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Old Jan 16, 2010, 2:03 AM   #61
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actually the T1i with the metz 48 does not use the flash in any manual mode as a focus assist. This kind of shooting will require manual control to get a good shot. Think it is the same with the metz and the K-x.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:03 AM   #62
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The camera should be triggering it anytime light is too low to focus, as long as you're using Autofocus (and not Manual Focus). The Metz 48 AF-1 also has an SB (Spot Beam) only mode, so that the AF Beam on the flash can be used focus assist without firing the flash.

I'd check it to see what it's behavior is. With some camera models, you also have to have AF assist enabled in their settings before the beam on the flash will trigger in low light. With your T1i, there's a custom function for that purpose:

Fn III: Auto focus/Drive - AF-assist beam firing<: Enable, Disable or Only external flash emits
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:06 AM   #63
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Note that is one advantage of the Nikon models. They have an AF assist beam built into the camera body.

My Sony A700 body can emit a nice red pattern for AF assist if desired. But, the lower end Sony bodies don't get that feature.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:13 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by littlejohn View Post
One thing the OP should be aware of is that some cameras use the flash for 'focus assist'..That MAY be an issue if you didn't want folks to know you were taking a pix. The KX and the Canon both use the flash and if my recollection is correct so does the Oly E620. BUT the sony doesn't....(am i right??). If so, gentlemen why wouldn't the A330 or a230 even be a suggestion..the AF speeds were pretty good..But perhaps the iso is too low...
You can turn off AF Assist using the built in flash with the Sony models, too. Personally, I find that feature annoying though. I think they work about as well without it as with it in most lighting anyway. As mentioned i my last post, the A700 body can emit a red pattern for AF Assist if you want to use it (much better than a flash firing away when focusing). The entry level bodies don't get that type of AF assist beam (only the flash can be used if you turn that feature on).

But, the entry level Sony bodies don't do as well at higher ISO speeds compared to the Sony models using a Sony 12MP CMOS Sensor (A500, A700). The 12MP CMOS Sensor from Sony appears to be the "sweet spot" right now for noise levels at higher ISO speeds in the Sony sensor lineup (with the latest versions doing a bit better). The Nikon D5000, D90, D300, D300s; Pentax K-x; Sony A500, and Sony A700 all use a Sony 12MP CMOS Sensor. But, different manufacturers tend to squeeze a bit more out of it compared to others. The Pentax K-x is doing a nice job with it's version of it as far as noise levels go.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:23 AM   #65
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At the risk of hijacking the thread, I'm curious to hear how my hopefully-soon-to-be-aquired S90 would fare in the proposed situation.

In my local paper, one one of their worse days, a crayon sketch would look better than their photos (they sometimes struggle in keeping the RGB lined up).
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:29 AM   #66
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A non-dSLR model like the S90 has a very tiny sensor in comparison to the dSLR models being discussed, with much smaller photosites for each pixel. As a result, the smaller photosites can't gather as much light (because of their very tiny surface area), requiring more amplification for equivalent sensitivity to light (i.e., your ISO speed setting). So, when you increase the ISO speed using a sensor with a weaker signal for each pixel (to allow faster shutter speeds to reduce motion blur from subject movement), it's like turning up the volume on a weak radio station, only instead of getting hum, static and hiss, you get image noise.

Now, advancements are being made with each new generation of sensors. Ditto for how well a camera's internal noise reduction algorithms work to try and clean up the noise in the images. But, the sensors are just too small on that type of camera to do a good job in very low light at higher ISO speed settings if you are not using a flash (due to noise levels and/or loss of detail from noise reduction). They need a lot more light for best results compared to the much larger sensors used in dSLR models.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 6:32 AM   #67
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Now, if you can use a flash, keep ISO speeds set lower (and make sure you stay within the rated flash range), then a non-dSLR model can work OK, provided it's able to focus in the lighting you're shooting in.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 7:09 AM   #68
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... And it seem we are getting into consensus that the k-x is the best option for you and your budget.
Actually, if the OP can use a flash, then the XSi with the kit lens will do fine.

And if he can't, I say that, within the constraints of his budget, the D5000 + 35/1.8 is the best option.
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 8:51 AM   #69
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Over budget (if you want an 18-55mm lens to go with it for wider shots). About the best you'll do is going to do would be closer to $900 with that solution (Nikon D5000 with 18-55mm, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 AF-S) from what I can see of prices from reputable vendors right this minute, since the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S lens is selling for around $199 by itself.

Going with a Nikon USA Factory Reconditioned D5000 kit may be a good option though. It looks like adorama has a really good deal on refurbished D5000 kits right now from what I can see from a quick search of their site:

http://www.adorama.com/INKD5000RD.html

Then, add a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 AF-S lens to go with it, perhaps adding a non-dedicated flash (used Sunpak 383 Super or similar) at the same time. Or, perhaps one of the less expensive, newer generations of third party dedicated flash units instead (like a Vivitar DF-383), if you want to risk that one would work OK on it from an exposure perspective (buying it from a vendor with a good return policy)..
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Old Jan 16, 2010, 9:26 AM   #70
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I had originally thought that my question was simple and did not realize that it really wasn't. But it's been great. This were mentioned that I was clueless about which in turn sent me running to the Internet to start reading.

The discussion about prime lenses for one thing. I'm showing my age, but when I was last interested in photography, I had a fixed lens 35mm camera. I had at one point thought of getting a 35mm with removable lenses though not SLR. SLRs were very expensive and the people I knew who had them, all a small array of "prime" lenses. No one had a zoom lens because they were way too expensive for the average person as I recall. If you wanted to zoom in and did not want to swap out your lens you physically moved closer, if you wanted to zoom out you moved further away (both within the focal limitations of the particular lens).

I had no idea that the universe changed in the 1980's. I had no idea that zoom lenses became more the norm. Just goes to show how little I knew when I embarked on this.

Hence I was a bit confused over the notion of a prime lens since I was still under the assumption that removable lenses were all pretty much not zoom. I was also not aware that lenses has some sort of electronic smarts built into them such as auto focus. I was still under the old 35mm assumption that a 35mm lens was a 35mm lens and you could mix at match between manufacturers of course paying attention to mounts and possibly needing adapter rings. I really had no idea that the lens is now integral with the electronics of the camera.

Live and learn. You folks have opened my eyes.

When it occurred to me that perhaps the Fuji S200EXR was not the right buy for me and that the $450 to $500 would be better spent on a DSLR, the Canon XSi was the only one that came my line of sight.

I later added the Nikon D5000 and Pentax K-x into the mix as I learned about them and in reviews it was noted that the Nikon and Pentax had good low light capabilities, better than the Canon.

This discussion has been awesome in that it has really made me think.

I'm now thinking that I need the greatest range of flexibility, both in standard daylight, all the way down to some of my low light challenges. I need to both be able to use a flash and also not have to use one. I guess ultimately have a choice and therefore not have inherit obstacles based on the camera body itself.

That brings it down to Nikon D5000 and the Pentx X-y. The Pentax had been a real dark horse until this discussion.

I know that Canon has the best array of lenses and the better pricing, but I would be limited ultimately by the XSi body. Looking at the range of pricing for the T1i it's averaging about $750 which was higher than I wanted to allocate.

(Side question - does that extra money for the Canon T1i deliver significantly more bang for the buck? Looking at pricing, the Nikon D5000 is averaging $650 with a 18 mm to 55 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 Lens, and the Pentax is about $549 with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 or about $650 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED Lenses)

Are Pentax lenses that bad, meaning not a very good selection and pricing? Of the 3 cameras the Pentax is the lowest kit price and also the smallest lightest form factor, which makes it attractive. It seems like it would be a good foundation to grow on, but I don't want to be limited by the availability of lenses.
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