Summarised thoughts on some older camera bodies

If you ignore random compact cameras, random garbage automatic film cameras and borrowing my siblings camera gear to shoot (extremely uninspired) vacation photos, my first proper camera was a nikon d70. I had been shooting a bit more seriously for about half a year on my fathers sony dslr and had decided that I wanted my own camera. I ended up buying my brothers (already then second hand) nikon d70.

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Looking back at the specs of it I am somewhat flabbergasted. 6 megapixels? Woah. I never noticed, nor cared for that. Up to 1/8000th second shutter speed? Daymn. CF card instead of SD. Weird shutter with amazing sync speeds (1/500th sec and beyond). All I cared for was that the pictures held up to scratch. The CCD had some pretty dodgy iso-capabilities, but they did have a very nice, almost film-y look to medium iso numbers that I personally found to be very good looking.

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What I didn’t like about it was the focusing system. It was artrocious. I would use it with a Sigma 18-50 mm lens and I would often zoom in to 50 mm, use manual focus, then zoom back out to 18 and take the shoot. That’s how bad the auto focus was.

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After about a year of using the d70 I had had enough of the focusing issues. I bought a Nikon d90 in the fall of 2012 and I was… not overly impressed. The focusing was significantly better, though. I didn’t really notice the boost in megapixels from 6 to 12. But this was also the first time I actually started doing post processing on my photos.

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Something I did notice was that I could shoot in darker enviroments and still get sharp shots. It took me quite a while to figure out the relationship between shutter speeds, freezing objects and the vibration reduction on the new kit lens.

Now that I have shot approximately 20 000 shots with my d90 I thought it would be proper to summarise my experiences:

Autofocus
As mentioned way better than the d70. With the right lens, like the 50 mm 1,8G it is really fast. I use just one point focusing to get the focus right where I want it. It’s quite slow and unreliable in low light focusing, unfortunately.

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Image quality

The image quality is really great at base ISO. Lenses is what really matters here. I can tell a major difference between my ultra wide Tokina 11-16 2.8 vs my Nikon 50 mm 1.8 G. I can still do surprisingly much in the post processing of the raw files (granted theyre at base ISO). It’s been a good learners camera for me this way as there definitely is room to lift shadows, but still limiting enough for me to be vary of  getting my exposures as right as possible right in camera. Speaking of exposures. I would often use -1,3 and even -1,7 exposure compensation in when shooting to not overexpose. This would obviously vary even down to + compensation in snowy conditions. Not the most reliable metering system in other words.

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Handling
It’s a sturdy bugger, I’ll give it that. I have shot alot on drizzling rains, had it out in minus 10-20 degrees, been to the mountains both in the summers and winters. Overall I haven’t really ever worried too much about it, even though it isn’t really weather sealed.

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Speed
It’s no speed demon, but it works for me. I don’t need a high fps for my shooting style, but I wouldn’t mind a bigger buffer.

ISO
Not the best experiences here, to be honest. It’s not a matter of noise, more so about the colours and the details simply falling apart.
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The overall impression of the camera is really ”good enough”.  At the same time it is a bit of a workhorse that I don’t feel like I have to baby around with. It’s done it job when it comes to helping me educate myself in the world of photography. Now I can see its limits and what I look for in a new camera. Comparing it to my fathers sony dslr (exact model still unknown) it does feel more like a prosumer grade camera in many ways. The viewfinder is bigger, the autofocus is indeed faster, the button layout make more sense and it is easier to change things like iso, auto focus and just overall going through the menus and quickly changing various settings and going through the playbacks.

The future will hopefully bring me a shining Nikon d800. While I do try to save up for one, my financial situation is at the moment a bit complicated, rendering it hard for me to know when I will forsure have the money to buy this beauty.

/Martin

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