Good photo gear lasts

Though I have a couple of newer cameras, I still sometimes use a Nikon D200 that I bought used a decade ago. It was a good camera then, and it’s a good camera now.

More modern DSLR bodies offer advantages, sure, like higher usable ISO speeds and higher resolution. But this old 10-megapixel camera could capture fine images when it was new — and it still can. Outdoors in daylight (when I tend to take most of my pictures), the D200 pumps out terrific images with plenty of resolution to fill a magazine page or computer screen or wall-size print. It can do just fine in typical home lighting, too, especially with a reasonably fast lens attached, or a more modern one with image stabilization.

I’ve been using a more up-to-date Nikon D5200 for my daily newspaper work for a couple of years now. It’s slightly lighter than the D200, and its 24-megapixel sensor allows me to crop poorly framed images. But it requires AF-S lenses, ones that have focusing motors built in.

The D200 has a focusing motor built into the body, so it works with both the AF-S lenses and with older Nikon autofocus lenses that lack a built-in focus motor. Even better, the D200 works 100 percent with any Nikon-compatible lens all the way back to manual-focus AI lenses that were introduced in 1977. I have a few of those (I’ve owned my 300mm since 1983), and they still come in handy in some situations. The newer but more basic D5200 can mount old AI lenses, but the metering system doesn’t work. The D200 meters perfectly with AI lenses.

Enthusiasts rave about how the Nikon Df was specifically built to work with AI lenses. The Df sells new for close to $3,000, used for $1,600 or more. I bought my D200 refurbished 10 years ago for $300. I’ve recently seen used D200 bodies sell for less than $100. The Df has a full-frame 16-megapixel sensor, so can’t be compared directly to the smaller DX sensor in the D200. But the price puts the Df plain out of reach for me, a working journalist. And the D200 produces images more than big enough for online, newspaper or magazine use.

As long as my D200 keeps on ticking, I plan to keep using it to capture images of the world around me.

This is my Nikon D200, coupled with a 1970s-era Nikon AI lens I bought in the 1980s.

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