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Nikon Digital Camera Series
   
Nikon D2X vs. The Nikon D200 - Which Camera is Best for Me?
© Darrell Young  
 

The Nikon D2X is a "flagship" camera of the Nikon Corporation. It has a feature set like no other, and is fast and powerful. But, since the introduction of the Nikon D200, which seems like Nikon's idea of a mini-D2X, some are questioning which camera would be best for them.

If I were considering the purchase of a Nikon D2X® vs. a Nikon D200®, I'd be in a quandry. Unless I were a hardcore professional, making a living with my camera and in the worst of shooting circumstances, the D200's feature set makes it a contender for professional and advanced amateur users.

The cameras are similar and different at the same time. How do I know which one is best for me? Well, that is a personal decision, and at the higher cost of digital cameras, not an insignificant one. It is good advice to think carefully about your needs AND wants.

This article, along with our Nikon D200 Detailed Preview found here, will help you make important purchase decisions. Plus, a very Detailed Review of the Nikon D2X is found here.

Here are a few more factors to consider.

COST

This is a major concern for most. The D200 is less than half the cost of the D2X, so that alone may be an overriding factor. Either camera is by no means cheap, though. A person who is interested in a D200 could probably buy a D2X if they really wanted to, especially if that person is a professional. The List price of a Nikon D2x is $4995.00 USD, while for the D200 it's $1999.95 USD.

But, a strong factor to consider is that one must also have some nice lenses. If you already have excellent lenses, then by all means, go for the D2X. But, if your lens selection is not up to par, you might want to consider the fact that the extra money it will cost to buy the D2X, could, instead, be applied to the purchase of a Nikkor lens or two. In my opinion, the lens is a far more important factor in image quality than the camera body. Would it be better for some to buy the D200 and a quality lens or two, instead of just buying the D2X and using cheap lenses? I think I'd go for the better lenses. You decide!

IMAGE SIZE

The D2X and D200 are relatively close in image size. It is very clear that either camera can make really BIG enlargements. If one is shooting for a magazine, either camera will be able to make a 300 dpi double-truck (two-page spread) image with very little enlargement, or a cover shot with no enlargement.

Let's look at the size of the images created by both cameras. See the chart below:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
Pixels
4288 x 2848
3872 x 2592
Megapixels (Effective)
12.2 mp
10.2 mp
Image Size @ 300 dpi
9 x 14 inches
8 x 12 inches
100% Enlargement
18 x 28 inches
16 x 24 inches
200% Enlargement
27 x 42 inches
24 x 36 inches
TIFF Image Sizes in 8-Bit
35.5 mb
28.7 mb
TIFF Image Sizes in 16-Bit
71.6 mb
57.4 mb
NEF (RAW) Image Size Compressed
11 mb
7.9 mb
NEF (RAW) Image Size Uncompressed
20 mb
15.8 mb

Stock agencies have recently been accepting digital images from users with an 11-12 megapixel camera. The D2x crosses that line, while the D200 is about 1/2 megapixel under. Is this a problem? Time will tell. But, in any case, the D200 could easily meet the requirements of stock agencies with only a tiny bit of enlargement. The D2X meets it with no enlargement.

For advanced amateurs, the D200 is probably all the camera they'll need for enlargements up to at least the 16x20 inch range. The D2X has a couple of extra megapixels, so it can be enlarged somewhat more. Both cameras can clearly provide high-quality images that will work for nearly anything a small format camera is required to do, and even encroaches on the medium format range!

CAMERA SPEED

Both the D200 and D2x are fast cameras. Either camera can shoot at 5-frames per second, which will usually cover most any event well. The D2x has an edge in the cropped mode at 8-frames per second, but, unless you are shooting car races or airshows, you may not need the extra speed.

Startup time on the D2x or the D200 is basically instantaneous, so you can turn the cameras on and GO immediately. Here is a chart comparing the speeds of the two cameras side-by side:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
Startup Time
Instant
Instant
Image Capture Speed
5 or 8 fps
5 fps
Shutter Delay
37 ms
50 ms
Mirror Blackout Time
80 ms
105 ms
Shutter Speeds
30 sec to 1/8000th sec
30 sec to 1/8000th sec
Autofocus Speed
CAM-2000 (Fastest)
CAM-1000 (Fast)

On all the above specs the D2x and D200 are very similar. The Shutter Delay speed is better on the D2x, but either are so fast that the differences are imperceptible to the average person. The Mirror Blackout time is blazingly fast on both cameras also, with the D2x maintaining an slight edge. Shutter Speeds are identical.

The number following the CAM designation, such as CAM-900 (D70/D100), CAM-1000 (D200), or CAM-2000 (D2X/H) means the approximate number of contrast sensors in the autofocus module.

The Autofocus speed is an area where there could be some variance in performance. The CAM 2000 (D2x) has twice the number of sensors in it. What does this mean? Well, mostly that the D2x will perform more quickly as light levels start dropping. Using AF-S lenses, it is doubtful that most will be able to tell the difference in autofocus speed in normal light, since either CAM module will perform well there. But, when the light levels are low, the D2x will outperform in focusing the camera. Those extra sensors mean that the D2X is able to detect contrast to a lower light-level and maintain appropriate AF speeds.

Metering, exposure,and ISO sensitivity are very important concerns of all photographers. The next three sections will consider those in detail.

METERING SYSTEMS

Let's compare the Metering Modes available in each camera:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
3D Color Matrix II (With CPU and G or D Lenses)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Color Matrix II (With CPU but with non G or D Lenses)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Color Matrix (non-CPU lenses)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Yes, (EV 0 to 20)
Center-Weighted
Yes, (75/25) with 75% weight given to adjustable 6, 8, 10, or 13mm circle, or average of entire frame. (EV 0 to 20)
Yes, (75/25) with 75% weight given to adjustable 6, 8, 10, or 13mm circle. (EV 0 to 20)
Spot
Yes, 3mm diameter circle, about 2% of frame. Linked to current AF sensor with a CPU type lens. (EV 2 to 20)
Yes, 3mm diameter circle, about 2% of frame. Linked to current AF sensor with a CPU type lens. (EV 2 to 20)
Nikon calls this Metering System
TTL-full aperture exposure metering system.
Three-mode through-the-lens (TTL) exposure meter.

3D Color Matrix Metering System II is basically a database of images that the RGB color meter compares with the current image. In the D2X this database is composed of 300,000 image patterns, while the D200 contains 30,000 image patterns. Each of the entries in the database are composed of complex light, shadow, color, contrast, and distance relationships. It is unlikely that most users will attempt to take an image with a pattern that either camera has not seen before. Since the D2X is a flagship camera, Nikon has given it ten-times more image patterns in its internal database. But, with both cameras, you will get accurate "matrix" exposures in the great majority of cases.

Color Matrix II Metering System is the same as the 3D version above, except that it is made to work only with non-G or D lenses. If you are using an older AF lens with no distance measuring capability then the metering system cannot take the subject distance into account as accurately. That's why it is not called 3D.

Center-Weighted "Averaging" Meter is designed for the "traditional" photographers among us. It puts 75% of the meter's sensitivity in a circle on the viewfinder, and the rest of the frame outside the circle counts for only 25% sensitivity. The two areas are then averaged together for the final exposure. Both cameras allow you to adjust the size of the 75% sensitivity area from almost spot-level at 6mm all the way out to 13mm. On the D2x only, you can also use an even older metering method of averaging the entire frame.

Spot Metering is designed to allow the photographer to use the currently selected AF sensor area to "spot meter" a small portion of the subject. This requires the user to think about what is most important in the subject, and allows that area to be metered accurately no matter what surrounds it. Both cameras use a 3% area with the selected AF sensor as the spot meter. That means you can move the spot meter around with the thumb switch.

EXPOSURE MODES

The D2X and D200 both have similar Exposure Modes also. In fact, this has varied very little since the late 1980s in Nikon SLR cameras. If you know how to use an older Nikon's exposure modes, you'll be right at home with either camera. Here is a chart of the Exposure Modes:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
Programmed Auto with Flexible Program (P)
Yes
Yes
Shutter Priority (S)
Yes
Yes
Aperture Priority (A)
Yes
Yes
Manual (M)
Yes
Yes

Programmed Auto with Flexible Program (P) sets the camera up to make all the aperture and shutter speed decisions. It works along with the Metering Modes above to obtain an accurate exposure when you don't have time to think about it. If you would like to override the Programmed mode, you may. By turning one of the command dials you adjust either the aperture or shutter speed. When you change one, the camera adjusts the other to get an accurate exposure. This the the "Flexible Program" part of Programmed Auto mode.

Shutter Priority (S) is for times when shutter speed is the most important thing. Maybe you are trying to capture a diver at the peak of the action, and know that you must have a fast shutter to keep from blurring the picture. With Shutter Priority, you set the shutter speed, and the camera will set the aperture.

Aperture Priority (A) is designed for those who want to control the aperture most often. A nature photographer will want to control depth-of-field in a macro shot with a small aperture. A portrait photographer might want to eliminate as much background focus as possible, and so will use a large aperture. In this mode, you set the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter speed for you.

Manual (M) is for those times when you simply want full control over your camera's exposure modes. YOU set the aperture and shutter speed for each exposure and use your light meter and histogram to control exposure in a very exact way.

ISO SENSITIVITY

Both cameras give you the same ISO sensitivity range. But, the D200 seems to imply extra confidence in its ability to control noise out to the 1600 ISO level. See the ISO Range Chart below:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
ISO Sensitivity Range
100 to 800, plus HI-1(1600) and HI-2 (3200)
100 to 1600, plus HI (3200)

Since the D200 has basically the same size sensor as the D2X, and uses the same image processing hardware and software, with only slightly less megapixels, it should have an improved signal-to-noise ratio over the D2X. This allows the D200 to consider ISO 1600 as a "normal" ISO mode. Instead of having it within the special classification of HI-1 (1600 ISO) and HI-2 (3200 ISO), like with the D2X. The D200, instead, only has one HI mode, namely 3200 ISO.

So, even though there are a couple of less megapixels, the D200's image should be similar to the D2X's image, and maybe even slightly better, noise-wise, at high ISOs. This mini-D2X, uh, D200 is quite the fascinating camera!

We have considered the most important differences and similarities between the two cameras in some detail. Now let's look at a comprehensive chart that compares both camera's feature sets.

SIDE-BY-SIDE FEATURE COMPARISON CHART

The chart below is taken from Nikon's sales materials on both cameras, and reflects all part of the feature set that have similar names:

 
Nikon D2x
Nikon D200
Type of Cameras
Single Lens Reflex Digital Camera
Single Lens Reflex Digital Camera
Megapixels
Effective 12.2 mp (Total 12.84)
Effective 10.2 mp (Total 10.92)
Recorded Pixels

Normal Mode: (L) 4288x2488, (M) 3216x2135, (S) 2144x1424

High Speed Crop Mode: (L) 3216x2136, (M) 2400x1600, (S) 1600x1064

(L) 3872 x 2592
(M) 2896 x 1944
(S) 1936 x 1296
Image Sensor
CMOS (RGB)
CCD (RGB)
Sensor Size
23.7 x 15.7 mm
23.6 x 15.8 mm
ISO Sensitivity
100 to 800, and HI-1 (1600), HI-2 (3200)
100 to 1600, and HI (3200)
Storage System
NEF (12-bit compressed or uncompressed RAW), TIFF (RGB uncompressed), JPEG (Compressed 3-levels) - EXIF 2.21, DCF 2.0, and DPOF Compatible
NEF (12-bit compressed or uncompressed RAW), TIFF (RGB uncompressed), JPEG (Compressed 3-levels) - EXIF 2.21, DCF 2.0, and DPOF Compatible
Storage Media
Compact Flash (CF) Card, Types I and II
Compact Flash (CF) Card, Types I and II
Image Capture Rate (a.k.a. Shooting Modes)
S - Single Frame
CH - Continuous High
CL - Continuous Low
Self-Timer
M-UP - Mirror Up
S - Single Frame
CH - Continuous High
CL - Continuous Low
Self-Timer
M-UP - Mirror Up
Autofocus Modes
AF-S Single Frame
AF-C Continuous Frame
M-Manual
AF-S Single Frame
AF-C Continuous Frame
M-Manua
AF Area Modes
1. Single Area AF,
2. Dynamic Area AF with Focus Tracking with Lock On®,
3. Group Dynamic AF,
4. Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
1. Single Area AF,
2. Dynamic Area AFwith Focus Tracking with Lock On®,
3. Group Dynamic AF,
4. Dynamic Area AF with closest Subject Priority
White Balance
Auto
Manual
Preset
Kelvin Manual Color Setting
WB Bracketing
Auto
6-Manual Modes
Preset
Kelvin Manual Color Setting
WB Bracketing
LCD Monitor
2.5 Inch, 235,000 dot, low-temp TFT LCD with white backlight, adjustable backlight level
2.5 Inch, 235,000 dot, low-temp TFT LCD with adjustable backlight level
Interface
USB 2.0, FTP with Wireless Transmitter WT-1 /1A or WT-2/2A. Supports IEEE802.11 b & g per transmitter used, CF-Card Slot
USB 2.0, FTP and PTP/IP with Wireless Transmitter WT-3. Supports IEEE802.11 b & g, CF-Card Slot
Voice Memo
Automatic or Manual Recording. 60-seconds maximum, 1 second minimum. WAV file format.
None
Flash Sync Modes
Front Curtain Sync,
Red-Eye Reduction,
Red-Eye Reduction (with Slow Sync),
Slow Sync,
Rear-Curtain Sync
Front Curtain Sync,
Red-Eye Reduction,
Red-Eye Reduction (with Slow Sync),
Slow Sync,
Rear-Curtain Sync
Built-In Speedlight
None
Yes, Guide Number 39 @ 100 ISO
Flash Control
iTTL (CLS), D-TTL, AA, Non-TTL, Range-Priority Manual
iTTL (CLS), AA, Non-TTL, Range-Priority Manual
Depth of Field Preview
Yes
Yes
Power Source
One EN-EL4 Lithium-Ion Rechargable Battery
One EN-EL3e Lithium-Ion Rechargable Battery. MB-D200 Battery Pack available for two EN-EL3e batteries, or 6-AA sized batteries
Exposure Compensation
+/- 5 EV Steps in 1/3, 1/2, and 1 EV
+/- 5 EV Steps in 1/3, 1/2, and 1 EV
Autofocus
TTL Phase Detection, Nikon MULTI-CAM 2000 AF module. EV -1 to +19
TTL Phase Detection, Nikon MULTI-CAM 1000 AF module with AF-Assist Illuminator. EV -1 to +19
Exposure Meters
3D Color Matrix Metering II, Color Matrix Metering II, Matrix Metering, Center-weighted, Spot
3D Color Matrix Metering II, Color Matrix Metering II, Matrix Metering, Center-weighted, Spot
Viewfinder Frame Coverage and Magnification
100% @ 0.86x magnification
95% @ 0.94x magnification
Dimensions
157.5 x 149.5 x 85.5 mm
6.2 x 5.9 x 3.4 inches
147 x 113 x 74 mm
5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 inches
Weight
1070g or 2.36 lbs
830g or 1.83 lbs

CONCLUSION

This is a difficult one! Personally, I chose the Nikon D2x because I could afford it, I already had good lenses, and I like the big body and speed. I terribly miss the built-in flash, though, and had there been a D200 available a few months ago, I probably would have bought BOTH!

Ask yourself the questions at the beginning of the D200 Preview article which may help a little. I think that a non-professional photographer who wants a more powerful camera than the D70 or D50 will be served best by the D200. The extra cost of the D2X makes one think twice, since digital cameras lose their values so much faster than the old films cameras did.

If you need the absolute top-end, most megapixel, fastest Nikon available, and can afford it, the D2X will fill the bill nicely. If you are a passionate photographer who would like a smaller professional body, with a built-in flash, that's easier to carry, and costs less, well, the D200 takes the prize. With either camera you will have a well-built, weather-sealed, heavily featured professional camera. Each will take the best pictures of your life, and open up to you creative digital control that you may have never experienced before.

My photography changed and became an obsession when I bought my D2x. And, now, I own the D200 also. Hey, that's an idea...if you can't decide which, GET BOTH!

Keep on capturing time...

 
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