#180. Selling cameras? Not so fast. If at all.

By Paul Perton | News

Nov 28


Kogel Bay at sunset. D700 with Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI.

Kogel Bay at sunset. D700 with Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI.

Pascal’s plan to sell his D800 made me wonder what he could possibly have replaced it with. I havered long and hard about buying mine; at the time I wanted to extend my hugely satisfactory Sony NEX kit, but some of the lenses I wanted were just not freely available. Eventually, I weakened and decided to live with hauling heavy cameras around for a bit longer. The arguments with airline check in clerks were a bonus. Still, I’ve not been disappointed. The images it makes are extraordinary.

Now I have three Nikon DSLRs because I had two and now, I can’t bring myself to sell one and concurrently, find it shockingly easy to rationalise keeping them all.


Dawn over Caledon. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.

Dawn over Caledon. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.

Until recently that justification was easy; my D2x and its cropped sensor worked particularly well with telephoto lenses and as I often like to shoot landscapes with a long lens, it was a no brainer. The compressed perspective and ability to capture detail that a wide angle lens might lose, gave me a real reason for keeping it.

Most of the time, it played host to my ‘70s vintage 500mm f8 mirror, or 80-200 f2.8 zoom.

Keeping it company was the D700 which was made for the Nikon’s 24-70 zoom – a fantastic combination.

And then the D800 arrived and I needed yet another rationale for not selling at least the oldest of these once shockingly expensive camera bodies.


Hillside, Overberg. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

Hillside, Overberg. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

Having been a Nikon user for almost four decades, I have lots of kit sitting in my cupboard, not to mention an original F and an F2, both with Photomic heads. Read the rest of this article and you’ll probably be able to work out why they are there for yourself. With them, I also have lots of manual AI primes, which just love the D700 and D800.

Most photographers who have been through the kit buying and spec comparing cycle a few times will tell you that there’s no mileage in comparing features and performance. They’re all great and besides which, you can’t justify any kind of self indulgence that way.


Pine trees, mist - Overberg. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

Pine trees, mist – Overberg. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

Another significant issue; the resale value of say, the D2x body is probably now lower than that of a boat anchor, which it could easily double for. So, no way through there.

Deep breath. You know what? I actually don’t care.

I enjoy a deep, long-term relationship with the D2 body. It was my first full-on DSLR and no matter how I deny it and despite promising both myself and my wife I wouldn’t, buying it on a trip to Singapore was just fate waiting to happen. Today, eight years on it remains reassuringly heavy, solid and totally reliable. It’s like owning the photographic equivalent of a Mercedes Benz.


Bushveldt. Nikon D800e with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

Bushveldt. Nikon D800e with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

After the D2, the D700 was a while arriving. In fact, the D2 was already five years old by that time and a new camera really didn’t seem to be very necessary. That was until I started shooting a new project that required rapid response and a variety of focal lengths. Suddenly a second camera body came to be very desirable and I made space for the D700 in my bag.

Like the D2x, the D700 has its own personality. It’s tough, reliable, easy to set up to do exactly the right job, satisfying in use and very forgiving. I love the outrageously loud clack of its shutter and its size, despite both making it impossible for discreet street use. That notwithstanding, I think it’s one of the best, a true Subaru 4×4 of cameras.


Dawn near Springbok. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.

Dawn near Springbok. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.

Which means that when the D800 arrived, it immediately put me in mind of a Range Rover; it’s rugged, easy to handle, fast and supremely competent. Despite the doomsayers telling me it would shame and embarrass me and my lenses, it’s tractable and much easier to use than I anticipated. That is for as long as I remember that even a Range Rover has limits.

If I were a car buff, that would be the end of it. But of course, it isn’t. The D2 isn’t a Merc, it’s a super reliable old friend, one I seem to have had since I was a kid.


August storm. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

August storm. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

And, the D700 isn’t a Subaru either. In my hands, up to the eye, this is a super dependable workhorse, with good manners. Soft where it counts and as hard as nails when needed.

Which leaves the D800 and my rationale for keeping three DSLRs.


Overberg sunrise. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

Overberg sunrise. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 500mm f.8 mirror lens.

The first is easy – no matter how much I love theD700, I want to grow, learn and make better photographs. The step up from the D700 to the D800 was a big one, at least in terms of the photographic return on my investment.

Besides which I like the D800. I tell my wife I need it. A lot. I also ensure that I leave the other two bodies just out of sight when she is around. So, there they sit; an old friend, a supple and dependable companion and a sidekick that some days manages to make my work look much better than I have a right to expect.

They’re friends and you want me to turn my back on them? I think not.


August storm. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.

August storm. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 80-200 f2.8.


Sunset over Cape Point. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 50mm f1.4.

Sunset over Cape Point. Nikon D2x with Nikkor 50mm f1.4.


Beach. D700 with Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI.

Beach. D700 with Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI.

  • Wow great photo! I love the colours! Please check out my blog at http://www.inspiringthroughthelens.com

  • VisitSiena says:

    wonderful photos :)!!

  • Tim Ball says:

    Love that “August Storm” shot especially Paul, the colours and textures in those waves are wonderful.

  • As everyone is pointing out, your images are wonderful.

    When it comes to new camera equipment, I think of several things.

    The first is something we all know, but somehow gets lost in the excitement over new toys, and that is: It’s what happens behind the eyepiece that counts.

    The second involves a couple thoughts after trying the Sony A7R Wonder-Camera at the recent Salon de la Photo. If size and weight matter, it’s too large and heavy, even for a FF mirrorless. I found the viewfinder to be bothersome. After using the OVF of a DSLR, I fail to see how anyone would put up with the EVF found in those kinds of cameras.

    The third has to do with weight and size. I have a couple NEX5’s that have seen heavy use, and I shoot with a couple Pro-sized DSLRs. The funny thing to me is that heading to a shoot, I never say one kit is heavier than another. AND, once on scene and the shooting gets hot and heavy I _never_ feel the weight nor size of the DSLRs.

    Which is why I always come back to: Cameras and lenses are simply tools of creative expression. The more time I cogitate over the newest/latest/greatest toy, the less time I have to spend doing something actually creative.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hear Hear !

      All that rambling about smaller being better is ridiculous. Many cameras these days are simply too small for comfortable handling.

      Your comments on the A7r worry me, though, as my excellent D800 was sold to be replaced by that new Sony 😉 The EVF is indeed a major cloud in my mind. Size & heft were fine for me but the grip left a lot to be desired !

      You are another living proof that the man behind the finder is far more important than what’s in front. How is it going on your side ? Did you manage to find models and galleries ?

      I hope to see you soon. January in Paris ?

      All the best

      • The A7 Sony would be a great camera _IF_ I didn’t already own such great equipment. I am constantly amazed at how weight doesn’t mean as much in the middle of a shoot as when I’m sitting around cogitating on things. 🙂

        Things are going well. I’m teaching a series of advanced photography classes here in this fine city. Some walk-abouts. A little processing. And a studio lighting class, too. It’s fun and I’m very much enjoying living here.

        I now understand how to gain access to models and creative outlets here. So, I’m work’n it like crazy! 🙂 🙂

        January? Perfect. Let me know when you’re in town.

    • paulperton says:

      Thanks Christopher. I’ve yet to get my hands on an A7, which is probably just as well as I really can’t afford it just now. I’ve been watching it’s arrival closely and really want one – I want to see what it can do with my 35 Summilux, or Zeiss 25 Biogon.

      Still, as you said, at the end of the day, it’s still a tool.

  • pascaljappy says:

    Paul, anyone making photographs that beautiful needs no justification whatsoever to own as many cameras as he wishes ! We are born to procreate and make art (not simultaneously) 😉 All the rest is secondary.

    So. Stunning pictures and very interesting write up. What you’re sharing is precious to some (myself included).

    I experienced “camera love” on two occasions – and a half : a Fujica folding 645 with a fantastic 75mm lens that could be with me everywhere and all the time. A Mamiya 7 that – to me – represents the culmination of camera design in an industry that’s just been downhill since (more convenient, less creative). And the Sony Nex-5n that only counts as half because the two I owned died on me. The subsequent Olympus OM-D E-M5 was every bit as good and better in many many ways, but the shock and surprise of mirrorless had already been stolen.

    Nikons are incredbly reliable. My old F800 still works 30 years on. I never sold it, but that’s only because eBay wasn’t yet with us at the time 😉 My D80 still works like a charm (it’s my current camera). My D800 never skipped a beat. Wonderful cameras, in every objective manner. But they don’t charm me in the way the Mamiya 7 did.

    There’s little chance the Sony A7r can be all I’m hoping it to be. But if it comes even remotely close, I shall probably hang on to it for a while. But still, while lenses have soul, I can’t help seeing cameras as a commodity. Merely a sensor with a lens mount. Hence I own too many lenses, caress them on a daily basis (…) and truly regret selling champs such as the ZM Biogon 25/2.8 or the Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35/2.5. Whereas my heart didn’t ache a second when the D800 was boxed back and shipped away to a happy new owner 😉

    But if they made that Mamiya 7 in digital again, now here’s a camera I would *never* leave again.

    Cheers and thanks for the wonderful post !

  • philberphoto says:

    Paul, brilliant pictures, here! They remind of how beautiful South Africa is, a country I dearly loved and miss.
    I also am in total sych with your comments. As we speak, I am sitting with an unopened Sony A7R and Zeiss FE 35 f:2.8. I tried it at the Paris show, as was underwhelmed by the tactile contact with it. But the package is so totally me that I ordered one nonetheless. Then I handled one yesterday a the shop where I picked mine up, and was again underwhelmed (but not surprised).
    Now I face having to change my shooting habits (from a NEX 7 with a Leica 24 Elmar, meaning 36mm and Leica 50mm Summilux, meaning 75mm) to a Zeiss 35 and Summilux 50. 50mm used to be my favorite focal length on my 5DII, but I moved away from it when the Elmar pushed me to 35, so getting back in the groove will take some doing.
    Also, my NEX 7 is now a dear friend. Not only did it never let me down, but time and time again it outperformed my expectations and overdelivered. And, as I got ever better lenses for it, it grew with them. It now feels so natural in my hands, parting with it is painful. In my case, it matters, because I never leave home without my camera, so I must have taken it with me 500 times.
    By contrast, when I came back from Patagonia and laid my 5D II and 5DIII on the counter to be sold second hand, I couldn’t have cared less. They had served me well enough, yes. But the fact that the 5DIII was no better in IQ than the 3+-year-old II and couldn’t hold a candle to the sensor in the midget 7 was a letdown, almost a treason, so, off with their heads!
    So I will start by shooting the A7R with the Lux 50 first, expecting to be delighted with the IQ, and then only with the 35. I expect it will take me at least a month to get to the point where it feels natural, maybe more. But even yesterday I felt pangs of “why are you doing this, you are so enjoying what you have, you moron!” and almost chickened out…. But only almost….
    Thanks again for a brilliant piece!

    • paulperton says:

      Thanks. For me, the decision which camera to use is easy; in the car; Nikon, anywhere else, the Sony and a couple of Leica/Zeiss lenses.

      And as I said to Pascal (above); when I get my hands on an A7…

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