decide

You are currently browsing articles tagged decide.

Comparing the Nikon D600 vs. D7000 vs. D300s:

I’ve written a previous post comparing the Nikon D7000 vs D90 vs D300s, as well as one comparing the current Nikon dSLR line-up of the Nikon D7000 vs. D5100 vs. D90 vs. D3100.   Now that the full frame Nikon D600 has been introduced (and almost immediately made available for sale), I need to revisit these comparisons to include this latest Nikon dSLR.  I am going to focus on the D600 vs D7000 vs D300s here, with some D90 specs thrown in, but leaving out the D5100 plus the more expensive D800 full frame (FX) model for now until I get the chance to incorporate them into the discussion.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The introduction of the full frame (a.k.a. FX format) sensor sized Nikon D600 has expanded the Nikon dSLR line-up, and perhaps made it even more challenging to determine which camera is right for you.  To get a sense of where the D600 sits, it is designed to be the first full frame dSLR aimed at the photography “enthusiast” – in both features and price (about $2100).  (Full frame or FX format means that the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film.) It does not have quite all the features, continuous frame rate speed, larger and more rugged body, external controls, and customization options as a professional level dSLR like the Nikon D800, yet it still offers more than enough in terms of image quality, features, controls, and durable construction for most any serious enthusiast.  I would even contend that it is plenty capable as a semi-pro’s full frame body or second body, or even a smaller, lighter weight option for sometime-use by a pro.

Sitting Between the D7000 and D800: The D600 has been described by Nikon as sitting between the APS-C sensor sized (DX) D7000 and the full frame (FX) D800.  What that means is that, first, it has the approximate size, weight, and “feel” of the pro-sumer D7000.  This “FX camera in a DX body” is a desirable feature for a lot of photographers, especially those carrying and using their camera all day such as when traveling.  Plus it incorporates the sophisticated and customizable 39 point autofocus system of the D7000, along with that camera’s “user-friendly” interface and controls (the autofocus system has actually even been improved over the D7000 in terms of greater sensitivity).  This makes it an easy transition for D7000 users wanting to go full frame, or wanting to simultaneously work with both bodies.  Yet is also boasts some technology borrowed from the higher end D800 like the HDMI output, uncompressed video recording, and improved exposure metering.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx
Detail of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera – image by author

The Second Highest Rated Sensor:  Previously, in order to offer a high-quality, fully featured yet affordable camera for enthusiasts and semi-pros, the compromise was a smaller sensor – the APS-C sized sensor (or what Nikon calls the DX format) which is about two-thirds of the size of a full frame sensor.  Larger sensors have always been desired for several reasons:  they typically deliver better performance in terms of improved resolution, increased dynamic range, and improved low light / high ISO performance.  In other words, the images have much better detail and can withstand serious cropping, display a fuller range of colors and tones, and are cleaner with less digital noise, especially in low light situations.  And indeed the sensor of the D600 lives up to these expectations – in fact it is the second highest rated sensor on DXOmark, behind only the Nikon D800E and D800 (the D800E is the D800 without the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor). So in terms of image quality for the price, the D600 really can’t be beat at this point.

The full frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses. For those moving from an APS-C sized (DX) sensor camera to a full frame body, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x crop factor to consider. This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  But in the interest of lens compatibility, Nikon DX lenses can be used with the D600 and the camera will automatically crop the images as if using a DX sized sensor (so the sensor is reduced to 10.5 MP).

I first introduced the Nikon D600 in my post The First Affordable Full Frame dSLR, and there you can learn about a lot of the camera’s specifications and what they mean as far as real-life photographic use.  Here I will try to spell out the difference in specs and how that might affect your choice.  As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those upgrades then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive or earlier model (and spend your money on better lenses!)

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – Click on this image to have a closer look.  Image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor and Image Quality: The image sensor of the D7000 was greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s, and now the sensor of the D600 is an even greater leap.  The D7000 has 16.2 megapixels, where the D90 and D300s each have 12.3 megapixels.  The D600 boasts 24.3 megapixels.  In addition to its dramatic improvement in resolution, I noted above the other image quality advantages of a full frame sensor, as well as how that will affect your lenses’ field of view.  This increase in resolution will also allow for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allow for larger prints.  You can have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right of the Measurement graphs (such as Dynamic Range) to see how these differences affect images.  You can see from the charts that there are some significant improvements over the sensor of the D7000.

Exposure Metering: As with the D7000, the D600 has a 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor – although Nikon has stated that this latest version is improved over the D7000.  Both of these are certainly improved compared to the D90 and D300s, and will result in better TTL metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes, such as back-lit situations.  All of these Nikon cameras offer Matrix metering, Center-weighted average metering, and Spot metering. With center-weighted metering, the D600 offers the option of an 8, 12, 15, or 20mm center circle for its weighting, or simply an old-fashioned Average reading.  The D90 makes use of your choice of a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle for its weighting, while the D7000 and D300s add a 13mm circle option to that.  A nice feature of Nikon dSLR cameras is that the Spot Metering is linked to the active AF Point, so in the image below, the AF Point was placed on the subject’s face, and the camera determined metering there (rather than requiring me to first meter where I wanted and then lock the exposure as Canon Spot Metering requires).

Nikon D600 full frame FX sensor backlit backlighting active d lighting exposure metering spot
Nikon D600 – Use of Spot Metering and Active-D Lighting in severe backlit situation.  As you can see, you still need to know how to make use of the metering modes and determine a proper exposure, as the camera can’t perform magic.  Use of fill flash in this situation resulted in better exposure and contrast on the subject.

Autofocus: The autofocus system of the D600 is similar to the D7000 AF system, with its 39 AF points and 9 more sensitive cross-type points (clustered in the center).  However, you can see that the AF points are spread much more widely across the viewfinder with the DX sized D7000:

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D7000 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (and the viewfinder grid that can be turned on or off)- image by author.

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (viewfinder grid not show but is available to view)- image by author.

Each of these above images show the full simulated framing as seen in the viewfinder, and you can clearly see how the 39 AF Points of the D600 are limited more to the central area of the frame.  This means that you are likely going to have to do some significant “focus-lock and recomposing” as you create interesting compositions where the subject is off-center.  This will also impact the use of the AF Points when using AF-C Continuous Autofocus Mode to track moving subjects.  The moving subject will have to remain within the area of the AF Points in order for the camera to continue tracking it, so you will have to move the camera around to follow the subject more closely.  This again is going to seriously limit your compositions when using AF-C and tracking a subject, as the subject is always going to have to be located in the central part of the frame.  If you are a serious action, sports, bird, or wildlife photographer, you are going to have to seriously consider if this AF Point arrangement of the D600 is going to work for you.  Or else consider using the camera in DX Crop “mode,” where you use just a DX-sized portion of the sensor to capture the image.  Although you will only be making use of 10 megapixels, the AF Points will in effect be spread out over more of the frame, more similar to what you see in the D7000 viewfinder.

As mentioned above, the 39 AF Points of the D600 are more sensitive than those of the D7000, with 33 of them sensitive down to f/8.  This means when you use a teleconverter (such as with a long lens in order to turn a 200mm lens into a 400mm lens) which reduces the effective maximum aperture of your lens by a stop or 2 or 3, you can sill make full use of most of the AF Points.  As with the D7000, you can limit the number of selectable AF Points to 11 if you prefer to manually select your AF Point (as you typically should) and you find 39 too many to contend with.  Since the AF system of the D600 as well as its controls and autofocus Custom Settings are so similar to the D7000, you can have a look at this post Taking Control of your D7000 Autofocus System to begin to learn how to get the most out of it.  The AF systems of the D600 and D7000 (and D300s) allow for you to use the numerous autofocus points in various ways to best capture still subjects (typically using AF-S autofocus mode) or track and capture moving subjects (using AF-C autofocus mode), including Automatic AF point selection, Single Point AF, and Dynamic Area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-Tracking.

Regarding the D90 and D300s, the autofocus system of the D90 has 11 autofocus (AF) points with only the center one being the more accurate cross type. The D300s offers 51 AF points with 15 being cross type, and thus is ideal for sports, action, and wildlife – although it has begun to become outdated and superseded by many of the other features of the D7000.

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an e-book user’s guide for the D7000 called Nikon D7000 Experience, and will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guides discuss not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  They also explain the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus they describe all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D600 and D7000 (and even the older D90) appear very similar at first glance, and both have a rugged partial magnesium alloy body (top and rear) with a polycarbonate front.  However, the D600 is actually slightly lighter than the D7000: 1.68 lbs. vs 1.7 lbs.  The D300s is slightly larger than the other 2 bodies, and weighs in at 2.2 lbs, with full magnesium construction. The sturdier construction of the D600 and the D7000, including their nice rubber gripping surfaces, creates the feel of a more professional body. The D600, D7000, and D300s all have weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.  The D600 has a slightly larger rear LCD Monitor at 3.2″ vs. the 3″ rear LCD screen of the D7000 and D300s.

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor/ Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D600 is improved over the D7000, which was already improved over both the D90 and the D300s. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story.  The native ISO range of the D600 and D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600.  The D300s and D90 have a native ISO range of 200-3200 expandable to 6400. This means that with the D600 you can use high ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have any difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images. You can view my informal ISO test images on this post of Nikon D600 ISO Test Sample Images to see the excellent high ISO performance when shooting JPEG images.

Controls: The controls of the D600 are very similar to the D7000, with some minor changes such as the locking Mode Dial switch (a nice touch), the different Live View / Movie switch and relocated Record Button, and in the “why did they do that?” category the reversing of the zoom in and zoom out buttons.  The Multi-Selector thumb pad size has also been reduced on the D600, which I find to be less comfortable than the larger D7000 Multi-Selector.  Overall, all of the controls are easily accessible, user friendly, and quick and easy to access and use for changing settings on the fly.  Many controls make use of a button press and then either of the Command Dials to change the setting.  For example, press the AF-Mode Button at the base of the lens and then turn the Main Command Dial to change the AF Mode or the Sub-Command Dial to change the AF Area Mode, as you look on the top LCD Control Panel to see your choices.  I found myself always intuitively turning the wrong dial in conjunction with the ISO Button, but that will just take some practice (one dial enables Auto ISO while the other changes the ISO setting).

Nikon D600 vs D7000 controls buttons size compare side by side
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The D300s has entirely different switches, dials, and buttons than the D600 and D7000, however this allows for quicker and easier direct access to a few more features and settings on the D300s.  As with the D7000, the D600 offers two customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial for pre-setting a combination of camera settings and Custom Settings.  For example, you can set up your camera for landscape photography with all the settings you use for that and assign these settings to U1, and then configure your camera for studio/ portrait use and assign that combination of settings to the U2 mode.  You can also assign numerous functions of your choice to certain buttons such as the Fn Button, such as quickly and temporarily changing to Spot Metering Mode or turning on the built-in level display.

Wireless Flash: All of these Nikon cameras allow for advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a remote Commander for Nikon Speedlights, allowing you to make use of and remotely control simple or complex off-camera lighting set-ups.

Viewfinder: As with the D7000 and D300s, the D600 has a large, bright 100% optical viewfinder coverage.

Processor: The D90 and D300s have the Nikon Expeed Processor, the D7000 has the improved Expeed II processor, and the D600 boasts the speedier Expeed 3 processor. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at all the frame rates and overall faster processing of stills and video files especially when using in-camera processing features while shooting such as Vignetting Control or High ISO Noise Reduction.  The fast processor also allows for quick results when taking in-camera HDR or Multiple Exposure images.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The D600 can shoot at a maximum continuous frame rare of 5.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images when shooting JPEG or up to 16 images when shooting at the best RAW setting.  This allows you to capture exactly the right moment of an action situation, or a rapidly changing expression on a subject.  The D90 can shoot 4.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images, the D7000 shoots 6 fps up to 100 shots, and the D300s shoots 7 fps – or 8fps with the battery grip. If you often capture action and really need the highest frame rate, such as for sports or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D300s or D800 over the D600.  Otherwise, 7 or 8 fps is often complete overkill in typical real-life use.

Memory Card: Like the D7000, the D600 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The D300s uses 1 CF card and 1 SD card, which also can be configured in a variety of ways. The second card can definitely come in handy if one is shooting a lot of still and video files or wants instant back-up of all images.  There is a “trick” for choosing which memory card slot is viewed during image playback:  Press and hold the BKT Button and then press Up on the Multi-Selector and follow the prompts to make your choice.

Battery: The D600 and D7000 both use the high capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots.  TheD600 accepts the optional, new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  Similarly, the D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip,  and the D300s uses the EN-EL3e battery and the optional MB-D10 battery pack/ vertical grip. The D90 also uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80.

Full HD video: The D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps), for up to 20 minutes of recording at the highest settings. As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.  The D90 and D300s offer 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time. The D7000 improved upon that with full 1080p HD video at 24 fps for up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. Plus it offers 720p at 30, 24, and 25 fps.

Price: Just under $2100 – may vary slightly at different retailers.

Shooting Experience: The D600 feels and performs absolutely wonderfully. Its body and controls are comfortable and responsive in the hands, with the exception of what I think is a too-small Multi-Selector pad.   All controls are easily accessible for quickly changing all the essential settings such as autofocusing modes, ISO, white balance, metering modes, bracketing, etc. The Shutter Button is thankfully less sensitive than that of the D7000, thus allowing focus lock or exposure lock using a half-press, without accidentally taking the shot.  The Matrix Metering works great to properly determine exposure in a wide variety of situations, and the Auto White Balance even captures sunset colors nicely rather than turning them into less warm daylight colors as many previous cameras might have done.  The D600 has carried over all of the nice touches from the D7000 such as the optional grid in the viewfinder, the ability to limit the AF points to 11 – for quicker manual selection, the ability to change the continuous low shooting speed between 1 to 5 shots (which Canon has yet to do on their non-pro cameras), and the versatility to change the size of the central spot size for center weighted metering.

Choosing a Camera:  So which camera is best for your needs? At this point I would be hesitant to recommend to D300s to most users, simply due to the fact that it is an “older” model.  While it is still a highly capable camera, the image resolution and many of the features have been improved upon by the current models.  So if you plan to use your dSLR for several more years, just consider how “outdated” it will be in 4 more years.

The D600 and D7000 are similar in so many ways that a big part of the decision comes down to the full frame sensor vs. the APS-C sized sensor.  Of course the D600 has improved resolution, dynamic range, etc, but remember that all that is relative. You can still capture excellent, professional quality images on the D7000, or even the D90.  Pixel peepers will certainly find a difference, but it may not be significant enough for many users.  The full frame will also allow you to capture wider more sweeping views with your wide angle lenses, and indirectly more dramatically shallow depth of field.

This is because depth of field is affected by not only your aperture setting but also by the camera-to-subject distance.  So say that you were to use the full frame D600 to frame a shot with a 50mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture, from 10 feet away.  To “recreate” this same shot with the APS-C sensor-sized D7000 and a 50mm focal length, you would have to back up several feet to have the same field of view.  The full frame sensor will capture a wider field of view, while the APS-C “crops” the scene due to its smaller size.  Even though you use the same f/2.0 aperture setting, the depth of field does not appear as dramatically shallow because the camera-to-subject distance has increased.  So…indirectly…a full frame camera can contribute to more dramatic depth of field. (However, this all gets a bit more complicated and a lot of photographers, including myself until recently, misunderstand the role of the focal length in this – namely that it does not affect this issue: http://www.bluesky-web.com/dofmyth.htm)

However, since the autofocus points of the D600 are grouped more closely to the center of the frame, they are not as useful as the more widely spread AF points of the D7000 for tracking and capturing moving subjects when working in AF-C autofocus mode.  If you intend to shoot lots of sports, action, birds or other wildlife, the D7000 may work better.  The faster continuous frame rate of the D7000 will greatly assist with action photography as well.  Plus the D7000’s DX sensor will “extend” the reach of your telephoto lenses in these situations.  You can always use the D600 in DX Mode to “widen” you AF point spread and “extend” your telephoto reach, but the tradeoff is that you will only be using 10 megapixels of your sensor.

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or B and H Photo, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little commission for referring you, which will help support my blog.  Thank you for supporting my efforts!

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here.

 

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: And don’t forget, I will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guide discusses not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  It also explains the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus it goes over all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

Introducing the Nikon D600 Full Frame dSLR Camera and the updated Nikon D610:

(With additions made at the end of this article to explain the features added to the updated Nikon D610)

(First, I have been corrected on the title of this post – the Sony a850 was the first “affordable” full frame (meaning ~$2000 price at introduction). But as I unfortunately only have time in my work day to mostly follow, research, and write about Canon and Nikon news and dSLR cameras, this one slipped by me!)

The day has finally arrived!  For a couple years I have been suggesting to my readers that when choosing lenses they anticipate the time that, someday soon, full-frame cameras will be more affordable.  This was both to address the possibility that certain DX lenses could not be used on an FX body, plus how a lens’ field of view will be affected by a full frame vs. a cropped APS-C sensor.  Well that day has now arrived with the introduction of the Nikon D600.  Initially priced at $2100 (body only), it can certainly be considered the first enthusiast full-frame (or in Nikon terminology, FX Format) camera – and which should also be more than rugged enough and capable enough for a semi-pro or a second body.  And as icing on the cake, DX lenses are indeed compatible with this new FX camera (although the resulting image will be a 10MP DX crop).

(Of course the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II is under $2000 at this time, but that is due to it recently being replaced by the 5D Mark III.  When the 5D Mark II was new, it was priced at around $2700, and didn’t go below $2400 for most of its active life.  And you don’t want the 5D Mk II anymore – its continuous frame rate is slow and its AF system isn’t so hot, especially compared to current models.)

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor, Viewfinder: The D600 sits between the D7000 and the recent D800, being closer – I would say – to a full-frame version of the D7000 (with a few more megapixels).  It boasts a 24.3 megapixel image sensor (over the 16.2 MP of the D7000) and the same 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross type points and similar custom settings options as the D7000. This full-frame size sensor delivers not only improved resolution but also increased dynamic range and improved low light / high ISO performance (6400 max. ISO expandable up to 25,600).  As noted above, the full-frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses.  For those coming from an APS-C sized sensor camera, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x  crop factor to consider.  This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  However, the D600 offers a DX setting so that you can act as if you have a DX sized sensor.  This camera also has a nice big and bright 100% view viewfinder so that one can easily see their subject, make use of the AF Points, and frame their images.

Interface and Controls: Much of the user interface (menus, displays) as well as the controls are also similar to the D7000, with a few changes such as the addition of the Live View/ Movie switch, a locking Mode Dial switch, and the addition of a Picture Control button.  The newly locking Mode Dial contains the customizable user modes U1 and U2 so that you can set up the camera to quickly switch to your desired mode and settings, including your desired Custom Settings parameters.  In the“why did they do that?” category, Nikon has swapped the position of the Image Zoom [+] and [-] buttons used during image review.  So overall, any D7000 user will be immediately comfortable and familiar with this D600 body.  Changing the AF Mode and AF Area Mode of the D600 is done with the “hidden” button inside the AF/M switch at the base of the lens, in conjunction with the Command Dials (as with the D7000).  The D600 offers two customizable Function Buttons on the front of the camera to set for whichever functions you desire.

Nikon D610 book manual guide how to autofocus settings menu custom setup dummies learn use tips tricks     Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Brief Commercial Interruption: Of course I offer a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D610Nikon D610 Experience, and one for the D600, Nikon D600 Experience.  This first book is currently the highest rated D600 guide on the market, with nearly 50 five star reviews!  Click the links to learn more about the guides and all my other e-book camera guides for Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system full frame use choose decide book guide manual how to dummies
Simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points

Autofocus (AF) System / FPS: As mentioned, the D600 makes use of the 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross-type points of the D7000.  For those not familiar with this system, it is somewhat sophisticated in that it offers several combinations of autofocus modes (for still subjects or a variety of situations with moving subjects), autofocus area modes (how many of the AF points are active and how they track), AF related Custom Settings (to tweak the performance of the system to your subject and needs), and customizable controls (to set which buttons do what).  There is a bit of a learning curve in order to take full advantage and full control of it, but once mastered it enables a photographer to consistently and successfully capture sharp images of still subjects and to track and capture moving subjects in a variety of ways.  You can start to learn about this system in my post explaining how to Take Advantage of the Nikon D7000 Autofocus System.  You can put the AF subject tracking to good use as you shoot up to 5.5 frames per second with the D600.  This is a great frame rate for most action, sports, or wildlife photography – any slower misses important moments and any faster starts to give you nearly identical multiple shots which become a time and memory space drain when backing up and editing. (Of course if you shoot something like motorsports or professional sports, you likely need the faster frame rate of a full-fledged pro camera!)

Body, Size, Battery, Memory Cards: Regarding size and weight, the D600 is slightly larger than than the D7000, but surprisingly 20g lighter (with the battery.)  It shares the same EN-EL 15 battery as the D7000, and offers a new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  The top and rear of the camera body are constructed of strong and light magnesium alloy, and the body is weather sealed against dust and moisture (including the battery and memory card doors).  Although the entire body isn’t magnesium like the Canon 7D or 5D Mk III, it should prove to be more than rugged and durable enough for most any photographer’s needs.  The D600 has two SD memory card slots which can be configured in a variety of ways including overflow (when one card fills images are automatically then saved to the 2nd card), simultaneous back-up (each image is saved on both cards), or stills on one card and movies on the other. The LCD monitor on the rear of the camera is now a slightly larger 3.2 inches (compared to the 3″LCD of the D7000) with 921K pixels, and is optimized for minimum glare and good contrast in sunlight.

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Unboxing of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Accessories: Nikon is offering a Wireless Adapter, the WU-1b, which will allow you to immediately share your images through mobile devices, remotely save images, or remotely fire the shutter through a smartphone.  It is also compatible with the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit for geo-tagging your images.

Flash: Unlike the full-frame Canon 5D series that forgo the built-in flash, the D600 (like the D800) has a built-in flash that also acts as a wireless Speedlight Commander to control remote flashes (up to two groups).  The camera of course has a hotshoe for optional external Speedlights like the Nikon SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, or SB-600.

HD Video: And of course the D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps). As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

Bracketing: The D600 unfortunately only offers the choice of 2 or 3 frame Auto Exposure Bracketing (up to +/- 6 EV), which doesn’t help the HDR shooters who would prefer 5 or 7 bracketed shots.  There is a dedicated BKT Bracketing Button on the camera body to initiate this process.  There is also a built-in “HDR mode” which combines and processes two images in-camera.

Nikon D600 book guide ebook instruction manual how to dummies field guide
Image of a gorgeous Nikon F taken with the Nikon D600 and kit lens (24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR)  Unprocessed JPEG straight from camera (with watermarks added), ISO 2500.  Image by author – click to see larger.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

Of course the D600 offers the usual Metering Modes, Drive Modes, and White Balance options, as well as the familiar Scene Modes, Picture Style settings, Multiple Exposure mode, Interval Timer for time-lapse photography, and in-camera image processing and filter/ art effects.

I expect the Nikon D600 to be an extremely popular camera, offering an affordable full-frame camera for dedicated enthusiasts, aspiring pros, and semi-pros, or a highly competent second body for semi-pros and pros.  There is nothing lacking in this camera that would prevent any photographer from capturing the highest quality, professional level images in most every shooting situation, be it general photography, portraits, street photography, studio work, wedding photography, or travel use.  Plus it offers the ability, although somewhat limited by its frame rate and centrally clustered AF Points, to capture non-professional sports, wildlife, and other action type situations.  (See the image at the bottom of the page for the AF Points locations.)

As I work on a comparison post of the current Nikon dSLR line-up, have a look at these other Nikon related posts, including how to take full advantage of your autofocus system.

The camera is offered as a body-only or with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens (image stabilized).

And as I mentioned, I will be coming out with a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D600 – Nikon D600 Experience, possibly as soon as November 2012.

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Nikon D600 full frame FX dSLR camera unbox unboxing 35mm new kit lens 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

The Nikon D610 was introduced in October of 2013, and has added a couple minor, but important features to the camera. The D610 incorporates a new shutter mechanism which enables a faster six frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed and a new Quiet Continuous shutter-release mode for taking a burst of images up to three frames per second and with decreased shutter noise. In addition, the D610 has an improved Auto White Balance setting which promises more natural color reproduction both indoors under artificial lighting and outdoors. As mentioned above, the previous D600 model marked an important moment in the evolution of digital SLR cameras as the first dSLR with a full-frame sized image sensor to also be priced at about $2000 at release, thus putting it within the reach of far more photography enthusiasts. With the D610, Nikon has retained a similar price. And although a number of D600 users reportedly experienced issues with dust or oil spots on the camera’s sensor, it is expected that the new shutter mechanism of the D610 will eliminate this concern.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system points full frame viewfinder
Another simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points.  Image of Nikon F SLR by author, taken with Nikon D600 with kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, ISO 2500.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D

I first introduced and discussed the new Canon Rebel T4i in this recent post, Introduction the the Canon Rebel T4i.  I encourage you to read that first to learn about all the features of the T4i. Then you may be wondering about how to choose between the T4i vs. the Canon EOS 60D, so I go into more detail about that here:

The predecessor to the T4i, the T3i, shared several important features with the 60D including the same 18 MP image sensor and the 63 zone exposure metering mode, both allowing you to get great, high-quality, well exposed images even in challenging lighting situations.  However, the T3i lacked a couple critical features that dedicated enthusiast photographers might eventually find that they would need, even if they weren’t ready or knowledgeable enough to use them right away.  They might have found that the less accurate autofocus system was eventually not up to their needs and that the slower continuous shooting speed limited the moments they could capture.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D unbox unboxing compare vs T3i 60D choose decide

As I discussed above, the new Canon Rebel T4i / 600D demonstrates a significant leap in the “trickle-down” trend by borrowing several additional important features from the 60D, including the more accurate all-cross-type 9 point autofocus system and 5 frames per second, faster continuous shooting speed.  The fact that both of these cameras, the T4i and 60D, now share numerous key features, it is obviously a challenge to decide between them.

There are still a few features, however, that may help you decide one way or the other. The T4i has added continuous autofocusing while shooting video and a couple new Movie autofocus modes to best make use of this.  If you intend to shoot lots of video with your camera, this could be an important deciding factor. The T4i also adds a Touch Screen, allowing you to change settings, navigate menus, and browse through images with iPhone-like multi-touch gestures.  This isn’t a vital feature for taking better images, but it may be a convenience issue that makes a difference.

But the 60D still holds some important advantages for those who intend to be serious and dedicated to their photography, and who wish to use their camera as a versatile tool to fit with how they shoot. The 60D still offers a bigger and brighter viewfinder, additional external buttons and controls which makes changing camera settings on the fly much quicker and easier.  For example it has the metering mode, autofocus mode, etc. buttons right on top for easy access, plus the large Quick Control Dial on the rear of the camera to quickly change exposure compensation or to help with changing settings and rapidly moving through menus, and the all-important AF-ON button allowing more control over autofocus operation.

The 60D also has a slightly more rugged build than the T4i and some amount of weatherproofing seals, where the T4i basically has none.  Even more importantly, the 60D boasts additional Custom Function options, which will allow you to customize the camera and its functions to operate  exactly how you want them to: Safety Shift, Bracketing Sequence, ISO increments at 1/2 or 1/3 rather than full stops, dial direction reversal.  While some of these options may not seem important to the casual user, the heavy-duty user will find them indispensable in increasing their efficiency and deceasing their aggravation. And due to some of the additional features/ controls and stronger build, the body of the 60D is larger, feels sturdier, and is better balanced with the larger heavier lenses that a more dedicated photographer will likely be using sooner or later.

The latest in the Canon Powershot G series, the Powershot G1 X was recently announced, and should be available in February 2012. I wrote a bit about what new features it offers compared to the G12, namely a much larger CMOS sensor and a different lens to go with it. The G1 X is not a replacement to the G12, but rather is a new, even higher-end compact with manual controls, designed for dSLR users who want a very high quality point and shoot for various situations, as well as for dedicated enthusiasts who want the quality and manual control of a dSLR but don’t want the size, weight, and bulk of a dSLR body and lenses. The G1 X should prove to be a very popular camera for many demanding photographers for both everyday and travel use.

Canon g1 x g1x gx1 gx 1 compact asp-c large sensor high end g12
image courtesy of Canon USA

If you are trying to decide between the new G1 X and the older G12, the most important consideration (besides the price difference) is the sensor/ lens/ Digic V processor combo. While not quite as large as the ASP-C sensor of a dSLR like the T3i or 60D, the 18.7mm x 14mm, 14 megapixel sensor of the G1X is six times larger than that of the G12, and thus promises to offer not only higher image quality, but also much improved low light performance. Its f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide end coupled with the larger sensor will also allow a larger degree of background blurring for portraits, etc. While you shouldn’t expect the degree of out of focus areas (bokeh) as a dSLR due to the minimum aperture becoming f/5.8 at the telephoto end, it will be somewhat improved over what the G12 or other compacts can offer. The 4X zoom lens of the G1 X also does not have quite the reach of the 5X zoom lens of the G12.

Other possibly important differences between the two are the camera size and weight and the battery life. While the G1 X is larger and heavier than the G12, it uses a smaller batter with a shorter shot life (see below for details). The G1 X also offers a high speed burst of continuous shooting, 4.5 fps for up to 6 shots at full quality, or 1.9fps for unlimited continuous shots.

The controls of both cameras are very similar, with some minor tweaks made to the G1 X. The G series is prized by demanding photographers because it offers quick and easy access to many manual controls, similar to a dSLR, as well as a viewfinder. Both cameras have a mode dial to quickly change shooting modes, an exposure compensation dial for quick EC adjustments, and button access to autofocus modes, metering modes, flash, as well as exposure lock. The G1 X looses the ISO dial of the G12, but places it on the rear control dial for relatively easy access. The G1 X however adds a movie record button for rapid start of movie recording in any shooting mode. As a result of these changes, the AE-L button is moved lower, and the self-timer and manual focus functions no longer have dedicated buttons, but can be accessed in the menus.

Below is a further comparison of some of the key specs of each camera:

Canon G1 X

sensor: 14 MP, 18.7mm x 14mm sensor
lens: 28-112mm equivalent, 4X zoom lens
aperture: f/2.8-5.8 maximum aperture
rear LCD: 3″ articulating rear LCD with 920,000 dots
size: 116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm
weight: 534 g
processor: Digic V
RAW image file format: yes, 14 bit RAW
ISO: 100-12,800
exposure compensation: +/- 3 EV at 1/3 stops
continuous shooting: 4.5 fps for 6 shots
metering: Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
flash: internal pop-up plus hot-shoe for EX Speedlites
battery: NB 10L – 250 shots
video: up to 1920 x 1080 @ 24fps full HD
price: $799

Canon G12

sensor: 10 MP, 7.44 x 5.58mm sensor
lens: 28-140mm equivalent, 5X zoom lens
aperture: f/2.8-4.5 maximum aperture
rear LCD: 2.8″ articulating rear LCD with 460,000 dots
size: 112 x 76 x 48mm
weight: 351 g
processor: Digic IV
RAW image file format: yes
ISO: 80-3,200
exposure compensation: +/- 2 EV at 1/3 stops
continuous shooting: 2 fps
metering: Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot
flash: internal plus hot-shoe for EX Speedlites
battery: NB 7L – 370 shots
video: up to 1280 x 720 @ 24fps HD
price: $395

So as you can see, the cameras are quite similar in many ways, with the exception of the sensor, lens, and processor, which is going to make a very large difference in terms of improved image quality, higher dynamic range, better low light performance, reduced noise at high ISO settings, longer flash reach, larger image size allowing for more aggressive cropping, and will allow the ability to achieve more dramatic depth of field. According to Canon:

The powerful DIGIC 5 processor in the PowerShot G1 X is able to process six times the amount of information compared to the DIGIC 4 processor used in the PowerShot G12 compact. With this vastly increased processing power advanced noise reduction is possible to provide even better image quality than the DIGIC 4-powered HS System.

The DIGIC 5 processor uses approximately four times as much information as before to resolve one pixel, with the aforementioned six times faster processing speed. For the total performance of noise and image clarity this has an effect of two stops at high ISOs compared to the PowerShot G12 compact at ISO 3200, and three stops at lower ISO.

The 14 bit RAW allows for those who shoot in RAW file format for later post-processing to capture images with more dynamic range, better noise reduction, and more shadow detail.

Most of the other features such as the viewfinder, scene modes, autofocusing systems, creative filters, movie modes, and white balance options are nearly identical on both models. The G1 X also adds improved, 4-stop image stabilization, a built in 3-stop neutral density (ND) filter, and an intelligent face detection system which will give focus and exposure priority to faces it recognizes. It also offers multi-area white balance correction so that different light sources are equally neutralized or balanced – such as the flash lit subject with the fluorescent lit background.

So, how do you decide between the two? Who is the G1 X for vs. the G12? Well, if the price difference doesn’t make up your mind for you, the G12 is for those who want a very high quality point, rugged point and shoot with manual controls and great image quality. If you are going to be viewing and sharing your photos online or on a computer screen primarily, the images from the G12 should suffice. You can still do post-processing and make small or medium size prints for the special images. It is great for everyday use and for travel.

But if you need to take it to the next level – if you need or want near dSLR quality images for more invasive post-processing, larger prints, cropping, or even publication, you will want the G1 X. If you want the ability to more easily create background blurring, and the occasional high speed burst for action shots, you will want the new model. If you want to get as close to a dSLR without the size, weight, and lenses, the G1 X (or Sony NEX-7) is the answer.

Pre-order your G1 X from B and H Photo here! – $799 – expected Feb. 2012?

Pre-order your G1 X from Amazon – $799 – expected March 31, 2010

See the Powershot G12 on Amazon – $395

The official Canon press release for the G1 X can be read on their site here.

I spend a lot of time on photography forums, trying to stay on top of the latest news and equipment as well as to better learn about the concerns and difficulties of those trying to choose or to learn to use their new dSLR.  This always helps me in writing my dSLR camera guides, such as learning which functions and concepts users have trouble with, and figuring out how to best explain them.

tips tricks photography dslr learn use manual instruction tutorial for dummies guide

Unfortunately one begins to see the same posts again and again:

“I want to get my first dSLR.  Which one should I get?”

often supplemented with

“I hear/ read/ am told that Canon is better at XX but Nikon is better at XX.  Which one should I choose?”

and then

“I want to start taking wedding and portrait photos.”

typically qualified with

“I only want to spend $500.”

So to be honest, it is pretty simple:

If you are truly on a budget and don’t want to spend a lot on a dSLR, then get the entry level Canon T3 or Nikon D3100.

But, if you really intend to grow and learn and develop as a photographer, and don’t want to quickly reach the limits of your camera and have to spend more money and buy another one, start out with the advanced-entry-level Canon T3i (also called the 600D) or the Nikon D5100.  These cameras will give you a bit more room to grow with their additional features, capabilities, and image quality.

If you plan to be really dedicated to photography, to pursue it as a serious hobby or even as a semi-pro, and intend to read every book you can find about your equipment, photography, exposure, composition, and Photoshop, and be out there using your camera all the time, then it may be worth your while to start off with a mid-level or pro-sumer camera such as the Canon 60D, Canon 7D, or Nikon D7000.  That way you won’t find yourself reaching the limits of your first camera within a year and having to upgrade so soon.

But know that starting out with a 7D or D7000 is jumping in near the deep end of the pool.  You will have a steep learning curve in order to get to the point where you can take control of your camera and take full advantage of all those features and capabilities you paid for.  As can be witnessed on the forum posts where the new user says

“I just got my ($1500 camera), set it on Auto and took some photos, and they don’t look anything like (pro photographer’s) photos.  What is wrong with my camera?  I guess I should start reading the manual, but what settings should I use to take better photos?”

…spending a lot of money on a “better” camera does not automatically, instantly lead to great images.

If you wish to become serious about photography, you need to understand that “photography” and “budget” do not belong in the same sentence!  If you want to do wedding and portrait/ child/ pet photography eventually, and want to be paid for it, then you need to change your mindset about the cost of the equipment required by a professional photographer.  The camera is a tool required to do the job right, and a professional needs professional equipment.  Not just because it is expected or is the price of admission, but because professional tools are needed to do professional work.  While one can get away with using a mid-level or pro-sumer camera for weddings or when starting out as a portrait or pet photographer, you will find that you really need the quality and capabilities of a pro camera to properly do the job. You need equipment that can perform in all situations (in conjunction with your skills).

I’ve written some much more detailed posts about comparing a choosing a dSLR camera, including:

Choosing Between the Canon 7D vs 60D vs T3i (600D)

Choosing Between the Nikon D7000 vs D5100 vs D3100

These posts go into detail about their features and differences, and why you may or may not need to additional features of the advanced cameras for your photography.

Choosing between the Nikon D5100, D7000, D90, and D3100:

A few months ago I wrote a post comparing the Nikon D90 vs D7000 vs D300s. Now that the D5100 is available, I am updating the comparison and include this new model, the highly competent successor to the Nikon D5000.

Nikon D5100 vs d7000 vs d3100 manual book compare choose
Detail of the Nikon D5100 – photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

In the Nikon lineup, the D5100 sits just above the D3100, a bit below the aging D90, and a few steps below the highly capable and immensely popular Nikon D7000. You may see some comparison charts that make the cameras appear somewhat (or very) similar at first, but those charts don’t tell the whole story.  They can even be deceptive.  You really need to take a closer look at not just the specifications, but the features and how they are used in real life, and determine which camera is the right tool for your photography.

The D5100 boasts a 16 megapixel image sensor just like the D7000, shoots 4 frames per second in continuous mode, has HD video capability at 24, 25, and 30 fps, and includes a fully adjustable side-mounted rotating screen more similar to the Canon T3i and 60D than to the bottom mounted limited angle screen on the D5000. It is closer in specifications and price to the Canon T3i than the entry level D3100 and should prove to be an excellent option for new dSLR users plus those experienced enthusiasts wishing to upgrade their D50, D60, or even their D3000 to gain additional megapixels, video, and an improved rear LCD screen.

side by side review compare Nikon D5100 vs D7000 vs D3100 vs D90
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Below I will spell out some of the differences in specifications and features, as well as what these differences mean and why they may or may not be important to you and your photography. Generally as the cameras increase in price and capability from the entry level model to the enthusiast pro-sumer model they gain more sophisticated autofocus and exposure metering systems, shoot faster (more frames per second) in continuous shooting mode, have more controls on the camera body for changing settings, have sturdier construction, and offer more menu and custom function options. As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, and the more expensive, higher-end models will offer more features and options than the lower-end models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those additional features and functions then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive model.

Sensor and Image Quality: The sensors of the D7000 and D5100 are greatly improved over the older D90 in a couple of ways (it is the same sensor in both cameras). The D7000 and D5100 have 16.2 megapixel sensors, where the D90 has 12.3 megapixels. The relatively new D3100 has a 14.2 MP sensor. This increase in resolution allows for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allows for larger prints. In addition, the improved sensor results in better performance at high ISO settings and in low light, better dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity. Have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right some of the graphs, such as Dynamic Range, to see how these differences affect images.

Exposure Metering: The D5100, while sharing a similar sensor to the D7000, does not have the same advanced metering system. It shares the less sophisticated 420 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D3100 and offers matrix metering, non-adjustable center-weighted, and spot metering modes. This system may be more than sufficient for many users, especially those not intending to adjust their exposure settings and dig into their menus in reaction to complex lighting situations. But if your shooting demands require more precise exposure metering and control over the size of the areas being metered, you need to consider the D90 or D7000. The 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor of the D7000 is also improved compared to the D90, and will result in more accurate metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes and situations. Both these cameras offer matrix metering, center-weighted, and spot metering modes. With center-weighted metering on the D90, you can select the size of the center-weighted area to be a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle, and the D7000 adds a 13mm circle option to those.  (If you don’t understand what this means or why you may need it, you probably don’t need it!)

Autofocus: The autofocus systems of the D3100, D5100, and D90 all have 11 autofocus (AF) points with the center one being a more accurate cross-type. These AF systems may be more than sufficient for most users, and they can successfully track moving objects in the frame such as athletes, performers, or animals. However, if you specialize in sports, action, wildlife, or bird photography, you are going to want to consider the much more sophisticated, accurate, and customizable AF system of the D7000. The D7000 boasts a significantly improved AF system of 39 AF points with 9 of them (in the center) being cross type. The AF system of the D7000 allows for you to use these points in various ways including automatic AF point selection, single point AF, and dynamic area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-tracking. With the D7000 you can also use a custom function to limit the AF system to 11 points, which may be more manageable for someone who wishes to manually select their AF points.  (Have a look at this article for an in-depth explanation of the D7000 AF system and its capabilities)

review compare Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D7000 vs D90 side by side
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D5100 is just slightly larger and a tiny bit heavier than the D3100, both weighing just over one pound. Both have plastic bodies and more limited buttons and controls that the higher end models. The D90 and D7000 appear very similar at first glance, but the plastic body of the D90 has been upgraded to the partially magnesium alloy body (top and rear) of the D7000. This adds slightly to the weight: 1.5 lbs for the D90 vs. 1.7 lbs for the D7000. The sturdier construction of the D7000 versus the D90 – including its nicer rubber gripping surfaces – creates the impression and feel of a more professional body. The D7000 also has weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.

The higher end D7000 includes not only the 3″ rear LCD screen but also a top LCD panel for viewing and changing your settings. This is essential for photographers who are constantly changing their settings to deal with various shooting situations. It is worth noting that the magnesium alloy body of the D7000 does not fully extend around the front, and thus the area surrounding the lens mount is plastic. See this image of a D7000 skeleton next to one of a 7D for details. For most users, including even those using the camera daily or in rugged travel situations, the non-magnesium construction of the D5100 should be far more than good enough, strong enough, and durable enough.

Please know that the size and weight of these bodies is a result of their build, features, and capabilities.  Those are the criteria that should be compared first, not the resulting size and weight.  (Also be sure to read this post of Why How it “Feels” is not a valid Criterion for Choosing an dSLR.)

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor and Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D7000 is greatly improved over the D90. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story, along with the fact that the native ISO range of the D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600. The D5100 shares these specifications, and should offer similar results. The D3100 has a native ISO range of 100-3200 expandable to 12800, and the range of the D90 is 200-3200. This means that with the D7000 and D5100 you can use higher ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have as much difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images.

Controls: As with construction, the buttons and controls vary with these cameras. The D3100 and D5100 offer limited, basic controls on the exterior of the camera. However you can use the rear LCD screen to quickly change many settings, or else go into the menus. The D7000 offers an extensive array of controls on the camera body, allowing one to quickly change a large number of settings as they work, including focus mode and focus area settings, shooting mode, and exposure mode. The controls of the D7000 are similar to the D90 with some changes including the addition of the shooting mode ring under the mode dial (to change from single shot to high speed continuous to self timer, etc.), and the live-view switch with movie record button inside it. The top AF button of the D90 is incorporated into the AF switch and button at the base of the lens on the D7000. The D7000 also offers more white balance options than the other cameras, plus 2 customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial, and you can assign functions of your choice to buttons such as the Fn Button.

Menus and Custom Settings: These allow for greater control over customizing how the camera functions. The D5100 has less Menu and Custom Settings options than the D90 and the highly customizable D7000, and more than the D3100 (which offers no custom settings). These settings enable you to customize the operation, function, and controls to work how you want them to, including things like exposure increments, Live View options, tweaking how the autofocus system operates, setting more precise white balance settings, and customizing which button does what. There are ebooks such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience which walk you through all of the Menu settings and Custom Settings so that you can set up your camera to work best for how you photograph, and also begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

 

Brief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D7000, and one for the Nikon D5100. After spending so much time studying, experimenting, writing about, comparing, and discussing these cameras, I decided to put some that knowledge into eBook form! The guides covers all the Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings and every Custom Function setting – with recommended settings – plus discussions of how, when, and why to use the cameras’ settings and features, (metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes, advanced autofocus use, focus lock, exposure lock, and more) for everyday and travel use, to help you take better photos.

Click HERE to learn more about Nikon D7000 Experience – and to view a preview, or purchase it!

And see HERE to learn about, preview, and purchase my ebook guide Nikon D5100 Experience.

Wireless Flash: The D7000 includes the feature of advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a commander for off-camera Nikon Speedlights. However, the D5100 and D3100 do not have this capability. With the D7000, you can set up one or more Speedlights in remote mode, then trigger them wirelessly with the built in flash of the camera.

Viewfinder: The D5100 has a pentamirror viewfinder with approximately 95% coverage of the actual resulting image, just like the D3100. The higher quality pentaprism viewfinder of the D90 gives 96% coverage of the actual resulting image, while the D7000 has a larger, brighter pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage. While in-and-of-itself, a 95% viewfinder works just fine, when you compare it side-by-side with the large, clear view of the D7000, you can see and understand the advantages of a clearer view of your entire scene with a 100% view, pentaprism viewfinder.

Processor: The Nikon D5100 and D3100 use the fast Expeed 2 image processor just like the D7000. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at 24fps, overall faster processing of stills and video files, and the ability to maintain fast continuous speed shooting for numerous frames. The D90 has the older Nikon Expeed processor, which is also fast enough to handle its processing needs.

review compare D7000 vs Nikon D5100 vs D3100 vs D90 size
Nikon 3100, D90, D7000 (D5100, not shown, is virtually the same size as the D3100) – photo by author at Newtonville Camera

Continuous Shooting Speed: As you work your way up the Nikon dSLR line-up the cameras’ continuous shooting speed and maximum shots at that rate increases. The D3100 shoots 3 frames per second (fps) in continuous shooting mode, the D5100 shoots 4 fps, and the D7000 shoots 6 fps for up to 100 shots. The D90 can shoot 4.5 fps up to 100 images. If you often capture action and really need the higher frame rate, such as for sports, action, or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D7000 over the other cameras. Paired with its advanced autofocus system, this fast frame rate can sharply capture moving objects is all types of situations. A nice feature of the D7000 is that you can adjust the low speed continuous mode to shoot anywhere from 1 to 5 fps, using the custom settings.

Memory Card: The D5100, D3100, and D90 all use a single SD memory card. The D7000 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow when the first card fills up, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The second card can come in handy as well if one is shooting video files, and one card can be designated for stills and the other video.

Battery and Battery Grip: The D5100 and D3100 both use the EN-EL14 battery, and the D7000 uses the new, higher capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots. The D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip which is constructed of magnesium alloy. The D90 uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80. The D5100 and D3100 don’t accept a battery grip. The battery pack /grip is handy for providing the ability to use a second battery and thus prolonging shooting time, and also creates a larger camera body which some users find more comfortable, especially when shooting in portrait orientation.

Full HD video: The D5100 shoots 1080p and 720p video at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D3100 shoots 1080p at 24 fps and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps. The D7000 also shoots 1080p at 24 fps only and 720p at 24, 25, and 30 fps, up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. The D90 offers 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time.

Ease of Operation: While beginners may find all the buttons, controls, and menus of any dSLR difficult and confusing at first, the menus and controls of the D5100 and D3100 are pretty basic and simple to learn for a dedicated user. The additional controls and menus of the D7000 and D90 are all quite intelligently designed and will become intuitive and straightforward for the more advanced user once they are learned and understood. Again, have a look at helpful guides such as my Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience to begin to learn to master all the advanced features, settings, and controls of these powerful dSLR cameras.

If you are interested in comparing the D5100 or D7000 to the comparable Canon models, have a look at these articles:

Nikon D5100 vs. Canon T3i

Nikon D7000 vs. Canon 60D (and 7D)

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or Amazon.com UK, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support my blog. Thanks! In the USA, use the links throughout this post or use this referral link to Amazon. And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. Thank you for supporting my efforts!

See the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon $899

See the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon $799

See the Nikon D7000 – Body Only on Amazon $1199

See the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm Lens on Amazon $1499

See the Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

See the D90 on Amazon $739 body only or $1049 with 18-105mm lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here. If you wish to purchase from B&H Photo, Adorama, or direct from Canon, please click on their logos on the left side of this page or on the Gear page. Thanks!

Accessories and Books: Now that you are on your way to deciding on a camera, you should also start looking into photography gear, accessories, and books. Check out these links, dSLR Photography Gear, Accessories, and Books, which discusses essential gear plus accessories specific to Nikon cameras; Equipment for Travel Photography, which discusses useful and practical photo accessories and equipment for both everyday and travel photography.

And to sum it all up, here is a brief, mostly serious synopsis to help you make the camera decision:

Get a Nikon D3100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a camera because you might only be using it on Auto mode, or if you don’t plan to really “get into” photography beyond taking better photos than you are able to with your compact point-and-shoot and having the ability to use various lenses.  The D3100 is a camera one could outgrow in time if they work at their photography and advance. See the Nikon D3100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D5100 if you are new to photography or to digital SLR photography and think you will want to experiment beyond Auto mode, or want to upgrade from an older entry level model because you want higher image quality and more mega-pixels, or HD video. If you have been happy with the features and controls of your previous basic dSLR camera and have not discovered the need, in your use of it, for any specific additional advanced features, there may be no need to look beyond the D5100.  The D5100 is a camera one can grow with, but it is also one a user could outgrow if they are dedicated to their photography and start to require more advanced capabilities. See the Nikon D5100 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D90 if you have outgrown the capabilities of an older Nikon like a D3000 or D40 through D60 due to your greater experience and more demanding shooting needs which require more direct or sophisticated controls and customization options. Or you have been pretty pleased with your D70 or D80 and its features but wish to upgrade for the increased image quality and mega pixels (or HD video). And/ or you need a more rugged camera for your frequent and demanding shooting and off-the-beaten-path traveling needs. Or if you need the increased 4.5 frames per second continuous rate to shoot sports or action. If you typically shoot on Auto or Program mode, you may not need a D90. If you do not manually select your own focus point and have never used exposure compensation you may not need a D90. If you have never used the AE-Lock [AE-L] button to lock exposure you may not need a D90. If you don’t understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and don’t intend to learn more about it, you may not need a D90. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this more advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens.  The D90 is a camera one would not outgrow as it has advanced features and capabilities, but its drawback is that it is now outdated. See the Nikon D90 on Amazon.

Get a Nikon D7000 if you have extensive experience with a D3000, D40 through 60, or D70 through D90 camera, and you know and understand most of the D7000’s advanced features and customization options, and you specifically need some of them for your demanding shooting needs. If you haven’t passed the above “criteria” for a D90, you probably don’t need a D7000. If you have never used A aperture priority mode or M manual mode, you probably don’t need a D7000. If you have never used autofocus tracking settings to track a moving subject across your frame and worried how an interfering object would affect your focus you might not need a D7000. If you have never used spot metering to determine a critical exposure level you may not need a D7000. Or unless you plan to dedicate yourself to learning this camera and the principles of SLR photography and grow into this very advanced camera, consider saving the money or using it towards a better lens. However, if you often need to take 100 consecutive photos at the rate of 6 frames per second, you do need the D7000. Immediately. Even if you just sometimes need that. Totally worth it. That’s 16.67 seconds of continuous shooting. Who doesn’t need that? You’d make Eadweard Muybridge proud.  The D7000 is not a camera one would outgrow for a long time, and in fact will meet many of the demands of a professional.  See the Nikon D7000 on Amazon.

(Please note, the D3100, D5100, D90, and D7000 all have these features and capabilities I just listed: manually selected focus points, exposure compensation, AE-Lock, auto-focus tracking, and spot metering. I’m just using them as a determination of your experience level and needs.)

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ sharing buttons below, or linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks!  Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon and B&H Photo logos on the left side of this page to go to those sites and make your purchases.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

The latest addition to the Nikon dSLR line-up is the versatile Nikon D5100, which replaces the D5000. It sits just above the D3100 in the Nikon consumer offerings, and a bit below the D90 and D7000 – both sturdier and more sophisticated cameras. The D5100 boasts a 16 megapixel sensor (like the D7000), and a swivel screen more like the one on the Canon T3i and 60D, attached at the left side, rather than the less convenient bottom swivel of the previous D5000. (see my post comparing several of the latest Canon dSLR cameras here, and one comparing the Nikons here.)

Nikon D5100 book manual how to instruction download vs Canon T3i
Nikon D5100 – photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

The D5100 shoots 4 frames per second, faster than the 3 fps of the D3100, and of course has 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options. The D5100 now has in-camera processing filters like those of the 60D and T3i (including miniature, high or low key, and selective color in the Nikon). And it has the 11 point AF system, with one cross type sensor, like the D3100.

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

First, a Comparison of the Nikon D5100 vs. the Canon Rebel T3i specs, to see how they stack up “on paper”:

Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D

  • 18 megapixels
  • Articulating rear LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options
  • 9 point autofocus system with 1 cross-type sensor
  • 3.7 frames per second continuous shooting for a maximum 34 JPEG burst
  • 63 zone dual layer exposure metering system – the same as the one in the 60D and 7D
  • In-camera image processing filters plus RAW to JPEG, cropping, and other options
  • Some scene modes
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 95% viewfinder with .85 magnification
  • 1.26 lbs with battery
  • Accepts optional battery pack / vertical grip – the Canon BG-E8
  • Wireless flash control of external Speedlites with built-in flash
  • Compatible with and autofocuses with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses
  • Depth of Field preview button
  • Full manual video exposure control
  • Exposure Simulation of approximate image exposure and histogram in all Live View shooting modes

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

Nikon D5100

  • 16 megapixels
  • Articulating rear LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video with all the frame rate options
  • 11 point autofocus system with 1 cross-type sensor
  • 4 frames per second continuous shooting for a maximum 100 JPEG burst
  • 420 pixel RGB metering sensor like the one in the D3100, not the 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor found in the D7000.
  • In-camera image processing filters
  • A lot of scene modes
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 95% viewfinder with .78 magnification
  • 1.2 lbs with battery
  • Does not offer an official Nikon optional battery pack-vertical grip (3rd party grip now available)
  • No wireless flash control of external Speedlights with the built-in flash
  • No autofocus motor in body, and will not autofocus with non-AF-S lenses, such as the 50mm f/1.8
  • No Depth of Field preview button
  • Also an auto HDR feature where the camera combines 2 images to create an image with extended tonal range.
  • NO full manual video exposure control
  • Exposure Simulation of approximate exposure in P, A, S Live View shooting modes.  NO Exposure Simulation in M mode.  NO histogram in any Live View mode.

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 compare side by side
Canon Rebel T3i on left, Nikon D5100 on right

As you can see, both cameras are incredibly similar as far as specifications, and it looks as if the price may even be nearly the same.  The wireless flash capability, better exposure metering system, and ability to autofocus with all compatible lenses are all definite advantages for the Canon T3i.  But the D5100 offers in-camera Auto Distortion Correction (such as when using a wide-angle lens) and a faster rate and higher number of continuous shots in a single burst.  (But with any camera, consider if you ever really need to take a 100 shot burst, much less a 34 shot burst.  If you shoot like that, you should probably be looking at a Canon 7D or Nikon D7000!)  Another deciding factor may be which camera feels more comfortable in your hands as you are using it and accessing the typical buttons and controls (not simply holding it and and checking its weight and general “feel”), which controls and menus seem better placed and easier to navigate for you (though either are equally easy to learn and to become used to using), and which system you want to invest in for the long term (lenses, flashes, etc.).  The Canon T3i is a slightly larger camera, plus allows for the optional battery grip.  The D5100 is not compatible with an optional Nikon vertical grip (edit:  a 3rd party has now made an optional battery grip for the D5100).  A look at the image quality here seems to show that the Canon’s JPEG images straight out of the camera are sharper, have more clarity, and more color “punch,” but these types of settings are widely adjustable with the Picture Settings or Picture Controls.

Also, while the specs look similar on paper, there are numerous small differences that are encountered in actual use, which begin to add up and become significant if they affect the features and controls you will be using.  For example, one important one is how the settings are changed using the “i” or “Q” buttons and the rear LCD screen. If you change your settings often, you will see on the D5100 Information Display Screen how you have to navigate down the line through each setting to get to the one you want then enter a second menu to change it.  On the T3i Quick Control screen, you can jump quickly to the setting you want then simply turn the Main Dial to quickly change it without opening up a second menu.  So that is a speed and convenience issue that would be noticeable if you are one to change your settings often, on the fly.  And while the rear LCD screens appear nearly similar, the 3:2 aspect ration of the screen on the T3i matches its sensor ratio, so images viewed during playback are seen larger on the Canon screen than on the Nikon Screen, possibly allowing you to inspect the focus and details slightly better.

There are other small but potentially important differences between the two cameras that are worth considering if you have specific needs (especially full manual control of exposure in video mode – see below).  For example, while in Live View, both cameras have Exposure Simulation so that as you change your exposure or exposure compensation settings, you will see the approximate resulting exposure on the image on your rear LCD screen.  However, with the D5100, Exposure Simulation does not function while in Manual M shooting mode.  This could be a deal-breaker if you use and need that feature.  Using the T3i in Live View you can optionally view the histogram to help determine proper exposure, however the histogram is not available on the D5100 when using Live View in any shooting mode.

Also, do you make use of Spot Metering mode?  You may prefer the viewfinder of the T3i, as it indicates the Spot Metering area with a circle, while the D5100 does not.  But, there is a very good reason the D5100 doesn’t have the center spot, and that is because in the Nikon, Spot Metering is linked to the selected AF point, and so not necessarily to the center AF point and center of the frame.  This is obviously a very useful feature and maybe you’d prefer that your camera’s Spot Metering works that way.


Canon Rebel T3i viewfinder with 9 autofocus points and Spot Metering area indicated in center


Nikon D5100 viewfinder with 11 autofocus points but Spot Metering area not visually indicated because it is linked to the active AF point

As mentioned, it is not possible to see actual exposure simulation with the Nikon D5100 in Live View while in Manual M shooting mode. However, in the P, A, or S shooting modes, the live view image will lighten or darken to simulate the exposure settings or the exp. compensation that you set. And to add insult to injury, there is no exposure meter displayed on the Live View screen, so to check your exposure you will need to temporarily leave Live View and switch to the control panel view by pressing the [i] Button.  The Canon 60D and Canon Rebel T3i both have Exposure Simulation in all modes during Live View. On the 60D you can turn this feature off and on. On the T3i it is on automatically while in Live View.

Manual Control of Exposure in Video Mode: It was quickly discovered by D5100 users that the camera does not offer full manual control of exposure in video mode.  The T3i offers this ability.  This is pretty important if you are serious about shooting video.  However, there is a “work-around” for this deficiency.  To manually set your shutter speed, you must set the camera on Shutter-Priority Auto Mode (S) and set your desired shutter speed before going into Live View mode, use exposure compensation to obtain the aperture setting you want, and use the AE-L/AF-L Button to lock that exposure (set Custom Setting f2 for AE-Lock Hold).  If you wish to first set the aperture setting, you must set the camera on Aperture-Priority Auto Mode (A) and set your desired aperture before going into Live View mode, use exposure compensation to obtain the shutter speed setting you want, and use the AE-L/AF-L Button to lock that exposure (set Custom Setting f2 for AE-Lock Hold).

The Canon T3i comes with a much more comprehensive and user friendly user’s manual than the small brochure size user’s manual of the Nikon D5100, although the more detailed D5100 Reference Manual is available as a file on the included Reference CD.

To gain further understanding of what the specs, features, controls, and functions of these cameras mean in relation to real life shooting and camera use, have a look at the articles that compare the various current Canon dSLR models and Nikon dSLR models.

If you decide on the Canon T3i, please be sure to check out my ebook, Canon T3i Experience, and if you choose the Nikon D5100, have a look at my ebook Nikon D5100 Experience.  Each of these guides will help you to take control of your camera in order to consistently capture better images!

See and purchase the Canon T3i with 18-55mm lens on Amazon

See and purchase the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm lens on Amazon

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks! 

Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon and B&H Photo logos on the left side of this page to purchase from their sites, or click on the links throughout this post to view and purchase those products on Amazon.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

When selecting a new dSLR camera, many people seem to look at the latest offerings, attempt to compare their many features, and determine which one, in or near their price range, is “better.” But this is the backwards way to approach it. Of course a continuous burst rate of of 126 JPEGs at 8 frames per second is “better” than 58 frames at 5.3 frames per second. But do you need the ability to take 126 consecutive images in 15.75 continuous seconds? Ever? Certainly the ability to to control both the method and the sensitivity of AI Servo Tracking is impressive and powerful, but do you even understand it, wish to learn about it, need it, and will you ever use it? If a camera’s features don’t fit your needs as a photographer, it is not a better camera for you. In fact, it may be a worse camera for you because its complexities and options may serve to work against you and your image making.

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography
Iquitos, Peru

When you are trying to determine which new dSLR camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and determine if you really need or will use them.

For example, I began shooting with a Rebel XT and took it on an extended trip where I shot lots of outdoor dance and festivals (see the Peru and Dance galleries here for the results – those are all shot with a Rebel XT.) I soon discovered this camera wasn’t fulfilling my growing needs and I made a mental list of what my next camera needed:

  • more focus points which are more strategically positioned (the Rebel XT only has 7 focus points in a simple cross pattern which did not suit the way I focus and compose)
  • faster frame rate in continuous shooting mode (it only has 3 fps which wasn’t good enough for catching a good burst at the peak of action)
  • better sealed body (I ended up in several very dusty or wet situations)
  • integrated sensor cleaning (see “dusty or wet situations” above)
  • more megapixels (the 8 MP of the XT just weren’t sufficient when it came to cropping and post-processing)
  • battery with longer capacity (I used it on weekend trips to the middle of nowhere with no electricity, but didn’t want to have to buy and take more than 3 batteries)
  • larger LCD screen to better review photos (the XT has a tiny screen)
  • grid in the viewfinder (I just can’t keep it straight sometimes)

Amazonia Shipibo Vendor
Iquitos, Peru

These are the features I looked for in my next camera. I didn’t work backwards and wonder, “Do I need or will I ever need auto lighting optimizer and highlight tone priority?” If I had exposure issues on my list, I would have looked for these kinds of features, but I didn’t. I didn’t wonder, “Do I need multiple flash remote firing? Should I worry about that?” That wasn’t on my list because it wasn’t a need I ran into, ever, in months of shooting. I don’t even own multiple flashes and wish to minimize using the one. I didn’t ask myself, “Do I need an extensively redesigned focus system with AF Point Expansion and Zone focusing?” I nearly always choose my own focus point – I don’t want the camera choosing the closest point which is bound to be a dancer’s flying hand and not their face, so I don’t need that. No matter how awesome and advanced it is, even if the subjects are moving. I’m pretty quick with the focus point selection, I just need more and better placed focus points. If you haven’t run into a need for certain features in your months or years of extensive shooting, you aren’t going to suddenly need it just because it is now offered on a camera. Sit down and make your list, then look at the cameras’ offerings.

And please be aware, no new camera will help you instantly create better photos. Or better yet, all of the latest cameras will help you take better photos, but equally so, none any better than the others. If you wish to take better photos, just chose one of the cameras and get out and shoot. Learn how to use the basic settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focusing modes and focus points, exposure metering modes, histograms) and then concentrate on composition and telling a story through your images. Get a book like Bryan Peterson’s newly updated Understanding Exposure to get a handle on the essential functions and relationships of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  Or have a look at my Full Stop e-book camera guides for various Canon and Nikon dSLR cameras!  And see the following posts to help you on your way:

How Pros Photograph

Deconstructing the Shot

Pucallpa kids and boat
Pucallpa, Peru

Need a lens to go with your new camera? Read about choosing a lens other than the kit lens in this post Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens, and learn about the Best Lenses for Travel Photography here.

If you are interested in researching or purchasing the equipment or books I use, discuss, or recommend, I would appreciate it if you use this referral link to Amazon. Your price will be the same, and it will help support my blog and my work. Thanks!  And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. If you are in another country, click on one of my Amazon links, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon.