d90 vs d300: how much preference for metering with AI lenses?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by betsey_noth, May 18, 2009.

  1. I looked through the past posts, but couldn't find this exact issue. I am looking into getting my first DSLR. I am assuming I will buy Nikon since I have 4 nikon lenses already - 24/f2.8, 50mm/f2, 105mm/f2.5, and a 200mm. However, they are all AI, so no metering if I got the d90. While I only shoot for a hobby (and probably only ever will), this still seems like a major negative. Is it? Is it worth it to spend the extra on the d300 to have the metering?
     
  2. I would. The D300 offers you that, as well as higher image quality when shooting RAW. Better build, quicker shutter release and mirror return. If you don't mind the extra size and weight of the D300, it's a real gem.
     
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If metering with your old lenses is important, you have another option to get the D200 for $600 from Best Buy. It is older technology but IMO is still a fine camera.
    Another issue to keep in mind is that these DSLRs have a smaller DX sensor so that your old lenses do not necessarily work that well on them. For example, the 24mm is no longer all that wide. You'll probably need to buy at least 1 or 2 new lenses anyway.
    It is news to me that the D300 has higher RAW quality than the D90, though.
     
  4. Shun, good point about the D200, it's what I bought and I love it.
    The testing done on dpreview.com of the D90 showed it does not produce higher resolution than the D80 despite the higher pixel count. And they did a side-by-side test against the D300 and the difference is clearly seen.
     
  5. i'm assuming he means 14bit raw capture on a d300 versus a maximum of 12bit on the d90. not a persuasive argument for the poster. If you already have the lenses, get the d300 in my opinion. But it might behoove you to wait and save up the extra grand for the d700 to retain the same area as you are used to on film with the FX format. not trying to spend your money, but maybe something to save and wait for and not drop your initial payment. although you could do what i did. get the d300, save for a couple months, sell the d300 taking maybe $200-300 loss and then using the principal towards d700. basically rent the camera as a stopgap til you can finance your way into FX. just some thoughts.
     
  6. i've only heard that the d300, d3 and d90 have identical image quality except when pushed to higher ISO's and then the d3 and the d90 shine a little more than the d300.
     
  7. You can always meter with an external meter or by aproximation using the histogram, sunny 16 rule is still working (best portable and universal metering system :). That is what I do with my D80 (I mostly use a sekonic external meter, but handheld the histogram is more practical). I have found the quality of the 24AIS 2.8 pretty good (or more than enough). Shun is correct about the restrictions. This picture , as an example, was taken with a 24 AIS f2.8 stopped down to f11. The IQ was good (enough), I had much more problems with the white balance in post processing, that could be, but I have no empirical tests, a more interesting reason to go with the D300.
     
  8. The D300 would be awesome but I think for your purposes the D200 would be far more practical and would leave budget for adding a wideangle lens. I use AI and AIS lenses on a D2X and the metering does make things a lot easier.
     
  9. I don't mind no metering with my 55mm micro, cause I don't shoot moving things with it, but if I did, it would be a major pain.
    Get the D300 or D200 if you want to use AI lenses.
     
  10. This is what I am referring to. I would quote part of the review here, but I don't want to violate photo.net's strict copyright rules.
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/NikonD90/page33.asp
    The D200 (new for $599 at Best Buy) would also be an excellent choice, but it was not one of the cameras the OP asked about.
     
  11. I have the D200 and it does work with the manual focus lenses. The view finder is not in the same league as a FE2, F3HP and so on. It is not a snap to focus this way. There is a correct focus indicator in the screen in the bottom left corner to help out. But anyway within a year of buying the D200 I stopped using the manual focus lenses as I acquired auto focus lenses. Your experience may be different. The D200 is a good value at $600.00 for a new body. I would suggest the D300, D200 and D90 in that order of preference for purchasing. I would not buy a d90 with the intent of using a meterless, manual focus lens system. So if you were to purchase the D90 you should also buy a AF lens of some sort to get you going. Don't forget your wonderful 24mm wide angle lens is no longer very wide regardless of which DX format DSLR you purchase.
     
  12. i stand corrected dave lee. nice comparison. thanks for the info.
     
  13. thank you, everyone, for your answers. I hope to hear more still! I had not considered the d200, but I am open to looking at another camera body.
    I find your experience, ross b, to be interesting. I wonder if my manual lenses would basically retain the same role that my FM2 has now; ie, I'd use them when I have time to muck about, but not when I want to be sure to get the shot exactly how I want it and won't have a chance to redo it.
     
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Dave, thanks for the link. However, looking at DPReview's image comparison, I don't think there is any big difference between the D300 and D90. The D300 may be a hair sharpter, but any different is subtle.
    To Betsy, essentially all of those AI lenses worth very little in the used market in these days. I don't think they should play any major role in deciding which DSLR you should get. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to spend a lot of extra money on a DSLR to retain full compatibility with those lenses. Some of them may still work well, but modern lenses with zoom, AF-S and VR have their advantages also. IMO you are better off spending some money on new lenses. Recently we have had a lot of threads comparing the D700, D300, D200, D90 and D80. Search around you may find planty of useful answers already in the archives.
     
  15. " Is it worth it to spend the extra on the d300 to have the metering?" I believe that in combination with so many advantages the D300 has over th D90, and because there is not a huge difference in price, the D300 would likely make a better long term investment for you.
     
  16. Well Betsey, the D200 is no longer $599 at Best Buy, but $679, still a fantastic price for such an excellent camera, and it would work with your current lenses. But Shun makes a very good point. And perhaps you might look into a D90 with the Nikon 18-105mm VR lens. It would be a fantastic camera for you, with high resolution, great features, etc.
     
  17. Your manual lenses are excellent. Since you are used to manual focus you can keep many more doors open by purchasing a DSLR that works well with them as well as autofocus ones. You will find that any budget goes a lot further with manual lenses than autofocus ones, and many superb manual lenses are no longer offered in autofocus versions. You can definitely still put your manual focusing skills to good use with a DSLR. I have been manual focusing with crop DSLRs for 4 years now. Don't forget that the three biggest advantages of a DSLR are being able to confirm exposure, being able to confirm composition, and being able to confirm correct focus, all within seconds! My manual lens arsenal continues to grow and there is one autofocus lens in particular, that I have my eye on. Oddly enough, with the one autofocus lens that I do have, the Nikon 14mm f2.8, I leave the autofocus off all the time, preferring to control the depth of focus myself.
    Use your current lenses until you decide what other manual or autofocus ones you could put to good use.
     
  18. Betsey when I purchased my D200 I was moving into digital for the first time. I wanted to use my AIS lenses of which I already owned. Similar to many people. I felt that it would all be fine. What I found is that the viewfinder being smaller, darker and lacking in contrast made it difficult for me to manual focus. Also the focus indicator does not exactly identify the perfect focus spot leaving some pictures in less then perfectly in focus. I was never a great manual focus person anyway even after decades of experience. I always needed just a moment to get it just right which many times was a moment to long. In addition to that you need to go into the menu to identify the lens by f/stop and focal length. Once it has all that then it will meter very well. That becomes a very quick function once you have done it a couple times. However after a year I bought a 50mm AF f1.8. The focus was fast, easy and perfect. I was hooked. IT was not long after that before I had 4 AF lenses. The manual lenses soon vanished from my bag and into my daughter's bag who was excited to get them. The D200 and D300 are heavy cameras. Professional construction with weather sealing. The D200 will not take a decent picture at ISO 1600. The D90 and D300 will...I personally would rather have the D200 then a D90 but I take it sailing and hiking in some dirty conditions. I need the weather sealing. I also love ISO 100 which the D90 and D300 do not have. So the D200 is a very good companion for me but on these forums it is yesterdays news. But to use your manual lenses in as optimal of a way as possible you really need to buy a D200, D300 or the more expensive models. Good luck to you.
     
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    At least in my case, if I need to focus manually, I prefer to have a split-image focusing screen, which was available back in the 1970's. Some people get those screens from Katz Eye Optics for their DSLRs: http://www.katzeyeoptics.com/cat--Nikon-DSLRs--cat_nikon.html
    Clearly there are many options here, and it boils down to your (in this case Betsy's) personal preference. There are no right or wrong answers although I think Ross B.'s experience is probably failry common, but only your opinion counts.
     
  20. I asked Thom Hogan and a couple of others about D300 vs D90 comparisons for raw shooters, following that odd DPR review. He has rested a few sample of each camera and has seen the difference that DPR saw. He's very fussy—much more so than me—so I'm guessing that DPR had a bad sample. Going be the samples I've seen so far, I'd say that the raw images from the D90 are significantly less noisy at high ISO and show no less detail. DXO's raw tests seem more in line with what I see than DPR's results.
     
  21. Shun, thanks for the link to katzeye optics.. That just breathed life back into using older lenses on the D300 of mine. It also makes things much easier in the studio, the AF system is awsome, but I don't think any AF system can compete with the accuracy of a split prism system with manual focus.
    To the original OP. Image quality aside for the moment, the D300 and D90 are very different and really isn't a fair comparison, imo. The D90 isn't built like the D300, or for that matter D200. If you know you're going to be in difficult outdoor situations like back country, or someplace the weather will turn dusty or wet suddenly, the D90 isn't going to hold up to sudden hits, dust, or moisture like the D200 or 300. If you know you're going to be shooting any sports, the D90 just doesn't have the same frame rate as the D200 or 300. For that matter, you just can't beat the focus system on the D300, especially in the 51 point 3D tracking mode. One more thing that makes it a unfair comparison is that the D300 has 14bit capture vs the D90 with only 12bit as a option. Basically, if you subtract the 'similar' sensors, you're getting more camera and a more robust body of a camera going with a D300 over a D90. Just my opinion though, being a former D80 owner and currently using a D300, I did try out the D90 recently and wasn't at all impressed.
     
  22. Ok, thanks for the further thoughts. I am now convinced that I would be happy with either the D300 or the D90. I had not really thought through that the manual focus would be the much slower component of a manual lens, not the metering. Thanks for that, ross b & others!
    Sadly, I am now trying to figure out if I need/want the durability of the D300 vs the video of the D90. I'm not especially timid with my cameras, but I'm not bashing their brains out either. As has been pointed out, there are many threads about these things, and I'll check them out. I'll also probably head to a store and see if the weight difference is significant to me.
     
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    To me, the biggest difference between the D300 and D90 is the AF system. The D300 comes with Nikon's best Multi-CAM 3500 with 51 AF points. In conjunction with the MB-D10 grip and the right batteries, it shoots at 8 frames/sec and is a big time sports and action camera. Now if you use manual-focus lenses on the D300, it pretty much totally defeats its biggest strength.
    Concerning 12 vs. 14-bit capture, at least I have a hard time telling the difference in terms of image quality. The D300 drops to 2.5 frames/sec if you capture in the 14-bit mode. Therefore, I almost never use the D300 in 14 bits.
     
  24. For manual focus I see two recommendations with a large difference in price tag:
    1) D200 with a Katz eye screen and
    2) the D700 (or D3)
    For me the Katz eye screen in the D200 made a big improvement. Nevertheless this combination was at least one step below an old F2, F3 or F5 as far as MF is concerned. This may depend on individual use. My D3 screen works very well for MF but still is slightly below the quality I am used to from the old body buddies .-)
     
  25. A good thing to remember when using AI lenses on D90 is that flash has to be controlled manually as well or set to the auto mode (not available on all Nikon speedlights).
    That said, I personally shoot AI lenses without metering because I like light camera bodies and I don't need metering to get great exposures fast.
     
  26. It will be no picnic to manual focus on those cameras with the stock focusing screen, so you might want to consider upgrading that as well.
     
  27. Ok, I will definitely add a Katz eye screen to my list. I really do appreciate all the comparisons between the d90 & the d300, but I have a hard time telling the difference between the test shots. I actually liked the d90 shot better in one of the tests. It's not that I think this makes them equal, but for me it might not be a big deal as it would for another. I also think that I would have more fun with the d90 + a straight AF lens (probably the new 50mm/f1.4) + an AF zoom. if I get the d300, I don't think that I'd be able to get 2 new lens.
     
  28. Betsey in general terms the lenses are more important than the body. For special applications that may be different.
    The body will be outdated soon. The lenses will work on the next body.
     
  29. Walther, I would like to comment a little bit on your post: "The body will be outdated soon". I first understood the word "outdated" to be "obsolete".
    I understand what you mean, but just to stress it: A body does not seize to exist just because a newer body is being marketed. The newer body is not neccessarily better (but probable, though), and it may be delivered with options that the single photographer not neccessarily needs.
    So I agree with you, the lenses are more important, and are the objects that should be invested in.
     
  30. Back to the OP, I would wait to see what D400 has to offer before deciding whether you should get the D300 or its replacement. For the film SLR bodies, F5 never replaces F100 so the presence of F5 does not affect the price/value of F100, and F100 does not impact on N80 because these cameras each occupy a unique niche. It is a different story with the digital SLRs. When D80 arrived, the price of D70 dropped nearly by half, when the D90 arrived, the price of the D80 dropped by nearly half. This is b/c each of the replacement replaces the same type of camera with more advanced feature sets, just like new computers, overall, are more capable than the old ones. Thus one should look as far forward as possible, and practical, to buy the best digital camera that one can afford to avoid regretting the purchase 3-5 years down the road, as one will loss a lot of money selling the old dSLR in order to get the new one.
     
  31. Since no one has mentioned it so far (sorry if I missed), I'll say it. D300 is quite heavy compared to D90 - for all those reasons already mentioned. In other words, the size and weight should be considered also. Especially if you are not used to lugging it around or are used to FM2, as you noted.
    Since this is your first DSLR, compare D90 and D300 side-by-side in person. You will definitely notice the difference visually as well as physically. While specs are important, so is how it feels to you and your comfort-level with the equipment. You might even find that new D5000 with tilt-rotating LCD display to be more useful, especially if you plan to use video mode or have to hold the camera up in the air to get a shot in a crowd.
    Since you've gotten plenty of performance-centric recommendations, just wanted to bring up the ergonomic-centric view to complement others...
    Cheers!
     
  32. Thanks Mark, it's a good point. I have looked at the numbers online, but I know nothing compares to actually handling the camera. I plan to check them out in-person before buying.
     
  33. Hey, I just wanted to let ya'll know that I went and handled the 2 cameras. I didn't feel a huge difference between them. however, I was ultimately more excited to get a camera + 2 lenses than to get a kit. Plus my benefactress seemed to quail a bit when I mentioned the D300. I ended up with the D90, a 16-85mm, and a 35mm. I think it's going to be a long time, if ever, before I out grow this camera! thanks again for your thoughtful answers.
     
  34. Betsey have fun :)
     

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