It's been a while since I've been here, but glad now that the kids are older, to have some time to get back into photography a little, and I need some advice.
I started shooting with an F80 back in the film days and acquired a few decent sets of glass, a Nikon 28-105D, 70-300D-ED, and a 50mm 1.8, all of which fit my needs farily well for average vacation and family photos, and all nice enough to tote around pretty easy.
I find myself now as the kids are older, shooting more of their sporting events, mainly gymnastics and dance competitions without flash, indoors, and finding it darn hard, and at times near impossible to get good shots with the current setup.. so think it's time for an addition, or a change, or both.
I'm positive I need a faster zoom.. and will be purchasing a 70-200mm 2.8, likely a refurbished Sigma HSM II for $599 direct from Sigma. I don't sell or publish photos, it's for personal use, so I'm willing to sacrifice the slight lack of sharpness I hear about with the Sigma in order to save a couple hundred bucks on getting a used 80-200 Nikon 2.8.
Since my main struggles are getting good action shots in low light, I'm not convinced the fast 2.8f lens will be enough.. the D50 only goes to 1600ISO and they tend to get a little grainy up there, so I'm also considering a new body as well.. but there are so many options.
I'm usually high up in the stands shooting too, I need to crop often as well, even when i'm out to 300mm, so the 6mp sometimes makes the already grainy 1600 ISO even worse. The slow 2.5fps of the D50 isn't helping either..
I typically find myself shootign in Aperature or Shutter priority mode to either get a shutterspeed to stop action, or get a wide aperature for good depth of field shots. I rarely if ever use manual mode, but the wife goes full auto if she even musters up enough courage to use the SLR.
I don't really have any great desire to shoot video with my SLR, but it's kind of a nice bonus, but not somthing that would put me over the edge on any model. My SLR gear is for photos.
Based on my needs above, any advice on any of these options, or thoughts on any other possibilities woudl be greatly apprecaited!!
Option 1 - Keep the D50 - Just get a Sigma 70-200 2.8 or Nikon 80-200 2.8 - Pros - cheapest option - Cons - concerns that I may still have issues in low light gyms being limited to ISO 1600 and 6mp on the D50. - Net cost ~ $600-800
Option 2 - Get a D5100 Kit with 18-55mm VR and 55-200VR ($899 at Sam's right now) - Pick up a Sigma 70-200 2.8 refurb $599 - Sell off old non AFS lenses and D50 body - Pros - 4fps, Excellent IQ at super high ISOs, upgraded to VR for daily shooting lenses, kinda like the flip out LCD and HDR mode, better/more AF points than D50 - Cons - my biggest concern is if losing the ability to quickly change settings by using the menu system on the D5100 - Net Cost - ~ $1000
Option 3 - Get a used D90 for around $600-700 - Keep current lenses - Pick up a Sigma 70-200 or even a Nikon 80-200 208 since the D90 has a focus motor - Pros - beter low light performance than the D50, but maybe not as good as the D5100, 4.5fps, similar to the D50s dials so maybe quicker to change settings, but I really don't use more than A or S mode, better AF than D50 - Cons - Most expensive option, limited to ISO6400 unlike the D5100, stick with older FX lenses with no VR - net cost ~ $1100-1300
Right now I'm leaning toward option 2 as the best bang for my buck if I can be confident that the menu system to change settings won't annoy the heck out of me if I'm in a hurry to switch any settings like ISO, aperature in A mode, or Shutter speed in S mode, or from Continuous AF to other settings, or continuous shooting to single shot mode... It also gives the bonus of soeme newer VR daily shooting lenses, HDR, nice swivel screen for holding the camara above the tall guy in front of me to take a quick shot, and a 1080p video bonus that will likely not see much use anyway..
I just can't seem to pull the trigger as I keep thinking about option 3.. but maybe option 1 is still viable as well?
Looking for any opinions from the group on what you think is the best bang for the buck given the shooting conditions and my shooting style that lacks the need for full tweakability..
#2. "RE: D50 Upgrade Choices.. Appreciate the advice" In response to Reply # 1
Los Angeles, US
Option 2 IMHO.
I went from d70 to d5100 and it seemed familiar. If the d50 is good, keep it as backup.
I find d5100 a great compromise with 16+ MP and lots of settings from auto through to manual. I like its smaller size too, paired with 50mm f1.4, you are carrying very small, unobtrusive camera & lens.
Then you can focus on lenses, which really are what makes your pics; not so much cameras.
#3. "RE: D50 Upgrade Choices.. Appreciate the advice" In response to Reply # 0
Seattle, WA, US
My initial thought is that a D7000 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 would be a great option for you. Compared with the D5100, this would get you the better AF system and more external buttons for less menu navigating.
However, given the options as you presented them, for your needs I would probably go with the D5100 option.
Depending on the size of your hands, you might want to feel this small camera before buying it. I have large hands and prefer the size of the bodies in the D300 line and bigger.
---------+---------+---------+---------+ Joseph K Seattle, WA, USA
#4. "RE: D50 Upgrade Choices.. Appreciate the advice" In response to Reply # 3
Yes... I've thought of the D7000, seems to be the best of all worlds, but I wasn't sure I needed that much camera, thinking the D5100 is already a large leap ahead of my D50 for what I need to improve on (ISO, AF, and FPS).
I handled the D90, D5100, and D7000 today at Best Buy. The D7000 battery was dead so didn't get to play, but did get to mess with the D5100 menu and the D90. I actually felt like the D5100 focuses a little quicker, and is a but quieter. I didn't mind the menu system at all actually, and it seemed even more intuitive to me than my D50. You are right though, the D5100 feels very small and cramped in the hand.. but I'm thiking maybe a cheap third party grip may beef it up a little. The huge LCD over the D50 was also a big plus! I think based on that comparison today, I've ruled out the D90.
So now that the D7000 has creeped into my mind though, I may have 2 different choices. I already plan to buy a used or refurb Sigma 70-200 HSM II for around $600 once I can find one (Simga was out of reburbs today when I went to buy it!! ####!), so the choice becomes:
D7000 Keeping my older non-AFS and non-VR lenses Sell of the D50 body
D5100 Get two new VR and AFS lenses in the kit (18-55 and 55-200) Sell off the old lenses and D50
The D5100 option will certainly save a few bucks to use on filters, a monopod, extra battery, and maybe a higher capacity SD or two.
Since I don't mess with many settings the quick change options and buttons on the D7000 won't see that much use from me, so the only large advantages I see for my use is the 6fps and better AF on the D7000. I had no probs with the menu on the D5100. I shoot mainly S or A mode, and futz with the ISO on my D50 more than anything. If I can leave the ISO at auto up to 6400 with no worries on the D5100, there's not much more I'll need to mess around with as often as I shoot.
What I'm now wondering is if the AFS and VR lenses will also be a large benefit in the entire system. I've never had AFS lenses or used VR at all to know how much better they perform compared to what I've used for the last 10 yrs on my D50. I've gotten pretty good and keeping steady shooting for many years in dimly lit gyms, trying to get action shots and stills at 1/100-1/200 zoomed out to 300mm, by necessity. I've actually pulled off a few good shots here and there too!
Thoughs on if AFS and VR on a D5100 would be better than non-AFS and no VR on a D7000, given that I'll only be using basic settings on both, and not need the ability to have every setting at my fingertips? Especially given the high MP count on these newer cameras? If so, I can more easily get the D7000 out of my mind for a while, and look to upgrade the body 3-5 yrs from now when the next best thing comes along.
Thanks again for the opinions.. you've all been very helpful!
#5. "RE: D50 Upgrade Choices.. Appreciate the advice" In response to Reply # 4
Seattle, WA, US
Sounds like you have the analysis part down. You just need to weigh the options.
Looking at it from the "optimize for low light sports" perspective, since you are going to get the 70-200mm f/2.8 any way, I would lean towards the D7000 with the better AF system. (The D5100 uses the same AF as the D200, which is not a bad thing.) Plus the bigger camera and more buttons, but I am a little biased.
The D5100 kit would get you an improved "general photography" kit in addition to a better sports kit than your D50, just at a slightly lower "sports" rating. Whether you could tell the difference while shooting sports would be open for debate.
---------+---------+---------+---------+ Joseph K Seattle, WA, USA
#6. "RE: D50 Upgrade Choices.. Appreciate the advice" In response to Reply # 5
You are right Joseph.. I think I do have the analysis down.. I've been analyzing for awhie, sometimes too much and get paralysis by analysis!
Anyway, the D5100 kit went down another $50 at Sam's Club so I picked up the D5100 w/18-55 VR and 55-200 VR lenses for $850 so I could give it a try with no questioins asked returns if needed.
I was also able to snag a nice Nikon 80-200 AF-S on ebay, just recently serviced by Nikon a few yrs ago with brand new AF motor, so pretty much refurbished to like new condition for $900. I thought it might be a better long term investment at $900 than the $700 or so for a used Sigma HSM II. Can't wait for that to show up at my door.
I was able to play around with the D5100 at one of my daugthers dance shows and a few backyard action shots of the dog zipping around the yard playing frisbee and what an improvement over the D50. AF is impressive and quiet compared to the D50 and non-AF lenses. I can't imagine how much better the D7000 might be with the AF speed and accuracy, but from my playing around, I couldn't be much happier with the D5100. Here's a couple shots with the 55-200 VR with VR off, dance photos were at ISO 6400 to keep the sutter at between 1/320-1/500. Hope I can scale back the ISO and get better isolation at 2.8 once the 80-200 arrives! Backyard dog photos at around ISO 2000 (auto ISO) in S mode at 1/500:
Initial thoughts are to stick with the D5100 at this point and keep playing with it once the 80-200 arrives and go from there.. I can put the $500 difference from the D7000 perhaps into a bigger speedlight or a few other things, or another lens. Such a vast improvement in AF and low light ability already over the D50, and with just playing around for an afternoon I'm alrady getting what I need much easier.