Posts tagged “nikon

What camera should I buy? A beginners guide…

I get this question a lot from people looking to get into photography. What camera should I buy?

The eventual answer though depends on budget available and what you want to do with it but in the main my answer to a beginner is usually the same, buy the absolute best you can afford.

Lets forget about compact and bridge cameras here, someone looking to get into photography properly needs some sort of interchangeable lens system. You simply don’t get that level of felxability with compacts or bridge cameras no matter how good they are. You get convenience but ultimately you need a DSLR of some sort.

I’m also going to rule out the new wave of compact system cameras for the beginner too. Even with the interchangeable lenses these cameras look like a nice easy route into photography, well made, small and portable but with the added bonus of being able to change the lens, and there-in lies their main problem. Have you seen the prices of lenses for these systems? Additional lenses are both expensive and limited in choice hence why I’d always advocate, stick to a DSLR.

I’m also going to go out on a limb here and say, forget about everything else except Nikon or Canon. Yes, I know there are other makes but these 2 are the big players, the VHS to the Betamax of the rest. Now I’ve probably offended every Pentax, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic and Sony owner out there (and more) lets get down to camera choice.

It really doesn’t matter if you go Canon or Nikon, both are similar, both have massive ranges and are supported by a myriad of 3rd party companies too. Whatever route you go, you won’t be disappointed.

So, what to actually buy? This comes back to the opening statement, spend as much as you can possibly afford, it’ll save you in the long run. If your budget only stretches to the entry level DSLR and kit lens then great, go for it. If it can go further then start looking up the ranges.

Taking the Nikon range for example. Buy a Nikon D3100 and you’ll get a nice camera with a fairly bog standard kit lens, but the entry level DSLR doesn’t have the top screen with all your setting on it. The D3000 never came with a port to attach a wired remote of any kind either, both, in my opinion, big things to be without. If you can push the budget that little bit more, the D5100 would make a far better purchase.

I’d actually go as far as to say that if you are really looking at the bottom end of the market, seriously consider the 2nd hard option. For D3100 money you’ll pick up a used D90, a far far better camera that will last you for ages. If you can afford a D5100, consider a used D7000 and you’ll never have to think of cameras again for ages.

In my humble opinion, the amateur photographer needs look no further than the Nikon D7000 or Canon 7d, after this you get into full frame territory, serious cash and I see simply no need or justification for a amateur photographer to venture into this territory. A D7000 to all but another expert photographer match a D3 in terms of image quality. In real terms, the D3 will be far better, but in the real world, 99% of people will never be able to tell any difference and if you really learn how to use it, your D7000 will produce the most amazing and striking images.

And so lenses. Simply get the kit lens, it’ll be fine to start out with and you have other things to worry about. Factor in the cost of a reasonable tripod for starters, cheap tripods won’t last, spend at least £100 and it’ll last for ages.

You might also want to consider:

Remote control of some sort, preferably wired.
A decent bag to carry this all in, buy something big enough to accommodate future purchases as well.
A screw in polarising filter
Some sort of slot in filter system, p series system with some Hitech graduated filters is a good cheap entry level into this world and it’s the one single item that will change you from a snapper to a photographer.

There’s about £250 in that little lot of extras, you don’t need them all straight away but this is what you need to consider to take the hobby at least semi-seriously.

Once you’ve used this little lot and got to grips with it then you can start looking at lenses. You might want a wider lens, a bigger zoom even? Both good purchases. The old trusty 50mm f1.8 is a great purchase, the cheapest lens you’ll ever buy and so versatile you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

I don’t expect everyone will agree with my reasonings but from coming through the beginner route this is my findings and my recommendation. What you buy is of course up to you but hopefully there’s some food for thought in there!

Advertisements

Time to jump off that Nikon ship?

I don’t know when it started but after owning nothing but Nikon DSLR’s since the launch of the original D70 I’m getting itchy feet to explore the wonderful world of Canon. Switching systems is a big move though, as those itchy feet are shuffling nervously as the urge to go for it gets stronger.

So, why the sudden change of heart? Well, it’s certainly not because my Nikon kit isn’t capable. It’s more than capable of anything I throw at it and I’ve got a fair bit of kit built up over the years to cover most eventualities so I’m rarely left floundering in the kit stakes.

I think the real issue is Nikon themselves. Since the launch of the D7000 we’ve had the D4, D800 and now the D600, all full frame and all with a bullock busting £2k+ price tag to match. Below the D7000 we’ve got the aging D90 and entry level D3200 and D5100. That leaves only the now elderly D300s sat alongside the D7000. The range is limiting and when you kit the D7000 the only way up on full frame which I have NO desire to commit to.

Canon through seem to have a myriad of crop sensor models of varying capability topped off by the fantastic 7d. Lens selections on Canon also seem more varied and indeed, better priced from my initial research.

Canon too is far wider supported in terms of astro-photography and the ability to add the Magic Lantern firmware is a rather compelling plus point to me at least. In terms of day to day photography the7d and D7000 seem pretty evenly matched so with switching it seems I have nothing to lose yet might make possible gains, it’s hard to argue against that.

Of course with 2 Nikon DSLR’s and 8 Nikon Lenses it’s not going to be straightforward making the move. I need too sell on my Nikon kit for the absolute best possible return in order to replace it with equivalent Canon kit and may have to sacrifice that handy 2nd body if I went for a 7d.

It’s a dilemma alright. Once you buy into one system that’s usually it, people never switch unless of course they are the type of person that can afford to replace their loo roll with a pile of used £20 notes.

I’ve done a bit of maths regarding potential returns on private sales of the Nikon kit and have a nice shopping list of Canon kit and the 2 just about work out. If I can sell the Nikon then it might well be game on…

Wish me luck.


Imagine if Nikon or Canon updated like Apple?

By this time tomorrow, for the first time since 2008 I won’t own any of Apple’s iOS devices. iPhone will be replaced with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and my original iPad will be replaced with a Google Nexus 7. So why, considering my VERY pro Apple stance?

Basically, I’m fed up feeling ripped off by Apple. Long gone is the company that seemed to put the user experience first. You paid a premium for Apple products but on the whole they WERE premium products. Everything from the packaging to the use of the item was so obviously carefully thought out; I at least, perceived they were worth the extra cash.

Since Apple became the world’s richest company though there’s been a distinct change. I’ve had 3 MacBook’s now but my latest 13″ Pro is by far the slowest and least reliable I’ve owned. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s simply not the product it used to be. My older Black MacBook running OSX10.6 is noticeably faster than the i5 machine running 0SX10.7. That shouldn’t be right!

Then there’s the iPad, the crowning turd of Apple’s greed. 2 years ago I bought the original iPad. £500 for a 32gb WiFi model was pricey but hey, this was Apple and it would be worth it. Was it though? At the time the iPad was unique so it was a pretty amazing bit of kit but less than 12 months later along came iPad2, faster and sleeker.

That was the first signs of something wrong. Occasional apps that would only work on iPad 2. Few and far between but there already not supporting the original machine less than 12 months after launch. Then came the new iPad, less than 24 months after I got original iPad and with it an announcement that iOS6 when it launches in the autumn won’t be supported on the original iPad.

What this means in real terms is that your original iPad is very much dead. Sure, it’ll still work but this is when the flood of iOS6 only apps will start to appear and owners of that original iPad will start to get left behind. This is now the Apple way, force the hardware upgrades by means of software updates that cripple the original device. Remember iOS4 on the original 3G iPhone? iOS4 ran like a dog on the 3G so the world went out and bought iPhone 4. You can be sure iOS6 will run like a dog on iPhone 4 so the world runs out and gets iPhone 5.

I’ve had enough of this and I’m getting off this particular bandwagon.

Now, to the original point of this post, imagine if Nikon or Canon behaved like that? I could go out now and buy a Nikon D4, the newest of the new and stick on a 30 year old Nikon lens and it’ll work. I could go out and buy a brand new Nikon lens and stick it on a 12 year old D70 and it’ll work. Buy a Nikon camera and a Nikon lens and it’ll work forever, or at least until components fail. It won’t stop working because Nikon want you to buy their new shiny lens rather than your old one that works perfectly well.

We expect and demand this of companies such as Nikon or Canon and there’s a lot of brand loyalty out there. If you buy into one system few ever change. There’s no real need to. I have a 10 year old Nikon lens; I paid around £500 for it new. I could, with confidence by any new Nikon body safe in the knowledge that it’ll work just fine, it will in another 10 years time too yet less than 2 years after spending £500 with Apple I’ve got a technological ornament? Nikon aren’t changing mounts forcing me to upgrade, no, they make sure that even if they do make changes previous kit will still work in the way you expect it to.

I can even look at my 6 year old PS3, a more direct comparison to an iPad than a camera maybe. I can buy any new game for this system and it’ll work, regardless of the age of the device, it’ll work. That’s value for money, that’s not being ripped off, that Apple, is how you should be treating customers. It’s all very well driving technical innovation but lets not forget those that have forked out their hard earned in these difficult financial times that helped you become the richest company in the world.

In the race to stay ahead, Apple may find the tides about to turn, Nikon and Canon however will still be the major players in their field in 20 years time, and I wonder where Apple will be in 20 years time?

I’ll also point out that prior to writing this I have owned… Apple Quadra 800, 15gb 3rd gen iPod, white MacBook, black MacBook, 1st gen iPod Touch, 3rd gen iPod Nano, 20″ iMac, iPad, i5 MacBook Pro, iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G and an iPhone 4. If Apple can piss me off they can piss anybody off!


Ask yourself, do you really need a full frame DSLR?

Ask yourself that question; do you really NEED a full frame DSLR? Not want, NEED?

If the answer is yes then ask yourself this. Am I a professional photographer? If you answer yes, then you’re dismissed, you do indeed need full frame for which the benefits are well documented and obvious.

If you answered no then you don’t need that full frame DSLR, you merely WANT it.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’d kill to get my hands on a Nikon D3x but at 6k for the body only that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

With the advancements made on crop sensor cameras these days I just cannot for the life of me understand why an amateur photographer would need a full frame DSLR other than for bragging rights. Newer bodies such as the Canon 7D or the excellent Nikon D7000 have closed the gap from crop to full sensors enough to negate the benefits to the amateur when compared against the cost.

I went through this dilemma heavily a few months back. I was going to be in a position to upgrade my Nikon D90 and had identified the D7000 as the likely object of desire. However, over the space of a few weeks I found myself shuffling finances to try and make a Nikon D700 possible instead, and when I got that to add up, I started looking at used D3’s as they were around the same price. The killer though was the collection of DX format lenses I already had.

Not being made of money I had to think long and hard here. Buy the D700/D3 and get a couple of used middle of the road lenses to get me by or keep the existing kit and go for a Nikon D300s or D7000. I was all but convinced I HAD to go full frame until I took a good look at myself.

I’m an amateur photographer, I do it 99% for the personal enjoyment. I had a collection of reasonable DX format lenses already. Spending nearly 3k for a new body and a couple of lenses simply didn’t make sense at the end of day. I don’t have that requirement for perfect noise free images and any roads, I shot on a tripod at ISO100/200 most of the time anyway so the low light performance wasn’t the killer blow to the crop sensor for me.

In the end I bought a Nikon D7000 and added a MD-11 battery grip. It worked with all my existing kit, I got the newest Nikon technological advances and as I hadn’t broke the bank I was able to upgrade my filter system and a few other bits a bobs. So happy with the performance of the D7000 I was, I added a Nikon 18-200mm VRII lens to the collection to replace an aging DX format mid range zoom and couldn’t be happier with the combination.

I’m glad I went this way in the end, new kit with warranty has to be better than second hand just to get that full frame. I took a while but thankfully I managed to separate the WANT from the NEED and got what was right for my ability, intended use and budget.

Don’t fall for the hype; get what’s right for you. A properly used crop sensor DSLR will outperform a badly used full frame every day of the week. Don’t be that guy with a D3 who takes snapshots better suited to a compact camera!


Living with a Nikon D7000

So I finally took the plunge. From first thoughts about upgrading my DSLR I went from hankering after a Nikon D7000 to a D300s to formulating plans for a D700 then a D3 before I went full circle back to a D7000. Then decided on a D300s. In the end it was driving me mad, my old D90’s sensor was verging on minging, no matter how much I cleaned it, it never seemed clean and I had to make a decision. In the end it was the increased pixels and buying into the latest Nikon technology that swung the deal for the D7000.

This camera is laden with nice new features from Nikon and it’s a bargain at the price. I picked up mine from Jessop’s. Ordered online and picked up in store for the sum of £863, a good as any of the online retailers. A word of warning though, this camera will be easily available for under £800 if you look around. Check it’s not a grey import before you buy as if it is there is NO warranty on the camera. I don’t know about you but spending £900 without a warranty seemed a risky move to me.

So, with camera bought along with a spare EN-EL15 batter (pricey!) and a nice new Lowepro backpack capable of holding 2 DSLR’s and indeed living in it’s so big I was a happy man!

After living with the D7000 for over a week now and having had the chance to use it in a variety of ways I can assure anyone thinking of making the move, especially from a D90 that you will not be disappointed.

The D7000 is actually slightly larger than the D90 and feels very well built indeed. I’ve added a 3rd party eBay sourced battery grip with a genuine Nikon battery and it’s a chunky bit of kit. Not as big as a D3 but big enough and heavy enough to give you confidence that you’ve bought something built to last.

As I had a few Sigma lenses I was wary about having issues with them, especially my old 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM but was pleasantly surprised that it worked perfectly. Same went for my Sigma 10-20mm which functioned exactly as expected. Sadly, there the nice surprises stopped. My 2 year old Sigma 28-300 works but no longer auto focus’s on the D7000 and worse still, my 105mm EX DG Macro does not work at all. Nothing. Not even in manual mode with this lens fitted so it’ll need to go back to Sigma for re-chipping. Thankfully, Sigma seems to do this as a free service.

If you’re used a lower end Nikon, i.e. D90, D70, D5000 etc then the ergonomics of the camera will feel very similar. It’s considerably smaller than the D300s/D700 but certainly not difficult in hand at all. Button layout is pretty good with most things easily accessible in familiar places. The only odd one is the focus selector where the AF button has now gone and is unmarked on the focus A or M switch at the side of the lens mount. Took me a while to work that one out. Not that I was that bothered, the new 39 point focus system is astonishing, very very quick and accurate in auto mode.

The only complaint I have at the moment is that the rear screen while excellent seems to by default show the images a little dark so I’ve lightened mine up slightly. I’d certainly recommend using the histogram to check your exposures as the screen doesn’t seem all that accurate.

So after around 1000 shots with this camera was it worth the money? You bet it was. Total cost so far was:

Nikon D7000 – £863
EN-EL15 battery – £59.99
3rd party battery grip £37.99
2 x class 10 8GB SD cards – £8.99 each on eBay.

Under a grand a cracking bit of nice new kit to play with!

Check out a few of the sample images below from the D7000.

Newhaven Cobbles - Explored
Taken at sunset at Newhaven Harbour in Edinburgh.
Nikon D7000
Nikon 18-70mm DX AFS
Stacked Hitech 150 0.9 and 0.6 soft ND grads
Helipoan ND3.0 10 stop filter

National Museum of Scotland - Explored
The main hall of the National Museum of Scotland
Nikon D7000
Sigma 10-20mm EX DG

Big Seas at North Berwick - Explored
Big waves on the beach at North Berwick, East Lothian
Nikon D7000
Nikon 18-70mm DX AFS
Stacked Hitech 150 0.9 and 0.6 soft ND grads

Kevin Cruise
Kevin Cruise performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Nikon D7000
Sigma 70-20mm f2.8 EX HSM

High Tide and the Road Bridge - Explored
Forth Road Bridge at high tide
Nikon D7000
Heliopan ND3.0 10 stop filter
Hitech 150 0.9 ND Soft Grad

Cramond Island Sunset
Cramond Island Sunset
Nikon D7000
Nikon 18-70mm DX AFS
Stacked Hitech 150 0.9 and 0.6 soft ND grads
2 shot stitched panorama¬


The stress of upgrading a DSLR!

A couple of months ago I made a decision that it was finally time to move on from my trusty Nikon D90. Now, this is the camera that really helped me make the leap from snapshots to “proper” photography. At the time I bought it, its 12.1mp sensor and feature set made it THE affordable DSLR. The fact it’s still so popular and on sale 2 years down the line is testament to just how good it is, especially as it wasn’t exactly the new kid on the block when I got my hands on it.

As with all things though, technology moves on and in this case, my understanding and photographic know how have also moved on and it’s time to move up the scale, just like I did with my Nikon D70 before.

You’d think this would be a fun move, getting some new kit. How wrong you can be! It’s a minefield out there of camera’s, megapixels, full frame or crop, specs etc etc. Bewildering almost.

Around a month ago I was passing a local branch of Jessops so nipped in for a look at the Nikon D7000 and D300s. The D7000 was originally what I really wanted. Surprisingly for me, the sales guy actually recommended the cheaper D7000 for my purposes but it looked so small next to the D300s which felt like a real proper camera. I was so taken with the D300s if I had the cash I’d have bought it there and then.

For weeks I’ve been researching D300s prices as I tried to assemble the cash to buy it outright, and then out of the blue came a possibility of increasing the budget to anything up to £3,000. Not certain yet but I had to put the camera on hold until I knew, this changes everything.

At this point the first thoughts of going full frame started. I’d always discounted it and I’d also need to change my Nikon 18-70mm AFS DX and Sigma 10-20mm lenses, the 2 main ones I use. With a bigger budget though…

Into view came the Nikon D700. Essentially, a Nikon D3 that’s a touch slower and doesn’t have the fancy body, or the price tag. I also figured I could replace the lenses with quality 2nd hand’s from the likes of Greys of Westminster and figured around another £700 should see me good.

Then when I though it was all clear in my head, I spotted the price of a used Nikon D3. Not the D3s or D3x they are well out of range but the original D3 was coming in at only a couple of hundred quid more than a D700! Top of the range, the holy grail of Nikon and it COULD be mine. Finances would be tight but it might be worth a compromise here and there to get one of the best DSLR’s on the market.

What I should have done then was to leave the internet well alone. I started reading comparison reviews of the cameras and came to the conclusion that a D700 would be just as good as a D3 and I could get it brand new for less than a used D3. Sorted, choice made.

Or was it?

Nope, after some more reading it seemed that full frame was overkill. I’m not a pro, probably never will be so what do I need with full frame? Nope, a D300s would be perfectly adequate.

A D300s it was then. Decision made. As a result of the lesser expenditure I could also probably get myself a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX, the prince of DX format lenses, a Speedlight SB900 and a set of Lee grads and polariser.

BUT, something was nagging at me. The D300s is a 12.1mp camera. Essentially the same one as the Nikon D90 I already have. Of course there are many other improvements but the Canon 7D is in the same price range and its 18mp! I know megapixels are not all that counts at the end of the day but more would be nice. So what else could I get?

I even contemplated a full scale switch to Canon so I could get a 7D but this would be a nightmare with so much Nikon gear so the only other thing I could do was buy the Nikon D7000. After reading the Ken Rockwell review of the D7000 my mind is made up. By all accounts, it appears to be a remarkable camera and while I still don’t really care for the dinkyness of it, I’ll add the battery grip to give it a bit more satisfying bulk for me.

Add in a 2nd hand 17-55 lens to replace my aging 18-70, Speedlight SB900 and the Lee filters and I’ll be just over the 2k mark for all this nice new kit and no issues having to replace lenses left, right and centre.

So that’s it, D7000 it’s going to be.

At least till I start reading other reviews tomorrow…