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Old Nov 13, 2007, 5:44 PM   #1
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I am hoping someone can help me decide... here's the deal I am a total beginner looking to get into photography as a hobby. I purchased a Sony H2 to start and have been very pleased with it so far for an everyday camera. However, my 16 year old son plays ice hockey and as I am sure you all know it just doesn't cut the mustard for that application. Anyway, have spent many, many hours reading reviews thought I had decided on the Nikon D40 went to a big box store salesman said I definitely would want to go with the Canon xti then saw a review on the E510 thought that was the winner then read a review from a person who had returned theirs basically because the small viewfinder was not working out well with their eyeglasses which concerned me since I too wear glasses. The more I read the more confused I get so any knowledgeable input would be appreciated. Since I am such a beginner I am only looking to spend around $700 -$800. :?
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Old Nov 13, 2007, 5:52 PM   #2
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Sorry, all that rambling and I didn't really state my main question... Would I be better off getting the E510 2-lens kit or buying a Canon or Nikon body with one really good lens?? :?
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Old Nov 13, 2007, 6:09 PM   #3
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Any of the three cameras will be a big improvement over the H2 for rapid action in low light, particularly if you have the right lens. The camera body is important in how it feels in your hands but a fast lens (wide aperture)with sufficient reach or zoom is advisable for your use. These type of lenses are fairly expensive, so you need to compare costs on the body + lens from the three manufacturers. Other posters with more experience may comment on the appropriate lenses - the long end (assuming a zoom) would need to be around 300mm on the Canon and Nikon cameras to equal the reach of the H2, but 200mm may be enough. I think that ideally you will need a kit lens plus a longer reach fast lens for the ice hockey. http://www.photozone.de is a good site for comparative information on lenses.
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Old Nov 13, 2007, 6:23 PM   #4
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Ok - tough question. And unfortunately I don't have good news.

First, the oly kit is a great value - a nice set of lenses that really sets up many novice SLR photographers very well. But, of the three cameras the Oly will perform the worst for sports situations - especially low light. It's high ISO performance isn't as good as the others and it's focus system (especially servo focusing) isn't as good either Canon or Nikon. Right now, Oly is probably the last system I would recommend for sports work. They have a new DSLR, E3, which has a lot of high expectations but it isn't available yet and way over your budget. For sports work, Oly has a LOT of ground to make up on Nikon and Canon (which dominate the sports shooting industry).

The Nikon D40 is also a great value camera. It's two flaws are what allow it to be a good value: Nikon stripped down the autofocus system and they removed the focus motor. This allows them to offer it at such a low price point. But it also hurts sports shooters. The biggest hit is the lack of the focus motor - specifically for low light sports. low light sports typically require prime lenses (non zoom) with apertures of 1.8 or 2.0. In the nikon system those lenses don't have focus motors. That means they won't autofocus on the D40. Only Nikon AF-S or Sigma HSM lenses come with focus motors in the lens in the Nikon system. So while as a system, Nikon does very well with sports shooters, the D40 is NOT a good sports camera (for this and other reasons but mostly for the focus motor).

Of the three, the xti is probably the best sports camera. But the other two have benefits in other areas. That's what makes this tough. In any event, NONE of the cameras are going to be able to take decent hockey shots with any kit lens.

If you are lucky enough to shoot in a very bright rink, then you can use a 2.8 aperture lens. This typically means a 70-200 2.8 lens. In Canon and Nikon, the least expensive option is the Sigma 70-2002.8. But that lens is $850 or so - more than your entire budget.

If you don't have one of the brightest rinks around then you need a lens capable of 2.0 or 1.8 aperture. This means a prime lens as neither Canon nor Nikon has a 2.0 zoom lens. The least expensive option that would be of ANY use is the 85mm 1.8 ($370 in Canon, $400 in Nikon). But the Nikon won't autofocus on the D40. AND, an 85mm lens isn't designed to shoot an entire hockey rink. They are typically only good for about 20 feet of coverage which makes them not great fits for a sport like hockey (but fine for say basketball where you can shoot from the baseline and still get plenty of action). Canon also makes a 100mm 2.0 lens for $380 and a 135mm 2.0 lens for $1000. None of these primes is going to be a lot of use for everyday type shooting. So you would need a lens or two for everything else and then a lens for hockey.

The problem here is: one of your stated goals is one of the toughest things you can ask a camera to do - low light action. It's VERY, VERY tough to do. Even tougher to do well. You often need more expensive equipment (systems like canon or nikon that have better focus systems and most importantly servo tracking and excellent ISO 1600/3200 performance) and as you can see from above - expensive lenses. If the sport were outdoors and in daylight you would have more options. But indoors and low light the options are very limited.

I know you were hoping for better news. But as a sports shooter I can tell you there are really no inexpensive routes to get quality low light action shots for a sport like hockey (some people will shoot basketball or volleyball with inexpensive [<$100] 50mm 1.8 lenses but that wont give you enough reach for a sport like hockey. But I believe in giving you the honest facts so you can decide for yourself the best course to take.

One other word of caution - sports shooting is very difficult. Just ask anyone that does it. So you have to decide how important sports shooting is going to be to you. If it's important then you're going to have to make some hard choices. if you can leave the hockey shooting behind you then there are a lot more options (in which case, all the options you're considering become very good). Also for this same reason - take with a LARGE grain of salt any advice on how a given kit will do in a low light sports situation unless the person giving that advice shoots low light sports. Not discounting great advice in other areas - just that when you get advice on something demanding like low light sports, birds-in-flight or wedding work - you heed the advice of those who actually do it. Otherwise you have people making very bad guesses as to what a given kit will do. Unfortunately I don't shoot hockey specifically (but do shoot basketball, volleyball, wrestling, swimming, night football, night soccer and a host of other sports in good and bad light). And I pay attention to discussions of hockey. And hockey rinks appear to be in the same light class as most HS gyms - which means 2.0 is usually necessary but sometimes 2.8 is OK.

Also I don't think there is anyone here that shoots ice hockey - at least I haven't seen any ice hockey posts in the last 4 years.

So. How important is the hockey shooting to you?
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Old Nov 13, 2007, 7:11 PM   #5
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Wow! Thanks for the quick replies! I was pretty much expecting news like that... anyway like I said I am a total beginner and I have actually managed to get some fairly decent shots of my son with the H2 if I find a pretty clear spot on the glass and I am definitely not after perfection. Our family travels all over the country for his hockey tournaments and we always try to fit in some tourist stuff wherever we go which I like to document with pictures so basically I guess what I should focus on is a good camera to learn on and maybe if I am lucky get a few good shots during his games. I also like to get the shots during time outs on the bench and when the action is actually stopped on the ice. Ritz Camera is offering a package with the Canon xti an 18-55 and a 75-300 lens with no sales tax, free shipping and a free printer for $849.00... what do you think?? :-D
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Old Nov 13, 2007, 8:20 PM   #6
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Well, I can't comment on the printer. The 75-300 isn't a great lens, but it is 300mm. There are actually 2 current versions - one without USM (canon's ultra sonic motor - faster, quiter focusing motor) that sells for about $150 online. The version WITH USM sells for about $190 online. The xti with kit lens sells for about $650 online. So $850 is priced about right. The quality of these lenses isn't stellar - not as good as theOly lenses. The question is: what would you want to use the 75-300 for? If it's not important to your shooting you might be better off saving the money for a later date. Or, if the action hockey isn't going to be a big part of your shooting then the other two cameras and their kit lenses might be a better purchase.
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Old Nov 14, 2007, 12:21 AM   #7
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I can't thank you enough for your help... so in your opinion what would be the best dslr to play with until I learn which would then allow me to purchase better lenses in the future? What do you think of the Sony A100? Putting the extra money away sounds like a much better plan than rushing into it before I even know what I am doing with the camera :idea:. Like I said I am starting from scratch... aside from the camera manual is there any good books you might recommend?
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Old Nov 14, 2007, 8:02 AM   #8
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The Sony A100 is a good camera also, along with the Pentax K100 (which is what I have). The Sony has the advantage of being compatible withused KM lenses, along with using some very nice (and expensive)modern Zeiss lenses.

My only experience shooting ice hockey was with a Pentax film camera several years ago, and had no problem (arena had good lighting and I was using a fast, f1.7 lens). My main "lesson learned" was that 50mm wasn't long enough for where I was sitting - would have liked something longer.

The one thing I don't think you should lose sight of is your ultimate aim, if it is going to be indoor hockey. When you buy a dSLR you are buying into a lens system, and your lenses are going to last longer than your camera body will. I happen to shoot Pentax, and I'm still using a couple of lenses I bought in 1980 for a film camera. You might not be able to afford the fast lenses now that you'd need for ice hockey, but if that's what you want to work toward, then it would be a good idea to chose a camera system that will ultimately let you do that. For instance, buy the Canon Rebel now with a less expensive, all aroundlens that you can use for most things. Later on buy the expensive lens for sports shooting, and you'd still have the all-arounder. If you buy a camera that doesn't support that sports lens, then you would have to start over again.
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Old Nov 14, 2007, 2:07 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input mtngal! We are practically neighbors, I am in Valencia and have some good friends up in your area. Anyway, I am pretty close to making a purchase and thought I might get some input?? I am thinking about a Canon xti body with a Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens to get my feet wet and play around to see if this dslr thing is even for me or not. I can get this setup on Amazon for just under $1000 which is close to my original budget... what do you guys think??:?:
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Old Nov 14, 2007, 2:33 PM   #10
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The 28-135 is really a great lens. The only knock on it is that it isn't very wide - especially on a crop body (where it acts like a 45mm lens). So that can be limiting to many people. I used this lens for years as my walk-around lens (replaced recently with 24-105 lens). I did buy a dedicated wide angle lens for those instances (indoors, landscape) where I needed a wider angle.

Canon actually developed a 17-85 lens that they used to sell as an alternate kit lens. It was intended to be the DSLR equivelent of the 28-135 since it essentially becomes 27-136mm on a crop camera. I don't think the lens was ever really embraced as being quality. For some reason they are now pushing the older 28-135 as a kit lens.

For what it's worth the 17-85 is probably on par with the 28-135. It's a very nice lens and I believe it still may be offered as a kit lens. If so, which lens to pick (28-135 vs. 17-85) depends on your style of shooting and whether you would need the longer or wider end in your walk-around.
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