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Old Sep 14, 2012, 10:03 PM   #21
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The other reason that I don't want to upgrade camera bodies is that when I looked into the SLTs - 35, 65 and even the 77, their performance in high ISO was like a fraction of the Canon Mark III. I believe the rating was something like 2275 for the Mark III and 795 for the SLT77.
Maybe you should give members a better idea of budget.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III sells for almost $3500 now if you want a USA Model from an authorized dealer (versus a gray market camera from a questionable vendor), and that's just for the body, not including any lenses.

Sure, it does better at higher ISO speeds, as it's a higher end camera model with a full frame (35mm film size) sensor with larger photosites for each pixel.

If you want even better, look at the EOS 1D X with an 18MP full frame sensor. It's amazing at higher ISO speeds and the body is *only* $6799 right this minute. I've been shooting with one for the past couple of weeks, and I'm very impressed with it's performance at ISO 12800 if you really want super shots in low light. I was just shooting a football game earlier tonight with it, and the EOS 1D X camera body and 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens I was using would only run you around $9000 for a body/lens combo like that.

You'll find a wide array of cameras and lenses available. It all depends on how much you want to spend. ;-)

But, for your purposes, it sounds like you just need to buy something like a Sony 50mm f/1.8 or Minolta 50mm f/1.7 (that way, you're only investing around $100), dial your camera to around ISO 1600, shoot RAW and time your shots for the least amount of movement. You'll spend a lot less money that way, as it's not like you're trying to shoot sports in low light, as you can take the shots when your subjects are relatively still. ;-)
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Old Sep 14, 2012, 10:31 PM   #22
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Thanks for the suggestion on the lens...

You're correct, I didn't specify budget... And that makes a huge difference, I know. No, I don't want to spend the money on the Mark III, or anything that is even more expensive!!! Not yet, anyway. IF and when I am going to upgrade, I would go for the Canon. Because of this, I don't want to invest in another Sony camera body that won't yield much better results as far as the noise/ISO is concerned, just to replace it again in the near future.

I do indeed intend to shoot in RAW. But, speaking of budget- I cannot afford PS at this point, and so I'm limited in what I can do as far as editing and NR software (though I don't know if I would want to use NR anyhow).

Anyhow, my "budget" or more what I *want* to spend, is limited to a few hundred, maybe close to $1,000, for a flash and lens, and that's because I don't want to spend a lot of money when I can make do with most of what I've got. I do think the 50mm is a great option for me, and I liked the one I had before - though it was a cheap plastic body which I didn't like. What made you pick the 50mm - just the price, or the setting? Please elaborate.
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Old Sep 15, 2012, 6:22 AM   #23
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Neither your Sony A350 camera nor your Sigma 18-125 is up to the task you have in mind. And your Minolta 20mm f/2.8 will produce some Perspective Distortion when a subject is too close. You can replace either your camera or your lens, and you will get an incremental improvement in performance, but replacing both is the best solution.

As for the comparision with the Canon 5D MkIII, I think you may be misunderstanding what you're looking at. Forget teh predigested "Scores", and go straight to the actual measurements. Here's a link to the DxOMark measurements for your Sony A350, the Sony A65, and the Canon 5D MkIII. Click on the Measurements tab, and select the SNR 18% graph. It shows the actual SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) at 18% illumination (which is a nominal median value for a proper exposure), and you will see the actual values for the ratio of the errant pixels to the ones that record the true light level. The Canon 5D MkIII does quite well at lower ISO settings that either of the Sonys, which perform similarly, but at the higher ISOs that you already know you need to use, the A65 gains a significant boost in the SNR, such that it has a 1.5 to 2 stop advantage over your A350 (and where the 5D MkIII has only a 1.5 to 2 stop advantage over the A65.) Combine htat performance with the 1.5 to 2 stop advantage you'll get with a large aperture lens, and you'll be a lot better off than you are now.

There is another aspect of all this that I think you might be overlooking. That is, higher resolution has a way of masking noise all by itself. Noise is, for the most part, random, and higher resolutions mean that each individual errant pixel is smaller (with respect to the entire image.) So a 24MP image with the same SNR as an 18MP image, will apper less noisy. If you examine both images at 100% magnification, you'll see the same amount of noise in each, but when you look at the entire images, the 24MP image will appear less noisy.

Also, upsampling (increasing the resolution of an image, as in, when you print a 24MP image at 600 dpi on an 8x10 page, resulting in a 4800x6000 pixel, or 28MP image) and downsampling (decreasing the resolution of an image, as in, when you display a 24MP image on a 1920x1080 pixel, or a 2MP monitor), the noise is averaged out.

Without a doubt, supplimental light is the easiest way to get where you want to go. And there are some very good programs for image editting that don't cost nearly what you might pay for Photoshop, and some very good programs for reducing noise, some of which are free. And while Noise Reduction will, as an unintended consequence, reduce detail, I doubt that the images you'll be recording will have much fine detail anyway.

In short, there are lots of ways to get where you want to go, and some of them aren't very expensive. But neither your camera nor your lenses will get you there.
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Old Sep 15, 2012, 12:44 PM   #24
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Thanks for the suggestion on the lens...

You're correct, I didn't specify budget... And that makes a huge difference, I know. No, I don't want to spend the money on the Mark III, or anything that is even more expensive!!! Not yet, anyway. IF and when I am going to upgrade, I would go for the Canon. Because of this, I don't want to invest in another Sony camera body that won't yield much better results as far as the noise/ISO is concerned, just to replace it again in the near future.
I think you're underestimating just how good the Sony sensors are within a given price range.

If you're looking at models with APS-C size sensors, the latest 16MP Sony sensors are very hard to beat for lower noise and better dynamic range. Nikon uses them in some of their models, Pentax uses them in some of their models, and Sony uses them in a number of models.

Again, it depends on how much you want to spend. ;-)

Sure, once you move into cameras using full frame (35mm film size sensors), then the latest sensor models tend to do better, as used in cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (which is a $3500 camera body).

That's because the photosites for each pixel are much larger and able to gather more light, giving lower noise levels compared to the smaller pixels you find on APS-C size sensors.

Chances are, the new full frame Sony 24.3MP Sensor is going to be very good in that area, too. Sony just announced multiple camera models that will use it (Sony A99, RX1 and VG900). Nikon just announced a new full frame model dubbed the D600 that is likely using the same Sony 24.3MP full frame sensor, too.

But, unless you want to spend *more* than $2000 on a new camera body (plus the cost of any lenses you want to use), then you'll need to stick with APS-C size sensors, and Sony APS-C size sensors are as good as they come right now (even compared to the latest Canon models). Keep in mind that advancements in sensor design happen with each new generation, and you're using an older camera model now. You see the same thing with other brands. Technology improves at a rapid pace. ;-)

For example, you may want to look at something like the new Sony A57 using the latest Sony 16MP APS-C size sensor if you want to see some improvement on a tighter budget. It's very good, and as capable as any other similar size sensor on the market right now. Check out the sensor performance as a whole (including areas like color depth and dynamic range) to get an idea of how it compares. It's got terrific performance for an APS-C size sensor (no other APS-C size sensor is going to outperform it).

I'm not a huge fan of sensor measurement type sites. But, as you can see from the tests of this model as compared to models like the Canon 60D, it's a very good sensor (click on the Measurements Tab, then look at performance in areas like Signal to Noise Ratio, Dynamic Range and more compared to the sensor in your A350). Times change, and each new generation of sensor tends to have advancements.

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/%28appareil1%29/798|0/%28brand%29/Sony/%28appareil2%29/663|0/%28brand2%29/Canon/%28appareil3%29/217|0/%28brand3%29/Sony

But, for your type of photography, unless you went to spend *more* than $2000 on a new camera body with a full frame (35mm film size sensor) plus the cost of lenses, don't expect anything more than incremental updates from an under $2K camera model using an APS-C size sensor. IOW, if you buy a newer camera with an APS-C size sensor, expect to see about the same noise levels at ISO 3200 to ISO 4000 that you're getting from ISO 1600 now (but, there have been advancements in other areas like Dynamic Range that help to improve images; and ditto for better in camera noise reduction, which tends to improve with each new generation).

From what you're saying you want to shoot, it sounds like you probably just need to work on your technique more. For example, half press your shutter button to lock focus (that way, you can take a photo without waiting on Autofocus Time when the opportunity arises), then wait until you anticipate any subject movement will cease, then carefully "squeeze" the shutter button the rest of the way down (to minimize any camera shake, as "poking" at the shutter button will result in more blur if shooting at very slow shutter speeds, as there is only so much that an anti-shake mechanism can do to help out).

IOW, learn to time your shots for the least amount of subject movement to get sharper photos at slower shutter speeds. That takes practice, and the photographer's skill is going to be more important than the camera brand you're using if looking at current camera models with APS-C size sensors and similar lenses. But, the Sony sensors are some of the best available right now for lower noise levels and better dynamic range if looking at that type of camera model.

I'd also shoot in RAW to take advantage of software that can get the most out of your images, along with the latest advancements in Noise Reduction techniques.

IOW, practice, practice, practice. If you need to take photos in very low light without a flash at slower shutter speeds, then you need to perfect your technique, so that you're capturing sharper images by timing your shots so that you're taking them during the least amount of subject movement, locking focus in advance with a half press to get the AF lock time out of the way, then carefully squeezing the shutter button the rest of the way down at just the right moment when your subject is still, as to minimize any blur from camera shake. That way, you can use slower shutter speeds with lower ISO speed settings (and I'd probably stick to a max of about ISO 1600 with an A350).

As for a 50mm... it doesn't sound like you need anything longer, since you can always get closer to your subject by using your feet, and infants are very small subjects. Of course, with a Sony body, you do get the added benefit of stabilization with a fast prime like that, too (something missing in similar Canon models using similar lenses). But, if shutter speeds are *very* slow, you still need to work on technique to minimize any additional blur from camera shake, as stabilization only helps so much (expect about 2 stops slower shutter speeds than you can get without out, but in very low light, your shutter speeds may end up being slower than stabilization is capable of compensating for).

I'd also consider using a flash. That way, you can keep ISO speeds lower and won't have to worry as much about improving your technique and using noise reduction software to help out in post processing.
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Old Sep 15, 2012, 9:26 PM   #25
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Here is the comparison that I was referring to:
http://snapsort.com/compare/Sony-A65...lpha_DSLR-A350

See on the line where they compare the "Lower Noise at High ISO" The SLT A65 only improves by .3 f stops. It seems like it would be silly to upgrade and spend money to do so, with only such a small improvement. Whereas, the Canon showed much better results at higher ISO here:

http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EO...II-vs-Sony-A65
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Old Sep 15, 2012, 9:33 PM   #26
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Jim,

I am definitely aware of blur, and am not referring to that in this situation. I am speaking of just the noise. I am not happy with my cameras performance in terms of noise. In fact, when my camera is sitting on a tripod and I am looking at live view, I notice the noise. I am not touching or moving my camera, and so I am only speaking of noise. I don't think photos that look like old school TV static are very good quality, that's all. :-)

I do still agree with the 50mm and was really comfortable using it previously. But, I also love my 20mm, and was kind of wanting something in the middle - so I wanted to see what lens would be safe from distortion that fell someplace between the 50 and the 20. Maybe a 35... or, the 28 if that isn't too much. I just don't want to get anything else that distorts the image at all, since my 20 already seems to do that,, and I will have it on hand if I want to use it that day.

So, my final conclusion here is one lens upgrade, and a flash that I can bounce off of a side wall (my current external flash does not pivot in such a way). Now, the question then, is which lens would be most appropriate! :-)

**As far as camera upgrades: the Canon Mark II is under $2k from what I can tell looking around online. It seems to preform significantly better under low lighting than the Sonys...

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Old Sep 15, 2012, 9:52 PM   #27
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TCav -

If you don't mind sharing, I would love to hear the options you mentioned for editing software?

I know it's probably quite out of date, but I did buy Paint Shop Pro 8 from my favorite thrift store for $1!! I don't even know if it's compatible with newer computers or not.

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Old Sep 15, 2012, 10:41 PM   #28
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Also, I looked at the chart that you shared. What do the dB numbers on the left side stand for? and/or how can you tell how many f-stops they are apart from one another? Does this chart agree with the one that I linked above?
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Old Sep 16, 2012, 7:51 AM   #29
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If you don't mind sharing, I would love to hear the options you mentioned for editing software?
There are Adobe's Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom, ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Corel PaintShop Pro, and Ulead PhotoImpact, all of which are very popular, and are all availabel as a Free Trial Download. Then there are the free IrfanView, GIMP, Rawstudio, and RawTherapee. There are several others, but these are just the ones I've persoanlly read or heard people praise. For a more comprehensive list, see Wikipedia's Comparison of raster graphics editors.

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I know it's probably quite out of date, but I did buy Paint Shop Pro 8 from my favorite thrift store for $1!! I don't even know if it's compatible with newer computers or not.
Paint Shop Pro 8 is pretty old. It was superceeded by version 9 in August of 2004. The current version is 15, branded as "Corel PaintShop Pro X5".
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Old Sep 16, 2012, 8:28 AM   #30
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Also, I looked at the chart that you shared. What do the dB numbers on the left side stand for? and/or how can you tell how many f-stops they are apart from one another?
dB is "decibel". Decibel is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity relative to a reference level. (In this case, Signal to Noise, or the ratio of pixels that correctly represent the luminance of a recorded scene to those that do not. Because it's a logarithmic unit, it's simpler to use when representing very large numbers than a linear unit would.

When looking at SNR 18% graph on DxOMark, it's easier to look across rather than up and down. The graph I linked to in an earlier message, of your Sony A350, the Sony A65, and the Canon 5D MkIII, shows that, at high ISO settings, where your A350 maxes out at 3200, the SNR is at about the same level as the A65 at between 6400 and 12800. That's how I was able to determine that the A65 has a 1.5 to 2 stop advantage over your A350. You could use that advantage to either lower the ISO to get less noise, increase the shutter speed to get less motion blur due to subject movement, or use a larger aperture to get a more shallow depth of field (or some combination of all three.)

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Does this chart agree with the one that I linked above?
No, it does not. In addition, there are a number of simple, factual errors in the comp[arison. For instance, it states that the A65 has a 0.71x viewfinder while the A350 gets by with 0.49x. The A65 actually has a 1.09x viewfinder and the A350 actually has a 0.74x viewfinder. It also states that the A350 doesn't have a Phase Detection AF system, which it does. This is just sloppy work. If they can't copy a spec sheet, I definitely wouldn't trust their ability to perform and report quantitative measurements.
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