is there something between a D90 and a D300s?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ed_lemko, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. Hi,
    I currently own a D40x for almost 2 yrs now, with 2 zooms (sigma 18-200 OS, sigma 70-300APS), and a Nikkor 1.8G 35mm prime. This is not used for pro, but for serious amateur only. Shoot weddings and parties, zoos, and outings, but only to document and give as presents. My child swims, and for the middle of the indoor pool, you can reach with flash, and low light performance, I'm realizing, is very grainy and dark at H1 (3200). Blurriness and dark at 800-1600, even with fully compensated exposure. I'd like a camera that can let me take flashless ( or get better quality than now, even if not perfect) pictures of the pool, without constantly having to shoot at low shutter to get a bright enough shot ( and risk constant blurry shots).
    I want to move up, and from what I've read, the D90 is a step up. I'm hoping it could bridge the gap in low light performance enough to make a difference for my family and my quasi-"portfolio".
    But I don't want to get a D90 and then feel like I'm ready to switch again in 2 years, and it only turned out to be an incremental move. Yet, the D300s seems like it may be slightly overkill for me. 1800 bucks is a little steep for 1x, or 2x use per week.
    Is there something in the $1300 body price range? or am I right that Nikon's lineup jumps from the $900 ESP D90 to the $1800 D300S?
    Many people think the D90 is a super camera and a super value. I may just settle for that. Getting a reality check is all. Doing it more for photos than for the video cap. Don't want to get a legacy/older camera as I have a perception that the newer cameras did indeed add capability, convenience, and better features.
    Thanks for any help
  2. I think the answer is a slightly used D300 for less than 1,300. I bought mine on ebay a few months ago for 1,275 (body only). There are quite a few out there ... some "demo" models in that price range that come with a warranty.
    good luck,
  3. pge


    I have no experience with a D300 or a D90 so I will not comment about them.
    However, I see lots of D300`s on Kraigslist in the $1300 range, and that is asking before bargaining.
  4. D300 (without the "s") seem like a logical choice. I have the D300 and see the D300s as a small step backwards. While they added movie mode and dual card slots the removed the locking card door. There could be a nice price drop for this outgoing model. It is a bit heavy.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The main advantage the D300/D300s over the D90 are:
    1. Much better AF, especially for sports and low-light (wedding)
    2. 8 frames/sec w/ MB-D10 and appropriate batteries
    3. Metering w/ no-CPU lenses, mainly manual focus AI/AI-S
    4. Better construction
    But you lose the video mode on the D300.
    Since the OP doesn't have any AI/AI-S lenses, at least not yet, #1 AF capability should be the deciding factor. Are you happy with the D40x's AF?
  6. I see two reasons that you might want the D300 (or D300s) instead of the D90:
    1) The D300/D300s can meter with old manual focus lenses,
    2) The D300/D300s has weather sealing.
    If you don't need to use old lenses and don't plan on doing a lot of shooting outdoors in inclement weather, then the D90 gives you about 95% of what the D300/D300s gives you, but in a smaller, lighter, more affordable package.
  7. Good grief, what a community, I never expected answers so quickly! Thank you. I guess I'm used to posting at a few legacy software sites, and you basically have to wait days for a response, not minutes...
    As I read through them, I forgot to mention that all my lenses have the focus motor in them as per the d40x's requirements, so they're all AF-S I guess it's called.
  8. I had a similar dilemma, although I do shoot professionally. I had to make the choice between a D300 and a decent lens or a D90 and two great lenses. I went with the D90 and got a 17-55 2.8, and 80-200 2.8. I'm VERY happy with the D90. It is a great camera, and although I could have used the better autofocus system of the D300, it wasn't worth the price difference since that price difference almost paid for the 80-200 lens. I would DEFINITELY recommend the D90 to you. The D300 isn't necessarily overkill, but in my opinion it's not worth the extra $ unless you are going to use it in demanding situations like weddings (fast AF) or sports (fast AF and better body for protection and weather sealing.) Good luck with your decision!
  9. I have had a 90 for almost a year and still highly recommend it. The D300 will have better build quality, but you wont see a difference in the images. The D300s is nice but still very close to D90. I would go either D90 or D700.
  10. "very grainy and dark at H1 (3200). Blurriness and dark at 800-1600, even with fully compensated exposure."
    Ed, you seem to list the above as your chief issues. A different camera will NOT make a difference. At least not in the price range you have indicated.
    It's possible to shoot a higher ISO with a full frame camera, like a D700, but without knowing what the parameters of light are that you are dealing with in a swim stadium, it's quite possible that even ISO 6400 won't get ride of noisy images, including large areas of darkness.
    It's possible a telephoto lens with an f/2.8 aperture might help. Or a more powerful flash. But that's going to involve some serious coin, and not involve the camera.
    "for the middle of the indoor pool, you can reach with flash, and low light performance, I'm realizing, is very grainy and dark at H1 (3200). Blurriness and dark at 800-1600"
    Why, Ed, is it necessary to reach the middle of the indoor pool? Some things are just not meant to be. It may be that the ability to reach the middle of a indoor pool, and to stop the action of the swimmers, is just not possible for an amateur photographer.
    For the middle of the pool, therefore, I suggest you employ neurochromes - i.e., memories - rather than a new camera.
    I'm not saying you shouldn't have a new camera. You probably should. I know I have lots of cameras. But I don't think you need a new camera for getting shots of your kid in the middle of a indoor pool.
  11. Nikon has been introducing new bodies often. I don't like buying a new body every couple of years but some of the improvements make me purchase anyway. As Shun asked if your current AF is good enough then a D90 would do. AF-S does not mean a lens will be quicker to focus even though it usually is. There is a focus processor in the body also and that will make a difference in focus speed as will a better focus motor in the body. As Shun mentioned the D300 has a better focus module. Faster glass can also help with AF speed and if you don't need the extra DoF and can shoot larger aperture than the shutter speed can be higher or the ISO lower. Both the D90 and D300 have better viewfinders and control sets. In the past few years I have gone from a D70 to a D200 and now a D700. Life is good but $$$.
  12. lwg


    Pickup a faster lens. A 70-200mm or 80-200 f/2.8 zoom would help you out with 2 stops here. Also, look at getting an external flash (your kid my not like that option though). The SB900 will certainly let you reach the middle of the pool with lots of light.
  13. Ed, from the requirements I'm reading from your first post, to get the pictures you want, nothing less than a constant 2.8 zoom (or perhaps ths 200/2, 85/1.4 etc) plus D700 will satisfy those requirements. I'd probably see if I can spring for a D300 plus fast glass. I think the 70-300 sigma and the 18-200 are both relatively slow at the tele ranges? In my experience, just a one stop faster lens makes a really, really big difference. My 70-300 is now fallen into non-serious photographic purposes as it's a 5.6 at 300mm, versus my 300/4 prime....faster shutter, longer flash reach, plus the more expensive lenses are generally better built and will probably do well as ammunition for a small trebuchet in a pinch.
    When I went over from d200 to d300, the ability of the camera to capture light in much tougher situations already gives me the ability to make pictures I'd never thought possible. I cannot wait for the next generation to become obsolete :)
  14. actually, i don't see what's wrong with a d90 for non-professional use if you must upgrade. IQ will not be substantially better than a D40x, and some prefer the CCD sensor over the CMOS sensor--just a heads up. both a d90 and d300 will give you about one more stop of hi-ISO performance, but the real upgrade would be in glass. not sure if the 35/1.8 gets you close enough, but if you're using a 5.6 or 6.3 max aperture lens with no flash at night, you need a telephoto with a faster max aperture. there's no 70-300 lens which is very fast, and if you want to keep the price around $1k or under, you're basically looking at the sigma 50-150 HSM, sigma 70-200 HSM, or the nikkor 80-200. all are 2.8, but the nikkor has slow AF compared to the others = not great for sports.
  15. i would suggest a D90 with a fast and bright wide to short zoom f/2.8 so you don't have to use H1 ISO setting. then you can sell the two zooms that you have and get a better one for the long end. if the budget is still tight, you can start with the nikon 70-300mm VR. it's a lot better than the two long zooms that you have right now. keep the excellent 35mm f/1.8 for what it is used for.
  16. Shun- I have 3 points of focus, as you know, on the D40x, and I find it sporadic at best. Photographing a moving body in moving water, with arms flailing and water droplets cascading, it's not easy to focus on eyes or goggles. The automated focus system, with it's limiting 3 points, does a poor job. I usually leave it on shutter priority, leave it jacked up to max exposure comp at +5, then gamble on a shutter speed that will give me a bright but soft photo if the subject is resting/floating, or a dark and grainy one with higher shutter speed when the subject is plunging through the water. I jack up to H1 iso, and it's all a bunch of sand. I go down to 800, and it dark like a cave, and to fix that I have to go down to 80 or 60 or 40 shutter, and it gets blurry.
  17. Dave said:
    "Why, Ed, is it necessary to reach the middle of the indoor pool?"
    Because that's where my daughter is swimming much of the time. It's also a physical description typical of the parameters I'm facing trying to photograph an pool: barely-bright ambient lighting along edges of very expansive concrete room, can't use flash as that hits the eyes of my all the swimmers and is frowned upon by coaches for practice and judges at competitions.
    "I don't think you need a new camera for getting shots of your kid in the middle of a indoor pool."
    Well, I think I do. I need a new something because that photos are not good enough. You don't have to be happy with them, I do.
    " I think the 70-300 sigma and the 18-200 are both relatively slow at the tele ranges?"
    My Sigma 18-200 OS is 3.5 wide to 6.3 tele. My 70-300APO sigma is 4 to 5.6. So in retrospect I realize that is pretty bad for this application, although swimming is not the only thing I shoot.
    Yeah, I think I do need to get rid of these 2 slow lenses. You know, all the reading one does, someone who buys a D40x, a starter's DSLR basically, they need to learn from experience and error what fast glass means, and I"m learning that the hard way, or perhaps, the "usual" way... Make mistakes, then fix them. I'll look into the nikon 70-300mm VR, and the sigma 50-150 HSM mentioned by Eric, perhaps holding on to the camera and going for lenses, or lens. Except I have to watch that they are all AF-S as my body has no motor.
    Thank you all for your observations
  18. [...] is a little steep for 1x, or 2x use per week.​
    I think that's actually a good reason to upgrade the camera. During that 1 or 2 events, you could concentrate on taking pictures than stressing out fiddling with the camera setting trying to find compromise.

    I have D40 and D90 and I use D90 as seldom as once a month for indoor event. I rented D90 a couple of times and considering the rental fee, I might as well get my own. And I did.

    Fast lens is a must (f2.8 or better) for lowlight; bumping up the ISO could only help so much. There are times when my D90 + 17-55 f2.8 setup is still too slow. I still rent 17-55 and 70-200 because that what I can afford now; it may be an option for you, too.
  19. ed, the nikon 70-300 VR is also 5.6 at the long end.
    sigma's 50-150/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 have HSM, which means they have focus motors (which the 80-200 doesn't have, unless you find a discontinued AF-S version). i'd definitely start with the lenses before upgrading your body, since you will need to do that in any event. upgrading to 2.8 glass will also give you a brighter image in the VF. you will still need fairly high shutter speeds at longer focal lengths to balance camera shake, at least 1/FL, so plan on shooting at 800-1250 ISO at least--3200 is pushing it on a d40x, though you might be able to get an acceptable 1600. you might also want to shoot in RAW which gives you more latitude in post-processing exposures if they need to be lightened. rule of thumb with digital is go for a sharp photo over a blurry photo every time; you can lighten pics in PP but you can't eliminate blur after the fact.
    one thing which might help a little bit here is a monopod, which will help stabilize the camera at longer FLs (but wont be any help in freezing motion).
    a d90 has 11-pt AF, which is an improvement over 3-pt to be sure. not as good for sports as the d300/d300s' 51-pt, but fast AF wont help you with slow lenses. if you stick with the d40x, you could also try your hand at prefocusing or even manual focus, although that could be frustrating if you're trying to get a whole sequence of action frames.
  20. "I don't think you need a new camera for getting shots of your kid in the middle of a indoor pool."
    Well, I think I do. I need a new something because that photos are not good enough. You don't have to be happy with them, I do.
    Wanting something and needing something are different things. You're right, I don't have to be happy with pictures of your daughter. But some things aren't possible, and one of those impossible things is relying on a new camera - between a D90 and D300s - to make you happy.
    As several others have pointed out, there is no camera, with the possible exception of a full-frame model, that will help; what you need is a lens with a wider f/stop.
    What is impossible one way, though, may be possible in other ways. So if a $1000+ lens and/or $2000+ camera is beyond your reach, how about these ideas:
    - Rent a lens with a wider aperture.
    - Join a camera club, make friends, then borrow the appropriate lens.
    As for your daughter being in the middle lane, I'm not sure what that has to do with the brightness of the scene. Can you or can you not use flash? It seems that you can't.
    If the room is evenly lit, then the light is the same in the middle of the pool as it is falling on the other lanes to either side. Light doesn't fall off with such minor distances found between a few lanes in a pool. So where she is in the pool, far right lane, far left lane, or the middle, doesn't matter as far as exposure is concerned.
  21. I usually leave it on shutter priority​
    i would shoot in manual to control DoF and shutter speed. and use spot meter instead of matrix, and AF-C for action, not AF-S.
    sometimes working with your settings and/or refining technique can maximize what your camera can achieve. but there's still no way around the fact that your tele lenses are too slow for night sports with no flash.
  22. A D90 sounds like what you need. A D300 or D300S would be overkill, and the D90 is as good in low light (and i've seen
    testing where it beats the D300 in high ISO image quality). It's one or two stops better than a D40X, and it has a much
    better AF system (the 11 point system with in-body motor so no AFS requirement. It's a huge step up from a D40X.
  23. I'm not relying on a camera to make me happy, I'm trying to decide what hardware upgrade might be necessary to get to conquer some specific environment and lighting challenges, and avoid getting bad photos.
    What I'm learning is that I might be able to skin the cat better with a lens than a new body.
    Of special relevance is the comment that even if I get a new body, I have slow glass, and so I'd have to bump that up anyway...
    The room is lit with halogens hung in a matrix from the ceiling, pretty high up, giving a faint yellowish light to the water. Along the walls there are semicircular sconces pointing light strictly upward. So the edges of the pool seem brighter due to the wall lighting, and there's a falloff in the middle of the pool. Not major, but noticeable.
  24. Ed,
    I go down to 800, and it dark like a cave, and to fix that I have to go down to 80 or 60 or 40 shutter, and it gets blurry.​
    So it sounds as if exposure is roughly correct with 1/60 sec. and ISO 800 - is that right?
    Since the lens will be at maximum aperture it's possible to guess what will happen with, say, a 70-200 f/2.8.
    Does your existing zoom have max. f/5.6 at the long end?
    If so then you'd expect to get correct exposure with an f/2.8 lens using 1/250 sec. at ISO 800.
    Would that stop the motion well enough for you?
    If not would 1600 ISO be too grainy since you'd then get 1/500 sec?
    By the way cranking the exposure compensation round to +5 is just telling you that the shutter speed is set too fast for the chosen ISO and the lens maximum aperture; it is really there just to correct for small errors in metering. In these dim conditions you would probably do better to use A mode and set the lens to the maximum aperture. The camera will then choose the fastest speed it can without underexposing; if it can't stop the motion it is really just telling you that the ISO is too low or the lens not fast enough.
  25. D90 + faster lens + monopod = a vast improvement, in my humble opinion. I don't see the D300/D300s being necessary here unless there is some concern about the camera constantly getting splashed with water from the pool (and then you'd need to make sure to buy weather resistant lenses as well).
  26. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Several people brought up a very good point about an f2.8 lens, perhaps a zoom.
    If the OP has the budget, I tend to agree that the combination of a D90 and a faster f2.8 lens (most likely 3rd party) is the way to go, rather than spending the entire budget on a D300/D300s body. At least that is the way to go for swimming photography. (Of course, D300 + f2.8 lens is even better; it is only money, especially not my money ....)
  27. Richard,
    My lenses are Sigma 18-200 OS is 3.5 wide to 6.3 tele. My 70-300APO sigma is 4 to 5.6. A 3rd is a prime Nikkor 35mm at f1.8. That one is great but of course has no zoom, something I greatly desire to get close with water drops and strokes. I would love to have f2.8 at 200mm, unfortunately I only have the above, and so at f6.3 at 200mm on my OS Sigma, at shutter speeds of anything over 120 it's almost blackish, and 60-100 it's dark, and at 30-60 it's lighter, but of course blurry.
    Regarding cranking ISO and the +5, I guess it's a chicken and egg in my head. If I crank up to H1, it's very grainy, if I go back to 1600 and 800, it get darkish again. To stay at 800 or 1600 in stead of H1, I try to get more light by slowing the shutter. To not have to slow it too much, I up the EV to +5, figuring this will allow me a faster shutter to avoid blur.
    I will try A mode, but all that does is leave the shutter speed to the camera, and I end up with many blurry pictures due to the low light and faster swimmers and water splashes.
    I don't think that I can get a studio-quality shot of perfectly-illuminated water, frozen in space, enveloping the swimmer, who is also perfectly lit. That's utopia. I'd need flash for that, be much closer, have better glass, a better camera, and even then it won't be like a magazine. I realize that, I'm just trying to do a step or maybe 2 better than I am now, and trying to understand which new camera, or which new lens would get me closer, without spending money in the wrong direction.
  28. In addition to the lenses that have already been suggested, you might want to take a look at the Tokina 50-135/2.8. This lens is fast, very sharp, and very well built. The price is quite reasonable too.
  29. I was just about to write the same thing as Richard - it looks like faster glass is the solution here. I also think the +5 exposure compensation doesn't do anything - the camera is maxed out at maximum ISO and maximum aperture - there is nowhere else to go. The suggestion of using A mode and setting maximum aperture is a good one in this case, as you automatically get the fastest possible shutter speed. Get an f/2.8 zoom and stick with the D40X for the time being. Upgrade to a new camera only if you still can get fast enough shutter speed at reasonable ISO. The D90/D300/D300s will give you 1 - 1 1/2 stops in ISO over the D40X - you will gain about 2 stops going to a faster lens.
  30. Thanks, RT. I'm making a short list of lenses now that most people have mentioned that a new camera won't solve my slow lens problem. I'm hoping the Tokina has a focus motor built in to work with my D40X which lacks the motor.
    I'm sensing that I need to get the 200mm and 300mm out of my brain, and think more in terms of the 50-135 range to allow for enough light, or else, pay up if I want both.
  31. Unfortunately, the Tokina does not have a built-in motor. It would work fine with the D90, though.
  32. Dieter,
    Well, I try to use the +5 to make up for the fact that I lower the ISO from max H1 (very grainy results) down to 1600 or 800 to get much less noise. It gets darker, of course, so I can get lighter pictures by compensating the exposure. Am I fooling myself there in some way that there's a 4th part (exposure. comp setting) of the iso-shutter-aperture triangle?
    I think I will take the medicine you describe... 1. sell lenses. 2. get a midrange zoom somewhere below f3 as budget allows. 3. keep the D40x to see if that combo is good for now.
    I've read so much here, but sometimes problems in one's own head are unique, and I tried to escape my perspective and focus on the objective physics of it, but I broke down and needed to ask. Thanks for all the help so far to everyone.
  33. Hi Ed, I've been reading this exchange of information with some interest. As a happy D70 owner for 4 years I have also been tantalised, distracted and undecided over upgrading to a D90, or a D300, more recently a D300s or even the over achieving (for my talents) D700.
    You seem to be looking for longevity of use with better low light capability but for less than the cost of a D300s body. I suggest that a possible solution is to trade in your D40x and both the sigma lenses for a 2nd hand D300 (or if possible a good ex-demo model D300s) and a new or second hand Nikon 18-200 VR lens. The body will last a considerable amount of time - the body and lens combination should make large inroads into your low light photography issues - and the package should be obtainable for less than a new D300s if you allow for the trade-ins.......
    Then just keep saving for the best lenses you can afford as and when you need to. For me the D300s is now looking like a sufficent step up from the D70 - but I also know by waiting just a little bit longer Nikon will produce something else to add to my possible wish list.
  34. Am I fooling myself there in some way that there's a 4th part (exposure. comp setting) of the iso-shutter-aperture triangle?​
    Afraid so - there is no magic bullet.
  35. Yes...a good, used D300 for about the same $$ as a new D90. That's what I did. Adorama and B&H have stellar warranty and returns policies.
    Don't buy new. Digital depreciation is worse than on a Korean car. What you save will buy you some nice glass.
  36. I also have the D40x and shot with it for two years. I had the same issues as you trying to shoot night pictures under poor lighting of our marching band. I had the 55-200vr, the 70-300vr, and the 18-55 kit lens. I then got a great deal on a D200 but it gets noisy at anything above 800 ISO. Then I got a deal on the 80-200 2.8 and realized just how much fast glass matters. I also got the Tamron 28-75 2.8 and it is awesome. What I am trying to say is fast glass will make up shortcomings in the camera. Thing about it is if you still need the higher ISO low noise levels then you can always move to the D90 and use the lenses on it for a killer combination.
  37. I know some have already said this, but you need a faster lens... if you can swing a D90 + a third-party f2.8 lens, do that. The D300 isn't actually much better than the D40 at high ISO--it appears much cleaner but also loses much more detail due to aggressive noise reduction. The D90 retains the detail while also being cleaner, so it does have a full stop advantage over the D40x (I have a D40 so that's why I mentioned it before, but the x is a bit worse at high ISO).
    So, what I'm trying to say is, you might get as much as a three stop advantage with a D90 + 50-135/50-150 f2.8 lens. And that would make your photos so much better.
  38. Sigma 50-150/2.8 HSM ($750) or 70-200/2.8 HSM ($800)?
    I used a D50 for three years before getting a D90. The D90 is definitely a step up, but the D50 with a decent lens (I use primes like 85/1.8 and 180/2.8 for indoor sports) would run rings around a D90 and a slow zoom.
    What focal lengths do you use on your zooms when you try to shoot the swim meets?
  39. Hi Ed,
    I'm not an usual poster around here, but happened to be reading about your dilemma and thought I'd throw in a few cents.
    Recapping from what I've read, your key points were:
    1. You want to take action-freezing shots (ideally, or at least blur free photos) from the edge of an indoor pool to the middle of it (25m or 50m standard length pools, I'll assume an average of 37.5m lengths, so about 18m [50ft] to the centre from the edge).
    2. You are dimly lit by high ceiling (approximating 15-30ft high) halogen lighting fixtures, which on the negative-side, is not bright, but on the good side, is constant even lighting (which others have mentioned).
    3. Coaches and judges frown upon (and discourage) the use of flash because it flashes into the eyes of all the swimmers (I'm guessing you are referring to direct on-camera flash more since you didn't list out additional flash equipment).
    4. Your shots will be largely of 'motion' (you mentioned the splashes and the arm motions), so hand-held, motion-shake blur will be the least of your worries (hence VR and monopods may not be particularly useful).
    5. Budget is a significant concern.
    6. Most important of all, these shots mean a lot to you, and both a 'challenge' for your photography skills, as well as a meaningful capture of this aspect of your daughter's life (to swim with judges and competitions and such probably means your daughter spends quite a bit of time training and swimming in this pool).
    If I didn't miss anything, then from those 'requirements', I'd suggest the following:
    1. I won't recap what others have said about the advantages of the bodies, D90 and D300 and D300s, since they covered it quite well, about the noise, ISO, and AF capabilities.
    2. In terms of lenses, I think first you need to identify what focal length you 'minimally' need.
    Yes, 200mm and 300mm are great, but if you can't (because of price considerations), what would be acceptable? And say, we throw in cropping, what minimum final image dimension do you want (say for prints or just emailing)? A 'crappy' 300mm, may have worser details, then a cropped 'sharp' 85mm or 135mm.
    The reason why the focal length plays a big factor is that it'll have a direct impact on the max aperture vs. focal length costs, as well as options available to you. For example, if a cropped image was alright, I'd even recommend an 85mm f1.8, the lens design is amazingly sharp, and u'd have 1.5 stops even more than the 2.8's (since you need the highest shutter speed possible), although honestly, the few elements in the design actually give it an extra 1/2 stop of light too (not all apertures on all lenses are actually equivalent, they are pretty close, but between a prime lens with a high light gathering abilities, together with few elements, it actually has less light loss compared to a poorly designed zoom lens with multiple lens elements). My 85mm f1.8 at f2.8 usually registers an extra 1/3 to 1/2 stop faster shutter speed in comparison to my 80-200 or my 50mm f/1.4. It's price is quite reasonable used (like between 250-350).
    Of course, that's under the assumption that you can survive without AF, since D40x requires AF-S lenses. I don't know how your daughter actually swims, but if it's always parallel to the film plane, then u could always prefocus at that fixed distance and just fire away. Of course, if your daughter's swimming is either erratic movement or constantly movement towards or away from you, then it would be harder (if not impossible with the D40x viewfinder). If you also did get a D90, then all the AF lenses would still focus as normal.
    If AF was really negotiable, I'd even go as far as looking into MF lenses. 135mm f2.8 or 85mm 1.4, among others, used would all be possible options to give you much better low light performance. Of course, for a D40x or D90, you would lose metering, but as we outlined in the requirements, the lighting is relatively uniform and is consistent in the middle of the pool, so you can set your camera to M mode (manual) and experiment with the right shutter speed until one gives you the right exposure, then you're set "forever". MF lenses are great for your case b/c of that aspect, and for best bang-for-the-buck, since budget was also a concern for you. There's a lot of cheap (but high quality lenses) lying around on eBa_ , KE_, and craigslis_, among other places...8)
    3. Another thing you can consider is shooting in RAW, and underexpose it by max 1'll produce more noise (when pushed in post-editing), but in shooting RAW, the noise is more uniform and not as affected by the compression that is prevalent in JPEG output, so you can always use good noise reduction programs to produce a better image that way. Unfortunately, that'll require you to get more into post-editing and learn more about the "dark" (light) room...8) But since you're looking for the best possible ways of getting more out of your camera, this is definitely one area you can look into.
    4. You mentioned that flash was not an option, because it 'flashed' into all the swimmers eyes. There's two things you can consider. First, you could invest into an SB-600 or SB-800 and see if you can bounce it onto the ceiling, which would be away from 'direct' flashing. I understand the ceiling is pretty high from your description, but at full blast, together with a bumped up ISO, it might just reach enough to help freeze the motion. It might also be more acceptable since the lighting would be coming from the same direction as the actual lighting in the room. Hopefully the ceiling is a light colour, or perhaps the light fixtures on the ceiling have a large enough area to act as reflectors.
    5. Finally, another CRAZY flash idea is to get an SB-600 or SB-800 and experiment to create a custom light funnel. You can set the flash at maximum zoom to focus the beam of light, and with a light funnel, you can concentrate the flash so it is directed at only your daughter. If you're knowledgeable in Physics, you can even apply a fresnel lens to make the flash into a 'spotlight'. That way, it won't affect other swimmers (of course this is assuming some sort of parallel arrangement of swimmers) and not like synchronized swimming where they are in a close-knit group. Of course, your apparatus would be the focus of a lot of eyes. Your daughter may not appreciate the attention...hehehe 8)
    So it makes a big difference in terms of the exact details of what you are hoping to capture, together with weighing your expectations of the final image output, as well as the level of compromise and budgetting you want to deploy. Hope some of those suggestions are helpful!
  40. Oh, and of course, the crazy suggestion #5 is assuming your daughter wouldn't be blinded either...8) I'm not sure what the 'swimming' is like...8)
    Oh, and the AF 180mm f/2.8 would be a nice budget used lens (if u're range is between 500-800). No AF on D40x, but would AF on the D90 (abeit a bit slow). But if it works out with the parallel swim plane, do consider MF lenses. You have a lot more options and better prices!
  41. Peter,
    Thanks for your treatise, and the time you took to try to understand my situation.
    I"ll take your points randomly, you were so generous in covering almost everything:
    Budget is important, I do have the money to buy a $2k lens, but I also have a family and wife and schools to pay for, etc... I also don't like th feeling of spending money, and then 2 weeks later it becomes clear that I spent it on the wrong thing. If I was shooting weddings and I could capture a larger wedding gig with a larger lens, I'd be thinking differently.
    85mm f1.8 prime. Interesting idea- although I don't think I would want to lose AF capability on my D40x, I wonder if they make one of these with an AF motor for the D40x. I always thought having a comprehensive tele-zoom would let me shoot anything and not have to be the bag-carrying person in the room. I'm realizing that if I don't spend 1000-2000 dollars on a low f-number zoom lens, I might as well just stick to the outdoors where there's light, or settle for the grainy shots of the indoor pool. Switching gears and accepting the usefulness and value of an extra prime lens or two at 1.8 may be smart.
    "It's price is quite reasonable used (like between 250-350)" I assume though that this refers to one with no motor, and would require manual focusing on my D40x?
    Flash- I do have an SB400 (useless in this particular scenario) and an SB600, but bouncing the 600 off the high ceiling doesn't seem to do much. I have a large old flash (20yrs) from my 79-year old Dad, for which I bought a cheap optical trigger at Adorama so it can fire at the same time my on camera flash fires. I guess I can fire simultaneously to the sb600 on full power, to the ceiling, but I'm the only crazy Dad running around with a camera, and firing two flashes up, often, is going to make me look like a kook. Basically I'm between the audience (40-50 parents) and the pool.
    Peter, although I have a better understanding of practical camera mechanics and tradeoffs re: shutter, aperture & ISO than when I bought my D40x almost 2 yrs ago, I haven't stopped learning new ways to comprehend the same information, so that it sits even more comfortably in my brain. Your description of the light and lens issues is welcome, and, as with others' comments here, it is stated in a way that lets me see the same subject from another vantage point.
    I will continue to read your suggestions, and reply some more if I've missed anything.
  42. Peter, you've gotten some really good advice. I'm just chiming in with the "get faster glass". We have a similar lighting/pool setting that you're describing, and I've taken pics with my D40/Nikon 35mm 1.8. I usually can get decent pics at ISO 800/f.2. I've also taken some with my D90/Sigma 150mm at ISO 800/f.3 and they're decent as well. No flash. As others have said, the D90 autofocuses faster than the D40 (IME, a LOT faster), so if you're looking to upgrade the body and lens, I'd go with the D90 and some fast glass as was suggested.
  43. Ed,
    Well, I think to properly give sound suggestions, it's important to really understand your situation and what your expectations are and what is available at your disposal. 8) So no thanks needed. I just hope I didn't overwhelm you with stuff, I just realized how long it was after I finished writing it...hehehe
    I totally agree with you. I think taking into account the lens/body investment in the whole scheme of the family financial planning is important. If that is the case, I may even encourage that you go for a better lens rather than a body, as lenses (especially Nikon, rather than off-brand) tend to keep their value better, whereas digital bodies depreciate quite quickly.
    Yeah, if you plan to need to retain autofocus, then you'll be somewhat limited by Nikon's very limited line-up of AF-S lenses (particularly in the prime lens department). And unfortunately, you are right, it does refer to an AF lens at that price and not AF-S. They don't have an 85mm AF-S (they really should). I'd only go down the AF route if you are upgrading to at least a D80 or D90 then. That also throws out the whole MF idea...hehehe.
    As for the flash idea, it's good you have an SB-400 and SB-600. I guess you have tried bouncing the flash before and found it acceptable in terms being 'frowned upon', but unsatisfactory in terms of its effectiveness (either the ceiling was too high, or the reflectance of the ceiling or fixtures was not enough). Although to be sure, I just wanted to clarify you weren't on Auto-ISO, and had manually switched the ISO to 400 if not 800, as using a flash would default the shutter speed to 1/60 (unless you're on SLOW sync or on M or S mode), and would cause the ISO to drop to the lowest setting. This would reduce the exposure in the image drastically (2-3 stop difference, i can't remember what the lowest ISO was on D40x).
    And with that in mind, I was actually wondering about two things to better understand the scenario. What type of swimming does your daughter do? And secondly, are there any balconies or higher up 'viewing points' (even if it's farther) in the indoor pool. I know some community centre or college indoor pools have balconies or glass hallway viewpoints on a second level. That might give some alternate options in terms of flash placement (if you get an inexpensive radio trigger or use your SB-400 pointed up to optically trigger your SB-600, since you have an optical trigger you mentioned).
    And finally, I can totally understand you wouldn't want to stand out like a sore thumb in the crowd of parents...hehehe. And your daughter probably wouldn't want that either...hehehe. I'll keep my ideas to more 'inconspicuous' methods. (i.e. ignore the crazy light funnel #5 suggestion...hahah)
  44. Peter,
    I still maintain my thanks as you and many others here are great in offering their time to a total stranger who might well be a dipstick or a genius, you never know, and that takes altruism and time.
    Ceiling seems too high to bounce- no noticeable effect. She swims competitively- so there's an hour of practice 5 days a week, then swim meets about every 6-8 weeks. Indoor swimming at clubs (and lighting) built from in the 1960's to early 1980's. No balconies. Shallow but long bleachers only on one side. Walking area along side of pool, but separated by banister to keep the parents far enough away so as not to disturb the training...
    Flash trigger- I have 2 optical remotes with no main- it fires from the main flash going off. radio triggers- what about these?:
    PS- I love all "crazy" ideas. One can always keep them in abeyance if they're not deployable, but if you don't brainstorm at all, you'll probably miss something that could have been useful...
    I'm also going to hunt around for a mid range low F number AF-S zoom, or a 85mm-ish AF-S prime from sigma or tamron with a nikon mount (since you intimate that Nikon may not have made an AF-S prime that would be useful for me in this range (although this may not apply to the mid-range zoom AF-S tack)...
  45. I took a quick peak at B&H to see what they had for fast tele primes with built-in focus motors, but the only one that jumped out at me was the Sigma 150/2.8 HSM. The price is only $20 less than the Sigma 50-150/2.8 HSM zoom, so it might make sense to just go with the zoom.
  46. I don't know how much money you're looking to spend, but a D90 + a Tokina 50-135/2.8 is only about $1350, which is really a steal... and still less than a D300 body-only!
  47. Don't suppose you could get them to turn up the lighting?
  48. Doesn't look like it's on a dimmer system, I assumed it was either on or off, but I can ask. But there are no burned-out or tuned-off bulbs on the ceiling nor on the walls.
  49. You know, it's a bit of a shame you have a D40 and not a D80 or D90. If myou had one of those you could maintain AF with all those lovely older lenses, like my favourite lens the 80-200 2.8 AF-D. It's constant 2.8 aperture and the AF is pretty quick, seeing as your budget is a factor it might be worth looking at a 2nd hand D80 plus that lens - you're not getting the latest and greatest camera but does that matter? You're getting a much faster lens and a camera that can AF with it. I hate buying gear brand new, it's like buying a new car, the things depreciate the moment you buy them! Even a D70 with a 2.8 zoom would be miles better than what you have now, IMHO...
  50. "The D300 isn't actually much better than the D40 at high ISO--it appears much cleaner but also loses much more detail due to aggressive noise reduction. The D90 retains the detail while also being cleaner"
    Are you serious? How can people make these bald statements and expect to retain any credibility?
    The D90 has the same sensor as the D300, but with much less control over noise etc. at high ISO. But you have to know what you are doing with the D300, which also has all the Picture Controls that can be remotely adjusted using Camera Control 2 or Capture NX2. Its a pro camera. The D300 also has the Active-D lighting from the D700 and the D3. You can turn it on or off or use three different levels. The shadow detail in D300 NEFs is outstanding if you use Nikons Capture NX2 software to work on and convert these Raw files. You should also think of the D300 as the DX version of the D700. Or looking at it another way, the D90 is a consumer version of the D300 with the picture settings on an external dial and body from the lower models. If you were looking at only buying new, you get the most technical bang for the buck from the D90. But if you want all the adjustable controls and software engines from the D3 in a small package, then go for the D300. You will need a higher level of competence though to get the best out of the D300. Nikon also takes D300 users as seriously as D3 and D700 users. Even 2 years after release, Nikon is still providing updates and refinements to the D300's firmware, improving on what was great before. You don't get that with the consumer models.
    So please don't listen to the self appointed experts here. Just get familiar with all the features and go and read the reviews from people who make a living from doing to. Then make an informed decision.
  51. Stephen,
    While I totally agree with you that the statement on the D300 is rather untrue,
    So please don't listen to the self appointed experts here.​
    aren't we all self appointed experts with varying degrees of proven expertise, including you and me? For myself, I will immediately add, though: I have absolutely no proven expertise... Anyway. For what it's worth.
    Ed, I wonder whether for this scenario lighting/flash is the way to go. Primarily, there are people swimming, and I cannot imagine flashlight or its reflection is very nice when you're in the water. And while getting photos of the event is nice, the swimming has to come first.
    Depending on the budget: D80 or D90, primarily to be able to use AF-D lenses. The D80 is not at all bad at ISO800, so it is a viable option, I think. Budget allowing, a Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 is a great lens, but if that is a bit too expensive, primes like the 85 f/1.8 or 180 f/2.8 may be very interesting. But for primes, first be sure which focal lenght is best applicable for your uses (EXIF data is so ideal for these things!).
    I would not go for a D300 in your case, as far as I can judge it. Sure the D300 is a better body than the D90, but budget-wise, the D300 might stretch a bit too far in one direction, and leave too little for the lenses which you're better off replacing with faster glass.
    Another option, if you are relatively static and can pre-focus on where you want to take the picture, you could consider manual focus lenses, and get some old, utterly good primes such as the 105 f/2.5, 180 f/2.8, or the likes. With a bit of searching, these lenses do not need to cost much. Add a light meter, which 2nd hand should also not cost an arm and a leg - but this sure is a bit a different way of working alltogether.
  52. Ed,
    I have both the D90 and the D300s. I use them both very frequently. I cant say I prefer one over the other, they are both great cameras. The D300s has better build quality and sealing, better AF system, and I think it meters better. I also like the quick ability to change settings using the dials/buttons on the camera instead of some of the in-camera menus. The faster frame rate on the D300s is nice for sports shots.
    I agree with others who have posted that a fast lens would help you. I have a Tamron 2.8 28-75mm but it does not have VR so I have noticed that I get significant blur when I am walking around with it (not on a tripod or monopod). When I can keep the camera still, it is a great lens. So you may want to consider getting a fast lens with VR. If I had to choose between the D90 and a fast lens and the D300s with a standard lens, I would go with the D90 and the better glass. If it were me, I would invest (or rent) a high quality fast zoom lens and try it on your may be surprized.
  53. hbs


    A recent purchase I made (that I am very happy with) was a used 300mm AF f/4 lens (not the current AF-S). Since I have a D300, the lack of an internal motor was not an issue. The important point though is that the AF lens is as fast and sharp (and many consider better built) than the AF-S lens, but at half (or less) the cost. Unfortunately your D40 wouldn't be able to autofocus, so you would need a body upgrade. Used D300 at $1300 (or the D90, new) plus a used (non-zoom) 300 f/4 (that maintains its sharpness and can really be used at f/4) should be in your budget.
    ....just one more opinion.....(from another self-appointed expert??? -- hardly)...
  54. hbs


    ...(continued from above).... The point I was trying to make was by employing a camera body having its own focus motor, you open up the possibility of using AF (and not just AF-S) lenses which could save quite a bit of money without compromising glass quality. As far as any focus speed difference, if you're following your daughter along the lane, the distance changes very little, hence the several suggestions above for MF lenses.
    Good luck in whatever you decide, Ed.
  55. Thanks, Daniel, Harvey.
    My choices are the same as when I began in this thread, but the reasons and tradeoffs are now much clearer from the various viewpoints here filling in blanks I didn't know I had. What I learned was that I shouldn't maintain a single-minded focus on body, that lens perhaps is 60% or more of my issue, that my current d40x body has more limiting me than just ISO performace (i.i. the lack of focus motor, which I new, but now I realize is a bigger impediment than I imagined initially). Cheaper zooms perform worse than a prime, and "settling" for a more expensive but well-performing prime is not a bad thing. Looks like D90 is the way to go, but only after a lens upgrade.
    I called my local shop and the trade in for my d40x body is only $125 dollars, as they sell for $250 and they need to make their profit. Now to figure out where to sell it, plus where to sell my lenses. I guess it's craig's list, and dealing with the good and the occasional kook... I have a feeling I'll shop around for a 500 dollar prime, or a 700 dollar mid range zoom, but AF-S if I don't buy a body immediately. I"m starting to sense a new chicken-egg problem. Lens is the problem, but cheap and good primes are AF not AF-S, and so the body is in the way of "cheap"-but--good AF glass...
  56. I believe this has been said before, but IMO your choices are not D90 vs D300, but:
    1) D90 + good lenses or flash
    2) keep the D40x + more good lenses or flash
    I.e. if you feel the D300 is an overkill, it means it is, especially if you'd use it with the Sigma 18-200. Bad spending of money.
    I'd keep the D40x (lovely camera, I was gonna buy it if it didn't have the overexposure problem). If it happens to break, you can get the D5000/D90/D300 later...
    If you want primes, well it's D90 then... A D90 with 85/1.8 is great, as well as D40x with 24-70 or 70-200 VR. Another option is the cheap good Samyang 85/1.4 lens which is not AF anyway, so the body makes no difference :)
  57. Samyang 85/1.4.. intriguing! never thought of getting a non AF lens. Was always weighing AF-S vs. AF, but to get something with no AF on purpose never entered into my mind.
    Stick vs. Automatic clutch. So much work. So much control? And priced at a lower point. I guess that's the point? I assume they make one woth nikon mount.
    I found this:
    or continued here
  58. Hehehe...That's what I was mentioning before. IF the swimming movement allowed for easy prefocusing (or if you plan to put some time into practicing manual focusing), then MF lenses (like the one you mentioned) would open up a whole BIG range of possibilities for low budget, high quality, large aperture, lenses...8)
  59. But what are the implications of using a non-CPU lens in a d40x, where there is no ( i believe ) menu item to specify to the camera what lens is attached? ( or is this not necessary) From the below, the D200, you can menu set the lens, and some camera functions come back. I dont recall in the D40x anywhere I can specify what lens is attached, and so I'm assuming I'll lose light metering and possibly something else.
    Will spot metering work? Or if not what will a D40x do with, for example, a Samyang 85/1.4 (what ca,era functions will I be losing by using a non CPU lens)
  60. Basically, you'll need to go on full manual (M mode). No metering, no autofocus. So either you need an external meter (or pre-meter using a lens that you have), are good at 'eyeballing' lighting, or experiment (way better with digital since u can see the results, than film). It may be tough if the light is constantly changing, but if it's for your swimming pool application which is consistent lighting almost all the time, it should be a breeze (as I mentioned before, once you get the exposure right, it'll be like that 'forever')...8) We can go through a detailed run-through one time if you want to know how (it can be tested even with the lens you have right now).
    P.S. There is the limitation, though, of post AI lenses...pre-AI lenses will screw up ur camera (just make sure it is at least an AI or AIS lens...)
  61. Ed,
    I already pointed in that direction too in my previous post. The D40/D40x have no issues taking AI/AIS lenses, but indeed everything becomes manual, so an external light meter might be a very wise thing to add to the list.
    Nice as the Samyang can be according to many, it's not that cheap, I think. Given the 2nd hand prices I'd go for a Nikkor 105 f/2.5. Awesome lens. Ah well, it's up in my previous post :)
  62. So with the samyang 85mm 1.4, I can't use, say, shutter priority mode? I have to leave it on manual? Now if the lens is F1.8 and there's no zoom to vary that, what does the aperture setting do on the camera at that point? Nothing?
    Sorry if these are dumb questions, I've been Mr. zoom and Mr. AF-S for almost 2 yrs (although I've used manual mode of course, but just with 3 AF-S lenses) and this is my first venture into "manual lenses"...
  63. Manual metering is no biggie when you have access to histogram these days and once set you don't have to change it. But I won't recommend manual focusing for your purpose; it's not the easiest thing to do. Just try manual focusing with your current lenses and you'll probably miss a lot of shots.
  64. The pentamirror viewfinder in the D40x is not particularly good for manual focusing, especially when the light is less than ideal. It's not impossible, but it's not easy either. The pentaprism viewfinder in the D90 is bigger and brighter than the viewfinder in the D40x, which would definitely make manual focusing a bit easier. Just something to think about. :)
  65. Well, I do get the drift that using a samyang 85mm 1.4 MF with my D40x would be a radical wake up call for someone who's been used to auto focus. I'm drawn by the great low-light performance and the sharpness. The auto focus on my d40x-- with my sigma 18-200 OS AF-S-- hasn't been exactly quick. Often I find myself squeezing, then it hunts for a spot it can focus on, and I miss shots 1/2 the time anyway because of this. And I'm already zooming in, zooming out, then waiting 1/2 the time for the AF to kick in. So with that same effort, I assume I can learn to do predictive MF, and get brighter shots at F1.4. And I'm aware that an added danger now is the narrower DOF, but I'd rather have more light at this point, and deal with wrestling for in-focus pics.
    I just don't know what the camera controls I"m used to-- shutter priority, manual mode, etc-- will be like with this lens. I assume I set the shutter speed (on SP mode) and the camera then know that the lens is F1.4 prime, and keeps the F there (has no choice). Or do I need to (can I) go into the d40 menu and specify that I have an F1.4 lens on there (since the camera doesnt know since it's not a CPU lens)
  66. Basically, you'll need to work in M mode. The shutter speed will be controlled on the body, just like shutter-priority (S mode), but the aperture will register "--" on the LCD display, and will actually be set by the aperture ring on the lens itself (anything non-G lens has an aperture ring on the lens mount end of the lens with tick marks showing the major f-stops (1.4,2,2.8,4,5.6,etc.). You can 'part' stops by delicately turning to inbetween tick-marks.
  67. An added bonus also will be your viewfinder will be a lot brighter (so will help with your manual focusing in the dim light), although still small...8)
  68. I see. So I can go ahead and adjust shutter on my d40x dial as before, but I'd have to adjust aperture using the ring on the lens itself. Thank you. ( I realize that this must sound like a kindergarten class here to many of you, stating the most obvious of facts, but I've always dealt with digital, and don't have the solid underpinning many of you do with earlier cameras and lenses)
    By the way, there's no reason a teleconverter wouldnt work on a Samyang 85mm 1.4, would there?
    I know that the combination of the f/1.4 samyang and the teleconverter would cut light out of my 85mm in order to let it function as a 170mm, but if I want to get a series of tele shots, it still might give a better f value than my existing cheaper sigma zoom (without the teleconverter)
  69. Most teleconverters (Nikon mount) should work, with some exceptions where there is a lens portrusion (usually those designed for 300mm or above). What you have to be careful of though is not all teleconverter and lens combinations work well. Some degrade the quality of the lens (sharpness, contrast, colour, etc.) by a lot. Furthermore, if you get a 2x converter, it'll (on the average) cut out 2-stops of light, so ur 1.4 will effectively become a 2.8 (and possibility slightly worse). And judging from ur need of MORE light gathering to freeze action rather than being actually closer, I'd probably not recommend going for that teleconverter...2-stops is a lot.
    If you wanted to go for 170mm, i'd probably recommend getting a AF or MF 180mm 2.8 (400-800, depending on condition) or a MF 135mm 2.8 (150-300) or as wouter suggested, the MF 105mm 2.5...All of them would be way better than an 85 with a teleconverter combo.
    If you want to check out the framing, i'd recommend going to the pool when less people are there, and shooting using ur those focal lengths using direct flash at ISO 400-800 with an aperture of f8. Then go back to the computer and crop to the area that you would want composition-wise, and see if that level of noise and level of detail is enough.
    The reason for this 'experiment' is to see IF you got a sharp picture (since there is flash) at an ISO and focal length that you might be getting, would you be sufficiently ok with the cropped image. The reason for the smaller aperture is to increase the quality of the image that might otherwise be 'crappier' with ur zoom lens' quality, so it'll approach a bit more closer to the actual quality of the lenses u are getting (minus the whole shallower DOF feel).
    So say you adjusted ur zoom to 85mm and u shot a sharp shot of it with flash at the pool. Go back and you crop it on ur screen to what you want (ideally), then u look at it and say, "hey, that's not that bad", then the 85 would already be sufficient for you....but say you say, "whoa, it's so pixelly now and the image is so small..." then u might need a bit more, like 105 or 135...repeat experiment again using the other focal lengths, until one achieves the resolution, quality, and size that you need.
    Technically, if you are mathematically gifted and understand optics well, it's possible to do the cropping part without actually testing it. i.e. you 'estimate' the resolution of image that you need (e.g. 200dpi for a 4x6 print, u need 1200x800 image), u've been using 250mm focal length to shoot ur daughter most frequently, ur sensor is 6MP (3000x2000), you can calculate back what angle of view is needed from the area of the minimally needed cropped image to what is available on your sensor, then u can figure out what is the minimal focal length you need. If this was totally too much, you can ignore this last paragraph...hehehe 8)
  70. A 85mm lens is a bit short for a TC, to be honest, so not likely the Samyang is designed to handle one well (or at all). Next to that, 2xTCs tend to rob a lot of quality. Especially one this cheap.
    Nor does it make a lot of sense to me.
    Why the Samyang? It's not that cheap. The Samyang is something like $350, the TC 80. So let's say $400.
    Let's go shopping. A Nikkor 105 f/2.5 second hand will be around $150-200. And is about as sharp as lenses get. Search around for AI(-S) 180 f/2.8, I think $400 could be able to find you one (at least on the most famous auction site I see some). And for that money, we're talking top lenses, seriously better than the Samyang (especially paired with a cheap 2x TC).
    My recommendation would really be: get the 105 f/2.5, since it represents the lowest investment, while getting you a very serious Nikon classic.
    Try it how it works. Do not try to "continiously focus", but select a point to focus on, set the camera and wait for the swimmer to be in that point.
  71. Yikes. I have some serious reading and math to do. Thanks guys, you're more than generous in conversating with me and my organically-unwinding thought process here...
    The used lens is an idea. I also see this:
    Here's a review of the Rokinon/Samyang/Polar/Opteka/Bower/Vivitar vs the Nikon
    at $259, it appears to be a decent price.
    Oh, and I've abandoned my fantasy about a teleconverter. Didn't realize it was that much of a tradeoff-- obviously not worth it.
  72. Hahaha....nono, the math part was just me being crazy (and if you happen to be a math or physics or engineering type of person). If it looks too complicated, ignore it. You don't need it.
    And I agree with Wouter, You'd be much better off with an actual Nikon lens, especially if budget is a concern. Nikon lenses will hold their value WAY better than almost all off-brands apart from a few exceptionally well designed ones (like the Tamron 90mm macro lens, or the Sigma 30mm 1.4 which have retained their value quite well too).
    If you don't mind me asking, you don't happen to live in the Vancouver, BC, Canada area do you? I wouldn't mind lending you different lenses to try out for ur endeavours if you were local (but i remember you not being in this area...)
  73. Just thinking aloud, if this lens is so good, why did Nikon stop making it?
    Wouldn't I be losing the Samyang f/1.4 going to 2.5 (in this instance), just for a used lens's better build? And isn't the leap from 1.4 to 2.5 fairly important in practical terms? (more noticeable than 2.4 to 2.8 or 1.4 to 1.8)
    Nah, I'm in NY metro, but my wife is from Montreal, but that doesn't help either of us... Very much appreciate the offer, however. Gives me the impression that Vancouver is stocked with good people...
  74. There's many reasons why a company may stop making a lens. Off the top of my head, the largest factor I would deduce is the fact that a newer, better variation or upgrade version of it is available. In the case of the 105mm f/2.5, it was commonly thought of as one of the best portrait lenses (due to its focal length, bokeh, sharpness, colour rendition, etc.). But the newer designs came out with AF 105 f/2 DC and 135, which were specifically designed for portraiture (with it's defocus area control), which would make the older design obsolete (not in terms of quality, but in terms of functionality). Of course, many other factors like the onslaught of AF and AF-S body designs made MF lenses much less 'profitable'. Although, if you look at the nikon website, even today, MF lenses are still made and sold brand new, which means they still do have their applicable areas.
    Lens build I would say in this case is minor, in the sense that I doubt you would use it to the point of it breaking apart or in precarious locations. More so probably would be it's ability to retain value. I don't know too much about the quality of this Samyang 85 lens, and wouldn't be knowledgeable enough to make comments, so by all means, if you find reliable sources and good testing and reviews and the general (non-profit) public agrees it's a good lens, then you could look into it, but know that you wouldn't be able to resell it out at anywhere near its purchase price down the road.
    But I agree with you, 1.4 to 2.5 would be a significant loss of around 1.5stops. You'd have to see whether that is what you want or not. The other difference of course would be 85mm to 105mm, but if u were going for 105 f/2.5, i'd recommend just going up to MF 135 f/2.8. The difference in focal length would be more worth it for the stop difference. I bought my 135 f/2.8 (used and battered up) for like $100, but the optics of it were still clean and sharp and great to use.
  75. Oh, and one minor thing, some of the MF lenses have gone through SEVERAL if not MANY iterations and would be good to do some research into which particular ones are the gems and which ones were the bad ones...I have some reliable sources here and there if u are interested. I think the 135 f/2.8 MF has gone through like at least 4-5 changes in the last 20 years. 8)
  76. Ed: As for the Samyang - the price of this lens in EU is around 200 eur - less then a Nikkor 85/1.8. I'm tempted.
    Manual focusing: I have a D60 (which contains a better focusing aid than a D40x) and I find manual focusing very easy. A fast lens is of course more stressing, but I think it's easy to get used to manual focusing (I use 50/1.8 @ 2.2). And you can always get a KatzEye focusing screen.
    As for manual exposure, the lighting in a swimming pool is probably well controlled, so that shouldn't be any issue.
    (edit: removed link which has been already posted)
  77. BTW Ed, let's count how fast a lens you actually need. Currently you use 3.5-6.3 and 4-5.6 zooms (say, f/5 average) and the pictures are dark on ISO 3200. So you may need +2 EV to get enough light and +1 or 2 EV to get a less grainy picture. 2 EV from f/5 is f/2.5. More 2 EV down, that's f/1.2. I'd say a f/2 or faster is preferred for the swimming pool application. IMHO. A better camera, like a D90, won't get more than a 1-1.5 EV advantage in noise.
    How do the pictures of the swimming pool look with the 35/1.8 (regardless of the field of view)? If you get down to ISO 400 with that, ISO 1000+ will be needed for a longer focal length with the same aperture.
  78. Alex,
    The pics with the 35/1.8 look fantastic. It's defiantly more in the realm of less noise, more bright, more leeway to up the shutter speed to produce both low-noise, low-darkness, and low-blur photos, three of my (certainly not alone here) problems...
    But the 35mm produces all the "same photos". How many room-size or pool size photos can you take, right?
    Of course, I do move around, I lie on my stomach on concrete 5 meters from the pool edge, I go into a hallway flanking the perpendicular edge of the pool to get another angle, etc. I try to mix it up, but with dark zooms, and just one prime, all my photos are starting to look the "same". Sure I luck out 1/5 times, going low on shutter speed with my zoom and gambling to get a bright shot in focus. And I "love" all the other parents' kids, but I really want mostly mine in there, being a slight bit self-interested.
    And so the telephotos lens, my "dark" zooms so far, have done the job to isolate my kid in a descriptive way, with shots that are close enough to show the tiredness, deflation, and euphoria of heats lost and won, on my girls face.
    The 35mm shows the pool, or a large half of it, wonderfully lit, but with 15-30 people practically in every shot.
    I'm looking forward to a mid range lens, perhaps this 85/1.4, to bring me closer, and even brighter (from 1.8 to 1.4).
    I agree about needing something less than f2. You know how they advertise a peanut butter cup-- where the chocolate van crashes into the peanut butter truck, and they turn an accident into a chocolate-peanut treat? I find myself wanting to crash my 35mm 1.8 nikkor AF-S into my sigma OS 18-200 to produce a flexible zoom without all the noise and darkness.
    The reason I'm almost set on the samyang (or rebadged equivalent) is that it looks like it does the trick, at a reasonable 250$ price, albeit with a bit of MF learning curve.
    It doesn't look all that bad thrown up against the nikkor 85mm-- which I'd have to buy used with no warranty.
  79. I agree you can only do so much with a 'normal' lens in a pool; a longer lens gives more variability. If a 35 mm takes a bigger half of the pool into the frame, it's not a very large pool, so a 85-105 lens is probably ideal for close-ups.
    Also consider a Nikon or Sigma 50/1.4 for 'wider' shots. I'd personally buy that 85/1.4 for the D40x (enough resolution for cropping, if needed) AND a Nikkor 50/1.4 with another D40 body. Two small bodies with two fast lenses mounted at the same time gives the speed of a prime and variability of a zoom. And cheaper than one pro body.
    That's why I got the D60, anyway.
  80. middle of the night d40 (the old one), iso 200 dragging the shutter (manual) in order to get a visible background. sigma 30mm f 1.4, the f 1.4 part makes the difference....
  81. The more I read, the more I see how in practice, people are having a devil of a time focussing properly, and they buy focus screens and whatnot to help with that to increase their keep rate. I read somewhere where someone got berated for thinking they can capture sports (like my kid swimming) properly without autofocus...
    I'm starting to read about various midrange zooms at f/2.8 that will autofocus on my d40- tamron
    and sigma-
    It's 1:00a.m. and I'm getting a serious chickening out feeling from the manual focus. Gotta "refocus" myself on the IQ of the samyang/rokinon prime, and the benefit of the f/1.4 over the 2.8. Going to sleep.
  82. "I read somewhere where someone got berated for thinking they can capture sports (like my kid swimming) properly without autofocus..."
    Well that's just silly. Pay no attention to that. I don't know who it was who was doing the berating, but does that person really believe that there were no sports photos prior to the mid-1980s when autofocus cameras started to become available? I mean, really, who would think such a thing?
    I'm not really a big sports fan myself, but a quick Google search reveals that Sports Illustrated was founded in 1954 -- a full 30 years before autofocus cameras came into popularity. I think that pretty much proves that it's possible to capture sports without autofocus!
    If you're not ready to give up your D40x yet, it looks like the Sigma 50-150/2.8 is your best bet. The Tamron 28-75/2.8 is a wonderful lens, one that I'm sure you would enjoy, but I don't think it's long enough at the long end (75mm) for your swimming photos.
    As far as f/stops are concerned: yes, 1.4 is a faster than 2.8... but 2.8 is a lot faster than what you've got now! I wouldn't get too hung up on 1.4; doing so will seriously limit your options. And shooting at 1.4 gives such shallow depth of field that focus errors can become a real problem, even with autofocus. I think you would end up with a lot of shots where your daughter's nose is in focus, but everything else is out of focus (or her forehead or eyes or ears; insert random body part here ____) That's the biggest problem with shooting at 1.4 (or 1.8). A couple of years ago I was shooting a school play with an f/1.7 lens, and I had to toss out most of the shots I took at 1.7 and 2.0 because I ended up with sharp noses (or sharp eyes or sharp ears) but blurry everything else. The shots I took at 2.5 and 2.8 were much more usable, since there was enough depth of field to keep the actor's entire head in focus.
  83. The fun part is juggling the mass of interlocking and interdependent trade-offs between F, focal range, AF on a D40x, and even warrantee (tamron's 6 yrs vs. sigma's 1)
    I agree that 75mm on the tamron is not quite long enough. At the same time, I wouldn't get a 70-200 2.8 zoom, as that 70 is a big high on the wide end. Again, I have a sigma slow glass 70-300mm f/4-5.6, and on 70 I have to literally run away from the pool if my daughter gets out to fit her in... not like land pictures are my main interest in a pool, but if she wins something, and carries a medal toward me in triumph, I my wife is going to hope I got that shot...
    Yeah, I have f4 at 70mm now, and the Sigma discussed above can get me 2.8 at 150mm, that's quite an improvement, so it's helping me not mourn the "loss" of the F1.4 samyang if I decide against it due to the MF.
    this guy have some bad luck with focus calib, twice,
    but these are decent reviews:
    seems like it was updated in 2009, original version was 2007
    so I guess we're now in the $600 and change range.
    I would get back my autofocus, and I would get the flexibility of a zoom at a constant 2.8.
    I'm not plussed about their 1 yr warranty. I have a sigma I already sent in, their higher end OS model. They fixed it free a year and a month after purchase, so they worked with me. The chip had to be replaced in my sigma 18-200 OS after it stopped being able to autofocus...
  84. While folks have been manually focusing for a long time, it's not the same when using a modern APS-C DSLR. I've used a D50 and a D90 and on the occasions I've tried to MF with fast lenses, it's been a bit hit or miss. The viewfinders are smaller than even on cheap old cameras (I had a Pentax K1000) and you don't have any focus aids other than the green dot in the corner. The ground glass isn't optimized for fast lenses so even with magnification you wouldn't be able to determine if you were off focus slightly on fast (such as f/1.8) lenses. With a static target and time to sweep focus front, back, front, back and then split the difference somewhere I can do OK, but to MF on moving targets repeatedly I think would be a serious challenge. Tricks like prefocusing on certain spots will certainly work, but that's a bit limiting.
  85. It's too bad that Tamron doesn't make a 50-135/2.8 or 50-150/2.8. I agree that their 6 year warranty is a big selling point. Their quality control isn't perfect, but I'd say it's a bit better than Sigma.
    On the other hand, what's also too bad is that Tokina hasn't released an updated version of their 50-135/2.8 with a built-in AF motor. Tokina's quality control and build quality are both very good, and that particular lens is professional grade. For the price, it really can't be beat. Oh well... keep it in mind if you ever upgrade to the D90. ;-)
  86. RT-
    Those are the exact variables I've been juggling- the lack of Tokina focus motor, the lack of Tamron having a midrange zoom. Here's a neat Tamron that's new, has vibration control, and a motor for "low end" Nikons, but it's too short at 50mm
    The decision seems to be making itself: Settle for the 1 year warrantee of Sigma, since they stand alone with a 50-150mm product, with HSM that my D40x requires, long enough to get a bit of zoom going, bright enough at 2.8 to up my quality, wide enough at 50mm to get some varied shots of people and pool in addition to my swimmer.
    I agree David that although I could get good at focusing with the Samyang 85mm MF, it will be difficult and straining on the eyes, plus even if I'm successful, I understand RT's earlier point about achieving a focus on a nose, yet having the eyes blurry..
    And the Sigma APO 50-150mm F2.8 II EX DC HSM would remain a modern tool for me when/if I upgrade to the D90
  87. I've never owned a Sigma lens, but I've talked to several people who have owned them, and what I've heard is that even though Sigma's quality control may not be stellar, they are generally very good about fixing any issues that may come up. And once those issues have been fixed, the lenses tend to be excellent performers. At this point, I don't think I would hesitate to buy a Sigma lens. Yes, having to send it in for repair/adjustment is a pain... but on the other hand, statistically you're more likely to get a good lens and not have any reason to send it in.
    Regarding the warranty: some credit cards (such as those with the Visa logo) will automatically extend the warranty of items purchased with the credit card, up to one additional year. Usually this is buried in the fine print of the paperwork that you received when you signed up for the card. I've never tried to get a product fixed using the Visa warranty, but I suppose it would be worth a shot if the lens died several months after the factory warranty expired.
    Also, some states (such as Maine, where I live) have laws which state that products must last for a "reasonable" period of time. I don't know the exact details of the law, but I recently read an article about it in the newspaper; a man's expensive HDTV died after 14 months and the manufacturer refused to fix it; the man got in contact with the attorney general's office, and thanks to the state law, the manufacturer had to fix it, because a reasonable period of time for a TV to last is more than 14 months. I would expect that a reasonable period of time for a camera lens to last would also be more than 14 months. ;-) Anyway, just something to look into and see if your state has a similar law.
  88. Done. Chickened out from the Samyang 1.4. Wasn't convinced that manual focusing would fit the bill with fast-moving water, in spite of the F1.4 benefits. Went with the Sigma - AF DC APO 50-150/2.8 EX HSM II.
    Got a good deal for the mid 600's while everyone like adorama and amazon is selling it for 750. More than double the cost of the Samyang, but I get a lot more than double the benefit, with auto focus on my D40x, and a zoom at constant F2.8. I previously had only about F5 at 150mm zoomed in, and now I drop down to F2.8. I hope this will take a bite out of my problem.
    Next will be a possible D90, maybe for the holidays or early next year.

    Thank for everyone who chimed in! I learned a lot in the process.
  89. Congrats on the purchase! Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
  90. update
    Got the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO II. Nice difference in brightness. Getting a lot of blurry shots, even when subject still. Don't know if it's the f2.8 part or the "miscalibrated focus" that some people had to send their lens back and then it cam out sharp. Don't know if it's me with my narrow DOF with the f/2.8, and I don't know how to handle it, or the lens. Probably me.
  91. Hi Ed,
    Please post a shot so we can take a peek at the picture and your settings.
  92. An example. This is not any kind of "winning" shot, I took about 500 at a recent meet, and this is one of the throw aways, basically. I don't know where the focus ended up. Maybe it's my d40x's 3 points of focus only, and when I zoom in to 150mm, and then recompose, there is the blurriness.
  93. An example. This is not any kind of "winning" shot, I took about 500 at a recent meet, and this is one of the throw aways, basically. I don't know where the focus ended up. Maybe it's my d40x's 3 points of focus only, and when I zoom in to 150mm, and then recompose, there is the blurriness.
  94. An example. This is not any kind of "winning" shot, I took about 500 at a recent meet, and this is one of the throw aways, basically. I don't know where the focus ended up. Maybe it's my d40x's 3 points of focus only, and when I zoom in to 150mm, and then recompose, there is the blurriness.
  95. Ed,
    I can't really say much about blur from that size of image, but the exif does say a few things. You were at 150mm, 1/200s, ISO1600, f/2.8 and it is still underexposed by perhaps a stop (based on skin tones, what appears to be white on the headgear and lack of blown specular highlights in the water). That tells me you are between a rock and a hard place exposure wise. You are wide open on the lens, pretty high on ISO, but still have marginal shutter speed. I would probably go on up to 3200 if the D40x does that and choose slightly higher shutter speed. At some point you'll have to decide what tradeoff of noise vs. shutter speed pleases you the most (or disappoints the least).
    At 1/200 you aren't by any means guaranteed to have a blur free shot at 150mm. What might help a little is to shoot in a burst. If doing a static shot, you can get focus, press AE-L/AF-L, and then hold the shutter button down for a three-shot burst. Quite often the 2nd shot seems to be sharpest, for me anyway.
    With regard to limited focus points, a technique you can use especially in rapid fire situations is to keep the center focus point on your point of interest, use AF-C and continuous shooting, and keep the zoom wide enough that you can crop to your final desired framing. I use that technique a lot for basketball even when using primes. Depending on distance I'll focus on the players waistline, numbers or face depending on how much of them are in the shot and framing gets done later by cropping.
  96. Thanks, David. I understand many of your points and agree. The size of the image was limited by the note I saw in the forum software when uploading (700 pix, <100k). I would have uploaded the 10mpx image if I could.
    Few notes:
    1. I maxed out my exposure comp to 5 to make it brighter. But at f2.8 and the camera set to 1600ISO (wont automatically jump to H1=3200), does exposure comp really do anything at all?
    2. I have the camera set to exposure lock on the focused-locked subject, and so I never use the AE-L button.
    3.. I have it set to AF-C, and so I feel the lens constantly refocusing as I pan for my shot-- that part is working, I can hear it.
    And here's another one. Again, don't know where the focus ended up. I have a lot of these.
  97. To be honest I never use exposure compensation. I almost always shoot M, and don't use Auto ISO, so exposure compensation doesn't come into play for me.
    In any case, it doesn't much matter how you coax the camera into a particular set of ISO/aperture/shutter, what's relevant here is that if you set it to, say ISO3200, f/2.8, 1/400s or so, you'll have a slightly brighter image with slightly less motion blur, but more noise. My guess is the noise will in actuality (if you print the image) be less objectionable than blur or underexposure.
    As for where it's focused, I'm finding it really hard to tell. It could be just in front of the swimmer but it could also be that motion is blurring objects in the best plane of focus such that you can't see it.
    For simplicity's sake, I would use full manual control so that exposure isn't tied to the focus operation at all, I would set the camera to center focus only, and just shoot with the face centered in the frame. See how many keepers you get that way. I don't think you should expect 100% perfectly focused shots, not in these conditions with this hardware, but you should have a comfortable majority.
    There are a number of things that can cause focus errors. The sensor areas are larger than indicated in viewfinder. With the camera in AF-C, swing across an object (like a telephone pole) and see when the camera picks it up and when it snaps to the background. That can help you know when you might accidentally focus on the lane dividers rather than the swimmer. Another error has to do with the fact that with subjects coming towards or away from the camera, the AF system estimates the velocity and guesses where to put the lens slightly later when the shot is taken. If the movement is erratic, or it gets fooled by a moving arm or leg, you can get an out-of-focus shot. I think these are more likely than a hardware problem, although of course those happen too.
  98. One other thought, do you know if your camera is focus priority or shutter priority? The D50 is always focus priority; it won't take a picture (in any AF mode) if it doesn't think it has good focus. The D90 is focus priority in AF-S, but shutter priority in AF-C. In the latter case, if I fully depress the shutter, it will take the picture immediately without regard to focus. When I switched cameras that lost me some shots until I figured out the difference.
  99. Actually, I don't even know if I can set focus vs. shutter priority in a d40x-- I don't believe that's a choice for me.
    To get enough light, I do often goto my max ISO at H1/3600, and opt for grain over dark. My new lens is constant f2.8, and I dont change that on the camera-- I keep it wide open, again, to max out my light. And I opt for shutter priority mode, and try to lower that as much as I can to avoid that dark, dungeon-like lighting I've gotten before. When I see that I get too much blur, I increase the shutter speed, and zoom out to let in more light.
    Another example, just to show that the new lens did help me out:
  100. I doubt you can select the focus- or shutter-priority. I can't on the D90, but you do need to be aware of how the camera works.
    Not sure what you mean by zooming out to let in more light. Zooming (on a constant aperture lens like yours) will not change the exposure. It might make the meter reading change as the composition of the metered scene changes but that's just a distraction. The only advantage zooming out will give is a reduced sensitivity to camera motion blur, so if you can get closer to your subject and zoom wider you may be better off (slightly). But if you zoomed out and then cropped later, nothing would be gained.
  101. Zooming out I could make due with a slower shutter speed, which will let in more ambient light.
    Or so I thought.
    The last photo puts me more into the realm of what I wanted in this lens.
  102. >The last photo puts me more into the realm of what I wanted in this lens.<
    You mean as far as image quality, Ed?
    And no, zooming out will not let in more ambient light, given that it's a constant f/2.8 aperture for all zoom lengths.
  103. Hi Ed,
    Yes, you are correct that zooming out may let you use a slower shutter speed, which could be said to "let in more light", as in your example of the girl in which you use 1/100s rather than 1/200s as in the earlier photo. Sorry if I jumped on you about that statement - just trying to make sure you aren't confused.
  104. Dave- yup, IQ. That to me looks properly exposed. (from an amateur's standpoint)

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