Beginner cameras/equipment recommendations

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by lynn_h|1, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Hello fellow photographers. I recently joined a photography club and am seriously considering an upgrade from my Nikon d3100. Would greatly appreciate any/all suggestions. My budget is approximately $ 1000.00 and would like to purchase a Nikon that is compatible with current lenses on d3100. My interests include portrait, nature, pet and architecture. Thanks in advance for your advice. Lynn
  2. Hi Lynn - 2 questions:

    1) what is it about the D3100 that's holding you back?
    2) what lenses do you already have?

    Assuming you want to buy a new body, your choices will include from the D5300, D5500, D5600, D7100 and D7200. The D5XXX bodies will allow you to get a ~$350-$400 lens if needed.

    In any case, I would suggest a D5XXX body. There's always a temptation to get the top of the line, but sometimes, there is such a thing as too much camera. Read up on the D7200 -- if that's overkill for you, explore the D5XXX series. There's enough of a difference between your current D3100 and the D5600 to make the purchase worthwhile.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  3. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    I'll second Keith's suggestion :)
    But, you're far better upgrading your lenses. Cameras are mainly just boxes!
    Fair enough, you have a bit more control, more easily, with a higher spec camera, but it's the lenses that make the most difference.

    You've maybe noticed how camera bodies depreciate tremendously but good lenses keep their value. More often than not, new lenses are released
    every 5 to 10 years. Camera bodies are released every year... they don't have a major impact on a photograph.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  4. ...

    GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) often follows joining a photo collective where one sees what the others (often known as the 'Joneses') have. At least ninety percent of the time, it's really not needed.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  5. Lynn
    I suggest really giving your D3100 a work out.
    You may find that it will do 80 or 90% of what you want it to do.
    READ the manual.
    I keep the manual in my camera bag, because even having owned a camera for a few years, I will run into something that I don't know how to do, or something that I do so infrequently that I forget how to do it.

    I currently own a D7200 and am planning to get a D3400, to suppliment the D7200 as a lighter less bulky camera for general family pictures.
    HoofArted and lynn_h|1 like this.
  6. Lynn, I started in digital with a D5100. It still works great, and serves yeoman duty as my backup/2nd body. I purchased a D7100 for only two reasons: 1) To increase pixel count to 24Mp, and 2) to have more direct control options without going into nested menus. The 2nd reason was, by far, the major reason for me to upgrade. Your D3100 is a very capable camera. I recommend you spend at least 2 years becoming absolutely and totally proficient in its use and application. By then you will know what works for you and what does not, and can make the best decision. If I had $1,000 to spend as a beginner, I'd expand my lens selections to cover all of my intended subjects, and buy a good tripod, a remote release, a circular polarizer, an external flash (maybe), and an extension tube set for macro. If you will learn to use the basic equipment proficiently, and can obtain predictable and desirable results, then you're ready to move on. I guarantee a fancier or more expensive body will not make better pictures. The most important piece of equipment is the 12 inches behind the viewfinder (to paraphrase Ansel Adams).
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It seems that you were using a D80 prior to your current D3100 - do you notice any difference apropos ease of use between those two cameras?

    If you can identify and make a list of what was easy to use and not so easy to use and why - that data will be useful identifying good physical; layout; and functional fit, for your next purchase.

    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  8. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    I really liked my D80 when I had it :)
    To be honest, there is not much difference between that, my D200 or my D5200 (or Nex 6!)
    I may upgrade sometime...

    D80 and standard lens, a few years ago:
    [​IMG]Loch Voil by Ken, on Flickr
    D200 and standard lens:
    [​IMG]Loch Voil sunset by Ken, on Flickr
    D200 with 70 -300:
    [​IMG]DSC_2841a by Ken, on Flickr
    D5200 with 55-200:
    [​IMG]061 by Ken, on Flickr
    Nex 6 with a manual focus lens, carl Zeiss 135 2.8 T*:
    [​IMG]146e by Ken, on Flickr
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  9. Lynn, as I think about your interests I will give you the same advice I have given my children and friends who have expressed an interest in photography.
    1. The first issue is to learn how to see and capture desirable images. This has almost nothing to do with equipment, and everything to do with knowledge, practice, and creative insight. Your D3100 is absolutely appropriate for this learning process.
    2. Lenses, as noted above, are the real differentiators. You only need DX lenses unless or until you move into FX format. A basic kit to cover your stated interests will include the following: 35mm/1.8 prime (DX) lens. Add a 50mm/1.8 for increased flexibility, if desired. Both of these are quite inexpensive. 18-55mm kit lens and a medium telephoto/zoom in the 55-200mm range. You can get away with a single super zoom in the 18-300 range, but then you will always have a monster hanging off the front of your camera. My primary walking-around lens is an 18-105/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR zoom. It's not the best or sharpest, but it sure is handy. For many architectural subjects you will want an ultra-wide angle lens. I bought a used Tokina 11-16mm/2.8, and it is absolutely adequate for interiors and close-range shots. Depending on how serious you are about portraits, you may want longer/faster lens in the 100mm/2.8 range specific to that purpose. These choices will cover 99.9% of the pictures you will want to take. Even the ultra-wide and the portrait lenses are special purpose, and not really needed to get started and learn the trade.
    3. Accessories: There are some accessories that really should be in your bag. These include the following: A good tripod. Spend the money for a tripod that will bring your camera to eye height without extending the vertical post. You can start with a heavier and less expensive aluminum model, or go straight to a more expensive, carbon fiber and titanium unit. Don't settle for short/cheap/light tripod. A remote release, either corded, or IR. I have both, but I'm a gear nerd. The corded Polaroid remote and similar also provide an intervalometer and options for very long exposures over 30 seconds duration. A circular polarizer with adapters to fit your lenses is highly desirable for landscape/nature/architectural subjects. A set of extension tubes is the most economical way to do macro photos without spending on a special-purpose macro lens. An accessory flash unit is nice for those instances where the on-camera flash just isn't big enough. A smallish, TTL-capable flash is sufficient. You don't need to spend big money on a super-whamodyne piece of gear.

    Beyond this there is an infinite variety of bits and pieces you might find useful or intriguing, depending on your interests and circumstances. The next level of investment is software, such as Photoshop and Lightroom. You can spend as much money as you can save, beg, borrow, or steal, but, in the end, time spent making photographs is more important than any piece of equipment. Good luck and happy trails...
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  10. I'm not very familiar with the Nikon DX realm. Like everybody else in this thread I suggest sticking to what you have, until you know what else you might want. I'd be surprised if your camera club doesn't have another Nikon user able to tell and show you hands on, what you are missing with your current camera. I tried to look it up at DxO. Basic specs wise it looks "sleep &/ shoot on" to me. I see no big need to rush and buy more megapixels in the DX format. 24MP are likely to mercilessly reveal the shortcomings of your lenses. Later models have, according to DxO, less than 1 f-stop high ISO advantage.
    Pets might tempt to shoot in live view via pivoted rear screen, but Nikon are known for disappointing AF performance in that mode, so I don't recommend rushing to get a D5500.
    Are you unhappy with your AF performance? - In that case maybe save up for a D500 (or D7500?) if you 'd like to have a different UI take a look at the D7200 which will soon come into your reach.
    Personally I am pondering a D500 with 200-500mm as an addition to my other stuff, in case I'll manage to win the lottery without playing it. Until then I'll shoot similar vintage cameras like yours until they'll fall apart. (I'm gear headed enough to have upgraded or diversified to something like FX on the side, no regrets but I am still shooting 9 and 11 year old APS cameras as primary workhorses.)
    • To shoot pets I'd recommend buying whatever enables you to get down and dirty; a thermal mat? Or a combat suit? - Whatever gets you down to their eye level should work fine.
    • For portraits: Lights, a reflector? 3 - 5 hotshoe flashes some light stands, umbrellas...
    • Nature & architecture might benefit from a highly portable sturdy tripod.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  11. I too think you need to ask yourself what's wrong with the D3100 that you'd like to better. Because chances are that a higher quality lens might improve your pictures more.

    However, if you decide you simply must upgrade the camera body, I can vouch that a D7200 will be an upgrade that can tackle virtually any subject competently. Worth it, IMO, for the AI aperture follower, rather than the fragile little switch on the D3xxx and D5xxx bodies.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  12. Hi!
    I beginer also and use Panasonic/Lumix FZ-1000.
    It does however have more features than available on other cameras, (especially in its price range).
    It has faster (DFD) Auto-Focus than any dSLR.
    It has 5-axis Image-Stabilization, (only 2-axis is possible on Canon/Nikon dSLR).
    Not only is it available used for less than $500, it has a 25 to 400mm-EFL lens that would cost $-thousands-$ for the equivalent in FF.
    It does have INTERVALOMETER for time-lapse, and MULTIPLE EXPOSURE.
    Also 4K-video and Panoramic.
    437823f2fe824384a2e052ab659ac7ab.jpg fe13d3e21653459186ce209255c6718d.jpg
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  13. Although, as many have suggested, you could keep your D3100, there are two Nikon cameras I recommend given that you are becoming more serious about photography. The D7100 and D7200 have better controls and a better viewfinder than the D3xxx and D5xxx series cameras. In particular, these two have separate dials for aperture and shutter speed, so you don't have to push a button to switch between them, and they have significantly brighter viewfinders. If you consider one of these, do look at them and hold them in your hands before buying, or buy from a place that allows straightforward return--they are larger and heavier than the D3100.

    There is a long tradition on of challenging those who ask about upgrading equipment.'s founder, Phil Greenspun, loved to do that, even though he once wrote of buying himself a new, advanced Canon body to use while white-water rafting, and said he was ready for it to go in the drink. You could stay with your current camera, or not. It's up to you.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  14. I agree wholeheartedly with Hector's comments regarding the D7XXX series camera bodies. Still, I don't recommend spending more money on new cameras until Lynn has wrung everything possible out of the D3100. If someone were to ask me what body to buy on which to become a serious student of photography, I would unhesitatingly recommend the D7100 or D7200, for exactly the reasons given by Hector, along with myriad others was well.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  15. Thank you so much!

    Thank you all for your advice and recommendations. Am completely overwhelmed by your kindness, wisdom and generosity! I'm going to keep working on fundamentals with my d3100. There is so much more to learn!
    Am looking at AdobePhotoshopExpress_2017_11_16_10:11:53.jpg tripods and the lenses you discussed. And a remote release.

    With gratitude always,

    Here is my latest photo. I used a 35mm lens.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  16. I'm going to go the other way from the rest of the responders. Based on your budget, look at the KEH website. It's a little older but the D300 is very capable and very good. It also lets you use some manual focus AI and AIS lenses which are very good and available at good prices. So does the D200 for that matter but I'd get the newer 300, well within your price range. Many will disagree with me but that's what makes it fun. I'd keep the 3100 you have, always have a backup. You need to look at lenses, buy for what you want to shoot and then add some less needed glass as funds permit. My go anywhere bag has two bodies, a 28-75/2.8, an 80-200/2.8, a 300 and a flash. That covers 90% of what I shoot.

    Rick H.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  17. Hmm. I'd be a little wary of the D300/D300s. They're fine enough handling wise, give or take some refinements seen in the D800/810/500 generations, but it's a very old sensor these days. There's little a D300 can do that a D7100 or D7200 can't do better. The cheaper D7000 has a better sensor than the D300, but worse autofocus. They all have the same compatibility, except for the D300/s and D7000 missing out on AF-P - only the D7500 drops the aperture following tab for AI lens metering.

    The D300 sensor is substantially worse than the D3100 - and generally two stops worse than the D7100 for dynamic range according to DxO (you'll get the image quality from a D7100 at ISO 6400 that a D300 gives at ISO 1600, for example). The body is a step up from the D3100 in handling, and the D7x00 series have Nikon's "prosumer" design philosophy (shared by the D90, D6x0 and D750) rather than the "professional" layout of the D700, D500 and D8x0 series, but I really think a D7x00 series is generally a better buy, if an upgraded is needed at all. Technology moves on, and the D300 (and D300s) were a long time ago.
    DavidTriplett and lynn_h|1 like this.
  18. It is difficult to say for somebody else which body is better in handling or not; the only serious advice there can be to go to a store and try it for yourself in your own hands. While I much enjoyed my D300 when I owned it, it is a rather large body which isn't all that comfortable in small(ish) hands, and it is heavy. It's not a camera for everyone, really, and I've heard plenty owners of D3x00 and D5x00 level cameras who found a D7x00 rather large, heavy and complex. So, try before you buy.

    Another consideration is that the higher-end bodies tend to have more of a learning curve than the D3x00 and D5x00 bodies - the more advanced AF modules are sure highly useful, but the level of customisation that they offer can also be a curse as it is also easier to get it wrong. That doesn't mean you need to be an expert or read long manuals to be able to operate those cameras, but they may need you to spend a bit more time on getting up and running with them. Not everyone likes that - so it's something to decide for yourself.

    Not quite true; the sensor in the D3100 (which was only used in this model, it's a bit an oddball sensor) is very similar in performance to the D300. Sure, the D7000 and later are a significant step up, no argument there.
    But even so, if you're not regularly shooting in low light, the ISO6400 performance isn't all that important. Sure it's nice to have better performance, but realistically, I never felt constrained by the ISO1600 performance of the D300, or even with good care at ISO3200. The same will apply to a D3100 - it's in the end about balancing wants, needs and the bank account.
  19. To be fair, I was remembering some elderly DPReview reviews and looked at what DxO has to say. According to DxO's dynamic range measurements, the D3100 is clearly better than the D300 and D300s from ISO 400 up, in addition to the small resolution advantage. It does, I believe, lack 14-bit raw, which won't help it at minimum ISO. Bringing the D7100 into the mix shows how far things have come.

    The D300 was, and is, a perfectly competent camera. There are definitely handling differences on a spectrum between the D3x00/D5x00 range, the D7x00 range, and the D300/500 - many prefer the more expensive options, but some don't. I'd just suggest that with a D300, you're paying for a classic more than good technology; a Lamborghini Miura is a classic thing to own, but a BMW M3 is a lot faster 99% of the time, cheaper, easier to reverse, and seats twice as many people.
    lynn_h|1 likes this.
  20. I just upgraded to a Nikon FM2 and an F3.....;)
    Vincent Peri, Gary Naka and wogears like this.

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