Equipment ideas, please

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by robert_wayt, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. I currently own a D200 with a 12-24 and 18-200 VR (all Nikon). Most of the time I shoot nature (including some closeup), travel and family. Although certainly not a pro, I am a passionate amateur and shoot when my work and leisure schedule allows; my number of shutter actuations since purchasing the D200 about four years ago is 23,000, if that helps.
    Anyway, I want to upgrade my equipment to achieve higher overall quality and would appreciate your suggestions. My budget is $5,000 max for new purchases. For what it is worth, I am likely to keep both the 12-24 and 18-200, the latter because it is versatile and lightweight, good for travel and hiking, etc.
    In terms of lenses, I have read many good reports on the Nikon 24-70 and 70-200. I am attracted to them by their higher sharpness, speed and overall quality as compared to what I have. I actually rented the 70-200 for a weekend and was pleased by the results. Question: Would both work well with the D200 (DX) or would I also need to change to a D300S or D700 (FX)? That would seemingly blow the budget.
    Or would you suggest a different set of lenses given what I've described?
    And what to do about getting better closeups? I rented the Nikon 60mm but was not impressed.
    I'd like to make a decision soon and purchase before a trip to Kauai in October. Many thanks.
  2. Hi Robert,
    "Achieving higher quality" is always a worthwhile, but tough goal and much good has been written about it by people with more experience than I ( ).
    From a pure camera and lens standpoint: A while back I owned just an 18-200VR and a Sigma 10-20 (similar lens combo to yours) though with a D300. I found that switching away from a 'superzoom' made a big difference.
    Initially I added the 35 f1.8 which I think makes a nice addition for lower light or just when weight is an issue.
    Then I decided my 'walk around zoom' needed to improve and I picked up a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 (after much research into the different Nikon, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina zooms in that range).
    Both have been significant improvements and I'm quite happy with the results. Personally I'm leery of a 70-200 2.8 simply due to weight (I'm not sure I want to spend that much on a lens either ;) ).
    Are you comfortable switching lenses a fair bit? With the 12-24, 24-70 and 70-200 you might have to, compared to the 18-200. I know you said you'd still keep the 18-200, but for the 'non-superzoom' applications, it's a something to consider IMO.
    Best of luck.
  3. Hi Robert, 24-70 and 70-200 are the workhorses of people who are doing events like weddings, etc. If I'd be in your place I'll not consider these expensive lenses for travel and family type of photography while I'll shoot a D200. Apart of the cost they are bulky and I never take with me mines when traveling.
    I'd prefer to do a major upgrade to D700, selling the D200 and the two lenses, and I'd acquire the new f4 zooms from Nikon: 16-35/VR and 24-120/VR. If you need a longer range, you can add a unexpensive 70-300 VR too or the new 28-300 mm Nikkor. You can also wait for a 70-200mm f4 zoom which is for sure one of the next lenses Nikon will announce. These zooms are more appropriate for traveling and for family photography and the combo D700/f4 zooms will give you better versatility and better IQ than the combo D200 f2.8 zooms.
    For close up there are many options... I am surprised that you dislike the 60mm from Nikon. Anyhow my preferences are Tamron 90/28, Nikon 105/2.8 VR and the queen Sigma 150/2.8 which is really stellar. I've heard that Nikon 200/f4 micro is even better but is quite expensive. For a low-budget Nikon 55/3.5 is a good MF solution that is receiving lot of praises everywhere. And you can get it used for an affordable cost.
  4. I completely disagree, Mihai. Although perhaps not the cheapest place, Amazon charges $5345.87 for the D700 plus the "inexpensive" zooms. On the other hand, 24-70 plus 70-200 vr2 cost ~$4000. Robert has already stated that 70-200 plus D700 is beyond his budget.
    Robert, in principle both the 24-70 and the 70-200 work fine on a D200. The only issue is perhaps 24mm being too long for a walkaround lens in a D200. The 70-200 is fine, and if you don't plan to update to FX you may be interested in the older VR1 version, since the vigneting and soft corners only affect the full 35mm frame.
    By the way, Robert, why weren't you impressed by the 60mm Nikkor?
  5. I agree with Mihai. I wouldn't have a problem carrying around a full-framer on vacation, so going to full-frame would be pretty cool.
    The 24-120/16-35/D700 combo (with a 70-300 VR thrown in for good measure) would really suit me if I had that budget.
    The 18-200 is a great lens, I just sold mine because I don't do that kind of vacation photography anymore, and all those lengths were duplicated in other stuff. But if you want to upgrade quality, that lens is a good place to start. Jack of all trades, yes, great for vacations where you need to travel light, yes... you might want to keep it to use on your D200 as a backup. But for day-to-day "serious photography", with your budget, you can do so much better.
  6. I would opt for the 24-70 and 70-200. If you stick with DX, then you will have coverage from 12-200 at a combination of f/4 (12-24) and f/2.8 (24-200). Should you decide to migrate to FF in the future, you are still covered from 24-200 (@ f/2.8) and 24mm is still reasonably wide (and I believe that the 12-24 will cover the FF sensor at around 16mm upward so the 12-24 would still be usable over part of its zoom range). Finally, if FF is not in your future, or you don't require absolute corner-to-corner sharpness, you could even opt for version 1 of the 70-200 to save a little money.
  7. What sized prints are you typically making? Do you shoot often in low light? Are you shooting RAW or JPG? What software are you using to process your images? Exactly what do you mean by "higher overall quality"?
  8. Miguel,
    If Robert goes full frame, I suppose he can sell his DX stuff for at least $345.87 to cover the difference required for D700/f4 zooms.
    One more advantage of this setup over D200 and f2.8 glass: If he buys f2.8 zooms today in a year or maximum two he will desperately need to upgrade the camera... because D200 is already old technology. If he goes for D700 and f4 zooms he will not need to upgrade at least a double number of years.
    Anyhow, my major argument is regarding the type of photography the OP is practicing.
  9. Robert,
    Unless you need to shoot at high ISO very often, the D700 would be a waste of money as it doesn't offer better image quality than the D300s does. I'd consider the D300s. I've had the D300 (same camera but without video and no extra SD card slot) since November, 2007, and I've loved every minute of it. You can keep your DX lenses and just keep on shooting. Image quality increases over the D200 are significant. You'll be very pleased! Good luck.
  10. " (D300) Image quality increases over the D200 are significant" Not so much at lower ISOs as well as for typical print sizes perhaps up to 8 x 10 or even larger. And probably not so much for the type of shooting the OP does. It will be difficult to see the difference between identically shot pictures from both cameras under most shooting conditions the OP describes.
  11. For a trip to Kauai: Upgrade your tripod/head kit. Throw in some ND grads. Keep the D200 until it dies; forget about buying a new body, it ain't gonna be a big difference. Consider the 85mm Nikkor for its sharpness, clarity. Concentrate on the tripod and head kit (don't forget an L-plate and remote).
  12. Elliot, I've owned both the D200 and D300. While the D200 is not a bad camera, the D300 does offer a significant increase in image quality over the D200, even at lower ISOs. I can see the difference between the two cameras immediately when viewing the image full screen.
  13. What do you mean when you say you photo "nature?" Do you shoot macro/insects? Birds? Large animals such as antelope or caribou? Frogs? Landscapes? Each has it's requirements. A good lens for landscapes might not be a good lens to photo butterflies, or musk ox. Most importantly, what tripod do you have now?
    Kent in SD
  14. Thanks to all for your time and advice. Lots of questions so I'll try to answer them all in one post if that is OK.
    * Comfortable switching lenses? (Bj Larsson): Yes, I am OK with that if the trade-off is higher quality results (which for me means, most of all, superior sharpness along with everything else that comes with better optics).
    * Why not like the Nikkor 60mm? (Miguel Martinez): I rented it to try out its macro focusing ability. I expected it to be better than my 18-200 shooting flowers, but it wasn't, in my opinion. I'm pretty sure the lens had been rented by others before me so I doubt my copy was defective. And I do believe I used it properly.
    * What size prints do I do? Shoot often in low light? RAW or JPG? Software? (Elliott Bernstein): My biggest enlargement is typically 8 x 10, one of the major reasons being that I'm not satisfied with images any larger than that, despite often using a tripod. I have blamed that on lenses but maybe, after reading the posts here, it's the D200. I would shoot available light more often if I had 2.8. I shoot JPG because my software (Picture Project) doesn't do RAW. I know, I know, Picture Project is super basic and I am embarrassed to admit here that I use it. But I started with it when I made the switch to digital in 2006 and I'm comfortable with it until I can master something better; I tried Nikon Capture NX at one point (gift from my wife) but was overwhelmed and returned it to the store.
    * What do I mean by "nature"? Type of tripod? (Kent Staubus): For me, nature most often means landscapes, seascapes, closeups of flowers, trees, parks, clouds, sunsets and sunrises; occasionally I like to do small animals, too. My tripod is a Manfrotto 725B -- very basic but it has met my needs to this point.
    Hope those answers help. Thanks again.
  15. The most significant increase in image quality can be had from upgrading your lenses rather than the camera body. Since the D300/s and D700 are all far behind Canon now, I would wait for their replacements before upgrading your D200. I recommend buying full frame lenses, now, in anticipation of upgrading to full frame in a years time.
    The Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR2 lens has become an extremely expensive lens for the advanced amateur to justify. A used Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-S lens in new condition can be had for less than half the price, and if you must have VR a used first version can be had for $800 USD less than the VR2. The savings on this lens focal length alone can buy another lens!
    If you enjoy the superwide angle end of your 12-24 on DX then the 24-70 won't be wide enough on full frame. The highly acclaimed 14-24 or the more flexible 17-35/2.8 ED may be good alternatives to replace your 12-24, however I would not make this change until you go full frame.
    That leaves the range of 24 or 35 to 70 or 80mm. You don't necessarily have to fill this with the 24-70/2.8. Evaluate your own requirements using the exif data from your current lenses, but you may find that a 50mm lens may fit your needs, especially since it is so fast, light and small.
    You must be expecting too much from macro photography since the 60mm macro will vastly out perform your current zoom. Macro lenses have extremely narrow depth of field and this is something that takes time and patience to learn how to deal with in compositions.
    A different, "out-of-the-box" alternative is to choose specialty prime lenses to complement your zooms, or other consumer zooms in the future. Lenses like the 180/2.8, 85/1.8, 105 Macro, 35/2 etc can be very useful. You can pick and choose specific lengths that fit well with your needs.
  16. I would go for a 70 or 80 to 200 f/2.8 plus a 1.4x converter or a Nikon 70-300 VR or the new Nikon 55-300 VR. I'd go for the f/2.8 lens if I did much shooting of moving subjects in low light. Otherwise I would go for one of the 70-300 VR's. They're much lighter, less expensive, and the VR lets you shoot stationary subjects in low light. I would definately keep the 18-200 VR for travel and for those times you don't want to carry a lot of gear.
    Since there would be a gap between the 12-24 and the new lens, I'd get a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 with or w/o VC. They're very sharp, relatively compact, and reasonably priced.
    Last I would consider a D90. A replacement is due soon, and prices will drop. I'd wait because you may be interested in the replacement instead. The D90 is a big upgrade in IQ over the D200 and if you don't need the weather sealing and construction of the D300, it gives the same IQ at a much lower price.
  17. If you think that the 18-200 is doing better for macro, I have to say I find that hard to believe. You're probably not coming nearly as close to the flowers as you can with the 60mm, and if the results are what you want, that's great.
    When comparing my 55mm f3.5 with my 18-200, the difference was so amazing. What didn't you like about the 60? The AF? AF at micro distances is a waste of effort imho. MF is the way to go when you're up close.
  18. I agree with putting money into lenses now, maybe even a macro focussing head (rail) for your tripod. I'm thinking something like a Tamron 90mm macro lens would work for you. For landscapes, really just about any lens will work. I've been to Hawaii about five times now (although I'll likely never go back now that I've seen Iceland.) The single most important thing to bring there is a polarizer. I also brought a couple of ND grads too. The 70-300mm VR would work to photo surfers, close birds, and small animals although the 80-400mm VR would be better in some ways (more magnification.) For landscapes, anything can work. The ultimate would be some of the new tilt/shift lenses, but you will be stunned to see the price of those. Nikon will be releasing new cameras and I agree the D90 and D300 are becomming dated. I would hold off. If you are a daylight shooter I don't think the higher ISO capability will do all that much for you. Think of photo gear as a SYSTEM, that works together. For you I suggest a nice macro lens, a macro focus rail (tripod head,) and a polarizer. Don't forget to use your lens hood out in the sun.
    Kent in SD
  19. if you look at your current set-up, there are a couple of obvious issues: 1) d200 is challenged in high-ISO situations; 2) 18-200 has questionable IQ.
    my .02: 1) upgrade to a d300. 2) buy the tamron 17-50/2.8 and sigma 50-150/2.8 combo. IMO, 2.8 gives you much more latitude, but fast lenses also tend to have better IQ than consumer zooms.
    or... keep your current lens setup and buy some fast primes: 35/1.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.8, maybe 105 VR.
    there's really no need to "upgrade" to FX, which would be a lateral, though costly, move in your case. if you're not a pro event shooter, you dont need the d700/24-70/70-200 combo, which is over your budget --by about $1000-- anyway. for travel, compact DX zooms are a lot more suitable. if you stick with DX, you can get a boost in IQ from 3rd-party 2.8 zooms over your current lenses, and the 17-50+50-150 combo gives you the exact same focal range as 24-70/70-200 on FX, in a much more portable package at a much more affordable price. you can also use a 1.4x TC on the sigma.
    another option might be sell the 18-200 and buy the tamron 28-75/2.8+ nikon 70-300 VR. i would continue to use the 12-24, as nothing is really wrong with that. the tamron 28-75 is a sharp lens great for portraits, but as a DX walkaround it's not wide enough. however, paired with an ultrawide it does well. the 70-300 VR is better-suited for travel than the 70-200, has better IQ than the 18-200, and gives you 450mm equiv. on DX, but is still 5.6 on the long end. in effect, you'd be gaining IQ in the most-used FL plus range on the long end.
    as others have mentioned, ND grads, polarizers, cable releases and tripods can help improve your pictures no matter what lens/body combo you use. and, in general, primes are not only sharper than consumer glass, but aid composition, resulting in "better pictures."
  20. I have not tried the 24-70 on my D200, but it should work just fine. I also like the 70-200, which I have used on my D200. I'd say these are a good pair to upgrade to. They will also set you up for a future upgrade to FX if you want to go that way.
    Before I got a D3 I used my D200 with the 17-55 and 70-200. The 18-200 was great for family outings and vacations, although the other two lenses were better for photos requiring the highest sharpness and low light applications. I was not bothered by the 55-70 gap. When I got the D3 I kept the D200, and I use it occasionally for shots requiring an internal flash.
    Since you have a sizeable database of photos from your D200, you might consider running it through one of the analysis programs to find the distribution of focal lengths you use. When I did that I found the wide angle end of the 18-200 was used the most, but there was a secondary peak at 200. Knowing what you commonly shoot will help make decisions about what lenses you use. There are several programs available that read the EXIF data from all your photos and make a graph of focal lengths used (or shutter speed or ISO, or whatever).
  21. When I did that I found the wide angle end of the 18-200 was used the most, but there was a secondary peak at 200.​
    I also noticed that I either shot all at the wide end or almost all the way at the tele end. Sold the lens because of that... last week. That said, it was awesome when I went on a trip to Alaska four years ago. I was all over the zoom range, didn't have to change lenses, and I took the most at 24mm for some reason... Now I either shoot ultra-wide, normal, or 100mm+ and nothing in between.
  22. For close-up and nature a camera with "Live View" solves many, many problems.
    If you haven't ever played with this, you can magnify and scroll to a critical portion of your composition and fine tune your focus to perfection. It's "digital ground glass."
    You may be quite happy with a D200 to D300(s) upgrade, and keep your current lenses.
  23. The general consensus seems to be that the biggest difference in image quality will come from better lenses. No great surprise there. However, I am intrigued by the number of photogs suggesting that I ditch the D200 for a D300s. I'm thinking I will rent a D300s if available, use it with my existing lenses, and evaluate performance.
    I'm actually hoping there won't be much difference because I'd rather wait, as some suggested, until the next generation of D300s or even D700. If there is in fact no appreciable difference, I'll explore lens replacement in the short term. The recommendations on lenses are all over the board, although most seem to think I should keep the 12-24. Some of the comments suggest going with Sigma or Tamron. I'll have to consider that if their image quality really is close to or the same as the Nikkors while costing significantly less; however, it's quality improvement I'm after most. If I do get new lenses, it would be nice if they would work on both DX and FX if I'm going to stay with the D200 and purchase an FX body in the future.
    Many have suggested the Nikon 70-300 instead of the 70-200 so I'll look into that. I would really like to do a trial with the Nikon 24-70 because that is the focal range I shoot in an awful lot. The idea of having a 2.8 on that lens is mighty appealing. The 17-35 also is one to consider but I'd also want coverage in a separate lens in the 35-70 range. And maybe I can find a good macro among those suggested, such as the Nikon 105 VR or Tamron 90.
    I'm already using other things to boost image quality (polarizer, tripod, cable release, lens hood, etc.) so I think for me it comes down to new body v. new lenses.
    Thanks again for all the help. Any other ideas are welcome.
  24. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Robert, since you don't have an image portfolio on, it is hard for me to gague your level of photography. What you currently have is decent equipment. The D200 is older. If you want to upgrade the body, the new D7000 seems to be a good choice; you might want to wait for some early reviews when that camera is on the market, hopefully next month.
    The 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR is a fine lens, especially version 2. However, that is a much heavier lens than your 18-200. I don't mind carrying it on vacations, but plenty of people do. I also don't like the 24-70mm range on DX bodies. If you want a high-end mid-range zoom, consider the 17-55mm/f2.8.
    You'll likely find that the D7000 will give you much better AF and low-light/high-ISO results compared to your current D200, but of course I haven't seen the D7000 myself. But please don't expect that some new expensive lenses will all of a sudden give you much better images.
    I would upgrade the body first and then maybe add another lens. Don't buy everything at once. Get used to your new camera and then see what else is preventing you from taking better images. If you shoot a lot of macro, maybe get a dedicate macro lens.
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Bob sent me about 40 images of his. He is a very fine photography but he does not shoot anything that is very demanding on equipment: not much sports, especially night sports, not that much wildlife that requires 400mm, 500mm type lenses.
    I don't think it is necessary to get an FX body such as the D700 since high-ISO results doesn't seem to be a priority, nor super wide or PC-E lenses. Based on the specs, the new D7000 should fit Bob quite well but again I haven't used that camera yet. The D300S is fine but it is older technology and is clearly at the end of its production cycle by now.
    Lens wise, perhaps add a 100mm macro lens since Bob shoots some flower macros. The 70-200mm/f2.8 or a 70-300mm lens would be a good addition. Just keep in mind that the 70-200 is quite heavy.

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