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Old Feb 21, 2008, 6:22 AM   #1
Fil
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I have decided to take the plunge and return to SLR after many years with integrated digital cameras, currently a KM Dimage A200 - which does most of what I want but ...

I want to take good pictures but am not that inclined towards the image as a thing of beauty rather I am looking to take pictures of record (my main passion is local history so recording changes in my local area is important to me).

One common task is to photograph documents, occasionally handheld but usually on a copy stand and sometimes with lights (depends where I am doing the work).

I am after improvements in image quality and resolution as well as the inherent ability to photograph a building before the ******car drives in front ('shutter' lag is almost my biggest beef about my Dimage or any other compact).

I have come to the conclusion that the Sony A350 is the one for me (barring any real problems with the 14.2MP sensor). It will be ideal for use on a copy stand as the live view and hinged LCD will enable me to work much as I do now. I am hoping that the increased pixels will allow me to photograph larger documents with having to stitch multiple shots together (neververy successful).

So now I am faced with a bewildering choice of lenses ....

The A350 seems to be coming with a choice of bare body, body +18-70 or body +18-70 + 55-200. From what I read the 18-70 is not worth the money, is the 55-200 equally poor or is it worth considering?

The Sony 18-250 seems to be the popular choice for an all in one - I am not buying SLRs because I delight in changing lenses so this is attractive to me.Is the 18-200 any good - is the extra 50mm really worth the extra cash?

But would I be better off in the long run with a CZ16-80 and a longer zoom later (when the funds allow).

And what about Tamron, Sigma etc. or used Minolta gear?

So please advise me - if you were buying an A350 and had the price of a Sony 18-250 to spend on lenses what would you go for?
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 6:58 AM   #2
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By all accounts, the 18-70 is one of the better kit lenses.

The 18-250, and especially the 16-105, are fine lenses but, along with the 18-70,are not very fast. I don't know how old the documents you want to photograph are, or how the custodians of those documents feel about flash, but I know that most forms of light accelerate the degradation of old documents, so a faster lens might be a better idea. I have the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and am quite pleased with it.

Stay away from the 18-200. I owned the Minolta version of that lens (a rebranded Tamron.) It had significant geometric distortion at the wide end, significant chromatic aberration at the long end, and was soft throughout its range. As superzooms go, the 18-250 is probably the best of the breed, but the 18-200 is a poor example of what's possible.

Tamron and Sigma make some fine lenses and some junk. Generally, the more you spend, the better lens you get. You can look at the lens reviews at dyxum.com and photodo.com to see what others think of specific lenses. And there are some very good used Minolta lenses available on eBay and at KEH.com as well as Adorama and B&H.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 9:22 AM   #3
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Thanks for the suggestions - I will look into the Tamron as 17-50 seems about right for the document copying role. However, I would like a bit more than 50 in a walkabout lens.

Flash is not usually permitted but long exposure is not a problem when using a copy stand. Handheld is sometimes a problem - another reason for going for Sony - the image stablisation. Flash is okay in one place where I do a lot of work, I will probably go for a ring flash at some point.

My biggest worry about the 18-250 is the reported lens 'creep' - if I have one on a copy stand will it zoom itself out?
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 8:00 PM   #4
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Keep in mind one of the few unbreakable rules in photography: Good Glass Ain't Cheap. Another point is that any pretty much any lens is much better when stoped down a bit - of course for lower priced lenses, you are starting at a fairly dim f/stop so that makes them useable in bright light.

Having said that, the kit lenes are almost always very good value for the money. So it make sense to get the kit lens unless you are planning to spend a bunch of money for a better lens of about the same focal length range.

As TCav said, shoping for a used lens is a good idea. In particular, look at the 50mm f/1.7. If that focal length isn't right for the kind of document shooting, take a look at one of the other fixed focal length lenses. That is the cheapest way to get a pretty good lens at a reasonable price.
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One common task is to photograph documents, occasionally handheld but usually on a copy stand and sometimes with lights (depends where I am doing the work).
Take a look at the photos you have taken and figure out what focal length worked and get one close to that.
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Old Feb 22, 2008, 12:33 PM   #5
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BillDrew wrote:
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Take a look at the photos you have taken and figure out what focal length worked and get one close to that.
That would be a great idea is all the subjects were the same size - but they vary a lot. I can of course 'zoom' a fixed length lens using the copy stand adjustment but even so I would like to confidence of a reasonable zoom range.

Having looked at a few reviews of the Tamron 17-50 I think I will probably go for that, add a Sony 18-250 later as a walkabout lens and look out for a couple of cheap/bargain used primes (28 & 50 perhaps) for really low light situations (if I decide I still need them after I try out the 17-50). Finally a 400/500ish prime for the occasional wildlife shot and a set of rings formacro work - and a back pack for the dog so I don't have to carry it all!

Apart from the range of the 18-250 this is not dissimilar to the Canon A1 based outfit I gave away a few years ago.

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Old Feb 23, 2008, 9:39 PM   #6
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I find theTamron 17-50/2.8 to be a fine 'walkabout' lens, and it is plenty sharp.

But for taking photos of documents, I think you should seriously consider some of the primes available. You can find used Minolta 20, 24, and 28mm f/2.8 lenses for reasonable prices, as well as Sigma 20, 24, and 28mm f/1.8 lenses, all of which have minimum focus distances of 300mm or less. Sigma also has a 30mm f/1.4 which is supposed to be quite nice, but it has a minimum focus distance of 400mm, which might be a problem. There are also some Minolta 28 and 35mm f/2.0 lenses available used, but they are very expensive.

And I feel I should caution you that, while the longer Sony/Minolta lenses are some of the best available, they can be extraordinarily expensive.
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Old Feb 25, 2008, 4:23 PM   #7
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Thanks again for your input.

At some point I want more than 50mm for my walkabout, the idea of the Tamron was as a stop gap walkaround with the main role of document work. If I go for a 28mm for the documents Imay as well go straight for theSony 18-250.

So I have ordered a SAL18250 and am following several 28mm (and 50mm)auctions on ebay - hope to get one soon. Then all I need is the body - they say they are due February so it shouldn't be long.
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Old Feb 25, 2008, 6:34 PM   #8
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Good luck with your stuff, and come back and show us what you've been up to.
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Old Feb 29, 2008, 5:46 PM   #9
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Just a little addendum... I bought a Tamron 18-250 and it seems to be excellent. If you need to save a few buck, it should prove as good as the Sony (maybe???)
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Old Mar 1, 2008, 6:50 AM   #10
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TonySx wrote:
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Just a little addendum... I bought a Tamron 18-250 and it seems to be excellent. If you need to save a few buck, it should prove as good as the Sony (maybe???)
The reviews seem to indicate that the Sony version of the Tamron 18-250 focuses faster than the Tamron version (on Sony dSLRs.)
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