Everyone one new to photography always asks the same question: “Which camera should I buy?” Actually, the better question is, “Which camera is best for my specific application?”
Nikon, of course! My knee-jerk recommendation to friends who ask is often the new Nikon D610 full-frame DSLR. With a 24.3MP FX-format sensor (read later why mega-pixel count isn’t as important as you may think), it’s Nikon’s latest iteration of their lowest-priced, full-frame DSLR. At an initial selling price of just under $2,000 (priced $100 less than its predecessor, the Nikon D600), Nikon dealers are now selling brand-new, body-only configurations for as low as $1,495. Even at its launch price, the D610 is the least expensive, full-frame DSLR Nikon’s ever offered. Refurbished D610s are an even better deal: An amazingly low $1,049 as of spring 2015–get one while you still can! (Note that this is $50 less than the current selling price of a new Nikon D7200, Nikon’s flagship crop-frame body). Some may recall Nikon’s very first DSLR, the Nikon D1, a 2.7MP digital camera with an original selling price of $4,999 USD, and it wasn’t even a full-frame body (Nikon’s first full-frame body was the Nikon D3, also priced at $4,999 USD, launched eight years later in 2007). If price was holding you back from going full-frame, now is an excellent time to make the move.
But back to one of Nikon’s best values in FX. What you get in the D610 is feature-for-feature, a better product than Canon’s competing model. I’ll discuss the argument for going FX for your first DSLR body in another section, but, in brief, what you get with a full-frame body includes a number of benefits: Improved dynamic range, 200% better low-light performance, shallower depth-of-field effects, and the ability to use the complete spectrum of FX lenses at their native angle-of-view, with no “crop-factor.” Of course, since not everyone can afford a full-frame camera (and its requisite FX lenses), scroll down to read about a great Nikon camera starting from only about $300 (body only). Later, I’ll present a complete list of application-specific recommendations for Nikon’s entire line-up of current DSLRs, as well as older, but still great Nikon digital cameras.
which lenses should I buy for my new Nikon D610?
Nikon’s lenses for full-frame bodies have had the reputation of being priced out of many users’ budgets, but now, Nikon offers two of its lastest FX lenses at more affordable price-points: The AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G and AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G (these are the two lenses I recommend to anyone who buys their first FX body). The 28mm gets you a nice FX wide-angle that’s fast, sharp, and renders little distortion. While not considered an “ultra-wide,” it’s wide enough for a variety of applications, plus it’s very good in low-light thanks to its large f/1.8 maximum aperture. The 85mm is a classic head-and-shoulders, portrait-length FX lens, and this new entry to the mid-tele market is among Nikon’s best values. Acclaimed as one of Nikon’s sharpest lenses, this lens doesn’t skimp on quality even though it sells for a budget price. I often shoot my 85mm f/1.8G instead of my pricey 85mm f/1.4G just because it’s small, light, and sharp.
I can’t afford a full-frame body, which Nikon DX body should I buy?
Personally, I wanted a compact, DX body to take around when I’m not shooting for clients, so I bought a refurbished Nikon D3200 for only $275 (body-only) last year, and I love it [do a Google search for “Nikon D3200 refurbished” to find similar deals]. But I think the real value in the current Nikon DX line-up (as of spring, 2015), is Nikon’s new D3300, and would be my pick for most beginners just entering the world of DSLR photography who don’t already own any Nikon lenses yet. I recently picked up a refurbished Nikon D3300 with the new 18-55mm VR II kit lens for $399. The Nikon D5300 is also an excellent entry-level body, which basically adds Wi-Fi capability to the base D3300 set of features. Unfortunately, with Nikon;s newest consumer body, the Nikon D5500, they deleted the WiFi feature and added only incremental improvements. Both the Nikon D3300 and new D5500 are great little cameras, with best-in-class low-light performance (due to these models’ recent sensor upgrades), compact form factor, and ultra-light weight.
Note that the D3300/D5300 do not support older non-AFS lenses (AFS lenses are those which contain an internal focus motor). So-called “screw-drive” lenses (which need a mechanical drive motor contained in the body to auto-focus) will not auto-focus on the D3300/D5300 (though, manual-focus is still possible using the “rangefinder” focus-indicator in the viewfinder, basically two arrows and a dot which illuminates when your selected focus-point is in focus).
Next time . . . application-specific recommendations for Nikon’s entire line-up.