Travels with a D200

I've had my trusty Nikon D200 for nearly five years.  It's taken close to 45,000 images (some of them quite good). It's clocked up some 120,000 airmiles. It's got a few scratches on the body and a speck or two on the sensor.  It's time it went back to Nikon for a little tlc, and to get set up for a few more years of travel.

My D200 wasn't my first foray into digital photography.  I'd already been using both a Fuji compact and Nikon D70 for a couple of years, but the D200 was a big stepping stone.  It was, at the time at least, a significant investment but more importantly it marked my final  transition from film. When I collected my D200, I traded in a big bag of film-based kit.  I had real qualms about getting rid of my film camera collection, but given that it's main purpose over the previous couple of years had been occupying cupboard space and gathering dust it was undoubtedly the right thing to do.

So where has the D200 been to while it's been in my camera bag. 

Port Lockroy, Antarctica
For several years it was my main camera, with the D70 lurking in the bottom of the bag as a spare.  During this time it got as far south as the Antarctic, north to Tromso, east to Beijing and west to Seattle.  It's role as main camera meant that it made it into my bag on any trip where I thought there were likely to be interesting photo opportunities - but it did miss out on quite a few short trips, and on work trips, where the itinerary fitted the 'plane-hotel-plane' model.

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands

In early 2010, having been top dog in my camera bag for two years, the D200 acquired a serious rival, a D700.  This addition made a big change in how the D200 got used, but it didn't mean that it got relegated to being just a spare.  While I was carrying the D70 and the D200, I tended to regard the D70 as little more than a (mosty unused) backup.  I carried the D70 round the Falkland Islands in 2009 simply because I could run it on standard AA batteries if I wound up somewhere where I couldn't charge the normal batteries, but hardly used it. This wasn't the fate that has met the D200.

Polar Bears, Svalbard
With the arrival of the D700, the two cameras became a complementary pair.  It helped that they used the same memory cards and the same batteries, but the real bonus was that they had different sensors. The D200 and D70 have small (DX in Nikon-speak) sensors making them great with longer lenses, but less versatile with short, wide-angle lenses.  The D700 has a full-frame (FX in Nikon) sensor, which gives fantastic image quality in all light conditions and great wide-angle images but doesn't have quite the same reach as the D200.  This pairing means that I've moved to the approach, on most days at least, of trying to figure what I'm going to be during the day, and setting up each camera with an appropriate lens for the day.  Usually this has meant putting a longer lens on the D200, and a wide-angle zoom on the D700.  This double act meant that I can easily swap between long and wide-angle shooting (and back again) without needing swap lenses in the back of a dusty landrover, or in a bobbing zodiac, meaning both faster change-overs and minimising the sensor muck-collecting opportunities.  This means that the D200 can still claim some of the most memorable images in my recent collections - from Svalbard, South Georgia and Sri Lanka.
King Penguins, South Georgia

As the D200 (certainly the most heavily used camera I've owned) has started to get longer in the tooth, I started to think about whether it's time to replace it and, if so, with what.  Nikon have recently launched the D800, and there are D600 rumours, both with FX sensors, and the D7000 (with a DX sensor) has has wonderful reviews.  Any of these would be great company for the D700.  I've found, since I've been carrying both D200 and D700, that this DX/FX combination is an ideal one for the mix of wildlife and landscape photography I like to do. 

In the short term at least, I think I'll be hanging on to the D200.  Might revisit the decision when it reaches 100,000 frames.

All the images in this post were taken with my D200, except one.

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