Big test

Time for your next Nikon D-SLR? Matthew Richards com­pares the main con­tenders

NPhoto - - Contents -

Look­ing to upgrade your Nikon? Read our in-depth guide first

Since the turn of the decade, Nikon’s line-up has in­cluded cam­eras for ev­ery­one, from com­plete be­gin­ners to the world’s most de­mand­ing pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers. DX (smaller APS-C sen­sor) cam­eras such as the D3000, D5000 and D7000 ranges are aimed squarely at the en­try-level, mid-range and en­thu­si­ast mar­kets re­spec­tively, while the D600 and D700 ranges make FX (full-frame) pho­tog­ra­phy af­ford­able for non-pro­fes­sion­als.

If you upgrade to a newer ver­sion of your cur­rent cam­era you’ll of­ten find you get more megapix­els, a greater ISO range, en­hanced aut­o­fo­cus and me­ter­ing sys­tems, and per­haps built-in Wi-Fi. And it’s even more tempt­ing to climb a rung or two up the lad­der, and upgrade to a su­pe­rior cam­era class of cam­era. Price aside, the tricky bit can be work­ing out how im­proved specs and fea­tures trans­late into a bet­ter shoot­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and higher-qual­ity re­sults for the type of pho­tog­ra­phy you en­joy.

How many megapix­els?

Higher megapixel counts make it pos­si­ble to cap­ture greater lev­els of fine detail and tex­ture in your shots, and to re­tain su­pe­rior detail in large-for­mat prints. It’s worth not­ing, for ex­am­ple, that the D3400 has over twice the megapixel count of the orig­i­nal D3000.

A prob­lem of hav­ing more megapix­els, though, is that im­age sen­sors nec­es­sar­ily have smaller in­di­vid­ual pix­els, or pho­to­sites, with re­duced light-gath­er­ing abil­i­ties. This can re­sult in in­creased im­age noise in low-light pho­tog­ra­phy. How­ever, newer de­signs of sen­sors and im­age pro­ces­sors help to coun­ter­act this prob­lem.

The up­shot is that, even if you need very high ISO set­tings for fast shut­ter speeds in low light, you should still be able to get good qual­ity re­sults. That said, some cam­eras per­form bet­ter in this re­spect than oth­ers.

Aut­o­fo­cus and han­dling

For sports, wildlife and other types of shoot­ing where you’re cap­tur­ing fast-mov­ing ac­tion, high-per­for­mance aut­o­fo­cus sys­tems are a ma­jor ben­e­fit. A fast con­tin­u­ous drive rate can be equally use­ful when you’re try­ing to nail the de­fin­i­tive mo­ment in ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phy.

A new cam­era may also of­fer im­proved han­dling. Begin­ner­friendly bod­ies tend to lack plen­ti­ful but­tons and di­als ded­i­cated to the var­i­ous shoot­ing set­tings. This can be frus­trat­ing for en­thu­si­ast pho­tog­ra­phers, as it stops you chang­ing shoot­ing pa­ram­e­ters quickly and eas­ily.

DX or FX?

An­other big de­ci­sion is whether to stick with the DX for­mat or go full-frame. With the ad­vent of the pro-grade D500, there’s some­thing to be said for stick­ing with DX even at the top level, es­pe­cially if you want to max­imise your tele­photo reach. For oth­ers, the tighter depth of field an FX body gives, and the po­ten­tial for even greater im­age res­o­lu­tion or low-light per­for­mance, can swing the bal­ance – even if it means hav­ing to upgrade some of your lenses as well as your cam­era.

Let’s take a closer look at the main upgrade choices.

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