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D5100 with Lens Versus D600/EOS 6D for Beginner

edited June 2013 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
I'm newcomer when it comes to digital photography. I like to shoot photos but mainly with a point-and-shoot camera, and I would like to move to a DSLR type camera. I've done some research, tried my friend's camera and watched videos from experts.

My subjects would be mainly landscape, nature, portraits, and low-light shooting. My budget is around $2000 to $2500 (of course if I could spend less, that would be better).

Here are my choices using Amazon as my price reference:

* Nikon D600 Kit = $2,396.95
* Canon EOS 6D Kit = $2,399.00
* Nikon D5100 ($496.95 body-only) + Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ($1,424.00) = $1920.95

I've read reviews from dpreview, techradar, moose's (this site), and various sites. I saw the specs, user reviews, rants, etc.

I am planning in investing my $2000+ bucks here with the D5100 and the Nikon 17-55mm lens. Is this a wise move? My initial choice was the Nikon D600. Any reasons why I should go with either of them? My reason for not choosing the NikonD600 or the EOS 6D is I would need a much better lens in order to get better images with them.

Maybe another question here is if the Nikon D5100 with the lens is comparable with the D600 kit/6D kit. If they are comparable, then I might as well invest in those higher end models.

I'm aware that it's best to use different lenses depending on the occasion and environment. So in light of that I'm thinking maybe my choice of D5100 with lens is not a wise move either.

Any ideas?


  • edited July 2013

    First, when you say you're new to digital photography, I'm not sure if you have any film SLR experience or basic photography background (knowledge of aperture, shutter, and ISO relationships and their functions). I also won't speak towards the Canon, because there are more experienced people out there who can give you better information than I can regarding the 6D.

    Assuming you have little or no prior experience with photography outside of point and shoot cameras, I would steer you away from a D600 right away for several reasons:

    1) The D600 is a prosumer camera with advanced features, which would likely prove overwhelming for a DSLR newbie. Even a D7000/D7100 is likely too much camera for the inexperienced person, so I would highly recommend the D5100 (or D3100/D3200) for a newcomer because of its more entry-level features. The beauty of the D5100 over the D3XXX series is that it has enough advanced features for a new photographer to grow into, so you shouldn't be thinking about upgrading after a year or two. I had almost 30 years experience shooting film SLR's and there was some adjustment on my part learning the D5100 when I picked it up. You want a camera that doesn't intimidate you and you can start shooting and learning with right out of the box rather than something that you just put in Auto mode and have what is essentially an overblown point and shoot.

    2) A D600 is an FX, or full-frame camera, so it's a much bulkier camera and glass is going to be much more expensive. There are many advantages of FX cameras over DX (crop-frame) cameras in terms of dynamic range, low light capabilities, wide angle, higher resolution, but in terms of cost and portability, DX cameras have it all over the FX cameras. You also get extra reach with the DX cameras. There's a 1.5X crop factor with Nikon DX (1.6X with Canon), so with a 300mm focal length, you're actually realizing a 450mm with a D5100. Of course, FX glass works very well with DX cameras and you can collect lenses for the day that you may decide to go full-frame.

    3) As you've already figured out, save money on the box and get better glass. The D5100 takes outstanding images and the 16.2 MP sensor has excellent IQ and great DR. Whether a $1,500 lens is that much better than a comparable $500 piece of glass when you figure in cost versus quality versus being able to pick up additional lenses is up to you. Personally, I think the 17-55mm limits you quite a bit if that's going to be your only lens. I might suggest that you get a less expense wide-angle zoom and get a decent telephoto lens to give yourself more versatility.

    The D600 is an outstanding camera and if budget wasn't a consideration, I would spring for one or even a D800/D800e in a heartbeat. But the D5100 is a serious camera that many professionals use as a backup or even their primary camera because it's that good.
  • edited August 2013
    Sorry, if this is a massively delayed response. I was having trouble finding this thread and the name of the forum. I knew the name was something like "Moose" but for some reason I couldn't find it in Google or maybe the keywords were wrong. I just remembered it when I got an email.

    So far here are the updates:
    I asked this question on June 12, 2013. On June 15 I ordered a Canon 6D instead of the Nikon D600 because I kept reading about an oil and dust issue with the D600. Although it's slightly better than the 6D, I can't afford to have a faulty, unreliable body.

    Along with the Canon 6D, I've acquired a Canon 24-105L, Canon 100mm f/2.8L, Canon 70-300mm L, Canon 40mm STM, Canon 50mm f/1.4, and Canon 85mm f/1.8. I'd been actively posting to my Flickr account since then. Here's my Flickr account:

    Oddly enough, two of my pictures have won the 6D Flickr user group picture of the week.

    I know I still need some practice. On August 15, 2013, I'm celebrating my 2nd month in photography. I have still many things to learn though.
  • edited October 2013
    Personally, I think you have made a good set of choices with your camera and lenses. However (and I keep making this point on these forums), good equipment does not necessarily equal good pictures. Good pictures come from understanding exposure (ie. aperture, shutter speed and ISO), good composition and taking advantage of photographic opportunities. The last item will suffer if you are too busy deciding which lens you should have mounted.

    Don't get the idea that this is sour grapes because I can't afford half of your equipment. I make these points based upon over 50 years in photography. In my younger days, I won competitions using a Kodak Brownie 127. I always refer to the work of the great Ansell Addams who also produced masterpieces using a box camera and black and white film and his adage that the most important part of a camera is the 12 inches behind it.

    All that being said, welcome to the world of DSLR and the pages of these forums.

    Best regards, PBked
  • edited August 2013

    Thanks for the response. I get what you mean. In fact one of my reason for getting a non L lens. To prove to my friends that it's not all about the lens. I'm about to get a Holga lens just to prove to some that it's not all about the lens.

    However, let's look at it the other way around. I keep getting advise from various people that it's not about the lens. My only question is why do others assume just because you have such equipment that you're primarily relying on lenses alone? It's like seeing someone in high-end BMW and immediately thinking he must be a rich guy? Can't he be a guy who test drives those, or a guy who won it from a networking business?

    I know you're not sour graping, but I can't help it wonder why some people wonder about others intentions. I have read about Ansel Adams. He's good and legendary, but I think comparing the present to the future, or vice versa, doesn't do us good in such a manner. It's not his fault he lived on that era. It isn't our fault we live in this era. Jordan was good in his time, as is Kobe. My grandpa can make fire from stones. My 5 year old cousin can speak multiple languages. We keep comparing past, present and future, but why? To prove that you don't need good gear to make good pictures? That's good. Why make new gear if they don't have any purpose? I mean we can argue it the other way, and argue it another way, but it's just endless discussion that doesn't lead to anything.

    If I can prove that I can take good pictures with a simple iPhone, where does that put me? Or a simple Nokia phone? I hope you get my point.
  • edited October 2013
    Hi again,

    You have produced some excellent counter-arguments to the points I raised and I am glad you took the time to do so. The whole reason for forums like this is to stimulate discussion.

    The point I was really trying to make was that a knowledge of the principles of photography enables you to get the best out of your equipment whatever it may consist of. Some people I know get so bogged down in understanding their equipment they forget the basics. Thank you once again for your counter-views.

    Best regards, PBked
  • @smart - Sorry for joining the discussion so late. I wanted to throw my hat in the ring. The debate of gear versus skill comes up quite often. For me personally, I feel that a combination of good gear (camera, lenses, etc...), plus creativity, equal a higher percentage of quality images.

    Yes, you can take wonderful shots with an iPhone, a vintage Kodak Brownie, heck even a GoPro which isn't even designed for images. Given the right type of light and the right composition/subject, a fantastic photo is possible with even the simplest of gear.

    However, as we know we're not always presented with ideal lighting or amazing subjects/scenes. This is where the right gear can get you much further than simpler options.

    Try shooting motocross with an iPhone or even a DSLR with a kit isn't easy. Attach a speedy 70-200mm f/2.8 and all of a sudden those snapshots start looking like something closer to a Sports Illustrated cover.

    Obviously as your photographic skill develops, the trajectory of capturing awesome photos will rise as well. All the best and happy shooting!
  • edited October 2013
    Hi Moose, very well put.
    Regards, PBked
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