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Old Nov 24, 2008, 3:33 AM   #1
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I have just purchased my first slr(sony a350)and liked the features of the camera. I take lots of indoor shots in hockey arenas which for the most part are dimly lit. I have a sony 70-300 lens and after much reading and trial and error with ISO and white balance , Raw,etc I'm just not getting clear action shots. Lots of noise though. I was wondering if you could suggest an affordable and better solution. I plan toreturn the lense and look for alternatives. I guess a 2.8 with fast focusing is what I need. I am a newbie and learning lots as I read posts and reviews. Any help would be much appreciated.
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Old Nov 24, 2008, 7:04 AM   #2
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It's unfortunate that the 70-300 isn't suitable for what you want to do. It is otherwise a very good lens.

There are only three fast telephoto zoom lenses available for Sony dSLRs that might suit your purpose:
  1. Sony SAL-70200G - 70-200mm f/2.8 G ($1,700) Without question, this is the best of the three, but you could probably have guessed that. It is sharp and fast to focus.[/*]
  2. Sigma APO 70-200mm F2.8 II EX DG MACRO HSM ($800) This is also a fast focusing lens, though probably not as good optically as the other two.[/*]
  3. Tamron AF70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro ($700) This is optically better than the Sigma, but doesn't have an internal autofocus motor, so is slower to focus, though it may be fast enough for hockey.
[/*]
The Sony 70-300 has a maximum aperture of 4.5-5.6. If you think you could get by with an aperture of f/4.0, there are two alternatives:
  1. Sigma APO 100-300mm F4 EX DG HSM ($1,100) It isa very good lens in all respects, and is longer than the others.[/*]
  2. Minolta 70-210mm F4 (commonly referred to as the 'Beercan'.) (~$200 on eBay) This is sharp throughout its zoom range and at it's maximum aperture. This is a true jewel, and has many fans here and elsewhere.[/*]
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Old Nov 24, 2008, 7:52 AM   #3
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I would not plan on being able to use a 4.0 lens unless it's a pro arena. Some arenas may even require ISO 3200 at f2.8 to get a proper exposure.

A side note - the important thing is to expose for faces - NOT for the ice. You may find your camera, if allowed to meter by itself, will underexpose - trying to turn that white ice to grey. The proper exposure for the FACES inside the helmets may easily be a stop different than what the camera meters the ice at.

If you're unsure whether 2.8 will be fast enough, do the following:

take some test shots with the 70-300 adjusting the exposure until the faces are exposed properly. Then post one of those photos here - don't do any other editing except re-sizing. Based upon the exif information and whether the exposure looks good we can calculate what aperture would be necessary for that environment (i.e. whether 2.8 will be good enough or whether you need 2.0).
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Old Nov 25, 2008, 12:36 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies and advice. I have been adjusting the white balance through a manual setting. I have been using the ice to do this and perhaps I should be like you say focusing on a face in the helmet to take my baseline. I also have pre-sets such as auto and fluorescent. I note the color temperature usually comes in at about 3900k. I have been using the sports setting on the camera and bumping up the ISO to 1600 as I find I get lots of blur at 800. The problem is noise and not much clarity. There is also an exposure compensation feature and I have bumped that up to +.7. In speaking to some friends they have suggested I set the camera to shutter priority(s) and look at a 1/125 shutter speed and an ISO of 800 or 1600. Again this SLR stuff is new to me and I'm learning through what I read and helpfull advice that you give me. I like the 75-300 lense in outdoor applications but from what I read the2.8 seems to be a better option as it will allow more light into the lense at higher shutter and ISO settings. I have been looking at the 2.8 sigma and tamron lenses.Any more advice and help will be greatly appreciated. I may just need to tweak the settings to obtain results. That's where you come in. Again,I have a Sony A350.
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Old Nov 25, 2008, 5:01 AM   #5
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Dave,

Don't confuse white balance and exposure. What I said was - expose for the faces. This is completely different than setting white balance.

In reality, shutter priority is a poor choice for most stop-action sports. It's a poor choice for3 major reasons:

1. You can select a shutter speed to fast and the shots will be underexposed. Your camera will let you select 1/1000 in the hockey rink.

2. In better light, selecting a specific shutter speed means the camera will vary aperture which is a bad thing. Very often in sports shooting you want to use a very wide aperture to blur the background. With a quality 2.8 lens, most sports photographers will shoot at 2.8.

3. in stop action photography there's no reason to LIMIT the shutter speed. Why limit yourself to 1/500 if 1/2000 is possible (not in your case but in general).

Noise is a byproduct of high ISOs and poor exposure. You'll always get some noise at high ISO but you get MORE noise when shots are underexposed. That's why it's important your exposure setting gets the faces exposed properly. Also, it doesn't help that the 350 has poor high ISO performance.

Again - if you post a photo without ANY editing other than resizing I can see if your exposure is good and then extrapolate as to whether a 2.8 lens will be fast enough. Yes it is better than what you currently have but we need to determine if it is fast enough. It stinks to find out AFTER you spend $800 that the lens you bought isn't up to the task of shooting in the rinks you want to shoot in.

For certain your current lens is NOT going to get many usable shots. As to the sigma and tamron lenses - the tamron is sharper BUT the tamron doesn't have a focus motor like sigma's HSM. Now, sony has tweaked their in-camera focus motors with the latest generation of cameras, but even they realize lens based motors are better as their newer high end lenses have lens based focus motors. So, even in the Sony world I'd be inclined to say the Sigma would be the better sports lens. Although it's probably a closer race in Sony mount than in others (again because the in camera motor is better in sony than other mounts).


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Old Nov 26, 2008, 2:49 AM   #6
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Thanks again JohnG for sticking by me. Here is the pic. It isn't pretty. Quite under exposed. I ran it through photoshop and noiseware but it wasn't crip. Any further advice would be most appreciated. Thanks.
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Old Nov 26, 2008, 4:50 AM   #7
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yeah - that's probablyclose to 2stops underexposed. ISO 800 f5 1/125. Proper exposure would be around ISO 3200 f5.6 1/125. Put's you around 1/500 ISO 3200 f2.8 - right around borderline usability of 2.8. Of course you have to be comfortable with the ISO 3200 performance of that camera before you move ahead with a 70-200 2.8 purchase.
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Old Nov 27, 2008, 1:58 AM   #8
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Thanks for your advice. I do have another week of trail re the sony camera and am not sold on the noise at higher ISO settings. I now see the value of having a f 2.8 type lense. Should I return the camera and re-think what to purchase, do you have any suggestions? I am not a pro, and I don't make money at taking pics, I just do it for the kids and parents on my sons teams so the sky is not the limit when it comes to pricing. I am realistic though in that I believe you get what you pay for. I likehow the sony a 350 is set up and it took me little time to find the settings and get confortable. I am just wondering if there are better options. Again thanks for your time and thorough responses.
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Old Nov 27, 2008, 6:46 AM   #9
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If the reason you bought that camera and that lens was to shoot hockey, then you might be better off with the Canon XSi (~$600 with the kit lens) and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM (~$1,050 after rebate) or the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG Macro HSM II (~$800).

The Canon XSi, while only 12MP vs. the A350's 14, is faster to focus, has a faster frame rate (3.5 fps vs. 2.5 for the A350), better high ISO performance, and a sligntly smaller image sensor which makes that 70-200mm lens just a little bit longer.

Of course, the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 is slightly better than Canon's, but it's also $1,700!
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Old Nov 28, 2008, 3:18 AM   #10
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Thank you. I will head your advice. What are your thoughts on the Nikon D90. I have been seeing some good reviews. Would it serve my purposes well with sports? I will look at the Canon also. Thanks for all of you timely advice. The Sony goes back to the store tomorrow. I've learned lots along the way. Once I settle in on a camera I will let you know. Cheers!!!!
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