What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

Started Nov 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 12,362
Re: Well, for a temporary solution ...

Grevture wrote:

You sure put some very strict demands on that temporary solution ... I shoot sport for a living, albeit only part time, but still, and I seem to have less stringent demands then you

Thanks for chiming in to help.

jfriend00 wrote:

D700 - looks like about $1500 on eBay for good condition with no too many clicks on it. Could use my D300 grip and batteries with it to get 8fps. About 1 to 1.5 stops better at high ISO than my D300. Lose quite a bit of reach compared to my D300.

I know this is a touchy subject with at least one big thread being active where the arguments fly in all directions, but really, the whole reach advantage thing is a bit overblown. You can put a TC-14 on your D700 to get the same reach and still have about half a stop better low light capabilities then with a D300. Yes, you can, really.

I'm not interested in spending $1500 to get 1/2 stop improvement.  And, by the way, my experience with a TC 1.4 on my 200-400 is that it also compromises AF performance and sharpness at 400mm.  That option does not seem like a good use of $1500.

If I buy a D700, I would not use a TC for soccer and just deal with the reach difference.  My shooting range would have to move closer.

D3 - looks like $1800-$2500 on ebay. Pretty much same the same sensor as the D700, you get better AF and more fps and buffer and obviously the large body style.

Actually, if you buy a D3 which has not been upgraded with a buffer extension, you do bizarrely enough get less of a buffer then with a D700. The AF difference is subtle and you have no dust shake on the sensor (which is a dust magnet).

I wouldn't buy a D3 without buffer expansion.

D3s - looks like around $3000 on ebay. High ISO improved even more, but more money.

Ans also, compared to the D3, you get a twice as large buffer, dust shake and a camera which is usually about two years newer then the average used D3. So there is more to the price difference then just higher iso.

OK, but a D3s costs $3200-$4000.  That's a lot for an "interim" camera that I don't intend to keep for the long haul.

I'm a bit worried about the reach of all these 12MP FX cameras so if I decide which one I'm interested in getting, I will probably rent first to verify I'm OK with the reach.

Again, I shoot sport on a regular basis and I find the whole reach discussion a bit overblown. Get a TC-14 and forget about it.

See earlier comments about using the TC - I don't find it a useful tradeoff in this case.  If light is brighter, it can be more useful because you aren't pushing high ISO so the 1-stop loss doesn't bother you as much and AF performance isn't as affected by adding the TC.  But, this purpose of this purchase is low light situations (ISO 3200-6400) at f/4.

I'm only considering options that get me 8fps so that rules out D7000, D7100, D600, D610 and D800. I rented a D800 last season for a couple games and did not find it to be a good solution for me.

You can of course have all sorts of demands, but seriously, why being so strict with 8 fps?

While I appreciate having 8 fps for those occasions when it helps, I actually run my D3 and D3s on 5 fps most of the time.

This is the conundrum Nikon has forced people like me to face.  There is no new camera that's semi-affordable that does 8fps.  So, options for a new camera to get better high ISO are asking to spend significant money and accept a downgrade in fps.  When the hardest things I shoot are action sports and birds in flight (where fps is helpful), I don't enjoy the thought of spending a bunch of money for a different body and accepting a downgrade in fps.  When I dole out for new Nikon body, I try to buy one that I'm going to be happy with for at least 4 years and not be wanting to replace it a year from now.  That simply wouldn't be the case if I bought a 6fps body.   So, I'm looking at older cameras to try to avoid this compromise.  I wouldn't get as much sensor improvement or as many MP, but I'd spend a lot less money so I could replace it when Nikon finally gets off their butt and comes out with either a D750 or D400.

Now I would leave D7000, D600 and D610 out of the discussion for another reason - while the 39 point AF works well in normal light, in weak light it is noticeably less reliable then the 51 point AF you get in the other cameras you are considering.

So, if you leave those cameras out of the discussion, what camera should I consider that is less than 8fps, that is a good camera for action and that would solve my high ISO issue? D7100? D800 in crop mode?  I've rented the D800 and found full frame 4fps too restrictive and 36MP a pain for large sports shoots and found DX crop mode too much of a viewfinder compromise. Again, this is not a camera optimized for what I do that I would want to keep for sports for at least 4 years. A D7100 wouldn't give me as much high ISO advantage as the D700, but would be about a stop better than my D300 at only $1150, but ouch that tiny buffer size seems like a serious detractor even at 6fps. So, what else are you recommending that doesn't do 8fps?

The D700 would be the most money efficient. However, I'm tempted by the additional high ISO improvement in the D3s and would enjoy the faster fps, but it seems kind of spendy for an interim camera. I have money, but am interested in being efficient with it.

The main target is full field soccer in twilight. I will typically shoot 3-400 shots per game and cull that down. I have three types of shooting and I use all three: single shot timed for peak moment, short burst of 3-6 shots around a possible peak moment (such as players going up for a header or a player collision or a goalie diving for a ball), longer burst of a sequence that remains interesting for an extended period of time (sometimes 15 shots or even until the buffer is full). An example here might be a break-away forward dribbling toward the goalie, making moves as they go and I don't know when they're going to actually shoot or what the goalie will do.

What would you recommend I acquire and why?

The D3s sure is a brilliant camera and would be my first recommendation, that is if you really like working with a large camera body. Personally I love the big cameras - which is why I have three of them - but if you have not used one a lot, do try before you buy - some photographers just don't like them. If you feel the price is too high, then go for a D3. And if you don't like a big body, then the D700 would be my next recommendation very closely followed by a D7100.

I owned and shot with a D2x for awhile and always shoot sports with the grip attached to my D300 and on a monopod so the large body style is fine with me.

Either way, you are going to be fine. I got my first D3 body when it was first released in late 2007, added a second body a little over a year later and then a D3s two and a half years ago. Between them, they have taken about 600 000 images, the vast majority sports images. I almost exclusively shoot with 70-200/2,8 + 300/2,8, the latter often with a TC-14.

Besides the high ISO improvement, are there any other differences between the D3 and D3s? Did the D3s add video?

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