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Old Mar 11, 2009, 3:32 PM   #1
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Hi Folks,

I want some advice/opinions on what my best direction is. I'm going to outline the equipment I have, and then the challenges I have for what I want to do. Then, any input on what might be good options for me would be appreciated.

Current Gear:

Sony Alpha 100 (Firmware 1.04)
Lenses:

Sony Kit Lens 18-70mm 3.5-5.6 (not the greatest)

Minolta 35-80 4-5.6 (old kit lens - also not the greatest)

Minolta 50mm 1.4 (pretty nice lens)

Minolta 70-210mm F4 (Beercan - pretty nice lens)

Sigma 70-300mm 4-5.6 (not the greatest)
I also have a Sony Cybershot F717 - 5 Megapixel that is pretty great for a point and shoot.

My Challenges:

I would like to be able to take pictures of sporting events and wildlife photography. Currently, for both of these, I really don't have a lens that gets me the magnification I need that is fast enough. I think the beercan is probably the best I have for that, but on the Alpha, I can't get much over 200ISO before I get terrible noise. Also, the sigma seems really slow to focus for action - so does the Beercan sometimes too. It seems like I'm borderline OK when I have a ton of light, but in low light, whatever I'm shooting better not be moving much, or I struggle with both focus and motion blur (and noise if I need to go up on the ISO).
Here are my thoughts:

I could invest in a faster lens. Say a Sigma 70-200 2.8 that I can pick up for around 800. This would get me a stop faster than the beercan but doesn't do anything for additional magnification.

I could invest in the Sony Alpha 700, which should get me some help on the speed if I can go higher on ISO, and I think it also focuses faster. I can pick one up for $700 - body only. He'll give me about $175 for my Alpha 100, or I can sell it on my own.
I think I'm leaning toward the second option because it would make all of my lenses better. Also, the Sigma really overlaps with the Beercan I think.

A third option would be to chuck the whole Sony brand and go with a different make, but I do have the 2 pretty decent lenses that I would have to also replace.

Anyone have any ideas on the performance improvement I'll see between the 100 and 700 in terms of light and focus speed?

I'd like to be able to shoot both indoor (hockey, basketball) and outdoor sports (Lacrosse, soccer, etc), along with wildlife photography - birds mostly - waterfowl, etc.

Thanks!






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Old Mar 11, 2009, 4:32 PM   #2
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ncjaybee wrote:
Quote:
Hi Folks,

I want some advice/opinions on what my best direction is. I'm going to outline the equipment I have, and then the challenges I have for what I want to do. Then, any input on what might be good options for me would be appreciated.

Current Gear:

Sony Alpha 100 (Firmware 1.04)
Lenses:

Sony Kit Lens 18-70mm 3.5-5.6 (not the greatest)

Minolta 35-80 4-5.6 (old kit lens - also not the greatest)

Minolta 50mm 1.4 (pretty nice lens)

Minolta 70-210mm F4 (Beercan - pretty nice lens)

Sigma 70-300mm 4-5.6 (not the greatest)
...

I'd like to be able to shoot both indoor (hockey, basketball) and outdoor sports (Lacrosse, soccer, etc), along with wildlife photography - birds mostly - waterfowl, etc.
Unfortunately, I don't think any of what you've got would be good for what you say you want to do.

The A700 would be a good replacement for the A100, but it has a history of stripping the autofocus gears in the Sigma 70-300. For Lacrosse and Soccer, a 70-300 would be good, and the Sony 70-300 'G' is the best there is, but it's $800. It might also be good for wildlife, but for birds, you should probably get something even longer. The Minolta 100-400 APO goes for $500-$700 on eBay, and Sony has a new 70-400 'G' that's also very good, but it's $1,500.

The only lens you've got that would work for indoor sports is the 50/1.4 but only for basketball and only if you're under the net. For anything else, you'll need a telephoto lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.0, thatrules out anything with a zoom. In fact it narrows it down to the Zeiss 85/1.4 and the Zeiss 135/1.8 ($1,300 and $1,400, respectively.) You might be able to get away with the Sigma 70-200/2.8 that you mentioned, but you might be at the upper limit of what the A700 can shoot with less than objectionable noise.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 6:53 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply...

Accepting that as a starting point, what would be the route to go if those are the kinds of pictures I want to take?

Option 1 - Stay with Sony because the 2 Minolta Lenses (I also forgot to mention, I have the HVL-F56AM Flash for the Sony) and the flash. Although I probably only have $200-$300 in those 2 lenses, I probably couldn't replace them for that much.

Option 2 - Go with a different brand and start over

If option 1, would I be better off starting with a new lens or new body, knowing that I will need both to get where I want to go. If I stay with Sony, I would imagine adding a number of additional lenses and an upgrade to the camera body over the next couple years, but if I can only do one now, which one would move me closer to where I want to be?


Bottom line, I want to start moving in the direction I want to get to. I'm probably never going to be able to drop $2000 at once for the next few years anyway. I ended up Sony because I had an old Minolta and the Sigma lens and the kit lens from that. I realize that was a bad reason for doing that. I made the best of it though by picking up some used Minolta lenses. If I want to start working my way to where I want to be, where should I start?


Thanks!

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Old Mar 11, 2009, 7:42 PM   #4
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The Sony A700 is much better at shooting sports/action/wildlife than the A100 you've got, but the selection of lenses for shooting indoor sports is, shall we say, lean. You've got some good lenses in in theBeercan and the 50/1.4, but they don't really serve your puproses.

Canon is the best for sports/action/wildlife. The autofocus system in the XSi is quite good, and they have a good selection of appropriate lenses.

For what you want to do, I think choosing the Sony A100 was a mistake.

Take a look at the Sports & Action Photosforum, and see what other people are using to get the kinds of photos you want to get for yourself.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 7:44 PM   #5
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Another option is to purchase a high-end ultrazoom. The Canon SX10is or Fuji S100fs will give you 95% of what you want (indoor sports may be a bit of a problem), including a very versatile long zoom, in one reasonably priced camera.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 8:10 PM   #6
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AndyfromVA wrote:
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Another option is to purchase a high-end ultrazoom. The Canon SX10is or Fuji S100fs will give you 95% of what you want (indoor sports may be a bit of a problem), including a very versatile long zoom, in one reasonably priced camera.
I'm going to disagree with this. From what I've seen, neither camera is going to do good sports work and neither will aproach high ISO capabilities the A700 would be capable of. They're both very capable digicams - but for action photography they won't come anywhere close to what you would get with the A700.

My advice is to upgrade the camera. As TCAV mentioned you'll likely have to ditch the sigma 70-300. And you'll need to replace the other lenses eventually but the beercan can at least get you started on the sports work until you can afford better glass.

The truth is you need a new body AND new lenses but even with good glass, the limitations of the A100 will keep you from much success as you already noted. So there's little point in upgrading the lenses until you have a more capable body. Unfortunately you really need to jump to the A700 to get a body that's good at higher ISO and has focus capabilities needed for quality sports work. You'll be disappointed if you settled for one of the other cameras in Sony's system. So you've got the right idea - buy the new body and then develop a plan to upgrade your lenses.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 8:43 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies!!!

If I had it to do over again, I probably would not have gotten the Sony, but I might have ended up in a similar place. I think the availability of quality used Minolta lenses allowed me to get 2 pretty decent lenses for less than I would have had to spend on something equivalent in Canon or Nikon.

Also, I had just migrated from the Cybershot and was starting to get more serious in what I wanted to do. The setup I have does pretty good on events, holidays, portraits, scenery, etc, so it's not like I only want to take sports and wildlife - that's just what I want to shoot that I struggle with...

If I change brands, I'm probably farther behind, since I would need to replace the lenses in the range I already have. As it is, I'm OK on the short end with the 50 and the Beercan - probably need to add something nice that's shorter maybe sometime, but the 50 and the beercan cover the middle pretty good. If I added say a 70-300 or somethinig along those lines as mentioned above, wouldI use the beercan ever, or does it become redundant?

I think the key for me is that the next purchase I make is going to be as much as I spent - 800ish for either a lens of body only - I spent about that for the 100 2 years ago as a kit, with a lens, and I've learned a ton with it as I did with the Cybershot before that . At this point, if I spend that much on a body, I want to make sure it's the right body - I think it ultimately comes down to that. If I get the 700 and then $800+ for a lens, am I going to be back here in 3 years, kicking myself because Iwent with the Sony? Are the 2 lensesand the flash (it was $3-400) worth building on?

Wish I had about $50K to spend on camera gear, and then it wouldn't be an issue!
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 8:55 PM   #8
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Well that's the question. The A700 is comparable to the Canon 50D and Nikon D90. In the canon lineup it's a big jump after that to the 1dmkIII - you can bet canon will keep that camera and it's replacements in the $4000 range so no good bargains there. Right now, Nikon is the heavy ruler of sports shooting. The d300 is a very, very good camera. The D700 an outstanding camera and the D3 the best sports camera on the market.

The A700 is the first non-Canon, non-Nikon body to compete at the mid level for sports photography. It's anyone's guess whether they'll come up with a higher end camera for the sports shooter. The REAL issue though is the price of high end lenses in SOny. They get very pricey. Take the 70-200 2.8. In canon you can get one for $1100. You have to pay over 50% more to get a sony 70-200 2.8.

Tough call. The a700 is the only camera outside Nikon and Canon I would recommend. But Nikon and Canon still have the edge because you can have pro grade cameras and you have a greater variety of lenses at the higher end at some better price points. For instance, in low light for Canon you have the 85mm 1.8 and 100mm 2.0 ($370 brand spankin' new with fast focus motors), the 135mm 2.0 and the 70-200 2.8 ($1000 and $1100 respectively). Sony doesn't have quite the same lineup.

It really depends how high up the food chain you want to go. If you see yourself eventually wanting a pro grade body and lenses then you're better off making the switch now as your investment is minimal. But, if prosumer is good enough for you - and really that's good enough for 90% there's no reason to switch - using mid-level body and high end consumer lenses, the A700 will compete favorably with Canon and Nikon.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 9:14 PM   #9
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from some limited experience I can safely say the Sony A200 although a great camera for shooting fire-rescue action stuff and the like, but it can't do good indoor volleyball or basketball shots....... Go with the A700. Also I found for basketball and volleyball that I needed a lens that went to 250mm-300mm on the long end in order to get the action in the frame on the far end. My 55 - 200mm wasn't long enough. I used a 28 - 300mm lens most of the night. I did get some "good shots" but it seemed like focus was a little slow and could track as fast as needed to get the basketball shots, even when shooting ISO1600.

I will try the A200 doing baseball and software Friday evening.

dave
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Old Mar 12, 2009, 8:39 AM   #10
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Photo 5 wrote:
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My 55 - 200mm wasn't long enough. I used a 28 - 300mm lens most of the night. I did get some "good shots" but it seemed like focus was a little slow and could track as fast as needed to get the basketball shots, even when shooting ISO1600.

I will try the A200 doing baseball and software Friday evening.

dave
Dave - a couple points. For indoor work, if you want decent shots you're looking at needing at least an f2.8 lens - at which point you're likely shooting at ISO 3200 unless you're in a NCAA Div I arena. At ISO 1600 you'd need an f2.0 lens.

Getting properly exposed and sharp photos is more important than reach. You're better off with a shorter prime and getting good shots at one end of the court than poor shots at both ends.
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