Snapshot Voyager is about my own personal photography journey. I am always looking to try something new, inquisitive as to how it works, and to the end results I might achieve.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

My New D-SLR Kit Recommendation

Recently I was chatting to my brother in law, and he like lots of other people who are just getting into photography, asked me what D-SLR kit they should be buying and what they should get in the future.  I know there are definite limits to this guide, including price point, features, photographic interests, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

As I know Nikon best, I’ve kept this review to Nikon, but the same comments mostly translate to Canon. Here’s my recommendation:

1st Purchase – Nice body with a versatile lens - Nikon D5100 $719 with 18-105mm VR lens $379 (step up to a D7000 $1179 if you want an outstanding body, or to a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 $469 if you want a fast standard zoom)

WHY: Getting a body like the D5100 with features a step up above the base allows you to explore more things, without getting overly sophisticated or pricey.  The 18-105mm VR is a lot more flexible and usable than the standard kit zoom, giving the user almost double the zoom range.  

STEP UP: The D7000 is really a semi-pro camera in capabilities, but won’t intimidate a beginner.  It has outstanding image quality with excellent low light capabilities and will also meter with manual focus lenses and the AF will work with those lenses that don’t have a built in focus motor.  The Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 trades zoom range for fast aperture, allowing shallower depth of field and much better low light capabilities.

2nd Purchase –Fast Aperture Prime - Nikon 35mm f1.8 AF-S $279 OR Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-S $249

WHY:  A small, cheap lens that allows you to explore the world of shallow depth of field photography.  Both are excellent optically and won’t break the bank.  I prefer the wider 35mm as this focal length on a DX camera is very similar to that of the human eye. 

3rd Purchase – Some light on the subject - Nikon SB-600 Speedlight $279 (or step up to a SB-900 $539)
WHY: A good flash is an excellent choice, allowing for much better portraits and having the ability to create much, much light than the in-camera flash.  The more recent SB-700 is also excellent.  I don’t think the SB-400 has enough use above the in-camera flash to warrant purchasing it.

STEP UP: I much prefer to have more light available to me than not enough, so that is why I chose the SB-800 (predecessor to the SB-900).  More light allows for better fill flash on bright, sunny days, and will allow more options and power to bounce flash in large rooms.  Everyone I have recommended to get the biggest flash they could have never regretted it.

FOOTNOTE: Stay away from third party flashes.  Often the camera electronics don’t talk to each other perfectly, creating improper exposures.  Nikon’s flash system is outstanding, and I wouldn’t mess with it.

4th Purchase – Follow your interest, is it wide, tele or macro?

Wide – Sigma 8-16mm $899 OR Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 $589.  Both are excellent lenses, thought the 10-20mm is outstanding value, while the 8-16mm is the widest rectilinear (ie not fisheye) available today.

Tele –Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 VR AF-S $539 (or step up to a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 $999 or Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D $1249).  The key here is to get a lens with VR (Vibration reduction).  This feature is very important with telephoto lenses that are susceptible to camera shake.  Non-VR equivalents can be had for around $200.  For the step up f2.8 lenses, the same VR recommendation holds true, but they are very expensive; however the fast aperture f2.8 helps reduce shake.  The above lenses are outstanding optically, offer excellent value, but are not VR.

Macro – Tamron 60mm f2 $569 OR Nikon 60mm f2.8 AF-S  $579, OR Nikon 85mm f3.5 VR AF-S $499 OR Tamron 90mm f2.8 $499.  All of these lenses are outstanding.   If you bought the Nikkor 35mm, I’d get the Tamron 60mm Macro, however if you bought the Nikkor 50mm, I’d get the longer Tamron 90mm Macro.

WHY:  Once you get going your interests will naturally tend to gravitate to a certain area of photography.  If you want to try different options, a good idea is to rent lenses before you buy them.  A number of shops do rentals, and in Canada, both Headshots and Vistek are the best known. 

Have a look at my Used D-SLR recommendations, my D-SLR accessory recommendations and my Full Frame recommendations as well.

Nikon D2X with Nikon 18-135mm

FOOTNOTE:  Unless you develop very focussed interests, stay away from specialist lenses like fisheyes and tilt-shift lenses.  These lenses are quite expensive (except for the nasty fisheye add ons you can buy) and you don’t get much use out of them.  I’ve probably used my Sigma 15mm fisheye only a handful of times in the last 8 years.  Rent them if you really want to try them out.

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