Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Nikon D7100 Alternative I Chose

Happy April 15th!  Hopefully you are receiving a tax refund! :)

This post is a follow-up to my previous post where I discussed alternatives to the Nikon D7100.  Here, I'll talk about which one I chose, and why.
All of the alternatives I presented were genuinely attractive to me, so I had to use a process of elimination.  Please note much of my reasoning is particular to my situation, and everyone has unique circumstances so the best choice would likely be different for each of us.

Fuji X-E1.  I love the image quality (including the quality of the Fuji X system lenses).  I also really like the Fuji colors (especially skin tones).  However, I have two significant concerns: first, the lens selection is too limited.  I want to use a telephoto with my 2nd body and there aren't any fast telephoto lenses (yet) for the X-E1.  I also want to use ultrawides and the widest Fuji lens right now is only 21mm equivalent, with no fisheyes available.  Although it does have good primes, I already have those focal lengths covered with the D600.  Second, its flash system is also a weak point for me -- Fuji's wireless flash system is a lot simpler than those of Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony (for example, no wireless TTL), and its sync speed is a sluggish 1/180 (and since my settings are in 1/3 stops, then I actually have to use 1/160).  I might consider this system in the future if I wanted to shoot more simply and they have prime lenses in a 28 or 35mm equivalent and an 85mm equivalent.

Nikon D5100.  I could have saved a lot by choosing this camera, and it has a very good sensor plus the tilt screen that I want.  But I was concerned that I might run into some of its limitations in the future, such as not having a built-in focus motor, or a built-in flash commander.  The biggest concern I had was the absence of AF fine tuning.  When I had a D90, I found it performed very well but my 24-70 was backfocusing on it, therefore images were always out of focus.  It annoyed me enough so that I sold the D90 and replaced it with a D300S.  With the D5100, I didn't want to end up with the same problem.  However, if I had only a few lenses and could buy the D5100 from a local store that would allow me to test the body with my lenses and exchange bodies if necessary, this might have been a viable choice.

Olympus OM-D E-M5.  I was really tempted by the fast and accurate autofocus, and the tilting touch screen, both of which I think could greatly increase my chance of capturing candid shots, which is what I shoot most of the time.  I am only slightly concerned about the depth of field which is deeper than an APS-C camera. Because I'm using my 2nd body for wide angles (where I usually want a deep DOF) or for telephoto (where the DOF is deep enough even with m4/3, and in fact has a more usable DOF than a full frame) it's not a significant disadvantage for me.  The problem for me was the cost of changing my lenses.  I'm already too invested in the Nikon system.  If I didn't have any lenses yet or if I wanted to shoot with just a couple of primes, this would have been my first or second choice.

Nikon D700.  There is very little to complain about the D700, which is a great camera from pretty much everything relevant to me including dynamic range, high ISO performance, and autofocus.  One concern was the cost of having to changing my DX lenses to FX equivalents.  That is balanced out by the strengths of the FX alternatives (for example, the Nikon 70-200 f4 VR and Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC both seem better than the Sigma 50-150 non-OS).  Ultimately I did not get the D700 because I could not find one that I felt was reasonably priced, and the only ones I saw were more than double the cost of the camera I chose.  In the future, when D700 prices drop sufficiently, I may trade up to a D700.

And the camera I chose, somewhat predictably, is the
Nikon D7000.  When the D7000 first came out I was very impressed with its specs.  I was even more impressed when I found out about how well its sensor performed (for high ISO and for dynamic range).  I wanted one for a long time but was put off by the high prices (even for used ones).  This year, with the release of the D7100, D7000 prices have come down to more reasonable levels.  Most importantly for me, it has no significant weaknesses.  I do have a little concern about the autofocus (some have complained about it) but I'm hoping it will be acceptable.

Meanwhile, I found a used one that was reasonably priced and was described as in very good condition from Adorama.  Note: Adorama and B&H have very stringent ratings for their used cameras. When Adorama or B&H says the camera is in 'very good' condition, I interpret that as another seller's 'excellent' condition.  On top of that, the camera had a 6-month warranty.  Indeed, the camera was in great condition with no scratches or dings (it was missing the manuals though).  Its shutter count was only 3003!  So, in the next coming weeks I will be testing the D7000 out and will post about how it compares to the D600 and the D7100.

There is actually one more reason I chose the D7000 (a reason that applies equally to the D700): I can add a tilting LCD to it!  Specifically, the D7000 uses an older analog audio/video output (not the HDMI port of current models) which is compatible with the Aputure Gigtube, a compact external live view monitor and remote shutter with a tilting LCD screen.  (The Gigtube is available for several Canon and Nikon cameras.)

The Gigtube can be mounted to the camera and function as a tilting LCD screen.  I will be posting about how well the Gigtube works in practice.

a waist-level finder for the D7000!