Like most photographers, not just professionals, we are always investing in our equipment. We are Nikon shooters and here are Nikon Camera Equipment reviews for the equipment we shoot with. Nothing against the Canon types, but we both started with Nikon and are very satisfied with our results. My (David) first DSLR was a Nikon D40 I purchased for a trip to Africa in 2007. I upgraded to the Nikon D3100 in 2011 and it continues to impress me. My wife, Melissa, started with a Nikon D60. We added a Nikon D600 (the D610 has replaced the D600) as we needed a better camera for portrait work. We also have a Nikon point and shoot that we carry for those times when you need a quick shot.
We have started buying our equipment from Adorama Camera or B&H Photo in New York and have been very pleased with both of them. If you order before about 7pm, you will generally have your order the next day.
Quick Hints: Adorama Camera offers refurbished equipment that is worth considering for the price. I would encourage you to read about the refurbished warranty for additional information if you are considering purchasing refurbished over new. All links below will take you to the new equipment, just search the website for the refurbished. Unless you have an unlimited budget, equipment purchases are about trade-offs. Good lenses can make a lesser camera look better and the reverse is true too – bad lenses can make a great camera look poor. We are always juggling what to upgrade next.
The cameras we shoot with are Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR). They are bulkier than the “point-and-shoot” cameras, but the results are worth the larger size and weight. If this is your first DSLR, the fully automatic mode will allow you to start shooting immediately and you will get great results. Most modes, including ISO, White Balance, Aperture and Shutter Speed can be automated. The auto-focus system functions well and the camera will even tell you when to use a flash. As you gain experience, you can start to take more control of the camera and of the results.
One reason we stay in the same manufacturer family is to allow us to swap lenses between bodies to adjust to the shooting needs. We both started with Nikon “DX” or Crop Sensor bodies. A Crop Sensor – the part that replaces the film in digital camera – is smaller than what 35mm film is. A Full-Frame sensor is about the same size as 35mm film and is more expensive and requires a larger camera body.
A DX or Crop-Sensor camera is a great camera and the results obtained are amazing! Some of my favorite pictures, I shot with the Nikon D40 while in Africa. It is not about how expensive, fancy or new your camera is, it is about your eye. That improves with practice. For us, the move to Full Frame Sensor was driven by the need to shoot in lower light and is an issue when shooting indoor events and weddings. There may be other reasons to move up but those are the situations that caused us to upgrade. If we were still only shooting for fun we would stay with DX.
Nikon D600: (Adorama / B & H Photo) This is Nikon’s entry-level full-frame sensor camera and is an amazing camera for the price. We are very impressed with the quality of the photographs and the ergonomics of the camera body – the controls are easy to use and the size isn’t so large that Melissa can’t shoot with it comfortably. It is a 24 megapixel (MP) sensor. Nikon replaced the D600 with the D610, but, you can find Nikon Factory Refurbished D600 models at a great price. The D610 is too new to have refurb’s available yet.
Nikon D700: This is an older camera body, and was first introduced in 2007 by Nikon. We found a factory refurbished model at B&H Photo and ordered it. The D700 is a professional grade camera body – the majority of the body structure is magnesium to provide strength and it is evident with you pick up the camera. The sensor is an older model and is only a 12 MP, but, this is an FX, or full-frame sensor. The quality of the images that the D700 produces rival or beat the newer D600 in portrait sessions. I (David) generally shoot with the D700 as it is heavier.
Nikon D3100 (Adorama / B & H Photo) is a 14 megapixel sensor DLSR, DX or crop-sensor body. For most uses, a sensor 10-15MP is more than enough quality to handle general photography. When you go up to a 20 or more MP sensor, the file size becomes very large and makes downloading and editing on your computer a slow process. Take this into consideration when looking at the high MP cameras. I have gotten amazing results from a 14 MP camera for many years and the D40 is a 6MP camera. Here are more thoughts/info about buying your first DSLR
Nikon D40 and D60
The Nikon D40 and D60 are older DLSR with a 6 (D40) or 10 (D60) megapixel sensor. There are a few differences with the Nikon D3100, but other than sensor size they are relatively minor. These are still great cameras, but can only be found on the used market.
Lens Background and Terms:
To learn more about what the lens numbers mean, we wrote about it here: Lens Numbers: Making Sense of Them
AF-S is the auto focus system for Nikon and the “G” is a model designator by Nikon that indicates that the aperture setting is managed by the camera rather than by a setting directly on the lens.
Final note: Modern Nikon lenses are built for either a DX (Crop sensor) body or FX (full-frame sensor) body. You can put lenses built for a FX on a DX and not notice any problems, however, if you put DX lenses on an FX you will only be using a smaller portion of the sensor – in effect, you have turned your FX sensor into a DX sensor. FX lenses tend to be more expensive and are generally faster lenses because they are targeted at higher end users.
Here are some of the lenses we shoot with:
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
For the price, this is an amazing prime lens. It is fast enough to shoot indoors in natural light in most situations and for the price, the quality is outstanding. This lens is designed for the DX camera body. If you are looking for your first lens purchase, take a look at this lens. You will be able to shoot indoors without a flash in many situations and it really gives nice color and feel to your photography. This is the lens that is on the D3100 most of the time.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
This is another amazing prime lens. It will work on both DX and FX bodies so if you are starting out with a DX body but looking to upgrade to a FX at a later point, this lens would make the transition. Nikon also builds a f/1.8 version of this lens for about half the cost but with very close performance.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor (Adorama / B&H Photo)
This is an older Nikon/Nikkor lens and will only work on Nikon camera bodies that have a body focus motor – it will not work on the D3100 or most other DX camera bodies. This is a $125 lens that will amaze you with the quality of the images produced. It is very fast to focus and the lens is “tack sharp” as they say. We already had the f/1.4, and wanted to save a little cash. This lens has been well worth the modest investment as it allows us to put a 50mm on both the D600 and D700 if needed.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
An impressive portrait lens. The extra focal length allows you to get a little more distance from your subject, the lens is fast and the results are amazing. Nikon builds a f/1.4 version of this lens for about 4 times the price and it is considered one of the best lenses Nikon makes, but for the price difference, the f/1.8 is so close that we are happy with the trade-off. We have two of these, one for the D600 and the D700, if that tells you how much we value the quality of this lens.
Nikon 55-200mm F/4.5-6G (VR) AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
For a “kit lens” that came with many of our cameras, this is a great lens. The newer version adds in Vibration Reduction and for the price it is a nice addition. This lens was my “go-to” zoom lens for four years and I am still impressed with the images it produces. For a starting zoom lens this will work for most people. I have used it to shoot little league games, soccer games and even MLB games with great results. DEAL: Adorama may have these factory refurbished in stock.
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G (VR) AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
This is a lens I find myself using quite a bit. I have even used it at 70mm for shooting portraits and are pleased with the results. For the price, it is a great lens. If you are looking to save a little money, the lens is also available without the Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, however, if you can afford it, you will appreciate having the VR technology installed on the lens. At the 300mm end of the focal length, you will appreciate the VR.
Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro (Macro) AF-S (Adorama / B & H Photo)
This lens is our go-to when shooting close-ups – the “Collection of Lenses” photo above was shot with this lens on the D3100. The detail obtained is amazing. One hint, if you are shooting macro (micro in Nikon speak) you will want a tripod as the focus is critical and even breathing can throw it off when shooting macro photographs. A macro lens is for shooting extreme close-ups of objects. Melissa uses it to shoot single snowflakes with amazing results – you can see the individual facets of the snowflake. This blog post is about shooting with the Nikon 60mm Micro.
Tamron SP 10-24mm f/3.5-4,5 Wide Angle (Adorama / B & H Photo)
For the price, this is a decent wide angle lens alternative to the Nikon. We use it for landscape shots and are pleased with the results.
These are some reputable sources for equipment. Prices vary more than you may think, so it is worth checking multiple sources for pricing, technical support, shipping and other considerations.