Nikon d3300 or Nikon D5300

Feb 8, 2016 7:50PM PST

I'm a beginner photographer who is looking to take a Diploma of photography course. I currently own an Olympus pen e-pm2 but feel I need to move up to at least an entry level dslr (and buy at least one decent lens). Due to budget contraints I'm looking to purchase either a nikon d3300 or a d5300 second-hand. Is it advisable to buy the camera body with the kit lens or to just look for the body and get a decent lens to match? If so what lens would you recommend and why? (not really interested in a zoom lens) Which of these two models would do the trick?

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Clarification Request
Feb 8, 2016 11:53PM PST

>"feel I need to move up to at least an entry level dslr"

Why? I shoot with everything from a cellphone (LG G4) to a point-and-shoot (Canon G7X) to an Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic GH2 to Canon T4i (650D) and 70D DSLRs, and I rarely find myself limited by the camera. Most often it's the shooting situation that dictates my choice. So in what way(s) are you finding yourself limited by the E-PM2?

Especially in light of your budget constraints, you may well be better off sticking with the E-PM2 so you can put all of the funds at your disposal toward buying a better lens for it.

Also, have you checked the course syllabus/prerequisites and/or spoken with the instructor to see what they recommend?

Having said all of that, the two major differences between the D3300 and D5300 are:

1) the 5300 has a flip-LCD which I find very useful when shooting at odd angles.

2) the 5300 has more AF points which I find less useful. i.e. even when shooting with my 70D, I typically just use the center point, half-press the shutter and re-frame.


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Feb 9, 2016 6:22PM PST

Hi Mark,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I called up the course director and he said that technically I could use my camera as I can use it to shoot in raw which I'll need for the course. So that is fine.

I guess I've felt constrained more by the lens kit than anything else. The smallest aperture is f3.5 which doesn't really allow for great macro shots and you don't get that gorgeous bokeh effect.

As I am interested in macro and portrait shots more than others I have decided to take your very good advice and look for a lens or two. I have checked out ebay and there are lots for sale compatible with the e-pm2 but I'm not sure what I should be looking for to match my requirements.

Can you suggest a focal/aperture range that may suit? Also I have heard investing in a good prime lens is the way to go if on a budget but I don't see any specifically listed as prime lenses.

Any tips/recommendations greatly appreciated.


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Desk Top Macro
Feb 9, 2016 7:22PM PST
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There seems to be some confusion...
Feb 9, 2016 10:06PM PST

...but that’s fine since you’re probably taking the class to clear some of this up.

But before I get into all of that, bottom line up front:

For shooting macro on a micro fours thirds camera, I’d recommend an Olympus 60mm f2.8 lens.

For shooting portraits (on a budget) on a micro four thirds camera, I’d recommend an Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens. (If you can afford a bit more and have the space to back up to get the same framing, then I’d recommend an Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens.) Full disclosure: I own a copy of both of these.

That said, “macro” means that the subject is projected on the film/sensor at or near life size (1:1 magnification). e.g. the image of a bug that’s 1 inch long in real life will be projected as 1 inch long on the film/sensor. It has nothing to do with aperture (which primarily controls Depth of Field (DoF) i.e. the area that’s in focus from front to back/near to far (or conversely, the area that’s not in focus, which is sometimes referred to as “bokeh”)). A couple of things that do help “enlarge” the subject (to at or near life size) are a longer focal length and a shorter distance between the camera and the subject. However, since everything in photography affects more than one aspect*, focal length and subject distance also affect DoF. Specifically, the longer the focal length and the shorter the distance to subject, the thinner the DoF. So this generally means that when shooting macros, you often need to counter the thin DoF by using a physically smaller (larger f-number) aperture.

Note that aperture is defined as focal length over/divided by pupil diameter. i.e. it’s a ratio/fraction. So just like one half (1/2) is larger than one quarter (1/4), f/2 is larger than f/4. A more concrete example: a 100mm focal length divided by a 50mm pupil diameter = f/2 and that same 100mm focal length divided by a smaller 25mm pupil diameter = f/4.

This is why I thought there was some confusion when you said:

>”The smallest aperture is f3.5 which doesn't really allow for great macro shots and you don't get that gorgeous bokeh effect.”

Because when shooting macro on an m4/3 (micro four thirds) camera, you generally want to reduce bokeh (increase DoF) by using an aperture of f/11 or smaller/higher f-number.

Whereas, you also said:

>”I am interested in macro and portrait shots”

But portraits are sort of the opposite since you often want to use a large aperture (f/2 or larger/lower f-number) to increase bokeh in order to isolate your subject (make it “pop” from the background).


Personally, I find it easiest to break down the process as follows:

1) Choose your focal length based on the perspective you want. i.e. how much of the background you want to see and how far you want it to appear from your subject. Longer = less background and “flatter”/closer.

2) Choose your distance to subject based on the framing you want (using the above chosen focal length). i.e. headshot, head and torso, head to toe, etc.

3) Choose your aperture based on how much you need/want to be in focus (based on the above chosen focal length and subject distance).

4) Choose your shutter speed based on how much motion blur you want (or don't want). (And how fast it needs to be to avoid camera shake. Rule of thumb (without any Image Stabilization) is no slower than the reciprocal of the full frame equivalent focal length. e.g. for an m4/3 camera (which has a 2X crop factor) with a 60mm lens: 1 / (60 X 2) = 1/120 or faster.)

5) Set your ISO to achieve the exposure you want (considering all of the above chosen factors). And if this isn’t possible, add lights (if underexposed and increasing ISO will result in too much “noise”/grain) or Neutral Density filters (if overexposed and the camera’s ISO setting doesn’t go any lower).


And lastly:

>”I have heard investing in a good prime lens is the way to go if on a budget but I don't see any specifically listed as prime lenses."

A prime is any fixed focal length lens. i.e. if it won’t zoom (doesn’t go to more than one focal length), it’s a prime.

And yes, primes often have better IQ (image quality) than zooms because... are you familiar with the saying, “Jack of all trades, but master of none”? Well, a zoom has to be a Jack of several focal lengths, whereas a zoom can be a master of just one focal length.


P.S. *by everything affects more than one aspect:

Focal length affects magnification, perspective, and DoF (and camera shake). (Longer = larger, flatter/less background and thinner (and shakier))

Distance affects apparent size (magnification) and DoF. (Closer = larger and thinner)

Aperture affects exposure and DoF. (Larger (lower f-number) = brighter and thinner)

Shutter speed affects motion blur and exposure (and camera shake). (Slower = blurrier and brighter (and shakier))

ISO affects exposure and “noise”/grain. (Higher = brighter and noisier/grainier)

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is there a lens which I can use for macro and portrait?
Feb 10, 2016 12:29AM PST

Wow, ok. I clearly have a lot to learn. Thanks for clarifying those things.

So, silly question coming: If I were to look for a lens which doesn't have a fixed focal length would there be one that would satisfy my needs for both macro and portrait photography?

I am only an amateur and don't have a huge wad of cash at my disposal.


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Unfortunately, no.
Feb 10, 2016 5:14PM PST

As noted previously, macro and portrait have requirements that run counter to one another. So producing a lens that is good at both (as well as being good at several focal lengths) would be difficult (read: expensive), as well as undercut the primary reason for buying an interchangeable lens camera -- so you can change to a lens that is best suited to the particular type of photography you're doing at the moment.

And note that this would be true even if you switched to another interchangeable lens system -- Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc. -- except that you would also have to purchase another camera body in addition to the lens(es).


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Choose any
Feb 9, 2016 10:23PM PST

Hi Daniela
Hope you are doing great. It is good that you are going for a diploma in Photography. For that you must have a DSLR. You can tune to any of these two Cameras for entry level photography.

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