I've had my Bernina Artista 200 since June of 2013. I understand that this machine is quite old by now (mine is from 2002), but I still thought it important to share my thoughts in case anyone is considering buying one used. I dreamed of owning a high end sewing/embroidery combo machine for years and my requirements were pretty simple, but firm: I wanted a push button thread cutter. color touch screen, adjustable presser foot pressure, the ability to lift the presser foot hands free, low bobbin sensor, needle up/down, drop feed, multiple needle positions, motor speed control, and a USB port for transferring embroidery designs. The two machines I considered were the Bernina Artista 200/730 and the Viking Designer SE. The Bernina became available in my price range (under 2000 dollars) first, so that is what I got. It has every feature I required.
It also has some features I didn't expect or require:
Heel tap needle up/down on the foot pedal
855 built in stitches including monogramming (capital and lowercase letters, as well as special characters and numbers), and 9 millimeter wide decorative stitches
independent bobbin winder
vertical and horizontal spool pin
stainless steel bed
pop off needle plate
U shaped CFL light surrounding the needle
The original 200 machines did not come with USB ports or the ability to accept/use a Bernina Stitch Regular... mine has been partially upgraded, so that I do have the USB port, and the software for the BSR, but no physical BSR port installed on the machine.
There are some things I really appreciate about the 200... my used machine didn't come with any embroidery software (but I know there are some free ones available online); however, I can do almost all the design editing I need to right on the machine. It allows me to resize and flip and move any design that I import. It will automatically resize or rescale the stitches after I make changes. I can make any design fit any of the three hoops my machine came with (small, medium, and large oval), and the machine even senses which hoop is installed. Because the machine runs on a Windows platform, I also have the ability to edit text as WordArt in embroidery mode... I can change the arc and size, and make it run either vertically or horizontally across the embroidery field. I really appreciate that this machine doesn't have to be connected to a computer to do embroidery.
I also like that the foot pedal is big and beefy. I never have to chase it across the room, it really stays put! It is a very sensitive foot pedal, so that provides a lot of control, great for intricate things like applique and paper piecing. One thing I like about it (and many computerized machines) is that to do just one more complete stitch, all you have to do is press the foot pedal and release it immediately. It will take one full stitch and stop on a dime. With machines that aren't computerized, it's up to momentum and inertia to decide when that needle is going to stop.
I don't quilt on the 200 because of the small harp size and the fact that I haven't gotten an walking foot yet. I mostly piece quilt tops, make tote bags, and embroider. The machine seems to pierce quilting cotton just fine. The fabric feeds smoothly, and the machine is quiet during sewing (it's a little louder during embroidery, but nothing obnoxious). I've not tired it on anything very thick like denim, since I don't sew those things anyway.
The maintenance is pretty simple, just brush out the lint from the hook and feed dogs (the pop off stitch plate is appreciated there), and oil the hook. There is only one place to oil, unlike many vintage machines. My dealer told me to oil every 6 hours of use, but I've heard other people say that the Artista is much more thirsty than that. I've discovered that the machine will tell me when it needs oil, though not electronically. It just sounds different during sewing when it's "dry"! I am averaging about every 3 hours between oiling sessions, and it is only one drop in one place, so a relatively simple procedure.
The presser feet are easy to change; the 200 has the classic Bernina cone/clamp system, so the feet can be installed/removed with one hand and no tools. Even the walking and embroidery/free motion feet do not require the use of a screw driver! My machine came with a variety of feet; I don't know which feet it came when it was new, or which the original owner purchased before I bought it, but since the machine isn't available new anymore anyway, that is irrelevant. Mine came with the standard foot (called the reverse pattern foot for some strange reason), a sideways sewing foot, 2 button holers, a button attaching foot (love that one!), the embroidery foot, an open toe foot, a zipper foot, jeans foot, and a blind hem/edge stitch foot. Definitely more than I will ever use. I typically switch back and forth among the standard, open toe, and embroidery feet, with the others going largely unused. The only feet I still need to buy are the walking foot and quarter inch foot. Bernina uses numbers or a combination of numbers and letters to identify their feet, so characters like 3A or 40C are printed on the shank of the foot. That isn't very descriptive, but some other machine brands I've seen just use letters of the alphabet, which also aren't descriptive. At least we have Google now to tell us what the codes mean! Bernina has also recently introduced a smartphone app to help with this. Some of the Bernina feet have a "crystal eye" on them that the machine can read so that it knows what foot is being applied... this is used, for example, to prevent one from using too wide a stitch with too narrow a foot and breaking the needle. The Artista 200 has 11 needle positions. One thing I like is that the default needle position is in the middle, not to the extreme left like on some machines.
Stitch quality seems fine; there's nothing wrong with it, but at the same time, I don't notice anything different than on any other machine I've ever sewn on.
There are several things I do not like about the Bernina Artista 200/730. I don't mean to offend anyone who loves Bernina, these are my own opinions, and largely a matter of personal preference.
One thing that I particularly don't like is that the accessories (presser feet, bobbins, seam rippers) are not stored on board the machine. Instead, Bernina chose to use large hard plastic boxes that look like mini armories. They are really cumbersome to travel with. Mine are always in another room when I need them and I have to go hunting for the accessories (I have a small place and don't have room for them to sit right with the machine). Not to mention that if you drop one of the storage boxes, they break and send presser feet and bobbins skittering all over the room (ask how I know... I think I mooned half a dozen people at the last retreat I went on chasing scattered parts under the tables... a woman came to show me her fabric just as I was unpacking and the rest is history... I use clear plastic zippered bags now!). I will say one thing in defense of the plastic storage boxes, in an effort to be objective... the Bernina feet are huge. They are 9 millimeter feet with a high shank, so all of them likely wouldn't fit on board even if there was a way to do it. (I'd still like a place for my most commonly used feet onboard though! The standard foot, open toe foot, and embroidery foot are the only ones I normally use anyway).
I also don't like the fact that Bernina only uses vertical bobbins. With the extension table on, it is very hard to mess with the bobbin. The level of thread can't be seen as easily as on machines with a drop in. Also, fooling with a bobbin case after having a drop in bobbin machine for years, is a nightmare. I feel like I'm back in 1957 on a vintage straight stitch only machine! I think they insist on doing this because they claim it results in better stitches, but that simply isn't true. I've seen many machines with drop in bobbins whose stitches are at least as good as, if not better than the ones on my 200.
Another thing I can't stand about my machine is the extension table. It is a plastic table that slides over the free arm to extend the sewing bed. It is hard to get on and off, and if you press down the slightest bit too hard, the table gets stuck on the machine. Not mention that it makes accessing and viewing the annoying bobbin even worse, AND the corner of the extension table snags the quilt blocks if I'm chain piecing something large.
This is one of the only Berninas to use a Windows based operating system. The boot up time is insanely long and the machine is slow to respond to changes. On top of that, it sometimes freezes (it's only happened to me once, but I've spoken with others where that problem is more prevalent). I don't mind it much as it's only a slight annoyance... if that were my only problem with the machine, I'd be quite satisfied.
The harp space is very small, so quilting anything large is not easy.
Bernina accessories are insanely expensive.
The needle threader only works sometimes and requires two hands to operate. It also shreds embroidery thread (rayon and 40 wt trilobal polyester are what I use). I've been very spoiled by a much cheaper machine that has one finger, one touch needle threader that works the first time every time, so coming from that perspective, this thing is not fun. And, my needle threader is working the way it is supposed to... it was broken when I bought the machine (the little hook was completely missing) and I had it fixed during the initial tune up at the dealer.
The take up lever has a metal plate on the side (I've never seen another machine like that!) and quite often, thread will get pinched in between that plate and the take up lever. I have to unscrew the side of the sewing head and extract it with pliers and restart the whole process.
The embroidery arm doesn't move far enough out of the way to make threading easy. There is a button that can be pressed to move it a little bit, but it's not nearly enough to facilitate easy threading. Also, the embroidery module is hard to install and remove and has to be connected to the machine with a cord! Most embroidery modules are connected with pins that are built into them when they are attached to the machine.
I have had a few issues with my machine that have added to the headaches. I'm not sure if it is because I bought the machine used (mind you, it only had 10 sewing hours on it and 3 embroidery when I bought it), or because of how old it is, or if it's just something else about this model that I haven't figured out yet. The first issue was that every time I'd press the thread cut button, I'd get an error message to check the hook and the needle would get stuck down. I was also having tension issues and the ends of the needles were getting dull after just a few stitches. 3 trips to the dealer in less than a year solved those problems, at least for now.
My machine didn't come with any embroidery software, so I can't speak to that, except to say it's as prohibitively expensive as many things that bear the Bernina name (for me at least).
There's no stop/start button for pedal free sewing on this model. My dealer told me that was before that feature was invented, which is a complete lie, because I was selling sewing machines and vacuums at Sears when this machine was sold in 2002... several Brothers and Janome made Kenmores had that feature even then.
The thread spool pins are way in the back right corner on this machine. I likely wouldn't even notice, but I own another machine with the spool pin right where it belongs, on the middle of the front of the machine and it's much easier to use.
If you unplug the machine, it "forgets" that you've chosen to have the needle always end down. This must be reset every time the machine is turned restarted. I likely wouldn't notice this, but I have a very cheap machine that doesn't forget, so I'm not sure why a machine that cost several thousand dollars when new does. If I just turned the machine off and didn't unplug it each time, this wouldn't be an issue. However, I always unplug the Nina because I don't trust surge protectors and UPS devices. If it were to suffer a lightening strike, considering the price of the machine and repairs, it would be devastating.
The machine makes the most annoying electronic sounds I've ever heard. It makes little noises whenever the presser foot is raised or lowered and when buttons are pressed. Some of those can be turned off. The start up sound is the sound of a trumpet starting a race, and the only way to make it not emit that sound is to turn off the entire speaker system... which I've done. I'd like to talk to the guy who thought that would be an appropriate sound on to put on a high end sewing machine, just to ask why!
Maybe I'm picky, but just know that these are my opinions/observations, and mine alone. If you have a Bernina that you love, I'm happy for you! I want to love this one too, it just hasn't happened yet.
Since I've only had this machine since the middle of last year, I'm going to keep it a while longer just to be sure I've given it a fair run. However, if we do not end up bonding, I will sell it and use the money to get a Viking Designer SE... that would solve a lot of my complaints (on board storage, drop in bobbin, stop/start, no required extension table, front and center thread spool). Either way, if you are considering one of these, be sure you test it first... and read lots of reviews!