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Old Sep 7, 2008, 1:59 PM   #11
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It certainly appears that Jim's Sony A700/Sigma combination would provide the most optimal set of the desired features. The constant 2.8 aperture of the Sigma across the range of focal lengths beats Olympus. In-Body image stabilization with the lens would provide a better probability of capturing a good shot, along with at least a couple of f stop advantage. Sony's auto focus speed certainly beats Pentax and probably Olympus (I have mainly followed Pentax, so was going with the sports based focusing speeds of Nikon and Canon here), and from Jim's comments - it appears that Sony is probably on par with N and C. Sony again offers high ISO speeds 3200 - 6400 along with 5 fps for bursts, in addition to 12MP for cropping. Plus, the body is sealed. It also comes in a bit under budget.

It will be interesting to hear from jandq.
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Old Sep 7, 2008, 2:01 PM   #12
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Hello, Thanks to all of you and your helpful thoughts. I have English Mastiffs and that is the only breed that I shoot. Don't let the size fool you though, they can be very fast in short bursts. I guess when I am talking about speed I need a camera thats ready now. Almost like a gun fight because I never know when the perfect shot will be there. And when it is, it's not there for long. Whether its a dog show or on the beach. A split second the perfect pose is there and then it's gone. I'm not speaking of a dog stacked at crufts so much, but in that situation even their they are looking around and you might have 3 seconds to fire off several pictures and maybe one might work. Most of my shooting is outside. I had a cheap Sony and thats what it was. Slow to load and fuzzy pictures with the Carl Zeiss Lense built in. It was what it was. I had for a short time a Nikon D2H with a Nikon 18-55 I think. Only had for a short time and a major unexpected vet bill forced me to sell. I loved how fast it was. The speed of that camera was exactly what I was looking for and the lense produced really nice quality. It was like I was holding a machine gun! Later I found out that the D2Hs produced better jpegs as far as quality. Unfortunately I only had the chance to use it for about a month. As far as weight I could care less if it weights 5-6 lbs it's a non-issure to me. Speed and picture quality is key. Also I use a Mac and the Sony reviews surpisingly said that the new Sony was not as Mac friendly as it could be. I am not an experienced photographer, but found the D2H not a nightmare to operate either. However I have read that in the Cannon lineup their isn't as many adjustments to make and the picture quality can be as good as a Nikon. I must say the more one learns about this, the more one finds out the less they know! I don't need the newest or the best, thats why I guess I was thinking the used market. Now I find out there is grey equipment out their that can't be serviced even if your willing to pay. So now the used idea to save money could come back to cost even more. Something else to consider making things more complex. Also as far as the show, no I am in no hurry. Probably in the next 3-5 months am I planning on purchasing. I am amazed at how you guys are so passionate about photography as well as knowledgable. Are all of you Pro's? I didn't expect anyone here to take my question so seriously. It's truely appreciated!
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Old Sep 7, 2008, 3:29 PM   #13
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A D2Hs would be a nice camera. It just doesn't have available ISO speeds as high as some of the other models being discussed though, which would come in handy for faster shutter speeds indoors. The D3 would be a killer camera for AF and lower light use at higher ISO speeds, but it's well outside of your desired budget (as is the D700).

The D300 would have a faster frame rate and a more sophisticated AF system compared to the other new models we've mentioned (it even has the ability to use subject color to help track). But, it's not really as fast as a model like the D3 with all AF points enabled. I got the impression that this model wasn't as fast as my A700 either, especially if you quickly change from a closer to further away subject and shoot (although the silence of an AF-S lens can be misleading if you're not watching the image come into focus in the viewfinder). The D300 does have a very tunable AF system, and I've seen it mentioned that it's supposed to be much faster if you don't try to let it use all 51 AF points (and it's got custom options that allow you to set it differently). So, it may be a better system overall once you tune it for the conditions you're shooting in. I still wouldn't trade my A700 for one. But, if you asked a Nikon D300 owner, they'd probably have the same feeling about trading their camera for my Sony if they tried it out. The Nikon D300 is a more full featured camera, and it's got faster available frame rates, more lens options, etc. Pros and Cons. I'd see how the different models feel to you, as you may prefer one over another.

The new Canon 50D in this niche is an unknown right now, and I suspect it's going to be pretty fast, as improvements tend to come with each new generation. I think you really start getting into splitting hairs between most models in this niche, as some may be better in some conditions versus others, without a huge difference in usability overall.

Any of these models are likely to run circles around that point and shoot Sony model you were using. In good light, we're only talking two or three tenths of a second to lock focus and start shooting with most dSLR models with a fast lens on them, even if you're not already focused on something close to the same distance as your subject. If the AF distance hasn't changed much (for example, you didn't just finish focusing on something close to you and need to focus on something far away in a hurry), they can be even faster.

If you've got a few more months before you have to purchase, I'd probably wait for more user feedback on some of the newer models hitting now,and this month's trade show (Photokina) might give you some more body and/or lens options to look at.

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Old Sep 7, 2008, 3:33 PM   #14
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I shoot primarily dog agilty...take a look at http://dogshots.biz

I have a Canon 40D
My primary lens that I use is a Canon 70-200 f 2.8 IS L
Although last weekend the arena was really dark, so I used a Canon 85mm f 1.8

My walkaround lens is a Sigma 18-200 OS, but its to slow of anything but bright outdoor shots.

I"m probably going to go for a Canon 50D next spring, because of the higher ISO speeds that are possible with it. If I had a 50D last weekend I could have used my f 2.8 zoom and gotten much better framing.


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Old Sep 7, 2008, 4:22 PM   #15
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Wow! English Mastiffs are gentle giants. I am thinking that the 70 to 200 lens suggestion would be a wee bit off. Were you happy with the previous 18-55 in terms of focal length? If so, were you shooting more in the upper range as opposed to the wide range? If so, then I would think that something along the lines of a 24 - 70 or 35 - 80 would be a bit better. It might be good for you to check you old photos and see what focal length you used the most and what you liked the best. I am so use to the smaller dogs where you need a longer lens.

Looking at the Nikon 18-55 lenses, the speeds were f3.5 - 5.6. Going to a constant f2.8 would be a real improvement and would help lower the need for faster ISO speeds, or more likely extend the shooting environment. There usually is not a lot of lenses in the focal lengths cited above that are image stabilized.



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Old Sep 7, 2008, 4:48 PM   #16
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That sure sounds short for use much outdoors. But, I don't have any experience shooting that kind of thing.

A two lens kit would be another option... For example, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 (or Tamron 28-75mm) and a 70-200mm f/2.8 for better flexibility in more conditions, depending on budget (with the camera manufacturers' lenses tending to cost a lot more). Sigma's got a 50-150mm f/2.8 that may also warrant a look (it's available in Canon and Nikon only right now). I'm trying to keep in mind that you'll need to cover indoor events, too (so, I'd lean towards brighter zooms for best flexibility if you don't mind the size and weight).

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Old Sep 8, 2008, 1:23 AM   #17
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Hi Jim, I know what you mean about 24 - 70 sounding pretty short. However, in jandq's prior experience the 18-55 on the D2H, the pictures were just fine. Also, English Mastiffs are one of the larger dog breeds. They can be as large as people (although this is not common). That's why I asked about how the images from the 18-55 lens turned out and if the 55 end, was the most used. If jandq used mainly the 55 range and 18 was barley touched, I am thinking that something like the 24 to 70 range might be a bit better. The short end for some closeups when the dogs are very close, and 70 would give a little reach, especially for puppies. Also, possibly something like 35 to 100 would provide more flexiability, though possibly impossible to find.

The other item that went into this, was that the usual shooting range was 8 to 12 yards or usually about 36 feet for a dog that could be 4 to 5 feet long. So using a 1.5x focal length multipler, with a distance at 36 feet, the horizontal field of view for some focal lengths would be:

focal length horizontal field of view (@36') (@24 feet)
24mm 36 feet 24 feet
35mm 24 feet 16 feet
50mm 17 feet 11 feet
70mm 12 feet 8 feet
80mm 10 feet 7 feet

So based on this, I thought that, trim a bit off the 18 end and add it to the 55 end of the lens that appeared to work pretty well might produce something that would work a bit better. Especially for the larger dogs. The other thing was that jandq wrote ....

Quote:
A split second the perfect pose is there and then it's gone. I'm not speaking of a dog stacked at crufts so much, but in that situation even their they are looking around and you might have 3 seconds to fire off several pictures and maybe one might work.
... so it appears that a fully body shot is probably the primary need, either as an individual or in a small group of dogs. The other item that may be important here is just not the burst speed of say 3 to 5 fps, but the substained ability to take burst shots of 3 to 5+ seconds long so as to maximize the take of the moment. So that would cover the memory write speed (My 3 year old Pentax falls down here, so that is why I bring it up).

If jandq were to go back an look at the exif data on the D2H images that turned out well, that would be valuable in selecting a lens range that would fit the need pretty well.

The other thing is that even for the large events (dog shows), the individual rings tend to be well defined, reasonably small, and the audience is within the 30 to 40 foot range at most. In Scottsdale there is a dog show that attracts 20,000+ dogs across 5 days. It is out side, about 20 show rings and you are no more than say 30 feet away at the worst, or 40 on a diagonal. It's the extremely large shows like Westminister in NYC that are held in very large arenas (on TV), that the audience is really far away (thus the need for a much longer lens - 200 or 300mm). These are the few exceptions (maybe once or twice a year - if you get invited). Most of the time, when the show is indoors, your still pretty close to the dogs in the ring, still in the 30 foot range.

I agree with the need for a f2.8. If your going to spend $2K for a camera setup, it would probably pay to get a better lens and skimp (ever so slightly) on the body (but that's allocating $1K for each - body and lens, which should buy some pretty good capability). I did a quick look for Nikon 18-55 lenses to see what aperatures ran and only came up with f3.5 - 5.6 and that appeared to do the job pretty well. So, a constant 2.8 should pretty easily cover just about all the needs.

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Old Sep 8, 2008, 3:45 PM   #18
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interested_observer wrote:
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Also, possibly something like 35 to 100 would provide more flexiability, though possibly impossible to find.
I just noticed that part. Actually, they're not too hard to find used, and you can sometimes get them at discount prices, just because a lens starting out at 35mm is not very popular on an APS-C size sensor, because it would have the same angle of view a lens starting out at roughly 53mm on a 35mm camera, and most users want something starting at wider in similar zooms.

Look at the Tamron SP (Super Performance) 35-105mm f/2.8 Autofocus Lens. They made these in most popular camera mounts. It's got better optics compared to the newer Tamron SP 28-105mm f/2.8 (which would be another option and you can buy these brand new), and it's a little smaller and lighter compared to the newer 28-105mm f/2.8 (although it's not a "light weight" by any means).

I think I'll hang on to my Tamron SP 35-105mm f/2.8 AF Lens in Minolta AF mount that I got for $119.95 used from http://www.keh.com a while back. It's good enough for my limited needs at a fraction of what most newer f/2.8 zoom lenses would run (and this Tamron was the EISA European Lens of the year for 1992/1993). They're selling for more now (but, the prices for them are still not too bad).

However. since he'll probably want a walk around lens for general purpose use, it may be easier to get something more versatile that could double for multiple outdoor uses. For example, a Sony DSLR-A700 kit with a Sony DT 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6(D) Autofocus Lens. That would give you roughly the same angle of view you'd have using a 24-158mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Sony DSLR-A700 kit with Sony 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6(D) Lens at B&H for $1,599.99 after $200 instant rebate

With a 12MP sensor, he should be fine with the quality of that type of lens at typical viewing and print sizes (even though the sensor is probably outresolving it), as compared to the 18-55mm kit lens he was using on a 4MP D2H, and it would make for a smaller and lighter package.

See this article for someone using this same Sony A700 body/Sony16-105mm lens combination for for a variety of purposes including outdoor sports:

Sony A700 Field Report using a Sony DT 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6(D) Autofocus lens

Then, spend another $400 or so and grab a Tamron (or Sony) 28-75mm f/2.8, or Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 AF lens if you want to go with a new lens for indoor use without a flash.

Or, you could get a brighter prime instead (new or used). For example, keh.com has both Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lenses (in the $100'S) and Minolta 50mm f/1.4 Autofocus lenses (In the mid $200's) in stock now. You could also buy a new Sony 50mm f/1.4 AF lens for around $350, or a used Minolta 85mm f/1.4G AF lens for around $800 if you wanted something longer and brighter in a prime. KEH.com has some now in the 700's (just look under 35mm, Minolta Autofocus for lots of listings). Here's an example:

Minolta 85mm f/1.4G Autofocus lens in EX condition for $789 from keh.com

Or go new with a new Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for around $800 if you want a longer f/2.8 zoom instead.

You've got lots of choices. ;-)

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Old Sep 12, 2008, 9:02 AM   #19
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I thank all of you for the great advice! Everyone that replied is far more advanced than I am, and I have taken everyones suggestions into consideration. Yes, My one mastiff is projected to weight between 250lbs - 275lbs ( a small horse), not all of them are that big though. Mostly 180lbs and up. I am very impressed with the photo's produced by Joe. I went to your web site and looked at what the Canon 40D can do with a good lense. That is almost exactly the kind of shooting I was talking about. I can't imagine photo's getting much more cleaner and crisp than those without possibly bringing in meters to compare, but as far as the naked eye the quality is exactly what I am looking for. With Canon's though I read they have weather proofing problems (the lack of it)! At least in the lower price cameras. I am also looking at Jims solution the Sony 700 that does have weather proofing. I am a fly fishing guide and deal with a lot of high end and very expensive gear. I have found that usually in a price range the competition is all pretty comparible for the given price point. So if the Canon 50D is priced comparibly to the Sony 700 I sure the picture quality produced will be about the same. It must come down to features. If I am wrong in this line of thinking, I am sure I will hear about it. Also Jim I think you are also correct if considering the 50D, I should wait to see the test results from the pro's. Jim I was wondering on your Sony, did you purchase a Sony lense or did you go with Carl Zeiss? I read about Sony's anti shake, but what is Canon's way of dealing with it?
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Old Sep 12, 2008, 9:33 AM   #20
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All of the advanced amateur models we're discussing have some sealing.

But, it's not up to the standards you see in a pro level body (D2Hs, D3, etc.). Note that the Pentax K20D and Olympus E-3 mentioned have better weather sealing compared to the other new models in your price range that we've been discussing.

For example, you've got sealed buttons and switches on a model like the A700. But, it's not up the standards you have for a pro level body where you'd want to try and use a camera during a downpour without a rain cover on it. lol It's not really designed to be weatherproof.

Of course, YMMV, as I see this quote in the conclusion section of Field Test Article I mentioned:

Quote:
I even managed to test out the environmental sealing on the photo below getting the camera quite wet while shooting on a misty, foggy day.
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...%20-A700.shtml

But, I would not assume that it's OK to use it in tough conditions without taking precautions to keep it from getting wet. Also, most lenses are not weather sealed either.

As for CZ lenses, I don't own any of them (yet, anyway). These are lenses I have for use on a Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D and Sony Alpha 700 (a.k.a., DSLR-A700): Minolta 28mm f/2, 50mm f/1.7, 100mm f/2, 135mm f/2.8, 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, 35-70mm f/4 Macro; Konica Minolta 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6; Tamron 20-40mm f/2.7-3.5, Tamron 35-105mm f/2.8; Tamron 28-105mm f/4-5.6, and Vivitar 70-210mm f/2.8-4. All Autofocus (and all are stabilized on the Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D and Sony DSLR-A700).

But, there are many lens choices available, and each one tends to be a compromise in one area or another (size, weight, focal range, optical quality, brightness, sharpness and contrast at various apertures and focal lengths, AF speed, cost and more. Here's a good source for lists of lenses compatible with Sony dSLR models. You can click on a lens to see more info about it with links to user reviews. Just keep in mind that newer models like the A700 have faster AF speed compared to the older models (KM Maxxum 5D, 7D, Sony Alpha 100) that most users were probably testing the lenses with.

Fixed Focal Length Lenses in Minolta A mount

Macro Lenses in Minolta A Mount

Zoom Lenses in Minolta A mount

As for stablization, it's built into the camera body with a Sony dSLR. So, any lens you use benefits. With Canon and Nikon, you need to buy stabilized lenses (Canon IS lenses or Nikkor VR lenses) if you want that feature. Most Pentax bodies like the K20D mentioned have stabilization built in now (so that any lens benefits). The same is true of most Olympus bodies now like the E-3 (built into the camera body so that you have it with any lens).

There are pros and cons to both types of systems.

I'd look at all of the options within your price range and try them out in a store to get a better feel from their differences.

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