Making the most out of $2,500

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Shacklebolt, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. Shacklebolt macrumors 6502a

    Shacklebolt

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    #1
    Two questions - one broad, one not as.

    1)

    If you had to build some sort of DSLR setup from the ground up, how would you go about it?

    2)

    Would the D300 with the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G get outclassed by a D80 with a 70-200mm f/2.8D and a 18-70mm DX in tote?
     
  2. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #2
    1) Too hard to think about.

    2) Depends what you shoot. The golden rule is always invest more in lenses since bodies become obsolete much faster. So yes it would, unless you needed say live view, which only the D300 has.
     
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #3
    I'd suggest a third route: don't invest all your money into the body and get second-rate glass. Since you proposed Nikon, I'll stick with it. But the glass I would get is available for other mounts, too.
    (1) Get a Nikon D80 or a used D200. Both are very capable cameras. $800-$1200
    (2) Get a flash (an SB-400 is already worlds better than any built-in flash, the SB-600 is better, but a lot larger). $100-$180
    (3a) Get a Tokina 16-50 and a 50-135. $660 + $700 = $1360
    (3b) You might want to add a 1.8/50 lens for another $100.
    (4) Get a decent bag (I have a Loewe bag and I'm very happy with it). $50-$100
    (5) Get some memory cards, you should have at least 2 GB. $40

    That'd be $2360-$3000.
    I think you should put your priorities on the glass, not on the body.

    I have a Nikon D80, the SB-400 flash, the 18-70 kit lens as well as a Nikon 2.8/80-200 zoom and a good Loewe bag. I'd gladly trade my zoom for the Tokina (much smaller, much better minimal focussing distance, i. e. suitable for indoor photography). The smaller flash is sufficient for the start. Plus, it's a lot, lot more portable.

    Those two lenses cover most of what you shoot and you cover 24-200 mm on film, all with a constant aperture of 2.8! Personally, I would get the D80 + SB-400 + 2 GB + all three lenses + $100 bag. Then you'd make full use of your $2.5k budget.
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #4
    Get a used two-ring 80-200mm with the D300- best of both worlds.
     
  5. Lovesong macrumors 65816

    Lovesong

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    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    #5
    1). Go to the nearest used photography store that I know and trust and have a good return policy... if I live in say... Reno :rolleyes:, I would get online and go to keh.com, and look for EX+ stuff.

    2). Probably. Both would be outclassed by a D300 with a 50 f/1.4, a 105 (?) macro, and an SB-800 (Am I saying the right stuff Nikon people?).

    If you decide you might want to go with Canon, I'd go with a 40D, 17-55 f/2.8 IS, 50 f/1.8, and if you can fit it, a 70-200 f/4 (if you can't, scratch the 40D and find a used 30D).
     
  6. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    #6
    It does depend on what you want to do. If you want the least obtrusive, lightest and most current technology from a ginormous company like Nikon, and want the best quality photos short of the latest full-frame digitals, then this is my recommendation.

    D40 or D40x.
    18-200 VR zoom.
    12-24 wide zoom.
    SB400 flash.

    I do not recommend:
    Cameras and lenses that are bigger and more expensive and don't have actual advantages in the quality of the photos.
    Giant and expensive zooms made for 35mm.
    So-called primes, like 50mm, again made for 35mm.

    Maybe additions:
    A real macro lens and a special flash for same.

    Send me a bottle of wine out of your savings.
     
  7. Lovesong macrumors 65816

    Lovesong

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    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    #7
    Just out of curiosity, what would you call a 50mm fixed focal length lens?

    Because I'd guess I'd have to call it a prime...

    Yes, we all know that 50mm in APS-C sensors yields ~75mm... how does that not make it a prime, extremely sharp, cheap as dirt ($80), and useful? :confused:
     
  8. Chaszmyr macrumors 601

    Chaszmyr

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2002
    #8
    Canon 40D kit with the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens - $1429 from Amazon

    72mm UV Filter - $16-$30 depending on brand from Amazon (I personally don't think it really matters what brand you go for)

    Fast 2gb CF card - about $40 from Amazon (133x or so)

    At this point I'd call it a day and pocket the money. You'll be happy with the versatility and the quality of the images you are able to take.

    Further down the road, you might consider these items:
    50mm Canon prime lens
    300mm telephoto lens
    Circular polarizer filter
    Battery grip
     
  9. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #9
    First of all, it depends on the previous photography experience of the person making the purchase. The D300 is not really a beginner's camera; it's a semi-pro camera with a lot of bells and whistles which are great when you know what they are and how to use them, but this camera body is not meant for the neophyte coming from a P&S.

    Starting from ground zero and building a DSLR system is fun, challenging and potentially expensive. Most people start out modestly and then as their skills and needs develop they add more lenses and eventually move to another, more advanced body. Many, many years ago my first film SLR was a Minolta something-or-other with the standard 50mm lens. Eventually I bought a telephoto lens to use with it as well. As time went on, my skills and interest deepened and eventually I purchased my first Nikon, the N90 and a couple lenses, gradually adding a few more. Used that camera very happily for years until I got sidetracked by a series of Coolpix cameras -- my introduction to digital photography. The D70 was my first DSLR and after some time with it I felt ready to purchase the D200 when it was released. I used the D200 for two years before I felt "ready" for a D2Xs. During that time I developed my lens collection, purchasing the best lenses that I could afford, lenses which expanded my photographic range in some way. I mention all this to illustrate the point that most people don't jump right into a semi-pro camera body (however, some may do so if they have had some prior experience with film SLRs).

    Many people coming from a P&S are attracted to the all-in-one 18-200mm VR lens because it offers a lot of focal ranges within one lens; no need to swap lenses. That's what they are accustomed to in their zoom lenses on P&S cameras. Reality is that the beauty of a DSLR is that very ability to swap out lenses and use specific lenses for specific photographic effects and purposes. The 18-200mm VR is a nice all-purpose traveler's lens but it is not one for which I reach very often when going out to shoot.

    That 70-200mm f/2.8 VR you mention.....the day that I purchased my D70 with kit lens (18-70mm) I also purchased that lens. Why? Because I knew that I would be doing shooting within the range covered by that lens and because I knew it was a stellar lens, one which I would keep and use for years on all my successive camera bodies. I never regretted that decision. That 70-200mm VR does beautifully on my current cameras today and is still one of the most used lenses I own. Point being: buy the best lens you can afford. From the beginning the 18-70 and the 70-200 did very well for me on the D70. My next purchase was a 50mm f/1.4 lens for low-light shooting. In a few months this was followed by my first macro lens, the 105mm micro-Nikkor. I am still using these lenses today with my most recent cameras, except the 18-70mm, which I sold to a friend who was buying her first DSLR. I now have other lenses which cover that focal range.

    Go for the D80 with the 18-70mm kit lens and the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. You will learn much more from them than you would the D300 and 18-200mm VR. Shoot as often as you can with both those lenses, really get a sense of what they do and how you can get the most from them. This will also give you a feel for what else you'd like to shoot and which lenses might be most suited to that.

    In a year or two after you've had a lot of shooting experience and have added a couple more lenses and a good tripod to your kit, then that's the time to consider moving on to the D300......
     
  10. Mantat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Montréal (Canada)
    #10
    We dont know what you are planing to shoot so it is hard to be of much uses but I (a Canon user) would get something like this:

    - used 30D or a 20D
    - 70-200f4 IS. this can to be your "main" lens, perfect if you are shooting mostly outside. The non IS version is good too to save cash and super easy to get used.
    -or get a 24-105f4IS another very good lens that can be fit on your camera 90% of the time.
    -or the 17-55IS but it isnt in the same league as the two others

    IS cost more but it totaly worth it! I used to only have f2 and f2.8 lens but replaced them for f4IS and I dont regret anything. The only time I miss it is when I cant use a flash or the bokeh in very wide FoV.

    - get a flash that allow manual mode and if you really want to, ETTL
    - get a 50f1.8. Best bang for the $ and it is the best "learning" lens you can get.
    - the final item would be a low end zoom to cover the zooming range you didnt get from your "main" zoom. Get it used and get rid of it once you upgrade. You probably wont lose any money in the trade.

    So basicaly, you need a very good zoom to cover the range that you will use the camera the more, another low end zoom to cover the rest, a 50mm and a flash. After a few months, query your pictures DB to see the mm range you shoot the most then reassess your gear!

    Flash, memory card and a bag are a must and very easy to find used.

    Finaly, dont be afraid to get used gear, it is very easy to spot a damaged piece of gear so if it looks ok, it probably is! Pro level photographic equipments are made to last years under hard conditions. I have heard many stories of dropped lens and most of the time it is still working fine afterward.
     
  11. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
    #11
    Why spend all that money on a lens if you're just going to put a cheap piece of glass or plastic on the front of it?

    To the OP: Buy a low-end body and some mid-range to high-end glass. The sensor matters a lot less than the lens in the range of gear that fits your budget.

    For $2.5k, I'd go with the latest consumer body, a wide-to-normal lens, a telephoto lens, and a super-fast prime. I don't know anything about Nikon, but my Canon kit (see sig) ran about $2.5k over the span of 2 years or so.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #12
    You've already got a hot mirror blocking wavelengths. IMO, a plain glass filter is the way to go with digital. UV or "Skylight" filters were good with film, but not so useful on digital. Personally, I usually go with B+W but that's mostly for sentimental reasons.
     
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #13
    I think so. An f/2.8 lens can always do things no f/5.6 lens can. No one who you looks at your images will be able to see which body you used,

    But your real question was about how best to spend $2,500. What you want is the "best fit" to your needs. If you can state exactly what you want to shoot and how you like to work and yo can be very precises and have well defined needs then you get the most bang for the buck

    For example if you bought a 70-200 f/2.8 and D300 and your main goal was landscapes and macro shots of insects, I'd say you wasted your money. But if your kids were on a socer team and you wanted to shoot for the team from the sidelines you'd have an ideal setup. It's not about what is "best" it is about "fit for purpose". But what if you have no purpose? Buy the D80 and the kit lens and hold the rest of the budget in reserve and buy something only after you have shot 4,000 frames

    One thing most beginners always do is think they need some long telephoto lens, like the 200mm. It goes right with the other beginner mistake of never walking up close enough to the subject. Look at some photos in those large format art books, note the ones you like then try and figure out which lens was used to make them. Buy that lens. I bet the lens was more of a wide angle than a tele unless you like sports or wildlife

    If the goal is to impress people who see you using the gear (and many pros do buy with this in mind as they have to impress clients) then don't buy anything slower than f/2.8
     
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #14
    This is true and I have a quite a few B+W filters that I no longer use in 52 and 72mm sizes. But now when I buy a filter the only thing I care about is the quality of the optical coating. Good anti-refective coating are expensive to make. Go with any good brand and buy their highest quality level. I think Hoya calls theirs "SMC". A good test of a filter is to turn on a lamp, face away from it and try to use the filter as a mirror to look at the lamp over your shoulder. The really good filters are really poor mirrors, you will have to spend some $$ to make the lamp "go away" Try this in a camera store, get a really cheap generic fiter and a good multi-coated one. It will be obvious which is best
     
  15. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    Nassau, Bahamas
    #15
    I think you should listen very closely to Clix Pix; she knows what she's talking about.

    Fact is, everyone has different needs. Do you really want to buy a $1000+ telephoto lens when you may not even use it much?

    This is what I'd do:

    Buy a D40x or D80 (or if going the Canon route, XTi or 40D). Get the kit lens with it. Put the rest of your money (probably about $1500 or so) aside as a "camera fund" and keep adding to it. Shoot with the kit for a couple months, and you'll quickly realise what kind of lens you need.

    You may find you need more reach than the kit lens gives you, and you'll know to buy a telephoto. You may fall in love with wide angles. You'll only know when you've spent a few weeks shooting.

    There'd be nothing worse than buying the 70-200 2.8 and having it collect dust.
     
  16. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #16
    I've noticed that more companies seem to be making - or maybe just marketing more strongly - plain glass protective filters. Hoya (Tokina) sells an SMC slimline protective filter that'll run you about $70. Singh-Ray has a "High Lux" filter they market for this purpose - it's something like $160 (gulp) but I'd bet it's optically superb. Nikon and B+H offer high-quality filters (I'm excluding Canon simply because I don't know if they sell a brand-name protective filter).

    I keep vacillating over whether or not I should keep buying these for my lenses. Lenses can be repaired if they're damaged; and a filter really only protects the lens from low-speed impacts (a hood is better) and scratches (which usually don't cause any significant optical degredation - likely no more than your filter does). Even good filters will have at least some infinitesimal impact on optical quality, since you're adding another transit of the incoming light through glass.

    Having said that, when I recently ordered the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 (not here yet - darn!) I did order a Hoya protective filter with it.

    Addendum: To answer the actual question :D - For a first dSLR I'd probably buy a D80 and put a Nikkor 18-200 on it. Use that for a while to see what/how you actually like to shoot; then make more expensive lens purchasing decisions accordingly. The 18-200 is a great lens for walking around.
     
  17. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    Indiana
    #17
    PRIME LENSES! Don't waste money on a zoom with an aperture over f/4. Prime lenses offer great image quality, big apertures, and low cost. Plus they make you think about your framing more than with a zoom. Here's what I learned to shoot with.

    24mm f/2.8
    50mm f/1.4
    85mm f/1.8

    Not what I own now (except for the 50), but great, low cost stuff.
     
  18. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #18
    If you just bought a kit lens (the typical 18-55mm f/5.6 zoom) then it is uneconomical to put a filter on it. A good filter will cost 1/2 as much as the lens. You are better off taking the small risk of damage to the lens. You can always replace the lens with a good used copy for little more than the price of a filter. Used 18-55 lenses are cheap.
     
  19. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #19
    One of the eternal photography debates - Nikon versus Canon, prime versus zoom, natural light versus flash versus strobe kit...

    Ginger versus Mary Ann... (Mary Ann!)

    I like zooms. If you want to focus on framing and composition, just tape your zoom ring. :p

    P.S. I have a 35mm f/2 prime. Great lens.
     
  20. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #20
    This just goes to show how people's style is different. For many people 70mm is just _way_ to narrow to be using outdoors and they would have little need for the 200mm end of the range. These are the ones looking at the 18-55 kit lens thinking that 18mm is not nearly wide enough.

    It says something about the photographer, do you stand back and look, observe and don't interact or when you see something do you walk up and interact with it. Some photographers look mostly at the world that is within 10 feet of them, flowers, people, rocks, details. for them a 200mm lens is useless.

    What I've found is that you can do good work with any lens. What I do is first decide what kinds of pictures I want to shoot that day. Tight shots of people, scenics, little details and macros, animals or whatever, then I select just one lens put it on the camera and go. Yes there will be shots I will have to pass up on but there will be many I can take no mater which lens I have. So if I go on a hike and I have my 85mm I get maybe 100 images and 10 keepers and if I take my wide lens I get 100 different images and 10 different keepers. If I took both I'd still only shoot 100 images as that is all I have time for. When I shoot I care more about lines, color, contrast and composition than about what the subject is. I see a pattern or converging lines or symmetry, I shoot that. I'll choose subjects based on my lens. I choose the lens based on what i want to look at. So one option is to pick a lens that is fun to shoot and then pick subjects to suit. If you have a specific subject in mind -- different story
     
  21. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Location:
    TX
    #21
    Interesting way to look at it; I never thought of photography that way (at least consciously). I think there's a definite bonus to not interacting though–you get the more candid shot; I've found with portraiture putting distance between you and the subject is a lazy way to get that natural laugh. Even better if the subject is outside on bright, but lightly clouded, day.
     
  22. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    Indiana
    #22
    That is a good one. Keep in mind that a 50mm 1.4 with digital magnification is actually a 75mm (D80) or an 80mm (40D/Rebel), which is perfect for portraiture. Also, I'd pay the extra $200 for the 50 1.4 over the 1.8 because the glass is much better. Many of my friends who are also professional photogs have this lens. Or if they have an extra $1000 to play with they have the 1.2
     
  23. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    #23
    You are right. Obviously 50mm is a prime, and a nice one at that. I was being kind of snappish because it seems like a lot of people on this forum are forever recommending what they call "pro" lenses to people just starting out.

    The advice typically says that people will not learn good photography unless they use older, heavier and more limiting lenses on their new digital cameras. I guess the idea is that small, light modern lenses are just... too easy? So, by extension, making it harder to get a great shot is... a good thing?

    Or, is it thought that the old lenses are sharper than the new ones? Or, are the new ones just too, hmmm, common.

    My point is that it just isn't necessarily better to use old lenses, just fun. It is confusing to those just starting out to continuously suggest that they need to get lenses made for 35mm systems or that they need the most expensive low-light digital lenses.
     
  24. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    Indiana
    #24
    Prime does not equal old. My 50 is brand new and has the canon ultrasonic motor; very fast focusing and quiet. The reason I say buy prime is because if you're buying a zoom that's not an f/2.8, you're going to have to use flash in most situations indoors or in low light. Flash makes photos flat and washed out unless you buy a $400 speed light. Even with that you have to be very, very good at it. Primes keep you from using flash which gives your photos much more depth and texture.

    I really think that starting with a simple setup is a great way to learn how to get the most out of your equipment.
     
  25. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wenonah, NJ
    #25
    Why only EX+? I've bought a ton of stuff in Bargain and everything has been fantastic. While the cosmetics are beat up more than on EX stuff, the items I have purchased in this condition are optically perfect. Plus, if you do get something you aren't happy about, there's a great return policy.
     

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