Big Bubbles (no troubles)

What sucks, who sucks and you suck


Nikon launched the D200 at the tail end of last year and from the specs, it was finally the DSLR I said I’d been holding out for. So I bought a D50. Eh?

I had few requirements, but unfortunately those I had were also of little appeal in the (m)ass market:

  • Decent viewfinder, rather than the tiny portholes of the D50/70.
  • Backwards compatibility with AI lenses.

    Full frame sensor, 16 megapixels and all that jazz - not bothered. Just gimme a proper view and a meter that works with secondhand glass. The D200 has these. I figured I could even sell my F80, which I only use occasionally for colour slide work or flash pics - rather poor slides, that I could happily do without scanning and archiving.

    It also has an advanced multi-segment meter, 5 fps shooting rate, metal chassis with full weathersealing and a ton of other pro features that, not being a pro (like 90% of the people who would buy one), I’d never need. And a price tag I didn’t need either. I re-examined my needs:

  • The viewfinder in the D200 was notably better than the consumer models by all accounts, but in the overall scheme reckoned to be “almost” as good as the F80’s, which in turn is still no match for an old FE. Wow, you mean I can have that for over a grand?! In fact, there are ways to adapt a DK-17M magnifying eyepiece to fit the D50 and D70, which at least mitigates their worst shortcomings - and for a lot less money.
  • My main reason for wanting AI compatibility was to use the wonderful 35/1.4 Nikkor that I had spent some time seeking out last year. It’s my best lens (no, not for the optical quality - for the characteristics) and, even via import, probably my most expensive. However, thanks to the DX sensor crop factor, it becomes more like a 50mm lens with a DOF equivalent to f/2.6, which is much less exciting. And the clincher: for less than the cost of the D200, I could buy a D50 and a brand new Sigma 30/1.4. Not to mention a third party DX wide angle zoom if necessary. I have other AI lenses, and I’d still like a 50/1.2, but again the DX metric renders them less appealing on a DSLR.
  • Weight: One area in which the D50 definitely scores over the D200 is its lighter weight - for me anyway, others often seem to rate a camera by how many inches it makes their neck droop. Here are some comparative figures:
Model Weight (g)
D200 830
D50 620
D70 680
F80 515
FE2 570
EM 460

Note that these are rough figures, although I think the D200 weight shown is without the battery - so it would be even more in practice. Of course, all that weight is a sign of the build quality - but again, I’m not a pro and I don’t expect to be wearing it while jumping out of a helicopter on to the frozen tundra at the North Pole during a blizzard and having to whack an attacking polar bear. Personally, I find that even the FE2 feels like too much of a brick to actively want to lump it around for long, whereas the cheap, insubstantial little EM is perfect for carrying anywhere. So the D50 is still at the wrong end of the graph, but at least it’s not twice as bad.

With the money saved on the D50, I’m also considering a few fripperies like a Lensbaby and a proper laser-cut pinhole body cap - yeah, quality comes at any price for me. And if I’m a digital king after a year or two, there should be some bargain offers on D200s as the herd moves on to the D250X or whatever.

Of course, you might still need a D200 to:

  • take fast action shots of your dog;
  • capture those elusive and rare sunsets;
  • check the resolution of 10MP images of crockery and compare noise handling at high ISOs when photographing woven cloth;
  • balance your huge telezooms or ego.