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Thread: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

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    rajeev anand

    one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    hi everybody,
    there seems to be quite a debate on deciding a good entry level dslr for a beginner (like myself). i would like to share what i have picked up from various review sites like dpreview and kenrockwell and then ask for advice on which camera body and lens combination should i settle for. i have been using a canon compact(powershot sx230) for the past two years. i carry it everywhere and like to shoot a lot. i bought this camera after a long time of using a vivitar film camera and i found the whole digital photography thing quite exciting. i shot landscape, nature, birds and whatever else i fancied. i love this compact for being able to carry it everywhere and shoot without intruding. but photographing common birds was quite frustrating especially with the smaller species, which flit about so quickly and it is so impossible to pick out the tiny speck on the small lcd and then zoom in accurately. also the zoomed in results are not great at all. and then the small compact camera does not do much for my ego as an aspiring 'serious photographer'. so i thought of spending some money and getting something that would seem more substantial in my hands. and that is when the trouble started. i quickly zeroed in on the nikon d3200, brushing aside the canon rebel t3i, pulled in by the 24MP and stopped short of the d5200 due to the dollar count. ken rockwell convinced me that the 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses weren't good enough and that i should rather go in for the tokina 11-66mm f/2.8 DX, nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 and not to forget the nikon 35mm f/1.8 lenses. only problem is that i am now overshooting my budget of about $1200. so i went back to the excel sheets and thought of dropping a lens or two and to settle (for the time being only) for a kit lens(ugh). and then i hit upon these discussions that say that the d5100 should also be OK. i would really like some advice and whether i would be better off buying the relatively less priced D5100 and the lenses mentioned or should i convince my wife to allow the loosening of purse strings and go ahead with the d3200 with the 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses. i love travelling and see myself shooting landscapes, nature and would love to click away at birds. i do enjoy photography a lot(to the point of occasionally ruining family trips).

    if some one actually read through my autobiographical post then i owe him/her a big thanks. if you reply, well that would be great.

    thanks.

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    The only thing I can state about the kit lenses is if they come with the camera get them. They are very capable lenses. If you can substitute another for the same price or even if it only increases the total package a few dollars more then go for what you think you need. The 70-300mm lens probably won't be added as a substitute lens, it's a necessary lens if you plan to include wildlife or astrophotography in your skill set. Of course it has other uses but those are just two examples for the need of a tele-zoom.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    The one problem with online camera reviews is that the reviewers are not necessarily looking at things from the same perspective as you are. This is especially true for Ken Rockwell; I find that I agree with what he writes about 1/2 of the time and strongly disagree the other half. A site like DPreview tends to concentrate on things that are easy to measure and write about rather than things that are important to photographers; the fact that one camera / lens is slightly better / worse than another doesn't mean you will ever see any difference in real world photography.

    I own the 18-55mm, the 55-200mm and Tokina f/2.8 11-16mm, so have no problem commenting on any of them. When I first got my D90, I got only the 18-55mm so that I could learn the camera (I had been shooting film DSLRs for decades and my digital experience was through point & shoot and crossover cameras). There is nothing wrong with an incremental approach to buying lenses because you really won't know what you need until you have established your shooting style. I picked up the 55-200mm a few months later and the 11-16mm probably about 6 months later. My wife also has a D90, but went with the 18-200mm lens and just loves it. That being said, it cost about twice as much as the two lenses that I have that cover the same focal length and the quality of the images are not quite as good.

    For wildlife photography, I would find a maximum focal length of 300mm a bit short. I use the Nikon 80-400mm (which won't autofocus on either the D3200 or the D5100) and my wife shoots the Sigma 150-500mm. None of them are great bird photography lenses, as they are a bit slow, but they are affordable. The only real downside to the two kit Nikkors is that they have a plastic lens mount and that means that these lenses are not going to be as robust or last as long as ones with metal mounts. Quality wise, I really have no issues with their performance. The Tokina f/2.8 11-16mm is a fantastic lens, but it is an ultra-wide angle so really is a bit of a speciality lens (there are two different models available; if you get it, make sure that you get the version with the internal focus motor, otherwise you won't get autofocus on either of the cameras you are looking at).

    I wouldn't get too concerned about the MP count on the cameras; anything at 12MP (which is what the D90s are) will be just fine if you primarily plan on view your images on the computer or make regular sized prints. I regularly do 17" x 22" / 432mm x 559mm prints and the quality is just fine.

    If you are looking at an entry level camera, you might even want to throw the D3100 into consideration as I understand it is a very capable camera. In terms of capabilities, I think any of these cameras will work for you; the D3000 line is Nikon's entry level line and is missing some features like autobracketing that you may or may not use. The D5000 line is the mid-range line and the D7000 linie is the high-end amateur line.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    [QUOTE=GrumpyDiver;285731]

    For wildlife photography, I would find a maximum focal length of 300mm a bit short. I use the Nikon 80-400mm (which won't autofocus on either the D3200 or the D5100) and my wife shoots the Sigma 150-500mm. None of them are great bird photography lenses, as they are a bit slow, but they are affordable.

    QUOTE]

    Is it the speed of the subject, the autofocusing system, or the aperture that makes you feel these lenses are slow or a combination of all three?

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Is it the speed of the subject, the autofocusing system, or the aperture that makes you feel these lenses are slow or a combination of all three?
    A combination of all three actually, John.

    The 80-400mm that I normally use has a screw drive focusing mechanism and is really not all that fast and tends to "seek" focus a bit, especially at the long end of the lens, which is where I would normally be shooting birds. The maximum aperture at that end is f/5.6 which is not blazingly fast either; it is okay if the birds are stationary, but a bit so-so for birds in flight. The 150-500 is even slower (f/6.3) at the long end and while the autofocus motor is built in and a bit faster, is still not particularly reactive.


    This is a shot with the Sigma 150-500mm, this was taken the day I got my D800 so I was just starting to use the camera:

    one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100



    This shot was taken with the Nikkor 80-400mm:

    one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    A combination of all three actually, John.

    The 80-400mm that I normally use has a screw drive focusing mechanism and is really not all that fast and tends to "seek" focus a bit, especially at the long end of the lens, which is where I would normally be shooting birds. The maximum aperture at that end is f/5.6 which is not blazingly fast either; it is okay if the birds are stationary, but a bit so-so for birds in flight. The 150-500 is even slower (f/6.3) at the long end and while the autofocus motor is built in and a bit faster, is still not particularly reactive.


    This is a shot with the Sigma 150-500mm, this was taken the day I got my D800 so I was just starting to use the camera:

    one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100



    This shot was taken with the Nikkor 80-400mm:

    one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100
    When you are photographing somewhat stationary birds are you focusing on the eyes? How about for birds in flight?

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    thank you john and manfred,

    am going to look at the d5100 more seriously. unfortunately incremental approach may not be an option for me as i intend to get the gear from usa through some relatives who will be visiting sometime in june 2013, so it will be a one go buy.

    also i am looking at refurbished stuff (adorama and cameta camera). do you think it's an ok idea?

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    When you are photographing somewhat stationary birds are you focusing on the eyes? How about for birds in flight?
    I use matrix metering and let the camera worry about the details of focus, so anywhere on the head is good enough on something as small as a bird (in these cases, fairly big birds). I am so far away (both shots are hand-held), trying to get the focus on the eyes is the least of my concern; I am just trying to compose and assuming that DoF will take care of sharpness.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Quote Originally Posted by rajeevanand View Post
    thank you john and manfred,

    am going to look at the d5100 more seriously. unfortunately incremental approach may not be an option for me as i intend to get the gear from usa through some relatives who will be visiting sometime in june 2013, so it will be a one go buy.

    also i am looking at refurbished stuff (adorama and cameta camera). do you think it's an ok idea?
    If you are looking at having them buy in NYC, I would add B&H to the list of stores to look at. When it comes to used gear, I have gotten some very nice lenses that way, but the only caution I would suggest to you is that the buyer should be a very experienced photographer who can judge the condition of the equipment very well. As you are not going to be covered by a USA warranty, B&H does bring in some gear that does not have a Nikon USA warranty, and that will let you save a few dollars as well. B&H and Adorama are both well respected camera dealers I have dealt with at the store or through their online sales.

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    If you are looking at having them buy in NYC, I would add B&H to the list of stores to look at. When it comes to used gear, I have gotten some very nice lenses that way, but the only caution I would suggest to you is that the buyer should be a very experienced photographer who can judge the condition of the equipment very well. As you are not going to be covered by a USA warranty, B&H does bring in some gear that does not have a Nikon USA warranty, and that will let you save a few dollars as well. B&H and Adorama are both well respected camera dealers I have dealt with at the store or through their online sales.
    In addition, I was lucky enough to get a five-year extended warranty when I purchased my 70-300mm new. That extended warranty came in handy within the first three years of ownership and I was able to get the lens fixed free or charge. You won't get that same warranty with refurbished lenses and definitely not with less costly lenses.

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    I was using my camera in Live View mode and noticed that the AF modes changed to include: subject tracking AF, wide-norm AF, and Face Priority AF. This led me to look into AF systems which mentioned phase and contrast detection focusing. Found this thread on the subject alongwith a tutorial. Live View mode is available on the Nikon D3200.

    Phase Detection vs Contrast Detection Autofocus (AF)

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    hi manfred,
    will the lenses i mentioned above do justice to the 24 MP of d3200 or will the 16 MP of d5100 be the limit for these with the d3200 requiring higher quality lenses? also how does the increased MP of d3200 with the smaller sensor (as compared to the d5100) affect the image quality?

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    There is no simple answer to your question Rajeev. If you hand-hold a the shots with either camera body, you won't be able to see the difference between either body. If you plan to shoot a landscape using a heavy duty tripod and use a cable release and then make a 1m x 1.5m print and you step up very close to it, the D3200 will likely give you a better result. If you post the same image on the web or view it on your computer screen, I very much doubt you will notice any difference.

    If you repeat the exercise on the tripod and use either a prime lens or a pro zoom lens (none of the lenses other than the f/1.8 35mm fall into this category), then you should see a difference and the D3200 will produce a better large print.

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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    thanks manfred. i guess i'll trawl the net for more information and get back with fresh doubts.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: one more confused buyer: nikon d3200 or d5100

    Rajeev - the additional trawling may or may not help a lot. The problem with any camera is that each and every design will have features that you will like and use and others that may not make any difference. I have not paid a lot of attention to either of the cameras, as I am not in the market for that level of camera, but understand fully that it's not the camera, but the photographer that makes the image. A good photographer will get a great image out of a entry level camera while a poor photographer will produced mediocre results out of a top of the line model.

    What is important is to select a camera that you feel will meet your basic needs. I bought my first DSLR just after the D5000 came out, and when I looked at my own needs, I found that it lacked two design features that made it unacceptable for me personally; it did not have an in-camera focus motor, so I would be stuck buying lenses that had built-in focus motors and it only had a single command dial. Instead of buying it, I ended up getting the more expensive, but older design D90. Looking back at how I shoot and the lenses I use, I made the right decision.

    You will certainly have the capability of getting good results with either camera. Do not get too wound up about the MP count; it is not going to make any appreciable difference unless you customarily want to make huge prints. If this is going to be the case, I would recommend looking at a full-frame camera rather than a crop frame because a larger sensor is more important for that type of work than splitting hairs over whether you get a 16MP model or the 24MP model, it really is not going to affect your images especially with the lenses you are looking at getting.

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