Recently I’d rediscovered one of my favorite blogs about photography, David Hobby’s Strobist site. I hadn’t looked it for a while and it got me thinking about lighting again. I own two Nikon SB-800’s, great (but discontinued) flashes. I’ve used the before for a few things but have never really gotten the most out them.
Well that got me thinking about cameras. It turns out my last DSLR purchase was back in 2006 when I got a Nikon D80. I still have it and used it as recently as last year (which, you might note wasn’t all that long ago). But it’s getting a little creaky in some ways. I don’t care much about the number of pixels it has, but newer sensors have better dynamic range and handle higher ISO settings better. What to do?
I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new body. Money is almost always better spent on glass. I don’t have a lot of glass and what I have isn’t great – though it’s definitely good enough for my level of ability. It’s also Nikon glass. Functionally that means unless I want to about face and go start collecting glass from another manufacturer I might as well stick with Nikon. They make great cameras and lenses. So does Canon. I guess at a professional level it might be worth arguing over (though your time would better be spent shooting), but not at my level.
It was also a good time of year for sales and closeouts. As it turns out Nikon has just discontinued their D5100, replacing it with the D5200. Now the D5100 is a very nice camera from what I’ve been able to gather. It’s not quite at the bottom of their line, but it’s close. On the other hand even the bottom of the line (D3200) can make beautiful images.
There were some drawbacks though, and in some ways they are major:
- No Flash Commander Mode!
- No built-in motor meaning I need to use AF-S lenses (or focus manually – not a huge deal really)
With the two SB-800’s the first bit seemed like a bit deal. The AF-S requirement turned out not be such a big deal, my 18-200 zoom is an AF-S lens so I can use it if I want. So is the 18-70 I have around, the kit lens from my D70 way back when. I do have a nice 50mm f/1.8 (everyone should have one), but it’s not AF-S so…well nothing’s perfect.
I ended up by the D5100 with a kit 18-55 VR lens for a very good price on a long financing contract that will let me pay no interest for far longer than it’ll take for my tax check to arrive (which will more than cover it). I really am not a big fan of buying stuff I don’t have the cash for, but in this case it’s safe enough and little enough money that one paycheck would cover it with change left over (though I’d be squeezed on bills).
I also ordered the NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 DX AF-S lens which I’d heard is an excellent prime for DX cameras. It is.
I have also decided to learn to use my flashes off camera…in manual mode…that is, I’ll have to calculate the power output rather than relying on the circuitry. People have been doing this successfully for quite some time so I expect it’ll be fine. To that end I purchased some inexpensive radio triggers (Cowboy Studio). They work well as far as I’ve been able to determine so far.
Ultimately I have to use the camera in order to make this all worthwhile and that’s the plan for the year. I’m going to improve my photography…so much for New Year’s resolutions. My other resolution is breathe for the entire year.
The D5100 with the 35mm f/1.8 lens turns out to be very, very sweet. I haven’t had a chance to do much yet but today i took a few shots to help illustrate a conversation on a bike list to which I belong. The conversation is about using Pitlock seat tube locks to keep one’s saddle safe. I use them on both my Quickbeam and my Hunqapillar and decided I’d take a couple of shots for the benefit of the folks participating in the discussion.
Now these aren’t great shots. But they are straight from the camera. The colors are dead on. The exposure is great (used aperture mode) and the focusing is perfect. I’m quite happy. Yes, I could have done with another camera, lots of them in fact. But as a quick test I’m pleased. Now that I’ve broken the ice with the camera, I can go learn how to use it well and hopefully make some beautiful images (and continue documenting all this bike stuff).