Every photographer uses a different set of tools when producing their images. I’m a pretty big fan of researching camera gear, comparing lenses, and chatting about options with fellow shooters. For the past few years, I’ve invested in building a kit around Nikon’s Dx system — cameras with a 1.5x crop as opposed to full frame.
This post highlights some of the advantages when going with a crop sensor as well as info on some of the gear I picked.
Camera Body: Nikon D7100
The Nikon D7100 is a “pro-sumer” body that features a 24 megapixel sensor and a wide-range of controls similar to professional bodies. I grew up using the Nikon D300 and I see the Nikon D7100 as a solid upgrade — especially since the D7100 boasts solid construction while losing a good amount of the weight compared to the D300.
The D7100 allows me to push my ISO to 1600 comfortably and occasionally a bit higher to shoot street shots at night. The controls are in similar spots to my old D300. I didn’t have to relearn too much when starting out with this camera. Photographers use different focusing methods — I choose to use the selector pad on the back of the camera and move the sensor around similar to a joystick. I learned this way and the D7100 behaves as I expect, consistently focusing quickly and accurately.
In the future, I plan on moving to a full frame camera, but love how light the D7100 is while providing excellent performance for the price.
Ultrawide: Tokina 12-24 F4
The Tokina 12-24 F4 is an awesome wide-angle that I use regularly for cityscapes, landscapes, and street photography. I recently put together a quick review with images you can learn more about here. As a whole, the lens is incredibly sharp, well-built, and affordable.
When I picked the lens, I debated between the Tokina 12-24 F4 and the Tokina 11-16 F2.8. I think either are great lenses. But, I chose to have more range so I don’t have to switch lenses as much.
Mid-range: Nikkor 17-55 F2.8
This Nikkor lens represents the biggest investment for my Dx kit. The Nikon glass is silent, focuses quickly, and produces superb images throughout the zoom range. If you go to the main page on my website or view some of my galleries, most of the images you’ll find are from this lens. The 2.8 aperture offers a lot of speed to shoot in a variety of conditions. I made this investment knowing I’d have the glass for quite some time and didn’t feel the third-party competitors matched up when I bought it in 2006.
Telephoto: Nikon 80-200 F2.8 ED
The Nikon telephoto is a top-level film lens from the mid-1990s. In my mind, it’s a hidden gem that’s much more affordable than the Nikon 70-200 F2.8 VR1 or VR2. While this lens won’t work on every Dx body, it’s a steal on the higher-end Dx cameras. I love using this sense for street shots, portraits, and architecture photography in the city.
What about primes?
I have a Nikon 50mm F1.8, but use it rarely at this point. In general, I find the quality and speed I have with these zooms means I don’t have to buy additional prime lenses. If I were to upgrade to full-frame, I might generally buy one main zoom and compliment it with a prime or two, but don’t see the need with the zooms I have. Essentially, it’s all individual preference.
I believe everyone builds their camera system out differently. I'd love to know what choices you've made and how you've built out your own kit!