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Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight

Review Date: Jul 7, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Versatile, powerful, advanced, adaptive, a CLS controller. Until the new SB-900 becomes available in August, this is the best it gets in Nikon speedlights... and that's saying something
Expensive, but compared to the comparable units (like the Canon 580EX II for $430) it's a bargain at $320.

Do you own a Nikon SLR - digital or film? Do you want an external flash? Do you want the most (until August) capable flash in the Nikon lineup? Buy the SB-800. Period. It does everything a Nikon strobe can do as of this writing. It has commander mode, a PC sync, is compatible with PC sync and external power packs, has the SU-4 slave mode, and much more. It should be your main unit in a multi unit setup. With the new SB-900 costing $500(!) it may still be the best main unit for 95% of the users out there. Run this baby off camera with the SU-800 (I even use the SU-800 with cameras that have the commander mode because it's more versatile) and create incredible lighting results, even with bare flash. This is my go-to flash and my primary in any lighting setup, but I will probably get the new SB-900 when it hits for the 200mm throw and the even more versatile features.

Nikon SB-600 AF Speedlight

Review Date: Jul 7, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $189.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Cost, versatile, light weight, compatible with Nikon CLS.
No controller for other flashes (for this price who cares?), not the range of the SB-800, but it's a little over half the price. Overall - awesome.

This is a wonderful flash unit. It's certainly powerful enough for many applications and is compatible with the Nikon CLS. It can be fired via an on-camera remote commander mode, the SU-800 commander unit or an SB-800 from the camera. I use the SB-800 (and soon the SB-900!) as my main strobe with a pair of SB-600s as axillary/backup units. These things are super! Pair them with some Honl accessories and they become a portable studio! Bang-for-buck it's the best flash in the Nikon lineup. With the release of the new SB-900 due out the beginning of August, you might see the prices on these things drop used on eBay, but at $189 new through B&H, their still one of the best deals out there.

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S DX

Review Date: Jul 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great focal length for the DX sensor, pro build, fast 2.8 aperture, excellent focusing speed and overall wonderful output.
Reports of distortion at the wide end, though my experience in this is negligible. Expensive, but come on... it's a pro Nikkor. No VR.

This is a superb optic. It couples perfectly with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR (forget the 20mm in between) for professional work ranging from weddings to sports.

It's a heavier lens, so fitting on a D40/x/60 or even a D80 can surprise some users by it's weight. I love it though. The metal housing and the heft give this glass a sense of purpose and longevity. This is the perfect lens for wide use on the DX sensor - without question. If you are using a D3 or the new D700 however, you should reconsider as it will not allow you to take full advantage of the FX sensor. The recommended alternative for the full frame line of camera bodies is the awesome new 24-70mm.

I mentioned that no VR is con for this lens. Canon does offer an IS in the same focal range, but it's an EF-S and will only work with the Rebel and the 10/20/30/40D range - not even the EOS 1D which still has a 1.3x crop factor. This lens is a little older now, so it's not surprising that VR is absent, but it would have been a nice feature. I DO wish it had come included on the new 24-70mm however. Nikon has added it to their introductory 18-55mm, but not to their newest pro line. Seems strange that a once up scale feature is being left out of some great new lenses.

Don't not get this lens because of the VR though. It's wicked fast and is a perfect tool for the working professional.

Nikon D300

Review Date: Jul 4, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,799.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Truly and unbeatable combination of weight, speed, image quality and price. Durable body (coming over from D2X mind you :), 8 fps with grip and pro battery, gorgeous 3" HD LCD, brilliant Live View, excellent buffer, 51-point AF.
Costs an extra $500 to get the 8 fps. (Grip, pro battery, battery charger, and battery end cap/locking door needed). Would love to see it at $1500-1600 instead of $1800, but that's being a consumer.

The D300 is better then even the D2Xs as it has a superior sensor, much faster frame rate, drastically better LCD and in a lighter body. Yes, the D3 replaces the D2X - sort of, it really is designed to replace the D2H series - but if you were happy with the D2X series, it's nice to see an offering that is better then the older body for less than half the price.

Overall, it's a superb camera. It offers a strong build, it's laced with professional features and is not difficult to get right now. Lots of people like to refer to it as an advanced amateur -to- professional D-SLR. That's actually a crock. The people who say that either want you to spend the $5,000 for the D3 or are feeling awkward about having spent that on a "pro" body themselves. Oh, ok, yeah the D3 has a built in vertical grip and virtual horizon indicator, the full frame FX sensor and better noise handling along with an extra fps in standard mode. Well, get the new D700 and a grip and STILL save $1500! It offers ALL of those features except the last fps which I'll give up for the savings. It also has a flash built in with commander mode AND puts the virtual horizon program IN live view!!! I see no real reason to go with the D3 now that the D700 is available. Besides if you DONT need the vertical grip it's a LIGHTER package.

In my professional opinion, by any standard, the D300 and D700 series are completely professional. Save your money and get some pro lenses. I HIGHLY recommend the D300 and will likely recommend the D700 once I get mine. It's an incredible tool and extremely versatile in knowledgeful hands.