I hope with this post I can educate fellow photographers on what a reasonable price should be for lenses, bodies, etc. and how to buy smart lyby looking at alternatives or older versions. It seems to me that prices of most camera equipment have gone up a lot and often doubled, yet with little added value. The only real advantage I can see for the newer AF-S lenses is that they autofocus on bodies cheaper than the Nikon D7000.

As background, I started with a Nikon D90 as first DSLR in 2010 and have bought most of my equipment in 2012 and 2013, such as a D7000, MB-D11 battery grip, SB-900, 85mm f/1.8 AF D, 50mm f/1.8 AF D…. Below are prices of those, similar gear available at the time and details of modern equivalents or upgrades.

LENSES – 50mm f/1.8  

The 50mm is known as the “normal” lens for 35mm film or fullframe DSLRs. It is a great portrait lens for crop-sensor portraits. I do prefer the tighter 85mm, which is mentioned later.

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 FX AF in 2012 – R1300. That was the price until it went on end-of-range special and bought it at a price of R900.
  • Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-S in 2012 – R2300. Available in 2013 as I think. It added AF-S autofocus motors but this didn’t matter for my D90 or D7000 bodies.

Now…

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G in 2012 – R3400. Almost three times the price of the orignal 50mm f/1.8 in 2012. And more than a new 50mm f1.4 two years ago (below). It lacks the aperture ring. It does have a ring for fine tuning autofocus but I don’t know if this is useful.

As a side note, Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 sold for around R1000 in 2012 and their replacement 50mm f1.8 II is R1300. Still very reasonable for a beginner.

LENSES – 50mm f/1.4

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF D in 2012 – about R3000. Almost three times the price of the 50mm f1.8 AF D at the time, which was reasonable since it was faster in aperture and was sharper stopped down to f/2 to than the 50mm f/1.8 set to f/2.
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S G 2012 – about R4000. Improved optics and added autofocus motors.

Now…

  • 50mm f/1.4 AF-S G in 2012- R7700. Around double the price of the previous f/1.4 lenses, but how much sharper or faster at focusing can it be?

 

Background info on the 50mm f/1.8 AF D, skip this paragraph if you like… Two reviews I read rated it as Nikon’s sharpest lens ever and as sharp as the 50mm f/1.4 once they are both set to f/4. Edge sharpness of the 50mm f/1.8 was not great at wide apertures, but not a problem bodies with a crop-factor. The design had not changed since 1993 so it still had a manual aperture ring and rotating focus barrel.

 

LENSES – 85mm

The classic portrait lens.

  • Nikon 85mm f1.8 AF D in 2012 – R4500. This is one of my favourite portrait lenses. The G version was available at the time I bought it, but the reviews said the G was not much of an improvemnt.
  • Nikon 85mm f1.8 AF-S G in 2012 – about R5500 to R6000.

Now…

  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S in 2014 – R8100. or R7500 on special. How did the price go up by R2000 or R3000 from the older f/1.8 versions?

Also for comparison, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 went from R3500 in 2012 to R4600 in 2014, which is reasonable based on upgrades and/or inflation.

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  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF D in 2014 – R6300. This f/1.4 AF D lens is available new and is over a R1000 cheaper than the latest f1.8 AF-S G version mentioned above. But I don’t think enough people know about it. It is not listed on the Orms online store and is on their pricelist book to order new, but they don’t keep in stock. I discovered this lens only because I saw a secondhand version on their shelf in early 2014 (for R5000) and wanted to see what the new price would be (R6300). I didn’t get it as I didn’t think it would be worth selling my 85mm f/1.8 though. But I recommend this 85mm f/1.4 AF D lens to any Nikon shooter looking for a new 85mm.
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF D in 2012 – R20 000 or so. A pro lens of course. Discontinued.
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G N for R28 000. A pro lens with a nano-crystal coating, to reduce glare and other issues.

More alternatives for Nikon shooters

  • Samyang 85mm f/1.4 for Nikon – R5300. Available new from Photohire on De Villiers St in Cape Town. There are chipped and unchipped Nikon fit versions, I don’t know if this gives autofocus or metering abilities. A review I read said the sharpness and image quality was good compared to the Nikon versions, I don’t know how different they are though. Link.
  • Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 for Nikon – R17 400. A high end option for pro shooters. Link

 

CROPPED SENSOR MID RANGE DSLR BODIES

  • Nikon D7000 in 2012 – about R12 000 to R13 000

Now…

  • Nikon D7000 in 2014 – R13 000. This seems fair compared to two years ago.
  • Nikon D7100 in 2014 – R18 000. Close to the full frame 5DII price of R21 000 two years ago. The D7100 is a price in between the D7000 and the discontinued full frame D700.

ENTRY-LEVEL CROPPED SENSOR DSLR BODIES

D3000, D3100, D3200 and D3300 are very similar. They all have a physically small body, an entry-level button layout (and lack a scrolling dial of the D7000 and up), lack autofocus motors (need AF-S lenses) and lack wireless flash capabilities of the D90, D200 and D7000. They do get progressively higher resolutions and ISO capabilities, but I don’t know if they have the quality sensors or processors to make use of these.

  • Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm in 2014 – R4300. Or R3300 on special in 2014. Plus card and shoulder bag. I think similar in price to the  D3000 around 2012, so reasonable price and great for beginners.
  • Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm in 2014 – R6500. I got to borrow from this someone and saw the limitations no autofocus with my 85mm f/1.8 and not wireless flash with my SB-900.
  • Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm in 2014 – R9600. This latest D3300 is almost 3 times the price of the earlier D3100.

I am not going to go in detail with the D5000 series (one above entry-level but still small bodies). But the latest in that series is the  Nikon D5300 in 2014 at R12 500. ). I guess the D5300 is a replacement to the D7000. The lack of an anti-aliasing filter interests me for portrait, landcapes and macro. But I would not consider it an option to buy because then a lot my lenses would autofocus with it. And I would lose my TTL wireless flash capability, which I need for events and for studio shoots (when I am not using a 300Ws strobe)

 

FULL FRAME DSLR BODIES

  • Canon 5D mk II in 2012- R21 000. A pro full frame body. Now discontinued.
  • Nikon D700 in 2012 – R25 000. A pro full frame body. Now discontinued.

  • Nikon D610 in 2014 – R31 000. Considered an entry level full frame and lacking pro features from what I’ve heard. There was the D600 before but that was abadoned soon due eto issues with oil spots on their sensors.
  • Canon 6D in 2014 – R23 000. An entry-level full frame body, but yet more expensive than the 5D mk II was.
  • Canon 5D mk III in 2014 – R40 000 or R3600 on special. A pro full frame body. A review said that is has better autofocus and video features, otherwise it’s not much of an upgrade on the mk II.

 

FLASHES

  • Nikon SB-600 in 2011 – R2700. Discontinued now. I bought one which broken while I was using a SB-900 at the same time.
  • Nikon SB-700 in 2014 – R5500 (it was R3300 in 2011 or 2012).

Now…

  • Nikon SB-900 in 2012 – R4500. Discontinued.
  • Nikon SB-910 in 2014 – R6900. This has improved functionality to cope with overheating, but I don’t know how good that is or if it worth R2400 more.

The SB-700 and SB-900 did add features over the SB-600 with their improved power (arguably), zoom range and ability to be used as commanders on camera. But the SB-600 still had it’s place as a reasonably-price flash for wireless off-camera use for TTL (through the lens) metering.

I have a SB-900 which I used a single flash for events or studio shoots. To add a second wireless TTL flash to this single flash setup would mean buying a SB-700 (which costs R1000 more than my SB-900 did) or to buy a SB-910 (for about R2400 more than my SB-900). So then I would rather look at a Sigma flash in the R1300 to R2600, some of which include optical flash trigger. But all with manual power settings (on or off camera).

 

BATTERY GRIPS

  • D7000 grip in 2012 – R2500

Now…

 

I hope you have learnt something about the equipment you own or are looking at buying, so you can make more informed decisions in future. So you only pay for features you need and get value for money.

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