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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Karmann_65's Avatar

    D3100 upgrade choices

    Hi. I've had my D3100 for several years now and it's getting due for an imminent upgrade. As a keen novice I like to take pictures wherever I go but particularly of wildlife, cars and occasionally motorsport. None of my friends have a DSLR so it often ends up down to me to take the pictures when we go places. There's kind of an expectation that nobody needs to bother because I'll be taking my "big camera". But that's fine by me. I take each situation as a new challenge and usually end up with a few of what everyone (who exclusively take pictures with their phones) tells me are "great pictures".

    It's my 50th birthday soon and I'm unsure what sort of upgrade I should go for. It would be nice to be able to use my existing lenses which thus far comprise of a Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G, Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR and the original 18-55mm VR kit lens.

    Budget does play a part in my decision hence the want to keep my existing lenses. This will be a take anywhere camera and I've got a bag and tripod alreay sorted.

    Two Nikons that seem to have decent reviews are the D5500 and the D7200.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.

    TIA


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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    lokatz's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Hi there, Congrats on still enjoying DSLR photography. Agree your D3100 is a bit long in the tooth. The D5500 and D7200 both produce outstanding images and both will work with all your existing lenses, so no problem there. The choice mostly boils down to how much control you want to have over your images.

    If you mostly care about convenience and taking good pics without having to fiddle much with camera settings, the D5500 or 5600 (only small differences between them exist) IMHO are better choices. If you want to get deeper into photography and experiment more, the D7200 will be more fun as it has a much richer feature set, higher shooting speed, slightly better AF, and so on. That comes at a price, though, in terms of cost, size, weight, all of which exceed the D5500's. Rest assured that both are capable cameras and great value for the money. You won't go wrong with either. Hope this helps.

    On a side note, once your next birthday comes along and you're thinking about further upgrades, I would suggest to look at replacing your long lens. You mention favorite subjects that all often require long reach, and the 55-300 is not exactly a stellar performer at 300mm, so I think you may be happier with a 70-300 or something like that. Nikon's new AF-P 70-300 1:4.5-6.3 lens, for example, is a steal, especially given that it offers good 300mm performance.
    Lothar Katz

    Nikon D700, D500, D7100, 200-500 f/5.6, 300 f/4 PF, 55-200 f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8 - Tamron 60 f/2 Macro - Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4 - Tokina 12-28 f/4 - Yongnou YN568 - Panasonic TZ101 (a.k.a. ZN100) - Photoshop CS6 - Lightroom 6 - DXO PhotoLab - Aurora HDR 2018


  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Karmann_65's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Thanks for the prompt reply. You seem to have the measure of where I'm at with my photography. Diping my toe in the waters of advancement, I now seldom use anything except Apperture and Shutter Priority modes which allow me that little bit of control. All my pictures are taken in RAW (NEF) and I enjoy playing around with images in Lightroom and Photoshop CC.

    You're right on the money that a lot of what I take is from a distance and that's always been a concern. You must excuse my ignorance (and I appreciate the lesson) but how is a 70-300 better at distances than a 55-300? Does the 55-300 lose quality at the higher end?

  4. #4
    Senior Member

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Like lokatz said, think about the user interface. Direct buttons as well as front and rear command wheels and top lcd display make it no big deal to change many settings on the fly with the d7200. Easier to see the current state those settings out in the sun too with the top lcd. Just a glance and you know how you are set. With some practice, you will be able to instantly jump from mode to mode.
    I must have a really good camera.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Karmann_65's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Quote Originally Posted by nickt View Post
    Like lokatz said, think about the user interface. Direct buttons as well as front and rear command wheels and top lcd display make it no big deal to change many settings on the fly with the d7200. Easier to see the current state those settings out in the sun too with the top lcd. Just a glance and you know how you are set. With some practice, you will be able to instantly jump from mode to mode.
    There have definately been times when I've wished I could switch off/dim the rear LCD at night while setting up a shot through the viewfinder. I can see the advantage of a top LCD but how does it fare in the dark?

    But then I also like the fully-articulated touch sensitive screen on the back of the D5500.

    As you say, an instinctive knowledge of the controls would be best though, no matter what the camera. And that can only come with practice.

    At this stage I've never actually held either of these cameras. Maybe that could sway a decision.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    lokatz's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Quote Originally Posted by Karmann_65 View Post
    You're right on the money that a lot of what I take is from a distance and that's always been a concern. You must excuse my ignorance (and I appreciate the lesson) but how is a 70-300 better at distances than a 55-300? Does the 55-300 lose quality at the higher end?
    This is not a matter of 70-300 being intrinsically better than 55-300 - although in general, the wider the zoom range, the harder it becomes to achieve consistent image quality (IQ). Lens design always requires compromises, though, both from a cost perspective and from a laws-of-optics one. Zoom lenses inevitably have one specific focal length where they are the sharpest, which means other focal lengths have to be a little softer. On top of that, there are many other performance parameters, such as chromatic aberration, that are strongly influenced by the lens designer's choices.

    The 55-300 is a relatively old design in which Nikon apparently favored high IQ on the shorter side over the longer end. According to the tests and sample pics I saw, it delivers pretty good quality at 55 and is still not bad at 150 but softens considerably when you go beyond 200.

    In contrast, the new 70-300, to some degree also its predecessor, likely saw greater emphasis on IQ at the longer end. On top of that, the AF-P version is a much newer design and thus benefits from several general advancements Nikon made over the years. You may have noticed that lenses have become better almost across the board in recent years. As a result, your 55-300 may be at par, maybe even slightly better, at 70mm, but the 70-300 wins hands down at the long end. That seems to matter much more to your shooting, hence my recommendation. Don't worry about the gap between your 18-55 and this 70-300. In my experience, you won't ever see it as an issue.

    Don't get me wrong here: top IQ at 300mm gets expensive quickly from a design perspective (large glass, expensive coating, etc.), so even the new AF-P 70-300 will be outperformed by Nikon's 200-500 at 300mm, for example, definitely also by all of Nikon's 300mm prime lenses. Between the 55-300 and the AF-P 70-300, however, you'll likely see a notable step up.

    What I often do is take a lens I already own to a camera shop and shoot a few pics there with it, then take the same shots with the lens I am considering. I then compare them on my computer and decide whether I like what I see. Looks like there are several camera stores in Preston, so maybe that's an option for you, too.
    Last edited by lokatz; 10-20-2017 at 02:06 PM.
    Best Answers Karmann_65 voted best answer for this post
     
    Lothar Katz

    Nikon D700, D500, D7100, 200-500 f/5.6, 300 f/4 PF, 55-200 f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8 - Tamron 60 f/2 Macro - Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4 - Tokina 12-28 f/4 - Yongnou YN568 - Panasonic TZ101 (a.k.a. ZN100) - Photoshop CS6 - Lightroom 6 - DXO PhotoLab - Aurora HDR 2018


  7. #7
    Senior Member
    lokatz's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Quote Originally Posted by Karmann_65 View Post
    There have definately been times when I've wished I could switch off/dim the rear LCD at night while setting up a shot through the viewfinder. I can see the advantage of a top LCD but how does it fare in the dark?
    Both the D5500 and D7200 allow you to dim the rear display via a menu setting. The 7200 provides more comprehensive info, but both of them also have i (5500) respectively i/info buttons that show current settings on the display.

    You're right, though: nothing like having them in your hand. A D7200 feels much more solid and professional than a D5500. But then again, both are good choices and the difference in price may make that 70-300 an easy decision. Choices, choices ...
    Lothar Katz

    Nikon D700, D500, D7100, 200-500 f/5.6, 300 f/4 PF, 55-200 f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8 - Tamron 60 f/2 Macro - Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4 - Tokina 12-28 f/4 - Yongnou YN568 - Panasonic TZ101 (a.k.a. ZN100) - Photoshop CS6 - Lightroom 6 - DXO PhotoLab - Aurora HDR 2018


  8. #8
    Senior Member

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Quote Originally Posted by Karmann_65 View Post
    There have definately been times when I've wished I could switch off/dim the rear LCD at night while setting up a shot through the viewfinder. I can see the advantage of a top LCD but how does it fare in the dark?

    But then I also like the fully-articulated touch sensitive screen on the back of the D5500.

    As you say, an instinctive knowledge of the controls would be best though, no matter what the camera. And that can only come with practice.

    At this stage I've never actually held either of these cameras. Maybe that could sway a decision.
    The top lcd has a dim back light that I think can be set to stay off. Otherwise I think it follows the meter on time. I'm not with the camera at the moment to try it. Also you can push the power on lever to make the light come on as needed. The rear screen will need to come on for some things at night like activating the ml-l3 remote. But for normal stuff, you will mostly use the top display.

    The slant screen could be a plus, I never used one. I rarely use live view. Maybe I would use it more if I had the tilt screen.
    I like my buttons though. D7500 has the tilt screen by the way.

    I find myself mostly shooting manual with auto iso these days. I think it would make me crazy at this point to have the rear wheel do double duty for shutter and aperture.
    I must have a really good camera.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Karmann_65's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Quote Originally Posted by lokatz View Post
    Zoom lenses inevitably have one specific focal length where they are the sharpest, which means other focal lengths have to be a little softer.

    The 55-300 is a relatively old design in which Nikon apparently favored high IQ on the shorter side over the longer end. According to the tests and sample pics I saw, it delivers pretty good quality at 55 and is still not bad at 150 but softens considerably when you go beyond 200.
    I can see how there is always a compromise at certain focal lengths but who buys a (up to) 300mm lens and wants it sharpest at the shorter end? Don't answer that. If I'd known that a year ago I'd have made a different long lens choice for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by lokatz View Post
    Both the D5500 and D7200 allow you to dim the rear display via a menu setting. The 7200 provides more comprehensive info, but both of them also have i (5500) respectively i/info buttons that show current settings on the display.

    You're right, though: nothing like having them in your hand. A D7200 feels much more solid and professional than a D5500. But then again, both are good choices and the difference in price may make that 70-300 an easy decision. Choices, choices ...
    That's good to know they can be dimmed on higher models. Maybe something like used on mobile phones when used as a Sat Nav will be invented where a "night mode" can be used to alter the screen display so it's less bright as and when required.

    Choices, choices indeed! This is all good information and I really do appreciate all the replies. Thank you.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    lokatz's Avatar

    Re: D3100 upgrade choices

    Happy shooting!
    Lothar Katz

    Nikon D700, D500, D7100, 200-500 f/5.6, 300 f/4 PF, 55-200 f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8 - Tamron 60 f/2 Macro - Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4 - Tokina 12-28 f/4 - Yongnou YN568 - Panasonic TZ101 (a.k.a. ZN100) - Photoshop CS6 - Lightroom 6 - DXO PhotoLab - Aurora HDR 2018






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