Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program modes

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Most of my herp shots are taken using my camera's

Program (P) Mode
3
7%
Program (P) Mode, but I tweak the Aperture and Shutter Speed
0
No votes
Aperture Priority (A or Av) Mode
19
45%
Shutter Priority (S or Tv) Mode
1
2%
Manual (M) Mode
17
40%
Custom Program Modes (Macro, Action, etc)
2
5%
 
Total votes: 42

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chrish
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Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program modes

Post by chrish » April 4th, 2012, 12:33 pm

I've been doing some thinking recently about when, how, and why to use Manual versus non-manual modes on your camera.

So I thought it might be interesting to start the discussion with a poll.

So, for the majority of your herp shots, what mode do you have your camera set to?

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by AndyO'Connor » April 4th, 2012, 2:14 pm

I don't have a dslr and manual mode is a pain on my camera, I have to scroll a little wheel to a setting, click enter, use the wheel to adjust it, and click enter again to set it, then on to the next setting, but with shutter priority, I only need to adjust shutter speed, and flash output, and ISO, which I usually leave at 80 or 100.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Natalie McNear » April 4th, 2012, 2:16 pm

Only manual mode... The camera is a dumb machine and shouldn't be left to decide what the most aesthetically-pleasing configuration is.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Schell » April 4th, 2012, 2:32 pm

Most of what I shoot are macros - those are all done in full manual.

If I'm shooting wide angle shots I usually shoot aperture priority with the first one as a baseline and then use manual to find the butter-zone exposure. Things become slightly more complicated when you start using fill flash on wide-angle shots.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Stohlgren » April 4th, 2012, 3:12 pm

When I want to take good, quick shots (most of the time) I am in aperture priority with full flash. But when I want to take my time and shoot with natural light or (more often) a mix of natural light and flash, I will set up my tripod and work in manual to get the look I want.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by bgorum » April 4th, 2012, 4:00 pm

Aperture priority for me, but I use the exposure compensation dial a lot. Its just easier and more intuitive for me to say, dial in -2 stops exposure compensation for a particular shot, then to set a shutter speed two stops faster than my meter recommends in manual. Not only that, but I have my camera set up so that it cancels out the exposure compensation whenever I turn the camera off. I am accustomed to always turning off the camera after I’m done shooting a particular scene, so this insures my camera is always ready to go for a middle toned subject every time I turn it on. I find when I use manual sometimes I’ll need to shoot quickly and I’ll screw up the exposure because the particular combination of shutter speed and aperture I had set on the camera from the last picture I took is totally wrong for the new situation. If I’m in aperture priority and I only get off one shot I can be confident that the exposure will be good for most subjects. Then if I have time for more shots I’ll check the actual combination of shutter speed and aperture,check the depth of field with the depth of field preview button, and check my histogram and then adjust accordingly. I do sometimes switch to manual when using flash though. Its just easier that way. If I don’t want the available light to contribute at all to the exposure I can just set a really fast shutter speed. If I want to balance daylight and flash I can set a manual exposure for the available light and still use ttl with the flash, etc.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by kit fox » April 4th, 2012, 5:12 pm

I shoot 99.9% in Manual mode. I prefer having control over all aspects of my exposure. Another perk when shooting manual is the control over your flash.

With manual flash, there are the 4 controls for manual flash exposure:
- distance from your light source to your subject
- power of your flash (including diffusion of your light)
- aperture
- ISO

With TTL flash, your only control is flash exposure compensation (FEC).

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Owen » April 4th, 2012, 6:12 pm

75% Manual / 25% Aperature Priority. Always manual when using flash (flash default shutter speed is 1/60). When I use A mode, I contantly use the +/- compensation, so in effect, it's modified manual.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by chrish » April 4th, 2012, 8:53 pm

Interesting comments so far. This is what I've been wondering.

I shoot almost exclusively in Aperture priority. I have my camera set up so that the front dial sets the aperture and the back dial sets the exposure compensation.
I sometimes switch to Shutter priority if I am trying to freeze motion with something like a tongue flick or hummingbird (front dial SS, back still exposure comp).

The reason I use A or S is simple, it is faster but gives me equal control.

Let me show you two scenarios where I think this is so:

Scenario A:

I am about to shoot a nicely posed herp. I am using ambient light. I know that I want an f/stop of about f/13 to get the DOF I think it needs. But it is a bit bright and might fool my meter, so I am going to overexpose the subject about 1/3 stop.

If my camera is in manual mode, I have to:
a. set the aperture to f/13
b. use the cameras meter to find the appropriate shutter speed
c. decrease the shutter speed 1/3 stop

If my camera is set to aperture priority, I have to
a. set the aperture to f/13
b. dial in +1/3 stop exposure compensation

I can do all of this while looking at the LCD in a few seconds. What control did I gain by the extra step?

So I get the same photo, with exactly the same settings and creative control but I did it in one less step. I get the same job done faster (and easier in camera bodies that only have a single dial).

Scenario B

In this scenario (which really happened to me), I was in S mode.
I'm shooting a hummingbird at a feeder using high-speed flash sync at 1/4000th of a second. I'm in S mode at 1/4000th and the f/stop is wide open.

I see a lizard walk out below the hummingbird feeder and want to use natural light (assume the correct exposure for the lizard needs to be 1/200th at f/16 rule at ISO 200) and I know I don't need any compensation, here's what I would have to do:

If I am using M mode only:
1. turn off the flash
2. turn the aperture to a more herp friendly range (say f/16 - thirteen clicks of the dial on my camera)
3. set the shutter speed to it needed value (1/200th) which is another 13 clicks of the dial. Some of you have to hold down a button while clicking or worse, use a menu to do this.
4. check the meter to make sure it is correct (I guess you might be doing this while you are doing the above step)
5. shoot the photo

If I was in S mode:
1. turn off the flash
2. turn the dial to change the shutter speed until the camera chooses a corresponding aperture of f/16. This will turn to be at 1/200th (13 dial clicks).
3. shoot the photo (I don't have to check the meter since the camera has done this for me - if the camera makes a mistake here, it will make the same mistake in step 3 above).

If I wanted to shoot the lizard in A mode, I would have to
1. turn off the flash
2. turn the mode dial to A
3. turn the dial to f/16 (13 clicks)
4. shoot the photo

Same exposures, same shots, same control, less steps.

My point is, I really don't see any advantage to using M mode, particularly with natural light. It simply takes longer.
I know there are some systems that using A or S decreases your control of the flash, but not all systems do this. And with an understanding of flash exposure compensation (one button and dial on my camera - I can do it with my eyes closed), this is an easy fix as well.

So why do those of you who use it prefer it? I'm honestly curious.

Or give me an example where it is easier/better.

Chris

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Norman D » April 5th, 2012, 12:57 am

I use manual mode about 99.5%. The only other mode I may play with is Aperture Priority. Shooting in manual allows me to be a little more creative and also helps me learn. We all like our photos a certain way, and manual helps me get closer to what I want in a photo - or at least helps me understand photography more. Most of my shots are in-situ rattlesnakes (probably 98%), so I have more time to mess with my camera in manual mode.

I do need to mess around with manual settings on my external flash.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by bgorum » April 5th, 2012, 3:43 am

I’m with Chris on this one. I don’t see how using manual exposure adds any more control or creativity to the process, it just adds an extra step, (as I noted earlier I do make an exception sometimes when using flash). So I would assume all the people that prefer manual do not set their cameras as the meter suggest most of the time? My camera’s meter is actually pretty accurate most of the time and there are only a relatively few situations where it tends to get exposure wrong and I need to dial in exposure compensation so adding the additional step of manually setting the shutter speed to what ever the meter recommends would simply add an additional step, not any creativity or control. Actually what I should probably start doing is using the P mode on my camera, since I can easily shift shutter speed and aperture combinations in that mode and I can set the camera to try not to go below a particular shutter speed, (unless I chose to shift it). This would help for those “grab it quick before its gone” kind of shots where I have to shoot one first, then check settings if I get an opportunity for more shots kind of situations, (admittedly pretty rare). I guess the bottom line for why I use aperture priority is because I always have, it works for me, and I’m reticent to change something thats working.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by ThatFrogGuy » April 5th, 2012, 6:30 am

I don't have a DSLR, but with my point and shoot manual mode offers only two apertures, a wide angle and a macro (I don't know the exact numbers) and so nothing ever looks the way I want it. I have found aperture priority to produce the best photos for me the easiest. It does have a "C" (camera user setting) mode that might be better, I just haven't quite figured it out yet. Sometimes when I am in a hurry, I will use the scene recognition or, if the conditions are right (sunny with little to no shade) even the dreaded auto mode. In the aforementioned conditions, auto on my camera isn't half bad.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Natalie McNear » April 5th, 2012, 11:17 am

chrish wrote:My point is, I really don't see any advantage to using M mode, particularly with natural light. It simply takes longer.
I know there are some systems that using A or S decreases your control of the flash, but not all systems do this. And with an understanding of flash exposure compensation (one button and dial on my camera - I can do it with my eyes closed), this is an easy fix as well.

So why do those of you who use it prefer it? I'm honestly curious.

Or give me an example where it is easier/better.

Chris
The issue is, you're assuming that using manual mode, you would want to choose the exact same configuration the camera would. When I shoot, that's almost never the case... I generally ignore the light meter in my camera because although it gives me a rough idea of what sort of exposure I'm looking at, it's not intelligent and doesn't know what would look best for a given shot. Pretty frequently, I intentionally choose to slightly overexpose or underexpose a shot to get the most detail in a certain area or to use most visually-pleasing aperture with an adequate shutter speed... Then while post-processing I can quickly fix the small problem areas that can result (i.e., slightly blown highlights). Using aperture mode, your camera will choose a shutter speed for you, which can be too slow and ruin everything - it's infinitely easier to fix a mildly underexposed shot than it is to fix motion blur caused by a crappy shutter speed the camera chose for you.

The bottom line - when I photograph things, I want to get the shot I know will look the best, instead of the shot the camera thinks will look the best.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Natalie McNear » April 5th, 2012, 11:28 am

Case in point, here's a shot I took yesterday in natural light without flash.

Image

The light meter was telling me I was about two or three stops overexposed, when you can tell from looking at the shot that it isn't. The sky is bright, but not overexposed... There's not a single blown pixel in that shot. If I had the camera in aperture priority mode, it would have significantly bumped up the shutter speed, which would have made the sky darker (and more "acceptable" to the camera), but would have lost a lot of detail on the plants, which are the focus of the shot.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by will lattea » April 5th, 2012, 12:11 pm

I shoot manual, but I kind of do it with a shutter priority... manually. I like to have control of my flash, period. Generally my subject is somewhat consistent- what i'm going out for that day- so depending on what it is and where I am I'll usually set the shudder to something I can keep steady (1/80 +)- this works best during the day when there is a lot of light and not much of a chance of needing a slower shutter. I should also say that with my cheaper rebel, I never shoot beyond 400 ISO and try and keep it to 100 or 200 when I can- night and day play the biggest roll in that choice... so that's pretty much set. Suddenly needing a tripod because my camera wants to shoot at 1/10 is more problematic than an extra click of a button in my opinion- that problem is why I gave up on aperture priority. So if I'm using my shudder at X then I can do quick tweaks to my F stop, ISO or flash while shooting- which are all small tweaks that I'm very familiar with by the time I'm shooting the animal.

With your example (bird then lizard), the total change in subject matter and surroundings is always going to be tricky. It's like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle or specialization vs. opportunism... The more you're prepared for a specific situation, the less you'll be prepared generally, and the more opportunist you become, the less you will be a specialist. It's just the nature of the equation. I prefer my 60mm fixed macro for a lot of my amphibian photography and I'm not going to compromise and buy a 60-whatever zoom just in case I see something far away. You could have just shot both on full auto which would have given you similar results with far fewer clicks... but you're not that much of an opportunist... you want something more specific. I know I'm being kind of a butt face about it... but I think that's the kind of situation where extra work pays off. I probably would have switched to auto real quick on the lizard for my first shot and dialed in from there depending on my opportunity for more shots- that's generally my "quick draw" method. Slightly off auto is better than a totally blown manual shot.

I've missed shots trying to change lenses in time too... I see plenty of birders carrying two dslr cameras with a wide and a zoom.... I can't afford that but I will use a smaller POS so I can quickly grab it for wide angle shots in a hurry or while hiking when I know my dslr has a macro lens on it, etc.

As for the metering and exposure adjustments...... I just posted another topic about that the other day... I don't know how to do that stuff...

:beer:

w

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Owen » April 5th, 2012, 2:18 pm

The assumption that I keep reading is that manual is more cumbersome because there are more steps. I'm not so sure.

I set my ISO
I set my aperature

I use the shutter speed to adjust to my lighting. Now one advantage that I have over most SLR users is that I have an EVF which allows me to see the exposure through the viewfinder. I can tell when it's too dark or I have blown highlights and I can just dial up or down the shutter speed.

If I used 'A mode', my compensation would be 2 steps:

1) Push the +/- button
2) Turn the control dial.

I don't need to push the +/- if I'm in manual, so 1 step :thumb:

There are instances when manual is a must if you're tracking a fast moving subject against a changing background. OK, doesn't apply to herps, but does with mammals and flying birds.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Stohlgren » April 5th, 2012, 2:45 pm

Natalie - In your example shot, did you calculate the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in your head or did you take a shot, see that it was underexposed and adjust your shutter speed accordingly? If you did the latter, then you didn't do anything someone in aperture priority could (and would) have done. Except they would use exposure compensation, and they would wind up with the same settings you had.

If I come upon your scene (in A priority), I would have noticed it was back lit and automatically dialed in some positive exposure comp. and checked my result to see if I need more or less. Unless you are calculating the proper exposure in your head, you would have to do the same thing in manual mode. And if you can calculate the proper exposure in your head then you could have dialed in the right setting in manual and aperture modes.

Where manual mode has the distinct advantage is when you are shooting something where the lighting on the subject is constant but the background is changing. In aperture priority you would constantly have to change the exposure comp. whenever the background changed because the camera would keep changing the shutter speed to adjust for the different situations, but in manual the proper exposure for the subject would remain dialed. An example: say you are photographing a bird in a bush that keeps moving from the top where it is back lit by the sky, to the bottom where you have darker vegetation as the background (but the light on the bird is not changing. The camera in A priority would jump all over the place when switching between the two scenes and you would have to keep changing the exp. comp. which may cause you to miss the shot.

The above situation is not common in herps. But say you are shooting an active lizard that is moving from patches of sun to patches of shade. If the scene averages a midtone (a medium toned lizard on medium toned substrate), the camera would get the exposure right every time without any exposure comp (and if the scene is averages lighter or dark, then you dial in the necessary compensation and leave it). In manual you would have to adjust your shutter speed manually, then check your result (or use your meter, which is not really any different from using A priority). In this scenario, A priority clearly wins.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Natalie McNear » April 5th, 2012, 3:53 pm

In manual mode I generally get the exposure the way I want it with the first or second shot, that's something that just comes with practice. Having the camera trying to predict what I want would just be more cumbersome and time-consuming (with that exposure bias stuff and whatnot); it's a lot easier to just set the settings myself and get it right the first time.

I don't get why a photographer would want to let the camera decide what looks best by shooting in one of the automatic modes, other than that "it's faster" (which is debatable), or perhaps they're just unable to look at a situation and choose the best shooting configuration right off the bat. To me it's like shooing RAW vs JPEG, the latter might seem easier in the beginning, but in the end you're probably not going to be as satisfied with the finished photo than if you had done the editing yourself.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by Stohlgren » April 5th, 2012, 9:19 pm

This seems to be a "grass is greener on my side of the fence" situation, if I can coin a phrase. We all have our biases based on what we are used to shooting. But using aperture priority is not "letting the camera decide" what is best. You are dialing in the aperture you want and the cameras meter tells you what the exposure should be based on the whole scene being mid toned. It is not any different than if you were using a light meter like they did back in the film days. If the scene was lighter or darker than a mid tone then you would still have to make adjustments to get it right. Proper exposure doesn't change based what mode you shoot in. If we are out in the field and I was in A priority and you were in manual and we happen upon a photo opportunity and both feel that f/13 would look nice, then we would both end up with the same shutter speed (given we had the same ISO) if we both exposed the scene properly. I feel that in the majority of situations I can achieve that proper exposure quickest in aperture priority. Now if I want to mix in flash with natural light, it is a whole different story as it is a lot easier for me to get the proper exposure when in manual. But even in that situation I usually have to make adjustments after I have taken a shot or two and looked at my results.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by FunkyRes » April 6th, 2012, 3:03 am

Aperture priority, but I sometimes adjust the aperture until I get shutter speed I want. Too lazy to turn the dial to Tv mode.

That's how I have always shot SLR's back from my first camera that could do that (Nikon FE2)

Reason I did it that way on the FE2 was my first SLR camera was Pentax Spotmatic. I had a lot of screwmount glass.
I could use it on the Nikon w/ adapter but aperture was manual adjust on the lens itself. So I still manual adjust aperture, just now using cameras dial instead of on lens itself.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by bgorum » April 6th, 2012, 4:52 am

This has been an interesting discussion so far and it is obvious that there is more than one way to skin a cat. But now I’m curious about something else thats related and that is what metering pattern do people use and on what camera? I bring this up because looking at Natalie’s pitcher plant picture I’m thinking that my D200 in matrix metering mode would have got that exposure pretty close to right on the money. If I had shot that same scene I probably would not have used any exposure compensation at all, (of course I also would have checked the histogram afterwards, just to be sure). On the other hand there are certain situations that I think should be easy for an exposure meter where my D200’s matrix meter consistently under or overexposes. One example is dark subjects in the shade. I get a lot of this when I’m photographing rattlesnakes at dens. When it is really warm in the afternoon the snakes will still be laying out, but they will be in the shade and if the surrounding rocks are basalt the whole scene tends to be darker than middle tone. Lets assume we are talking about a dark diamondback laying on basalt, so the whole scene is darker than middle tone, but there is not a great range of tones within the scene. Everything is dark. The D200 left to its own devises will way overcompensate for the dark tones and underexpose the scene by so much that the shadows, (yes you can still have shadows in the shade), will block up and even in RAW when I try to bring them back up to have some detail I end up getting visible noise even at base ISO. When I come upon a situation like this I just automatically dial in +2 stops exposure for my first shot and thats usually pretty close to correct. Had I shot the same scene however in the morning with the sun shining on it, the camera would have nailed it. There’s just something about the shade. The other extreme would be scenes in bright light that are overall lighter than middle tone, such as photographing most desert lizards. In a situation like this we all know to add more exposure to keep the scene light, but once again the D200 seems to go overboard and if I’m not careful I’ll get blown highlights. The amount that the camera’s matrix meter goes overboard is less consistent in this case than in the shade case so I pay really close attention to the histogram, or sometimes just go with the sunny f16 rule, (I suppose manual mode might actually be easier for sunny f16 ;)). I bought a D7000 which should arrive next week, so now I suppose I’ll have a nice long learning curve while I figure out the idiosyncrasies of its meter.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by jason folt » April 7th, 2012, 2:10 pm

bgorum - Not to totally go off topic, but what made you go D7000?

I also have a D200 that is long in the tooth (not quite falling apart...) and would love some of the newer high ISO capabilities. Despite the D7000 being an awesome camera, I feel like I am stepping down in build quality, watersealing, size, etc. I know I shouldn't complain about a lighter/cheaper camera, but the D200 just "fits" my hand. I keep holding out hope for a D400 but it seems I may be waiting a while...

Jason

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by bgorum » April 7th, 2012, 7:48 pm

Jason,

A number of reasons-

1. I got my income tax return and wanted to spend it on a new toy before my common sense caught up with me and I used it to pay bills or something sensible like that.

2. The D300s does not seem like enough of an upgrade from the D200 to justify the cost.

3. As much as I would love the viewfinder, better range of options in wide angle lenses, and clean images of the D700, I think as much as I like using telephoto lenses a DX camera makes more sense.

4. I got tired of waiting for Nikon to bring out a “D400”

I too am worried about stepping down in terms of build quality and handling. I’m keeping the D200 as well though and I figure when Nikon finally comes out with a D400 I can sell both cameras and get that. Actually, come to think about it, since I just bought a D7000 that probably means Nikon will announce the D400 tomorrow. No need to thank me, its just me and Murphy working together as usual.

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Re: Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program mod

Post by jason folt » April 7th, 2012, 10:04 pm

Sorry Chrish for more hijacking below. FWIW, I am full manual. I don't have too much to add to that conversation. I was always frustrated during the few times I would be on A priority, and the camera would select too slow a shutter speed. I found myself making too many changes to either switch to shutter priority or to manual after noticing that 1/60 wasn't going to work, and was annoyed. I have never looked back, and don't feel like I am wasting time.

Regarding the camera upgrades ;)

I have pretty much the same issues.

2. The D7000 is a far better camera than the D300s, just slightly (?) smaller, and with a few less bells and whistles. I think it is a huge upgrade in capabilities, especially giving you some ISO range, over the D200. I just don't want to "settle", hoping that the D400 will far surpass the D7000, especially since even the D7000 is now over a year old.

3. I am wrestling with this too. I have considered going with the D800. I figure if I wanted the extra zoom I could either shoot in DX mode, which still gives you 16mp, or just crop the 36mp file. Seems like a good compromise - except the ISO capabilities, while far better than D200, are below that of the D700.

4. I read Nikonrumors.com daily, sometimes more than once praying for the announcement. There is actually rumor and speculation that there will not be a D400 or that the D7000 is already it. Anyone who wants something more pro will upgrade to the D800. I refuse to believe they would drop the capabilities of the D200/300 line. There is a decent wildlife/sports market that wants a solid higher end body in the DX range, if only due to price?

The D7000 body is just "cheap" enough to tempt me to go your route. I can also have it at my doorstep in 2 days from amazon. Maybe I should hit up a camera store and play with one.

Let me know how yours works out and good luck with your new camera. I have actually been getting jealous while typing this up and revisiting the arguments in my head!

Jason

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