The D2X will serve you well. It was the last digital camera for me – it is as good as I require and had the same dynamic range as my beloved slide film. It was purchased for an Iraq tour and served me well in harsh living conditions. I love that camera. Technically I still own it. It has been on loan to a friend’s sister for something like 2 years.
So, why did I buy the D3S and D800? Why am I looking at the D4? You bring up a lot of good points about the size of the capture and capabilities of the camera. I’ll cut out a page of type to simply summarize to this: you can’t go back. Capture as much as you can when you are there. Do your best possible work today with larger files, better dynamic range, better focus, more depth of field (or less), etc. because you can’t go back in time.
Buy the best for you. Get a camera that doesn’t hold you back. You can buy equipment but must develop skill and personal style. Push the edges of your envelope. I can take the ‘safe’ photos all day long but practice at the edge of the cameras’ and my abilities. This morning I was taking photos of dogs running in the park by moonlight and early sun. I wouldn’t have tried it with my D100, D2H, or D2X. When I take sled dog racing photos at 10AM it will be easy – they will be my ‘safe’ photos.
I don’t see the D3S or D800 files as ‘massive’. I can reduce later in Lightroom. Larger files and cropping isn’t just about ‘digital zoom’. Cropping is about removing the distractions. Nature, athletes, and architects don’t always create perfect 2x3 aspect ratio photos. Cropping is about changing the aspect ratio and changing the focus of the photograph. Panoramas can be cropped from a larger file a lot easier than stitching two smaller files. Panoramic crops change the mood of a photo. Cropping is about making it fit. Magazine covers are not the same aspect ratio as 35mm. To be successful you have to compose on multiple levels at the same time.
Composition, being lazy, and all that. Yes, digital can make us lazy. So can film. With color negative I’d take the photos, drop them at the lab, they do color correction, contrast, sharpening, printing and everything. How lazy is that?!? With digital I have to do everything. With digital I get to do everything. It is a huge advantage but it sucks too. I do as much as possible to get it right before pressing the shutter. Seconds on my feet is worth hours of editing in a computer.
How many photographs do I require? In a word – none. You have 12k of photographs; I have over 103K. Don’t confuse ‘not composing’ with taking a lot of photos, taking photos quickly, or using burst. No one really cared about the photos of specialist ‘Meannie’. They all wanted to see those photos of him when Sergeant Sareth Mean died in a vehicle accident. Were they appreciated and cherished? Yes. Did someone get something positive from them? Yes. Did I have enough? Maybe. Could I have taken more? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Did I need/require those photos? Nope.
Jackie and Bennett are getting married this year. I have photos of them in the same place when they didn’t know the other existed. Oh, yea - reception photos. If I didn’t take as many photos and try to capture a few good shots of each person, then I’d have nothing to show, no story to tell. But . . . But . . . Do I ‘require’ 103K of photos? No. No requirement. Heck, there is no requirement that I photograph at all.
I have some very solid rules 1. No blackmail photos. 2. Life is too short for bad photos. 3. Shoot now; edit later
Capture as much as you can when you are there. Every photo is an opportunity to improve. A ‘not bad’ photo today may become precious tomorrow. Try new things, show your good work, and delete bad photos.
I only take good photos. Everything else was just a test.