Should I go full frame?

How do you describe your shooting style?   For me, I like to describe it as trying to be photo-journalistic, stylistic, available light.  I would rather go up to ISO 1600 on my D80 than use the onboard flash or external flash.   I love taking photos of music concerts and gigs, of dancing and theatre performances.  And in these environments, you really can’t use a flash at all – both for practical reasons (distance to stage) but also safety and annoyance reasons (don’t want a flash distracting the performers or the audience!).

The sacrifice (for my current setup) is noise.  I have invested in a few f2.8 zoom lenses and some prime f1.8 lenses that allow the camera to capture as much light as possible with beautiful bokeh, and really sharp with low chromatic abberation. 

But it’s the sensor in the camera body that is responsible for capturing the light, for the resolution, for the ISO performance – and hence the amount of noise in the photo. 

Some of my photos, for example, of music gigs in dark places, just have a LOT of noise.  In fact, for one recent potential sale, the client asked why there was so much grain on my photos – it was just unusable for their purposes.   I explained the challenges of low lighting situations with no flash, but in the end, the image quality was not there so no sale.  In that dark club, the only other option would really be to use a flash, or ask the club to turn up the house lights just for me 🙂   No, I couldn’t use a lower ISO with longer shutter speed unless I asked the performers to stand like statues for a few seconds 🙂

But there is another option – upgrade my equipment, in particular – upgrade my camera body.   The latest top end digital SLRs have fantastic low light capturing abilities.  And so I’m now starting to look at the upgrades – on the Canon side, the EOS 5D Mark ii.   On the Nikon side, the D700.  I’ve now read stacks of reviews and comparisons of each, and in the end, they’re both really similar.  One reviewer did make an intelligent recommendation – just stick with what you know and what accessories/lenses you already have.

Since I already have a camera bag with 5 Nikon lenses, as well as a Nikon flash and other accessories, I really need to stick with the Nikon family.  Here’s my current camera bag:
* Nikon 50 f1.8
* Nikon 85 f1.8
* Tokina 12-24 f4 (DX)
* Nikon 17-55 f2.8 (DX)
* Sigma 70-200 f2.8

And so I started investigating how much the switchover would cost. 

Change bodies – Nikon D80 to D700

Obviously a simple decision.  

From BH Photo and Video, the D700 is about $2500.   But what would I get for my D80?  Maybe $500?

Changes lenses – DX to FX

Looking at my camera bag, I actually have 2 DX lenses.  Although I can use them on a full frame, FX, camera body, I really don’t want to do this. 

In this category I have the Tokina 12-24 f4 and the Nikon 17-55 f2.8.  The 17-55 is my prized walk around and travel lens at the moment and I’ve taken some great shots with it.  It will be hard to let go of it.   I’d hope to get at least $1k for it, but the Tokina might be only a couple of hundred dollars.

But what to buy next?   I think it would be a major dent on my pocket to get another mid range zoom like the 24-70 f2.8 or 17-35 f2.8.  I think I’ll need to save up for that (think 1 year time), but in the mean time, I could just use my 50 f1.8, or sell that and get a 50 f1.4.

But whoa, this seems quite restrictive – I would just have 2 primes (50 and 85) and a long zoom lens (70-200) for the next year.  Nothing for that family group photo unless I buy or borrow a cheaper zoom in the mean time.

And then the question – how to get rid of my existing gear?  Sell to a local camera shop, ask friends or sell on eBay?


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