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Old Jun 8, 2008, 1:40 AM   #1
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Once again I am new to the DSLR world and have had my Sony A350 for a few weeks now. After a few problems I have learned to achieve quality outdoor and indoor daytimepics and I am completely satisfied with the camera but I need help with taking pictures in dark auditoriums. For example My granddaughters had a recital tonight and the pictures came out some what dark and blurry. I was using a Sony 75-300 mm lens in auto. Any tips would be appreciated.

Also the reason I might sound like I am defending the Sony A350 is because of all the bashing I have readin some of the reviews from different websitesregarding the camera. I am not a pro by no means but I do have a good set of eyes and can see a quality photo from a bad one. When I purchased my new A350 it was to replace my point and shoot Sony F717. The F717 took fantastic photosbut the new A350Takes even better ones in my opinion. This is why I appreciate Steve's Digicams even though we may disagree from time to time I always know that all cameras andmanufacturers are given a fairreview and for that I applaud Steve's Digicams.

Thanks Timbo76
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Old Jun 8, 2008, 10:51 AM   #2
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What you're talking about doing is tough. You need to use a telephoto lens because you can't get close enough, and even if you could, you'd be looking up at the stage. You can't use a flash becasue the subject is too far away. There are two ways to get proper exposures with fast enough shutter sppeds to avoid motion blur due to subject movement.
  1. Crank up the ISO setting. (Might not be a good idea with the A350, because it is more prone to noise at high ISO settings.)[/*]
  2. Use a large aperture telephoto lens. The 75-300 you have now has a maximum aperture of f/5.6 at full zoom, and that's pretty dim, which means you have to use a slower shutter speed, so you get motion blur due to subject movement.
[/*]
Sony has a 70-200mmf/2.8 that would work well, but it's $1,800. Sigma and Tamron are both about to introduce 70-200mmf/2.8 lenses for $799 and $699, respectively. And there are similar lenses available on the used market. And then there's the venerable 'Beercan', a fine example of Minolta lenses. It's 70-210 f/4.0, so it's faster than your 75-300, though not as long, and it can be had for less that $200 on eBay or retail outlets like KEH.com. I'm also looking for a 70-200/2.8, but in the mean time, my Beercan has served me well.
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Old Jun 8, 2008, 11:12 AM   #3
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As mentioned, that lens is just too dim for darker auditoriums, especially if you have a moving subject (I assume you're talking about a dance recital).

Your best bet in those conditions is a brighter prime (fixed focal length versus zoom lens). I'd suggest something like the Minolta 85mm f/1.4 AF Lens. You can find them starting at around $750 at vendors of used gear like http://www.keh.com (older versions are less, newer versions are more). Then, shoot in Av (Aperturer Priority) mode at around f/2 with the camera set to ISO 1600. I'd set White Balance to Tungsten (Incadescent) for most stage lighting.

The last dance recital I shot at, I used a Minolta 100mm f/2 AF lens at ISO 1600. But, I still had a bit of blur from hand and foot movement (in hindsight, ISO 3200 would have been a better bet). With your A350, you really don't want to try and use ISO 3200 (the noise would be too intrusive).

If you shoot at f/2 using a lens like the 85mm f/1.4, you'd get shutter speeds 8 times as fast in the same lighting with the same ISO speed, as you'd get with your 75-300mm if you zoomed in much with it, since it would be down to a largest available aperture of f/5.6, and f/2 is exactly 8 times as bright as f/5.6.

With your existing lens, I'd use your feet for zoom and stay on the 75mm end of the lens (it's brightest if you don't zoom in any), setting the camera to ISO 1600, the White Balance to Tungsten, and the Aperture to it's widest available value (lowest f/stop number), which is going to be f/4.5 with that 75-300mm.

Then, try to time your shots when the performers are moving the least (prefocus with a half press, and wait until the movement pauses before squeezing the shutter button the rest of the way down).

If the photos are overexposed (too bright), set your Exposure Compensation to a -EV value until the exposure looks correct for your subjects in playback (using the histogram and blinking highlights features to help out), tweaking the Exposure Compensation settings for best results. If they're underexposed, do the opposite (use a +EV setting for a brighter exposure). Or, switch to manual exposure instead for more consistent results (set the aperture to f/4.5, and vary your shutter speed setting until the exposure looks correct).

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Old Jun 9, 2008, 11:31 PM   #4
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Thanks TCavfor the information. I will put your suggestions to use. I realize nowthe lenses I have are not the greatestso I guess bottom line I should look at investing in something better.
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Old Jun 9, 2008, 11:45 PM   #5
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Thanks JimC. I took your advice regardingzooming withmy feetand left the lens on 75mm. I also set the camera toISO1600 and tried my best to time the shots and Ifound outthat was easier said than done. Surprisingly some of the pictures came out pretty good. Thanks again for your help.
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Old Jun 10, 2008, 9:23 AM   #6
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Yep.. it can be tougher than it looks. lol

I do that kind of thing a lot shooting live music in very low light (trying to time the shots when movement pauses). Often, musicians are leaning back and forth to the rhythm of the music. So, you have to try and time the shots just as the direction changes. For example, at the top of a lean backwards before someone starts leaning forward again (that's when you have the least subject movement), and by waiting for longer notes when they may not be moving as much. :-)

If you're on a real tight budget, you can pick up a used Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lens for around $100, so that you'd get much faster shutter speeds than you would trying to use your zoom. You'd just need to be a bit closer to the stage for the same framing.

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Old Jun 10, 2008, 9:43 AM   #7
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I don't know how noisy the 350 is at high ISO, but I suggest that you do your own testing to find out. In particular look at how much noise there is after you downsize for 4x6" or web size images. The downsizing will reduce any noise so smaller images could be very useable at high ISO. With 14Mpixels available there is a lot of room for downsizing - dropping to 3Mp will cut the noise by a bit more than a factor of two.

There is noise reduction software available, though you loose detail. How important that is will depend on the subject (e.g., early morning fog) and viewing distance. Again, do your own testing to find out what suits you.
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Old Jun 14, 2008, 12:14 AM   #8
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Thanks BillDrew, I will take your advise and again thanks for taking the time to reply to my question.

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Old Jun 14, 2008, 4:35 PM   #9
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I bought my A350 2 days ago to replace my A100.
Basically it was the idea of liveview and improved low light ability that made me change. For aviation shots the ability of using ISO 800 and a very fast shutter speed was irresistable.

The camera isn't perfect but I'm absolutely blown away by the quality of images at ISO 3200 and 1600. The quality is far better than some reviews had led me to believe.

So for those concerts don't be afraid to crank the sensitivity up and then , if you must , use a bit of noise software on those 14 megapixels to create the effect you want.
As mentioned earlier in the thread there's a lot of room for downsizing the image to hide any noise.


I just wish the overall build quality of the A350 felt better!!!

As an after thought for optimum quality shoot in RAW or RAW and Jpeg mode.
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Old Jun 14, 2008, 11:06 PM   #10
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Thanks for the advice nippa, The more I work with the A350 the more I like it. I have learned a lot in the past few weeks regarding the A350 and what it is capable of.Being a novice and new to the DSLR worldI questioned my purchase because of some of the reviews that were out there but Ihave come to the conclusion that all cameras are going to have pros and consabout them in there reviews. Bottom line I am not disappointed at all and feel that I made a great purchase compared to some of the competition out there. As far as the build quality I personally feel that it far better than the competition in the entry level DSLRs. I would like to find a good all around lens that would be good for outdoor shots I currently have the kit lenses 18-70 and 75-300. Again I appreciate your opinions and advice and I hope to post some of my pictures taken from my A350 soon.

Thanks timbo76
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