Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?

Started Apr 7, 2013 | Discussions
Dylan Colon
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Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
Apr 7, 2013

Hey everyone! I'm currently a college student in the USA, aka, a borderline homeless man.
I'm going on a massive roadtrip this summer to rediscover myself, and I need a camera to document the entire process. I specialize in architecture right now, and I know the ins and outs of RAW manipulation. I've pushed my D300 to the limit, and even ISO 350 is starting to present issues to me in my workflows.
I've been comparing the D300 to the D700, and find it to be a very enticing option. Buying one used would be relatively cheap for an FX body, at around $1.5k. I only have one FX lens though, and that's my 70-200mm VR. Obviously I can't use that for wide angle landscape shots, so I'm going to have to buy another lens. I was looking at the 50mm f/1.8
Now, is the D700 really a proper choice right now? I need something with EXCELLENT low light performance, seeing as backpacking through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico will present some interesting opportunities. I'll have a tripod of course, but to prevent some long exposure noise I'd like to bump up the ISO a teensy bit. Is the D700 a proper choice for me? 
I have a portfolio here with some of my work, don't be too harsh, I'm only 18: 500px.com/dylancolon

Woah, just realized that a refurbished D600 is about $1.6k. Is the D600 a better choice? I know it has slightly better high ISO performance and more dynamic range, which is really what's important to me... but what's the build quality like?

Nikon D300 Nikon D600 Nikon D700
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Whois
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 7, 2013

For EXCELLENT low light performance a used D700 might give you the best value for money at the moment.

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Dylan Colon
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Whois, Apr 7, 2013

That's exactly what I'm thinking, but after checking out samples from the D600 it seems to be able to pull quite a bit of detail out of those high ISO shots. It has less grain than that of a D700 image, plus double the resolution. So if I really needed to, I could downsample, and the images would probably look superior to the identical output from a D700.

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David314
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 7, 2013

Dylan Colon wrote:

Hey everyone! I'm currently a college student in the USA, aka, a borderline homeless man.
I'm going on a massive roadtrip this summer to rediscover myself, and I need a camera to document the entire process. I specialize in architecture right now, and I know the ins and outs of RAW manipulation. I've pushed my D300 to the limit, and even ISO 350 is starting to present issues to me in my workflows.

let me give you some food for thought

if you are shooting a d300 at f5.6 get depth of field, you will shoot the D700 at f8 to get the same depth of field

so for landscapes with a tripod, if you can get a wide enough lens, and you have one, you might not see as much advantage as you think

50mm f1.4 on a full frame has a pretty shallow depth of field, so you might end up shooting at f2 anyway

if you don't have it the sigma 30mm f1.4 DX or new 35mm f1.4 FX lens might be a better to buy than a new body for a starving college student with a D300

there are certainly cases where high iso is the only answer and then the D600 would be a better choice vice the D700

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Ray Ritchie
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 7, 2013

I don't think you'd pick up much advantage from a D700 over the D300, other than improved low-light capability, given that you have only one FX lens. From your portfolio, you seem to shoot a lot of pretty wide stuff - things that would come out at 16-24mm on FX. You'd only be able to do that on a D700 with your existing lenses if you're willing to do a lot of cropping - thus, giving up a lot of the resolution, and ending up with something probably not as good as what you have now.

My advice would be not to move to FX until you can also afford the lenses that would let you do you want to do. If your budget would stretch as far as $2000, you might be able to afford a refurb D600 and perhaps the kit 24-85VR (I have that as a travel lens for my D800, and it's not bad at all), or perhaps a wide angle MF lens, say, from Samyang.

I wonder, though, if you really need to switch to FX. I still have a D300, and it's a great camera. You might get more capability for your dollars right now by investing in some new lenses that will also work on a future FX body.

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ScottRH
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Whois, Apr 8, 2013

Whois wrote:

For EXCELLENT low light performance a used D700 might give you the best value for money at the moment.

+1

you may want to consider skipping the current FX options.

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overniteman
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to ScottRH, Apr 8, 2013

I'd stay with the D300. Buy yourself some glass.

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ScottRH
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to overniteman, Apr 8, 2013

overniteman wrote:

I'd stay with the D300. Buy yourself some glass.

+1

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AustinTed
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

Based on your work the D300 appears to be serving you well.  All of these cameras are just tools and have limitations.  With the FX cams you are still going to hit limitations it's just a matter of where and when.  On the FX cameras you get more breathing room in some areas (ISO, dynamic range), and give things up in other areas (size, weight, cost, dof equivalence as mentioned, frame rate, view finder coverage depending on model, did I say cost?)

I do believe the FX cameras are a major step up, but they are also a serious money trap.  I recommend that anybody with budget sensitivities steer clear and work on glass first (or just steer clear period).  There can be good bargains on some decent DX glass as well - and you have some decent DX glass already like the 17-55mm f2.8, which is very costly to replicate on FX.

The D300 is a fine camera, but the D7000 or D7100 are other options to consider if pure sensor performance is at the top of the list.  If you had either of these two cameras you probably gain a stop of ISO performance, get better dynamic range, and could stick with your current glass.

That said, you'd be delighted with either a D700 or D600 as long as you can also swing the cost with the right glass.  You're shooting at a focal length of 11mm (Tokina?) on your D300, which is a 35mm equivalent of 16mm - I'm sure I don't have to tell you what the equivalent FX lens is going to cost.

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Prairie Pal
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

Dylan Colon wrote:

Hey everyone! I'm currently a college student in the USA, aka, a borderline homeless man.
I'm going on a massive roadtrip this summer to rediscover myself, and I need a camera to document the entire process. I specialize in architecture right now, and I know the ins and outs of RAW manipulation. I've pushed my D300 to the limit, and even ISO 350 is starting to present issues to me in my workflows.
I've been comparing the D300 to the D700, and find it to be a very enticing option. Buying one used would be relatively cheap for an FX body, at around $1.5k. I only have one FX lens though, and that's my 70-200mm VR. Obviously I can't use that for wide angle landscape shots, so I'm going to have to buy another lens. I was looking at the 50mm f/1.8
Now, is the D700 really a proper choice right now? I need something with EXCELLENT low light performance, seeing as backpacking through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico will present some interesting opportunities. I'll have a tripod of course, but to prevent some long exposure noise I'd like to bump up the ISO a teensy bit. Is the D700 a proper choice for me? 
I have a portfolio here with some of my work, don't be too harsh, I'm only 18: 500px.com/dylancolon

Woah, just realized that a refurbished D600 is about $1.6k. Is the D600 a better choice? I know it has slightly better high ISO performance and more dynamic range, which is really what's important to me... but what's the build quality like?

Backpacking with a tripod, and a 70-200 (2.8 vr I assume) plus other lenses and an FX body ??  The first thing that comes to my mind is that's alot of weight to be constantly carrying, and a lot of $$ to be gaurding the whole time.  I know you came here for equipment advice, but if you're willing to listen to life lesson advice, mine would be to pack your camera kit very light and basic.  Sometimes our expectations of discovering ourselves are more of a ball and chain that inhibit our flexibility to experience what is immediately around us.  Personally I find that long reach lenses and especially zoom lenses actually push me away from intimate photography.  I would sell your D300 and use the cash for a second hand smaller format (M4/3) and a compact zoom lens in your most commonly shot range, and then pick up a couple of small and fast manual focus legacy prime lenses with adaptors.  Leave your 70-200 at home and then a year or two from now upgrade to FX and travel back with a vehicle to those special places that you discovered and you will have those (nikon) manual focus legacy lenses to boot.  Heck, your 70-200 with adaptor to M4/3 turns into a 140-400mm (with VR if you go with an Olympus M4/3 body).

Those are my 2 cents of advice.  Take it or leave it, but don't come whining after lugging around FX equipment all summer. 

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ultimitsu
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to AustinTed, Apr 8, 2013

AustinTed wrote:

I do believe the FX cameras are a major step up, but they are also a serious money trap.  I recommend that anybody with budget sensitivities steer clear and work on glass first (or just steer clear period).

I hold the complete opposite view. To get the same IQ, lenses cost a lot less with FF than APS-C.

There can be good bargains on some decent DX glass as well - and you have some decent DX glass already like the 17-55mm f2.8, which is very costly to replicate on FX.

This is incorrect. 17-55 F2.8 on APs-C is like a 25.5-82.5 F4.2 on FF. the 24-85 VR is faster, has more range on both end, has VR, and cost less than half that of 17-55 F2.8.

In fact brand new price for 17-55 + D300s is 600 dollar more than D600 + 24-85, the D600 combo will outperform the D300s combo in any shooting.

That said, you'd be delighted with either a D700 or D600 as long as you can also swing the cost with the right glass.

Is 50 F1.8G the right glass? Would you disagree that 50 F1.8G on D600 can easily outperform 35 F1.4G on D300?

You're shooting at a focal length of 11mm (Tokina?) on your D300, which is a 35mm equivalent of 16mm - I'm sure I don't have to tell you what the equivalent FX lens is going to cost.

the 11-16  F2.8 on aps-c is 16.5-24  F4.2 on FF, comparable FX lens is called Tokina AT-X 17-35 F4. it is incidentally the same price as 11-16 but has twice the zoom range.

The 16-28 for FF is not comparable because it is twice the speed and uses protruding front element. It has far less distortion than the 11-16 but cannot use filters. it is a lens of a different class.

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Steve Bingham
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Poor college student.
In reply to Prairie Pal, Apr 8, 2013

Probably an oxymoran. Keep the D300. Travel light with a USED Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Nikkor Lens . Done. Good for very fine resolution at 16" x 24". Low light? use your tripod.

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Ray Ritchie
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to ultimitsu, Apr 8, 2013

I believe the lens advantage you're speaking of is more due to the resolution of the D600 vs. the D300 than it is to FX vs. DX - that is, you seem to be talking about shooting the 24-85VR on the D600 (at 24MP) and then comparing the result to the D300 (12MP). To do a fair comparison, you'd downsize to 12 MP, and then I think I agree the D600/24-85 shot will probably look better than the D300/ 17-55 shot.

This is not to put down the 24-85VR; I have it and use it quite a bit on the D800, so I'm familiar with what it can do on that body; but I think if you shot it on the D700 and compared the results to those from a D300 with the 17-55, you'd probably be more impressed with the shots from the latter combo.

Another alternative, though, if the OP wanted to go the D600 route, would be to actually shoot the 17-55 on the D600, and crop it (approximately a 1.2 crop, for roughly a 16MP image at the wide end) to remove the vignetting, if any. Note that the 17-55 is quite useable as an FX lens from about 28mm and up. On my D800, I can shoot my 17-55 using the 1.2 crop mode, and it gives me essentially a 22-66mm zoom and D600-equivalent resolution. I find the results slightly sharper than the images from my 24-85VR. But to shoot the 17-55 this way on the D600, you'd have to keep reminding yourself to frame in such a way as to allow for the crop in post-processing.

Ray
My blog: http://www.rritchie.com/wordpress

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KevL
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

I'd suggest a D7000

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chlamchowder
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I'm a college student too
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

Hey everyone! I'm currently a college student in the USA, aka, a borderline homeless man.

I'm going on a massive roadtrip this summer to rediscover myself, and I need a camera to document the entire process. I specialize in architecture right now, and I know the ins and outs of RAW manipulation. I've pushed my D300 to the limit, and even ISO 350 is starting to present issues to me in my workflows.
I've been comparing the D300 to the D700, and find it to be a very enticing option. Buying one used would be relatively cheap for an FX body, at around $1.5k. I only have one FX lens though, and that's my 70-200mm VR. Obviously I can't use that for wide angle landscape shots, so I'm going to have to buy another lens. I was looking at the 50mm f/1.8
Now, is the D700 really a proper choice right now? I need something with EXCELLENT low light performance, seeing as backpacking through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico will present some interesting opportunities. I'll have a tripod of course, but to prevent some long exposure noise I'd like to bump up the ISO a teensy bit. Is the D700 a proper choice for me? 
I have a portfolio here with some of my work, don't be too harsh, I'm only 18: 500px.com/dylancolon

Woah, just realized that a refurbished D600 is about $1.6k. Is the D600 a better choice? I know it has slightly better high ISO performance and more dynamic range, which is really what's important to me... but what's the build quality like?

For low light performance, both the D600 and D700 will deliver, although the D600 is definitely more solid towards the high end of the ISO range. I briefly used a D3, and while it wasn't too far behind, at ISO 6400 and above the D600 files were definitely easier to work with.

I was in a slightly different situation when I went with the D600. I went into college with a Sony a580 and a decent setup (18-55 kit lens, 50/1.7, 35-105/3.5-4.5, 70-210/4). However, I ended up doing a lot of action shooting, and not having release priority on that camera was absolutely terrible. When the a580's rear LCD stopped working (probably a loose cable on the tilting mount) and several iterations of taking the camera apart and checking connections accomplished nothing, I decided to upgrade.

The D700 vs D600 choice was really hard for me. In particular, the D700's ability to do 8 fps with a grip made it a really attractive option. But in the end, I went for the D600, hoping for even better ISO performance especially at the highest settings, additional low ISO IQ, and modern features like video (I always thought DSLR video was cool to play with, even though manually pulling focus is difficult). A quieter shutter, 100% finder, and dual card slots just sealed the deal. I would suggest the D600 for your situation, since the D700 advantages that I considered (better AF point coverage, 8 fps) would be completely irrelevant for landscape stuff, and the D600 advantages would really come out.

For lenses, I put everything towards the telephoto end (80-200/2.8 AF-S, and recently a 300/2.8 AF-I). Instead of a standard zoom, I got a pre-D AF 50/1.4, which cost about $200 used and gives me incredible low light capability. To cover the wide end, I got a $100 Tamron 19-35/3.5-4.5. Since you're probably interested in the wide end, I wouldn't suggest that $100 Tamron because corner performance just isn't there.

In your situation, I'd look at getting a Tamron 28-75/2.8 ($500 new, $275 old off KEH), and a Tokina 16-28/2.8 ($750). If low light is really a concern, add a 50/1.4 (around $200 used for the first AF version), or if you really want to skimp, a 50/1.8 for something like $70.

If you really want to skimp on lenses (I don't suggest this, although I considered it): Old Nikon 28/3.5 with a non-factory AI conversion ($70), 50/1.8 AF ($70), and the first AF 80-200/2.8 ($300...although you already have a telephoto zoom). Leave the extreme wide end uncovered, and stitch images to simulate an ultrawide if necessary (or $100 for a Tamron 19-35 instead of the 28mm). With that route, you'd spend less than $200 on FF glass and still get good results.

Some wide shots with the D600:

Have fun on the road trip! I kinda want to do something like that at some point...

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photoreddi
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Re: Poor college student.
In reply to Steve Bingham, Apr 8, 2013

Steve Bingham wrote:

Probably an oxymoran. Keep the D300. Travel light with a USED Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Nikkor Lens . Done. Good for very fine resolution at 16" x 24". Low light? use your tripod.

The "borderline homeless", poor college student's list of needs is actually more a list of wants, and certainly much more than is necessary to "document the process" of him rediscovering himself. For many years a pair of D90s was good enough for NG's Bob Krist, chosen for its lighter weight. He's since upgraded his gear, but it's still DX.

Gear of choice

Bob Krist’s usual outfit for walking around shooting in cities is a D7000 body or two, along with a 16-85mm VR lens and a 70-300mm VR lens. “With those two lenses, I can cover just about anything,” he says. For indoor or available light photography, he’ll oftentimes add a 10-24mm and a 35mm f/1.8 lens.

"Pacing yourself and not taking all the photo equipment you own is important," Krist concludes. You don’t want to be too tired to pick up the camera and shoot during the best lighting of the day in the late afternoon.

http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/gx2q3w37/photo-ops-in-nyc.html

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Prairie Pal
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I am very curious to hear from Dylan
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

I am quite curious to hear more on how you feel about carrying and protecting heavy and expensive camera equipment while you are backbacking, across the hot and dusty land?  Not diminishing your dreams at all, just really curious how it's going to happen.    Maybe the vigor of youth has left me, as I find it a pain to even carry my tripod in the trunk.

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HobbiesAreFun
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

I'm an about-to-be college student, and I'm switching to a D700 as we speak. However, I'd suggest that for your purposes at least, the D600 seems to be more useful. My editing workflows are rather simple and uni-directional, usually not requiring too much play in the file, if anything, a little bit of shadow recovery ability.

The D600 will have more resolution, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how large you would find yourself printing works out. I'm finding that the 24 MP of my Sony A850 are overkill for my purposes, printing my fine-art portraits only up to 16x24, thus I will be switching entirely over to a D700 based setup over the next few months.

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heptagon
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to Dylan Colon, Apr 8, 2013

The D600 offers better low-light ISO performance and dynamic range, but has the dust / oil problem and lacks 1/8000s shutter speed, with poorer coverage of focus points.

For landscape / architecture shots you might be concerned with the dust / oil problem.

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AustinTed
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Re: Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?
In reply to ultimitsu, Apr 8, 2013

ultimitsu wrote:

I hold the complete opposite view. To get the same IQ, lenses cost a lot less with FF than APS-C.

Everyone has their own needs, but it has been my own experience that I've spent more on glass after moving to FX. The main reason is that the goal isn't to get the same IQ. If he wants the same IQ he can stay where he is.  Since the op has decent glass he can improve IQ by moving to a more recent dx body as an alternative to jumping to FX and replacing both body and glass.  But my suggestion is that he just enjoy what he has.

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