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Our family has had a Nikon D70 for years that has seen many holidays and produced lots of good photos.

The camera is getting a bit old and unreliable at times, with occasional card issues, and focusing problems where the camera is unable to quickly autofocus and will traverse the whole focus range trying.

I am thinking of getting a new body, in particular a D3300 or D5300.

The lenses we currently have are:

  • Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR DX
  • Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 IF-ED AF-S VR DX

I believe these lenses are compatible with the aforementioned bodies, but would it be more worthwhile to buy a new lens with the camera, for reasons such as focus speed, compactness, sharpness etc, how much has entry level lens technology improved?

  • You seem to be under the (false) impression that the D70 and 18-70 are entry-level items. They're not! – Dan Wolfgang Aug 10 '14 at 11:13
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    I considered it mid range, and that with the improvements to technology the d3300 or d5300 would be equivalent. I take it from your comment that I could expect decent results using the old lenses. – Hugoagogo Aug 10 '14 at 12:21
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The issues reported of AF detection causing 'hunting' and card issues do not appear to be lens related.

The 'kit' lenses for the D3300/5300 listed aren't likely to be a vast improvement over the ones you have already (if indeed they're not kit lenses themselves for some models). That means to get any worthwhile improvement you'd need to head up the lens range. In turn, having a better body with an AF motor like a D7000 or the older D90 gives you more options in the 2nd hand lens market as you aren't restricted to AF-S lenses.

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The main area in which lenses have improved significantly in the time since you purchased your current kit are two fold:

  • Fast zoom lenses The use of computer modeling in the development of new lenses has allowed the current crop of very fast, very expensive zoom lenses to approach and sometimes equal the performance of much more modestly prices prime lenses. In the not so distant past an f/2.8 zoom would cost 5x as much as a good prime and still not deliver the same level of image quality. So you had to choose between the image quality of several prime lenses to cover a particular range or the flexibility of a single zoom lens to cover the same range. Now the high end zooms cost 10x as much and do deliver comparable image quality as well as the flexibility of a zoom lens. None of these lenses are remotely priced at the "entry level". (Note: These zooms typically cover a 3-4x focal length range, such as 24-70mm or 70-200mm. Even the 10X zooms comparable to your 18-200mm still give up a lot of image quality and speed to get that large focal length range in a single lens.)

  • Consumer lenses for shooting video The development of stepping focus motors (STM) makes using auto focus when shooting video with a DSLR easier because the auto focus is smoother and quieter (but not faster) than traditional DSLR AF motors in consumer level lenses. The STM lens must be coupled with a camera body that can take advantage of the new technology to get the full benefit.

Both of these developments have occurred within the Canon EOS system. So if you are interested in taking advantage of these developments in lens technology you'll need to switch to Canon. Your decision should also consider the comparative performance of other parts of the systems, particularly sensor performance in the entry level offerings from Canon, Nikon, and others such as Sony, Pentax, etc.

  • User programmable lenses Sigma has introduced a line of lenses with a connector that allows the end user to connect the lens via a USB dock to a computer and adjust parameters of the auto focus at various focal lengths. This allows, for example, an AF correction in one direction at minimum focal length and in another direction or a different amount at mid-zoom and at maximum focal length. These lenses can be found in mounts for both Nikon and Canon as well as a few select other mounts. They are not entry level, though.

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