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Old Dec 21, 2009, 12:05 AM   #1
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Default Sony a300/330 for first time DSLR?

I am about to upgrade from an ancient P&S that I use for work and family photos. I will continue to use the P&S for work, but need something faster for family shots.

I am considering live view, as it would get more use in our house. The following are my main needs for the camera:

1) family photos and some sports photos of my young children. Fast shutterspeed is a must.
2) Minimal wildife/outdoor photos. Inclusion of a fair zoom is a plus, as I don't plan to purchase expensive lenses in the near future. I do have a Sigma 70-210 that I used on a Minilta AF years ago, and I think I have read that Sony bought Minolta's operation to get into the camera lines. If it works, then that would be a bonus.

Before considering the live view cameras, I did consider the D40 kit at @ $450. I'd like to be in that range, and definitely below $1,000.

Thanks for your help.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 7:02 AM   #2
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The Sony A300/A330 are very nice cameras, but they aren't very good at focusing on sports/action/wildlife subjects.

Also, focusing on sports/action/wildlife subjects using 'Live View' is pretty bad for all camera brands, though Sony is the leader here. Plus, using 'Live View' with a long lens, especially a zoom len, will get old fast.

Lastly, early Sigma AF lenses worked ok on early Minolta AF bodies, but not later models. It's likely that your Sigma AF lens won't work. I suggest you try the lens out on a current Sony body at a good camera store before you buy.

BTW, the Niokon D40 isn't very good at sports/action/wildlife either. In fact, it's worse than the A300/A330.

I think the Canon XSi with the 18-55 IS kit lens and the Canon 55-250 IS lens would work well for you.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 7:06 AM   #3
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Luke,

The Sony cameras do have a great live view system. But, be forewarned - DSLRs are heavier than P&S cameras so composing/shooting using the LCD is not as stable as using the viewfinder. They should certainly be capable of your normal family shots - although with any DSLR I would recommend an external flash. Unfortunately built in flashes on any camera (even the DSLRs) are pretty sad - great for occasional use, but if you take a lot of indoor flash shots an external flash will be better.

Now, on to sports - here's where you need to decide how important the sports photos are. It would appear that Sony's models below the A700 may still lag behind Nikon and Canon in continuous focus performance (Sony models do great for single shot - even in low light). There's little data on the subject but the DP Review of the A530 (model slightly above the A330) suggests it's continuous focus performance isn't as good as the Nikon D5000 (Nikon's entry level model). This is unfortunate. Sony had a great performer in the A700, but it seems they continue a trend of keeping AF tracking performance out of their lower end models. Now, don't get me wrong. A Sony A330 or Pentax KX or Oly will do a much better job at sports shooting than a point and shoot. They just won't do as good a job as a Nikon D5000 or Canon T1i. So, everything is relative.

Also, you should understand that lenses play an enormous role in success of sports shooting. For example, you're not going to shoot indoor basketball or volleyball with the kit lenses from ANY dslr system. You need f2.8 and ISO 3200-6400 or F2.0 ISO 1600-3200 to get indoor sports shots. For outdoor soccer, if it's full field, you'll need 300-400mm lenses. Same with full field baseball. For little kids, 200mm is fine. For daytime, f5.6 is fine. But for nighttime or even heavy overcast you'll need brighter lenses (f2.8 for nighttime). And, of course, you need to be shooting from the right place - no matter what gear you have, taking shots of football from the stands is going to lead to less-than-stellar results.

I just point these things out because people are often under the misconception that a DSLR with kit lens and $180 telephoto will allow them to get good sports shots. It's a bit tougher than that. And, for certain, not all DSLR systems are equal in regards to sports shooting performance. General family/vacation shots - you bet.

So, the Sony cameras are a great buy if the sports shooting is only a very minor/occasional thing. But if it's going to be important Canon or Nikon are still a better system to buy into. But, if sports are important than you need to provide more info on what sports and what level of play and whether nighttime or not - then I or other sports photographers here can give you some ideas of lenses you might want to look at so you get a true idea of costs involved.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 8:33 AM   #4
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John G-

The sports photos are not important as of now (my kids are 3 and 5) but I would like the option to upgrade in the distant future. But it is not a priority.

My main focus, and possibly incorrectly, is on increased shutterspeed b/c of the camera I currently use. I would think that in the past 5-6 years P & S models have gotten much better, and I could possibly find a P & S that would keep me happy (and I will, when I replace my work camera).

The reason I am considering a DSLR include these: increased shutterspeed, additional lenses, external flash.

I also assume that all live view DSLR will include a viewfinder.

For the questions on sports and wildlife: for right now, we are talking about coach-pitch baseball, soccer, basketball and football for a 5 year old. (More concerned with future use for same sports as kids get older)

Wildlife will be shots of game in green fields (distances of 100-150 yards) and anything I run across in the woods (no distance to speak of).

Any advice on a good flash along with camera advice is appreciated.

Since I am getting such quick repsonses from the moderators, I have to ask this -- is the site compensated if I purchase my camera using one of the links? One good turn deserves another.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 9:03 AM   #5
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The thing about buying a dSLR is that, once you buy lenses and accessories for it, you've (perhaps unknowingly) made a commitment to that brand, because those lenses and accessories won't fit on the cameras of competing brands. If you buy a dSLR from Company A, and then buy some lenses for it, replacing that dSLR with one from Company B means that all your other gear is useless.

So if sports/action/wildlife will EVER be a priority, it's something you should consider when selecting a dSLR system now. And since "shots of game in green fields" is a current requirement, selecting something appropriate for that should also be a consideration. This is way different from buying a P&S, where, when you're done with it, you throw it away.

What you want to do, whether now or in the future, is tough. Buying gear that will make it even more difficult, when the time comes, is a bad idea. You should buy into a system that will serve your long term goals.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 9:24 AM   #6
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Upgradability is an important issue in a DSLR purchase. Over time you spend more $$ on flashes and lenses then you do on a camera body and you want to be able to use those same pieces of gear when you upgrade the body. If you switch systems you end up losing a lot of money. And, the reality is: Canon and Nikon are the best sports shooting DSLR systems out there. Best performing continuous focus and best selection of lenses capable of sports shooting.

I can't speak to live view performance because while my DSLR has it I have never used the feature - just not beneficial to me. I do know the Sony system has implemented the feature better than the others but again it's an unstable shooting position so I don't use it. Where it really is great is for people that use a tripod for macro or portrait work - really lets you ensure critical focus when speed of focus isn't an issue.

Now, with a DSLR you have better high ISO performance. So you can use ISO 1600 where a digicam you may want to stay at ISO 400 or below. And, with good technique and noise reduction software, ISO 3200 and 6400 are possibilities. But you still have to be realistic. Indoors, kids playing you'll still want to use flash to get good photos. So dont think that buying a DSLR will allow you to magically capture non-flash shots indoors. It will when they're not moving but when they move you'll want flash.

Right now Canon is running a promotion where if you buy the T1i and 55-250 you get a $200 instant rebate. Online you should be able to get that for $800-900. That's a very good deal. Now, you still won't be able to shoot basketball (need a different lens for that) and you'll still eventually want an external flash. BUT, you'll be in a good sports shooting system - the T1i should last you for 4 years or so and all you'll have to do is upgrade your lenses as you move forward. It's tough to beat that deal.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 5:13 PM   #7
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From reading the previous posts and a few other threads on this site, it looks like the Canon T1i or the XSi would be good choices for my current use and for upgrades in the future. It appears that about $150 separates them on kit deals, and they both have image stabilization.

The T1i has HD capability. Is this a gimmick, or does it serve the casual dad/coach/parent with minimal technological expertise on occasion? Will it run your battery down and leave you without a camera?
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 5:27 PM   #8
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The T1i can also shoot at higher ISO settings, allowing you to shoot in lower light.

Recording video with a dSLR has more than a few snags. A camcorder is still a better tool for that.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 5:41 PM   #9
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If upgrade is in you future, I would avoid the nikon d5000, it will only limit you to AF-S series lens. As they will not accept the full nikon lens line up. I would look at the canon rebel XSi or T1i. Both have live view. The t1i is an excellent low light camera also, with the highest iso in it's class 12800, while everything else is at 6400. If you were to get the nikon the D90 would be my choice, but it is way above you budget, depending on the lens, it is either 1250 or 1500 dollars.

The pentax K-X is a pretty quick camera, I would not rule it out at 720 buck for a 18-55 and 55-300, it gives you a very long reach. And the olympus e620 may not perform quite as well in low light, but has the best kit lenses of all the makers. And the different at 1600 and 3200 iso is not horrible, and it just is a little noisier then the asp-c cameras.

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Old Dec 21, 2009, 6:32 PM   #10
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The Olympus E-620 that shoturtle mentions would not be a good choice for you. It's AF system does not perform well with sports/action/wildlife photography.
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