Budget constraint for entry-buyer: Lens or body?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by michael_hendriksson, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. Greetings,
    Looking through the forum, I found no prior answer to my question. I hope you can help me with some inputs.
    I am about to purchase my first SLR, and my decision logic/steps has been as follows:
    1) Established budget $1000-1300
    2) Perceived Nikon D5200 superior to Canon 650D
    3) Browsed the Nikon "lens portfolio" and was attracted by the AF-S DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6G. It was described as a good all-round lens and a significant stepup from the kit lens. Also this package was within my total budget, and would enable me to learn my needs in order to upgrade some time in the future.
    4) Met an expert that discouraged me about said lens on the grounds of in-door/low-light performance. This is important to me *). I knew the aperture was not "all that", but satisfaction on these parameters seems to be incredibly relative, and as a first-time buyer, I don't know how to assess this and proceed.

    I have created some scenarios:
    A) D5200 + said 18-105 lens + Nikkor 35 MM f1.8 + accesories ($1386)
    B) D5200 + Tamron 17-50MM F/2.8 XR DI-II VC LD + accesories ($1466)
    Solution "B" costs $80 more, but relieves me from switching lenses, is probably close to par with solution "A" indoors and clearly superior outdoors?
    However, both are exceeding my budget, which has made me invent a different direction/question:
    Would you rather go with
    A1) D5200 + said 18-105 + accesories ($1136)
    B1) D3200 + said Tamron 17-50MM + accesories ($1108)
    (Note: "B1" includes the D3200)
    Does "B1" make sense? The camera body is cheaper than the lens - I know specs and compatibility are what matters, but still! Is this a too far-out way to enter and position myself for future upgrades? And more importantly: Though I am certainly better off all-round lenswise with "B1", how much would you say I sacrifice when it comes to the camera body specs?
    I read somewhere that the D3200 can actually outperform the D5200 in low-light, can that really be true (how?)?

    Thanks very much for inputs!
    *) Just to make sure I haven't misstated or misunderstood my needs completely: When talking indoors/low-light, I simply try to stress the importance of being able to take good snapshots indoors of people and children all year round without an external flash, and without the built-in popup-flash coming into play.
  2. The differences between the D5200 and D3200 in low-light performance are pretty much negligible. I wouldn't base my buying decision on that. But there are other differences. The D5200 has a better autofocus system and more controlability. Whether those things are important to you I can't tell, but they would be important to me.
    As far as low-light interior shooting goes, I really feel an f/1.8 lens would be of great value to you. All else being equal, that lets you shoot in light that's less than half as strong as the f/2.8 lens allows. So if that is a primary determinant, you might consider something like getting either body with the 18-55 kit lens (which isn't a great lens but neither is it horrible) and the 35 f/1.8 for interior available-light use. But here in the US right now there is a $100 off on the D5200 with 18-105. That bundle plus the 35/1.8 will total about $1200, within your budget unless you need >$100 of accessories.
  3. Whenever I hear someone say "without the internal or external flash" I just have to ask, why? Photography is all about understanding and controlling the light. Can you imagine if I posted this:
    I am a professional photographer and I want to know what camera and lens I should buy so that I never use a flash.
    The fact is that whatever pictures you get "indoors of people and children all year round without an external flash, and without the built-in popup-flash coming into play" will simply not be the best you can produce. They will be better if you learn to properly use flash. I would go further and say that any "expert" photographer would council you to buy external flash before you move beyond the kit lens for what you describe. There are some situations when one can't use flash but they would be very unusual situations assuming you know the people you are shooting..... If you are wanting to avoid flash because you want to shoot people (especially children) without them or their parents noticing that is a whole other thing altogether.
    Most of the time when people speak of not using flash it is because they don't know how and have found their results unsatisfactory. It is not hard to learn how to use flash and it will take your photography to a whole new and much better level to do so.
    If you insist on not using flash then you need the faster lenses. The Tamron F/2.8 is a good choice as is its Sigma counterpart.
    But please understand this. VR/VC technology will help you reduce camera shake. So if you are hand-holding your camera and taking a picture of a sleeping baby you can shoot at very slow shutter speeds. People and especially children when awake are perpetual motion machines. They wiggle. This technology will not stop them from moving and will not freeze motion. To do that you need an appropriately fast shutter speed. Flash helps you get that. (It is more than that as flash duration matters but for the time being just go with the concept.)
    Available light is exactly that. What happens to be there. You will have issues in post with color temperature. The shadows are where they are. Indoor home lighting tends to be flat and uninteresting. Commercial lighting not much better.
    You speed up your shutter if you shoot at F/1.8 as Jonathan said and that helps. Seriously consider flash as it will make your life much easier and your pictures vastly better in many if not most cases.
  4. Why not at D5100 for around $496 new, then you will have a few extra $$ to get
    35mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.8 and 18-105 or Sigma/Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 + flash ??
    just another thought :) you could get a Nikon 40mm f2.8 for a regular lens & close-up too!
  5. My experience with natural light indoors situation reinforces what Jonathan mentioned above. I also like the smaller size of the fixed focal length lenses compared to the slower zoom lens. Don't overlook buying a refurbished Nikon 35 mm lens-they are under $200
  6. SCL


    When I began in photography the adage was simple...natural light outdoors, flash indoors. As a young budding photographer, I tried many of the available tricks to reduce the use of flash indoors. Finally, before my daughter was born, I hit the jackpot, in learning how to effectively use bounced flash when natural light was insufficient. All that process took place with (expensive slide) film....long learning curve. Fast forward a few decades (of mostly outdoor shooting), and as I transitioned into digital, I again had reservations about flash (built in or added), but it was MUCH easier to experiment around with digital with the instant feedback. I found that in very short order, I LOVED flash and got exactly the results I wanted - and clearly knew when to use the pop up flash on my camera and when to bring in the big guns. My point is simply...what you want to achieve is the end result, and there are ways of doing it which can significantly increase your "keeper" photos. With lots of indoor shooting and kids, flash is your friend, unless you live in a glass house with immense amounts of bright natural light throughout the day (or whenever you plan to take pictures). Fast lenses can be great to achieve shallow depth of field, but don't dismiss flash out of hand...it is an integral part of the photographic toolbox.
  7. First, if you are on a budget you should look at buying refurbished or used equipment.
    For a zoom an f2.8 lens is crucial if you shoot in low light. The Tamron you mentioned above are being used professionally for instance by wedding shooters. Sigma also has a similar lens that is even better but also more expensive. The Nikon 18-105 is not suitable for low light shooting.
    When it comes to camera bodies a used D7000 would be a better camera in real life than a new D5200. The D3200 is only really suitable for beginners (or those wanting the smallest Nikon dSLR).
    Looking at prices a refurbished D7000 ($730) and a refurbished Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC ($430) would leave room for a new Nikon 35mm f1.8 as well ($200). That's a total of $1360. Or $1169 without the 35mm lens.
    Or drop the Nikon 35mm f1.8 for now and add a flash, a used SB-600 or used/refurb SB-700 for $200-$300 instead.
    Flash can look great but it requires knowledge to get good results. Just aiming it straight forward or slightly upward with an omnibouce will almost never look good. Wedding shooters are experts in using small flash because they have to produce good looking images in a very short amount of time.
    If you wanted you could also look at the other Tamron 17-50 f2.8 without VC. It's cheaper and just as good optically. But it doesn't have stabilization. Stabilization helps holding the lens steady when shooting in low light. That means less amount of blurry images from camera shake.
  8. While the lens you considered is f/3.5-5.6 and definitely in slow speed department but if you get say an f/2.8 lens you gain 2/3 stop to 2 stops and that's not sufficient for low light photography any way. If you are into indoor available light you should look for a body that can perform well at ISO6400 or so rather than getting fast lens.
  9. While the lens you considered is f/3.5-5.6 and definitely in slow speed department but if you get say an f/2.8 lens you gain 2/3 stop to 2 stops and that's not sufficient for low light photography any way. If you are into indoor available light you should look for a body that can perform well at ISO6400 or so rather than getting fast lens.​
    You have a point there but to be honest you would need both a body that can perform well at ISO6400 (that means a full frame camera) and a fast lens as well (f2.8 or faster). Totally different budget for that.
    It would be almost ridiculous trying to use a slow consumer zoom like the 18-105 for indoor available light only (no flash).
  10. If I were in your position:
    D7000 - a much better camera that you may never need to replace;
    35mm f/1.8G - good in low light, cheap, excellent image quality;
    SB700 - learn how to bounce flash around and balance it with the ambient light
    Then practice, practice, practice.
    By the time you are getting consistently good results, you'll know what to buy next.
  11. D7000 - a much better camera that you may never need to replace;
    35mm f/1.8G - good in low light, cheap, excellent image quality;
    SB700 - learn how to bounce flash around and balance it with the ambient light​
    Chris, it could be hard for a beginner today to start with one prime lens only. But if OP has the guts for it, then why not? It's probably the best way to learn.
    Come to think of it, if he has a background using a compact camera it might be hard to be confined to a zoom but if he comes from shooting with smartphones he's probably already accustomed to using one focal length only.
  12. If I was starting out get a kit new or a used one but you may not be comfortable with the latter if you are just beginning out. I would get a cheap body with the kit lens that is it. I won't even consider a 35 even thou it is 1.8 b/c I think most people it's too limited esp if you are just starting off now, for general people it's not wide enough, to capture a dinner table of people or at the restaurant or to capture scenic vistas. Get that later on if you need it. I would get a flash head. D7000 is nice but you may not need it, for the moment you're probably not going to be firing off multiple flashes, use old era manual focus lenses, needing dual memory cards, mirror lock up - not sure if this is provided in the cheaper bodies but does a beginner need it.
  13. Price difference between a new D5200 and a refurbished D7000 is about $30 - and if the OP will consider the purchase of a flash, then the D7000 is the better option as the D7000 will allow much easier control of a flash off-camera.

    A single prime is not a bad idea - but the 35mm focal length can indeed be quite limiting when used in confined spaces. Also, the next purchase will likely be a zoom anyway as the DX lens landscape isn't exactly overflowing with prime lenses. Given the budget constraints, it seems more logical to start with a 17-50/2.8 lens - either Tamron or Sigma. Or the OP could wait until the Sigma 18-35/1.8 is available - even though it's $800 price tag would necessitate a stretch in the OP's budget. The fast f/1.8 aperture would allow available light shooting indoors - but the range could be quite limiting for outdoor shooting (but then likely 17-50 isn't going to be enough either).
  14. Go cheap on the camera, put money in the lens. I suggest a refurb D3200 or D5100 paired with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 VC. Make sure you get the one that has the motor in the lens. Either should do what you want and hit your budget. I have the D5100 as a back up camera and find it acceptable. A D3200 will have about the same image quality and is smaller.
    Kent in SD
  15. Haven't heard that much about what the OP sees as the reason to upgrade to the 5200, so thoughts:
    1) The 3200 with the basic kit lens is a good starter set-up, and the 18-55 cheap as chips.
    2) Apart from the extra zoom range and build, is the 18-105 really that much of an upgrade? I like mine for all-around use (despite the mediocre reviews), but I won't claim it's the best lens ever.
    3) The 35m lens plus the sb400 flash is great for indoors, with the bounce very effective. Best, this is a very small kit and would be much more likely to be used frequently. The 18-55 is usable indoors with flash and remains small.
    4) I like and use the 17-50 f2.8 (mine from Sigma), but it is much bigger and heavier. The camera gets picked up more when it has a light lens on it.
    5) If reach is needed for outdoors, etc., the 55-200 is available in a complete kit with the 3200 and the 18-55 for really reasonable prices. Or conversely, pick this lens up later second-hand when needed, there always seem to be some for sale.
    6) Additional lenses can always be bought later, and since the needs aren't clearly defined yet, I'd keep some dry powder.
    So my suggestion is the d3200 with the 35, the sb400, and the kit lens to start. With or without the 55-200. Get more lenses when the need is clear.
  16. Just to make a point about using a flash, and to differ on the opinion that a diffuser is no good, I shot this with a D300s and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC with a Nikon SB-600 flash in the hot shoe and small Lumiquest diffuser pointed 45 degrees up. Came out pretty good if I do say.
  17. D5200 + 18-105 + accessories ($1136)
    . . . and you will never regret it.
    You can even get a 50 1.8 before you know it if you need low light--but that 18-105mm is a superb little lens. I have gotten a lot of good shots with it.
    This is the rational choice.
  18. Wow,
    This is the single most helpful forum I ever encountered. Thanks for all replies! I never imagined to gather so many insights from one single issue posted.
    I could write many individual answers and clarify a million things, but out of respect for the forum I will try to be brief.

    Looking at the whole topic from above, I think what happens is this: When an amateur throws in "convenience"-related objections like "I want great pictures, but
    • would like to avoid having to mount an external flash"
    • can't be bothered to shoot in raw and after-edit every single picture"
    • want to not fiddle with MANY of my camera's functions for EVERY shot I take"
    - helpful enthusiasts' seem to change attitude very abruptly :eek:) - "Fine, have it your way. I won't try THAT hard to help out someone who compromises that much".

    And I can understand that, if one's passion are those very things. But at the same time, I become frustrated, because if I KNOW about my behaviour, I would rather adjust my purchase choice to my behaviour beforehand, rather than aim for something, hoping my behaviour will change.
    In the case of "no flash indoors", I guess the take-away is that you guys can't stress enough how tedious it is to try all other roads to satisfactory photos, when time- and money-wise the flash solution is the right one. It is duly noted! :eek:)

    Right, so let's assume
    • D5200: Not too secure about refurb (D7000) yet, and need the AF quality compared to D3200
    • SB-400: Think I can live with the limitations on bounce flash in vertical shots - considering how much lighter the flash is than the SB-600
    • Accessories corresponding to my original post (SD card, bag, remote control)

    That leaves the lens(es) and not too much budget - some $200.
    See also Greg Alton's post.
    I am still in doubts whether combining the 35 mm f1.8 with the SB-400 is overmuch, given the budget constraint. Haven't I "done enough" for my indoors demands with the flash, to be happy with a zoom lens, either the 18-105 or 18-55 (kit)? After all, the 35 mm f1.8 is of limited use for other purposes than the indoors issue - or is there something I am not seeing?
    The 18-105 will end me up in $1333
    The 18-55 will end me up in $1162

    Thanks once again!
  19. Looking at the whole topic from above, I think what happens is this: When an amateur throws in "convenience"-related objections like "I want great pictures, but
    • would like to avoid having to mount an external flash"
    • can't be bothered to shoot in raw and after-edit every single picture"
    • want to not fiddle with MANY of my camera's functions for EVERY shot I take"
    - helpful enthusiasts' seem to change attitude very abruptly :eek:) - "Fine, have it your way. I won't try THAT hard to help out someone who compromises that much".​
    I hope we did not give that impression. At least for me the issue is that I believe that what appears to be a hassle, once someone really understands just a few concepts, becomes easier than the alternative.
    Yours would have been a different question if you were speaking about, say, theater photography or indoor sports where a flash may not be allowed or even desired. You described a situation where flash was just the ticket.
    Also consider the solutions you have chosen. Our advice was not based upon some elitist "nothing but the best" solution. If you had said that convenience trumped money we might have gone a different direction. We would have had you in a D600 ($2K) and some fast lenses (another $2K+). Now that you can rely on a reasonably good source of light you are able to choose MUCH less expensive lenses. The 18-105 is about $200.00 in a refurbished (smart choice) and the flash is about $120.00. This allows you to not only shoot far better pictures but also to get into a better body for about 25% of the cost of an only marginally more effective low-light rig and still quite a bit less than trying to purchase very expensive glass. So please don't confuse our considered advice to you as colored by some desire to lead you into the ranks of the criminally-equipped as some of us sadly are. We really did consider what you said.
    For the record, I think I can speak for the others when I say, that you should use your camera in a way that gives you joy. If you want to shoot Jpeg go ahead. In fact I think you ought to until you see a need to get into the complicated world of post production. As a photojournalist I frequently shoot Jpeg for work. I use is often when I am taking snap shots for my own enjoyment. If I am shooting my Christmas party I do not anticipate spending days in post production. I just want a picture of my friends and the turkey. Likewise with the automated modes. I know people who think that professional photographers "only shoot manual". They are wrong. Most of the professionals I know are happy to use convenient camera functions. Manual mode is a convenience for certain shots. For others, not so much.
    As for your preferred behavior. I notice that you came here to get answers. It would have been easy for you to hit Costco and buy the kit-du= jour. My suspicion is that you are exactly the person who will enjoy getting the most out of your new camera in time. Wait until you see what you can do with your excellent choice. I'll bet it will knock your socks off.
    So don't be so hard on us.....we really aren't that elitist a group. You should see us chasing our grandkids with a camera.
  20. Martin, I'd counsel you against buying an SB-400. This pathetic little thing is barely any more powerful than the camera's popup flash. Look at other makes compatible with Nikon before choosing this little toy. Because if there's one thing guaranteed to put you off experimenting with using flash, it's an underpowered little gun that won't even fill an average living room with light.
    Both Nissin's Di622 and Sigma's EF610 can be bought for around the same price as the SB-400, and have a much more useful amount of power with a tilt and swivel head.
  21. Rick, others: Just to keep the thread on the right track - no offense was taken at all! I am afraid something was lost in translation. I really appreciate the advice given, and did not consider the overwhelming opinion in favour of external flash (and learn using it!) to be harsh or elitist at all. The paragraph where I write something about flash solution being "the right one", I really mean it, I was convinced! :eek:)
    (And yes, I have met enthusiasts that suggest to me that I can't object to the output from my Canon S95 when using it on "auto", or that I wouldn't be in a position to complain about SLR output if I shoot jpeg)
    - I see the subsequent development of the thread - after pushing me over the edge of including an external flash - is HOW powerful it should be. Ah, well :eek:D
  22. You can consider the non-Nikon flashes if you want. I think for the time being you will be happy with the SB-400. IT is very light and small. It recycles about three times faster than your on camera flash and will bounce. As for power, it is actually quite a bit more powerful than the on-camera flash.
    To put the power of the flash in perspective here is a handy comparison.
    The on-camera flash is guide number is 39
    The SB-400 flash guide number is 69
    The SB-600 guide number is 98.
    (ISO 100)
    By shooting at ISO 200-400 which is mostly noiseless the SB400 is more than powerful enough. Rather than pole vault over mouse droppings I hope you just snag the SB-400 and get to taking pics. It is so light you won't even know it is there and should be just what the doctor ordered. If you catch fire with flash and really want to get into it you can upgrade later. There is no doubt that the swivel is nice and that some secondary brand equipment is very good but I am taking you at your word about light and fast.
    (And yes, I have met enthusiasts that suggest to me that I can't object to the output from my Canon S95 when using it on "auto", or that I wouldn't be in a position to complain about SLR output if I shoot jpeg)​
    I know. Sadly I run into them all of the time too. I guess there is joy in gearheadedness too. The other day a guy busted my chops over using a D7100 (with which I am having a torrid affair just now) to shoot a sporting event. I so wanted to get the D4 and 300 F/2.8 out of the car just to teach him a lesson but I was working and didn't have time for his nonsense. Besides. It would have been me who was compensating. ;)
  23. Martin, the issue with having an under-powered flash is that it tends to limit you into using it "head on". And although that SB-400 can angle its beam upwards toward a ceiling, there'll be so little of it's precious light reflected back that it'll be almost useless. This forces you into blasting the flash straight into the face of your subject most of the time, which results in some of the ugliest and flatest lighting possible. Not to mention a good chance of red-eye.
    A more powerful flash will flinch less at being "bounced" and will enable you to get a much softer, more even and 3 dimensional looking effect. In other words it'll look much more like the ambient light that you wanted to use in the first place.
    Basically I'm just trying to persuade you to get "the best bang for your buck", or in this case, the biggest flash of light for your buck.
  24. My advice would be to buy the cheapest camera and kit lens you would be at least partially happy with and that is it. Learn how to use the camera and lens. Find out what you like and dislike about the set up and then spend more money to upgrade or buy accessories. The kit lens is great and I used it for a couple of years before I felt the need to upgrade. I know lots of people couldn't live with out a external flash but I still haven't purchased one and rarely if ever wish I had one. I purchased the 35 1.8 and rarely used it but I love my 85 1.8. Everyone is different and spending your full budget before you have even taken a picture yet is (I think) crazy. See what you want after a little while whether it is fast glass, a great tripod, a all in one zoom, flash, macro lens etc and then buy more!
    Have fun, Brian
  25. Rodeo Joe I respectfully disagree. The SB-400 is more than powerful enough for bounce outside of Town Hall. He can hit 50 feet distance (roughly) at ISO 800 and f5.6 18mm. That will light (bounce included) pretty much everything he will reasonably want. Martin is very concerned about weight. We just barely got him to try a flash. Let's not scare him off.
  26. Maybe a dSLR is not the right tool for the OP. A mirrorless camera like one of the m43, NEX etc cameras might be a better choice. There is a reason why these cameras are cutting into the low end dSLR sales. If someone is very concerned about weight and size one of the small mirrorless cameras is a much nicer camera to carry around.
    If one wanted to learn more about photography then I understand wanting a dSLR with a huge assortment of lenses and other stuff at your disposal. But then a minimum in my book would be a body that has one control for aperture and another for shutter speed so you can shoot in manual mode. That excludes all D3xxx and D5xxx camera and you'll start at the D7xxx and up.
    But if you don't care about photography itself and just want to make great pictures with a minimum of stuff to carry, a mirrorless makes much more sense.
    There are a lot of people carrying dSLRs that are only using the kit lens and don't know anything about using their cameras. They are not taking advantage of the dSLR and they would get the same picture with a lot less hassle, weight and size from a mirrorless or one of the high end compacts.
  27. I just wanted to chime in on the camera decision. In image quality, the D5200 and D3200 are pretty much a wash (the sensors, though from different manufacturers, aren't all that different - though the 5200 has (according to Sensorgen) about an extra stop of sensitivity across most of its dynamic range, if that matters to you. Neither have the handling of, say, a D7000, but the 5200's AF is a big step up, and the flip LCD is handy. If you consider the D5200's features to be useful over the D3200, my advice would be to buy it. You may at some point replace the camera, but it's likely that it'll last you a while and you might, in the meantime, save up enough to expand your lens collection. Making sure that you buy everything in your budget now might leave you with an inferior camera when you have the budget to expand your system. Or it may be that the features of the D5200 don't matter to you, and you should save the money now - I just wouldn't base the decision on whether it allows all the lenses you might want to fit within budget, if you can avoid it.

    In good light, a zoom is very useful for following kids around (I stress family members, before that statement gets me put on a sex offenders' register). In dim conditions, you can spend a lot of money for an f/2.8 zoom and still have it do no better than a 35 f/1.8 and 50 f/1.8 AF-S combination. If you really want to shoot indoors, with the constraints that you may have some cropping to do if your subjects move around, I'd think primes. But then I've never found fast normal zooms appealing, whereas some swear by them.

    Good luck, whatever you get.
  28. Just wanted to drop two cents in here about lenses: When you hear people denigrating the kit lenses or the "slow" zooms, it's primarily one of three criticisms--1)the slow max aperture requires a higher ISO or addition of flash, 2) the slow max aperture doesn't allow for extremely shallow depth of field to give a certain professional portrait look, 3) the overall quality is somewhat inferior, especially the bokeh (smoothness of out-of-focus backgrounds, especially for portraits) and sharpness wide open. IMHO, all of these factors are important but way overrated.
    1)Shooting the newer cameras at high ISO isn't that big a deal--not to say you want to be at ISO 1600 or 3200 but even if the camera does moderately well at, say, ISO 800 you can solve a lot of your exposure problem created by losing that stop or two using a less-than-professional zoom like the 18-105 that can't go to f 2.8. Once you learn to do a little post processing magic, you'll find out that moderate noise from shooting high ISO is very easy to tame anyway. 2)It's true nothing will substitute for the quality and look of a fast lens wide open. But if people tell you that you can't make a nice portrait with that 18-105 wide open I personally think they're being elitist about it. Your overall technique, lighting, posing, and timing are far, far more important. 3) Scott Bourne says something like 90% of the lenses made today are better than 95% of the photographers that use them and I truly believe that. In contrast to the very cheapest kit lenses, any of the mid-price moderate zooms are really quite good. Just read the technical reviews, then look at the results when used by skilled photographers. My real go-to lens is a 16-85 Nikon, although I don't disagree with any of the recommendations for fast zooms by third party manufacturers--I'm sure they are outstanding. For my work, the 16-85 handles just about everything very nicely. And finally, when I need shallow depth of field or low light performance, I grab for my $100 Nikon 50 mm f1.8 and, though it's not a professional lens, I get just about everything I could ever need from it.
  29. Harry: What you say is true, but all things are relative. A modern DSLR will run rings around the level of grain you got from fast 35mm film, so you can shoot in lower light with smaller apertures and faster shutters than in the film days. But ye cannae change the laws of physics, and a prime at f/2 is still letting in eight times as much light as a variably-aperture zoom at f/5.6. In absolute terms you may need to do this much less than you used to, but having just come back from a relative's wedding during which I took photos of the father of the bride giving his speech from the other side of the room - and the primary light source was his iPhone's display bouncing off his speech notes - there is no such thing as "you won't need the aperture". If your idea of dim lighting is a lounge with the main lights on, you may be fine; if it's candlelit people in a pub, don't discount the f/1.4 glass just yet.

    Which isn't to say that Martin is doomed unless he goes straight for a D4 and a set of f/1.4 primes, just that slow zooms can still be limiting. Besides, I try to stay at the lowest ISO I can for dynamic range reasons, which also saved me in other photos at the same wedding!
  30. Thanks for advancing this further guys. Last night I actually went in the same direction as Brian and Pete combined:
    1. Maybe it is unwise to shop this much before loosening one shot
    2. If convenience is a priority to me, why not lok into mirrorless?
    Same logic as when I was looking into how good a lens I needed, once I decided on entering the world of intelligent flash:
    If priorities are, good indoors pictures, portability and max $1,000 for the whole package which mirrorless hotshoe-featuring camera would you recommend me?
  31. Tricky, Martin. Micro 4/3 is the most portable (arguably ignoring the 1-series, which we should if we're talking low light) but the smaller sensor hurts it somewhat for low light - though the sensor in models like the OM-D is pretty competitive despite its smaller sensor. Other bodies may be as small (especially some NEX cameras or the Eos M), but have larger lenses. It's a trade-off.

    The thing that would make me nervous about going mirrorless is the autofocus performance in low light. Some models suffer more than a DSLR with a dedicated sensor would. It's possible that my information is out of date, so check reviews, but I'd not necessarily dismiss the DSLR unless you really do want the camera to be smaller - bearing in mind that the camera doesn't necessarily make that much difference to the size if you have to put a big lens on it (as Canon demonstrated with the Eos 100). The range of lenses for DSLRs is generally (numerically, though sometimes physically) larger than for mirrorless, at least if you don't resort to adapting and want the autofocus to work. Mirrorless is cool technology, but at the moment it has a functionality and price premium, so be sure you want to pay it.

    As for which to get... if you care about low light, I'd wait for Canon to put the sensor from the 70D into a mirrorless body or for Fuji to do the same with the X100S sensor, or possibly look at the NEX 6. But read the reviews, because - other than playing with some in store - I'm out of my knowledge zone here.
  32. If priorities are, good indoors pictures, portability and max $1,000 for the whole package which mirrorless hotshoe-featuring camera would you recommend me?

    An Olympus EP-3. It's $300. Get a fast prime and FL-600 flash. If/when you're ready for something more serious, you should be able to sell the EP-3 for $200 more and put that towards a different back.

    Also, consider renting or borrowing one or more of the cameras you're considering; nothing you read beats using one for a couple days. That's what I did, and it convinced me that an OM-D was the way to go.
  33. FWIW, I simply stopped using flash once I got a camera with good enough low light performance.
    Yes, flash well-used is terrific, as in the band photo included above.
    But, when I went to the D300, able to shoot at ISO 1600 or even 3200, with an f/1.8 or sometime f/2.8 lens, I started getting excellent images in available light indoors, in the kind of lighting that supports human social interactions. The light in your living room, at the dining table, in a restaurant.
    I find this incredibly liberating and I like the results. I have the gear. I'll pull out the flash, the umbrellas or soft boxes, and do the whole setup for groups and so forth. But for family shots, kid shots, portraits of friends, available light for me.
    OK, that's me. Advice? My advice for Martin is don't over do the flash.
    Hope this is helpful.
  34. For what it's worth, I agree with Sebastian: I consider flash positioned carefully off the camera to be a light sculpting tool; a flash on a hotshoe is kind of a last resort for getting a photo (possibly ignoring fill flash in bright conditions, but even then it's a pain to balance the light). So where possible for candids, I don't use flash (though if it's really dark, there's sometimes no choice). But a photo with the light coming from a simple flash is usually better than a photo with so little light that all you've got is grain and motion blur. Getting an off-camera cable for your flash is not a bad idea as a first upgrade.

    I didn't take a flash for the wedding I went to recently, since I trusted the official photographer to be taking flash photos and I wanted to complement the official shots - and trying to flash someone from the far side of the room is at best going to be annoying. That was fine, but since the official photographers had left before the first dance, I was a little less prepared than I would have liked. Fortunately the happy couple held still occasionally!

    Fortunately, a DSLR - or most interchangeable lens cameras - especially with a fast lens, is likely to be much better at handling low light that any compact you've been using - so we're only concerned about extreme situations here. I'd start with the minimum kit and work up once you've decided what you need for your shooting conditions. Good luck with it!
  35. Sigh. Well it was worth a try. We had the OP considering learning to use a flash. Perhaps it is a good idea for those of us who have decades of experience to remember that we started somewhere. We know how to shoot flash. On camera, off camera, remote, bounce, fill, commander mode, have pocket-rockets in so many pockets they clog up the washing machine.
    A new person has to learn. Getting started with a DSLR and on camera flash is a recipe for disappointment. Learning be basics of flash photography,
    Sebastian. What would you say, if I as a photojournalist told you I "stopped using flash"? Absurd. Fill flash is not hard once you learn how to do it. Sadly most people just don't take the time to learn. Also, we hold the bar higher than would someone just learning. We all use flash less than we used to when film maxed out at about 400 ASA for all practical purposes, of course, but we still have that tool in our bag when we need it.
    Look at what Andrew wrote:
    That was fine, but since the official photographers had left before the first dance, I was a little less prepared than I would have liked. Fortunately the happy couple held still occasionally!​
    So having the flash would have been just want the doctor ordered but without it he had to do the best he could under the circumstances rather than the best he could period. There were simply shots of the reception that could not be made. And our OPs kids or grandkids will hold still once in a while too. But there is a recipe for missing a ton of very good shots of them if we post not pounce all of the time.
    The point to the OP is to arm himself with a tool set that allows him to learn and grow in the hobby while getting good shots in the meantime. He has a budget. Did I mention that he has a budget? He has a budget of around $1K. Setting aside P/S and mirror-less options for the moment that pretty much limits him to either F/2.8 in an off brand zoom or F/1.8 and a fixed focal length lens. So if his body is $600.00 with a card he is pushing his budget with one 17-50 lens. I have no problem with this if that is what he wants to do. But he could be on his way with the D3200, kit lens, (18-50) and SB-400 flash for about $600.00. Then he can sit on his budget and see how it goes. He can always add the f0mm F1.8 afs later if he wants or one of the after market 2.8's. But in the meantime he will be taking great pictures (and movies if he wants) and learning a lot about photography.
  36. Rick, let's just say different strokes for different folks. Many valid and effective approaches to photography and good images.
    I'll stand by my advice: Just don't over do the flash.
  37. :eek:) Sebastian and Andrew's inputs gave further perspective, but also frustration and - indeed - sighs.
    Rick pretty much summed up why. If I could put my money down in a way that left me with the possibility of going both ways even after a little while, it would be fine. But given that I need a lens to start out - and barring reselling my hardware again later - I need to either
    1. Pick a lens cheap enough to afford the external flash (probably the 18-55 or 18-105), or
    2. Buy the 35 mm f1.8 from the beginning, hoping that my indoors results will be what I hoped for, and finding out what zoom lens to purchase afterwards, and whether I feel like improving my indoors possibilities even more with external flash
    Certainly the first seems less risky and most versatile from the beginning. I do, after all, also shoot outside! I think I'll go for the 18-55:
    • The quality of the 18-55 and the 18-105 being so similar
    • The 18-55 is easier on the budget
    • Makes for a reasonable entry into DSLR when it comes to convenience and portability (my current is a Canon S95!)
    Any final thoughts on my picking the 18-55 on these grounds?
  38. I'll throw another aspect into the mix - resale value.

    If you can buy something more expensive and sell it without much loss if it turns out you don't need it it will be LESS expensive than buying something that has zero resale potential. Unfortunately I think a 18-55 may fall in the latter category.

    And that's also the advantage of buying used. If you sell it you will more or less get your money back. More so on lenses than on the body as camera bodies depreciate faster.
  39. Thanks Pete. I guess through this process I have become more open for the refurb concept - but I struggle to find good ways to do this, living in Europe? Most sites with attractive prices are abroad, leaving me with a significant risk of extra charges (toll, customs and/or fines).
    Can you point me in any direction?
    Thanks again.
  40. If you like available light shooting - shooting in low light without flash - ignore the others and get a fast lens so you can shoot the way you want. Available light shooting is a perfectly valid approach, especially now that you can shoot DSLRs at ISO 3200 without much loss of quality. You just need to develop your camera handling skills and meter the shots correctly, and shoot raw in difficult situations.
    An f/3.5-5.6 lens isn't so good in low light anyway, with or without flash, because the autofocus struggles.
    Also, what Pete said. If you're comfortable with buying and selling on eBay, you can usually buy any given used item - which is already depreciated - for a lower-in-the-range price and sell it later at no loss. If you buy the camera with the kit lens (which is cheap enough as part of a kit that you can resell it at negligible loss) and used 17-50 and/or 35mm lens and SB600 or SB700, and decide one of those items is not for you, sell it.
  41. We are talking to a new photographer here. Yes we can shoot at ISO 3200. It will give acceptable but not great results if (As Andy correctly points "You just need to develop your camera handling skills and meter the shots correctly, and shoot raw in difficult situations." He wants to shoot Jpeg. He wants easy. He wants auto mode when possible. Anyone here want to defend Nikon's in camera high ISO noise reduction on even average size enlargements? Now we are sending him into the world exposure bracketing, spot metering, and the expense and training investment called for by Photoshop? Trust me. A flash is far easier to master than is CS5. Give the poor man a break starting out.
    Let him take great pictures easily, with the minimum of fuss. Then if he wants to buy into the whole enthusiast thing we can help him do that.
    It was easy when many of us started out with our first SLR. We had to learn ASA 125 Kodacolor at 100 and Ektachrome at 160/400 a bit later. Kodachrome in all its glory made us look good if we could get the light right. We had a flash-bulb or maybe strobe with a dial thingy on the back which told us how to guess. Our 50mm lens was F1.4/1.8. If we could afford it we had a 135 or 200 F4 too. I had a light meter around my neck at first and then got the one in the camera which had one choice. Bottom center weighted. We had to memorize stuff but not too much stuff. When you pulled the trigger that was what you had until you got into the darkroom world. My point is that we had no choice but to go slow.
    Now there are wonderful machines that allow us to go slow while taking vastly better pictures. For some people this is as good as the hobby needs to get. Others will go further. Why don't we let Martin experience the joy of taking good pictures with a minimum of angst and perhaps really enjoy the hobby? A nice new DSLR with the 18-50 or 18-105 kit lens and a useable flash is just what the doctor ordered. And if we oldsters think back to our day and age it is vastly more flexible and vastly superior in just about every way than the very best F2AS with the fastest glass Nikon had. And it shoots movies. Really. Movies. Sound ones in stereo.
  42. Who said anything about Photoshop? Lightroom and Aperture are easy. The guy said he wants to shoot without a flash,
    I'm saying he can if he wants to, it's not really that difficult.
  43. o_O

    Martin: There's nothing wrong with the 18-55. It's complemented by the 55-200 and 55-300 if you find you want something longer. It's cheap enough that you won't lose much if you switch to an f/2.8 replacement or get a longer zoom range. It won't give everything the camera can do, but it gives a lot for the money - that's why they're kit lenses. Nothing wrong with getting that, finding out whether you need a faster prime lens or f/2.8 (or f/1.8) zoom for your needs, then making a choice, unless it's really difficult for you to acquire things incrementally. No amount of advice from us will tell you how much of your time you find yourself thinking "I wish I had another stop of lens speed", or "I wish I had a faster aperture so I could blur the background", or "I wish I had a flash so I could shoot at f/11 and keep everything in focus", or "I keep running into one end of my lens, I wish I had a longer/shorter lens" until you try it.

    Fast lenses and high ISO are great for getting shots under poor lighting. Ironically, with fast glass on my D800E (which is about a stop better than my older D700), I find myself shooting more at f/5.6-ish and ISO 100 than I ever did with my D700 - because stopping down a little extracts the best sharpness from the lens and lower ISOs give more dynamic range. I also get more depth of field than if I used a faster aperture. There's a disadvantage to any solution, even if it's because demands are increasing. More light does help: carefully-staged flash can look amazing, but it does tend to look like carefully-staged flash; carelessly-positioned flash just looks like badly-positioned flash! I could, in fact, have used the on-camera (built-in) flash in the wedding dance scenario I described, but I've such a dislike for on-camera flash it actually never occurred to me to try it. There was, I must add, no sensible way to bounce a flash if I'd brought one - but if I had, I'd have been using it off-camera anyway.

    We can argue the pros and cons of the fast lens vs flash debate, but since either solution has merits my advice is to get the minimum, maybe try out some options in a shop (or look at some gallery photos and see how they were shot), and make up your own mind about the look you like. If you hate sharp eyes but fuzzy ears, a fast lens may be out. If you hate unnatural lighting or your family freak out when you use one, a flash may be out. (My father had a series of heart attacks and had a defibrillator fitted; my first digital compact had him convinced it had gone off when I used the flash. Still, it does mean I have a decent photo of him when, with that technology, I wouldn't have had with low light; the shot the same camera took of my mother is annoyingly blurred by the long shutter speed - but this was over a decade ago. For what it's worth, my first SLR was a DSLR - but it was old enough that the noise wasn't much better than film grain of the same ISO.)

    Martin: Where in Europe? I can say where II tend to shop in the UK, but that may not help if you're somewhere completely different...
  44. Have you considered a refurb? I picked up a D5100 with a 18-55 VR lens, bag and SD card for $490 at B&H. They have a few D5200 now.
  45. Andrew (Stan & others)
    I live in Denmark, which means co.uk shops are fine when it comes to customs etc.
  46. Ooh - I had a stutter when I had no sleep...

    If it helps, my used Nikon purchases in the UK tend to be from Mifsuds, Ffordes or Aperture, or occasionally from the used departments of WEx or Park (whence I tend to buy new); Nicholas is usually also worth a look, and Gray's are the obvious choice if you want used in mint condition (at a premium). This is generally the selection that advertise in the UK camera magazines that I buy. Carmarthen have sometimes had stuff that I've had trouble finding elsewhere. I've no idea how competitive their prices are compared with shops in Denmark, but they may be worth a look. I've been able to visit most of these (except Ffordes and Carmarthen, because they're miles away) and I'm generally supportive of them - they've been helpful and knowledgeable. I would have recommended Jacobs, but they were a casualty of the economy recently. There are a few places on Tottenham Court Road that sometimes have decent content, though some have also seemed less knowledgeable. These are only places that I've tried - I can't particularly say how much better they are than other places you may find!

    I've mostly been shopping for more obscure used stuff, though; the places with a large stock of obscure historical equipment may not be the cheapest place to get a refurbished or low mileage current model. Good luck!
  47. When I buy used I look at buying from hobby photographers. They usually don't put much milage on their gear and they treat it well. Pros and also semipros usually have a job that needs to get done so babying their gear is not their primary objective.
    I'd also like to talk to the person who owned the product before buying it. Despite being from the 70's some of my AI lenses have only been used by the person I bought it from and they where in mint condition.
    And usually it's very good to know what you are buying. For instance if you wanted to get a cheap 17-50 f2.8 with good optics, you could look for a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 without VC and without a motor in the lens. That means that fewer people can buy it since you need AF in the camera body which the cheapest cameras don't have (like D3200 and D5200) but enthusiast cameras do (like D7000/D7100 or the older D90).
    But it's also wise to check out what new items costs. Sometimes buying used makes no sense. Usually it makes the most sense when you're looking for something one generation old. For instance a used D7000 might make sense but a used D7100 probably not. A used SB600 makes sense and a used SB700 probably not.
    To look for gear for sale in other countries check out the national photography forums buy and sell. If you live near a big city, in Denmark for instance Copenhagen, it shouldn't be hard to find good equipment. One could also check out national sites where people want to sell all kind's of gear.
  48. It's not just the camera. With digital photography you have to consider the whole system. That means the computer and the processing software. You also have to consider what you intend to have for an end product. Are you just going to post images on the net and share them with friends, print them, do you need Photoshop or is the camera company's software good enough? There are some great shots taken with smartphones. Some of the previous generation cameras are great pieces of equipment. If it were me, I would get a piece of gear that is a bit of a reach technically for you -- something you could grow into and would not grow out of in a year or two. I might be looking at a used D7000 or something along that line. Just my personal thoughts, but who listens to old guys? There has been lots of good advice posted here. I'd be thinking about where you will be a year of two from now and make a decision that will stand up then as well as now.
  49. To conclude the thread, I ordered a D5200 w 18-35 mm standard lens and SB-400 flash.
    - All new; maybe I will work my way into refurb business later.
    Thanks for all helpful and enthusiastic answers! I will surely revisit this thread in the future :eek:)
  50. I'm glad we could help, Martin. (At least, I hope we helped!) Good luck with your new toy - I'm sure it'll do you good service.
  51. Martin, I would add one more lens to your list, in most situations, ESP. Low light, it will be your best, sharpest and grotto lens -- the Nikon
    35mm 1.8 DX lens, new is $199, used ca be had on eBay for less, this is My favorite lens on my D7100
    Ken Rockwell also recommends it "For $199.95, this lens is a must-have for anyone shooting a DX camera in available light and who
    doesn't already have a fast 50mm lens. It's a no-brainer for low-light.

    It focuses by moving only the rear elements, so the filter mount and front elements don't move at all.

    It is unique among lenses because nothing moves in or out externally as it operates. Unlike every other Nikon 35mm, 50mm and zoom
    lens, nothing moves, so there is nothing sucking air in and out from the outside world as it focuses or zooms. (Of course it doesn't zoom,
    but every zoom pumps air in and out as you zoom.)

    This is a normal to slightly longer than normal lens on DX, seeing about the same angle of view as a 53mm lens sees on FX or 35mm
    film. (see crop factor.)

    The 35/1.8 DX is especially great for use on Nikon's lightest DSLRs because of its small size, low weight and AF-S auto focusing which
    works on even Nikon's cheapest D40, D40X and D60 cameras. You can get manual focusing at any time simply by grabbing the focus
    ring: no switches are required."
  52. Hi Al,
    Thanks for your reply. Just to be sure, isn't this lens the same I mention in my original post? The same that is discussed here and there throughout the thread?
    It certainly ranks among the first lenses to be considered added to my setup, but not before I have tested the kit lens long enough to find out how it performs indoors with the SB-400 flash. If I am fairly pleased a zoom lens will be where I look to expand first.

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