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Old Oct 8, 2008, 9:59 AM   #1
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I am looking to finally purchase my first DSLR camera,i have been using a point and shoot camera for a good while now and find its time to move up.

I am am looking for a camera that would be great in lots of situations including the occasional low light concert or dance recital,and the action of my sons soccer or baseball games,and then regular uses such as holidays and family gatherings,possibly a few road trips and candid photos.

We are looking to spend anywhere from 500-1500 but would prefer not to go higher than that,the main brands of camera we have been looking at where Nikon and Canon.

I will need something easy to control and versatile.

I want my pictures not too just be good or great...but fabulous!

Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions you might offer.


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Old Oct 8, 2008, 11:22 AM   #2
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First, "fabulous!" is going to cost you.

Second, since you want to shoot "the action of my sons soccer or baseball games", you'll need a good autofocus system. That means Canon, Nikon (except the entry level D40, D40X and D60) and Sony.

Third, since you want to shoot "low light concert or dance recital", you'll need at least one large aperture lens. Unfortunately, large aperture lenses are expensive, and that is especially true for Sony.

So the lenses you'll need are a long telephoto zoom (~70-300mm f/4.5-5.6) (sports/action), a large aperture medium telephoto zoom (~50-200mm f/2.8 )(indoor/low light), and for "holidays and family gatherings, possibly a few road trips and candid photos", the kit lens should do well.

Tamron makes the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Di LD that goes for ~$170, which is exceptionally good for its price, and some have had good luck using it for sports/action. Anything longer or better is going to cost you a lot more. It is available for any of Canon, Nikon, or Sony.

Tamron also makes a 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD that goes for ~$700, which is also exceptionally good for its price, though not very fast to focus. That may not be a handicap for concerts, but might be for dance recitals. Sigma makes the APO 70-200mm F2.8 II EX DG MACRO HSMand the APO 50-150mm F2.8 II EX DC HSM (~$800 and ~$750, respectively) that focus faster but aren't as good optically. These are all available for Canon and Nikon, and will soon be available for Sony and Pentax as well.

So even with the least expensive of these lenses, we're ~$870 (plus tax)into your budget already. That leaves ~$630 for the camera body and kit lens.

For that, there's:
  • Sony A200 (10MP) (18-70mm kit lens) (Stabilized body) (~$500) [/*]
  • Sony A300 (10MP) (18-70mm kit lens) (Stabilized body) ('Live View') (~$600) [/*]
  • Canon XS (10MP) (18-55mm Stabilized kit lens) ('Live View') (~$600) [/*]
  • Canon XTi (10MP) (18-55mm kit lens) (~$600) [/*]
  • Canon XSi (12MP) (18-55mm Stabilized kit lens) ('Live View') (~$670)[/*]
Nikon doesn't have anything that will fit within your budget along with those two other lenses.

A basic distinction between the Sony and the Canon is that Sony has sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so all lenses, including third party lenses,will be stabilized. Canon, on the other hand, uses optical image stabilization in some of its lenses, making them bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Stabilized equivalents of those telephoto lenses I mentioned will be beyond your budget, so I think a Sony is the best way for you to go.

But before you make any decision, I think you should try them out to see which one you would be most comfortable with.
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Old Oct 8, 2008, 11:24 AM   #3
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ShannonLB wrote:
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I am am looking for a camera that would be great in lots of situations including the occasional low light concert or dance recital,and the action of my sons soccer or baseball games,and then regular uses such as holidays and family gatherings,possibly a few road trips and candid photos.

We are looking to spend anywhere from 500-1500 but would prefer not to go higher than that,the main brands of camera we have been looking at where Nikon and Canon.

I will need something easy to control and versatile.

I want my pictures not too just be good or great...but fabulous!

Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions you might offer.

So to summarize some of your requirements:
  • regular uses such as holidays and family gatherings [/*]
  • Occasional low light concert or dance recital [/*]
  • Son's soccer or baseball games[/*]
And your budget is $500-$1500

And you want your photos to be fabulous

Before you spend your hard earned money I want to set some expectations. First one is a DSLR is not a magic point-and-shoot camera. You're not going to buy a DSLR with kit lens, put the camera in AUTO and see a 500% improvement in your general photographs. It's not going to happen. A DSLR, with the right settings, with the right lens and with a knowledgable photographer can take great photos in more challenging situations than a digicam. But you need all of those components to be successful. And, in non challenging settings you would be hard pressed to identify the difference between a photo taken with a modern digicam and one taken with a DSLR and kit lens.

Now - for family gatherings I would suggest the biggest improvement gain you'll get is by using an external flash. The built-in flashes on DSLRs are pretty poor - not much better than digicams. But an external, bouncable flash is a HUGE improvement.

Low light concert/dance recital - this can be very difficult. The biggest challenge here is getting a high enough shutter speed to reduce motion blur from your subjects. Anti-shake technology isn't much help in that regard. The 2 factors that WILL contribute are: high ISO availability/performance and aperture value of the lens in question. The wider the aperture (lower the f-number) the more light is let in. An f4 lens lets in twice the amount of light of an f5.6 lens. F2.8 four times as much. F2, 8 times as much. Very often you will need a lens of f2.8 or wider. F2.8 zooms are very expensive - think $800 plus. You can get some f1.8 or f2.0 prime lenses (lenses that dont zoom) but they're going to be short in focal length. Which means you have to be very close to your subject. For instance, you can get a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens for $70 - but you need to be within about 15-20 feet for this lens to be of much use if you're taking a photo of an individual on stage. If you can't guarantee getting that close then the job is much more challenging. Then you're looking at spending $800 on something like a sigma 70-200 2.8 lens. Also there is the high ISO performance of the camera. Nikon and Canon are at the top of the pecking order for entry level cameras in high ISO. Sony's entry level cameras are so-so (if you jump up to the A700 then performance gets comparable to the competition but not at the entry level). Pentax is tier II along with the entry level sony's and Oly brings up the rear.

Baseball / soccer. Now you're getting into another challenging area. What level of play? U6 is different than HS. Sports shooting is NOT easy. I do a lot of it. And I see a lot of moms & dads in the stands with expensive DSLRs and they still get very poor results. Why? 3 reasons: 1) they have the wrong lens 2) they're taking photos from the stands and the most important reason 3) they don't know what they're doing. A dslr with consumer lens will do a decent job in "sports mode" IF you're close to the action and lighting is good but not bright. Throw in bright sunlight or poor light and suddenly the camera's results take a dive. Throw in the fact you're shooting from stands rather than from the field/sidelines and results take a dive. So, taking successful photos requires the photographer know HOW to use the camera - how to adjust exposure, how to focus and track a subject, where to position themselves to get the photo.

Now, assuming the photographer knows everything they need to know. Here's the part EQUIPMENT plays. First and foremost in sports shooting is FOCUS. The ability of the camera/lens to acquire AND TRACK a subject. If the camera/lens can't do that well you're not going to get FABULOUS photos. And DSLR will do a better job of that than digicams do. But certain DSLRs do a BETTER job than others. At the entry level is the Canon Xsi, Nikon D60, Sony A2xx A3xx and whatever the Pentax and Oly cameras have. Now, Nikon rules the roost in focus systems for prosumer DSLRs (way out of your budget). But their entry level D60 is poor. Focus is one of the things Nikon downgraded in order to get a lower cost for this camera. Sony has some very good prosumer models - A700 and A900but their entry level model (while an improvement over prior generations) is not as good as the competition - which in this case would be the Canon XSi. Pentax and Oly really lag behind when it comes to focus systems. They are great camera systems that offer a lot of bang-for-the-buck in other areas but even their best cameras can't compete focus-wise in the sports arena with Canon, Nikon and at the higher levels Sony.

So at the entry level DSLRs for sports use I would rate them Canon, Sony, Nikon, Pentax, Oly.

Next is the lens. The first challenge with a lens for baseball/soccer is what distances are involved? That will determine what focal length lens you need. For instance, if you're talking full size diamonds / soccer fields you would want a 300mm-400mm lens if you're shooting from RIGHT ON THE FIELD (so just off the touchline for soccer and just off the foul line / in the dugout for baseball). If you're talking 6 year olds then a 200mm lens is fine. Let me give you the following guidelines for how close you need to be to the action with a given lens:

200mm lens - within 25 yards of your subject

300mm lens - within 40 yards of your subject

400mm lens - within 50-60 yards of your subject

Next question is - under what lighting conditions? The answer to that question determines what aperture you'll need. If you're talking always daylight then a 5.6 aperture lens is good enough. If you get towards dusk then you need an 4.0 lens. And if you're talking games under lights you better have a 2.8 aperture lens.

I know there's a lot here. But I think it's important you get a dose of reality BEFORE you spend $1500. You can get SOME fabulous shots for that amount of money. But , depending on the scenarios for the low light and the sports you may not be able to get fabulous shots in those scenarios.


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Old Oct 8, 2008, 11:59 AM   #4
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What are your thoughts on the REBEL XSI or the NIKON D90? Those are 2 my hubby likes.1500 is all i have at the momemnt but in whatever i buy there will be definelty more spent down the road.
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Old Oct 8, 2008, 12:09 PM   #5
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ShannonLB wrote:
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What are your thoughts on the REBEL XSI or the NIKON D90? Those are 2 my hubby likes.1500 is all i have at the momemnt but in whatever i buy there will be definelty more spent down the road.
Well, the D90 is the better camera - but it's $1200 with kit lens. Not much money left to buy a flash/ buy a lens for low light shooting / buy a lens for sports - the kit lens won't work for the low light or the sports

The XSi is a lesser camera but is $650 - which leaves more money for flash and lenses.

So while the D90 is the better camera - if you're not going to have more money in the next year to spend on lenses and flash you'd get better results with the XSi and proper lenses and external flash for your stated goals. If all you plan on doing is getting the basic camera and kit lens you'll do poorly for sports and poorly for low light whichever you buy. Family gathering shots will be OK but not great until you get that external flash. WITH an external flash the Nikon flash system is better than Canon's. Canon's isn't bad it's just that Nikon's is better.
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Old Oct 8, 2008, 2:37 PM   #6
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The NikonD90 will put a big hole in your buget all by itself. If you go that route, you'll have to set some prioritiesabout where you want to spend the rest of the money. A flash would be nice for your indoor/low-light shooting, but the kit lens won't do the sports/action or concerts/recitals.

The Canon XSi would work and still be within your budget. Basically, it doesn't have the D90's movie mode, but in most other respects it compares well.
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