200 is available brand new for $599 at BB, it's got that advantage. But until supplies dry out, and it could be any day now, $699 for a refurbished D90 is a pretty good deal too. If I were starting from scratch and didn't care at all about using manual (non-CPU) lenses on my camera, I'd go for the D90.
  15. J&R is sold out on refurb D90s. My guess is that there will be more available at similar prices soon. If two dealers do that price, others will have to follow. I'm sort'a leaning that way right now...
  16. A brand new D200 versus a refurb D90. There is no choice, the D200 and save an extra 100.00. Weather resistent body, metal, versus refurbed plastic. Not to mention more fully functional lenses. The button setup on the D200 is excellent as well. Many of the features that are commonly used have their own button, instead of having to fumble through menus looking for these options.
  17. "There is no choice"
    i love the absolute certainty of this comment. no one can argue that the d200 isn't worth that price on build quality/ergonomics/button layout/metering/lens compatibility alone. however, it's old tech, which is kind of like having the best 8-track player in the world--in 1999.
    if one plans to shoot at anything above ISO 800, you get a full stop+ of better noise control with a d90. for many, that alone would be enough reason for a choice. there's a huge difference between usable ISO 800 and usable ISO 1600 in available-light shooting.
    also, i don't think the plastic is what gets "refurbed." technically a referb means restored to factory spec, which implies internal parts replacement.
  18. Eric, you're comparing a D200 in 2009 to having an 8-track player in 1999? I'm sorry but I just don't get that comparison at all. Less than a year ago you were stating the D200 was a pro camera, how did you suddenly go from that to lumping it in with an 8-track player? It just doesn't wash.
  19. I think I would want to know what the warranty on the D90 is. The camera has already been refurbished which does not sound like it has lived it's short life very well so far. It does not seem like a very good investment to me. I would purchase a new D5000 over a used D90. The D90/D5000 has a compressed NEF file which I would want to investigate before purchasing also.
  20. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    At least in my opinion, one of the most obvious no-brainers is to get the D300 over a used D2X. Yet a few individuals prefer the D2X for some reason. It is certainly not so clear cut between the D200 and D90. There are several trade offs, which have been pointed out over and over. Which features are more important will have to be up to each individual to decide.
  21. Les, I used the D200 and own a D90. Love the feeling of the D200 (D90 feels too light in my hands... a little unpleasant).
    The pros of D200 to me are: a) body, which I loved (although, carrying a full day is more fatiguing, and around your neck, it's like coleridge's albatros! :) b) Iso 100, clean, and impressive, c) loads of buttons (but D90 makes it easy too, click and spin the control wheel)
    D90: a) impressive high iso performance. While I hate to go over 400 (where even pixel peeping the image looks gorgeous...) I have used iso3200 often and ended up with nice photos! Incredible! Iso6400 is a joke, but noise-wise, there is more than a stop in difference between the two cams, probably 1-1/2 or 2. b) LCD quality: I know, some don't find it useful but... it's still impressively nice. c) it fires 4.5 shots per second (up to 9). Less than a D200 by a hair, but still enough for many uses. d) it's Af seemed to me as good as the D200 one. e) Raw latitude: from *my* experience, quite a bit more highlights to be recovered, and ability to open the shadows with great freedom before noise becomes obtrusive.
    As to old AIS lenses, I'm sure lots would love them. Had I a full frame camera, with a large, bright viewfinder, I'd be shooting manual focus lenses all the time! But on the small dx viewfinder of the D90 (and D200), it'd be too much of a pain for me. If I need to manual focus, I turn on live view, magnify, and get focus spot on. For macro or macroish, it's really a bonus...
    Anyway... good luck with yours! :)
  22. Hi
    The AF system on the D90 is a big advancement on the D200,on that score alone I would go D90. (I have one and owned a D200)
    BTW, the files out of the D90 are equally as good as those out of the D300, if there is a difference it must be minute.
    If you have old Nikon lenses, they are a no go with the D90.
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Nikon puts their Multi-CAM 1000 AF module on four cameras (so far): D200, D80, D90, and now D5000. Since the Fuji S5 is merely a D200 transplant, it also has the Multi-CAM 1000. I understand that Nikon has made some minor improvements on the D90, but it would be very surprising that those cameras have drastically different AF performance.
    The Multi-CAM 1000 has 11 AF points but only 1 cross type in the center. AF performance indoors is somewhat limiting.
  24. I own them both the d200 & d300. The d200 has a great fell to it but at times the images lack some of the pop of the D300's. The d300 consistly produces better contrast, exposure and saturation. The d200 seems underexposed at time. Since the D90 is the little brother of the d300 I would go that route.
  25. If build quality and the ablity to meter with old Nikkors is important get the D200. For cutting edge techs and improved high ISO abilities get the D90.
  26. "Less than a year ago you were stating the D200 was a pro camera, how did you suddenly go from that to lumping it in with an 8-track player? It just doesn't wash."
    key word: was . let's not belabor this point, ok? don't get me wrong, the d200 is a high performance machine which was state of the art in its day. but technology has moved forward. that's not debatable, really.
    what is open to question is whether the OP would be better served by a new d200 or a refurbed d90. if the d200 had equivalent high-ISO performance, i'd say go for the d200 hands down. but it doesnt, so one has to weigh whether it would still be adequate for the tasks at hand.
    for $600, a new d200 is an amazing deal, considering they were $1600 three years ago. and for some shooters, that's all they'd need. but high-ISO is a big deal, all things considered--it's the main reason i upgraded from a d80 to a d300, and the main reason i'd consider plunking down $2k+ for a d700. i dont really need FF, but an extra stop of low-light ability would be great for what i shoot. for the OP, it may not be as important. but since he does mention that in his post, it could very well be.
    for me there was a huge difference between the d80 and the d300. i dont shoot low-light anymore with the d80, which was challenging, to say the least, but for daytime pics and base-ISO stuff, it still takes great images. i suspect it would be the same with the d90/d200. also, the d90 has the same LCD as the d300, which really aids composition, as you can see what you're chimping. i couldnt care less about the video feature. of course, it would be great to have high ISO, a mag-alloy body, better metering, live view, and that bigger, more detailed LCD, but then you'd be talking about a d300.
  27. Are you shooting (for pay) in the jungles of southeast Asia or the Sahara Desert?
    If not, I would get a Nikon D90.
    No one likes a large, heavy DSLR more than me, however, for amateurs I think the issue of "weather sealing" is overblown. The lensmount is the vulnerable point when shooting in rain/snow, so unless your lens(es) are weather sealed, I don't see where a weather sealed body really does any good. And, if I'm not being paid (handsomely), I'm not risking thousands of dollars of equipment to shoot in anything beyond a misting rain or snow flurries, in which any DSLR can handle anyway. I carry large zip-lock bags and rubber bands if I was ever caught unexpectedly in a downpour.
    The D200 also has the 'better' autofocus system however, again, in the hands of a non-pro or someone with very specialized needs, I don't thing the average person can tell the difference or take advantage of that incremental performance.
    The D90 wins for me due to:
    1) Newer technology 2) 1.5 to 2 stops better high ISO performance 3) CMOS sensor 4) 920,000 dot LCD 5) the D200 may have this too, but the D90 auto corrects some types of chromatic aberration 6) Everything I've read and seen describes the D90 IQ as all but indistinguishable from that of the D300 and 7) and perhaps most importantly, you can get all this in a 2009 (Nikon refurb) for only $100 to $200 more than a brand 'new' D200 which was announced/released in November 2005.
    My .02
  28. I bought a D90 a few months ago to replace my D80. The D80 had zero issues with reliability, metering etc. The D90 consistently overexposes on just about everything, I've got it set virtually all the time at minus 2/3 of a stop! It is a good camera, but I did expect better metering than this from a new camera. The D200 will (as you know) give you metering on any older manual focus lenses and the same image quality as the D80, which is still fairly good. If that isn't a real issue to you, the D90 is probably the better bet and does have slightly better image quality and is a lot better at higher ISO settings than my D80 was.
  29. Curiously, I just went through about a gazillion images in Lightroom, shot with my D70 and Olympus C5050-Z. To my total shock, only a very few were shot at over ISO 400. I admit there was also a small proportion where I should have bumped the ISO up a stop or two in order to eliminate camera shake, but still... Really gives me to wonder. I thought I was shooting at ISO 1000 or more a lot of the time, since I was in what I believed to be low light with ISO Auto enabled. I'll be gol-frakken-durned!
    So I'm still happily vacillating, but I truly appreciate the advice I've gotten. Just waiting, though, for someone to say, "Ifyou're looking for more resolution, why don't you use your 4x5?"
  30. I've had my D90 now for about a month. It does tend to blow-out the highlights a bit; to address that issue I usually set exposure compensation to -3, or just underexpose slightly (which I've always done in the past) But other than that, the camera is just great--excellent in low-light, compact and light, and extremely comfortable in my large hands.
    Technology is everything these days. And excellent high ISO performance is definitely an advantage.
  31. "Eric, you're comparing a D200 in 2009 to having an 8-track player in 1999? I'm sorry but I just don't get that comparison at all."
    sorry if this reads like a knock against a d200. it's not. we can go with cassettes vs. CDs if you prefer. it's not an exact analogy, no matter what i compare, as even old boom boxes dont become obsoleted as fast as DSLRs. the D1 and D2 series are also pro cameras, that is built to pro-spec. as good as those were at the time, with the exception of a D2x maybe, i'd take a minty d70 over any of those. or a minty d200.
    all the tech gurus essentially say the same thing: the technology keeps getting better so bodies get obsoleted every two or three years. this reached critical mass with the d300, which hit the middle of nikon's lineup like an exploding nebula. it obsoleted the d200 AND d2x in one fell swoop, armed with the same AF system as the d3 and the then unreleased d700.
    the d90 had the good fortune to immediately follow the d300. it was superior to the camera it replaced, the d80, in several key areas, significantly addressing the weaknesses of the d80--and, by extention, the d200. it would really suck, for instance, to buy a new d200 that's been on a shelf for five years, and get one with bad banding. the one area where you can really say the d200 rules over the d90 is build quality. sure, the other things may be important to folks, but that's the biggie.
    so it essentially comes down to build quality vs. high ISO. that's not a stalemate, that's endgame = high ISO wins. (unless you shoot the majority of your pics at ->ISO 400, of course or trek though rain forests on a regular basis--in which case you probably want an olympus E-3, but that's another story).
    i think there's a good reason why there's so much nostalgia for the d200; it was a damn good camera in its time, and it was built to last. unfortunately, its technology doesn't share the same fate. not that one should be embarrassed to have one, or use one, just that newer cameras can do things it can't do.
    it remains to be seen whether the d300 will be obsoleted or just merely upgraded/updated in the next couple of product cycles, but i wouldnt bet against it, seeing as that has happened to its older siblings.
  32. I think a better analogy would be a DVD versus Blu-ray. As to my earlier comment, I was referring to the D90 being a refurb and having a plastic body--not that the body was refubished. I appoligize for the confusion.
  33. VHS vs. Beta?
    Commodore 64 vs Texas Instruments Ti99?
    Windows vs XP?
    Mad Max vs. Road Warrior?
    call it whatever, but it doesnt change the objective facts--technology ages fast.
  34. As far as overexposure on the D90? I've never owned a DSLR that I didn't set to -.3 for most shots and that includes my D90. No overexposure problems on my sample.
  35. "...the D1 and D2 series are also pro cameras, that is built to pro-spec. as good as those were at the time, with the exception of a D2x maybe, i'd take a minty d70 over any of those. or a minty d200."

    You would unless you were a newspaper photographer, sports photographer rodeo photographer, etc. In these cases your D70 would be DOA in a week and you would miss more great photos than you got. The possible exception would be flash on sports at night in which case Nikon hasn't made a good camera for years so one would settle for the D70 with its 500th flash sync. Night sports with flash are pretty rare these days but what the heck.
    And that is what is wrong with these endless threads. Cameras have a purpose. The features of the D90 versus the better build quality of the D200 makes this a no-brainer IF those are the only two choices. IF Les is going to carry the camera in his saddle bags he needs a robust camera. He also needs a VR lens to help him in low light. And, of course, he needs something I NEVER hear the gear heads discuss. He need a good flash. SB-400 as a minimum and preferably the SB600. The good flash will go FAR further than some imagined difference between two good bodies in making Les a better photographer.
    How many people here really think that the good high ISO performance of the D300 era camera makes a good flash unnecessary? Any other pros out there leave the house without one?
    Food for thought. Les would take better pictures with the D40, 18-55 VR, 55-200 vr and SB600 than he would with any one of the above and any one consumer zoom with the possible exception of the 18-200 VR. But that little gem is out of his price range.
    I would much rather have a well equipped D40 or demo D60 than one body and one lens on either the d200 or d90. He can always upgrade bodies later. Les can get a D60 with 18-55 VR and 55-200 VR, 8 GB card, extra battery and other stuff, in a Nikon demo with a one year warranty from Cameta for $639.00. That is a good compromise for him. If he is really smart he will add an SB400 ($149.00) or even better an SB600 ($239.00) and learns how to use them propery. This rig will FAR out-perform either the D200 or D90 with one compromise cheap zoom. Then on the "rare" occurance he carries the camera in his saddle bags just be sure it is padded well.
    I think it is time we seriously add the flash in any discussion of "what body to buy". The built in flashes are only fit for emergency use. Every photographer I have known who has heeded the good advice to invest in a good flash and then mastered its use has become a FAR happier and far better photographer. Yea I know...you hardly ever use flash anyway....we can tell.
  36. Rick: Well thought-out post. I do need to clarify a few things. I totally agree about the Dx series for heavy, daily use. I don't need anything like that. I DO have several lenses, incl. the Tamron 17-50 2.8 and the (muchly underrated) 55-200 VR Nikkor. I also have a 50 1.4 which helps a lot in low light.
    When I shot weddings, I had a Vivitar 285 and 283 with a slave trigger. I used a good flash bracket and this huge diffuser thingie that Vivitar made. Most of my indoor stuff these days tends to be in historic buildings where flash is strictly forbidden. Yes, I have a good tripod--Bogen 3001 with a Manfrotto ballhead. I intend to get an SB600 for outdoor fill.
    Threads like this do get a bit long at times, but they remain short compared to Mac vs Windows vs Linux :) Or film vs digital, Lord help us. This one has given me some generally useful information. I did not know that the D200 could meter with unchipped AI lenses. I could use a 400mm once in a while. Don't want to pay for a new Nikkor or Sigma APO, but older AIs are often available at very low prices.
    Most likely--knowing me--I will procrastinate until the D200 supply runs out. :) And the D700x will be out, which means the D700 price will... Oh hell, that sounds like the site that rhymes with 'hee-hee it's blue'.
  37. Although I love to talk about changing bodies, I don't think it is as important to good photography. I think quality glass makes more impact for the most part, with the exeption of high ISO. Even still you could send a National Geographic photographer out with a 6mp camera from 5 years ago and me with a D3 and I can guarantee you he will shoot better images. As my photography teacher once said the camera is irrelevant, it's the eye that takes the photo. For the most part that is very true. That still doesn't mean I won't think up reason why I need a new body every few years or so.
  38. Get both. I got the D200 from best buy, and just recently got the wife a refurb D90 from J&R. I must have been one of the lucky ones to get that, as they went quick.
  39. Brian, well said! ESPECIALLY the part "That still doesn't mean I won't think up reason why I need a new body every few years or so."
  40. Hank: If I had the money for both, I'd get a D300 instead, but I don't, so I can't... :)
    Brian: It's absolutely true that the photographer takes the picture. BUT, if you don't have sufficient resolution, you can't use the picture for a large print. Even if you are a great photographer with an incredible eye, you really can't go beyond 11x14 from 6MP on a detailed landscape or architectural shot. Even with Qimage.
  41. I really don't think you are going to go wrong with either. The D90 is basically the one you want if you are shooting high ISO. If not, then there are good arguements for either. I love the feel of my D200, and loving the photos it has given me. I haven't shot the D90 enough yet to have a true opinion. I don't think your final decision will be bad.. heck, your shooting Nikon baby :)
  42. I went throught the same camera evaluation in November. The D200 setup is more aligned with a pro body, but it's heavy. Especially when you add the vertical grip. The D90 configuration took a little getting used to, but I now like it. Ken Rockwell's article with example photos solidified my decision. With the exception of not having weather sealing and a magnesium body, the D90 is a better camera. I get approximately 1500 photos per battery charge with my D90 and have excellent image quality. I rarely have poorly exposed images. Buy the D90 and a good prime, you won't regret it.

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