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-   -   Nikon D90 - A worthy upgrade? (http://www.railpictures.net/forums/showthread.php?t=11338)

Train-a-Mania 12-07-2009 06:04 PM

Nikon D90 - A worthy upgrade?
 
Hello RP.Net-ers,

I've been photographing trains for a while, using the relatively cheap Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ4. For Christmas, I decided it was time to get serious.

After careful research, I found (what I think) I'm looking for - the Nikon D90. I know that some here use it, but for those who don't, here are some statistics:

http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/08/25...om-all-angles/

I've found a kit on Amazon that includes an 18-105mm VR lens:

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-D90-Digi.../ref=de_a_smtd

The questions I have are:

1. Does the price seem reasonable for the camera and what's included with it (note: The body alone costs $800)? I'd prefer not to buy a used or refurbished camera.

2. For those who have this camera, what do you think of it for railroad photography (and general photography, for that matter)?

Thanks,

Nick

JRMDC 12-07-2009 06:19 PM

First, be a more careful shopper. The Amazon link is to a kit sold by Cameta with some added stuff which might be unnecessary. Here is a link from Amazon itself for $1035 instead of $1190 - you can decide if the "bonus kit" is worth $155 to you.

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-D90-Digi...0209467&sr=1-1

Second, in this day and age, I think that any DSLR made is fine for RR and general photography. Whether or not you need the features that the D90 provides over, say, the D3000 ($470 with an 18-55 lens), is up to you.

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-D3000-Di...0209799&sr=1-1

Chase55671 12-07-2009 07:42 PM

I'm not certain if you're into night photography, but if so, I would recommend checking out this thread.

Nikon D90 Glare Issues

Chase

JRMDC 12-07-2009 08:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chase55671 (Post 104711)
I'm not certain if you're into night photography, but if so, I would recommend checking out this thread.

Nikon D90 Glare Issues

Chase

Doesn't that thread end up pointing at the lens and not the camera, and a different lens than being considered here? Bodies don't generate flare, lenses do.

KevinM 12-07-2009 08:17 PM

Folks,

I purchased a D90 a year ago to replace a D40x and am generally quite happy with it. My reasons for the upgrade were as follows:
  • Better autofocus array (11 pts vs 3)
  • Ability to autofocus with non-AFS lenses
  • Separate thumbwheel for aperture control
  • Autobracketing feature
  • CMOS sensor with better high-ISO performance
  • Higher resolution (12 MP vs 10 MP)
  • Larger LCD display
  • LiveView feature
  • Heavier weight and better balance with heavy zoom lenses

I cannot comment extensively on the 18-105mm VR kit lens as I have only casual experience playing with one. I did not purchase this lens and am using the 18-200mm VR as my everyday lens. I will say that my observation is that the build quality, focus speed and distortion level of the 18-105mm VR appears to be on a par with my lens.

A price of $800 for the body is about the best you'll do from a reputable internet vendor. I believe B&H will sell it for this price, and that's about $50 less than it was last Christmas....reflecting the fact that this model is now about 1.5 yrs old.

I haven't played with the D3000 and D5000 cameras, which I believe replaced the D40 and D60 series. If any of the features that I listed above are important to you, you should check to see if the newer low-end cameras have them. If not, you may want to go VFR direct to a D90 and save yourself the mistake of buying a starter camera that you may rapidly outgrow.

:)

Edit: Just saw J's post and totally agree. The lens FLARE issue is related to the lens and how it is used, not the camera body.

Walter S 12-07-2009 08:26 PM

If it were me, id probably buy the D90 and the 18-200mm Image Stabilized lens. That is a great all around lens and im sure it would get a lot of use when shooting trains. Im personally a Canon fan, but the Nikons are great also.

Chase55671 12-07-2009 08:47 PM

Agreed, Walter. J.E. Landrum has had some very appealing results with his Nikon 18-200mm VR lens.

jdirelan87 12-08-2009 01:03 AM

The D90 is not only a very capable camera, but also a great one to 'grow into' if its your first SLR (which it sounds like it will be). At 12.3MP, there is enough horsepower behind it to produce high quality images if you find yourself getting serious into the hobby. If you had the right combination of lenses, the D90 could meet your needs for years to come. In fact, if you strip away all the bells and whistles its effectively the same camera as the wildly popular D300 - which many consider to be the best sub-pro body on the market today.

And like has already been pointed out, lens flare in not an issue with camera body but rather the lens (hence why its referred to as 'lens' flare).

Chase55671 12-08-2009 03:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JRMDC (Post 104713)
Doesn't that thread end up pointing at the lens and not the camera, and a different lens than being considered here? Bodies don't generate flare, lenses do.

Janusz,

True, but it is the default lens that comes with the camera, and I would imagine if this is a first time SLR user, he'll most likely purchase the kit lens that goes with the D90. That's what I did with my XSi.

Chase

John West 12-08-2009 03:31 AM

Give priority to the glass
 
If you are on a budget, one trade-off you might consider is getting a better lens and a cheaper camera. A lot of people, including myself, have gotten very good results with the 18-200 VR lens, but it is not cheap. Its range allows it to be close to a "one does everything well" lens, and you don't loose photo ops while changing lenses. Like Kevin, I bought a D90 to replace a D40. And the D90 is a fine camera. But if the difference in price between a D90 and a D3000 (the replacement for the D40) would allow you to get an 18-200 VR lens versus the 18-105, I'd buy the cheaper camera and get the better lens. The D40 (and presumably the D3000) is a very capable camera and a heck of a good value for the dollar. Just my opinion, FWIW.

KevinM 12-08-2009 03:48 AM

One plus of the 18-200mm VR lens is that you won't need to change lenses very much. You won't miss shots fumbling with a lens change, AND you won't be getting as much dust on your camera's sensor as you would doing field changes. While most of the newer Nikons do have the ultrasonic shaker, I find that avoiding lens changes in the field makes the biggest difference of all in avoiding the dust issue.

Train-a-Mania 12-08-2009 04:21 AM

How does this sound:

I buy the body and the 18-105mm lens to start with. If I'm happy with how that's going, and I want to upgrade later, I sell the 18-105 lens and buy an 18-200.

Does that make sense? I just feel more comfortable buying the D90 body and a less-than-best lens and upgrading later as opposed to having to upgrade the body later. Besides, don't lenses sell better at used prices than bodies?

jdirelan87 12-08-2009 04:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Train-a-Mania (Post 104748)
How does this sound:

I buy the body and the 18-105mm lens to start with. If I'm happy with how that's going, and I want to upgrade later, I sell the 18-105 lens and buy an 18-200.

Does that make sense? I just feel more comfortable buying the D90 body and a less-than-best lens and upgrading later as opposed to having to upgrade the body later. Besides, don't lenses sell better at used prices than bodies?

Your logic should be other way around. Cheap body good lens, not good body cheap lens. If I had to give back either my camera or my lens, I would give back the D300 no questions asked. Any serious photographer would agree.

Flowing 12-08-2009 04:56 AM

I recently purchased a D90 as an upgrade from my D40, and I will offer my input here.

Many of the other posters have already commented about researching other camera models and buying the one that you think is best for you, so I won't comment any more about it, except to say that it is important to know for what you want to use the camera and look for cameras that can handle your needs.

Compared to my D40, which was a delightful little camera, the D90 offers:

1. better control of noise at high ISOs (but still pretty noisy for my tastes when you get up above ISO 500), and a more diverse range of ISO than just 200, 400, 800 like the D40 had

2. a larger viewfinder so you don't have to squint so much when you're taking shots (I didn't think this was that important before I bought the camera, but I love it now)

3. two dials, one each for aperture and shutter speed, so you can adjust both dials one handed (if you're of the manual persuassion)

4. a more accurate light meter than the D40 (which tended to overexpose... although I always shoot in manual, I still monitor my light display in the viewfinder)

5. better white balance settings and the ability to customize them

6. the number one reason (for me) to buy any SLR over a point-and-shoot is that SLRs are much much faster in terms of shutter response and continuous mode shooting - very important for photographing moving objects!

The D90 feels like a very solid, well-built camera too, though I wouldn't go beating it around. All in all I'm very satisfied with it and feel it was worth the money.

As far as lenses, 95% of the time I keep one lens on my D90... Nikon's new 35mm f/1.8 DX lens. This little jewel of a lens is only $200 (because it only works on smaller DX sensors, not full frame like the D700) and has superior sharpness to any of my zoom lenses. Plus the ability to open the aperture up so far (most standard Nikon zoom lenses only stop down to 3.5-5.6 depending on focal length) means I can capture images in low light at faster shutter speeds and lower ISOs... this lens has saved me on many a cloudy and rainy day. The only catches are that it has fairly pronounced barrel distortion (which you won't notice 75% of the time, and even when you do, it isn't image-condemning, in my opinion) and it is a fixed lens... it can't zoom. You get one focal length and you just have to work with it. But honestly I'll sacrifice the ability to change focal length for superior sharpness and the ability to get optimal exposures in low light. I've always liked the standard, normal angle view focal lengths myself anyway (35mm on DX = approx. 50mm on film, full frame digital) Plus, I usually keep my D40 as a standby with a zoom lens on it, just in case. Just throwing the idea out there, you might want to look into prime lenses like the 35mm f/1.8, I feel they are more than worth it, and this lens with my D90 has been a pretty satisfying combination.

milwman 12-08-2009 10:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jdirelan87 (Post 104751)
Any serious photographer would agree.

The cheapest body with good glass is 100% better then the best body and ok glass. You may not see at 1024 wide but there is a world of difference in contrast and sharpness with good glass.

Train-a-Mania 12-08-2009 01:49 PM

Would it be worth trying to get a used 18-200mm VR lens on eBay for around $300-400, or would I be better off buying it new for $800?

KevinM 12-08-2009 02:45 PM

I personally would hesitate to buy anything used. You just don't know how much use the item has had or how it was treated. Electro-mechanical systems do wear out. If you knew the owner personally and had knowledge of how he/she handles the equipment, that would be a totally different story.

FYI, the 18-200mm VR is decent glass. It relatively sharp and focuses quickly. Build quality is so-so. After a while, the heavy glass will give you zoom creep when the camera is hanging around your neck. The rubberized zoom ring grip on mine has swelled a bit, probably due to exposure to sun, sunscreen and skin oils.....I use the thing a lot. Other than that, it is a good product. The overriding advantage of this lens that trumps any minor flaws is utility. It just beats the heck out of hauling a backpack full of glass when you are climbing a 25% grade on Mt. Washington! :smile: I also don't miss shots because of lens changes and I don't get much dirt on my sensor. Convenience is the raison d'etre for this lens.

WRT buying a low-end Nikon.... My primary caution relates to the focusing screen. If you try to do at least rough composition with your viewfinder and you want full control of what the focus point is, the D90 trumps the D40/60 series big-time. Both of the low-enders only have three focus points and they are across the center of the frame. The D90 has 11 and you get a much better "gunsight" arrangement. Even Canon's low-end boxes have the gunsight. I have not tried the new D3000 or D5000 cameras, but if they have the same arrangement as the D40/60, that alone would be a deal-breaker for me.

JRMDC 12-08-2009 03:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevinM (Post 104780)
I personally would hesitate to buy anything used. You just don't know how much use the item has had or how it was treated. Electo-mechanical systems do wear out. If you knew the owner personally and had knowledge of how he/she handles the equipment, that would be a totally different story.

An opposing view, my 20D and all my lenses but one are purchased used. As well as several waves of equipment prior to the current array. Nary a problem.

Carl Becker 12-09-2009 01:34 AM

OK, I must say, I disagree with the idea of the D90 and 18-200 VR.

First of all, for an entry level model, I don't see many good reasons to go for the D90 over the D5000. Both cameras are 12 MP and have very similar feature sets (including movie mode), with the D90 mainly only taking the lead in terms of screen size/resolution, larger viewfinder, slightly faster continuous shooting, and the built-in AF motor (which is not necessary for most popular modern lenses).

The D5000, for the first-time user, seems a better fit. It has the advantage of the tilting screen and also does not suffer from the overexposure problem the D90 has, according to DPR.

From the D90 review:

Quote:

The other thing we noticed, in the process of shooting the 1000-or-so real world images we took, is that - presumably in an attempt to produce bright, print-friendly images - the D90's metering can tend towards the bright side. In spite of its impressive highlight dynamic range, it's a camera that you have to keep an eye on, as its keenness to correctly expose what it thinks is the subject of your photo sometimes means letting highlights clip (matrix metering is very strongly associated with the selected AF point). There is an option to fine-tune the metering in 1/6 EV steps if you aren't the kind of photographer who wants to keep tabs on what the camera is doing.
From the D5000 review:

Quote:

However, the other thing we took issue with on the D90 - its willingness to overexpose - seems to have been corrected. In most situations, the D5000 appears to err on the side of underexposure. This means you may sometimes have to add a bit of positive exposure compensation to make your images reflect the brightness of the original scene but has the advantage that you're less likely to suffer from large numbers of over-bright images with unrecoverable detail (you can pull-up detail you've captured, but you can't pull down detail you haven't).
Regarding the lens, now, someone said the 18-200 is respectively sharp. That's apparently referring to the performance specifically at wide-angle and telephoto:

Quote:

The 18-200 gives distinctly mixed results in our studio tests; resolution is perfectly reasonable in the normal to moderate telephoto range, but dips alarmingly at the 135mm setting before rallying at 200mm (indeed we spent a lot of time verifying the 135mm results, as they were so unexpectedly low). Also distortion is extremely marked across the entire focal length range.
In other words, you're going to make some compromises to get the all-in-one lens. You'll likely do at least a bit better with the 18-55 and 55-200 kit options, which will require you to change lenses, but cover the same range and are also much less expensive. This leads to the issue of price. Looking on Amazon at Cameta kits, which are pretty much going to give you the camera and lenses you want plus everything you need to use them, you can certainly see the difference. Me, I'd be going for the D5000 in a heartbeat.

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-D90-Digi...0321408&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Digital-...0321732&sr=8-4

Just my 2 cents (or maybe that should be dollars, this time ;) ).

~Carl Becker
-------------
Edit: Should probably have put links to the actual reviews:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond5000/
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond90/
http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/...p6_vr_afs_n15/
http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/...p5-5p6_vr_n15/

Train-a-Mania 12-09-2009 01:47 AM

Hmm...from all of the reviews I saw, this was the first to mention overexposure.

What do others think about Carl's suggestion? I'm still fond of the 1-lens-fits-most idea, but I'm curious to know what people think of the D5000 since it's been brought up.

I do appreciate everyone's help in my decision.

JRMDC 12-09-2009 02:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Train-a-Mania (Post 104866)
Hmm...from all of the reviews I saw, this was the first to mention overexposure.

What do others think about Carl's suggestion? I'm still fond of the 1-lens-fits-most idea, but I'm curious to know what people think of the D5000 since it's been brought up.

I do appreciate everyone's help in my decision.

In general I prefer spending less on the body, putting aside more for lenses. I also prefer people starting off with a lesser camera, learn on it, learn what you want, then if you want, spend serious money on a nicer body. I haven't seen you write anything yet that suggests you will get serious value out of the better body and the higher price. I have the money to upgrade my body if I wanted to, but I keep thinking about it and can never justify it.

Carl Becker 12-09-2009 02:05 AM

Guess if you did decide that the 18-200 is your biggest priority, there is this option as well:

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Digital-...323872&sr=8-11

FWIW, on either camera, when shooting in JPEG, you'll want to turn the sharpening up a notch or two to 4 or 5 (rather than the default 3), as Nikon applies considerably less sharpening than what is "typical."

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond90/page24.asp

~Carl Becker

Carl Becker 12-09-2009 02:11 AM

Elaborating on J's post, if you went with one of the D5000 bundles over the D90 bundles, you could put the savings toward a nice prime lens for situations where you want the absolute best resolution you can get.

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-50mm-Nik...0324535&sr=8-1
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-50mm-Nik...0324535&sr=8-3
http://www.amazon.com/Sigma-50mm-Nik...0324535&sr=8-4

~Carl Becker

Train-a-Mania 12-09-2009 05:12 AM

I'm getting closer to making a final decision, as the Nikon rebates on many of the packages are valid only to Saturday.

Three options (at this point in time) remain:

1. The D5000 kit with two lenses, an 18-55mm VR and a 55-200mm VR ($864.95):

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Digital-.../ref=de_a_smtd

2. The D5000 body ($550 from Amazon) and find a used 18-200mm VR on eBay ($950 ish total).

3. The D5000 body with a new 18-105mm VR ($925 total from Amazon, no kit).

Of these options, which do you think is the best?

KevinM 12-09-2009 05:20 AM

I'm not sure how the D90 has "a tendency to overexpose." We all shoot in MANUAL EXPOSURE MODE.....don't we? :) Seriously, if someone is going to spend over $1000 on a body/lens combination, it is difficult to understand why they would use it in some auto-exposure mode....like an expensive P&S. What isn't difficult is learning how to set exposures manually. Seriously, it would take me just a few minutes to show someone a technique that would give them so much more control and result in much more consistently good images.

WRT to Train-a-Mania's question about the 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR lens combinations.... I did that with my D40x. I found that much of my shooting was in a zone of about 40-100mm....pretty much splitting the range of the two lenses. I was changing lenses in the field a lot, I was missing shots and I ended up with lots of pictures that had dust spots on them. I love my 18-200mm VR because neither happens now.

If I had it to do over again, I would never have bought the two separate lenses. While the 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR have less distortion in their respective ranges, the problems listed above did not justify the inconvenience of having to constantly change, at least in my case.


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