What I am looking for in a new camera kit

See what you can shoot with the Nikon D60? I took this photo at an aircraft museum. You can see a bigger version of the plane here on Flickr.

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I have had the Nikon D60 for more than a year now and it’s been great fun.¬† Last I looked, the shutter count was around 17,000 pictures taken with maybe 13,000 kept on my WD MyBook and about 1,000 saved on my Flickr account.

The D60 is a good camera and has all the features I use. And it really is true that money spent on lenses make for better pictures versus getting a better camera body. Still, I find myself wanting more features and I will be upgrading the D60 to something more advanced.

I want more auto-focus points. The D60 has three horizontal auto-focus points. Most of the time I take pictures that focus on the center but more and more I find myself taking pictures of a scene and the subjects don’t quite line up in the view finder. With my brother’s D80, that’s not really a problem since the D80 has 11 focus points.

On my D60, I focus on the center, hold down the AF lock button, reposition the scene in the view finder. I’m lazy and want something that will make it easier for me especially when I am trying to take a lot of quick candid shots.

I want better high ISO noise handling. I like to take pictures without movement blur and sometimes that means I need to step up the equivalent ISO settings, sometimes as high as 1600.

I took some photos of a friend using the 30mm f/1.4 Sigma lens. We were at a restaurant table and I did not use the flash. When I checked the image in the camera display, she looked great. The screen is pretty small and at the resolution it was a good picture.

I should have zoomed into the preview display. I neglected to turn off auto ISO so the pictures came out bright and noisy at 1600 ISO. There just was not a lot of detail in my shots and everything looked grainy.¬† I know that having auto ISO on was a mistake for that lens, but I’d like something that can handle >800 ISO equivalent well. Especially when I am in a museum or restaurant¬† and don’t/can’t use a flash.

I want a built in auto focus drive. The D60 (and the D40) lack a built AF motor so any lens I buy must have a motor in the lens to auto focus. These days that’s not too difficult to find, but if my camera could drive the lens for focusing, I get to open up a whole range of “legacy” lenses.

I don’t want full frame. Or more accurately I can’t rationalize the extra cost. With the D700 and above, you can have a full frame sensor but for now, that would be wasted on me. If I could allocate the time and plan my shots in advance, then yes, full frame would be great. But mostly I just chase the family and take pictures of my surroundings.

With full frame, wide angle really means W-I-D-E. There are many decent wide angle lenses for DX format so that’s not a big selling point for me.

Also decent non-DX lenses are very expensive: the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is a sharp great lens that you can rent. Brand new it’s $1,700+and no way I’ll invest that kind of cash on a hobby.

What kind of camera kit would I like? A Nikon D300 with a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX zoom lens would be ideal. The D300 has 51 AF points (and uses them), handles high ISO very well, and is weather sealed. I’ve borrowed a 18-200mm VR lens before and it’s AF is fast and it covers a lot of scenarios.

The D300 is a little dated, so I may do the waiting game till its replacement shows up. Nikon’s typical time line is to replace the current model every 2 years or so. For example the D100 came out in Febuary 2002, the D200 was release in November 2005, and the D300 came out August 2007.

The D5000 looks like a D60 killer and it covers most of my points above. The D90 would also fit the bill, but I want something more advanced than the D90 if only to ensure that I don’t look to replace it in a year or so.

Here’s hoping the D300 replacement will be before Christmas 2009.

4 thoughts on “What I am looking for in a new camera kit

  1. WOW … I have not been keeping up with Nikon dSLRs. They are really kicking Canon is the rear. Man, if I wasn’t so heavily invested in Canon, I’d switch.

    Wouldn’t the D5000 kind of be like a lateral move given today’s Nikon bodies relative to the “then-current” bodies of the D60?

    I think the D90 is nicely priced and you get all the features you need. The D300 would be better in the long run as kids are growing up and sports activities bring more photo opportunities where we’ll need more focus sensors and faster frame rates.

    If I were to buy a Nikon setup today, I would go with the D300. Probably won’t need to upgrade from that body for at least a few years.

  2. The D5000 is a little odd. Except for flash commander mode and a lack of built in drive motor, it really is a better version of the D90.

    If I did not already have the D60 I would get the D5000. But I’m holding my breath waiting for a D300 update so I hope Nikon updates it soon.

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