I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

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I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby Celtictwo » Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:21 am

All of the dreary, cloudy, overcast days we seem to be stuck in has really hi-lighted the limitations of my trusty auto-focus Nikon. The limitations that annoy me most are the auto-focus wanting to focus on a blade of grass or twig in front of the subject and the extremely slow shutter speed on these winter days (recently as slow as 1/10 sec).

So I've decided it's time to upgrade. I think I've picked my camera and am now toying with lens options. Keeping in mind that about 99% of my photos were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod or equivalent, how necessary would a VR lens be? I'm thinking it might be better to have it in case it's ever needed as opposed to not having it and then needing it. As part of the package deal, the lens I'm considering is 55-300mm, f3.5-5.6. Would this be adequate under most circumstances, even if I get a 1.4x teleconverter later?
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby FredZ » Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:07 am

Gary, I use a Nikon.

IMO, the lenses are more important than the camera body so that's where you should put your money. My D90 is several years old but has more features than I'll ever need or use. The new cameras must have a lot more.
I started with the 55-300 kit lens then upgraded to a 70-300VR. The difference was like night and day. Though much larger and heavier VR is vastly superior . I have since gotten a Sigma 50-500 HMS, which can be hand held. The Sigma gives me more range but the quality of the photo isn't as good as the Nikon. I also have a 1.4 converter for the Sigma which must be used on a tripod. When in use the photo quality suffers a bit more. It's fine for helping to IDing birds at longer distances.
Not all lenses can be used with a converter so do your homework and make sure you get the one you need. My Nikon VR can not be used with a converter. It doesn't have a tripod mounting ring either so you must use the cameras mounting hole.
I guess the bottom line is if you're going to use the lenses at close range the 55-300 would be okay but I've never been able to get that close without using a blind. Don't waste your money on "bargain" brands either, you won't be happy. If you stick with the same brand lenses as your camera you'll be happy.
Good Luck; Fred
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby Celtictwo » Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:20 am

The lens I'm considering is 55-300mm, f3.5-5.6 VR Nikkor DX. I would prefer sticking with Nikon branded lens. Thanks for the tip on the teleconverter! I just went to the Nikon site and checked their compatibility chart and it appears for the most part they only work with the higher end pro lenses. Within a next few days I am going to physically check out some lenses.
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby SandyLee » Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:16 pm

I use Canon, so not too familiar with the Nikon gear... Do agree with Fred tho. Most prime lenses (and some zooms) will work with a TC... always good to check it out first. I started with a simple Tamron 70-300 (inexpensive, but not a bad little lens)... so I could learn and get used to all the camera settings....That went pretty well, so fairly quickly I got "lens envy" and bought a 300 prime + TC used from a reputable pro photographer.... got more lens envy, so then bought a 400 prime. That's about as much as I can "tote around", as I hand-hold most of the time. Have fun exploring your options and let us know how it goes!
- Sandy
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby siouxzq_24 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:07 pm

I'm a Nikon girl! I have the 70-300 VR ED G Series lens (FX version) which I use on my DX D7100, and I LOVE it. It is twice the price of the 55-300, but worth every penny. The 7100 is phenomenal in low light compared to the lower end DX (cropped sensor) cameras, as it handles high ISO's very well. The thing to remember with VR (OS on Sigma, etc.) is that once your shutter speed exceeds your focal length, VR is useless. Also, you MUST turn off VR, OS, etc. when using a tri-pod. It actually interferes with focus. Also, with any teleconverter, you are going lose some f-stops ... meaning if your biggest aperture at full focal length (in the case of the 55-300 3.5-5.6 your max aperture is 5.6 at full zoom) using a 1.4 teleconverter, you are going to end up with a max aperture at max focal length of 7.0. So, if your camera gets "noisy" at high ISOs, you are not going to be able to shoot in anything but very low shutter speeds or in very good light conditions. The Nikkor "Cadillac" of lenses are going to be the "primes" or fixed focal length lenses. I don't know what your budget is, but I can tell you that the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 with a 2.0 telecoverter is one of the absolute best combinations you can buy. It's also VERY expensive. The comparable Sigma 2.8 from what I heard is also VERY good. Just be careful that if you are using a teleconverter, don't switch manufacturers. Match the lens with the converter.

With all that said, I also have the Sigma 150-500mm. I have been able to use it hand-held with shutter speeds no lower than about 1/400s. It's a bit soft at the full length of the range, but in the 400mm range I have found it to be very, very good between f/10 to f/16. My dream is the Nikor 400mm prime 2.8, but I'd have to sell my car!

Hope this helps!

Cheers!
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby chipperatl » Thu Dec 18, 2014 7:59 pm

Canon user here, but honestly I would not get a TC unless your camera can autofocus at the f-stop you will drop to. I have a 1.4 TC and it was worthless on my 7D. I've used it on my 7Dii, but sparingly. Most of the time around here there is not enough light to even mess with it, and to me the quality isn't always there compared to cropping and sizing up on the lens alone. TC I think is best if you are running f2.8, or even f4 lenses. Just my limited use opinion.
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby wngrigg » Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:59 pm

I have the Nikon D7100, the Nikon 1.4x extender and the 80-400mm Nikkor lens, VR. It is a great set-up, takes fine photos, and is far more sophisticated and smarter than I will ever be. Yes, a crop camera, but I can't notice the difference from a full-frame Nikon. Enjoy your research and the opinions of others, and good luck in your ultimate choices!
Looking forward to seeing your photos posted herein.
Bill G.
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby Celtictwo » Fri Dec 19, 2014 4:47 am

I've made a couple of decisions! First, I've been using Nikon since the late 60's, so I will likely stay with the Nikon brand. Secondly, at least for the time being I likely will not get a TC.

However, now I've run across a new problem. I need a good camera store preferably in St. Clair or Macomb Counties. The package deal I was considering was offered by Best Buy which is a 40 mile round trip. I drove there yesterday and saw they had a selection of cameras on display. I picked up the camera, turned it on and was presented with a warning on the LCD "No SD card installed" and I could not continue checking the camera. Being interested mostly in the lens I asked the salesman if he would replace the standard lens with the 55-700mm on display. He told me store policy would not allow him to put a SD card in the camera nor exchange lenses. Bottom line... if I'm going to purchase something in excess of $1,000, I need a little hands-on.

As of side note to those interested, the salesman told me my Military Discount only applied to some camera bags and related accessories. I checked with the service counter on the way out and verified that the discount applies to any and all purchases.

gary
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby FredZ » Fri Dec 19, 2014 7:47 am

Can't help with the camera shop but it sounds to me that you've already made some good choices.
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Re: I'm ready to upgrade - opinions needed

Postby res » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:49 am

Not sure on shops in your area but any decent camera store should be able to allow you to handle a camera with a disc in it that they provide. BUT, they are getting hard to find. I would imagine that most shops will NOT allow you to bring your own as there are a few "folks" out there who would get their kicks out of installing viruses etc to the camera just to do harm. So the store is protecting their investment as well. The other option is to search for a camera club in your area and see if you can work with a few of the members to let you handle their equipment. If I am with someone, I have no problem letting them try my stuff. They don't take it home of course and I supply the cards. ;) As for VR, remember, everything on a camera is a tool. For hand held, many of the VR systems today are very good but I find that I still get much better quality pictures with a tripod and no VR. I am pretty sure by the sounds of things you can list the trade offs you must make between both styles of shooting. VR hand held, slightly decreased sharpness (if you can see it), still have to have enough light to get a fast enough shutter. Tripod, slow set up, can shoot with many shutter speeds as long as your subject allows it, etc. That said, you also must define for yourself quality. Not as easy as you think. If you are looking to put an 8x10 on the wall or id a bird from a distance, your concept of quality will be much different than someone trying to produce studio shots. I can display images on the internet that many think are super sharp but when blown up to a larger size, say 12x16, the digital noise from heavy cropping my show and not allow me to print that size. So quality is what you are trying to obtain. I for the most part do agree with the lens being more important than the camera but in today's world, that line is blurring. With the increase in sensitivity and accuracy of the sensors, it is INCREDIBLE the amount of detail and resolution you can obtain from the new cameras. With old sensors, they could rarely match the resolution that the lens could provide. Today, that is not always the case. Some of the sensors today can resolve better then the cheaper lenses on the market. I do agree all the bells and whistles are nice but not needed. So if you camera is 4-5 years old, changing may provide a good up grade if you are shooting a lenses with excellent clarity. My advise, buy the best you can afford. Learn it well.
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