New to SLRs. Is the D90 a good fit for me?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mark_o|2, May 12, 2009.

  1. Hello all, this is my first post so I hope that it is in the right place.

    Here's my story. I bought an old SLR off of a neighbor when I was young (around 10) and was very excited to finally have a 'real camera' I subsequently decided to wind and shoot it dozens of times without film until the body froze up and wouldn't wind anymore. Needless-to-say I was heartbroken. (The camera was a pentax spotmatic (i'm guessing from the 60's or 70's) with about 4-5 3rd party lenses, tripod, and flash. I still have the case and gear) I am really thinking that I don't want to try and reuse these lenses and gear. Most do not have lens caps or caps on the mounting side.. so they're probably in bad shape as it is although they do not look scratched.

    I have owned tons of point and shoot cameras since then with the nicest being an Powershot SD700 IS. I love taking pictures and I think I'm finally ready to get step into the SLR realm. I've been doing some research and initially started looking for a Pentax so I could make use of the lenses I still have. I liked what I read about the K20D, but I started to realize that solely picking a camera based on lenses I've never used and know nothing about probably wouldn't be the best idea. Additionally, it seems that if I stay with photography and ever wanted to jump higher in class, then Pentax wouldn't allow me to do that and I would have to switch to canon or nikon anyway.

    My price range is $1500 right now, with $500 more every 6 months for lenses or whatever.
    My feeling is, I want to get the best quality SLR that fits this price range, but will allow me to reuse lenses in an even better camera down the road if I decide that I want to go fullbore into photography.

    So finally, here's my question. Based on my background^

    1. Would the Nikon D90 a good camera for me?

    2. Best Buy has the camera with the '18-105mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 DX Nikkor lens' Should I stick with the kit lens.. or is there a better combination of body and d90 that would fit my $1500 initial price range?

    3. Once I get an SLR what would you recommend that I do for learning how to use it effectively? (other than practice, I will do a ton of that!) Are there good book/dvd series that would point me in the right direction?

    Any suggestions are welcome.
    Thank you all so much for your help!
  2. The D90 with the 18-105mm VR zoom lens would be a great camera/lens combo. I'd get that and buy the Magic Lantern guide book for the D90.
  3. Thank you for the response Dave.

    Did you mean that the 18-105mm kit lens was fine? Or is the DX lens different and doesn't support VR? I'm sorry if I'm asking simple questions.. I'm just afraid to end up buying an inferior kit lens if the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
  4. You could probably get the D90 with the 18-105 VR lens ($1170 on Amazon), and a Tamron 17-50 2.8 ($460) all for about 1500 bucks (actually 1630).
    If the extra 130 bucks is a problem, instead of the Tamron, you can get the SB600 flash (225) so your total remains under 1500 (1395). That leaves you enough for a camera bag, some filters etc.
  5. Thank you, I will look into that! I should have told you all that I will be photographing mostly outside within a 20-50 foot range. I might do some landscape shots, but never sports or action. Also, no upclose shots like jewelry, but probably will shoot groups of flowers and garden shots.
  6. Hi Mark,
    (1) The D90 is a very nice camera. I don't think you'd be disappointed.
    (2) The kit lens will be fine.
    (3) Great question, complex answer.
    First, have some fun. Charge your battery, attach your lens, slip in a memory card, put your D90 on Auto and go make some pictures. Transfer them to your computer using the software that come with the camera (View NX) and enjoy them.
    Second, the manual is your friend. Flip through the different sections and try some of the setting that they discuss. Some of it will be confusing, but just work through what you can and you'll learn a lot.
    Third, there are some really good books out there. Do you have a Borders or a Barnes And Noble nearby? Browse the photography section and see if anything catches your eye. Try to find a book with good photos that explains how those photos were made. That's a good place to start. Bryan Peterson's book "Understanding Exposure" is a classic.
    Digital cameras are intertwined with computers. Consider also picking up a book on digital photography that talks about how to use software on your computer to get the most out of your images. A fellow named Scott Kelby has written some great books, but there are others as well.
    BEWARE: There's lots of great information on the web. There are also some websites designed by people who have no idea what they're talking about, so be careful before taking advice posted on somebody's website.
    That said, here is an example of a REALLY GOOD website by a REALLY GOOD photographer (and a Nikon guy).
    Check out Dave's monthly Workshop At The Ranch column. The topics are advanced but they'll give you an idea of what's possible as you learn to use your camera.
    Good luck on your exciting new journey!
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Concerning lenses, take a look at Thom Hogan's DX lens summary:
    The 18-105 seems to be quite good optically but construction quality is on the weak side; it has a plastic mount.
    I don't see the point to get both the 18-105 and 17-50 as your first two lenses; there is simply way too much overlap. Some overlap in coverage is fine when you are up to 4, 5 lenses or more. If you are into landscape, I would recommend a wide lens such as 10-20, 10-24, 11-16, or 12-24 as your second lens. We already have a lot of existing threads on wide zooms. A quick search should give you plenty of answers.
  8. Dan,

    Thank you for the quality reply. I think you all have convinced me that the D90 will be a good DSLR to get me off on the right foot. I am going to go check it out later today and I will post again (assuming I get it) when I have had some time to put it through the paces and learn how to really use it.

    Thanks again to everyone for the help!

  9. the 18-105 is actually quite nice for the price. it should be a good lens to start with. i would check for the d90/18-105 on amazon. i've seen that combination, refurbed, for only $999. the problem with refurbished deals is usually the (lack of) warranty, but i think you can get the combo with a one year warranty backing it up. worth looking into, i would think.
  10. Mark, I wouldn't worry about the plastic mount on the 18-105mm. Only if you were planning to change lenses very often, which I would guess you are not. As stated above, Thom Hogan gave this lens a good review, and having VR will be very handy. Also look at Costco if you're a member, they usually carry the D90 package for a good price.
  11. As others have pointed out, I would buy online. You will save a bunch of money. B&H or Adorama are two of my favorites. The D90 with the 18-105 VR would be a great starting setup. I think the D90 is an outstanding camera. You can get the D200 for 599.99 on sale at Best Buy which is a great camera for the price. I personally would rather spend more money on the lenses, but you can't go wrong with either camera. The D90 is newer technology and the 18-105 is a very nice range until you build up your lens collection. I think your on the right track by making the switch to a body that has the lenses you'll use in the future. I really like Canon's lenses better, but I don't think their Prosumer bodies are as good as Nikon's.
  12. I don't really care for slow zooms but it may work and work very well for your needs. Its not a bad price and will give your an idea of your needs down the road. I would much rather have a f2.8 type zoom. A book or two should be good as well as a flash or good tripod for sharp images at lower shutter speeds. Welcome to the site.
  13. If you like landscapes a I agree with Shun, get a nice wide angle.
  14. i don't think i understand why you are looking at nikon and some lenses when you have the pentax setup already. the k20d seems like a great fit for you and you would already have a 4-5 lens kit with flash. The lenses are useful on the pentax at most with the purchase of an adapter, if i understand the pentax system a little. You're worried about moving to FX format already and that's what is preventing you from looking into pentax? i don't think that buying nikon's aps format camera is a wiser decision than buying pentax's aps format as you've already got the lens kit.
    "I liked what I read about the K20D, but I started to realize that solely picking a camera based on lenses I've never used and know nothing about probably wouldn't be the best idea."
    I'd say picking a camera body based on lenses is the best way to shop for cameras. You are buying a system, not a camera body. Do some research on the lenses that you have right now. You may save yourself a lot of money and really be able to enjoy some great lenses plus have the holy grail: in camera image stabilization. don't immediately discount the pentax, especially if you liked what you read. camera bodies are essentially interchangable and produce essentially the same results. you can't tell the difference between a k20/40d/d90/etc. shot just from the picture.
  15. Start with the D90 kit but don't buy it at Best Buy - use, or, get the VR lens and save money. I'd say don't buy more lenses until you have a chance to try the kit lens and decide what else would help you.
    BTW doesn't a Pentax Spotmatic use screw mount lenses? The K20D is a great camera but doesn't have the same mount. If you wanted to use the lenses I'd say buy an old used film camera that takes them, it would be very inexpensive and probably fun to use.
  16. @Dan Sutton,

    From what I've been reading, the Pentax K20D would be compatible with my lenses, but I've read that a few features like AF are not able to be used. I guess I'm a little worried that I would be taking pictures with the lenses and get bad results because 1. I didn't know how to make the new body work well with 30ish year old lenses and 2. I can't accurately gauge the condition they're in now. I'm afraid that all of these variables will cause me to have a steeper learning curve than if I had just gone DSLR and new lenses from here on out...maybe my reasoning is flawed?

    I will try to upload a picture of what I currently have later tonight to get your opinion on the setup.
    @Andrew Lynn,
    Yes, the lenses (as far as I can know haha) are screwmount. I was thinking about buying an adapter to get them to work with it.
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If your lenses are 4 or 5 3rd-party lenses from the 1960's and 1970's, I don't think it makes any sense to base your DSLR purchase on compatibility with those old lenses that worth probably next to nothing nowadays.
  18. If the camera is a Spotmatic then your 3rd party lenses are M42 screwmount and will (in most cases) be essentially worthless financially, though you can still have fun with them. They can be used with a suitable adapter ring (see ebay) on a Pentax or Canon dSLR, but not on a Nikon (which would require a more complex adapter including at least one lens element to get infinity focus - generally more trouble than it's worth, especially as you won't get metering with the D90). Don't attach the flash to any modern camera unless you're absolutely certain the trigger volatage isn't high enough to fry the electronics.
  19. If your lenses are 4 or 5 3rd-party lenses from the 1960's and 1970's, I don't think it makes any sense to base your DSLR purchase on compatibility with those old lenses that worth probably next to nothing nowadays.​
    I was thinking the same thing. One modern, multi-coated Nikon is probably better than a bunch of 60's Pentax lenses, especially if the modern lens has VR. - No offense, I still have some older lenses in my Pentax 67 system. - The D90 features an outstanding sensor, and Mark can add whatever lenses he needs over time.
  20. 3. Once I get an SLR what would you recommend that I do for learning how to use it effectively? (other than practice, I will do a ton of that!) Are there good book/dvd series that would point me in the right direction?​
    How to use it effectively? Gain experience. When you're been-there-done-that, you know immediately what camera setting and gear you need for certain place, time, and condition.
    Since I got my dslr last february, I've shot the following: sunset, seascape, sports (snowboarding, soccer), night/long exposure, theme park, hiking, indoor event (dance)--each time has been a learning experience. You could your own objects of interest, of course.
    And I read books a long the way, too. And sometimes they make sense the second time you read it after you've been out there and try it yourself :)
  21. I would second the notion to forget the 2nd lens and go with the SB-600 flash. It's obviously more powerful, but also gives you some flexibility to do off-camera flash as well.
    As for books, I would go pretty basic and not necessarily D90 specific - the Schaeffer Ansel Adams guide or Adam's 1st segment of his troika, the Camera, would be a good start into understanding the mechanics of exposure, depth of field, aperture, and all of the compromises that exist between them. It will pay off later when you want to take your camera off of P setting, and actually make choices in order to get the results you want.
  22. bmm


    I'm 100% with George above. The answer to spending the remainder of Mark's money is not in interchanging or adding to the glass. As a first setup, D90 + 18-105 is fine.
    What I'd be suggesting is that the remainder be invested as follows:
    - a good tripod
    - an SB-600 flash unit
    - spare batteries for both camera and flash
    - a remote control or cable release accessory
    - 2 books; the first being the D90's magic lantern guide, and the second being Understanding Exposure by Pedersen
    Then if any $$ are left a cheap faster prime such as 50/1.8 or 35/1.8DX
    Incidentally I think the D90 is the perfect starting camera for someone who wants to take photography seriously. Thats not a comment about quality versus the 'lesser' models, just about the 'manual-friendly' setup including 2 control wheels, and the ability to AF with prime lenses due to the focus motor in the body, both of which give a really good platform for learning and progressing in the hobby.
  23. Hey Mark,
    I went to best buy too and got my kit (D80 and 18-135) and I was SO bummed when Costco had the D80 with the 18-135 and I foget the other lens - FOR THE SAME PRICE!
    I did the math and since we never go to costco, getting a membership didn't make it worth it, based on the price of the other lens, but that isn't the point of this post, the point is: check out costco - they often have good deals. And then you get two lenses and have $ for the SB 600, tripod, Peterson's book: Understanding Exposure, and all the other good stuff mentioned here.
    Have fun! I think the D90 looks AWESOME, I was jealous when they revealed it and I had the D80 already. LOL!
  24. Let me just slip another idea in here. Cameta has a D300 Demo (1 year warranty) with 18-55 vr and 55-200 vr lenses and a spare battery for $1499.00. That is right in your budget and will give you FAR more bang for your buck than will the D90 kit. The two lenses are both far sharper than thier low price would indicate. Additionally the VR will help you in low light situations. It adds at least two and perhaps three stops on stationary objects.
    The D90 is a great camera but it is not in the same league as the D300. The D300 is far more capable and far more robust.
    The first of your $500.00 purchases should be a SB-600 flash and 50mm f1.8 lens. This rig should keep you busy for a lifetime not to mention just getting started.
    As for learning. The magic lantern guide is great. So is spending hours on this site looking at the work of others. If your local jr college has a photography class why not enroll. Many schools have night classes in photography. Nikon has seminars occasionally that can be fun. Find the local retirement community, find a retired photographer there and ask him/her to mentor you. I was mentored many years ago by a man who shot for Leica in Germany before the war and for the government during the war. How could I ever have paid for that kind of instruction. Thank you Max wherever you are... RIP
  25. I've had my D90 now for a month and am very happy with it. I purchased the body only because I already have an acceptable all-purpose zoom (18-70mm). I'm sure the kit lens is adequate for general use. My advice: consider what type of pictures you plan on taking and go for the best possible lens you can afford to suit your needs.
  26. Mark,
    Your question has no answer, or more precisely, you can't answer this question right now. Sounds like this will be your first DSLR. Sounds like you are not a working photographer at the moment and aren't sure whether you will become one in the future or not. In other words, you're a beginner. Nothing wrong with that at all. Actually, you've got a lot of fun ahead of you. But it's also true that your options are wide open and I think it would be wise not to close any doors prematurely. Until you actually learn more about DSLRs and lenses and the various products available, you simply won't be able to make an informed decision for yourself. If you do reach the point of going pro or at least getting really serious about photography, you will (a) begin to realize that the camera is the least important part of the whole process of taking great photographs and (b) you'll start to understand in what ways the camera DOES matter and why and you'll get your own feeling about what sort of camera you want.
    Now, that said, it's hard to go wrong with a Nikon D90. I certainly would not suggest paying any more for a first camera than that, unless you're a millionaire and money doesn't matter to you - and that doesn't appear to be the case. Actually, if for some reason you want to try Nikon first, I'd suggest getting a Nikon D60 instead. Save the money now. If you want to spend it, learn something about lenses and buy one or two really good lenses. Or simply put the money in the bank, shoot photos, read and learn. That way, you have the money available in a year when you a starting to understand these product discussions better.
    But it's hard to go wrong today with any purchase you make, because there are virtually no bad cameras on the market right now. Pentax, Olympus, Sony, and others make some really fine cameras - and equally, if not more important, really fine lenses.
    When I went through this process a few years ago for myself, I decided to go with Pentax. A number of things mattered to me, but they mostly boiled down to price. A Pentax K20D can take GREAT photos. Indeed, if you can't take a great photo with a Pentax K20D, a Nikon D3X isn't going to do you any good. The Pentax system (like systems from several other brands except for Canon and Nikon) has shake reduction (image stabilization) built into the body. The advantage isn't in shake reduction in itself, it's in price and availability: Nikon has VR lenses, but you pay for VR over and over again, and of course you get it only with the lenses that have it, where I paid for it once and have it with every lens I use. Pentax lenses are outstanding. That was my decision and it's worked for me. I have more money to spend on great lenses - and I can hope to buy a new body more often.
    But I'm not pushing Pentax. Remember, I said that you can't go wrong with the Nikon D90. If you do that, you probably will never give Pentax or Olympus or Sony a second thought. But I will also predict - and I'm quite confident about this prediction - that if you get a Nikon D90 as your first digital SLR, at some point in the future and perhaps sooner rather than later, you'll wonder if you should not have bought Canon instead.
    In short, you simply cannot know what you want at this point, because you're not in a position to understand what's really important about the many, many options until you've spent some money and taken a lot of photos. In other words, to achieve real knowledge in this area you must take the risk of making a mistake. And my suggestion to beginners is to try to take cheap risks rather than expensive ones.
  27. I ended up getting the D90 last night! Unfortunately, it was dark by the time I got home so I didn't get a chance to use it. I did, however, fire it up before I had to leave for work and got as many shots in as I could. (see attached.. hopefully will let me post a few of them.) I left the camera on all of its default settings and in auto mode and it will probably stay that way until I have time to devour the manual and get the magic lantern book this weekend.
    As for the Pentax.. here's what I have in the case.
    1. Auto Vivitar Tele-zoom 85mm-205mm 1:3.8 no lens cap
    2. Auto Vivitar Wide-Angle 28mm 1:2.5
    3. Aston DX MC Auto 1:2.8 f=135mm (55)
    4. MC Hanimex Automatic 1:2.8 (55)
    5. Toshiba ES-10s Flash
    6. Three vivitar 49mm close-up lens
    7. Pentax Honeywell Spotmatic SP II
    8. Velbon VEF-3 Tripod (one leg duct taped..)
    I'm guessing that there wouldn't be any point in trying to sell these? It would be nice to have a little extra cash for the D90.. but I'm thinking that buying an old body to use these with might be fun too.
    Thanks again for everyone's input and support!
  28. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The Pentax system (like systems from several other brands except for Canon and Nikon) has shake reduction (image stabilization) built into the body. The advantage isn't in shake reduction in itself, it's in price and availability: Nikon has VR lenses, but you pay for VR over and over again, and of course you get it only with the lenses that have it, where I paid for it once and have it with every lens I use.​
    Not exactly. The digital era means people upgrade their DSLR bodies a lot more often then film SLRs. Some people upgrade every year; most upgrade every 2, 3 years. When you have vibration reduction built into the body, you also pay for that again and again whenever you upgrade your camera. Lenses, however, last much longer.
  29. Mark: The old Pentax stuff probably isn't going to be worth much in money. Probably worth a lot more in the fun you'd have using it. The flipside is, you can replace the broken camera inexpensively. I don't know much about your lenses but I have the Vivitar 28/2.5 in Minolta mount and it's excellent.

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