General discussion

Nikon D40 upgrade to D5000 vs D90???

Hi, I'm a point and shoot photographer, I basically live in "Auto" mode and know NOTHING about ISO, F-Stop, etc. but everywhere I go I have a camera in hand and love to take and share pictures. Someday I would like to know more, but don't have the time at this point to learn. The best move I ever made was from "Point & Shoot" to DSLR.

All that being said, I currently own the Nikon D40 and have used it for the past 3 years and love it, I have the 2 "kit" lenses (18-55 and 55-200) but almost always use the 18-200 AF-VR lens and aside from the "creep" issue, it has been a fantastic "walk around" lens. I also have a 70-300 AF-VR that I use for sporting events. I am looking to upgrade but not sure what my best choice is. I primarily take pictures of my kids and their sports. My daughter runs track, swims and plays soccer and my son plays soccer. Even with the 70-300 I have to do a significant amount of cropping to get the close up photos of them (I can be over 100M from them when taking a photo). By the time I crop enough to get the subject is close enough I can barely get a 4x6 print without getting a grainy picture.

The features I want are:

1. Rapid Fire (easily used and not defaulted back to different shooting mode each time the camera is turned off)
2. Ability to Crop pretty significantly without losing quality.
3. Ability to take hand held shots at an indoor pool (light challenged) at a distance without a flash (not permitted at indoor competitions) without getting grainy pictures
4. Ability to stop action without getting blur
5. Compatibility with my current lenses
6. I like the video option, but that's just a little "nice to have" as I realize the video quality on the DSLRs is not great.

I'm looking to stay under $1000, I was leaning toward the D90, but then someone suggested the D5000. I don't know enough about photography to know the difference...but if there isn't a significant difference it seems silly to spend the extra $$$ for the D90 if the D5000 will do the job just as well.

Thanks for any input you can offer.

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Well let's go through them

1. Rapid Fire
> Well neither the D90 or D5000 are speed demons but they are better than your D40.

2. Ability to Crop-
> Every time you crop you lose quality, no matter what but I understand and neither of the cameras are high MP when compared to the current cameras out there but they both are a major jump when compared to your D40.

3. Ability to take hand held shots at an indoor pool
4. Ability to stop action without getting blur
> 3 & 4 are the same question and both deal with the lens, not the camera. If you shoot indoor or evening sports then you need to buy large aperture lenses. This will cost you quite a bit in money(example: cheapest zoom for those tasks are the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 at $700).

5. Compatibility with my current lenses
> Nikon is your only choice for this.

6. I like the video option, but that's just a little "nice to have" as I realize the video quality on the DSLRs is not great.
> Yeah, don't expect too much.

Really, what you are wanting in a camera is the Nikon D7000 that is over your budget. Too bad you didn't have Canon, the Canon 50D met your budget and requirements. Neither the D5000 nor D90 really are great for cropping or speed, but then again, it's a big jump from the D40. If you could save longer for a D7000 that would be the better choice, or sell your equipment and buy into Canon for the 50D.

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Thank you for all the wonderful information. I've been happy with Nikon, so far it hasn't done me wrong, so I would probably stay with them and not take a hit on my used equipment. Although I do have a Cannon AE-1 Program in the archives somewhere Happy

I took a look at the D7000 (online anyway) and I would LOVE that camera, though it may well be overkill, especially for someone with next to no photography knowledge. I'm not sure the D3100 that Joliet recommended would really offer me much more than what I have now, except some additional megapixels to crop with...but if I'm going to invest, I think I would go up rather than lateral. I really really want the rapid fire which that one doesn't seem to provide.

With regard to the Sigma lens you suggest, perhaps you can enlighten me a little bit. What does the 2.8 mean and why is this going to get me better indoor pictures than the lens I have now. I really wish I understood all this better.

Thanks again for all the information...

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Nikon D3100

Take a look at the newest Nikon, the D3100. Great features. All your lenses will work. Within your budget. The initial reviews are optimistic, but it's so new that there aren't many hands-on reviews just yet. I have a D60 and am going to take a long look at the 3100. From your description of the photography that you do, the 7000 may be overkill. Your lens choices, especially the 18-200 VR and 70-300VR should perform even better on the 3100. The D90 gets raves reviews, but it will be interesting to see how the reviews of photos taken with the 3100 compare to it.

In any case, I think that staying within your $1000 budget is a good decision and won't restrict you in selecting a fine camera. And why switch systems to Canon? That just seems like throwing money away when you sell your lenses, which are excellent already.

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yeah, but

The D3100 is a very good choice, but it lacks in what the OP wants in "rapid fire" with the D3100 only doing 3 frames per second. Also, it's bad advice to say the 18-200VR or the 70-300VR can do indoor sports, it's just won't happen. I do think the suggestion of the D3100 is a good one if he can put money towards large aperture lens, doesn't mind the slower frame rate, and doesn't need to buy any of prime lens used for shooting indoor sports, because of the lack of a focusing motor on the D3100.

His lenses set-up is completely fine for outdoor/daytime sports, but will significantly suffer in indoors/evening sports.

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I get beautiful outdoor/daytime sports pics with my current lenses (at least when I can keep my hands from shaking, ugh). I don't understand what it is that helps get the indoor pics (or what that 2.8 means) without the flash. Maybe Santa will leave a new lens under the tree for me this year Happy

Thanks for your insights. It sounds like the D3100 is a wonderful new camera, but doesnt' sound like it's much of a step up from where I am now. I guess we'll see.

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In order to get a good exposure with indoor shots, with a fast enough shutter speed, you have to increase the light that hits the sensor. The "2.8" refers to the aperture of F2.8, which is the largest aperture for zoom lens. Let's say you are shooting at 200mm focal length with your 70-300VR. At that focal length, the largest aperture you can set it to if F5 and lets say the fastest shutter speed you can get indoors with that focal length and aperture is 1/200th of a second. That's not very fast to stop action and consumer lens, like the 70-300VR, aren't very good at shooting wide open because of soft shots. A 70-200mm F2.8 lens shooting at 200mm and the aperture at F2.8 would give you a shutter speed of 1/530th sec shutter speed in the same environment. So we'd see a blurry action shot with your 70-300VR lens with the 1/200th of a sec shutter speed but the 70-200mm F2.8 would get you a 1/530th of a sec shutter speed which would give you a good action shot without all the motion blur you get from your 70-300VR.

If you want to shoot indoors/evening sports then you have to spend the money on large aperture lens, to get rid of the blurriness your talking about.

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Forgot to add

The D3100 is a major step up from the D40, because it uses a much better CMOS sensor than the CCD sensor in the D40. This will allow you to shoot in much higher ISO settings and not get the grainy/noisy photos that you did with the D40 in high ISOs. Another added bonus is that the D3100 has a much more sophisticated autofocus system that is leaps and bounds better for tracking action shots when compared to the very simple and slower D40 autofocus system. The last thing is that you'll be going from a 6MP camera to a 14MP camera, so cropping will be a huge benefit.

So it will track the kids better, have better high ISOs, and you can crop more....that's a major step up from the D40.

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Indoor close up action shots

You will need to crop the photos because you will not likely want to buy the large aperture long sports lenses. The Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens costs around $6000 and it has the same reach as your 70-300mm but able to freeze actions in low light. The Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 also costs around $6000. Even with 400mm, you likely still need to crop some. Now if you don't want to crop, then the Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR will cost more than $10,000. So you will need to crop unless you have a very generous budget and don't mind carry this monster lens.

So you will need to have these few key features to take low light action shots:
1. A fast large aperture lens with minimum f/2.8
2. A camera with low noise at ISO 3200. I sometimes need to use ISO 3200 to gain enough shutter speed to freeze low light actions with a f/2.8 tele lens.
3. For action shots, you really should have 5 fps or more. 3 fps may miss some peak actions.
4. A good AF system

So the Nikon D90 and either Nikkor or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 will be a good combo. Sigma has a 300mm f/2.8 that runs about $3000, significantly cheaper than the Nikkor version but more than the 70-200mm.

Good Luck!

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As for cropping, cameras with higher MP will have better quality photo if you crop heavily. This is like doing enlargements, more MP is better when doing heavy cropping or very large prints.

But the above listed key features are more important than exactly how many MP your camera has. A nice and clean photo with lower MP can have better cropped images than a grainy photo from a higher MP camera. My old Canon 30D has only 8 MP and the cropped photos of my kids' sports photos look just fine.

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I suspect if I told my husband I was going to spend $10,000 on a lens for my camera to take pictures of my kids playing their sports, I would also need to find a new place to live Happy

The only point I really don't understand is #2. How do I know if I have low noice as ISO 3200?

I'm not opposed to cropping as long as I have enough MP to do it and still get a decent size print.

Thanks so much for all the help!!!

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Sensor ISO performance

You can look at high ISO photo samples at review sites like

Or you can use the DxOMark scoring, look at the sports ranking (low light ISO performance).

The Nikon D90 scores pretty well.

There are softwares that can help you improve print quality with enlargements or crops.
This is one of many softwares available:
You can look at the case studies and photo samples.

For noise reduction, there are also softwares:

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Thanks everyone for all the great advice. I went today to take a look and think I've decided on the D90. For my purposes it gives me everything I need and it felt good in my hand. I'd love to upgrade to the F2.8 lens...but we'll have to see how that plays out.

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