Google is bouncing back emails to the address you left, but here is my response if you happen to visit again:
Sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what you want. If you want to quickly change shutter AND aperture in Manual mode then the D90 has a rear thumb wheel and front index finger wheel to adjust both. It also has a DOF preview button.
Truth is I’ve never had good luck with the tracking autofocus on my D90. There just are enough AF points to reliably track a moving subject. I shoot almost exclusively in continuous AF with a single AF point selected and the AE-L/AF-L button configured to lock focus while held. This allows me to always have continuous focusing, but I can still lock focus and recompose if needed.
The D7000 would be a completely different story and I’d likely trust it to track subjects for me.
For quick action you’ll be served well by the D90 or D7000. The D7000 has a more sophisticated AF system and can shoot a little faster (6 FPS vs 4.5 I think). About a $450 difference between the two so that all depends on your budget.
Another thing to think about is lens selection. Most of the cheap lenses start at f/3.5 and get to f/5.6 or even f/6.3 in a hurry. Zooms with a f/2.8 constant aperture can easily cost more than your body.
When you say you “don’t need all the gizmos” are you talking about autofocus and metering or things like HD video and other misc features?
Nikon’s DX zoom lenses like the 18-55mm start at 18mm (27mm after crop factor) which is just starting to get into the wide angle arena. Most of the time this gives you a wide enough field of view (FOV) and if you need to get more in then you can just back up. There are times though when you can’t or don’t want to back up. Sometimes you might want a wider FOV to get a different perspective in a shot. It’s not just about “getting it all in”, but rather looking at a shot differently and getting the composition you want.
I had never shot a DX lens wider than 17mm or one with a constant f/2.8 lens. We can see the difference in FOV between the Tokina 11-16mm, Nikon 18-200mm and Nikon 35mm:
11mm is wide, really wide. The test shots above were taken at about 5 feet from the TV. The first thing I notice in the 11mm shot is the perspective distortion, but that isn’t necessarily bad. The Nikon 18-200mm presents quite a bit of barrel distortion at 18mm. The Tokina gives nice straight lines, but going so wide starts to affect perspective. Things at the edge of the frame in this situation look stretched because of perspective distortion.
The best way I can describe perspective distortion is that the ultra-wide focal length allows you to move the camera forward into the scene. This has a large impact on the size of subjects depending on their distance from the camera. Subjects in the foreground will appear larger in size than subjects in the background. You can see this in the shot of Mt. Shasta below, the foreground right in front of my feet is balanced against the huge volcano in the distance. You have to use that foreground emphasis to your advantage and it is surprisingly hard to do. That’s about the best I can explain it, but you can read more about perspective distortion on Wikipedia.
The Tokina 11-16mm is a very interesting lens and can be considered special purpose. It’s definitely not for close up portraits as the perspective distortion can wreak havoc on your subjects’ faces if you aren’t careful. For a more distant portrait like my wife in front of Haystack Rock you can get away with it. Keeping the subject in the very middle of the frame helps avoid unflattering distortion like me with the moose in Coeur d’Alene.
The lens itself is very solid and well built. The focus ring pulls in and out to switch between autofocus and manual focus. I’m very happy with the lens and has whetted my appetite for more “pro” lenses, especially with a constant f/2.8. Overall this lens is a very good value.
For Nikon users, depending on your camera you might want to look at the comparable Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5. The Tokina does not have a built in autofocus motor so it will not be able to autofocus on bodies missing the motor to drive non AF-S lenses. The lower end bodies like the D5000, D3000, D3100, D40, D50, and D60 do not have the motor so the Nikon 10-24mm becomes your best option. The D70, D80, D90, D200, D300, and D7000 are all good to go.
Canon users will run into a similar situation if your body does not include an autofocus motor then you’ll want to consider the Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. The only problem with the Nikon and Canon versions is the higher cost, slower apertures and more distortion.
The Nikon D90 was released about 2 year ago and the D300 almost 3 years ago (D300s replaced it about a year ago). There’s a pretty big gap between these two price points. The D90 was an incremental upgrade from the D80 and lacked most of the “professional” features of the D300s. The D300s is a beast and has more in common with the D700 then any of the lower priced models. Now we have the D7000 thrown into the mix and boy does it mix things up.
I honestly think the D7000 is one of Nikon’s most significant releases in recent years. The big step in price between the D90 and D300s really priced out amateurs and hobbyists who might have wanted a little bit more than what the D90 offered. The D7000 is priced smack dab in the middle of that gap. As amateurs like myself delve further into photography and hone or skills we become more demanding of our equipment. The D7000 represents an opportunity for shooters like me to get access to professional features for $500 less than previously possible.
So for an extra $300-400 over the D90, what are we actually getting (in my approximate order of importance):
39 AF sensors and 11 cross type (compared to 11 and 1 on the D90)
2016 pixel meter sensor (twice that of the D300s and 4 times that of the D90)
Magnesium alloy body
U1 and U2 recall modes
Ai indexing tab for use with older Ai lenses
Improved rubber grip
1/250 flash sync speed (up from 1/200 on D90)
Double the minimum shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000 on D90)
Quiet single frame advance mode
Ambient white balance option for AUTO WB (suppose to handle warm lighting better or at least not try to correct to white)
100% viewfinder coverage
6fps (up from 4.5fps on the D90)
4 more megapixels (16.2 up from 12.3)
Full 1080p video at 24fps
Dual SD card slots
Lower ISO 100 now available
External mic input
14-bit A/D converter from the D300s
Odds are if you are looking at the D7000 then you have lenses already and just want to get the body, but it is available with the 18-105mm as a kit. Another option is to get the body only and then add on the very nice Nikon 18-200mm VR instead.
I’ve taken a ton of pictures over the year, but have done relatively little sharing. My Picasa collection has 25 albums and that is barely the tip of the iceberg. Over the next year or so I’m going to go through album by album in Picasa and post pictures that people might not have seen before. I’m only going to pick out the top pictures that best represent the set as a whole to keep album size down.
All sets will be posted to Picasa and sets that are interesting enough will get cross posted to Facebook. I’ve softened my stance on FB and have returned to a level of minimal usage.
While picking out what to post I will be deleting shots that are useless or duplicates. My hope is to really pare down the amount of noise in my image library. If I bring up a set of photos, I only want the pictures that I like or can use. There’s probably a ton of out of focus or black frames that can just go away. I’ll also delete photos that are unflattering to the subject (unless you do so intentionally, a la Denise).
In our move I found all my negatives from high school so those will probably be scanned and posted as well.
Now to look into WordPress custom post types and developing a child theme with templates to make posting these galleries easy.
The new D3100 really shakes up Nikon’s lineup of lower priced DSLRs. In my previous comparison between the D90, D5000 and D3000 I had a hard time recommending the D3000 and the extra money was well spent on the D5000. The D3100 changes this recommendation.
Major revisions to the D3100:
New 14MP CMOS sensor – big improvement over the D3000’s ancient CCD sensor
1080p24 video – nonexistent on the D3000 and better than the D5000 and D90
Autofocus while recording a movie – a first on any Nikon DSLR, before you had to lock focus before recording and tweak it manually
Live view mode – brought over with the video features
Automatic chromatic aberration correction – This is big, fixes fringing in your pictures before they are saved, previously only on the D90 and D5000
Customizable function button
The D5000 is essentially obsolete now. The D3100 and D5000 have comparable sensors now and the inclusion of better video capability makes the decision between the D3100 and D5000 simple; until the D5000 is updated just get the D3100.
A lot of features from the D90 have been pushed down to the lower price points and the one thing that really sets the two consumer segments apart is the inclusion of an AF motor on D90. If you are going to use lenses without built in AF motors then the D90 (or it’s soon to be announced replacement) is still your only choice. If I was just starting out though, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the D3100 which beats the D5000 in bang for your buck.