you can make of it what you will!
AND BE WARNED!!>> AS PER USUAL THIS POST IS GOING TO BE LONG AND ARDUOUS, AND THERE IS NO RETURN ONCE YOU GET TO POINT B(you have to prceed forward to get back to the starting point.... or else you get bbbbbannnned!
I've posted my thoughts on numerous occasions as to whether it's best to upgrade either the camera or lens(at any particular time in your photographic journey), and my opinion is(generally against the general consensus) that it's not quite clear cut, and is heavily dependent on two important points. What you currently have, and what you think you need.
General consensus: a term commonly referred to(by everyone but me) as "upgrade the lens, because cameras come and go and lenses last a lifetime".
I'm not going to reveal the site I found (via a link from another website) so I'll let the super sleuths find it in their own time, but I recently did some 'research' using their results(so they're secondhand.. not my own) but they tell a telling story.
I'll create a general member scenario, currently using general consumer grade gear to maintain their hobby, which they love, and have found themselves doing pretty ok with, but want to improve a little bit here and a little bit there. They have wide ranging tastes in photography.. ie. not dedicated to sport or birding, or lanscapes.. etc. just like to shoot whatever takes their fancy at any one moment in time
... sheeeet! sounds a lot like me in fact. Although I'm not a general member and any implied similarity is purely coincidental, and normal statutes of limitation apply with respect to similarities and likenesses.. etc, ad addendum, ipso facto and caveat emptor.. BESIDES!!.. I'm still a mod... and thus not a general member
But here we have GI Jane Average, takes lots of photos and wants a bit more pop, oomph and quality with a sprinkling of flexibility.
Couple of years back, I also found I wanted more, and the best thing i ever did was upgrading from the D70s to the D300.. two cameras that can only be described as worlds apart, and the D300 has helped me get shots the D70s class of camera just wouldn't have been able too. So I could have spent $000.000's on a new lens to work better with my D70s, but that still left me with all the other lenses I hadZ(and they weigh a ton), which I find are perfectly capable and acceptable, but were sometimes too hard or frustrating to use with the D70s.. enter the D300. makes them all a pleasure to use now.. except for one or two other personal requirements.. I'm 99.99% happy with the choice of getting a better camera over a better lens.
So back to GI Jane and her partner Joe. They currently have a Nikon D60 and a single lens like a Nikon 18-105 f/3.5-5.6VR.
They post to AP asking the often heard.. "I want more, but not sure. .. Should I get a D300?"
To which many people will ask(them), what(more) do you want, and they say.. I want better sharpness, and better low light ability and I want to take better portraits and landscape images, and the kids run around too fast for me to get a sharp shot... etc, etc.
Immediately everyone chimes in like a choir chorus.. get a better lens. Same ol, same ol.. Get a better lens. Of course I'll pop my considerably mad professor hair do in and explain that in some cases a better camera can get better images 'more instantly' than having to deal with and understanding the technical details of learning to shoot to get better results.
There are just too many reasons why Jane and Joe are not getting the more better results that they thought they were going to get in upgrading from a P&S to a DSLR. having to master the art of photography was never a brief from them. they just wanted to take better shots. The need to master photography(from my current understanding of how the vast majority of humans interact with photography) is something that comes from getting better results as they progress on their own terms.
That is: as they tsake more photos because the photos are starting to look instantly better, they become more interested in the technical aspect of the hobby.... and from this point(and onwards) is where I think the best upgrade plan is to search out 'better lenses'.
note: my definition of better lenses is not the latest and greatest.. but simply that as read.. better lenses. They can be old timers from 50 years ago for all I care. If it's better it's better, and some current designs just can't do what some of the old timers used to be able to do!!
So after all the replies with get a 17-55/2.8 and or 24-70/2.8 have been posted, I'll still chime in with get a D300 and keep the 18-105VR.
Funnily enough, I seem to have this (D300 and 18-105VR) combo ... and apart form some limitations, I find it extremely good to excellent for newbies to have as their resource.
now remember they have a D60 and 105VR, I'll explain to them that the D60 and 17-55/2.8(or other uber expensive variant) combo will almost certainly NOT focus any faster than the D300+18-105VR, except in the initial acquisition phase. Once focus has been made from total blur, maintaining focus(tracking) will be approximately equal in speed. So the 'supposedly' better focusing ability of the pro lens is basically not a very good reason to upgrade. The D300's ability to focus track is much better than the D60's ability. The focusing system used in the D300 is light years ahead of the D60's system, and will maintain a lock better than the D60 can ever hope too. there are many reasons, and camera configurability, hardware configurations and inherent focusing system specs all make the D300 an uber better focusing camera even with cruddy ol consumer grade lenses. but with the expectation that the lens has to initially acquire focus. The lens focusing system is slow to move, there's no doubt about that and I expect it, and adjust my technique to suit. Can't say I've ever missed a shot using that lens because initial focus acquisition has been too slow.
Having said all this, my problem has always been that I have no way to test out my opinion that in most cases(for newbies and relatively new comers to photography) would be better served by upgrading their camera instead of their lens.
Of course this(opinion) is always very highly dependent on what camera or lens the owner currently has, and there are some lenses that just aren't worth using .... as door stops! ... on a submarine!
But as this situation has already presented itself, it turns out that in my mind keeping the 18-105VR and spending the money on a body upgrade seemed to me to be the most logical one to get better images at a faster rate... even for portraits!
Well the site I previously deliberately didn't mention seems to think that for ultimate resolution, having a 17-55/2.8 on a D60 gives you about 10-20% lower resolution almost entirely across the frame(Dx frame) compared to an 18-105VR on a D300.
The D300 has 2Mp more, but that's really quite insignificant in itself. You may see more resolution from going from a 6Mp camera to a 12Mp camera, but 2Mp!!?? and it gives a lot more ultimate resolution(these are figures from the 'well respected' website.. not my own results!).
I don't think there is any reason to suspect that it has anything to do with in camera handling at all to be honest, and (from experience) I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that the 18-105VR is a super sharp lens from the word go(on the whole). I've found that while the Nikon 105VR is not as sharp as I expected it to be, it is sharp, and the 18-105VR pretty much matches it in general use, but not close up(I'd expect that tho). By close up I mean MFD. It's good, but the 105VR is much better at close distances like 30cm. You don't take landscapes and portraits focused at 30cm, so the point is moot anyhow!.. just an observation.
So!! WHAT?? What have I been sniffing you ask...?
The (mysterious)site reports that:
D60+17-55/2.8 set to 55mm and at f/2.8 gives an MTF result(at the centre) of 37lp/mm dropping down to 25lp/mm at the far edges
D300+18-105VR set to 50mm and at f/5 gives an MTF result(at centre) of 45lp/mm dropping down to 35lp/mm at the far edges.
(these are the worse case, horizontal figures, the slightly higher numbers in the vertical figures are even better for the D300+18-105 setup.
So it doesn't really seem fair that the 17-55 is at f/2.8 and the 18-105 is at f/5.. does it? But they are both set to their wide open settings, so it is fair.. but for some sort of 'balance' well also look at the settings of f/5.6 for the 17-55/2.8
D60+17-55/2.8 set to 55mm and at f/5.6 gives an MTF result(at the centre) of ~44lp/mm dropping down to 30lp/mm at the far edges!
D300+18-105VR set to 50mm and at f/5 gives an MTF result(at centre) of 45lp/mm dropping down to 35lp/mm at the far edges.
and so the advantage is??? You buy a fast lens to use wide open, and apparently it's still approximately the same stopped down as the consumer lens is when wide open!
My belief here is that this is (in AUD) a waste of perfectly good money!... about $1500 of them perfectly good monies!.. so it's not an insignificant amount of good monies. If you(the Jane/Joe newbie and you were deadset-headstrong certain that getting a new lens baseds on the general consensus was the best idea.. then at least do yourself a favour and get a Tammy 17-50/2.8 of any variant!.. save yourself the $1k(for now).. it ain't worth it in most cases.... of spending multi K dollars only to get similarly ordinary looking images all over again ... and getting disheartened in the end!
So why is the 18-105VR better than the 17-55/2.8?.. IT'S NOT!! the camera is.. for whatever reason.. it just is. because when you mount the 17-55/2.8 onto a D300, you then see why getting a better lens is always generically suggested!(but I beleive suggested wrongly.. considering the gear currently owned by the newbie!
FWIW 17-55/2.8 mounted on the D300: set to 55mm and at f/2.8 gives an MTF result(at the centre) of ~50lp/mm dropping down to 26lp/mm at the far edges!
AND at f/5.6 55lp/mm and 35lp/mm respectively.
ie. mounted to a D300 you will see a clear and distinct improvement over an 18-105VR.
So what do you get for your money:
for roughly a similar amount of $, you get a better lens.. and only one lens, the better camera is still a whole other world of $ away.. unless you decide to go the whole hog and invest $3K+ on both camera and lens.
BUT! .... if you spent just a tad more on a better body you get better faster uber spiffy clearly and decisively more accurate focusing. you get the ability to shoot at 6fps foe those times when the 2-3yo has had just a couple of hundred kilos of sugar rich lollies and is looking running around in hyperdrive mode. fps are worth a mint in these situations..
You get In the D300.. this uber cool focus tracking mode. set and track a subject based on colour. Baby Spice is wearing a bright red top against a contrasty background, when set to operate, the camera can track the red top perfectly and you maintain your composition as you please.. no need to focus and recompose. There are approximately 50 more af points to choose from in the viewfinder of the D300 compared to the D60.. initially you get overwhelmed by them all(you turn them off) or you get used to them and use them!
this is the point! you configure the camera to your taste. to suit your need to get more consistent images rather than occasionally ok images based on the law of averages(that one day you'll get a good shot). taking into consideration the difference in ability/speed between the two cameras, I'd say that this will take approximately 1/8th of the total time in using the D300 compared to the D60. 1/2 of that is taken care of with the 6fps of the D300 compared to only 3fps of the D60. and again 1/2 of that will be the faster focusing system(so we're at 1/4 of the time now).. and the other 1/2 will be just by the fact that the camera feels so much more solid and meaty.. you'll be inclined just to hold it in your hands for twice as long thus implying that you'll be taking twice as many images! Inverse law comes into play here!!... having camera in hand twice as long, and using it twice as much as the previously owned camera will usually mean that your learning curve is halved.
0.5 of a 1/2 of a half = 1/8th so inthe 8 days that it took to learn how to take one shot with the D60.. only took 1 day with the D300! see!?... that's progress for 'ya
So back onto why it's more important at this stage to get a better camera! because it will now get you at least one better lens! How? because you've decided that you're about to drop close to $2k on a bitter body(because you're kiwi!).. you may as well do the RIGHT bloody thing and get yerself a 50/1.8AF-D!!... if you're about to spend close to 2K on some camera gear, is it really that much more to ask to get a ~$100 lens too? Ask for a discount!
Here's your portrait lens!! 50/1.8 on a D300 will do better/butter and bitter than the 17-55/2.8 will. Whilst not as flexible, that's not the issue! 18-105VR is the flexible one! 50/1.8 is the portrait one.. until you can justify the 50/1.4 of any flavour.
get a 17-55/2.8 and your other options are???.. what? Another $1.5-2K on a body.. bringing the total outlay to over $3k? a far cry from your initially expected $1.5k. I don't think that it's too unreasonable to expect, if you're expecting to spend approx $1.5K, then to stretch it a bit more.. eg. to up to $2K is going to break the bank too much. if so, then forget the 50mm. But in this situation you have better body and lens for various purposes...etc, etc.
now had the upgrade path been something like D90... should I upgrade to a 17-55/2.8, the answer is more clear cut, yet still murky! a whole new ball game at this level, but a simple upgrade to a D300 is not as easy to suggest. D700 is a possibility and it really depends on many other factors and requirements.
Upgrading a lens may be more clear cut and immediate in offering instant gratification.
I know I can ramble and babble on like a half baked mad professor type, hosting some kind of weirdo incomprehensible science show sometimes.. but I only offer advice based in general from observations.. and over the last 4 years and more, my best purchase has been the D300 due to the mechanical/technical advantages it has over the Dxx series. Been wanting to upgrade to a D700 for a while now, and realistically only for two reasons more DOF flexibility and higher ISO ability... but the advantage is not as great as it was from D70s to D300.. maybe a D3s would be a better upgrade path.. but I can't justify $5K on a camera body alone.. that's insane for a hobbyist(that has to justify themselves to some imaginary force).. if I were a billionaire, I'd still be weary of simply spending money senselessly on stuff that doesn't really offer a much better end result. If I were a billionaire, I'd prefer to spend in uber cool equipment for you folks.. at least you can then see that having all this pro grade gear (as a hobbyist) doesn't give you a sense of achievement.
(Totally different kettle of glass for peeps that use their kit for making money!)
Well lucky for you that I ain't a billionaire, cause you'd all be wasting away seeming getting great results with your gifted 1DsMkV's and D3x's and A900's and CZ lenses... and nice heavy lead box 645D's and so forth!!
Has anyone that's got this far guessed the site yet?
they rate the lenses and give them an overall score called .. not telling'ya!
higher is betterand they're not Nikon centric, I only peep at Nikon related gear.. I'll post up any other brands I pop my head into).
Nikon 18-105VR ....= 31(overall score)
Nikon 17-55 ....... = 21(whoa!)
Nikon 24-70/2.8 .. = 58!(that's better)
Nikon 50/1.8 ... = 54
Nikon 50/1.4AF-S... = 53.. hahahaha!(although I haven't yet seen the Sigma 50 test, if there is one)
50/1.8 AF-D get a res figure of 61lp/mm where the 50AF-S gets 60lp/mm!!
Nikon 18-200VRII.... = 22! (should have bought the 18-105!! )
Nikon 70-200VRII.... = 61.. is the winner!
Nikon 85/1.4D(not AF-S) = 59.. even though ultimate resolution is the best so far.
OK! I COULD RESIST!!
Sigma(on Nikon) .. = 54!! arrrrghhhh! No way HOSE.. bloody ..AY!!! I won't have any of this anti Sigma bashing from respectable, reputable sites!!
but in it's defense.. it's resolving power is 60lp/mm, but where the Nikon achieves this at f/5.6, the Sigma does so at f/2.8!!.. ie. wide open, the Sigma is better wide open.
N 50/1.4 AF-D gets a score of 45, but still gets good resolution results of 58lp/mm at f/5.6.
and if you were wondering.. the 50/1.8 achieves it's 61lp/mm at f/2.8!! .. arrrggghhh!