I’m a photography journalist, so I should always have the latest kit, wouldn’t you say? So my 2015 Nikon D7200 was definitely starting to look like a bit of a dinosaur. It’s like all the BAD THINGS in a modern camera rolled into one.
It was APS-C when the world is in love with full frame, it’s a DSLR when everyone KNOWS mirrorless is the future. It didn’t shoot 4K, it didn’t have on-sensor phase detect AF and it didn’t even have a tilting screen. How could it be any WORSE?
I had no end of reasons to trade in my D7200, all of them sound, technical justifications for dumping a camera that had outlived its time.
So why do I feel so bad today? And why isn’t it getting any better?
Sometimes things get worse not better
I can tell you what I miss, and what I realize – too late – was rather good. And I can also say something about why cameras are not just sensors, processors and algorithms, but physical extensions of yourself that you use to create things that you care about.
So first, the body. DSLRs of the D7200’s era are rounded balloons of things. They are not exactly elegant, but they fit your hand like nothing else. Mirrorless cameras are superior in everything you could possibly measure (so please don't email me), but they are small, hard dense things that sometimes fit the human hand OK but it’s, like, not actually their job, OK?
I can still feel the D7200 in my hand like a phantom limb, and there’s no mirrorless camera I’ve used since that feels quite like it.
OK, so now the viewfinder. I know all the arguments against optical ‘finders and how the latest EVFs are SO GOOD that it’s like the same thing. Well, it’s not. An EVF is a digital display, a DSLR viewfinder is seeing things with your eyes. Well, one eye, obviously, but you know what I mean.
Right, so now the sensor. 24MP was state of the art when the D7200 was first released… and it turns it out it’s not so far off that now. I tend not to shoot at ultra-high ISOs, or at high frame rates, so the D7200 would actually do would do what I need today perfectly well. (Or it would, if I hadn’t sold it.)
No, it doesn’t do 4K video. And its live view AF is slower than anything you can imagine. But you know what? If I want to shoot video, I’ve got an iPhone, a DJI Pocket 2, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 III with the best stabilization I’ve yet seen in an interchangeable lens camera, a Sony A7R II which can do 4K in Super35 mode, and a Fujifilm X-S10 which ticks more boxes than you knew there were boxes… I’m OK for 4K.
What I’m not OK for is a camera I love to pick up and handle and shoot with, because I sold it.
Is there a message?
For some folk, a camera is a tool, like a microwave oven or a set-top box. For others (including me), a physical object like a camera has a form and a design and an empathic appeal outside of what it actually does.
It turns out, with hindsight, that the Nikon D7200 is/was a great camera that for many photographers (including me) would be as relevant and as useful and as usable and as endearing today as it was back then.
So if you find a camera that makes you feel that way, don’t do what I did. Don’t sell it.