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Old Aug 29, 2009, 11:58 AM   #1
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Default I seem to be coming to a crossroads

My trusty KM5D succumbed to the dreaded 'First Frame Black' issue, and was fixed free of charge by Sony and Precision Camera. But when I got it back, the image stabilization didn't work. I sent it back, they looked at it for one day and sent it back, saying that they could find nothing wrong, and that what I saw was probably the result of a faulty memory card.

Yes. That's right. Precision Camera seems to think that faulty memory cards can cause motion blur, but only when the camera isn't mounted on a tripod. They offered no explanation for how this might be possible, and I would have loved to have read it.

I returned it to Precision Camera, and they've had it for two weeks, so far. If it comes back again, and the stabilization still doesn't work, I'm chucking it and buying something new.

Here's my dilemma. For years, I've been telling people here that if they want to shoot indoor sports, they need a Canon or a Nikon. I shoot indoor sports (equestrian sports, mostly Dressage.) The best lit indoor equestrian arena I ever shot in, I used a 135/2.8 wide open at ISO 800 and still got shutter speeds too slow to prevent motion blur. I need at least another stop, and probably two. Sony's 85/1.4 would be good, but it costs $1,400! For that, I could buy a Canon or Nikon 85/1.8 and a camera to hang it on! And it would have a better AF system and perform better at higher ISOs!

I also shoot outdoor sports (again, equestrian sports, mostly Dressage.) For this, the Minolta 70-210/4.0 has worked well, but I wouldn't mind having the extra f-stop of either a Sigma or a Tamron 70-200/2.8 for a shallower DoF. And I could get one of those for any camera.

I also shoot indoor available light. For that I want a stabilized, large aperture, standard zoom. I've been very pleased with my Tamron 17-50/2.8, but it wouldn't be stabilized on a Canon or Nikon body. Canon has a 17-55/2.8 IS (~$1,000), but Nikon's got nothing. The closest thing for Nikon is the Sigma 18-50/2.8-4.5 OS, which would not be satisfactory. I could stick with Sony and keep my Tamron or switch to Pentax and get another Tamron.

I also shoot macro. Nikon has a stabilized Macro lens, but Canon doesn't. I could stick with Sony and keep my Sigma 90/2.8 macro or I could switch to Pentax and get something else.

I've looked at the new Sony's, but they don't have DoF Preview or Mirror Lockup. I use those features often enough that I would miss them if they were gone, so the only Sony I'm considering is the A700, a two year old design that is about to be discontinued. I could buy the Sony/Zeiss 85/1.4 and stick with a system that I've already invested in, even though it only has fast primes that are extraordinarily expensive.

I could go with Pentax. The new K7 looks very nice. It does 5fps, which I would like, and has a newer AF system that seems to do ok for sports. Pentax also has the 77/1.8 that might do the indoor sports ok, and Pentax also has a good selection of affordable fast primes that Sony lacks. And I could get a Sigma or Tamron 70-200/2.8 for the outdoor sports, and another Tamron 17-50/2.8 for my indoor available light shooting, and any macro lens would be stabilized on the Pentax.

I could go with Canon. It's got a good selection of affordable fast primes, including medium telephotos suitable for indoor sports. While Canon's stabilized fast standard zoom is expensive, the real drawback is the lack of a stabilized macro lens.

I could go with Nikon. It's got a good selection of affordable fast primes, including medium telephotos suitable for indoor sports. While Nikon's stabilized macro lens is expensive, the real drawback is the lack of a stabilized fast standard zoom.

It sounds like my best option, should push come to shove, is a Pentax system built around the K7. Either that or get a Canon or a Nikon to do the sports shooting, and get a lesser Sony to do the indoor and macro shooting with the lenses I've got. But I will still miss the DoF Preview and Mirror Lockup.

What do you think?
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 12:46 PM   #2
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TCav-

I have also looked at the Sony A-700 as well. But it is a dated design, due for replacement. I have considered the Sony A-550, but it will not be available until the end of October 2009.

My KM 5D is still operative, but it is clearly out classed by the new crop of DSLR's. I had a Nikon D-5000, that I was impressed with, but finding a D-5000 not on the recall list is not possible. I considered the Nikon D-90, but it was really was more camera than I required. I am currently shooting with the Oly E-620 that I have on 30 approval. It is OK and has excellent IQ. But, I too, am still looking and debating. So you are not alone in this boat.

Have a great weekend.

Sarah Joyce

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Old Aug 29, 2009, 1:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
I shoot indoor sports (equestrian sports, mostly Dressage.) The best lit indoor equestrian arena I ever shot in, I used a 135/2.8 wide open at ISO 800 and still got shutter speeds too slow to prevent motion blur. I need at least another stop, and probably two.
You've got two more stops you can use. Why not use them? I've seen some of your ISO 800 photos, and couldn't quite figure out why you didn't use higher ISO speeds (from what I could tell, the motion blur was bad enough that you would have gotten much better results using ISO 1600 or ISO 3200). A bit of noise, or loss of detail from NR, is often better than blurry photos because shutter speeds are too slow. ;-)

I've got one of those lenses (Minolta 135mm f/2.8). I don't shoot horses, but I've got a few old photos using it indoors at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. The KM 5D JPEGs are a bit softer at higher ISO speeds, but I don't think they're too bad.

Here are some examples (no noise reduction, just downsized JPEGs) using a KM 5D with a Minolta 135mm f/2.8 AF lens (the same combo you're discussing not getting fast enough shutter speeds with at ISO 800):

ISO 3200:


ISO 1600:


ISO 3200:


ISO 1600:


Quote:
Sony's 85/1.4 would be good, but it costs $1,400! For that, I could buy a Canon or Nikon 85/1.8 and a camera to hang it on! And it would have a better AF system and perform better at higher ISOs!
If you go to a new body for better results at higher ISO speeds, just use an f/2.8 zoom so you'll have more framing flexibility. ;-)

I'm sure they'll correct me if that's not the case, But, I think most of our Canon shooters have pretty much gone to f/2.8 zooms when using newer bodies with better ISO 3200 to 6400 capability for indoor sports. About the only reason to stick with a faster prime for most indoor low light sports use is if you have a camera limited to ISO 1600 for good results (with some exceptions like Gymnastics, where I've seen some of our shooters comment on how much faster shutter speeds you need to catch tumbling, etc.). ;-)

I've got some shots on another PC using a Tamron 35-105mm f/2.8 at a basketball game (with the A700 not KM 5D). I'd have to dig around for it, but I've also got a gallery bookmarked somewhere from someone shooting indoor sports using that combo (A700, Tamron 35-105mm f/2.8) with great success. These are very inexpensive lenses on the used market (but I'd avoid the newer 28-105mm f/2.8, as it's not as sharp as the 35-105mm f/2.8). Note that the 135mm f/2.8 is little sharper than the Tamron 35-105mm f/2.8 at wide open apertures (but, the Tamron still isn't bad and you'd have the flexibility of a zoom). With a 5D, you may find the Tamron to be a bit too slow for rapidly moving subjects. With the A700, it can work OK.

In a new lens, I'd check out the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 DC HSM lens. I'm aware of one Sony A700 shooter that has the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8, Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 that prefers the Sigma 50-150mm for indoor sports.

Quote:
I also shoot outdoor sports (again, equestrian sports, mostly Dressage.) For this, the Minolta 70-210/4.0 has worked well, but I wouldn't mind having the extra f-stop of either a Sigma or a Tamron 70-200/2.8 for a shallower DoF. And I could get one of those for any camera.
I had high hopes for that Tamron on Sony bodies. But, it appears that it's just a relatively slow focusing lens (despite a much faster AF motor in newer bodies). It's probably the way it's geared (or the way it's firmware works with Sony bodies). I'd go with the Sigma if going that route in a budget 70-200mm f/2.8 for strictly sports use. For other uses (with only occasional sports use), I'd probably lean towards the Tamron (since it appears to test a bit sharper than the Sigma at most focal lengths).

Note that with Canon, Sony or Nikon bodies, you can also use a TC with the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM lenses. You'll lose AF trying to use a TC with the HSM versions with Pentax (for whatever reason, Sigma has a problem allowing AF using a TC with their HSM lenses on Pentax bodies). You'll find some posts from our Pentax users discussing it. With the non-HSM versions, there is no problem with a TC on them. Also see this page on Sigma's site about the compatibility issues (you can't use a TC with an HSM lens on a Pentax body without losing AF):

http://www.sigmaphoto.com/news/news.asp?nID=3471

Quote:
I also shoot indoor available light. For that I want a stabilized, large aperture, standard zoom. I've been very pleased with my Tamron 17-50/2.8, but it wouldn't be stabilized on a Canon or Nikon body. Canon has a 17-55/2.8 IS (~$1,000), but Nikon's got nothing. The closest thing for Nikon is the Sigma 18-50/2.8-4.5 OS, which would not be satisfactory. I could stick with Sony and keep my Tamron or switch to Pentax and get another Tamron.

I also shoot macro. Nikon has a stabilized Macro lens, but Canon doesn't. I could stick with Sony and keep my Sigma 90/2.8 macro or I could switch to Pentax and get something else.
In lens stabilization (VR/Vibration Reduction) with Nikkor Macro lenses doesn't work well at closer focus distances (defeating the purpose of having a stabilized lens for macro use). I don't know if Canon IS lenses have the same issue or not. See Thom Hogan's review of the Nikkor 105mm VR for more info:

http://www.bythom.com/105AFSlens.htm

Quote:
I've looked at the new Sony's, but they don't have DoF Preview or Mirror Lockup. I use those features often enough that I would miss them if they were gone, so the only Sony I'm considering is the A700, a two year old design that is about to be discontinued. I could buy the Sony/Zeiss 85/1.4 and stick with a system that I've already invested in, even though it only has fast primes that are extraordinarily expensive.
Go with a used Minolta 85mm f/1.4 *if* you really need something brighter than f/2.8. Even though it's considered to be a slow focusing lens, from users of both Canon and KM systems I've seen discuss it, it focuses *noticeably faster* than Canon's latest II version of their 85mm f/1.2L USM (which is much faster than Canon's original version of this lens). Chances are, Canon's 85mm f/1.8 USM is going to be the fastest of the bunch (with the Minolta and Sony 85mm f/1.4 lenses falling "in between" those two Canon 85mm lenses for AF speed). But, do you really need f/1.8 using a body with ISO 3200 to 6400 available?

Quote:
I could go with Pentax. The new K7 looks very nice. It does 5fps, which I would like, and has a newer AF system that seems to do ok for sports.
The jury is still out in that area. From the initial AF tests I've seen in simulated daylight lighting, I figured Pentax had finally come up with an AF system that was competitive due to fast lock times. But, I saw a report where a magazine tested Continuous AF with it, and it looks like it might to slow down to less than 2 frames per second indoors and less than 3 frame per second outdoors if you try to use it for tracking moving subjects. IOW, even though the camera is capable of 5fps, the AF system looks like it's the limiting factor. You'll have to decide if the report is credible or not, as Rice High has been know to "very critical" (to put it mildly) of Pentax products:

http://ricehigh.blogspot.com/2009/07...chine-gun.html

Quote:
...Either that or get a Canon or a Nikon to do the sports shooting, and get a lesser Sony to do the indoor and macro shooting with the lenses I've got. But I will still miss the DoF Preview and Mirror Lockup.
Well... The Canon 50D or Nikon D300 would probably be good bets. Personally, I was a bit "underwhelmed" with the AF performance of the D300 as compared to my A700 when using one (I expected more from this Nikon AF system, and slower lock times were sometimes a bit frustrating). But, in fairness to Nikon, I was using version 1.0 firmware to test it (and newer firmware versions are supposed to improve it's AF speed using Dynamic Area Tracking with all 51 AF points). It's got very good tracking ability. But, if you can't lock fast enough (especially when changing focus distances rapidly from near to far), you may miss critical shots when you see something interesting and only have a split second to capture it (and having that ability with my A700 has impressed me since day one using it). Again, that was using the original D300 version 1.0 firmware (the new firmware may allow fast lock times when using Dynamic Area AF with all AF points as that issue was specifically addressed in newer firmware versions). Also, it's my understanding that it's faster if you disable some of the AF points (you don't have to use all of them via some of the settings you have available). I didn't test it that way. Also, keep in mind that the AF speed of your KM 5D is not that good. So, almost any current dSLR model (including most entry level models) is going to be faster. ;-)


About the only test I've seen comparing prosumer models including the A700 for tracking is the one mentioned in this forum post (keeping in mind that the Canon and Nikon models have a faster frame rate compared to the A700). But, it doesn't include the new Pentax K7 or Canon 50D.

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/p...good-info.html

Now the D3's AF performance is *very* impressive (almost magical from my point of view -- it's really good, even though some tests show the Sony A700's lock time to be faster in some lighting, the D3's great tracking and lower light ability make up for it). But, then again, it's a much more expensive camera compared to models like the Nikon D300, Sony A700, Canon 50D or Pentax K7. If you really want the ultimate low light camera and AF system, that's what I'd suggest you get (if you don't mind lugging the heavier D3 body around and can afford it).
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 5:04 PM   #4
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IOW, if they get your 5D working, I'd consider using higher ISO speeds if you're not happy with your shutter speeds at ISO 800, since you've got two more stops available with your camera. As long as your WB is set to match the lighting and the exposure is OK, they shouldn't be too bad (and you could always use software to reduce noise if needed, if it's unacceptable at the desired print/viewing sizes).

In a new body, your options are wide open. Chances are, most any of the newer prosumer dSLR bodies are going to outperform your KM 5D in more than one area.

If you're dead set on a brighter prime on a tighter budget for indoor use, Canon's 85mm f/1.8 USM is probably your best bet. It appears to have a very good reputation for AF speed and sharpness wide open (as evident by some of JohnG and Mark1616's shots using one); and the 50D should "run circles" around the Pentax K7 for AF tracking from what I've read so far (although I wouldn't put a lot of faith in just one test reported by someone that has a reputation for heavily criticizing Pentax, so I'd wait on more reviews to come in before jumping to conclusions). The T1i would be another option.

Or, you could wait until Sony releases a replacement for the A700 before going one way or another if MLU and DOF Preview are big considerations preventing you from considering the new A500 or A550 models (which seem to do quite well at higher ISO speeds from some of the samples I've seen online). A replacement is bound to happen at some point.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 5:40 PM   #5
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The level of noise I get at ISO 800 is minimal; at 1600 it's bad. It doesn't matter on the horses so much (especially the black, bay and chestnut horses) because it can pass for details in the fur. But at higher ISOs it shows up on the walls. And with NR on, the fur details are gone, and it looks fake. And those shots were in the best lit arena I've ever seen. In the arena my wife usually rides in, I'd need one, probably two more stops. I don't think f/2.8 at 1600 will do the trick, but just to be sure I'll try when my KM5D comes back from the shop.

If I can use a higher ISO at f/2.8, 105mm would probably be too short. I've thought about the 50-150/2.8, but only if the A700 can handle the ISO I need to get decent shutter speeds without sucking all the detail out of the fur.

I'm leaning toward Nikon because my step-son has a D300 with the Tamron 70-200/2.8. He lives nearby, and I could probably borrow it. I might just ask to borrow his whole kit to see how it works where my wife rides.

AF isn't much of a problem with equestrian sports. The Beercan isn't supposed to be particularly fast to focus, but I've never had any trouble losing the subject with mine. The black jacket, white blouse, black boots, white breeches, black saddle and white saddle pad make an excellent AF target.

I've used a Nikkor 105 VR Micro on a friend's D200 and had some luck with it handheld. I would not be reluctant to buy one of my own.

I wouldn't bother with Canon's 85/1.2. It's WAY too expensive. If I were going to spend that much, I'd get the Sony/Zeiss 85/1.4 plus a 50/1.4.

I've seen some sample images of soccer ('football' for Mark) shot with a K7, and they looked pretty good.

I'm not interested in anything FF. A 70-200/2.8 lens on an APS-C dSLR covers a Dressage ring quite well from the center of the long side. For a FF dSLR to have the same range with the same DoF, I'd need a 100-300/4. That's $1,200 on top of the cost of the FF dSLR.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 5:53 PM   #6
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My big problem is that, if Precision Camera returns my KM5D AGAIN with the stabilization not working, then I'm going to have to do something. The only Sony I'd buy is the A700, but again, I'm not so sure that it can come through for me in the arena my wife rides in, without getting some large aperture lenses. I would love an 85/1.8 or even 85/2.0, but nobody makes one for the A-Mount, which is why I'm considering a paradigm shift.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtclimber View Post
... I am currently shooting with the Oly E-620 that I have on 30 approval. It is OK and has excellent IQ. But, I too, am still looking and debating.
The one very interesting option in all my thinking here is the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0. I just can't get my head around the idea of spending $2,150 for one lens.

Good luck with your challanges.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:10 PM   #8
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The Nikon D300s should start hitting stores soon, too. So, you may want to take a look at it. But, both the D300 and D300s are more expensive bodies compared to the other models you're looking at. You may want to look at some of the less expensive Nikon bodies, too (D90, etc.).

As for the A700, I've been pleased with mine. But, I haven't tried shooting any horses to look at fur detail at higher ISO speeds with one. lol

Unfortunately, most of the tests I've seen really don't give you a good idea of the improvements with the newer V4 firmware either (and I wouldn't go by small patches of gray subjects). Interestingly, from what I can tell from this recent "roundup" after clicking on the artificial flowers to see a full size image, the Nikon D300 photos are softest at the highest settings as compared to the other models compared (with that subject type/color anyway).

http://www.ephotozine.com/article/DSLR-group-test-11857

Many things will influence noise levels (including lighting temperature, subject color/texture and more). But, most of the newer Prosumer class models we're discussing should outperform your 5D in that area (retained detail at their higher ISO speed settings for a given print/viewing size, especially considering you'll be starting out with a higher resolution image as compared to your 6MP KM 5D). Shooting raw would also be another way to go for even better detail, using third party NR tools (and you have larger buffer sizes with faster write speeds to memory cards with some of the newer cameras, making it more practical to shoot that way in more conditions).
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:49 PM   #9
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Many thanks, TCav-

For sharing this DSLR search with all of us. I am sure that there are indeed many posters here in the Forum that find themselves in a very similar situation, myself included.

Today, I toyed with the idea of just eliminating the camera recall problem with the Nikon D-5000 all together, and moving straight up to the Nikon D-90. Like you I am looking for a high ISO capability and the D-90 can provide that. For now, the jump in expense to go to the Nikon D-90, is a decisional factor that is slowing down the process.

I hope that you are enjoying a great weekend.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:53 PM   #10
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If you can compromise on your requirements for MLU and DOF preview, I'd consider the Sony A500/A550 models. From some of the samples I've seen posted online from testers so far, it looks like Sony has made some improvements in higher ISO speed processing. I haven't see a real good comparison with the A700 yet (as the only test sequence I've seen comparing it to the newer models was flawed with the A700's images poorly focused). But, from the general look of the images from the new Sony models, it appears that Sony has worked hard on reducing chroma noise at higher ISO speeds while retaining pretty good detail (except at the highest speeds, where they're stretching it a bit with an ISO 12,800 speed setting).
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