Should I buy the very latest DSLR camera?

April 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by  •  2 Comments

It’s time for me to trade up from a Nikon D70 to a more advanced camera. The D7000 sounds perfect but the older D90 is still available at a much lower price. Should I go for the newest model or get the D90 and use the money I would save to buy another lens? Matt W.

This is a common question from owners of all brands of cameras, Matt. My answer depends on how significant the upgrades are in the new/improved DSLR. If they are really meaningful, and you already own a couple of decent lenses, I recommend buying the newer model. While a higher megapixel number may be the most attractive, other DSLR features are actually more important.

While a newer camera may be very similar to a predecessor in style, size and controls, it's what's inside that counts. Superior technology, speed and image quality can be compelling reasons for buying the latest model. Photo courtesy of Nikon Canada

When testing the 16.2-megapixel Nikon D7000 I rated it as one of the best in the enthusiast-level category. The 12.3-megapixel D90 was certainly impressive in its time, but since then, superior technology has been developed: Nikon’s fast new EXPEED 2 processor and CMOS sensor for amazing high ISO quality, the new 39-point autofocus module with 15 cross-type focus detectors and faster tracking focus, improved 2016-pixel RGB 3D Matrix metering system and so on.

With a Google search (listing any two camera models and the word differences) you can find charts that provide useful comparisons. For example, DPReview has published one about the D7000 vs the D90. In addition to the benefits I have already mentioned—and the superior quality at all ISO—, I consider the following upgrades to be particularly valuable: full HD 1080p (vs. 720p) Movie mode with new full time AF, larger 100% viewfinder and the faster 6 vs. 4.5 fps) drive mode.  The D7000 is also even more rugged than the D90, thanks to its  magnesium alloy body shell, a feature usually reserved for pro DSLRs.

The Nikon D7000 provides excellent value for the money in terms of reliable auto-focus, great speed, maximum versatility and excellent image quality at surprisingly high ISO levels. (ISO 3200; Royal Winter Fair, Toronto.) © 2011 Peter K. Burian

A new lens that’s much better than those you own—or is an entirely different type such as an ultra-wide or macro—would be tempting too, of course. And if you have only a single lens, like the 18-55 mm zoom, you may want to buy the more affordable camera and upgrade to a superior and/or more versatile lens. Otherwise, I would suggest acquiring the best available DSLR now and saving up to expand your system when your budget allows.

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  1. John Winstone / April 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm / Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more ….
    I just jumped from a D60 to a D7000.
    The feel and function is sooooooooo worth it, even though I have only shot 30 or 40 frames.
    This camera with a Sigma 17-70 f/2.8 is an awesome walk-around combination and I can’t wait to try my Sigma 150-400 f/3.5 though that is a heavy combo.

    Off to Jamaica on vacation tomorrow – and can’t wait to go point and shoot.

    • ArianaMurphy / April 5, 2011 at 11:49 am / Reply

      Thanks for commenting John. I also shoot with a D60, and am yearning for a D7000. Good to know I’ll surely be happy with it once I can finally get it!

      This was a very timely post for me. Thanks, Photolife! I love your stuff!

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