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Old Nov 28, 2004, 11:58 AM   #1
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Hi, great looking forum you have here...Looks like I've finally found a camera forum where they answer you!

I know absolutely nothing about cameras, so I was wondering if you could give me some input on what would be the best camera for me?

Here's what I need:

1) I need a camera that can take action shots. I will be doing a lot of photos at sports activities, such as off-road motorcycle races. Am I correct in saying that I will need a faster shutter speed? If so, what do you think would be the minimum shutter speed for this type of photography? Would 1/1700 be ok, or would I need more?

2) need it to also take good quality pictures, as ALL of my photos will be on-line (website). I dont really ever need to print photos out, and I dont need it to take movies at all since I have a digital video camera already.

3) I want to spend between $200-$500. I've had my eye on the Kodak EasyShare models, but not sure if the shutter would be fast enough. I've also thought about the Nikon 5400, which seems to have a VERY fast shutter speed if I read it correctly. I also like some of the Canons, but they dont seem to have as fast a shutter speed as the Nikon.

The thing is, will I be able to get good action shots with that price range? Because if it really will be almost impossible to do so, I might just say the heck with it and get a $250 camera that will take good still photos, and forget about the action shots...but it would be nice.

Anyway, I would REALLY appreciate ANY input you guys could give me, since I have no clue what to get. Thanks for any help!
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Old Nov 28, 2004, 12:29 PM   #2
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Your question is far more complicated than you state. First, the "shutter speed" of the camera is only a small part of your problem. Yes, fast shutter speeds are necessary if your goal is to freeze the action. The problem with using a fast shutter speed is that such fast speeds require sufficient light to properlye xpose the image. You can have a camera with a very fast shutter speed that will still not give you the shot you want if the light levels are too low to accomodate the fast shutter.

One solution is to increase the ISO of the image so that the sensor can process the image with less light coming through, but increasing the IOS level on the camera has an adverse effect on the quality of the image. Increasing the ISO, especially on inexpensive cameras, will not make you a happy camper image wise.

In addition, I fear you may be confusing "shutter speed" with "shutter lag". Whenshooting sports, the speed of the shutter is not nearly as important as the amount of shutter lag. In most cases, a shutter speed of 1/500 sec is quite sufficient to freeze sports action and most cameras out there can handle that shutter speed.

Your problem is the time between the moment you press the shutter and the moment the image is recorded on the card. This is the shutter lag, and in most of the less expensive cameras (and too many of the high end point and shoot cameras) this is what makes the camera unsuitable for action shots. If you frame the racer in your finder or on your screen, by the time you press the shutter and the camera reacts, you have missed the shot.

So - you should do a search on this site and others (and read reviews) about "shutter lag", not "shutter speed" and then think about your options. If you are truly worried about "shutter speed" and you want fast shutter sppeds, investigate cameras that do better with increased ISO's or learn to shoot sports by panning which can be a very effective way to shoot action without resorting to a fast shutter speed.

I think you need to do a little homework on basic photography before you buy your camera. A little basic knowledge will help you frame your question better in your own mind and help you research some possible soultions.
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Old Nov 28, 2004, 3:14 PM   #3
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In your price range, the best camera would be a FILM SLR like minolta Dynax 5 or 7: very fast AF, virtually no shutter lag. But you'll have to buy the films, let it be processed and scanned

Digital SLRs would provide fast Auto Focus, very short shutter lag and faster iso (400, 800 iso with moderate noise, (iso is sensitivity of the sensor and noise the dirty green and red "snow" that appears when using high iso)). But it's not in your price range, considering the cheapest one to date is the Canon 300D, about 1000$ or more with basic zoom.

Bridge camsaround 500$ will have poor shutter lag and lot of noise at 400/800 iso. By pre-focusing on the spot the biker will pass, you'll reduce the shutter lag a lot. shooting a bit early would do the rest with experience, but you'll miss a lot of pics. BUT some will be good... With the noise issue, consider wide aperture lenses, like the excellent zoom of Panasonic DMC LZ10 and LZ20. they open at f2,8 even at tele range, bringing more light in and preventing you from using higher iso. I don't know if those 2 are better or worse than others for shutter lag... If you think you can handle all that and be happy with the results...

Try to borrow a bridge cam, or buy an oldused Dynax 3 and burn a few rolls tosee all that by yourself... you may resell it afterwards. But don't put 500$ into a bridgecam before knowing if you are OK with the result.

You may also wait (1 year?) 'till entry DSLR falls to 500$ level. it will come, for they are made of plastic, even the lenses!The high price is only due to expensive electronics, and electronic is always cheaper, and cheaper, and.........

what to do in the meanwhile? Why notlearn photography whith bargain 35mm filmbody? as I said, they are cheap and fast.

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Old Nov 29, 2004, 6:49 AM   #4
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Janus makes a good point about using film. It may be your only alternative in your price range. The shutter lag and lack of quality high-ISO pictures pretty much eliminate any digicam and most bridge cameras from useful action photography. Not that they can't take good pictures - it's just your ratio of pictures taken to "keepers" will be very small (maybe 5%). I will respectfully disagree about prices on DSLRs going down to the $500 mark in a year. There are currently only 2 cameras in the $1000 range (Canon 300D and Nikon D70). It's going to take more competition to drive prices down. I think what we're more likely to see is an increased feature set at the $1000 level as the next generation of those two bodies comes out next year. Or more likely the next generation will simply be an increase in megapixels - marketing departments have done a wonderful job on getting us to focus on this aspect as the single biggest deal. Then maybe 3rd generation will actually improve on features. I also think both camera companies will introduce more low-cost lenses designed for DSLRs to 'lure' people into the DSLR market. But I would not expect a 50% price drop so don't base your decision on that possibility. But that's just my opinion. Good luck in your search!!
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Old Nov 29, 2004, 9:14 AM   #5
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First of all, let's clarify Autofocus Lag versus Shutter Lag.

When you "half press" the shutter button, the camera will focus. This is the longest part and is known as Autofocus Lag.

When you press the shutter button the rest of the way down, the camera takes the photo (using the focus already acheived with a half press). This part (pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down) is known as shutter lag. This part is usually very fast.

When you press the shutter button down all at once (without a half press first), then you have a combination of autofocus lag and shutter lag. This is usually about the same as Autofocus Lag.

My Two Cents Worth.....

I've seen users get some pretty good Motocross photos with relatively slow digital cameras by today's standards. Are you going to get every shot you want? Nope.

But, you won't with every SLR camera either. Heck, depending on what lens you have, an SLR isn't always a "speed demon" at focusing either (for example, I've got an olderSigma lens I use on a Nikon that's probably slower than many consumer digicams -- I have to wait on the "whir" of the focus motor to lock in focus).

If you practice with any camera, you'll get better with it. If I were shooting motocross (and I don't, so I'm not an expert in this area), I'd probably practice half pressing the shutter button on areas I wanted to capture action in advance. Then, press the shutter button down the rest of the way at the opportune moment (or simply half press and pan withthe action, pressing the rest of the way down at the best moment).

After all,you have dramatically greater depth of fieldwith a non-DSLR model at any given 35mm equivalent focal length, aperture and focus distance anyway. So,you can get away with not being as accurately focused with a non-DSLR model if you focus on a general area first.

This is because depth of field is computed using the Actual versus 35mm Equivalent Focal Length of the Lens, and the lenses on non-DSLR models can be much shorter for any given 35mm equivalent focal length.

So,even if you needed to shoot "wide open" at f/2.8onan ultra zoom model like a Panasonic DMC-FZ3, you would still havealmost as much depth of fieldas you'd have shooting stopped down all the way to f/22 on a 35mm camera. In daylight, you'd would need to shoot wide open to get fast enough shutter speeds anyway.

See this handy online depth of field calculator for more information on how this works.Make sure to use the Actual (versus 35mm Equivalent) focal length of the lens for computations. You'll see a link to a list of actual focal lengths forpopular models (or simply look at the reviews here for models you consider, and you'll see the actual focal lengths on the lenses in camera photos for most models).


Also, keep in mind that we're talking web size images here, and I assume (please correct me if I'm wrong), that the sporting events like off road motorcycle racing he's talking about are taking place in daylight (not at night where you'll need to shoot at higher ISO speeds with a bright lens to get the shots).

So, if I were in someone's shoes needing to take photos of similar events for web site use, and I was on a budget, I'd go for one of the stabilized Ultra Zoom models (the extra zoom is probably going to come in handy).

Of course, there are some downsides (most of the EVF Displays tend "blank out" between shots). Again, you'd need to practice for best results and take lots of photos to get an acceptable number of "keepers".

See Steve's "Best Cameras" list here for some of the popular models:


When reading reviews, pay close attention to the "conclusion section". This is where you'll see the numbers for autofocus and shutter lag mentioned. Some of the Ultra Zoom models are pretty fast (for example, the Panasonic DMC-FZ3 was clocked at 3/10 second (autofocus lag and shutter lag combined), or approximately 1/10 second when prefocused with a half press first.

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