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Is the Nikon D7200 a significant upgrade to a Canon Rebel T3? I've read and compared all the specs so no need to rehash those. I am just wondering will I notice an improvement in the quality of my photos if I upgrade from my Rebel T3 to a D7200. Or, would I really need to go full-frame to get to the next level of image quality?

I realize that I'll have to start from scratch with lenses if I switch camera brands. I only have the one lens that came with my Rebel T3 so not too concerned about that.

In low-light settings the quality is just not good, blurry. I understand that by decreasing shutter speed and increasing ISO, images would be sharper. I understand the exposure triangle. I usually just shoot in auto or aperture priority. I do almost exclusively travel photography. Things happen fast, I'm usually walking with a group and don't feel that I have time to mess around with settings in manual. For example, if I am capturing scenes of people out at night in a busy Chinese pedestrian street.

If the answer to my problem is, "suck it up and get fast at shooting in manual" and "you are going to have the same problems with a D7200", I am receptive to that feedback.

Here is an example of an unsatisfactory shot. I understand that higher ISO with faster shutter speed would have resulted in a crisper shot. I just didn't have time to do that in the 5 seconds between when my friend asks how much the crab is and the waiter whips out two crabs and explains the price of each.

example

The blur is just one complaint I suppose, I also just feel that sometimes my photos don't have the "wow" factor that you would expect from a DSLR. This is not something I can explain further. Wondering if the D7200 having twice the megapixels would help with this.

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    Do you notice something lacking in the quality of your photographs currently? What is it? You will usually gain more significant improvements to your photography by focusing on technique, composition, subject matter, creativity and expression, and light, rather than by just replacing one camera with another. Remember, cameras don't take photos, photographers take photos. – osullic Apr 1 at 13:08
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    Also, I assume you realise that by switching brands that you will need to begin from scratch in putting together a system of lenses and so on. – osullic Apr 1 at 13:08
  • Yes I realize that about the lenses, I only have the one lens that came with my Rebel T3 so not too concerned about that. – Ted Sholl Apr 1 at 13:23
  • In low-light settings the quality is just not good, blurry. I really just do travel photography so don't have time to mess with settings if I am capturing scenes of people out at night in a busy Chinese pedestrian street, for example. – Ted Sholl Apr 1 at 13:24
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    Do you understand why you're getting blurry shots? Shutter speed? ISO? Focus? Certainly unless you can definitively answer that question, don't buy anything. – Philip Kendall Apr 1 at 13:56
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In low-light settings the quality is just not good, blurry. I really just do travel photography so don't have time to mess with settings if I am capturing scenes of people out at night in a busy Chinese pedestrian street, for example.

Then get a good phone that does computational photography very well. It will think for you more than and better than any DSLR on the market. It won't (at least not at this point in time) tell you how to compose an interesting image, though. You've still got to figure out where to place the camera and where to point the camera.

Interchangeable lens cameras are still created with the assumption that the photographer wants at least some control how the image is captured and processed. Like many advanced tools, using them well requires the effort to learn how they can best be utilized. If you're not willing to do that, then get a tool that is designed to guess well, at least most of the time, about what you want the photo to look like.

I am just wondering will I notice an improvement in the quality of my photos if I upgrade from my Rebel T3 to a D7200.

Probably not. If you had used a D7200 instead of a Rebel T3 to take the example image, you might have a slightly less blurry result of a poorly composed image that makes no sense at all. It still would not be a good photo.

In the hands of someone who understands the differences between the two cameras and how those differences may be used to leverage a better photo taken under the same conditions, there probably would be a noticeable difference.

Things happen fast, I'm usually walking with a group and don't feel that I have time to mess around with settings in manual... if the answer to my problem is suck it up and get fast at shooting in manual and you are going to have the same problems with a D7200, I am receptive to that feedback haha.

Better gear, in and of itself, doesn't make anyone a better photographer.

If you want to be able to take better photographs, you need to be willing to learn how to be a better photographer. That begins with learning about composition. It means learning about how the intensity, color, shape, and direction of light affects the way the scene or subject looks. It requires understanding how exposure works and how different intensities of lighting affect the way a camera needs to be set up to get a good exposure. Which camera one uses is way down the list of things one needs to know.¹

The blur is just one complaint I suppose, I also just feel that sometimes my photos don't have the "wow" factor that you would expect from a DSLR, this is not something I can explain further. Wondering if the D7200 having twice the megapixels would help with this.

A good photo isn't about megapixels, or even whether there is a little blur. It's about how does an image tell a story? How do the lines, colors, highlights and shadows, etc. lead the eye from one point to another? What kind of emotional or intellectual response does it invoke in the viewer?

In the end, gear with higher capabilities can certainly help. But a better camera won't make you a better photographer. It will just allow you to use more of the skill, knowledge, and experience you've picked up along the way. Part of that experience and knowledge contributes to the ability to pick the best tool for the job from among the options one has available.

Does the camera matter?
When should I upgrade my camera body?

¹ There are times when being a good photographer does mean recognizing what technical capabilities are needed from the gear to get a desired result. Understanding the capabilities of the various pieces of equipment available and selecting the lens and camera that will give the best result draws from the knowledge and experience of a veteran photographer.

  • This is an excellent answer. Maybe my comment is unnecessary, but I felt it worth stating. – osullic Apr 1 at 19:36
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Your underlying problem seems to be how to take (better) photos quickly, not what camera you should get. While equipment can make more of a difference than some would like to believe, it seems you have not yet reached the limits of your current gear.

Switching cameras may even slow you down. Recently, I met someone with a brand-new full-frame Nikon DSLR with a Nikkor 24-70/2.8 lens. Despite being completely satisfied with a comparatively tiny FujiFilm body with 28mm prime, I couldn't help but to feel a bit of gear envy. However, in the time it took him to get the camera out of his bag and fiddle with settings, others had already fired off dozens of shots with different poses on their iPhones. But the whir, beep, and click of the DSLR did sound very satisfying.

Suggestions to consider:

  • Forget about "manual" mode for now. Manual mode is slower and won't necessarily result in better photos. While many here could use manual mode, they more often likely use some auto setting (including the program and priority modes, or even "manual" mode with auto ISO). Even using the camera's built-in exposure meter is like using Auto because the camera is still determining exposure, in a roundabout way. Aperture priority is perfectly fine as long as you remember to set the aperture appropriately.

  • When you don't have time to adjust settings, flip the mode dial to Auto or Program. It can be done as quickly as turning the camera on. Then you'll be able to capture something reasonable until you have time to fiddle with settings. The guy I mentioned earlier could have switched to auto and captured a few shots before fiddling with settings to capture a few more.

  • Set ISO to Auto. You probably learned somewhere that lower ISO results in less noise, which equals better photos. But that isn't entirely true. All other things being equal, less noise is good, but all other things are not equal. A sharp, noisy image is usually more desirable than a blurry, noise-free image.

  • If possible, customize your camera's auto ISO and shutter speed settings to favor higher ISO and faster shutter speeds. This will help reduce blur.

  • Ask people to slow down. Food photography is very common. Waiters are used to being asked to wait for people to take pictures. Staff at Chinese restaurants can seem pushy, but what are they going to do? Kick you out before you've even ordered and paid? In my experience, they're more likely to tell you to wait while they bring out the giant, human-sized crab for you to pose with.

    If there's a language barrier, consider it an opportunity to learn a few phrases. While some Chinese people are pushy, many are not. Chinese languages tend to be fast and staccato-like, which makes them feel more abrupt than they are.

  • Actively look for other things to photograph. Some restaurants have aquariums where you can choose which specimen you want for dinner. You might have been able to photograph your friends choosing which crab they wanted cooked. Or photograph them discussing the menu. Or photograph the waiter bringing other dishes out. Etc.

  • Don't keep your camera in a bag or use lens caps. I often have my camera hanging by my side. Five seconds is more than enough time for me to grab it to fire off a few shots. The only time my camera is bagged is when I've actively decided not take any further photographs. (Lighting is no good. Event is ending. The dread of post processing outweighs the enjoyment of taking more photos.)

  • Do post-mortems on your photos. Evaluate what you do or don't like about them. Use that info to improve your future photos.

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From one of your comments:

I only have the one lens that came with my Rebel T3

Assuming that's the 18-55 kit lens or something similar, this will be far more significant than the body or the brand you are using. If you changed to (say) the 17-55 f/2.8, you'd get two stops of improvement at 55mm. Change to the 50mm f/1.4 and you'd get another two stops over that. Four stops is way more than you'd get even from changing to full frame.

  • OK thanks Philip, I think I need to educate myself more on f-numbers. – Ted Sholl Apr 1 at 14:15
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Yes I realize that about the lenses, I only have the one lens that came with my Rebel T3 so not too concerned about that.

Actually, you should be very concerned about this. There is no such thing as a Do-It-All lens. Every lens is built with tradeoffs - whether that be image quality, max aperture, ability to zoom, IS, size/weight, price, etc. You need to understand what these tradeoffs are so that you can pair yourself with the best lens(es) for your needs.

In low-light settings the quality is just not good, blurry. I really just do travel photography so don't have time to mess with settings if I am capturing scenes of people out at night in a busy Chinese pedestrian street, for example.

If the quality is blurry, then your shutter speeds are too slow. Bump the ISO up and/or open up the aperture. If your aperture is maxed on your lens, well, this is where a faster lens would help (faster as in: has a bigger max aperture).

To answer @osullic 's question, I usually just shoot in auto or apeture priority. As I mentioned I do almost exclusively travel photography. Things happen fast, I'm usually walking with a group and don't feel that I have time to mess around with settings in manual...

Time and place for everything. Av and Tv mode are fantastic additions to your bag-o-tricks for shooting modes. That being said, there's nothing harmful about learning manual (learning about exposure and how to program your camera to do what you want it to). In fact, learning exposure will make you a better photographer overall and you will be more successful using Av or Tv modes because you'll understand why the camera thinks the way it does.

I added a picture of an unsatisfactory shot. Again I understand that higher ISO with faster shutter speed would have resulted in a crisper shot. I just didn't have time to do that in the 5 seconds between when my friend asks how much the crab is and the waiter whips out two crabs and explains the price of each.

This is about preparedness. You were shooting outside where your ISO was fine. You moved inside. You didn't adjust your camera settings. This is a failure on your part to anticipate the shot. There's nothing wrong with your gear here - you simply need to start monitoring the available light and make sure that you adjust settings in advance.

The blur is just one complaint I suppose, I also just feel that sometimes my photos don't have the "wow" factor that you would expect from a DSLR, this is not something I can explain further. Wondering if the D7200 having twice the megapixels would help with this.

More pixels won't help you get the "wow" factor. A great photo is the product of great lighting, a great exposure, and great editing. A really good photo can be had with great lighting and a great exposure. If you don't have great lighting or a great exposure, then you will be relying on editing to "save" the shot. Not being comfy in a Raw editor or Photoshop (any editing tools, really) is like shooting black and white film and not being comfortable in the darkroom. The whole process encompasses seeing the shot, getting the shot, and producing the shot. You need to learn to use the whole process if you want to get those "wow" images.


Good luck!

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    OK thanks, I think the anticipating shots and adjusting settings ahead of time is the most helpful advice on this thread. – Ted Sholl Apr 1 at 15:09
  • @TedSholl you are welcome. Since you're using auto modes, do also read up on exposure lock (which is beneficial if your subject is moving between bright and dim areas. I find back-button focus to be extremely helpful as well, along with AI Servo. Modern cameras are powerful tools - and there's a good bit of function to customize it to your tastes - the goal being to get to a point where you pick it up and shoot, everything second nature. – Hueco Apr 1 at 15:27
  • @TedSholl This site also has a wealth of knowledge already recorded on it. Especially regarding travel photography and low light shooting. – Hueco Apr 1 at 15:28
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The Nikon you're looking at is a slightly higher-end model and several years newer, and probably enough so that you'll see measurable differences in processing performance, autofocus speed, etc. You say you've compared all of the specs, so you know this stuff. However, this by itself will not make your images better.

Or, would I really need to go full-frame to get to the next level of image quality?

Full-frame just means that the sensor measures about 36×24mm rather than around 24×16mm. This gives the inherent ability to gather more overall light in the same time at the same aperture*. This is a meaningful difference, but it does not magically equal more image quality.

In your photo above, there is presumably more motion blur than you'd like. The newer camera — or a full frame model — would probably let you increase ISO more without introducing overwhelming visual noise, which would let you have a shorter shutter speed. So in that sense, yeah, a camera replacement could open up options. But you could also consider a faster lens, adding light, timing things differently, or even just increasing ISO on the camera you have.

But that's just one aspect in one example. Again, there's no magic in purchasing something. Before you spend any money, you should figure out what's limiting you with your current gear.


* Each area gets the same amount of light at a given shutter speed and, say, f/2.8, but there is more area, so....

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Besides the other excellent answers here (especially get a faster lens), I have a suggestion on how you can "take pictures quickly" in low light situations.

Shoot in manual with ISO set to auto. You can set your aperture to as large as your lens allows and then you only have to set the shutter speed for each shot.

  • Hand holding a still scene, relatively well lit - 1/30s
  • Leaning against something to steady yourself in the same scene - 1/15s
  • Hand holding a scene with motion - 1/80s (this really depends on speed of the motion)

(These speeds are just estimates, they will vary depending on how steady you are and whether your lens has IS)

In all these cases, the ISO will automatically adjust to expose properly and then you will have to determine whether the noise is acceptable before deciding to upgrade your camera. The same advice still applies, a better camera will simply give you less noise in the same shots. The point of the technique though, is to allow you to only focus on one setting (mostly), the shutter speed. This should give you the ability to quickly adapt to the scene in front of you.

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