Jasmin Rose's picture

Need Answers for NEW Equipment!

As of right now I own a Nikon D70 with a lens of 18-70 mm. I am looking to buy either a new camera or a new lens, but I’m not too sure on what to find for either of them. I need some recommendations or if you guys own any that would be great for me to use and buy, please leave your experiences below with the equipment! Or if any of you know any things I can change in the settings in my camera to make the quality better or better to use, please also comment that below. Thanks!

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12 Comments

No one can give you a meaningful recommendation because you haven't said what you need to do that your current set-up can't. I've seen your work but I don't know ***how*** you work and what is frustrating, so I still can't really advise you. I know that in your shoes I'd want a small mirrorless with a tilt screen - because small cameras are less intimidating, shooting from a screen lets you keep better contact from with the subject, the tilt gives you creative options. I'd buy a used Fuji XM1 if I liked the idea of shooting manual focus only or an XT20 or XT100 for AF. But your work style might be completely different - you might need the isolation a viewfinder gives. And you might want a new camera exactly so you can do things you haven't already done!

So tell people -

- Your budget

- Whether you are shooting environmental portrait or close head shots

- Whether you need a zoom or are willing to change between primes

- Whether you like the idea of shooting from the screen or want to stick with a viewfinder

- Whether you shoot with very narrow dof (in which case cheaper DSLRs may lack the focus accuracy unless you switch to Liveview - but mirrorless won't)

- Whether AF is essential and how fast you need it to be and whether you are working with stationary or walking/running subjects

- Whether using old film lenses to get a more "organic" look at the cost of manual focus is something you want to do (in which case mirrorless is a good idea)

- What sort of light you are shooting in

- How important technical image quality is to you and what aspects

- Your knowledge and attitude towards post processing (Fuji and Canon take a big jump if you want to shoot jpegs)

- Whether video matters

You don't need to know the exact answers to the above, but the more you can give, the better.

At the same time remember that the more capability you want, the more you will pay. Eg you could shoot with a used XM1 and a manual focus Rokkor f2 50mm (which is Minolta's tweaked version of a Leica Summicron) and in reasonable light, for reasonable print sizes, in situations where you didn't need AF, and if your style doesn't need extreme background blur, technically your results would be as good as from a new Canon 5Div and f1.2 85mm. And they might be much better artistically if you can establish better rapport shooting with a smaller camera. But the XM1 set-up would cost you around $250 and the 5Div about twenty times that. And there are times when the 5Div would get the shot and the XM1 couldn't.

..Cameras are like cars. At the moment you are asking people to tell you what to buy without saying whether you need a minivan, a small hatchback, or a car to race at weekend track meets. Start by defining your needs - because there are no good cameras, just cameras good at filling specific needs. Then spend as little money as you can - a lot of people are horribly over-equipped!

Chris Rogers's picture

Some awesome advice here! Something to note when shooting mirrorless that I learned too late is that you can adapt a ton of lenses to mirrorless cameras which is awesome but some lenses just don't adapt that well. i adapted my nikon lenses to my XE-1 and although the image quality is pretty good and I adore the colors and dynamic range out of fuji cameras i just don't get the sharpness i would get if i shot native fuji glass. The fuji system is amazing if you can afford it.

>> i just don't get the sharpness i would get if i shot native fuji glass.

Yes, but that's arguably because Fuji's glass is so good rather than an adaptation problem - only the sharpest adapted glass will keep up with it. (That f2 Rokkor is an example - Rollei HFT lenses are another.) Canikon people forget that Fujinon is a premium movie lens and military optical equipment manufacturer - it has more and higher experience of optical design than Canon and Nikon.

Daniel Medley's picture

Like the previous poster said, a lot of it comes down to exactly what it is you're wanting. What exactly is it that you're trying to address? Can you identify the quality aspect of what you're doing now that you're unhappy with?

Jasmin Rose's picture

I want to do portraits of people, and I want the photos to be fully focused and basically HD. The lens I have is not the best, and even my camera is very old so I wanted to buy a new one but I'm not too sure on what kind would be better.

Daniel Medley's picture

Well, some of what you're talking about would be directly related to technique. Also, a lot may ride on what ecosystem you may want to embrace, as well as what you're willing to spend.

If you wanted to stay with Nikon and not spend a ton, something like a D5600 could be had for around $600 for the body. It would be a huge improvement on your D70 as it has a 24 MP sensor without a low pass filter. Like the D70, it's a crop sensor camera. But crop sensor cameras today can produce great images. Couple a D5600 with a Nikon 50mm 1.8G and it will cost under 800 USD.

But Sony, Canon, and others make equally good gear in the same class. I just threw out the Nikon because I have an old D5200 that served me well. In fact I still use it as a backup camera.

Chris Rogers's picture

The D70 is a great camera to start on. I would buy a better lens first. That alone will help you improve your photography by leaps and bounds. I didn't believe people when they told me that and I wish I had. It would have saved me loads of time and cash on amateur lenses. Don't be afraid of old lenses. Some of them are an incredible deal and provide insanely sharp photos. Some provide a look new lenses can't achieve. Most of my lenses are old. The only one I have that is a newer model is my 70-200 but that's only because it was given to me. I'd go for either the Nikon 50mm f1.8G. The D version is optically great and not a bad choice if you are trying to save some cash, but the G version is built better and has better glass and can be had for about $175 used or cheaper. I'd also look at the Nikon 85mm f1.8D. You can find that used for about $300. IMO it is one of the best 85mm lenses out their for the price. The Nikon 80-200mm f2.8D is also amazing. It's all metal, tack sharp, and can be had for around $400 used. Any of those are fantastic portrait lenses. If you want a good wide angle lens the best one i can think of for a fair price would be the nikon 18-35mm f3.4-5.6. it's about 700-800 new but don't be afraid to buy any lens used. Just make sure you look at the rating system for each website you are looking on and buy accordingly. I've always had really good luck with Adorama. if you reeeaally want a newer camera body the nikon d7k series cameras are bad ass. They give you loads of modern features with incredible low light performance for the price. The D7000 can be had used in really good condition for about $350 all day. If you really want to make the jump to full frame in the Nikon family the best/cheapest way is to get the nikon d700. I currently shoot on it for all of my work. You can see the results of my old gear on my page or my website (rogersdi.com). If you see banding in those images it's because I was lazy and didn't save for web lol. but yeah buy good glass first then focus on lighting and I'd worry about the camera body last. You can always find a reaaly good camera body for cheap since all they do is depreciate in value over the years. lenses typically don't since that's where most of "look" of an image comes from and they just last forever if you take good care of them. these are just my opinions so take them as you will. if you have any other questions ask away! Good luck and happy buying!

Ok - ignore the advice to buy an old Nikon DSLR body. Older and lower model DSLRs have inaccurate focus systems that make them problematic for portrait work. This isn't a matter of opinion but objective fact:

https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/07/autofocus-reality-part-1-center...

...Even when one of these cameras doesn't miss focus completely (which they usually won't) it will be pulling resolution down by slightly missing. The time to choose a cheap used DSLR is when you are on a budget and shooting sports, in which case second rate AF accuracy is fair price to pay for fast continuous AF. DSLRs are also noisy and large, which are great things if you want to feel important but not if you are trying to build rapport with a subject.

My recommendation is to buy a used Fuji XM1 or XA1. They're cheap, the sensor gives great skin tones (with all skin colours) Fuji build quality is excellent, the AF is on-sensor so it's hyper-accurate, the Fuji kit zooms are both good - better than any affordable DSLR standard zoom - jpegs are outstanding and you can use manual focus vintage glass. It doesn't have a viewfinder and AF isn't as fast as a good DSLR, but for portraits these things shouldn't matter. And they're both un-intimidating cameras that make it easy to build rapport. Relevant flickriver:

http://www.flickriver.com/groups/xm1/pool/interesting/

http://www.flickriver.com/groups/fujifilm_x-a1/pool/interesting/

You should be able to get a used body for $200-300. Then I'd buy a used standard zoom and a nice vintage 50mm.

If you have more money and want to buy new, then maybe a Fuji XT100. Fujis are dedicated people shooters - they're built for the job you want to do. (Sony make very nice mirrorless, but their build quality and warranty attitude make me avoid them.)

Other advice: be careful of advice from male photographers about going fullframe and shooting lenses like f2.8mm 70-200. A camera and lens combo like this can easily weigh 2.5kg, which for some women may (fairly obviously, I'd have thought) be problematic to hold to their eye for long sessions - as in you may damage vertebrae. Seriously. And the extra weight won't do you a damn of good - the optical quality from the zoom will be second-rate compared to a lighter prime lens and all the fullframe body is good for is better low light performance, which you probably don't need. And even then, a more recent camera with a smaller but more advanced sensor would probably shoot better.

Also, when people tell you a 24MP camera has higher resolution... No. Resolution is the product of the lens, focus system, sensor pixel count and sensor noise. In practice, you're not going to see a difference unless you have the budget to shoot very high-end gear. Higher pixel count sensors are a mostly a marketing thing. Choose a camera for ergonomics and how the images from it look - browse flickr - ignore numbers.

Chris Rogers's picture

^^^^^^^^^^^You should listen to this guy because he knows everything.^^^^^^^^^

No. She should think for herself and disregard people who think everyone should use the same gear they do. Because men usually won't consider that a female photographer may be rather lightly built so that telling her to use a lens weighing the best part of 2kg - before you even attach it to a camera body - is rather problematic. A camera and lens that weigh 2.5kg may seem fine to you. But applying the average upper body strength difference between men and women, that same combo for a woman could be like asking you to hold a camera weighing 4.5kg. It really isn't a great idea to suggest that without warning about the weight.

As for the rest - honestly, most people shooting cameras don't know a damn about them. I've only met one photographer who knew about those focus accuracy problems on consumer-grade DSLRs - and that was a woman. People buy cameras on numbers and tests they don't understand (eg resolution benchmarks for DSLRs are derived in a way that eliminates their focus inaccuracy, so may have damn all to do with real world resolution.)

The good thing is that most modern cameras can easily cope with portrait shooting, so the only way the OP can really mess up is by buying a camera that's so bloody heavy it will make her life hell and chiropractor rich. Which isn't to say that women can't use heavy cameras at all. Rather it's a factor that has to be noted, so each individual can decide for herself. That's common sense, yes?

Chris Rogers's picture

You must not have read the end of my post. here you go: "these are just my opinions so take them as you will. If you have any other questions ask away! Good luck and happy buying!". In no way did I say that what I use is the only gear that she ,or any one for that matter, should use. I suggested that gear based off my own successful experience with it. That's cool that lens rentals did their test but in actual real world use the d7000 has far better autofocus than my pro level D700. I have used both as well as the d810 and d7100 and d7200. It won't focus like a D810 or D750 but it will definitely focus better than a D70. Yes the pro level DSLRs focus better, but the mid range DSLRs are nothing to scoff at. You come off as a condescending jerk not just to me with how you have replied with your holier than thou I know it all attitude but also in suggesting that women can't handle heavier gear. You seem like you are trying to champion for women with your words on the weight of gear but it comes off as sexist. Some women may have trouble with heavier gear yes, just like some men will as well. You can't lump an entire gender into one category saying they can't handle it. You don't know another person's physical abilities. She might be more fit than you and I. You don't know. I know women photographers that handle heavy gear on the daily and don't complain about it. The goal here is to offer someone who has asked for suggestions on gear options on what to use. It's obvious there is no perfect or specifically "right" gear to taking a great portrait. You forget that the rules of photography are meant to be bent to achieve one's own personal goal for their photography. Numbers don't tell the whole story and I wasn't pushing megapixels like you seem to think I am. When it comes to achieving great image quality what matters most is how good your glass is the quality of light and one's own skill. Yes there are other factors but those three matter most. How about you jump down off your unbelievably high horse and stop attacking other people offering genuine suggestions on potential gear to buy. Jesus I even agreed with a lot of what you stated with your response. Is this what you do for fun? Attack people trying to help other people? Get a life man.

Chris Rogers's picture

Ah... i checked your reply history and you seem to be and instigator of negativity with your replies. This seems to be your hobby. You really need to get a life &/or start learning how to help people positively. Are you happy? Like really, are you genuinely happy? If not I Wish you the best in finding happiness because the way you are now is no way to live man. Good luck and good day.