Need SLR/Lens advice

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by but_mann, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. I currently have a D90 w/10-24, 18-200, and 35 prime (all DX).
    It's a good fit but I'm getting the bug (for no real specific reason except better low light capability, the D90 doesn't do well with ISO above 800) to upgrade to a D700. My questions are:
    1 - Am I crazy? This is just a hobby.
    2 - Assuming I do, should I also get new lenses?
    3 - If so which ones (24-70, 70-200, etc?/ I know - $$$)
    4 - How would my 20-24DX fit with an D700FX?
    Thanks for any advice you should care to give me.
  2. Step up to a D700 will get you about one stop better low light capability in a much heavier and more expensive package. If you go this route, a very good but cost saving kit might be the following:
    17-35 AFS
    50 AFS
    80-200 AFD
    All very good lenses. If you find yourself no much on the wide end then swap out the 17-35 for the 28-70 or 24-70 AFS.
    I have a D300 and I find its low light capability very good up to about ISO 2000. I'm told the D90 is even better, so ISO 800 seems very conservative, but each person has their threshold.
    Good luck
  3. NAS is a slippery slope...
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I think the D90 should give you reasonable ISO 1600 results. Generally speaking, the D3/D700 will give you one more stop at high ISO compared to those DSLRs that are based on the 12MP CMOS sensor.
    That seems to be a lot of money to pay to gain merely 1 stop.
    And there is no 18-200 equivalent lens for FX. The 10-24mm AF-S DX is only useable on FX at 24mm although its image circle is big enough to cover the FX frame from about 18mm. See this thread for the explanation:
  5. With the D700 -- you may shoot FX or DX. The DX mode yields a smaller image, but the lenses you have will work until you make an investment into more FX glass.
    The low-noise ISO 6400 (and 5000; and 4000) that the D700 provides is nice....
  6. 1 - Am I crazy? This is just a hobby.
    2 - Assuming I do, should I also get new lenses?
    Of course.
    3 - If so which ones (24-70, 70-200, etc?/ I know - $$$)
    The usual suspects. The 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200. And also the Zeiss 50mm and Nikkor 85/1.4, to be on the safe side of the zoom vs prime thing.
    Seriously, take pictures with what you have. Maybe get a better noise-cleaning program.
  7. If you think the D90 is noisy above 800 then I don't think you will be happy with a body upgrade. Realize also that lenses like the 18-200 have poor image quality to begin with so shooting at high ISO and likely using 1/30s or something could be extremely detrimental to image quality. Does the 35 fall short of your expectations too? Perhaps honing your technique and skills could deliver better outcomes as well.
  8. Are you crazy? Yes, but most of us hobbyists are to some extend. The level of sanity usually depends on the content of the wallet rather than the wishlist in our brain.
    That said, I've decided not to get a D700... I think. The reason for getting one is typically the low light ability and it's exactly this area where I wonder whether 2 stops extra are all that hefty... To explain: a few weeks ago as a 'tourist', I took pictures of a (Catholic) procession. The sun was setting, and the light levels were dropping extremely rapid. At some point I was at ISO1600, which to me is the max for a D300, and VR was being a huge help: down to 1/10th of a second and it all still looks reasonable (enough quality to keep the memories).
    Coming home inspecting the pictures, they really are no more than reasonable. They all are close to underexposed, but most of all, they lack contrast and vibrant colours. There simply was no light for that. (note: I did not want to use flash, since for some people this was a genuine religious experience.) Now, would the D700 have saved me here? No, I don't think it would have. As the sun was setting, light dropped some 6EV in half an hour, and near the end, I needed some 4 stops more than what I had.
    Long story short: some low light is simply too low. Don't expect ISO6400 to save you out of that. If you're into sports, and find the shuttertimes are consistently 2 stops short to freeze motion, none of this story applies. But given the lenses you have, I think my scenario could ring a bell. So, maybe missing in your question because you did not find it relevant, but maybe missing from your bag: a SB600 with a bouncecard/softbox is far more useful in handling low light all too often.
    The second consideration: the D700 is heavy and expensive, and you will need to replace ALL of your lenses (or accept 5MP, but if you feel ISO800 on a D90 is the limits, I doubt whether you like that prospect). Expect bigger and heavier lenses too. So apart from the rather hefty pricetag, also wonder whether you'd bring the camera when the bag is twice as heavy.
    For the lenses, yes, the usual suspects but given what you have now (slow zooms), you could take it easier: 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 wide angle, and the 70-300VR, the 50 f/1.8. A lot cheaper, a lot lighter. But the mid-range is the problem: the not-much-loved 24-120VR? A second hand 28-105? Or swallow it, the heavy and expensive 24-70 or 28-70? Nothing resembling the 18-200 or 16-85 available for FX, unfortunately.
    I would look a bit more at primes for the D90, the 50 f/1.8 and 85 f/1.8 won't cost all that much and both are way way faster than your 18-200. Easier and cheaper way to gain some extra stops of light.
  9. If you have issues with noise at ISO 800 on a D90, you might be under-exposing. Fix that first.
    SHould you get full-frame? If you don't know you need it, you probably don't. Will you benefit? If you're printing under 11 x 14, probably not. If you are printing 8 x 10 and smaller, definitely not.
  10. Wouter--
    I understand what you are getting at with the lower cost f5.6 lenses you mentioned, but if he buys a lens that's two stops slower than a standard f2.8 zoom and then buys a D700 for a gain of one stop, he's still one stop under where he was with the D90. An f2.8 lens is the slowest that would work for him here.
    You didn't say what you were trying to photo and that could make a difference as to what to try. In winter I'm mainly a night photographer. I use the D300 which has same sensor as D90. Instead of Nikon 35mm f1.8G I bought the Sigma 30mm f1.4. It's a bit faster. (Sigma 50mm f1.4 is also excellent lens.) I've looked hard at D700, but have figured out that even when (not if) prices of used ones drop to $1,500, it is still going to cost me about $4,000 to switch systems. That just seems like a very steep price to gain one or so stops. Instead, what I've been doing is simply buy more big flash. I can light up just about anything. Last night the light got too low for my D300 set to ISO 1600 & f2.8 to photo my kid snowboarding. So, I set up just two SB-28 flash (fired by CyberSync triggers) and continued shooting. With just these two flash I shot at ISO 400 & f8. I could have easily lit up the entire hill if I had wanted to with more flash. I honestly think my two cheap flash gave me a better photo than the more expensive D700 by itself would have here.
    Kent in SD
  11. Kent, agree that the f/5.6 lenses are not THE choice on the D700, but it was just to show there are alternatives that are cheaper than the f/2.8's. If you do not need a low-lightwide angle, for example....Either way, my main message was: get faster glass for the D90.
  12. But if you don't need low-light wide angle, in fact, if you don't need the great expensive glass (or can't afford it), the D700 is just not a great choice.
    Again, people forget this. It's generally true about full-frame. If you don't KNOW you need it, you almost certainly don't.
    Invest in glass.
  13. Looking at original post above, I think the best route for OP would be to buy at least one f2.8 zoom for D90. Your 18-200mm is f5.6. Buy a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and you gain two stops. If you buy a D700 (only) you gain only one stop or so. The f2.8 zooms: Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Nikon 17-55mm f2.8, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR have been working well for me on D300. When needed I go to Sigma 30mm f1.4 and gain almost two more stops above that. Much thought and analysis should be put into any new gear purchase to avoid wasting money.
    Kent in SD
  14. Keep your money and be patient - the next generation of DX bodies will have better noise control, the next still better, etc.
    Also consider postprocessing techniques. B&W conversions generally have higher noise tolerance - I get results with the iNDA plugin for Bibble 5, but there are many techniques here. Or, consider noise control software e.g. NoiseNinja. Are you shooting raw? If not, you should be.
    Lastly, figure out if your expectations are in line. A limit of ISO 800 on a D90 seems low. If you're exposing correctly (as suggested above), perhaps you're just being too picky. :)
    Good luck,
  15. The lens combo you got (almost as mine) has no FX equivalent. In FX, you´ll have to use "the usual suspects" as outlined above - or my alternative FX suggestion: 17-35/2.8, 50/1.4, 70-200/2.8.
    No, you are not crazy, but put your priorities elsewhere. I can afford to switch to FX, but I won´t. I try to master the gear I´ve got. It is harder than spending money, but immensely more rewarding.
  16. If you're not happy with the D90's ISO above 800, you're looking too close. It's the same sensor as the D300 and I've shoot the NFL with my D300 at 3200 ISO. 1600 is just fine and definitely usable on the D90.
  17. remember But Mann, the race for high ISO is nothing more than a pissing contest between manufacturers, in order to sell more cameras. Digicams haven't improved IQ at normal to moderate ISO's much in the last few years, so high ISO is where they have concentrated. The marketing guru's have convinced us that we simply have to take pictures in the dark, but do YOU really need the high ISO? F2.8 is a moderately slow lens, so ISO becomes a littel more relevant, but with some fast glass, not only will you be able to keep your ISO's down, but you may find some more creative opportunities. So my advice; invest in some fast prime lenses, avoiding the slow oversized zoom lenses. I often use the 24-70, but that is for work when speed and workflow trump image quality and size.
  18. I agree with Wouter. As you haven't been specific as to why you're dissatisfied with the D90s low-light ability, you may have a larger problem with light. That is, in low-light conditions, you're just going to lose a lot in terms of saturation and color control, leading to pictures you may simply find dead. Your problem might be better addressed by getting a SB flash and learning how to use it efficiently.
    I have a D90 and have been largely impressed with its low-light abilities, certainly in contrast to film. I shot a lot during the recent NY blizzard, and the camera didn't disappoint, even at ISO 1600. Of course, during a blizzard you're dealing with a panoply of problems, including snow on the lens, severe white balance issues, and generally low-light conditions. However, between the camera and Lightroom, you can get some fairly decent results.
    You probably need to calibrate exactly what you're expecting from low-light performance. If you're trying for a reasonable capture of your eyes are seeing, I don't think that's very difficult. If you're trying to split the atom, I don't think the D700 is going to solve your problem.
  19. Probably a better example
  20. George's excellent shots demonstrate the low light capability of the D90 at ISO 1600. The EXIF data indicates that both shots were taken with a 50 mm prime with the aperture set to f/4 (even though the aperture could have been set to f/1.8) and a shutter speed of 1/30 second (without flash and no VR), but presumably good technique.
    Your remark that "the D90 doesn't do well with ISO above 800" is difficult to assess without seeing one of your shots.
    Just remember that low light doesn't mean no light, and the light our eyes see is often different to the light that the camera sees. So a lot of the post processing that we end up doing is designed to deliver the colours that we saw, and not what the camera saw.
  21. Thank you very much for all if your contributions/suggestions. The consensus of "It's not the camera stupid, it's you" seems valid. I do have a SB-600 but haven't learned how to use it properly yet (it gave my only real (portrait) a skin tone white out.
    In a way I'm relieved. It wasn't the money so much that I was hesitant about, but the additional weight (of both camera and lens).
    I wish there was a something like a DX 24-70 2.8 VR available. That would pretty much solve my dissatisfaction (that and improving on my limited skills).
    Again, thanks everyone.
  22. A D90 with 35mm f/2 should give you great results in low light. Maybe you should add a 50mm f/1.4. I think the 50mm goes for $300.00. However, if you dont mind spending the money, go for it! I would.
  23. I wish there was a something like a DX 24-70 2.8 VR available​
    Not that I would necessarily recommend it but since it seems relevant, I'll mention that Tamron offers its 17-50/2.8 with VC (Tamron-speak for VR) for Nikon mount. The older non-VC version of this lens has been fairly popular in various mounts. Not sure why Nikon doesn't offer a fast standard VR zoom for FX or DX; other systems offer at least some fast, stabilized standard zoom solution (Canon 17-55/2.8 IS, Pentax, Sony, and Olympus offer in-body stabilization).
  24. I think there are other considerations than just a fast lens. If photography is about making choices, then the fast lens certainly gives you the option of opening up and managing your ISO. However, it obviously limits your depth of field, as well as putting you in a place where you're not necessarily maximizing the resolution of the lens, although its not clear whether that's worse than jacking up the ISO. You throw in shutter speed and handholding technique and it simply becomes a continuum of options where you choose what is most important to you and let the other choices flow from that.
    Lots of ways to skin the cat. You just have to choose one and know that you're making a choice.
  25. Get a F/2.8 or faster. I've noticed that the Iso on my D90 performs great at even 3200 IF a decent lens is on the front (for me a 50mm f/1.8, 10.5mm Dx 2.8, and 80-200mm 2.8)

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