Nikon D2x 14 years later. Is it still relevant? A top pro camera for under $200.

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Nikon D2x first hit the stores in february 2005 after a very long delay. People were waiting for a high-resolution camera ever since the lower-resolution, high-speed model, the D2h had come out almost a year earlier. It received rave reviews and was praised for image quality (the new APS-C CMOS imager was advertised to be able to resolve detail several times better than the human eye – 90 cycles per millimeter), improved handling and outstanding battery life (over 2000 shots without and 800 with VR), and at the time the best  LCD screen in the world with 2.5 inches and 235k pixels. Click here to see the original brochure.

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And then there was the price – it cost over $5000. NASA took it into space many times and it was also extremely popular with news agencies, which appreciated the optional wireless capability. It was made kind of obsolete specifications-wise when the Nikon D200 hit the market in december of the same year, but as far as the build quality went, the D2x was far superior. By the end of its flagship DSLR lifespan, Nikon released the D2xs which carried numerous firmware tweaks and improvements, a gimmick in the viewfinder and an improved LCD. All of these (except the LCD and viewfinder of course) were later made available to the “regular” D2x users through firmware, and so for all intents and purposes both cameras have the same nice features – yay!

camera d2x dslr gear Nikon nikoncamera parts photography professional repairIf you have ever updated the firmware of a Nikon DSLR you probably noticed that it was comprised of two parts – Part A and B. This is a curious relic of the development of the digital SLR. If you look at how the cameras evolved, you’ll see that Kodak, the American company that invented and patented the digital camera, had always had a hard time catching up with the state-of-the art Japanese SLRs. They partnered-up with Nikon (and later Canon) to slap CCD imagers and electronics onto film SLR bodies and make use of their metering and auto-focus systems to build big, expensive news cameras like the Kodak DCS760 (which also got into space). Back when the Nikon D2x was being developed, and even today, this two-part heritage exists and so the firmware for the digital image processing is separate from the one controlling “traditional” photographic systems such as metering or focusing.

camera d2x dslr gear Nikon nikoncamera photography professionalThis brings me to the point where I tell you how I got my own Nikon D2x. I bought it off eBay broken, for only a little over $150. The body arrived in mint condition except for a significant impact mark on the side. A fall must’ve hit the camera very hard, as small fragment of the alloy under the prism got chipped, leaving a hole. Scary stuff. After I disassembled the camera it became obvious that the dent had torn the electronics underneath and so they had to be replaced. Luckily I found the necessary part on eBay. It was a long PCB-and-flex (PCB stands for printed circuit board) piece of electronics that starts at the top of the prism, goes under the top LCD, and ends under the main grip. It is none other but Part A – the true SLR heart of the camera! Here is a handy D2x Service Manual for those of you who need to repair their own camera.

camera d2x dslr gear Nikon nikoncamera parts photography professional repairAfter the replacement, the camera came back to life and as I started playing with it and taking test photos I noticed that the shutter release counter was off the charts with over 600 000 clicks! This couldn’t possibly be right with such a mint condition body so I must conclude that the internal shutter release counter is located within the Part A of the camera. If you look at the photo of the parts you will see another curious detail. To the right there is a tiny “improvised” PCB with red and blue wires coming out and connected further away. This is different from the part that I had replaced it with, which indicates that Nikon kept making small tweaks and improvements even after the D2x was launched.

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Today the D2x looks very outdated on paper. The imager is only 12 Mpix and it’s an APS-C sensor, which means that it is a little smaller than what is called “full frame”, or FX. The autofocus system has only 11 points, and can’t be fine-tuned. There is no live view and no video. How could it possibly compare or compete with even the cheapest entry-level DSLRs? Well… the Nikon D2x represents, to me, the purest “back to basics” way of taking photos. I admit – the camera feels sluggish by todays standards while reviewing exposures on the LCD screen or navigating through menus, and the 11 autofocus points could’ve been spread wider throughout the viewfinder.

camera d2x dslr gear Nikon nikoncamera olympus olympusom photography professional zuikoHowever, at the time of taking pictures, the camera is extremely responsive. The viewfinder is large,  beautiful and shows 100% of the scene. In your hand the camera feels rock solid. The control layout and handling are perfect – it doesn’t get any better than this. The D2x offers 5 FPS of burst speed (it does have an optional 8 FPS mode, but then it makes use of only 6.5 Mpix which limits its usability). Using the modern RAW processing software you can easily get away with shooting ISO3200. The sensation that you have using the D2x is one of reliability and freedom. If you ever miss a photo opportunity with a D2x in your hand, it will not be the camera’s fault for sure.

Should you get it? This, of course, depends. Today you can find them for under $400, or even for as little as I paid for mine – if you feel adventurous. 12 Mpix (think 4000 x 3000 pixels) will both fill a 2-page spread in a journal with crisp detail and look great on social networks or blogs. The D2x, in addition to being a piece of history,  will keep you mindful of correct exposure and framing while offering no distractions. It will probably not sync with your phone to send a picture via Snapchat but if you were looking for that, you wouldn’t have reached the end of this article. The Nikon D2x is an elegant tool for more… civilized times.

At the end of this page there are four full-size straight out of the camera samples of Nikon D2x photos.

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Author: Matt

I'm a PhD in physiological optics working on prototype contact lenses, and also a co-founder of (we care for your eyes) where we develop mobile apps for improving the availability of vision care in the World.

8 thoughts on “Nikon D2x 14 years later. Is it still relevant? A top pro camera for under $200.”

  1. I still have a Nikon D2X and a Nikon D2H, both great cameras, which I use all the time. They’re fast, built strong and have great color in their files. You have to know what you’re doing with D2 series but when you do…the results speak for themselves.

    1. When I switched to Digital Photography from film, my first and only digital camera was and is still the D2x. the only new lens I acquired to supplement my original Nikon lenses is a Tamron 17 to 35 mm f 2.8 FX lens (all my lenses are FX). I needed this wide angle zoom because of the 1.5 crop factor of the camera. The Tamron is use for 75 % of my shooting and the D2x can do auto focus with this modern lens. I always operate the camera manually and I have never really use the auto functions of the D2x and battery life has never been a issue for me. I get superbly sharp and vibrant pictures with this camera. I do have difficulty with low light but since I am used to film, this is not a major issue which can’t be resolved by a flash, tripod or steady handheld shots, which I am pretty good at. I noticed that because of the camera’s weight and the fact that it is a crop sensor, my shots are not as vulnerable to camera shake. The images produced by this camera has fantastic dynamic range and because it is a crop sensor it has a wider depth of field relative to a full frame sensor, everything being equal. Its 12 Mpix means I can get a lot of shots before downloading and it doesn’t fill my hard drive quickly. The weight and the fantastic ergonomics of the camera are positive attributes to me and inspires confidence when I am in a hostile and rugged environment. It is no wonder that NASA took this camera to space a number of times.

    2. I love my D2x and am thinking of getting a D2xs in the near future. I dropped my D2x once hiking on a rough trail and it rolled down an embankment about ten feet. I picked it up and it was fine -not even a scratch

  2. I saw one on Craig’sList a couple of months ago for some 100 bucks, in nice condition but I didn’t buy it.
    My bad but, for sure, I’ll buy the next nice one to come by for a good price. Great review! Keep it up and thank you!

  3. Yes, I still have my Nikon D2X. I bought my Nikon D2X in 2007, because D3 was out. In the same year, I bought a used Nikon D2H on Ebay, but I sold it after 3 years later mainly because I wasn’t satisfied with the image quality compared with D2X. I still keep my D2X because I bought it brand new. It still is my favorite camera! I can also still use it for B&W photography. Plus, I still have many great lenses that I can use on a daily basis. Although the D2X is not a full frame camera, its ISO range is not so great beyond 400 for low light captures. However… it’s still good for the daytime photography, especially while using the 10.5mm fisheye lens that my D3 can’t use. Anyways, good photography is based on technique. It shouldn’t solely be based on the equipment you use (although good equipment is essential). Just some thoughts…

  4. Why not own one!!
    They are practically giving them away now for bigger better faster…
    I own 3 D2x a D2h and a D2Xs… In the right conditions (studio for one) and good outdoor light they still pack a punch.
    In fact i put my D700 on standby since i bought these cameras.
    Dynamics are impressive for its age and layout, 800 ISO looks like T-MAX in black and white.
    It has a film look to it like my D700 and that is what i prefer over the sterile Digital look.
    I would recommend this camera to any beginner with a couple kit DX VR lenses i also use the Rokinon 10mm f2.8 for wide landscapes a 20mm f4 Ai brings it in the 30ish Territory and is sharp.
    I bracket three shots in three different exposures so i can exposure stack, this brings out more shadow detail that it lacks just a little. As well as chill down the highlights.
    Auto White balance can get twitchy at times but with manual K setting on location it’s not a big deal.
    I’m 59 i get twitchy at times as well Lol!!
    A good bargain for a serious PRO body that feels like it came with you at birth when you start holding it.

  5. Hey Matt, sorry for bumping an old topic but I saw this written in your article “I noticed that the shutter release counter was off the charts with over 600,000 clicks! This couldn’t possibly be right with such a mint condition body”. Yah it could very well be possible, Redflex Traffic systems and American Traffic Solutions both used Nikon D2Xs in their red light and speed camera systems to capture high resolution images, to crop plate shots of red-light runners. -Also, thanks for teaching me they went into space by NASA, talk about a robust, bullet proof camera!! I think I’ll have to get one just as a memento to probably one of the best DSLR’s ever made!

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