August Madness or Buck Fever

If you’re hanging around a Nikon photography forum, you’re probably seeing lots of threads about upcoming announcements in August.  A new D4, maybe a D400, possibly even a D800.  All of these are likely to be fantastic cameras, and I’m already noticing a flurry of new “For Sale” ads on the Buy/Sell area of my favorite forum for Nikon D3, D3s and D700 models.  In some cases people explicitly state they are selling in anticipation of Nikon’s August 24th announcement.

I’m anticipating the huge wave of “should I upgrade” threads on the forums.  And while it is a question virtually every Enthusiast Photographer will ask, the answer is really going to be “It depends”.

From a feature perspective, I use Snapsort.com to compare the specs of one camera to another.  It is a pretty handy way to look at what the new things offers, but it isn’t a definitive list.  For example, a key reason you might choose a Nikon D300s over a D7000 would be the much larger buffer for the D300s, allowing Birds-in-Flight (BIF) or sports shooters to shoot continuously for longer – a key spec not represented.  But for most specs it is an extremely useful site.

So as you’re looking at all the things that the new camera will do, ask yourself “Is it worth the money and hassle of switching?”

I’m no different than anyone else – I find myself in serious covet of both the D7000 (D7K) and the D700.  I’ll probably be sorely tempted by the D400 whenever it comes out.  But let’s stay in reality for now.  Of the things I care about, here’s what a D7K gives me over my D90:

  • More autofocus points (39 vs. 11)
  • More cross-type autofocus points (9 vs. 1)
  • True ISO 100 at the bottom and ISO 6400 at the top
  • 1/8000 max shutter speed (vs. 1/4000)
  • More color depth – 70% more colors
  • Will meter with manual lenses
  • An intervalometer (allows for timed pictures – e.g. a shot every minute for a certain amount of time)
  • Two SD slots – one can back up the other, or use it for overflow
  • Weather sealing

So that is a lot of features, right?  I’m not even mentioning the higher resolution (which is a post for another day…), the video features or the range of other upgrades over the D90.      I surely could have used 1/8000 on my recent trip to the beach.  More colors is always nice.  I’d always prefer better autofocus and manual lenses fascinate me for their bang-for-the-buck prowess and the challenge they represent.  A better ISO 3200 and a native ISO 100 would be good things.  But for the additional $600 it will cost me to get the D7000, I can be well on my way to some mighty fine glass, or a flash, or a better ball head, or some photography lessons, or…  well, you get the point.

Here’s the net:  Do you really NEED it, or do you just really WANT it?  I’d submit 90% of us (myself included) fall into “want” vs. “need” when it comes to the latest body.  I have to admit my affection for my D90 has grown quite a bit since the recent addition of my Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 ED and the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 non-BIM.  So boils down to a nearly universal cry in the photography world:  Invest in glass first.  Then invest a good tripod and head, or lessons, or a good book and get the most out of your current camera.  From there, a body isn’t a bad upgrade, but it won’t be too long until the next thing is out…

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