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Logan Creek Labs Sep 23, 2008 1:23 PM

I am in the market for a DSLR. I have been reading reviews and forums, and talking with sales staff in local Ritz Camera store. I thought I actually knew what I wanted, but the more I read the more confused I become. I have a Nikon 35 mm and have been well pleased with it. I have a friend who has the Sony Alpha 100 and has been well pleased with it. That being said, I am wanting a good all around camera, but I would like something that will perform well with action at long distances. Our family participates in Hunting Retriever events and my 11 year old daughter is now handling her own dog. The distances vary but obviously the dog is very quick. I have been told the Nikon D60 would not be preferrd because of the AF system and the Ritz sales guy trashed the Sony. He said the low light performance of the Sony was awful. I am not loyal to any brand, just want good shots of my daughter and our dogs.



mtngal Sep 23, 2008 2:12 PM

You probably should find out if your Nikon lenses can be used on a dSLR, and which one (if any). I shoot Pentax so I don't know all the ins and outs of Nikon lenses - I know that some won't work on certain models, it all depends on what you have. With Pentax I don't have to worry as all of my old lenses fit any of their dSLR cameras. If you can use your existing lenses on a D80, then it might be well worth it for you to buy one over the D60, which is more limited.

I think the Ritz guy is over-reacting to the Sony (like he has a higher commission by selling another brand)- is he talking AF in low light or extra noise at higher ISOs?Take a look at the sample pictures posted here and on other review sites, then judge for yourself - Sony seems to take the road of leaving more detail and noise at higher ISO than some other camera manufacturers, leaving it up to the individual to use noise reduction software to adjust the noise/detail levels tosuit themselves. Detail that is taken out by noise reduction in-camera can't be retrieved, so some people prefer to make the decision themselves on a picture-by-picture basis.

Since you are talking about outdoor events, I think either camera give you similar results. If you want really top quality pictures, and have extra money, you might want to look at the Canon cameras, such as the older 40d - it has more frames per second so is often preferred for sports/action shots. From what I understand, it's being replaced so there might be some really good prices on close-out stock available.

JohnG Sep 23, 2008 6:15 PM


I agree about Nikon - what lenses do you currently own - if they will work and autofocus on a nikon DSLR that may be a good way to go.

As for Sony - The A100 was definitely poor at higher ISOs. The latest batch of Sony's do much better - the A700 does very well, the 200 and 300 slightly behind the competition but much better than the 100. From what I read (I don't own a Sony) the A700 compares well in the AF department to the prior generation Canon and Nikon cameras (too early to say on the D90 and 50D). The 200 and 300 are improved over the 100 in that department but again lag behind Canon (450d) but ahead of Nikon (D60).

Now, I do a lot of sports shooting but not hunting. I know early morning is preferred for deer and such but not sure about the type of hunting you're talking about. What time of day? That will greatly influence whether you need high ISO. Also, if you could provide an idea of what the distances involved are - I know it varies but give me a range where say 70% of the time the subject would be within that range. That information will help us determine what a good focal length is for you. With those pieces of information members here can then suggest some options in the various systems and you can compare.

Also, what is your budget?

tjsnaps Sep 23, 2008 8:50 PM

Your old lenses are not going to auto-focus and the D60. The camera does not have a focusing motor and requires the new AF-S type lenses to auto focus. Older auto-focus lenses will work however in manual focus. Even manual focus Nikon lenses will fit the camera but you will loose all metering functions

If you have several Nikon mount lenses even older ones then Nikon might be the way to go. But if you only have one or two or they're cheap lenses than I wouldn't let then effect your decision.

Be leery of what camera store salesmen tell you. They often have certain brands/models they have to push an well down play others to do it. And many of them really don't know all that much about it other than the ad copy. Do the research yourself.

Logan Creek Labs Sep 23, 2008 9:11 PM

Thanks for the info. We only have one lens with the older Nikon, so that really isn't a factor. The outdoor shots will be during normal daylight hours, nothing real early or late. The distances are varied but could be anything from 30 yards to 200 yards. As for a budget, I would like to stay close to $1000 dollars if possible. But would consider more for the right package.

DrChris Sep 23, 2008 9:39 PM

It really boils down to which system you want to invest in and how the camera feels in your hands. I had a film Minolta and some Minolta lenses so the Sony was the natural choice for me. I actually wanted to switch to Nikon (because of the salesgirl in Wolf Camera) but the Sony just felt right in my hands. And with Sony's recent pro level lens offerings along with any Minolta AF lens ever made fitting the A-mount I figured it's a system worth investing in as I upgrade. Another plus with the Sony is the in-body stabilization.

For shooting the distance you're talking you're probably going to want a good 70-200mm zoom, maybe even a 100-300mm. Sony, Canon and Nikon all have excellent lenses in this range (not sure of Pentax and Olympus). Again, go and try them out. Borrow your friends Sony to see how you like how it feels. Get a feel for all of them and the lens prices so you know what you're getting into.

TCav Sep 24, 2008 6:34 AM

As I see it, your requirements are for a good autofocus system anda good telephoto zoom for about $1,000. Since most of your shooting will be using a telephoto lens to follow spontaneous action, I think you should consider an image stabilization system of some kind. You haven't mentioned a preference for 'Live View', but I think it wouldn't work well for what you want to do.

The best autofocus systems are, in decending order: Canon, Nikon (except the entry level D40/D40X/D60), Sony, Pentax, entry level Nikon, Olympus.

Good telephoto lenses are avalable for all these brands in a broad range of prices.

There are two image stabilization systems in use in dSLRs: optical, and sensor shift. Optical image stabilization uses motion sensors and adjustable optical elements to project a stabilized image out the back of the lens. This typically makes the lens bigger, heavier, and more expensive, and is only available in certain newer lenses. Canon and Nikon use Optical image stabilization. Sensor shift image stabilization uses motion sensors and a movable image sensor to capturea stabilizedimage. This typically makes the camera body bigger, heavier and more expensive, but not by much, and works with any lens including older, used lenses. Pentax, Olympus and Sony use sensor shift image stabilization.

The following might be good choices:
  • Canon XTi body (10MP) ($550) with:[/*]
    • Canon 55-250 IS (stabilized) lens ($280), or [/*]
    • Canon 70-300 IS lens ($550)
  • Nikon D80 body (10MP) ($650) with[/*]
    • Nikon 55-200 VR (stabilized) lens ($220) or [/*]
    • Nikon 70-300 VR ($480)
  • Sony A200 (10MP) (stabilized) with 18-70 kit lens ($500) and:[/*]
    • Tamron 70-300 Di LD ($160), or [/*]
    • Tamron or Sony 55-200 (Tamron: $165, Sony: $230)[/*]
For the Canon XTi, you could substitute the Canon XSi (12MP) ($630) and get 'Live View). For the Sony A200, you could substitute the A300 (10MP)with 18-70 kit lens ($600), or the A350 body ($700), and get 'Live View'. Nikon also has 'Live View' dSLRs, but they would exceed your budget.

The Sony option comes in a lot less expensive, but an important part of your decision should be how the camera feels to you. In action photography especially, if you can't comfortably hold the camera, if you can't find the controls and commands when you need them, you're going to miss some shots.

Since you'll be photographing dogs at about 300 yards, I think the longer the lens the better.

Another important consideration when selecting a dSLR is the selection of other lenses and accessories from the OEM, third parties and the used market. Canon is the leader there, followed closely by Nikon, but there are few stabilized lenses on the used market. Sony and Pentax are good, especially when considing the used market.

JohnG Sep 24, 2008 10:46 AM

Logan Creek Labs wrote:

The outdoor shots will be during normal daylight hours, nothing real early or late. The distances are varied but could be anything from 30 yards to 200 yards.
OK, I need to set some expectations here. Taking Olympus out of the equation (because it's a bit different ) - for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony:

If you want QUALITY photos given your subject and situation:

a 200mm lens will get you shots at 30 yards but no further

a 300mm lens will get you shots at 40-45 yards but no further

a 400mm lens will get you shots at 50-60 yards but no further.

And, to be clear those focal lengths I mentioned are the physical lens focal lengths (i.e. BEFORE applying the 1.5 or 1.6 crop factor)

So you can bag the notion of getting any type of quality shots out to 200 yards. Past those distances and you're basicaly paying a lot of money to get snapshot quality pictures - not photographs. So I would contemplate that before deciding if you want to spend $1000 on equipment.

Now, I'll admit - my definition of quality may be more stringent than other peoples. I require there to be detail in the subject - i.e. not just vaguely recognizable as a human / dog. For instance here is what I would consider an average shot of a dog (i.e. good enough to keep but nothing exceptional - I was intentionally shooting with a depth-of-field too shallow for this type of shot so it's not very sharp but good enough for purposes of this discussion):

TCav Sep 24, 2008 12:59 PM

Ok, yes, not enough depth of field. Thanks for the example, but was it cropped or reduced (or both), and at what focal length was it shot?

JohnG Sep 24, 2008 1:06 PM

TCav wrote:

Ok, yes, not enough depth of field. Thanks for the example, but was it cropped or reduced (or both), and at what focal length was it shot?
Well obviously it has been reduced since it's posted here. A bit of cropping but not much. My point was - if the OP shoots beyond the ranges I specified their results will be much worse.

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