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Old Sep 22, 2009, 7:54 PM   #1
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Default Nikon 8700 lens to buy for family photos

I have a Nikon 8700 that i have had for about 4 years. i dont know how to use it to its potential. I would like to know what i would need to purchase to get good family pictures, kind of what you would get at walmart. I assume i would need a different flash, but what about lenses? i would like to get good facial and body pictures. Also on a side note i would like to take pictures of my sons basketball game in a gym and when i zoom in to take a picture they come out dark. Even when i go to a pro basketball game i get the same dark picture. Is there anyway i can have them come out lighter?
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 8:17 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forums.

For indoor sports, your camera leaves a lot to be desired due to slower than desired Autofocus speed, high noise levels as ISO speeds are increased (the higher the ISO speed, the more sensitive the camera is to light). You really don't want to use ISO 400 unless you have to because it will destroy too much detail (I'd probably stick to ISO 200 max with it).

So, you'd have to use a flash for something like indoor sports (your camera's sensor and lens combination are not going to work for indoor photos of moving subjects without a flash, as your shutter speeds are going to be too slow to freeze movement), and you may find it's Autofocus speed to be an issue keeping you from getting as many keepers as desired, even using a more powerful external flash with it.

Indoor sports is very demanding on equipment, and you'd normally want to use a dSLR model with very high usable ISO speeds (which is how sensitive the camera is to light), combined with a very bright lens with wider available apertures (represented by smaller f/stop numbers).

Chances are, the reason your photos are getting darker as you zoom in more is because you're using the built in flash and you're exceeding it's maximum range.

Your camera's flash range is approximately 13.5 feet when you are at your widest zoom setting, dropping off to a maximum range of approximately 8.9 feet when zoomed in all the way (your lens is brighter at it's widest zoom setting). This is likely an ISO 100 rating (you'd get a less range at ISO 50, and around 40% more range at ISO 200).

If you really want to try to use a camera like the 8700, you're going to need a more powerful flash, and you'll need to be close enough to the action to use it.

If you went to a Nikon SB-600, you should be able to reach out to around 25 feet at ISO 100 when zoomed in much (where you have a widest available aperture of around f/4 with your camera's lens). At ISO 200, your range should be roughly 35 feet when zoomed in much.

With the more powerful Nikon SB-900 flash (Guide Number of 131 feet), you should be able to reach out to around 33 feet at ISO 100 when zoomed in much. At ISO 200, your range should be approximately 46 feet with an aperture setting of f/4.

To determine maximum flash range at ISO 100, divide the GN (Guide Number) of the flash by the Aperture of the lens you're using. The lens on your Nikon Coolpix 8700 has a widest available aperture of around f/4 when zoomed in much (actually, it's f/4.2 at it's longest zoom setting). Then, each time you double your ISO speed, flash range increases by 1.4x.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 8:36 AM   #3
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Wow. Thanks for the info!. What about for home made family portraits? I hate having to go and take family portraits at walmart or wherever. I want to be able to do it with this camera and an upgraded flash. Is there a special lens i should use for this?
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 8:38 AM   #4
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No, you don't need a special lens, as long as you've got enough room to fit what you need to in the frame. An external flash will improve the quality of the lighting for family portraits, because you can bounce the light from a ceiling for more diffused lighting compared to a direct flash.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 8:51 AM   #5
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So when you mean "external flash" do you mean something like the Nikon SB-600? I know they use that special silver umbrella, but i dont have anything like that.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 9:10 AM   #6
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Yes, I mean a flash like the SB-600 or SB-800. Basically, you shoot with the flash tilted up towards the ceiling. That allows the light from the flash to bounce back down to your subjects (greatly diffused and at a much wider angle compared to a direct flash). That way, you have *far* more even lighting compared to a direct flash. Ceiling type/height/color will impact results (a lighter colored ceiling is best), and bouncing a flash requires more power because the light is being spread out and diffused more (it has to travel to the ceiling, where it's spread out and bounces back down to your subjects). You can also find a number of "light modifiers" (diffusers, etc.) available for popular flash models. These can help by allowing a small amount of light to be reflected forward towards your subject, while allowing most of it to go upwards towards a ceiling for bouncing.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 11:14 AM   #7
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Wow Thanks. The SB-600 and the SB-800 seem a little pricey. Do you know of any good after market brand that will work just as good? I just want to use it for family portraits only. I saw a few on ebay but i dont know if they are good enough.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Dedicated-Flash-...ht_3623wt_1167

or

http://cgi.ebay.com/FLASH-Bounce-Zoo...ht_6362wt_1167

or this targus

http://cgi.ebay.com/i-TTL-Digital-Fl...ht_5189wt_1167
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 11:31 AM   #8
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Well... the bottom line is that most third party flashes are going to stink for exposure accuracy if you're relying on their ability to understand the camera settings (versus using manual exposure and tweaking them for best results, if the flash you're using even allows manual settings).

IOW, I'd make your first choice a Nikon dedicated flash model like the SB-600 or SB-900 (I'd probably pass on the SB-400, as it's really not going to offer the power needed for the types of shooting you want to do).

For alternatives, I'd take a look at the Metz 48 AF-1, which has a GN of around 148 feet when zoomed in more (i.e., longer zoom head settings) at ISO 100, which means you'd reach out to around 37 feet when zoomed in much with your lens with it's maximum aperture of around f/4 when zoomed in more (148 feet / 4 = 37 feet maximum range at ISO 100). Again, flash range is equal to the GN (Guide Number) of the flash divided by the aperture (with lower f/stop numbers representing a brighter lens letting in more light) of your lens at ISO 100. Some flashes are rated in meters, some in feet (but you can usually find both ratings for a flash). Wider zoom head settings (less apparent magnification) will decrease flash range (due to a wider beam of light). Longer zoom head settings (more apparent magnification) will increase flash range (due to a more focused beam of light for further away subjects).

If you increase ISO speed to ISO 200 (which is the maximum I'd try to use with your camera model), then you can expect it to reach out to around 52 feet with a model like the Metz 48 AF-1 (multiply by 1.4x each time you double the ISO speed from the base ISO 100 rating). shooting with an aperture of f/4 with your Nikon CP 8700 (f/4 is the widest available aperture you'll have with a Coolpix 8700 when zooming in to longer focal length settings).

This flash is around $225 at popular vendors. Here's an example:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...specifications

For a more powerful flash, look at the Metz 58 AF-1.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 11:48 AM   #9
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Thanks for the great answers!! I guess you get what you pay for. I guess i will just save a little and get the SB600. There is no way i will be able to get the sb900. Thanks. I appreciate all your input.

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Old Sep 23, 2009, 11:55 AM   #10
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The Metz 48 AF-1 is probably your best "bang for the buck" in that price range, as it's a more powerful flash compared to the Nikon SB-600 (and the advertised GN from this Metz model is conservatively rated at a 50mm zoom head setting, versus the higher GN you have with this flash at longer focal lengths with a more focused beam of light). Metz models also have a very good reputation for the quality of light they produce. The 48 AF-1 is also USB upgradeable (you can download a new firmware upgrade for it, attach the flash to a USB port on you PC, and upgrade it to support more features available with newer camera models). Metz releases upgrades to the 48 AF-1 and 58 AF-1 models periodically to insure better compatibility with newer camera models.

But, the SB-600 is a very nice flash. It even comes with a nice case you can wear on a belt (so that you have an easy place to store it when your walking around and don't want the extra weight of the flash on your camera until you need to use it). I've been impressed with the SB-600's exposure accuracy with more than one Nikon model I've used one with.
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