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Old Dec 3, 2008, 12:13 AM   #1
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Hello all.

I'll be asking a similar question to 1,000 others you've already answered. I'm sorry to be so tedious, but I didn't see specifically what I'm looking for in any of the previous threads. Thanks in advance for your help!

I've been using a Canon S1 IS for a few years, which I believe would fall into the 'point and click' category, with results I've beengrudgingly satisfiedwith up to this point. More specifically, I went from "This camera is awesome!" to "Wow, I can do a lot better..." once I started really trying to get good photos of sporting events. Anyway, it finally hit the floor a little too hard (about 6 times on the stairs) and ceased functioning, so I'm ready to upgrade.

I plan to primarily shootmy kids' sports (baseball, basketball, football, snowboarding) and my own rugby team, as well as the usual family stuff. I've never tried to blow anything up, but I have taken some surprisingly good pictures with what I've known for some time is inadequate for what I'm trying to do.

I'm starting mylimit at $1,000 (+/-), which should include everything I need to really have a good start. After reading a dozen reviews for half-a-dozen cameras, I settled on the Sony A350X (2 lenses, $750, leaving room in the budget for accessories). I won't use the Live View much, but I like the idea of the in-camera stablization because of the expense of future lenses for other brands. Also, I like the feel of the slightly smaller Sony bodies.

I suppose my keyquestions are as follows:

1. Can I accomplish what I want to accomplish with this camera? I've never taken a good picture under the lights of a high school football field, but I hope to one day do so.

2. Should I scrap this idea because of the relatively slow FPS (2.5), or is shutter speed or something else what I should really be thinking about? I foolishly picked up a Canon 50D at Best Buy that fired offwhat the sign said was 6.5 FPS, and thought seriously about tripling my limit just because it sounded so cool. I'd rather not do that if at all possible.

3. Am I falling for an advertising trick with the 2 lenses? They're listed as the DT-18-70 Standard Zoom and 55-200mm Telephoto. I don't want to be the sucker...

4. Finally, what size lens will I need to shoot across a rugby pitch or football field? My old Canon had a 10x optical zoom and 32x digital zoom (or maybe 32x total), which was okay, if difficult to hold a focus. I just don't know how that translates to 200mm or 400mm or whatever.

The more I type, the more questions I have, so I'll leave you with that for now. I hope I haven't sounded like an imbecile.

Once again, thank you for your input!

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Old Dec 3, 2008, 6:50 AM   #2
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First off - welcome to the forums. You've come to the right place for info - lots of good people here.

First let me say all DSLRs on the market are great cameras for general photography. BUT, sports photography is one of the most demanding styles from an equipment standpoint - and also from a photographer standpoint. There are 3 things you need for success:

1. The right skillset. Sports photography is NOT a point and shoot thing. Even with the best equipment it still takes a good amount of learning and practice to get good results. Don't expect to be able to put the camera in sports mode and just click away - that will work for snapshots in very good light with action close but not for more demanding conditions or if you want quality shots. You'll need to learn focus techniques, exposure techniques, wb techniques, where to position yourself for certain shots, post processing techniques. I point this out because of the misconception that the camera does all the work - it doesn't.

2. The right equipment. Sports shooting is one of the most demanding of equipment. It's essential to success. That means the right camera body AND the right lenses. And those lenses get expensive in any system. The notion of saving money on lenses with in-body stabilization doesn't hold water with sports shooting. You pay just as much in any system for quality lenses. For quality lenses it's the optics and focus system in the lens that drives the price not anti-shake. For instance the Sony 70-200 2.8 is a $1700 lens. The canon 70-200 2.8 IS is $1600. And you can get a non-IS version for $1100 (IS provides no real benefit for sports shooting with a 200mm or less lens). The CAMERA in any system provides the focus capability, high ISO performance, frame rate as well as the normal array of attributes for other aspects of photography.

3. The right access. Even with the above 2 you need to be able to get close to the action to get quality shots. For varsity HS football under the lights you need to be on the sidelines to get good shots. You wont get any from the stands and you'll get very few from outside the fences. Same for varsity baseball. For sports like volleyball it's less important. But you get the point.

So, 1&3 are up to you - they're independent of which equipment you buy.

To answer your question - mount a 200mm lens on a sony, nikon, pentax or canon DSLR and that 200mm lens is good for about 25 yards of coverage from your shooting position. Not nearly as far as you would think. 300mm lens gets you about 40 yards. 400mm lens gets you 50-60 yards.

BUT if you want to shoot under lights you need high ISO (3200) AND you need a 2.8 lens. The cheapest lens option for either sony or canon is the sigma 70-200 2.8 ($750).

For basketball you either need ISO 3200 and that 70-200 2.8 OR you need a 2.0 lens (which means fixed focal length) and ISO 1600.

Bottom line - you're not going to shoot all these sports for under $1000. So you either need a budget increase or scale back your expectations.

On cameras. In the Sony system, the A700 is a very good sports camera - good high iso performance and good focus performance. Sadly below that level and there's a steep drop-off. The high ISO and focus performance of the camera you're considering isn't good - definitely below the competition. So if you like Sony and want to shoot sports you need to bump up to the A700.

In Canon camp - the XSi is probably the best entry level DSLR for sports work - very good high ISO performance and very good focus performance -best of the competition. BUT it doesn't offer ISO 3200 so it's not a good solution for low light sports. So if you want to shoot varsity football under lights this isn't the camera to do it. You need to step up to the 40d / 50d for that. The 40d is a great camera and you could probably find a good deal on it if the 50d is too expensive. With canon you also have the largest selection of lenses (both sports lenses and other) of any system.

Nikon. The entry d60/d40 are poor choices for sports - don't get them. The D90 is a good camera - rated below the D40/50 (but it has movie mode). Now, step up to a D300 and you're talking the best prosumer sports camera out there. The D700 and D3 are the best pro cameras out there as well.

Pentax and Oly IMO are far behind for sports - if sports shooting were the primary reason I say stick with the others.
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Old Dec 3, 2008, 2:37 PM   #3
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Wow, John, thanks so much for such a prompt and thorough response!

Excellent points all around.

On your first point, I recognize that my current skillset is almost non-existent and I'm kind of excited about learning the new skills. I obviously have a lot to learn. I just wanted to make sure I'm not getting equipment that immediately puts me in a position to fall short. It sounds like I was...

On your third point, is field access, particularly in football, difficult to obtain with a camera? When I go to games without the kids, Ialways go with my brothers, both of whom are referees, which I presumegives themblanket sideline access. However, I've never taken a camera. Games I've tried to shoot have all been Freshman or pee-wee, and I stayed out of the way and went unnoticed. No one has ever questioned me when I strolled through the gate to the field.

I actually meant to mention the a700 in my initial post, but I guess thatparagraph never made it to my fingertips, so you answered that question without even seeing it. Nice work.

So, at this point, I'm definitely increasing the budget. I need to check out the other cameras you mentioned, but as of now I'm leaning toward the a700. (I'm not married to Sony, I just liked how they felt compared to the others I handled.)

Assuming I go with the a700 ($1,000), and I have an absolute ceiling of $3,000, is there a particular lens (or 2 if within budget) that you would recommend? It sounds like the Sigma 70-200 2.8 ($750) you mentioned below will be adequate for basketball and a good start for football, which is my primary goal. Could I get by with that one lens (or another similar one) for a year, or would I come up short (or long) when I want to get my kids posing for the xmas card?

Thanks again for your input. That was unbelievably helpful and I really appreciate you taking the time to point me in the right direction.

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