Order of Operations (What should I buy first?)

Caelan

New member
#1
I'm busily running around in circles trying to figure out how to build out my camera kit, so hopefully you folks can give me a bit of advice. For the most part, I focus on landscape photography. I'll dip my toes into wildlife photography every now and then, but I can't afford the big primes to make up for my lack of stealth.

I'm still in the planning and drooling stages, but I haven't decided if I should obsess over a new (gently used) camera body or focus on lenses first. Right now, I've got an old Nikon d90 that I pair with the 18-104 kit lens it came with and a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. The kit lens is garbage, but it'll get wide enough to shoot landscape and, if I'm really quiet/patient, I can get some decent wildlife shots. The 50mm is a fantastic lens for portraits and campsite photos, but it's fairly limited for landscape or wildlife. My d90 is a great body if there's enough light, but even with the fast 50mm lens it struggles with ISO noise in the evening and nighttime shots are right out.

So, I want to upgrade. My dream kit at the moment is a d810 to pair with a Nikon 2.8 trinity (14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm). That's a lot of money even if I get everything used, so I'll be slowly picking up each piece one at a time. Right now I'm leaning towards getting the body first, followed quickly by the 24-70mm to completely replace the functionality of what I have now. I figure with the huge files a d810 generates, I can get a healthy crop from a 70mm shot and still keep a usable image. Since I'm moving from a crop sensor to a full frame, 24mm will be about what I can capture at 18mm on the d90. What order would you buy things in if you had the choice?
 
#2
Tough question as all of this is pricey. If I remember correctly, years ago I started with a d300 with a kit lens, then after a year or so the 70-200mm. Eventually getting to what I have now, the d810. I don't know what your budget is, but I think I would go with the body and a mid level lens. I currently use a 18-36mm lens, it's not f2.8, but honestly on my wide angle landscapes I have never felt the need for f2.8. For me that need only comes along when I am shooting an animal. Not sure what the current Nikons are, but probably go with either the best crop they have or the cheapest full frame. Due to price, it's probably the best crop. Then by a full frame lens and just deal with the conversion. Again, I get a lot of use from my 18-36mm. A camera body should last years, so 2 years after getting the body, grab an f2.8 (I advise the 70-200 at this point), then another 2 years you can update to that years version of the d810. Though if you have the money now, get the d810, it's awesome.
 
#3
You didn't discuss your budget, and that may make a difference.

For landscapes you will want a full frame body. F2.8 lenses are nice ( and I own several ) but they are expensive, large, and heavy. If you are going to shoot starshots then get the f2.8 or even the f1.4 versions of the lenses you need, but otherwise f4 versions are smaller, lighter, cheaper, and much easier to carry around, and just as sharp. Lenses will serve you for years, bodies come and go. Buy the best glass you can.

IF you are going to chase wildlife, look at the Tamron 150-600 G2 - the latest version of their zoom tele. It is reasonably small, light, not too expensive for sharp 600mm, and will reach out. I have numerous images shot with it from my recent trip to Yellowstone which I posted in the wildlife thread in this forum. When chasing wildlife I find I use a crop body camera fairly often even when I have FF bodies with me, due to the longer reach with the smaller sensor. I think with Nikon you can just switch from DX to FX can't you?

My camera bodies are Canon, but that has nothing to do with my lens recommendations. I shot film in Nikon bodies for years.
 
#4
Take some time here, you are committing to a system. You really have an equal choice between Nikon and Canon for DSLR. I would also consider mirrorless, Olympus. The beating you take on selling used gear hurts, so take some time to research.
 

Caelan

New member
#5
Well, the D810 isn't the current best of Nikon's offerings anymore since the D850 hit the scene a little bit ago. Which means the price on that body is falling (slightly) as the gotta-have-the-best folks upgrade their bodies.

I'm been very firmly committed to Nikon for over 20 years now, ever since I got an old Nikon F as a teenager. My Dad shoots Nikon and my Grandfather made a good chunk of his living using Nikon cameras. So there's really no chance I'd move to Canon or a mirrorless system, even if they're equivalent (or better in some situations).

As for lens choice, I'm primarily motivated towards the f/2.8 holy trinity because they're all incredible lenses that are built like tanks and by simply adding a teleconverter I can cover 14mm all the way to 400mm with just three lenses. I'm investing into a set of lenses that I expect to last through decades of moderate use in rough conditions. My budget covers the full kit ($1500-$2000 for each lens and another $1800ish for the camera), just not all at once. So the real question is which order to buy them in to get the most sensible upgrade path. I've got my own ideas, but I'm curious to hear other opinions.
 

Caelan

New member
#6
You didn't discuss your budget, and that may make a difference.

For landscapes you will want a full frame body. F2.8 lenses are nice ( and I own several ) but they are expensive, large, and heavy. If you are going to shoot starshots then get the f2.8 or even the f1.4 versions of the lenses you need, but otherwise f4 versions are smaller, lighter, cheaper, and much easier to carry around, and just as sharp. Lenses will serve you for years, bodies come and go. Buy the best glass you can.

IF you are going to chase wildlife, look at the Tamron 150-600 G2 - the latest version of their zoom tele. It is reasonably small, light, not too expensive for sharp 600mm, and will reach out. I have numerous images shot with it from my recent trip to Yellowstone which I posted in the wildlife thread in this forum. When chasing wildlife I find I use a crop body camera fairly often even when I have FF bodies with me, due to the longer reach with the smaller sensor. I think with Nikon you can just switch from DX to FX can't you?

My camera bodies are Canon, but that has nothing to do with my lens recommendations. I shot film in Nikon bodies for years.
My budget is good enough to cover the 2.8 lenses if I buy used. It's a stretch, but it fits. Especially since those lenses will probably last longer than I do.

I haven't gotten into any kind of nighttime/starscape photography yet, but it's an area I'm curious to check out. Right now I don't have the editing (or camera management) skills to make astrophotography something I could just jump in to.

That Tamron lens is a great lens for sure. I've only had a chance to use it once, but I was incredibly impressed. If I was planning on focusing more on wildlife photography, I'd pack it instead of Nikon's 200-400 in a heartbeat. As it is, I'm hoping to cover that range with a teleconverter and by cropping the huge 36MP d810 images.

As far as I know, Nikon uses the same mount for all of their SLR bodies and has for years. I've got an old, slow, manual focus 640mm prime that was passed down from my Grandfather that I can use with my dx d90 when I want silly amounts of reach (for things that sit very still while I fight with the focus). It's incredibly sharp when I get the focus right, but it's almost three feet long, looks like a shoulder mounted rocket launcher, and is completely impractical to carry around.
 
#7
What does your budget allow "at once"? Meaning do you have to buy each thing seperately or would you be able to buy two at the same time? How long would you need between purchases?
 

Caelan

New member
#8
What does your budget allow "at once"? Meaning do you have to buy each thing seperately or would you be able to buy two at the same time? How long would you need between purchases?
I'm hoping to pick up one piece every three to four months but since my work is fairly seasonal, I might be able to buy a couple pieces rapidly in the busy season. My tentative thoughts is to buy the 24-70mm and a new body first. Ideally I'd buy them together, but the lens is a higher priority since I think it will do me more good with the body I have now than a new body would do with the lenses I have now. Nikon just updated their 24-70mm 2.8 in 2015, so there's no worry of buying something that's rapidly on its way out the door.

After that, I'd pick up the 70-200mm a few months later. That one was also updated recently and fills out more holes in my gear than an ultra wide angle would. Once that's all taken care of, I'll start looking at the 14-24. This one is the only lens I'm hesitant about pairing with the high megapixel d810. From what I've read, the lens itself is aging when compared to modern 30+ MP DSLR bodies (it came out in 2007), causing a noticable effect around the edges of images. So hopefully Nikon will release an update while I'm buying the rest of my kit. Otherwise, I'll have a good, hard look at it when the time comes.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
#9
My advice is simple. Lens optics are forever, bodies are temporary, and quickly outdated.
Invest in the best lens you can, buy a generation to two older body that has the sensor size you want. Any Body will capture a decent image if the lens allows it. I'm up to a Canon 7D Mark II these days, but I can't tell any difference in the images between it and my old Canon 20D other than file size, when using my favorite 17-35 F2.8 L lens
 
#10
I'm a Canon shooter but my 24-70 F2.8 is the very first lens I bought when I switched from the old FD manual focus film cameras to the EOS system digital. It's my most used lens and still useful after being used on five different bodies.
 
#11
There hasn't been any posts on this since February so you may have already made your purchases but I thought I would weigh in since like you I had a Nikon D80 with the kit 18-70 and also the Nikon 70-300. I found them all lacking for what I wanted to do which was wildlife and low light. For me though I was also new so I'm sure when I say they were lacking a good part was also my skills.

Like you I wanted to upgrade so I actually started with the 24-70 f/2.8 and used that on the D80 until I could afford to upgrade. Next I upgraded to the D700 to which then shortly after I bought the 70-200 f/2.8. I thought getting 200 f/2.8 I would have a decent reach for wildlife but it wasn't so. For me the 70-200 sits in the case and I'm thinking of selling it. After that I bought the D810 and also the newer version of the 80-400 since I needed the reach.

Someone above mentioned the Tamaron G2 lens. A lot of people I shoot with have that for wildlife and get decent shots with it. It's a good low budget lens. Had I not have the 80-400 and spent the money on that I would look that way.

Currently I'm saving for the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 and will sell the 80-400. I'm finding I like to photograph owls and the light is often low so that's why I need the f/2.8,

As someone mentioned above my go to lens is the 24-70. Granted other than a 50mm prime it's my only lens in that range but I love that lens and it's not even the version with the VR.

You were also given sound advice on investing in the lenses since they will stay longer than the body. I will caution you to be asking the why question. Why do I want this lens or body. What is the need I have? When I started photography I was doing a lot of low light shooting so that is what pushed me to the f/2.8. I was listening to a Moose Peterson podcast and he stated that his 70-200 is the f/4 version since he needed f/32 and that's not an option on the f.2/8 version.

Try to save errors and really do your research and find what it is you want to upgrade to. Lastly a friend has the D850. They now have automatically in camera focus stacking to where you choose the number of shots you want press the button once and the camera will take and shoot that number of photos with you needing to do nothing else. Awesome feature but I need the 300mm f/2.8 first.

Enjoy and have fun with it.
Brian
 
#12
I would add:
Look at Samyang (Rokinon) wide angles. They are manual focus but for landscape... it doesn't move anyway. MF lenses can work in your favor. Their 14mm is supposed to be very good. I also saw something not too long ago about a new line of Samyang lenses coming out soon. Just haven't followed up to see what they were/are.

Also look at Sigma lenses. Their Art series are putting Canon & Nikon lenses on notice.

Don't afraid to buy used. Go to Roberts Camera or KEH and check out their offerings. Use DPReview.com to check quality of older lenses and cameras. An old piece of kit with a warranty is hard to beat the price. Rent lenses too. You might "want" something until you actually have it and it's not what you expected.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
#13
My advice is simple. Lens optics are forever, bodies are temporary, and quickly outdated.
Invest in the best lens you can, buy a generation to two older body that has the sensor size you want. Any Body will capture a decent image if the lens allows it. I'm up to a Canon 7D Mark II these days, but I can't tell any difference in the images between it and my old Canon 20D other than file size, when using my favorite 17-35 F2.8 L lens
VERY good advice. And remember, talent is more important than tools. Look at all of the pro photographers who post blogs of stunning cell phone only shots. Your eye matters more than your toys. (But do learn how to use them to get the images you want.)
 
#14
I know this is an older thread, but figured I would add my quick thoughts in. I use my camera while traveling so I have a setup to match. I have a Nikon D750 with a Rokinon wide angle and the Nikon 28-300. The 28-300 is not a great leans at any one focal length, it is highly compromised, but it is also the lens on my camera 90% of the time. Only rarely will I switch to the wide angle. I had a few high quality prime lens, but I found out that I never used them. When I travel with the family, I simply dont have the time to switch lenses, find the perfect composition, and wait for the perfect lighting. I have time to take a quick picture and often times hope for the best. Lightroom has a feature that will show you how many of your pictures were taken at what focal length and might work as a guide to help you pick what lenses to upgrade and put your money toward. For example, I take about 10% of my pics with the Rokinon, about 50% of my pics at 28 mm, and about 30% of my pictures at 300mm. The remaining 10% are somewhere in the middle. For quality's sake, I would be best off getting a 28mm and 300mm prime, but the patter of shots that I take tend to be a wide picture, followed by a zoomed picture, and back and forth.

Everyone has a different use pattern, so maybe get a 28-300 to help guide you were to put your money at. You may find you need a 14mm ultra wide, a 50mm for most shots, and a 80-400 for the rest of your shots. So you have to answer, do you have the time to switch lenses between each shot to make them great, or do you have limited time meaning you get a "good enough" picture or nothing at all.

Also, dont be afraid to check out some of the 1" sensor zoom cameras. This may very well be what I end up getting next if they would come out with one with a wide enough lens.

Hope this helps!