How can I spent my $500 technology grant?
May 30, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

What camera or lens can I get for $500 and enjoy the most?

I've been granted $500 to use towards a technology item of my choice. I have a Nikon d7000 and am considering a new lens. I'm also thinking that a really fabulous point and shoot camera might be a good complement to the dSLR (I have the kit lens and a 50 mm/f1.8 lens that I use a ton).

Any suggestions for me? Non-camera suggestions are also welcome. The grant was for an iPad but I already own one so I have to think of something else. I could also get two or three items.
posted by bonheur to Shopping (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your #3 lens for after the kit 18-55 and the 50 is you sell the 18-55 and get the 18-200vr.
posted by mhoye at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

For that Nikon kit, I should say.
posted by mhoye at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2012

Unless you get one of the retro design high end P&S models, you will be terribly frustrated. The superzoom P&Ss are slow to focus and slow to shoot compared to your Nikon.

You could check out a superzoom for your Nikon (unless you have one already).
18-270 Tamron
18-250 Sigma
Here's that 18-200 Nikon VR.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2012

(I forgot to add) I have the older 18-200 Tamron, which is still sold, and it is my everything lens, unless I want something special - lighter or macro or slightly sharper. I have those too but I use the 18-200 ~95% of the time.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:55 PM on May 30, 2012

I found the best (camera related) complement to my dslr to be a Canon S300. Maybe $150, but takes pretty darn good pictures for a p&s and is not the slowest camera in the world. Infuriating if you're expecting SLR speed, but not bad at all for casual snaps. I'd rather have a Nokia 808, but it wasn't out yet.

If you choose to go for a lens for your existing SLR, what you want really depends on what kind of shooting you do. If you are the sort that walks down the street snapping photos of everything that catches your attention, the 18-200VR is by far your best bet. If not, and you feel like you need more zoom, a 55-200VR is pretty decent for the price. I've been considering a 70-300VR (I like photographing animals from a distance, and 200mm just barely cuts it), but haven't gotten around to trying one out, so I can't really say how good/bad they are.

Depending on your aesthetic, you may also consider an ultrawide lens. I believe Tamron makes a zoom that goes out to 12 or 14mm and is much more reasonably priced than the Nikon equivalents. 18mm is just not all that wide on a crop body.
posted by wierdo at 5:19 PM on May 30, 2012

I'd get secondhand primes for the Nikon SLR. Point and shoot cameras have been replaced by phones now.
posted by w0mbat at 5:43 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depends on what you shoot. I might put the money towards a 70-200 2.8 or a 35mm 1.8, but that's for my usage. Maybe a 16-25 or a ultra zoom would be more appropriate. Where do you find your current kit limiting you the most?
posted by Magnakai at 6:06 PM on May 30, 2012

If you decide on a wide angle lens, consider the Tokina 11-16mm (I have one for my D7000). It's around $500 and of the same quality as Nikon's 12-24mm.
posted by MillMan at 6:14 PM on May 30, 2012

w0mbat: "Point and shoot cameras have been replaced by phones now."

Very few phones have cameras as good as a decent P&S. No, the iPhone 4S camera does not compare favorably to even the low end S300. The Nokia N8 is comparable (and the 808 should be better), but few people are interested in carrying that. The low light performance on cell phone cameras is almost universally awful thanks to the tiny sensor, not to mention the lack of a xenon flash (on the vast majority of cameraphones, the aforementioned Nokias actually have one) BSI doesn't help enough to make up for the size difference.

I don't like on camera flash much, but it's better than getting a noisy blurfest, unless blur is what you're looking for.

If your choice is between a 5 year old P&S and one of the better camera phones, the camera phone will fare much better.
posted by wierdo at 6:52 PM on May 30, 2012

Lytro Light field camera
posted by photoexplorer at 8:21 PM on May 30, 2012

Consider video. The D7000 is an excellent video camera, but you can make it more excellent by getting:
- an external mic
- a neutral density filter
- a steadicam rig
- some good video editing software
posted by SNACKeR at 9:04 PM on May 30, 2012

I like the video idea. Perhaps you'd acquire that collection of kit plus the 35mm 1.8?

I find that on my Nikon, a 35mm is a much more useful lens than a 50. Granted I've only used a 50 on Canon crop-sensor dSLRs, but coming from a film camera on which I almost exclusively use a 50mm, the 50 on a cropped dSLR was too much of a tele for me. The 35, on the other hand, is really great. 28 or 30mm might even be better. YMMV. At any rate, Nikon's 35 is a rad little lens.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 9:25 PM on May 30, 2012

I was absolutely in love with my Canon G10 as a put-it-in-your-pocket* alternative to a full sized DLSR. It took great pictures, and was durable as all hell (I dropped it down the side of the Red Pyramid in Egypt and it was no worse for the wear. It was stolen last summer, and I've been contemplating replacing it with the same model. Which is why I know that you can get a refurbished G10 for just under $300 online.

They're on the G12 now, which from what I understand does video better, but also has a flip out screen (which drives me crazy).

*I wear relatively skinny jeans, so it only ever fit into my back pocket. YPMV.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 10:19 PM on May 30, 2012

As mentioned, it depends on your shooting style.

If you do lots of indoor stuff, get a flash... a nice one that can be triggered off-camera

If you like Macro I can't recommend the tamron 90mm 2.8 enough, fantastic lens.

I have the Tamron 70-300USD and it's a great cost effective lens in that range.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 12:18 AM on May 31, 2012

Canon PowerShot S100 is my definition of a really fabulous point and shoot. My SLR has been sulking in the cupboard since I got it.
posted by scruss at 4:47 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doesn't Nikon make some kick-ass macro lenses? With the small sensor the 60/2.8 would make a great portrait lens and let you get some perspectives you wouldn't otherwise see.
posted by straw at 7:26 AM on May 31, 2012

I also came in to throw my support behind the Canon PowerShot S90/95/100 line--amazing, pocket-sized, lightweight cameras that are unbelievably good point and shoots.
posted by MeghanC at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2012

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