FX for a casual shooter?

Started 8 months ago | Discussions thread
mosswings
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Re: FX for a casual shooter?
In reply to Penny123, 8 months ago

Penny123 wrote:

I am just wondering if there is any huge advantage to using FX as a casual shooter to some of the newer DX models, ie D7100. I had a D40 and have been using a D90 this past year, I have had some focus issues but never really got to the bottom of if it was me or the camera. It has been to nikon and they found errors but never said what so I have it back with me. Focus issues aside I am starting to find the iso rather restricting. I have been using iso 800 at a push but really notice the quality fall especially if I need to start pulling shadows ad adjusting exposure. I take quite a lot of shots in woodland and Scotland can be pretty dull at times so to keep a good shutter speed I am often having to push it up a bit.

I mainly shoot portraits of my dog and landscape with a bit of everything else thrown in. I feel my photos have gotten better this past year but nowhere near the high standard I see on here and I will always purely be doing this as a hobby. What I am looking for is a camera that will last me the next 4 years (at least) and I have narrowed it down to the D610 or the D7100. FX seems appealing as a camera to develop my skills with but is it overkill for what I do? What I am after is a camera with excellent image quality (most new cameras fit this) and one where hopefully I can use ISO 800 or above but the images look just as good as if it were iso 200.

What put me off the D7100 is the buffer as I sometimes shoot shots of my dog running. She is a bit older now so this isn't a make or break deal and I would be happy shooting in crop mode. I also read that you need superior glass and good technique for the 24mp. I have a 40mm, 16-85 and 70-200.

On the other side of the coin what put me off FX is I have no way to try before I buy and I would need to see how it suits me with the different dof and clustered focus points. Am I correct in thinking that if I bought a 24-120 fx lens that would give me the same field of view of my 16-85? I would also need to assess if I would miss the extra reach that I get with my 70-200 on a cropped sensor.

For my needs and what I am looking for what do you think D610, D7100 or hold tight with the D90 and see what might come out later in the year?

Penny, I'm sorry that the problems with your D90 have you looking for other solutions. Like you, I decided last year that my D90's high ISO performance wasn't good enough - but in my case the slow lenses I used on my travels were the reason why I had to shoot at 800-1600 ISO. I also did NOT want to go FX, simply because I knew that in decently lit situations the differences between FX and DX were quite small, but the penalty in size, weight, and especially cost made no sense to this traveling photographer. So I took the plunge and got a D7100, thinking that its more modern sensor and higher pixel density would allow me to play postprocessing games to significantly up my high ISO image quality.

Long story short, you can do that. The D7100 in use yields perceptually cleaner files when viewed at the same image size, and maintains its color fidelity far better than the D90 did. When you start viewing things at 100%, or cropping heavily, then the purported difficulties with a high-resolution sensor come in to play...you realize that D7100 bulk noise levels haven't improved dramatically over the D90 era (though they're perceptually better by a large margin, because the noise is more luminance and less chrominance, so less detail-destroying confetti), and that you have to eat up some of that better noise performance in kicking the ISO and shutter speed up to freeze subject motion or operator shake.

You mention that you're frustrated that you can't get as good quality images as the shots you see here and elsewhere from the folks using top end equipment and larger sensors. I would counter that those folks are getting those shots primarily because they are using the right light; top quality equipment is nice but only in certain limiting situations is it absolutely critical to the shot.

You've got the problem that you go shooting when you can, not when the light is best. In this case, you could actually benefit from the best equipment, and you've started down that path with your 70-200 f2.8. And that's where I'd start changing things. Since you need more light, the most obvious thing to do is get a faster midrange lens.

If that doesn't cut it, move to a D7100 (though the D7100 would provide you with something to improve your focus quality that your D90 doesn't - AF fine tuning); but for maximum versatility at any aperture, you have to go to a larger sensor. Modern sensor technology has essentially plateaued in the last generation; we're not getting huge leaps in performance like we did going from the D80 to the D90 (CCD to CMOS); sensor area is the only thing left to exploit.

Your path may lead to FX, ultimately. Don't worry too much about high resolution; just print at your typical image size and things will work out (incidentally, a D800 is more sensitive to shake than a D7100, and a D610 is about the same - it's pixels/degree of field of view that matters, not linear pixel density). You probably should consider trading in your DX lenses for FX ones. First, you're not going to find the really fast midrange zooms in DX that you do in FX - at least from Nikon - and second, if your path is truly to FX, you spread out the financial pain of the switch.

The other things I'd suggest are 1) fill flash with a good flashgun, off camera; 2) to consider some form of support, like a monopod. It can buy you more stability in low light without compromising mobility too much. Ultimately, though, if the light is really cruddy most of the time, there's only so much even an FX camera with a fast lens can do, and we have to wait for the Gods to grant us good light. It's the curse of the photographer, and our predecessors knew that.

 mosswings's gear list:mosswings's gear list
Olympus XZ-1 Nikon D90 Nikon D7100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR +1 more
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