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