Feedback Needed re: D90 or D300s & lens selections - best choices for budget?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by nicole_litalien, Jan 30, 2010.

  1. Hi All,
    I've already done a search on the forum and of course lots of googling which has me leaning towards upgrdaing to a D300s (I'm currently a D40X user) in lieu of a D90 but I'm hoping to get a bit more feedback in regards to some questions I have about doing so given my projected budget and whether I'm leaning towards to the right choice (ahhh, if only money were no object!).
    Here's a bit of background with respects to some details that may influence my choice(s) and your suggestions:
    1. I primarily shoot dog sport action shots (both indoor & outdoor); I am therefore often working with poor/low light or overcast conditions and/or working in the elements (rain, snow, cold, etc).
    2. I currently use mostly M settings
    3. I take alot of shots...I'm not just a monthly hobbyist although I am also not a pro by any means ;)
    4. My lens collection at this time is (all nikon): 18-55; 50 1.4; 55-200. I'm also wanting to add a 70-200 to the collection (see below).
    So, in a nutshell, I'm trying to decide between going with a:
    A. D90 & a Nikon 70-200 lens (version one) or
    B. D300s and a Sigma 70-200
    I am feeling as though the 70-200 would be a step in the right direction...I know the Nikon is a better lens choice over the Sigma but remember cost is factoring into my decision at this point.
    D300s has alot of features that I think would serve me well for what I shoot most, but I also like the though of spending the money on a quality lens over a camera body....
    And of course, being in Canada, I'm unfortunately apt to pay much more.
    So...thoughts? Thanks in advance for any feedback - I really do appreciate it.
     
  2. first of all, for sports with fast action--dog shots totally count--the better, faster, more accurate AF of the d300s will be invaluable, especially with the battery grip which lets you get 8fps, or almost 2x as fast as the d90's 4.5fps. and the d300s has better weather-sealing. so you may have answered your own question there.
    looking at your lenses, you definitely need an upgrade to fast glass as well. there have been a lot of threads recently detailing the dilemma between nikon/sigma 70-200s. invariably, at some point the nikon 80-200 af-d will be mentioned. optically, that's just as good as the nikon 70-200, and the d300s' strong internal motor should be able to power it to reasonably fast AF, though not as fast as HSM or AF-S. if there's a store near you that carries the sigma and both the nikons and you can test them before buying, that would be your best bet.
     
  3. Have you considered getting a used Nikon 70-200mm lens (original version) now and upgrading your body when you have the money? The 70-200mm will work remarkable well on the D40x and the D40x delivers very good image quality up to ISO 1600 (and perhaps higher) when shooting RAW and using good post processing software.
     
  4. Hi Nicole,
    For your dog trials / sports etc and for working outdoors in all the elements I'd def. recommend the D300s as Eric Arnold pointed out, it's Auto Focus module is a step up from the D90 and in combination with the MB-D10 battery grip it will give you plenty of frames per second to capture the quicker action shots. The D300s also boasts better body / weather seals than the D90.
    As for your desire for a 70-200mm zoom lens (or maybe similar) I can vouch for the quality of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM version I zoom - I used this lens for a while on a D300 and only sold the lens because I was actually given a Nikkor 70-200mm VR as a gift. If you can live without VR which is irrelevant for fast action photography then maybe the Sigma is your lens - it's just a well built as the Nikkor- I used my extensively for over 9 months outdoors and sold it looking like new. I was also very satisfied with the edge sharpness of the Sigma and it's slightly warmer colour tone reproduction over the Nikkor equivalent. It's also just as quiet as the Nikkor in it's focusing which impressed me as I was shooting birdlife with it a lot. There is now a version II Sigma which by all accounts is an improvement again on the version I had.
     
  5. So, in a nutshell, I'm trying to decide between going with a:
    A. D90 & a Nikon 70-200 lens (version one) or
    B. D300s and a Sigma 70-200

    Ideally, the choice would be D300 + 70-200, but if you don't have the budget, I'd pick the D90 + 70-200VR combo. The original version kicks ass, imo, and looks so much better than the VRII ;-)
    IIRC, the D90 has a similar or upgraded version of the AF system found in the D200, and it's quite good.
    Regards,
    Alvin
     
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I primarily shoot dog sport action shots (both indoor & outdoor); I am therefore often working with poor/low light or overcast conditions and/or working in the elements (rain, snow, cold, etc).​
    The D300/D300S' AF system is a major improvement over the one on the D200/D90, especially under low-light conditions.
    If cost is a major concern, I wonder whether a used D300 is an option for you? Other than video and dual memory cards, the D300 is just as good as the D300S.
     
  7. If at all possible, consider a used or re-manufactured D300, and do what you can to get that Nikon 70-200/2.8.

    As a guy who also shoots dog action in the field, I can assure you that the D300's AF system is a huge asset. Having previously relied on the D200 (which is more like the D90, in terms of AF ability) - even while using the nimble 70-200 - I can tell you that the D300's AF capabilities directly contribute to more success. Especially in lower light.

    The D300's body (compared to the D90) is also going to be a lot more weather/dirt/action tolerant, and is (I think) a lot more pleasant to handle when you mount that big lens.

    The 70-200 is my most-used dog sport lens, but I'd be very frustrated if I had to use it on a D90, for that sort of work. If you must, get the lens, and then go for a sports-friendly body as quickly as you can afterwards. Good luck!
     
  8. Thanks so much for all your responses thus far - very helpful indeed!
    In reply to some of the questions regarding purchasing used equipment, I have been scoping out some used/open box demo prices but really have found that there is quite little difference in the price between those and new (of course better prices in the US but with the exchange, shipping, and duty it really doesn't end up saving me a whole heck of alot unfortunately).
    I have found a reputable Canadian company that has a pretty great price on a D300S, so I very well may go that route. The weather sealing, increased fps (particularly with the bat. pack), and AF were definately the considerations that had me leaning towards that particular model. I'm also under the understanding that the D300 can also focus lock onto a moving object whereas I'm not sure if the D90 has that capability.
    What I think I may end up doing is going with D300s (I'm not adverse to the D300 either, as having video is of not real concern of mine - that's why I have a video camera!) and keeping my eyes peeled very carefully for a used 70-200 (although Ebay wise they seem to be selling for around 1700 CAD so I'm not sure if saving the extra few hundred bucks and going new might be a better route). The 80-200 is not a bad idea at all - I had wondered about whether that might also be a worthy contender.
    As to keeping the D40X and getting a 70-200, I had thought of that as well but I'm finding that it really isn't meeting my needs as much as I would like with low/poor light situations and those high action fast moving shots of the dogs (eg going over a jump or Aframe, launching into the air towards the decoy, etc)that I often miss. Plus, I would like to have a back up/more "around the house" type camera so it would fit the bill nicely for that, hence I will be keeping it as well.
    Thanks so much once again for all the helpful suggestions! If there are any continued/added thoughts that you may have, I'm open to hearing of them!
    And Matt, those are some fantastic pics you have there!
     
  9. You do not need VR for your subjects. Seriously consider a used Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-S ED. This is the rarest of all the xx-200/2.8 versions, and can be had for around $1000 USD. keh.com currently has a couple in "bargain" condition for $1035. Our Canadian dollar is almost at par which makes buying from the US much easier. I have bought "bargain" and "ugly" lenses from keh with great success. Their lens gradings are extremely conservative. Receiving imported items through Canada Post is the least costly method. The last time I bought from keh they shipped via a Fedex service where-by the lens is delivered to Canada Post at the border and delivered by them, avoiding high brokerage fees. Sometimes Canada Post will charge taxes and sometimes they don't.
    Hopefully buying the used lens above will allow you to stretch your budget to the D300 or D300s.
     
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If Nicole also needs to photograph dogs that are not moving under indoor, low-light conditions, having VR can be a major plus. If it is at all possible, I would definitely get a VR lens.
     
  11. Doing even somewhat commercial work around dogs and dog events inevitably means doing portraiture, sideline candids, some documentary work for clubs, and all sorts of other stuff that doesn't involve dogs actively flying through the air - and frequently involves awful light. The VR is truly useful in all of those other roles, and not to be missed if at all possible.
     
  12. I have used a D300 plus Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR to photo night time softball games. I was amazed at how great that combo is for action in low light. Hard to believe that a used D300 sells for about the same price as a new D300s. It should be about 2/3 the price.
    Kent in SD
     
  13. In this particular zoom range and aperture the VR function adds $500 to $1500 USD, depending on VR I, VR II and new/used.
    Think out-side the box for a minute. One is probably shooting action and "portraits" at two different times, like when I do car racing. I shoot the action with one lens and the paddock "portraits" with another. For less than the value of VR you could add a much more effective portrait lens like a 50/1.8, or 85/1.8 or if you absolutely have to have VR something like the Nikon 18-105 VR. Nikon actually has several VR lenses in the short telephoto range which may in fact be more appropriate than the 70-200/2.8 VRs for portrait work. Don't forget though that even with portraits, especially of animals, you are not going to be wanting to push your VR shutter speeds any lower than 1/45 to 1/90 in order to stop subject movement to maintain sharpness. You can get away with these shutter speeds without VR on portrait lenses set at the same aperture and ISO as the f2.8 zooms above.
    I just realized that you already have a 50/1.4. I highly suspect that this would be a much better solution for animal portraits than the 70-200/2.8 VR. A heck of a lot lighter, easier to manouever, can be shot at 1/45 in a pinch, can be shot at very nice additional portrait apertures of f1.4 to f2.5, and provides superior out-of-focus area rendition ("bokeh"). Have you ever tried to use it for your portraits?
    Obviously multi lens solutions are more complicated but they can often help meet budgetary and image quality concerns. Certainly something to think about. I also believe that learning to manage event shooting with two or three different lenses that offer unique results specific to each lens is rewarded with better overall image quality.
     
  14. Nicole, don't assume the performance of your D40x would be the same with the 70-200mm f2.8 lens as it is with your 55-200mm - it won't be. My suggestion was not necessarily to keep your D40x, rather it was to use it until you could afford the body you need which as most will agree should be a D300/D300s. For low light I would rather shoot with a D40x/70-200mm/low ISO combo than the D300/55-200mm/higher ISO combo. As it appears you cannot afford both the Nikon lens and 'right' body (D300 vs the D90) right now, my suggestion was and still is to go with the lens first.
    There is no question that the D300/D300s cameras have far superior AF performance and features/options than the D90/D40x. But when using the center AF point on most recent Nikon DSLR cameras, you get very impressive results when using a fast AF-S lens like Nikon's 70-200mm lens. When it comes to image quality (from RAW images), you may find the D40x rates quite highly among many Nikon cameras including the D300 - you can find more information here:
    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/eng/DxOMark-Sensor
     

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