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I am just wondering your thoughts on my dilemma.

The other day I was traveling on a train to work. The train ride is about 20mins. I noticed a man drawing/sketching. He is a construction worker, with all the persona to show that he worked in construction (tatts, hivis jacket, boots etc). With a sketch book and a black pen (the type you get 10 for two dollars at the local supermarket), he sketched a fantastic drawing containing a picture he had clearly envisaged. His tools are sub-$5 but his drawing is great. Showed light and perspective quite clearly with only one pen and one colour.

This emphasized that tools are only 20 percent of the effort for art — the rest is my skills and talent.

Now my dilemma; I am thinking about purchasing the D600 for (~2K). Nice camera and all. But really my D80 will do. I haven't produced award winning photography with the D80, and I won't with the D600. (I have just purchased a 80-200D f2.8 and lined up a 24-70 F2.8D ED, second hand).

Is it really worth dropping 2k on the d600 (travelling to the US soon, so I would us it for this trip), or should I await for better photography from me before I go ahead. Or will this body make me a better photographer?

I have run into the limitations of the D80 on some attempts.

Really, am I just a spoilt, greedy, selfish person or is there some justification for purchasing the new body, when i am not a top line photographer. I am not talking about the price of the D600, but the concept of buying the new camera when I have a good old camera. (Consumerism at its height.)

Thoughts and flames at 10 paces, I would love to hear some ideas and thoughts.

UPDATE Just bought the D600 body. Thankyou for your permission to purchase ;) This thread was not about to be about the money but on the philosophy of buying more kit whilst (technically) the one you have is 80-90% there. I must admit, I am looking forward into using some of the new functionality. Thanks All, for the varied opinions, and great insights. The final decider is the photos I want to do I just could not do with the D80. Get through the guilt and get on taking photos.

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How bad will you feel if you have WASTED $2k? If not too bad, buy the camera and stop thinking about money when you are shooting. If you feel terrible about wasting $2k, explore new ways/techniques with the D80 and tell yourself you have just saved $2k with your photography skills. –  Gapton Nov 5 '12 at 14:55
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I always just have to remind my wife how much she spends on getting her hair, nails, etc. done - then I go back to buying my camera equipment :P –  dpollitt Nov 5 '12 at 15:10
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I recently bought new skis, but I'm not a world-class skier. I still enjoy it though. –  whatsisname Nov 5 '12 at 17:28
    
Personally, the money is only "wasted" if you think it is. I "waste" money on games, phone, computer upgrades, etc - but it's not a waste to me. I use some of the stuff for work, some of it is just... wasted money. But it keeps me happy. Why does this camera have to be anything other than your money spent on... you? –  WernerCD Nov 5 '12 at 18:55
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"I have run into the limitations of the D80 on some attempts." That's the key sentence. If and only if your current gear is putting limitations on your creativity do you need to start thinking about upgrading. Think hard about what those limitations are, and whether they are really a bad thing.. –  naught101 Nov 5 '12 at 22:44

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I recently upgraded from a D40 to a D800. That's quite a jump for someone who considers themselves just an enthusiast. While I won't waste your time going into the why behind my purchase, I can tell you that the D800 has reinvigorated my interest in photography not only from a technical competency point of view (this camera has far more to learn about) but also from an art perspective as well (what else can I do!?).

I take the new camera more places, stop more often to take an interesting shot and spend far more time in communities here and elsewhere learning from other folks.

Part of the reason is, yeah, I invested a lot of money into this camera - I better use it! But part is also that it acts as a positive catalyst to urge me to create more than I consume. Am I a better photographer now than with the D40? Hardly. But I'd like to think that I'm growing more as a photographer and observer of the world. There's no price to put on that.

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Thanks - i think this comment is the closest to where I am. I think the purchase will reinvigorate my inquisitiveness and passion for experimenting. (BUT WOW d40 to D800 - fantastic) –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 10:58

As others has mentioned, this is mostly a personal question.

When I first came in touch with photography, I used an Alpha 100 with poor analog lenzes. I found it to be awesome, not knowing of anything better, and not knowing anything about photography at all.

About 3 years in, I felt I've outgrown it, hitting too many limitations. In hindsight, I could have lasted it longer by learning how to be a better photographer. Yet I switched, to a D7000, and a whole new set of top notch accessoiries. In many ways, overkill given my limited skills. Yet this camera did make me a better photographer. For simply loving to use it and explore it. For being absolutely clear about me being the limitation and not the camera. Also, new tech does bring new possibilities for creativity.

Now I'm considering upgrading to a D800, but I won't this time. It would be tech love only, I haven't outgrown the D7000 by far. Clearly, I'm a tech-led wannabee that hops on advancing technology to artistically improve. One can also go the other route, being an artists irrespective of technology.

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Since you started with the pen, so shall I. A ball point pen used to be one of my weapons of choice: there is the personal challenge of getting it right the first time (no erasures), the inks are pigment-based and archivally permanent (and most decent sketchbooks use acid-free, buffered paper), and old-school ball point pens respond well to pressure with a variety of line widths and ink density. The more expensive pens are no better than the cheap ones, and actually tend to be blotchier in an attempt to be "more reliable". (I found that the old, white-hex-barrelled BIC fine points were the apex of technology for ball point drawing. My technique was a random scribble that looked like a mezzotint print when finished.) And perhaps 20% of pens don't need to be cleaned of excess ink around the ball after almost every stroke, so buying the 10-packs and testing is a good way to find "winners". So your construction worker may have put a great deal of effort into finding the tools he was using, and may be using $100/tube oils on Belgian linen canvas or W&N Series 7 Kolinsky sable watercolour brushes and a good 300lb+ paper at $20/sheet at home. You just don't know. And for a beginner learning classic techniques, cheap oil paints and cheap watercolour brushes are inadequate, so you have to learn all over again when you step up to the "real thing".† So put the cost factor out of your head; it's irrelevant here.

Now, about that camera...

Buying a D600 won't make you a great photographer any more than buying a Steinway will make you a great pianist. But as with the Steinway, the notes you do get right will sound better, and that may encourage you to become worthy of the instrument, so to speak.

Let's put aside the mere perks (better, faster autofocus, higher frame rate, and so forth) and concentrate on the stuff that would actually be meaningful to you. The D600 has significantly less noise at any given ISO setting than the D80, and is capable of capturing a much greater dynamic range. Pictures that would be heroic post-processing resue operations when taken with the D80 become almost easy with the D600. The top "normal" speed on the D80, ISO 1600, is just an everyday setting on the D600 (and is about as noisy as ISO 400 on your D80), and you get a couple of stops of extra, truly usable speed, along with having enough information in the RAW file to do in one exposure what would have taken at least two (and HDR-type processing) with the D80. So you can take pictures that would be practically impossible with your current camera. (Of course, much the same could be said of the $1000 D7000, but it misses the mark elsewhere.)

So the "raw material" is going to be better, but it's also bigger. You get around half again as many pixels in either direction to play with. Now, without trying to encourage sloppiness on your part, that means that you have the ability to play with the crop ex post facto and still have a usable, printable image when all's said and done. If there is one common problem that can be pointed to in most "average" photography, it's that too much was included. As Robert Capa said: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough." Yes, the D600 will let you find good—and even great—pictures in the photos that you are taking if you take the time to critically review and mercilessly crop. And you can choose to leave it at that—or you can learn to "see" better as you review, paying close attention to what works and what doesn't. Eventually your composition in-camera will get better. And you still have plenty of room to crop when a 2:3 aspect ratio isn't right, and a squarer or more "panoramic" image suits the subject better. And if you need to retouch, more pixels is always better (even if your computer whines and complains about the processing load). (The D3200 has nearly the same pixel count, but at the cost of low-noise performance, dynamic range and handling.)

I know what my choice would be had I the two grand(ish)‡, but I can't make your decision for you. The D600 can rekindle the fire, but only if there's an ember remaining—and you actually want to rekindle it. The worst-case scenario is that you'll wind up with cleaner snapshots and mild buyer's remorse. (And you may find yourself somewhat less embarrassed about carrying and using your camera. Let's face it—when these digital thingies get long in the tooth, we do tend to become a little bit self-conscious about the highly visible model number on the camera's front face.)


† With oils, the paint is the most important component. Cheap "student" paints use substitute look-alike pigments that are often a mix of other colours, and they don't mix the same way as the good stuff (they'll produce visibly different colours when mixed, even if they look more-or-less the same out of the tube). And where expensive pigments are used, it's usually in low concentrations with inert pigments and waxy fillers taking up the space and lending body to the paint. With watercolours, the brushes and papers are key. Even the best synthetic brush will tell you nothing about the behaviour of a good Kolinsky, and the surface of a good paper has completely different absorbency, hold-back and working characteristics (for scrubbing, blotting, and techniques like sgraffito) from a "student" paper.

‡ In fact, I'd be glad to have the D80 at this point. My "budget" (for lack of a better word) barely extends to occasionally renting (or, thankfully, borrowing) decent camera bodies; the things I actually own and can use on my own terms are D70s. With a little pain, I can put aside $100/month for photographic purposes, and that has tended to go on ancillary goods like tripod, light stands, flashes, light modifiers and software as I need them.

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Thanks for the insight into the art world. The comparison of the feature set in the D600 vs D80 point to the reason why I was considering it. In summary - I would get more usable photos out of the D600 (quality is subjective) whether its point and click shots or considered set up shots. It just means at worst I would have a very expensive point and click unit. AND PRACTICE makes BETTER (caps deliberate). Something I forget quite often. Thanks for your time and insight. –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:15

You need to deide for yourself, here are a few questions that may help you decide...

Does your current camera, with its aging technology, limit or negatively impact your photography?

Are you comfortable with your current camera?

How much disposable income do you have?

What other equipment can you buy with those 2K? Do you have a quality tripod? Flash(es) a macro lens? RAW editing software?

I used my first DSLR for five years, in the end I have upgraded solely because of its poor high ISO performance, I was quite comfortable using it in any other way.

I like shiny new gadgets but try not to fall for the consumerism and become a gearhead.

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Thanks - really sort of DITTO... does sound like me. –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:16
    
"Does your current camera... limit or negatively impact your photography" — That's it right there. If you're not being held back, then why upgrade? –  drfrogsplat Nov 7 '12 at 3:31

A wonderful thing about photography is that it's multiple hobbies in one. You can enjoy the act of capturing moments distinct from the production of final images. You can develop your skill in print-making without taking pictures yourself. You can collect photographs taken by the masters. You can participate in contests. And, you can enjoy the gear completely independently of your actual skill in the art.

Some people love vintage cameras and obsess over old lenses. And many, many people appreciate buying the newest fanciest tech toy. A lot of those pretend (even to themselves) that it's really about making photographs, but wouldn't it be so much more freeing — and honest! — to just say ooh, I got the D600 because it's so shiny and new and cool?

So, go on — give yourself permission. You know it won't make you a better photographer, but that's not really the point.

Or, if that doesn't feel like it fits, step back and consider what really does matter to you in photography, and concentrate your energy (and money) there.

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Thanks for the permission ;). I hope i am not in the category of 'new and cool'. Admittedly I am a tech head adjusted for income level, look but dont touch. This for me is the battle of why I want to upgrade, for upgrade sake or for a real reason. This post has helped significantly in that i have been asked to answer questions (which everyone should ask themselves before each significant purchase) to myself in order to know why I want this upgrade. To be clearer in purpose. –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:26

In all truth, I'm positive that software and/or lens will do more for you than a new camera body.

I own one of Canon's newest camera bodies, the T3i - yet I just went out and got their oldest consumer body (the 300D) from 9 years ago and take photos that rival the quality of my newer cameras.

The lenses and shooting in RAW are what make the difference. After editing, no one can tell the photos from my $90 body from my $900 body when I post online. (Large format printing is a different story).

If you don't have Lightroom or Photoshop you will never take photos that look like the beautiful ones you see that have been adjusted in image programs.

If you don't have the right lens then the body is moot.

Basically, I'm sure you would get more bang per-buck from $800 in software and lenses than $2,000 on a new body.

Actually, you can even test things out for free (though this is not as good/easy as Lightroom). Take some RAW photos and then go spend $0 on some of the free HDR software and GIMP for photo adjustments.

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Although I dont disagree - i really hate post processing. I know its a skill that i must get into, but i prefer the effort of setting up the shot organising and envisiging the result. Then getting as close as I can without PP. Not always successful though. (I have used gimp for PP but found clunky, maybe recent versions are better). –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:19
    
@Darklantern, you are right. Never use PP as an excuse to slack on the initial shoot. However, I must admit that learning Lightroom has changed my output dramatically. Lightroom is as close to a silver bullet as you can get. Some people may disagree, but that's because they haven't spent enough time learning it. I know I couldn't figure out why people liked it so much when I started. I often take candid shots where I can't setup and Lightroom allows me to salvage even bad photos. FYI, I took Photoshop in college and have used it for years. –  Xeoncross Nov 6 '12 at 16:02

Back in the film days it was a lot easier to be dismissive of high-end 35mm camera purchases -- every "image sensor" was the same and if you used decent quality lenses, what else did you really need? But even so, I found myself owning an Nikon F3 and a Leica. Was I being an idiot? Maybe a little, but...

Those cameras may not have given better "captures" than my Nikon FM2, but because of the obvious care in their construction, their mechanical ruggedness, and the attention to ergonomics those cameras were a joy to use. And that did make a difference in a way that is hard to define.

Today, of course, you have the unrelenting march (and cost) of digital technology to contend with. A professional camera from 10 years ago won't have the raw (not RAW) image quality of a new entry level camera. Also, a lot of helpful ergonomic features are only present at the prosumer level and up -- things like switchable sets of user controllable settings, extra "programmable" buttons, separate wheels for aperture and shutter speed.

TL/DR? If you have the money (don't go into debt) and the camera makes you happy (do try one out in a store, or rent one) go ahead and get it. The fact that you understand that a better camera won't make you a better photographer shows you probably have your head on straight.

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Thanks David for the compliment. The extra functions like intervalvometer, mirror lock up are quite useful. –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:03

Showed light and perspective quite clearly with only 1 pen and 1 colour.

Can you imagine what he could do with a good set of pencils on some quality paper? (Or whatever his preferred tools are.) Chances are, if he's that skilled he probably has a set of great tools at his disposal. Maybe inspiration hit on the train and he was unprepared with only a paper and pen. Or, maybe today he decided he wanted to see what he could do with such a limited toolset.

I think what you've seen is more analogous to setting aside your DSLR in favor of using a smartphone to see what can really be done with it. So perhaps the take-away from this: can you use a pocket camera to create a stunning photo?


On the subject of a D80 vs D600, there's no doubt that the D600 is leaps and bounds better in many areas. IMO, the question isn't whether it's worth the upgrade; the question is whether you think you use the camera enough to justify an upgrade, whether you want to move to a full frame camera, and whether you have the money.

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Thanks Dan, and you point the crux out-- ; the question is whether you think you use the camera enough to justify an upgrade -- Thanks what i am dealing with. I have save the money aside. (PS: the D80 is still a great learning camera). BTW: although i dont know the artist i saw, but i believe I saw his usual tools, which adds to his art. Common equipment for common scenes(?) –  Darklantern Nov 5 '12 at 13:17
    
I have tried using the smart phone, although that is relatively new to me and found it frustrating. More practice is needed, but I know the smart phone wont cut it when i try midday long exposures or night shots. But still to create with the phone within its limitation is still a goal. –  Darklantern Nov 5 '12 at 13:20

The D600 is excellent and it's a pleasure to use. You can read my Nikon D600 review here.

The D80 is aging and has limitations. If you hit those limitations and your pictures are not coming out with the quality you expect them, go ahead an upgrade. This will be mostly true for low-light photography where advances have been significant. If your D80 is preventing your from taking shots because it is not weather-sealed for example, then also upgrade.

What the D600 won't do is make you a better photographer. The success of your images wont change much (perhaps fewer AF misses for action photography) but your images will be of higher quality.

Which one are you looking to improve? If it is success, take a photography class, read books, etc. Learn and practice more. When you do upgrade later, you will take better advantage of your new camera.

A great image has impact and those can be taken with pretty much any semi-capable camera. A good quality image requires a good camera and good lens to match.

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Thankyou for your considered answer. thats almost my dichotomy. i have tried and some photos i couldnt take with the d80 (D80 is a great learning camera). But dunno if my photos are yet to the standard that deserves a d600. I must re-look at some photos. –  Darklantern Nov 5 '12 at 13:02
    
Your review is excellent, but i have 1 question; Lenses - I have a 80-200D ED 2.8 AF and planning to get a tokina 24-70 At-x Pro 2.8. (~500). Will these be suitable for the d600, or are they not good enough? –  Darklantern Nov 5 '12 at 13:10
    
Thanks! Sorry but I have not seen either lens. It is possible the Tokina is good enough, at least stopped down. I would look for reviews where it was tested on a full-frame body to see what they say. –  Itai Nov 5 '12 at 13:31
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A great image has impact and those can be taken with pretty much any semi-capable camera. A good quality image requires a good camera and good lens to match. This is a very precise and pertinent, and puts things in perpesctive. –  Darklantern Nov 6 '12 at 11:29

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