Upgrade from D300 for a poor college student?

Started Apr 7, 2013 | Discussions thread
chlamchowder Senior Member • Posts: 2,083
I'm a college student too

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...

 chlamchowder's gear list:chlamchowder's gear list
Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Nikon D600 Sony DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM +8 more
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