What should I upgrade/purchase?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by kavan_murphy|2, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. A couple of weeks ago our little maltipoo puppy decided to chew through the water supply line in our upstairs guest bathroom and flooded our entire house! At first it was a complete disaster (we just had the house built three months ago and just moved in). But, the good news is that after all the dust settles and repair work is done we're actually going to be walking away from the ordeal with some cash from our insurance company. What a perfect excuse to upgrade some of my gear :)

    I'm a fairly new wedding & portrait photographer who last year decided to get serious about turning my passion into a business. The list below is what I currently have and now I have about $2,500 (give or take) to play with for upgrades. My question to everyone is, based on what you see below, as a wedding photographer where would you spend the money? New body? Lenses? Lights? Software? Something else? You get the idea...

    Bodies: Nikon D200 & D80

    Lenses: Nikon 18-200 3.5-5.6f VR, Sigma 28-70 2.8f, Sigma 70-200 2.8f

    Flashes/lighting: SB-800 & SB-600, 2 stands, soft box, umbrella (can't remember the sizes off the top of my head), sand bags

    Software: Lightroom 2.6, Photoshop CS3

    Capture/Storage: Three 4GB CF II cards, one 2GB CF II card, one 1GB CFII card, Three 4GB SDHC cards, Epson P-3000 40GB Multimedia Storage Drive

    Tripod: I'm happy with the one I have (solid legs and a good, smooth ball head).

    So, where does that leave me? I need some filters for the Sigma lenses as I just got them a week ago (got both from a friend of a friend used in great condition for $425 total) and only have one UV filter. I'm not particularly thrilled with the high ISO performance of either camera, so I was eyeing a D300 or D300s. I was also thinking about springing for a Noise Ninja license, too.

    Also, we just bought a new house with a garage which I was hoping to turn into a studio when needed, so I had my eye on this lighting kit for around $500: http://www.skaeser.com/servlet/the-691/900-WATT-EZ-SOFTBOX/Detail

    Can anyone tell me if that seems like a good deal? I know they won't be the brightest lights, but since it's in a controlled environment I'm hoping it will work. Also, on the software front, I thought about getting Nikon's Capture NX to capture straight into my laptop while doing this "studio" stuff.

    So, what do you all think? Get a D300? Get the lights? Blow the whole budget on a D700? Maybe a refurbished D2x? Stepping up to a FX camera probably isn't a good move until I can get two at the same time to keep things more consistent, but maybe I'm wrong? Thanks for any and all help you guys can provide.
  2. have you considered upgrading either the dog or using the stainless steel feed tubes? ;)
  3. The biggest gap I see in your arsenal is the lack of fast, wide-angle coverage. Both your cameras are DX bodies, which means your 28-70 acts like a 42-105. The 18-200 isn't fast enough for paid work. So my first recommendation would be to pick up a used 17-55 f/2.8. That'll run you around $1,200.
    That leaves you $1,300 to work with. Let's say you sell the D80 with the 18-200 for $800. You should be able to easily find a used D300 (no need for the 's') for less than $2,100, with some change left over for your UV filters and a few other goodies. I think your lighting is adequate.
    Then you'd have 2 "pro-am" bodies, one with the improved ISO performance you seek, plus the fast/wide coverage essential for good wedding photography.
    Hope this helps!
  4. @Howard: Haha... Upgrade the dog? No way! She's the reason I get to buy new toys now. I need to see if she can do this
    once a year :)

    @Kevin: Thanks for the great insight. I totally forgot to mention that I was eyeing a 10-24mm 3.5 (I think those were the
    specs) for $650. Would it be too much of a drag switching lenses? Or could I keep the 10-24 and 28-70mm on the two
    bodies and pull out the 70-200mm as needed? Also forgot to mention that I have a Nikon 50mm 1.8, too.
  5. Suggest that you put the cash to the side for now and consider investing in yourself via continuing education/training, perhaps membership in WPPI and/or PPA, and maybe contribute $25 to a P-net membership.
  6. Having never used UV filters on my glass I'm probably not one to criticize the practice but I just never understood why one would basically want to shoot through a "window".
    Outdoors on a sandy beach maybe but I never go there.
  7. Have a look at this: http://www.photo.net/learn/wedding/equipment
  8. @David: Great suggestions. I forgot to mention that I was thinking about putting some of the money towards education/learning. In fact, I just bought the 2009 Photovision series of DVDs. They just arrived today, so I haven't watched any yet, but I've heard good things about them. I was also going to get a WPPI & PPA membership as well.
    @RT: I've always heard it's good practice to have at least a UV filter on the lens for protection if nothing else. I can personally vouch for the importance of a filter for protection as my wife accidentally knocked my camera out of my hand and it landed on concrete square on the front of my 18-200mm. It looked smashed beyond repair, but once I got it home and took off the circular polarizer I had on it, the lens itself was peachy keen.
    @Mark: Thanks for the link. I actually read that article a while back and it helped me plan out the equipment I was going to buy back then (most of which I currently have). But now that I have some money to use for further upgrades I was just wondering how other, more experienced people (if in a similar situation with the same equipment I currently have) would use it. For me it's not as simple as picking from a list. I need to prioritize based on my budget, current equipment and needs. This is what I was hoping for some help with.
  9. "For me it's not as simple as picking from a list. I need to prioritize based on my budget, current equipment and needs. This is what I was hoping for some help with."

    If you're unsure where to put the money then you might want to wait awhile. After watching the Photovision DVDs you'll likely get some yearnings. BTW, the $25 subscription to P-net seems to me to be a bargain relative to the information gained. While it is voluntary, I think it sends a message that you're serious about photography and a serious participant to the forum...I think it will bolster your credibility within the wedding photography community.
  10. That's interesting. I didn't realize I wouldn't be taken seriously because I hadn't paid $25 to become a full member of
    photo.net. Also, I don't really want to wait too long because I do have a few things booked this year and would like some
    time to practice with a new body, lights, lens, etc. before I need to shoot a paying gig with it.
  11. I didn't mean to say you would not be taken seriously which is why I've given you a couple of serious replies. Often, I see people making purchase decisions based on their "wants" rather than a professional business plan.
    Much to their credit, I've never seen P-net make any significant pleas for subscriptions. Although I've seen many newcomers gain tremendous professional business information and tips on techniques, some give back to the community while others simply take. Whether one is a "giver" or a "taker" is their choice.
    BTW, although I'm writing this within your thread, I'm also aware that there are many others that will read this and give the matter a moment of thought.
  12. Kavan, I'm glad you read that post. There's also this more recent one: http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00V98v
    <p>The reason I refer you to both is that there is a lot of useful info to be gained both from the writer and from the subsequent discussions.
    <p>"I need to prioritize based on my budget, current equipment and needs" - Kavan.
    <br>IMO you have a good foundational kit from which to build your knowledge and technique. If you plan to shoot weddings, I'm a Canon shooter myself, but have read enough about the Nikon system to know that you probably will get a useful increase in high ISO performance vs your current bodies with a D300/s. I'm not sure whether you plan to go full frame (D700?), in which case your 28-70 Sigma may stand you in better stead as your main lens. Your 18-200 isn't really a good idea for weddings. ANY 10x zoom will have to make some major compromises on IQ. I would keep it only as a backup. I would retain your kit and look at getting a 17-55 f/2.8 Nikon or 17-50 f/2.8VC Tamron. The latter has image stabilisation. For now, that's about as far as I'd go, since you already have a fast prime useful for portraits and low-light work.
    <p>One more thing, don't underestimate the value of getting factory refurbished gear. Adorama, B&H, KEH all sell used and refurbished gear. It will usually have a warranty and will have the benefit of having been given a thorough individual inspection, something that not all factory models enjoy.
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Stepping up to a FX camera probably isn't a good move until I can get two at the same time to keep things more consistent, but maybe I'm wrong?"

    Search my posts, I am an advocate of using a dual format kit - I took 6 months research and design 4 DSLR kits, for my old W+P studio.

    "where would you spend the money? New body? Lenses? Lights? Software? Something else?"

    For a generic Wedding / Portrait Kit, you are critically short of a fast wide to normal lens and a fast short telephoto lens. Given the camera bodies you have, apropos High End ISO and Noise capacity / tolerance, this would be a vulnerability should you need to go sans flash to get the shot.

    Also the Sigma 28 to 70 is not the idea main working zoom, for your cameras. Especially as it only leaves the maxi zoom for anything wider than 28mm. In this case a 17 to 55 ish F/2.8 zoom is the answer, as Mark has suggested.

    I endorse having a planned purchasing schedule based upon a final kit and not buying willy-nilly – again search my posts: I have many comments in regard to planning a kit - based upon a final kit and a purchasing plan predicated on need.
    No offense meant, but is does seem that there has been little planning to any final kit, predicated upon analysis and usage thus far. What I mean is – no matter what the price of the lens (“I need some filters for the Sigma lenses as I just got them a week ago (got both from a friend of a friend used in great condition for $425 total) and only have one UV filter.”) – did you analyse how many money shots you take (or will take) at a wedding, using that 70 to 200?

    Similarly, I have made comment upon the 28 to 70.

    I also endorse the idea you become a member here.

  14. @David: You make a good point about others reading this thread and it being able to help them, too, since they may be looking at it a from a different angle than I am. And I totally understand the importance of buying according to a business plan instead of just going on a random spending spree; hence my asking for guidance here from people with more experience :) Just because I have a plan doesn't mean it's a good plan. Also, I certainly wasn't planning for this sudden windfall, so the order in which I planned on buying things can, potentially, change a bit. For example, I thought I would be waiting a while for a FX camera, but now it's (D700) suddenly within my budget. But in trying to look before I leapt I posted here (among other research I'm conducting).
    @Mark: Great point about buying refurbished. I bought my D200 refurbished from Adorama two years ago and haven't had any problems. Thanks for that other link, too. I hadn't seen that article before. I did the exercise at the end and while going back through some of my other weddings and have noticed that while I wish I could have gotten better images at ISO 800 or higher on my D200, I wasn't shooting at a long focal length nearly as much as I thought I was. Definitely an eye opener.
    @William: I searched through your long (and impressive :) list of posts, but couldn't find anything where you were mentioning specifics on why you prefer the dual format kit (though I did find a few where you mentioned advocating it). But to be honest, I didn't go through all 5,000+ of your posts and when I typed in a search for the topic nothing terribly useful came up. As a side note, thank you so much for responding as much as you do. Before I posted my question here I had read several of your posts in previous threads and always learned from them. It's a great help to us "newbs".

    Now, the question of the dual format kit becomes a very interesting one as the wife signed off on the purchase of a D700. Since I've only been shooting on DX bodies, get ready for a completely "newbie" question: how do I know if my current lenses will work on an FX body and not just be auto-cropped to DX on the D700? I want to be able to take full advantage of my 24mm-70mm f/2.8 Sigma lens (I believe it's the discontinued D EX for what it's worth). So I'm wondering if I'll get more bang for my buck by having the FX D700 to go along with my DX D200. This way I can use the D700 for the real low-light stuff and as my main body and use the D200 for when I need that extra 1.5x crop factor.
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Cousin Lindsay's thread was the foremost in my mind, as it gives examples and also explains a thinking process, albeit pertaining to her requirements.
    Your (Kavan’s) needs and results might not be the same but the process of the thinking is clear.
    The very most important point, IMO, is to start with a blank sheet of paper and list out your full kit that you (think) need based on your job outcomes and choose gear which is available now - do not attempt to guess what will be released next month.
    What I mean by “job outcomes” is – (by way of examples) –
    a) If your immediate area might be close to the equator, generally have very relaxed Clergy who allow roaming and Flash Photography in very large Places of Worship and / or many folk who prefer open air Weddings . . . so after you have selected your final kit TO CATER FOR ALL SITUATIONS YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER, during the PRIORITIZING the ORDER of PURCHASES whilst you might want three or four or even five fast Primes, and two longer telephoto zooms for you final kit - you may well prioritize buying lots of lighting gear before filling out your lens kit - based on "How often will use these extra lenses"
    b) On the other hand, if you are in an area of the older style Sandstone Churches and have quite strict Clergy who do not allow any Flash and don't like Photographers moving around whilst they are speaking - then you would be getting a set of fast Primes quick sticks, and maybe TWO tripods and maybe a radio remote camera shutter release - you might even consider changing Camera systems to best suit these requirement.
    Another key element is TOTAL SYSTEM REDUNDANCY. You hint at part of this as you consider which lenses mate to your DX cameras which also will mate with the Nikon FX cameras – I am not full bottle on the Nikon DSLR system – when cutting over the Digital I also went through the process of deciding “Which System” as well as “Which Kit” within that system. – I have Canon for my DSLR kit
    I this regard of Total system redundancy, be careful if you are considering you and your wife co-shooting: I consider a Kit based on three bodies is the beginning of a Totally Redundant System,but that is for ONE Photographer – for two co-shooters, you need five bodies (a saving of one).
    Also for a pair of co-shooters, you need a kit with the option of THREE main working ZOOM lenses or EQUIVALENT.
    What I mean by “equivalent” is (as one example): my lightweight kit is:
    Bodies:20D, 30D, 5D, Lenses: 24, 50, 135, 16 to 35.
    So considering tiers of redundancy:
    My main working rig is a 20D or 30D with the 16 to 35 – so I have a back up body for the main rig.
    If the main working lens goes down (16 to 35), I can ditch one APS-C body have a 24 and 50 and work two cameras (which I do anyway) and swap those lenses between the 30D and 5D, effectively giving me: 24, 38, 50 and 80.
    If the 16 to 35 goes down AND the 5D fails then the worst problem I have is dealing with the a large group in a small space and only having equivalent 38mm to get the shot –so I would have to work very hard at arrangement.
    If the 16 to 35 AND the 5D and the 24 all fail, then I have a problem, because in that light weight DSLR kit I only then have a 50mm lens and APS-C bodies – very bad forth tier of redundancy.
    So how I manage that is I always has handy two items – the “kit lens” 18 to 55 lens I bought for about US$40 extra with the 20D and also a 303b with a snub 45mm (and some film).
    Now these might be in the car – but always accessible and give me another two tiers of redundancy.
    Noted that the Canon “Kit Lens” does not mount on a 5D, so if the 20D and 30D failed and the 16 to 35, 24 and 50 lenses and the 303b failed (highly unlikely – it is a wind-up camera) –then I am left with an 18 to 35 and a 5D . . . but I do know how to modify, with a penknife the kit lens to mount on a 5D and to use it only at the longer FL’s . . .
    Excessive – yes, hardly likely that it would ever get to tier four redundancy, but I have had TWO DSLR bodies fail within a few frames of each other – and that was scary but it is surprising how the brain “remembers what to do” IF it has been thought through as strategic plan, beforehand.
    So, a one practical, application of this theory for you: I would keep the 18 to 200 and the D80 for a while, as you build your system - even though these two tools are not ideal to shoot an entire Wedding - you own tem an the will reap much $ if you sell them . . . but having them handy as another level of redundancy might be invaluable.

  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    . . . I can't find the old posts easily either . . . but I think the above fits your specific question and also, thanks Nadine for the link above.


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