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Upgrading Camera - what to change first? Nikon d50

Becky Emerick , Jun 10, 2011; 10:20 p.m.

I have had my D50 for years and years. I'm wondering what I should upgrade first - the body or the lens or the software.

What I'm finding is that my pictures no longer look as sharp as other professionals I'm comparing myself to. Over the last few months, I've really started noticing the difference. Here's what I'm using:

Nikon D50
Tamron AF 18-200mm
Nikon AF 50mm 1.8

My photography friends are saying I need to switch to a newer body, VR Lenses, Lightroom, and shooting in RAW instead of JPG. (I find RAW annoying to work with since I always have to change it to JPG anyway to give them to clients.)

What should I do first?

I have a part-time business, mostly families and children, but don't do enough of it to warrant spending a boat-load of money. I also take thousands of pics of my kids.

Thanks in advance!



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Lorne Sunley , Jun 10, 2011; 10:30 p.m.

If you want to keep using your lenses you have to buy something like a D7000 or perhaps a D90.

Michael Chang , Jun 10, 2011; 10:51 p.m.

Becky, you can squeeze quite a bit out of your gear; what you have is no slouch given your intended use.

I would recommend shooting RAW and learn to tweak it under Photoshop. It's free since you already own it and it's a transferable skill.

I don't know your skill level as a photographer but learning to use the D50 to its fullest potential is another thing to try, again, free.

There are plenty of examples of excellent photography made with similar gear as yours, if that says anything.

Mark Sirota , Jun 10, 2011; 11:14 p.m.

Certainly all of those recommendations you're hearing from your photography friends may help, but not in exactly the same way.

Can you post samples that illustrate the sharpness issue? Without a complete understanding of the problem you're trying to solve, it's difficult to recommend a solution.

Jerry Litynski , Jun 11, 2011; 12:04 a.m.

You have lenses that are not AF-S - right? That makes changing camera bodies more interesting. If you went to a D60 (or a newer D3100) -- you need AF-S lenses to be a happy camera user. The image size is 50 percent greater with a D60 body over your D50 body. The D3100 is a bit larger than the D60 in the image size category.

Any Nikon D-SLR body with a 10 mpixel sensor, or greater, would be an improvement over your D50.

Lex Jenkins , Jun 11, 2011; 12:53 a.m.

"What I'm finding is that my pictures no longer look as sharp as other professionals I'm comparing myself to. Over the last few months, I've really started noticing the difference."

Sounds like your ability to discern differences in photos has improved with experience, but has surpassed your current expertise with photo technique and editing. Chances are good your best investment at the moment is to study some free or for-fee digital editing tutorials.

An alternative would be to ask an experienced photographer to critique your work, with feedback based on your goals. Again, there are some fee-based sources for this.

It's possible that you could do better than your Tamron superzoom. But other than certain specific situations - such as high ISO performance - your D50 and 50/1.8 prime should not be limiting apparent "sharpness" in any way. I'd bet that what you're perceiving as "sharp" in the photos of other photographers has more to do with photography technique, lighting and editing than equipment.

Eric Arnold , Jun 11, 2011; 01:01 a.m.

a d50 with its 6mp sensor is pretty old tech in 2011. but then again, my 12mp DX and FX cameras don't have nearly the resolution of the 21 mp Canon 5d mk II or the 24 mp Sony A900. so it's all relative.

that said, you do need to upgrade your camera and your lenses. i'd start with a newer body--even the d3100 is 14 mp. but that body has no focus motor, so your lenses might not AF. to maintain full functionality, you'd need at least a (used) d90; next step up is a d7000. a basic 'pro' kit would include a standard 2.8 zoom and either a 2.8 telezoom or a fast longish prime.

one thing i'd definitely upgrade is the 18-200. superzooms aren't known for their sharpness, although a 50/1.8 should be sharp even on a d50 as long as you don't print super-large. VR in and of itself doesn't equal sharpness, especially if you are taking pics of things that move. with a 2.8 standard zoom--like the tamron or sigma 17-50-- you get much better overall sharpness, even at open apertures. the tradeoff is that you need a second zoom or a long prime for the tele range. if you're mainly shooting portraits, though, you might prefer the tamron 28-75/2.8 or sigma 17-70 OS. (i'm assuming the nikon 17-55 and 24-70 are cost-prohibitive).

alas, going pro isn't cheap. so the best option is probably to figure out your budget first and work back from there. one relatively cheap way to get sharper pics is to use flash, which can freeze motion, even at lower shutter speeds. an external flash is better than pop-up flash, especially if you get it off-camera.

again, it's all relative: what's a boatload of money to you? $1000? $2000? $3000? a good rule of thumb is to start with your maximum outlay and work backwards.

Leslie Cheung , Jun 11, 2011; 01:13 a.m.

I suggest pin pointing your problem before buying anything. Your gears maybe outdated but they should be fine to most people if, say, you print no larger than 8x12. Give us examples or more info of your work.

Ray - , Jun 11, 2011; 01:21 a.m.

if you stay with dSLRs, the only way IMO is to upgrade the camera to a D3100 or a D5100, much more affordable than a D7000, I heard the D5100 is the same sensor but less bells and whistels esp if you want sports. but for portraits should be fine. and upgrade the 18-200mm and get something less versatile.

keep in mind that the d50 can focus with non AF-S lenses. many of the newer cheaper cameras cannot. they need AF-S or else you will be manually focussing all the time. if you have the AF-D 50mm, that won't AF on the newer cheaper cameras either. nikon have AF-S 50mm both in 1.8 and 1.4 versions but they do cost more - lol.

i might do that instead of getting a more $$ D90 which works with non AF-S lenses. as you only have the 50mm that might be AF-D. you should certainly replace the 18-200mm if you care about sharpness. i have the nikon 18-200mm, i am not fussy but comparatively it is not that sharp. the thing is also all the recent lenses from nikon to my knowledge have all been AF-S and continue to be so IMO.

given one or the other, i replace the lens before the body.

Pete S. , Jun 11, 2011; 06:45 a.m.

I agree with Leslie, you need to pin point your problem before buying anything.
I have feeling though that your sharpness problems is lack of good post processing, not your equipment.

The D50 don't produce images straight out of the camera that are close to what the camera is actually capable of. You really need to shoot raw for that because the raw converter will do a much better job than the camera. Even if you end up with a jpeg in the end anyway :-)

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