Mat Gallagher and Tim Coleman try out four classic digital cameras that were highly desirable in their time to see if their second-hand prices still make them viable options

Nikon D2X at a glance:

  • 12.4-million-pixel, APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-800
  • 2.5in LCD screen with 235,000-dot resolution
  • 5fps or 8fps in cropped mode (6.8 million pixels)
  • Viewfinder with 100% coverage and 0.86x magnification
  • 1,070g (without battery/card)
  • 157.5 x 149.5 x 85.5mm
  • Nikon F mount

Mid-2004 saw the introduction of the D2X as Nikon’s flagship DSLR, replacing the company’s long-standing (and rather dated) D1X. The D2X’s 12.4-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor was range-leading at the time, making it a favourite with studio photographers. Indeed, the D2X was priced out of reach for all but the professional, at around £3,500. Its 2006 successor, the D2Xs, had just minor changes, and most of its improvements could be achieved on the D2X via a firmware upgrade. It was only through the introduction of the full-frame D3 (2007), D700 (2008) and D3X (2008) that we moved on from the D2X.

The professional-level D2X has a weather-sealed, magnesium-alloy body designed to repel dust and moisture, and its large form includes a large-capacity EN-EL4 1900mAh battery, bottom LCD panel for ISO, white balance and image size controls, and a similar button layout for switching between portrait and landscape-format shooting.

Image: The DSX uses an APS-C sensor, so the camera works well with Nikon’s 18-200mm lens. Here the maximum focal length is a 300mm equivalent

It may be eight years old, but aspects of the camera’s handling, button layout and styling are still evident on Nikon’s current professional-level cameras. Those familiar with a high-end Nikon DSLR will be at home with the D2X. It is a responsive camera with minimal shutter lag measured at 0.03secs, and a speedy camera with full resolution 5fps capture, or 8fps in 6.8-million-pixel crop mode.

The LCD screen is the biggest telltale sign of age. Its 2.5in size and 235,000-dot resolution cannot compete with its successors, especially given that it offers only a 2x magnification, which means examining images in-camera is tricky. Also, the D2X does not offer live view or video recording.
The D2X uses an APS-C-sized sensor like that used in the company’s current entry and enthusiast-level DSLRs. Its 12.3-million-pixel resolution and sensor size (and therefore image quality) are similar to that of the D300S. The D300S has been around since 2009, and its updated sensor performs better in low light, offering a native ISO 200-3200 range (expandable to ISO 100-6400). Those who shoot in low-contrast light will be restricted by the D2X’s ISO 100-800 range (which has two extended ‘Hi’ settings), whereas the latest flagship Nikon model, the D4, offers an extended setting up to ISO 204,800.

Image: With a maximum setting of ISO 800, a tripod was necessary for this evening image

Today, the D2X no longer cuts the mustard for most studio photographers. Nikon’s professional-level cameras use a full-frame sensor. This larger sensor area is able to collect more light than an APS-C unit, which is ideal for low-light work and gives greater control over depth of field. Current Nikon models also have higher resolutions, at 16.2 million pixels (D4) and 36.3 million pixels (D800). However, those looking for a camera with excellent build quality, handling, long battery life and strong image quality in good light will be satisfied with the D2X.

As with all professional cameras, when buying a second-hand D2X check the number of shutter actuations, because these cameras have often been used extensively and the shutter could be near the end of its life. The number of actuations is a key factor in the pricing of second-hand models: those that have a high count can be found for under £500, which is a staggering price for what once sat at the top of Nikon’s DSLR range, and a similar price to a second-hand, enthusiast-level D300. Expect to pay nearer £700 for a D2X in excellent condition and with a low actuation.

Thanks to Grays of Westminster (www.graysofwestminster.co.uk) for providing the Nikon D2X used in this test

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