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Old Sep 18, 2008, 3:14 PM   #1
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I'm looking for suggestions regarding entry-level dSLRs, under $1000, that would begood for photographing kids.

A friend with two young children is having difficulty capturing the action with his Canon SD400 Elph. I suggested that a dSLR might improve his results.

I believe the problem he's having with his point-and-shoot is related to the time it takes between focus and image capture. By the time the camera grabs a focus, Junior is out of the picture. And even when using focus lock, by the timethe button is engaged, Juniorhas moved on. Ideally, he'd like to press the button and be done.

I also suggested that continuous shooting might yield some good action shots. Meaning, set the camera ona tripod while the kids are on the trampoline and let it fire away.

I'm looking for some advice from experienced users. Myopinion thus far is only theory. Would he be looking for a camera with a certain number of frames per second? Is that the right function? Are there other features that would be important that I might be neglecting to mention?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Sep 18, 2008, 3:20 PM   #2
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My suggestion:

Sony DSLR-A200 with the 18-70mm kit lens ($499 at most vendors).

Then, buy a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lens to go with it for low light use without a flash. Just check popular vendors of used gear and you'll find them. Here's an example:

Minolta 50mm f/1.7 Autofocus Lens in EX condition at keh.com

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Old Sep 18, 2008, 3:26 PM   #3
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JimC wrote:
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My suggestion:

Sony DSLR-A200 with the 18-70mm kit lens ($499 at most vendors).

Then, buy a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lens to go with it for low light use without a flash. Just check popular vendors of used gear and you'll find them. Here's an example:

Minolta 50mm f/1.7 Autofocus Lens in EX condition at keh.com

Thank you for the advice JimC. Can you tell me why you suggested the Sony? My friend was actually considering a Sony Alpha, following a discussion we had about Sony's user-friendly live view function and flip LCDscreen (useful for shooting upward pics of young, short humans). I'd originally suggested the A350, but now that I dig a little deeper it appears that even the A300 has a better FPS rating.

Did you suggest the A200 for a specific reason? Perhaps to keep the camera purchase and the second lens all under the $1000 mark? Although I noticed that this model does not have live view or the flip screen.

Do you have an opinion about the importance of FPS when shooting kids in action? Also, why did you suggest the second lens? Forgive the newbie questions.

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Old Sep 18, 2008, 3:34 PM   #4
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You'll need a bright lens to shoot kids in action in less than optimum lighting (f/2 or brighter lenses). Autofocus performance and the ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed are more important considerations compared to frames per second, and a brighter lens (wider apertures, represented by smaller f/stop numbers) is what I'd look for.

The Sony A200 has a better viewfinder compared to most entry level models (but, no live view). The better viewfinder would win out from my perspective. It also has very fast write speeds to media. It can shoot 10 Megapixel JPEG Fine images at 3 frames per second until a fast memory card is full.

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Old Sep 18, 2008, 3:45 PM   #5
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JimC wrote:
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You'll need a bright lens to shoot kids in action in less than optimum lighting (f/2 or brighter lenses). Autofocus performance and the ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed are more important considerations compared to frames per second, and a brighter lens (wider apertures, represented by smaller f/stop numbers) is what I'd look for.
Okay, I think I'm getting the jist of it. Look for auto-focus performance, fast shutter speeds and a lens with wider apature.

Sorry, more questions:
  1. How is auto-focus performance judged or graded? In the reviews, I mean.[/*]
  2. Is the shutter speed of a camera honestly portrayed? Meaning, is there an equivalent to "digital zoom" when it comes to shutter speed? Perhaps a value or spec that might confuse a newbie?[/*]
  3. Doesn't the camera itself, as opposed to the lens, control the apature?
[/*]
Thanks in advance.
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Old Sep 18, 2008, 4:02 PM   #6
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Autofocus performance is usually discussed in most reviews. The entry level Sony A200 is nice in this area, with a 9 point AF sensor assembly and a camera body focus motor that's 1.7 times as fast as the older Sony A100.

The shutter speed you can expect to get for a given lighting, ISO speed and aperture should be pretty close between camera models (with metering influencing the setting combinations for a given exposure brightness.

The lens is what controls the widest available aperture you can use (and wider aperture openings are represented by smaller f/stop numbers).

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Old Sep 19, 2008, 7:51 AM   #7
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I'd like to add some to the discussion.

First: if you're talking indoors in a house fast lenses are likely not the answer - an external flash is. I do a lot of sports photography so I take a lot of low light photos of action. But the reality is - in my home or other people's homes there often isn't enough light for fast lenses to do the job. That's where flash comes into play. Wiith a good external flash you can get the shot no matter what the light conditions are. Now, it may take a second for the flash to charge - but that's reality.

Now - if you're talking real sports in a gym, the lighting is much better - then the f2 lenses come into play.

So what type of 'action' are we talking about here? Depending on your answer, spending money on a fast prime lens MAY be the wrong way to go.

And depending on your answer that will also drive what camera attributes are important.


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Old Sep 19, 2008, 8:08 AM   #8
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As an example, here is a snapshot of my son playing around. The shot was taken in the evening - so can't take advantage of light coming in windows. and the light from the room would have required about ISO 6400 at f2 to get shutter speeds necessesary to freeze the action:



Here is a shot from a sequence I took of my son's first steps. This was shot with daylight streaming in the window. F2.8 ISO 6400, 1/125. Notice the motion blur. And this is with ISO 6400. With a 2.0 lens you would still need ISO 3200 to get this shutter speed. Your friend isn't going to want to be taking all his photos at ISO 3200. Now - I wanted motion in the shot which is why I didn't use flash. But notice the blur? Bottom line is fast primes aren't a good solution for moving kids in the house.



In the gym? Yes, they can be.


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Old Sep 19, 2008, 9:11 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the input JimC and JohnG.

JohnG: I think I understand what you're getting at, but I have to admit that I'm really confused by the terminology. I'm not a slow guy, but I'm finding that the photography learning curve is steep. Combinations of cameras and lenses, ISO, shutter speed, apature... f-stops and lens ratings. Wow, it's enough to blow my mind. It almost sounds like a person would need an arsenal of photography equipment to cover his bases.

I've read one photography book, and lots of stuff online, and I just started in an intro photography class, but I'm still having trouble wrapping mind mind around it all.

Regarding the external flash: I think I understand the need for more light indoors. But for myself, I'd find it punishing to cart a bunch of stuff around everywhere I go. Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I'd like to think I could just turn on my camera at an indoor social gathering and take a few shots.

But to answer your question, my friend was just looking for a camera that would work well photographing his kids in action. I must assume this means indoors and outdoors. He gave me an example where he just couldn't capture the action while his kids were jumping on a trampoline in the backyard.

I think I've still got lots to learn!
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Old Sep 19, 2008, 9:25 AM   #10
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Boldstar - Yes, photography is about using the right tool for the job.

Taking photos of kids on trampoline outdoors is completely different than taking photos of kids playing basketball in a gym which is completely different than taking pictures of toddlers moving around in the livingroom. Generally speaking in all 3 situations it's "kids in action" but the circumatances of each are different. And to get the best results in each situation you use different tools.

Herein lies the problem - people expect a DSLR to be the ultimate point-and-shoot. It isn't. A DSLR is part of a SYSTEM. This is a mindset difference. The benefit is you change lenses, add flashes, etc. to get the best results for the job at hand.

Now - kids on a trampoline outdoors. ANY - and I mean ANY of the entry level DSLRs on the market today are going to be able to capture those images. Canon XSi, XS, Nikon D60, Pentax, Oly, Sony etc. They're all capable of doing that. Shutter lag is not a factor on any of them. The only issue would be cameras that use their dust-removal actuations upon startup (this is where the camera performs an operation to remove dust - some cameras do it on startup which is annoying because you often don't want to wait for that).

Sony isn't going to give your friend any advantage in that area. It's pretty easy stuff.

Here is the takeaway - For trampoline shots, any camera will do.

For kids playing indoors you'll want to use flash. External is better because it's a better source of light AND they recharge faster so you don't have to wait as long between flash pictures.

Now, you mention being able to "turn on your camera at a social gathering and take a few shots". Yes, you'll be able to do that with any entry level DSLR and it's built in flash. But here's where an individual needs to decide between convenience and quality. An external, bounced flash will produce MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better results than the built in flash of any camera. No Red Eye, No harsh flash burn, even lighting. But that's the beauty of the entry level DSLRs - they give you both options. You can use the built-in flash if you prefer convenience over quality or you can use an external flash if you prefer quality over convenience. That's what a DSLR SYSTEM gives you - options.


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