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

Started Nov 14, 2013 | Discussions
jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?
1

As many of you know, I've been waiting for a new 24MP camera optimized for shooting action from Nikon for quite a long time in either FX or DX (e.g. D400 or D750). But, alas, Nikon hasn't produced either of those cameras and we're now waiting 6 years since the D700/D300 came to market.

I own a D300 now and it suits my needs when the light is good. 8fps, great AF, acceptable buffer and the reach works for me when either shooting birds in flight or large field sports.

But, I need to shoot a high school soccer season this winter where most of the games start around 5pm so they are played in the twilight which means ISO 1600 and above. My D300 just doesn't produce what I want in the 2nd half of those games (noise, DR and color). I was hoping I'd have either a D750 or D400 to choose from by now, but Nikon doesn't seem to be in a hurry to make either one.

So, I'm trying to figure out what to get to tide me over until a new action camera does come out. As none of the options available new are ideal for what I shoot, I will only buy used so as to not lose as much money when the actual camera I want becomes available and want to trade up. Here are my options with brief commentary:

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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T O Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 8,025
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?
8

D3S  Why? D4 is too much for your budget it seems. Best high ISO. Or D700 with grip, if the budget is tight.

You've ruled out everything else, so you've pretty much answered your own question.

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M Lammerse
M Lammerse Forum Pro • Posts: 11,406
Renting

Hi jfriend00,

In your situation and I would not own a D3S, D4 or other fast camera suited to capture sports in low/nasty light conditions, rent one.
You write you need to in that case I would assume that you work for an organization who pays you your expenses/rent you etc.

Michel

jfriend00 wrote:

As many of you know, I've been waiting for a new 24MP camera optimized for shooting action from Nikon for quite a long time in either FX or DX (e.g. D400 or D750). But, alas, Nikon hasn't produced either of those cameras and we're now waiting 6 years since the D700/D300 came to market.

I own a D300 now and it suits my needs when the light is good. 8fps, great AF, acceptable buffer and the reach works for me when either shooting birds in flight or large field sports.

But, I need to shoot a high school soccer season this winter where most of the games start around 5pm so they are played in the twilight which means ISO 1600 and above. My D300 just doesn't produce what I want in the 2nd half of those games (noise, DR and color). I was hoping I'd have either a D750 or D400 to choose from by now, but Nikon doesn't seem to be in a hurry to make either one.

So, I'm trying to figure out what to get to tide me over until a new action camera does come out. As none of the options available new are ideal for what I shoot, I will only buy used so as to not lose as much money when the actual camera I want becomes available and want to trade up. Here are my options with brief commentary:

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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Greenduck
Greenduck Junior Member • Posts: 47
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

The cameras you mention will all do a great job at what you need. However, the D700 might have some limitations regarding speed and AF. You could add a battery grip for 8 FPS. I just came from a D700 to a D3. I was very impressed with the D700 but I do feel the D3 locks focus faster and just gets it right every single time. I haven't done any scientific tests so it might be wish thinking.

If you're gonna shot at ISO 3200 or above the D3s might be the better camera. However it is more expensive and the D3 still produces very usable high ISO images. My take is that even though the D3s has a 1 or 1.5 stop advantage over the D3, the latter just renders the noise more beautiful. Yes, you'll get a bit more noise but it looks better. That is also the main reason why I choose the D3 over the D3s. Personally (if forced to shoot high ISO) I would go with the camera that might have a bit more noise but better looking noise, like film grain, than the camera which has a bit less noise but where the noise looks more bad.

Good luck with your decision!

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OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
Re: Renting

M Lammerse wrote:

Hi jfriend00,

In your situation and I would not own a D3S, D4 or other fast camera suited to capture sports in low/nasty light conditions, rent one.
You write you need to in that case I would assume that you work for an organization who pays you your expenses/rent you etc.

Nobody is paying my expenses. I'm choosing to get something better than my D300 for low light and trying to balance what I get with what I spend to get it (e.g. be efficient with the money).

Renting a D700 for 3 months would cost ~$600. Renting a D3s would cost $1300. Renting a D4 would cost $1700.

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yray
yray Senior Member • Posts: 1,648
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

Rent them or borrow them and try them out. I doubt you would get a noticeably better AF with the D3 than with the D700 (at least with the grip on for extra power), I don't see much if any improvement in D3s over D700 as far as AF goes. IMO, D700 AF is pretty much as good as they get already. So, I would rule the D3 out unless you're attracted to the full-sized bodies.

As far as the reach, I doubt 16MP D4 would have a dramatic advantage over any of those you mentioned. Also, not sure what you call twilight. In my experience twilight doesn't last long, certainly not a whole game duration. And when it gets dark, with high-school type stadium lighting, you will likely want an f/2.8 lens even on a D3s. I personally shot a game once which started under bright and clear sunset, so I used a TC which made my lens an f/4, and then took my chances and left the TC on for the second half of the game as well. By the midpoint of the second half I could hardly get any shots with manageable noise levels. Since then, I have always taken the TC off at halftime. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to use the 200-400.

IMO, 400mm on a 12MP FF, depending on the light quality of course, gives you good reach within 1/3 of the soccer field, and a so-so reach between about 1/3 and 1/2. By so-so I mean that you can, for instance, reach across the width of the field in good light and get a decent shot, but probably not with a so-so light. On the other hand, a 300mm on a 12MP FF, will give you good reach within about 1/4 of the field and so-so between 1/4 and 1/3. These are approximations of course, but there is a very tangible difference between 300 and 400mm. Unfortunately, 400mm f/2.8 is entirely out of my budget, not to mention that I strongly prefer zooms for sports.

And again, coming to the issue of twilight. Since I don't know your conditions and they might be better than I imagine, if you could stay within say ISO 3200, I would say don't bother with the D3s, you won't see much of a difference. Going into ISO 6400 - 12800 range might be a little different, but even then you should probably see the difference for yourself before you invest a fortune. And, as a side note, if you take the D700 grip off, it becomes relatively portable, while you can't say the same about D3s.

Nikonparrothead Veteran Member • Posts: 5,385
Re: Renting

jfriend00 wrote:

Nobody is paying my expenses. I'm choosing to get something better than my D300 for low light and trying to balance what I get with what I spend to get it (e.g. be efficient with the money).

Renting a D700 for 3 months would cost ~$600. Renting a D3s would cost $1300. Renting a D4 would cost $1700.

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I own both a D700 and a D3s, the latter of which I bought used about a year ago for the mid $3k range. There is enough of a difference between the two sensors that the D3S is worth the extra money, if you can afford it. But the reality is both cameras have depreciated since I started typing this.
Apologies, but I didn't check to see if you're making $ with your gear and therefore deducting the depreciation etc. -- or the expense of the rental cost.

Given the choice, I'd go with the D3S or save up for the D4. I suspect the Df, combined with natural depreciation will force the price/demand of both cameras down a touch (case in point, me. If the Df had been out, I wouldn't have bought the D3s I now own and a friend who bought the D4 for a backpacking trip is now contemplating a Df as well).

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Canadianguy Senior Member • Posts: 1,652
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

You never mentioned what glass you are using.

The most efficient use of funds is usually upgrading glass rather than upgrading bodies. Glass retain their value better than camera bodies.

jfriend00 wrote:

As many of you know, I've been waiting for a new 24MP camera optimized for shooting action from Nikon for quite a long time in either FX or DX (e.g. D400 or D750). But, alas, Nikon hasn't produced either of those cameras and we're now waiting 6 years since the D700/D300 came to market.

I own a D300 now and it suits my needs when the light is good. 8fps, great AF, acceptable buffer and the reach works for me when either shooting birds in flight or large field sports.

But, I need to shoot a high school soccer season this winter where most of the games start around 5pm so they are played in the twilight which means ISO 1600 and above. My D300 just doesn't produce what I want in the 2nd half of those games (noise, DR and color). I was hoping I'd have either a D750 or D400 to choose from by now, but Nikon doesn't seem to be in a hurry to make either one.

So, I'm trying to figure out what to get to tide me over until a new action camera does come out. As none of the options available new are ideal for what I shoot, I will only buy used so as to not lose as much money when the actual camera I want becomes available and want to trade up. Here are my options with brief commentary:

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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Rich Rosen Senior Member • Posts: 2,438
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

You to like  the D3s the best, except for the price. I have the D3, and find it more than capable, even today.  I purchased the D600 because I, too, want a 24mp sensor. While I found it usable to capture football and basketball, I found myself going back to my D3 for sports. The focusing is very fast and covers a larger area. The only problem I find with the D3, is that I had tendency to "machine gun a shot, "  because it is so wicked fast. At  5.5 FPS, the D600 is useable for action, but you have pick your shots.  Doing that , but with the faster D3 is the is ideal way to shoot. After a few games with the D600, I returned to the D3, but with a lesson learned.  I am recommending the D3, if the D3s is not within your budget.

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billslatteryjr Contributing Member • Posts: 583
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

I was playing the same waiting game you are. Waiting on a fast 24mp+ camera. But lately I'm shooting too many games to wait any longer and sold my D7100, bought a used D4 and hang a D800 around my neck as a second. Like you said the D800 is rough for sports. If you're shooting RAW the fps makes for missed shots and the buffer gets full too fast. But after the luxury of being able to crop so much with the D800, there was no way I was going all the way back to 12mp. I came very close to picking up a new D610 while I waited on Nikon and think you may want to reconsider doing the same. 6fps isn't all that bad. It's a lot faster than 4fps than 10fps is to 8fps when it comes to capturing the right moment. Of course the buffer isn't there like on a pro camera.

Right now a good used price for a D4 is around $4500. A year from now when the D5 or whatever comes out the D4 will be down to what? Maybe $4000, not $3500? How much different will the depreciation on a D4 be compared to the depreciation on the cameras you mentioned? Is it worth it to you to give up using the best sports camera out there to save a few hundred dollars over the next year or so? Anyway that's how I talked myself into a D4.

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Lindsey Webb Contributing Member • Posts: 508
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

What lens are  you going to use with ur d-300 or if you get a D3s etc?

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Kerry Pierce
Kerry Pierce Forum Pro • Posts: 19,757
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

I'm partial to the d3s, simply because of the noise performance that allows you to use high ISO's that won't work well on the others.

If you are planning to use the 200-400 naked, willingly giving up the DX crop factor, the d700 w/grip and d3 battery would probably do okay for you. Of course, the d3 has a performance edge over the d700. Whether or not that would be significant for your use, I don't know.

But, if you are planning to retain the DX crop factor by using a 1.4x TC, the d3s is the best option, IMO. Yes, you lose a stop of ISO with the TC, but still have approx .5 stop or more of high ISO performance that is better than the d3/d700.

The TC can introduce focus errors in the lower light, lower contrast scenes, but again the d3s handles that better than the d700/d300 do, IME.

Prior to making a purchase, I'd suggest renting your body of choice for a week, especially the d3s, just to see if it will do what you expect it to do.

Kerry

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Canadianguy Senior Member • Posts: 1,652
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?
2

I wouldn't expect a D5 until 2016 - pro models are usually on a 4 year cycle.

There maybe an S-model after 2 years - i.e. 2014 but the sensor upgrade of the D3s was unexpected - S-models are usually very small improvements and usually not in sensor tech.

So, IF there is going to be a D4s - it should be in 2014 - but don't expect a big sensor upgrade.

Nikon also seems to have missed the D4x cycle - so doubtful if the next pro release will be a D4s instead of a high MP full size pro body - D4x...

But like I said before, my money is on getting new glass.

Moving to F2.8 from F4 glass is like shooting 1600 instead of 3200 - plus those exotic primes give you that 3-D look no body upgrade will give you.

OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

To answer questions about glass, I will be shooting with the 200-400 f/4 without a TC. I appreciate being able to reach different locations on the field with the zoom. I don't find the 200-400 works well with a TC so I avoid that.
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xtm Senior Member • Posts: 1,154
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

A used D4

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OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

billslatteryjr wrote:

I was playing the same waiting game you are. Waiting on a fast 24mp+ camera. But lately I'm shooting too many games to wait any longer and sold my D7100, bought a used D4 and hang a D800 around my neck as a second. Like you said the D800 is rough for sports. If you're shooting RAW the fps makes for missed shots and the buffer gets full too fast. But after the luxury of being able to crop so much with the D800, there was no way I was going all the way back to 12mp. I came very close to picking up a new D610 while I waited on Nikon and think you may want to reconsider doing the same. 6fps isn't all that bad. It's a lot faster than 4fps than 10fps is to 8fps when it comes to capturing the right moment. Of course the buffer isn't there like on a pro camera.

Right now a good used price for a D4 is around $4500. A year from now when the D5 or whatever comes out the D4 will be down to what? Maybe $4000, not $3500? How much different will the depreciation on a D4 be compared to the depreciation on the cameras you mentioned? Is it worth it to you to give up using the best sports camera out there to save a few hundred dollars over the next year or so? Anyway that's how I talked myself into a D4.

It's hard to predict the depreciation of the D4.  The D3 depreciated a lot the moment the D3s came out because the high ISO performance of the D3s was so much better and you can still see a significant difference in the used price between D3 and D3s.

If Nikon did something similar with a D4s or a D5, that could really knock the D4 down all at once. So, because it costs so much more, it simply has a higher depreciation risk.  That is countered by the fact that it's made to last a long time, but I don't think I want to put that much money into a camera that isn't ideal for me.  If it was 24MP, I could probably talk myself into it because I would just figure I could own it for a very long time and not want something new for that time.  But, at 16MP in FX, that's a loss of reach from my 12MP D300 which is important for some of the things I shoot and, in FX, I would find myself wanting more than 16MP.

I might rent one just so see what it's like, but right now I don't think I could talk myself into it.

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OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

Kerry Pierce wrote:

I'm partial to the d3s, simply because of the noise performance that allows you to use high ISO's that won't work well on the others.

If you are planning to use the 200-400 naked, willingly giving up the DX crop factor, the d700 w/grip and d3 battery would probably do okay for you. Of course, the d3 has a performance edge over the d700. Whether or not that would be significant for your use, I don't know.

But, if you are planning to retain the DX crop factor by using a 1.4x TC, the d3s is the best option, IMO. Yes, you lose a stop of ISO with the TC, but still have approx .5 stop or more of high ISO performance that is better than the d3/d700.

The TC can introduce focus errors in the lower light, lower contrast scenes, but again the d3s handles that better than the d700/d300 do, IME.

Prior to making a purchase, I'd suggest renting your body of choice for a week, especially the d3s, just to see if it will do what you expect it to do.

I would be using my 200-400 on the FX speed camera as I appreciate the zoom for soccer to help cover more of the field and a wider variety of players from one shooting position.  I generally do not put a TC on it because it really knocks down the AF performance and I can notice some IQ degradation with the TC at 400mm (my 200-400 is tack sharp at 200) and I don't want to give up a stop of light.  I would also like to get more background isolation with f/4 on FX and not give that back by using the TC.

Rental is probably a good idea once I have an idea of which I want to go for and I particularly need to make sure I'm OK with the range of the 200-400 on FX for how I shoot (or discover how I can adapt how I shoot to the different range).

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shutterblaster
shutterblaster Veteran Member • Posts: 5,422
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

I have owned the D3s which is a wonderful camera but I sold it and went back to a D3 I don't find that much difference and I didn't need the video.  However soccer under the lights at a high school game at F/4 may be tricky. It really depends on the lights. Unless you go to the D4 you will probably have to live with some noise.

OP jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,454
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

shutterblaster wrote:

I have owned the D3s which is a wonderful camera but I sold it and went back to a D3 I don't find that much difference and I didn't need the video. However soccer under the lights at a high school game at F/4 may be tricky. It really depends on the lights. Unless you go to the D4 you will probably have to live with some noise.

It's twilight, not fully dark yet.  The sun sets around half-time.  So, not as dark as truly a night game under the lights.  From the one time I tried a true night game (with a D800), I'd agree that you would need f/2.8 or even f/2 for that (and the fluctuating light temperature was horrible) - but that's not the problem I'm trying to solve.  It's not that dark.  It's around ISO 3200-6400 at f/4, 1/800th.

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Micheal Hall Senior Member • Posts: 1,038
Re: What to buy for shooting action that doesn't cost as much as a D4?

I've been considering this same thing lately myself.

I'd go with a D800, a vertical grip and bounce between shooting in FX/DX mode. You're already used to DX and you still get 15.4MP when you're there. And you have the 51 point AF system that is in the D4.

I shoot both Nikon and Canon and love my D3s, but the lenses I have for that is for indoor sports and I lack what I need for shooting soccer. On the other hand, I have a number Canon 1D mkIIIs I could be using and they perform excellently at 10fps. But at only 10.1MP they just aren't quite what I need in terms of resolution for the lenses I have. So this Fall I've been shooting soccer, waterpolo, tennis and cross country with my Canon 1Ds mkIII and a 200mm 1.8 + 1.4TC. It gives me a 280mm 2.5 at 21MP (or 16.7MP at 364mm at 1.3x crop factor - the same as the 1DmkIV).

The only thing I give up is frame rate - it's only 3fps but I've been walking away with 300 - 400+ keepers after the games (waterpolo and soccer). But sports is more about timing than sequences, I've always felt.

The 21MP resolution allows me to crop in a bit more and I've been printing some sample images here in the studio as 12x18s and they are holding up excellently. I've felt the lack of raw fps a couple of times, but have overall been very happy with it.

I would think that it might be worth renting a D800 and grip and giving it a go. Another plus point is that you can quickly switch from DX to FX without having to change cameras making your lenses a bit more versatile at the expense of frame rate. Not only that, but now you have an incredible high resolution, full frame body for other uses.

Just a few thoughts - I'm leaning in this direction myself.

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Micheal

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