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Old Jul 21, 2010, 7:36 AM   #21
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Hanseat, I presume you are thinking of the D5000 with at least some of those lenses. Be careful that they will auto-focus with the D5000. It looks like the Sigma 70mm will not, and most of Nikon's 50mm lenses will not (I think there is one that will, but it is quite pricey.) Personally, I think that the 35mm f/1.8 is worth considering. It's on the short side for this use (but isn't that much wider than a 50). But it is a really good bright sharp lens, and is very attractively priced. There is a rumor that Nikon will be releasing an 85mm f/1.4 AF-S VR this year. If so, that would be a very interesting choice to have, too. While it lacks stablilization and has very serious production QC problems, the Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 would seem like an attractive possibility for this kind of use, too. It's not cheap (~ $750 US), but gets quite high marks on optical quality and is a DX lens, so it's a lot lighter than many possibilities.

Last edited by tclune; Jul 21, 2010 at 7:40 AM.
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 8:04 AM   #22
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Those f/2.8 primes you listed in your last post are macro lenses. I'd probably look a brighter non-macro primes instead.

That way, you'd have wider available apertures if you need them for faster shutter speeds (and you could always stop them down some if lighting permitted).

Usually a macro lens will be slower to focus, too (because they're geared towards finer focus accuracy needed for closeups). Also, I'd take some of the test results around you see with a "grain of salt" as far as corner sharpness at wider apertures. You will often not care about the corners (especially shooting portrait type shots, where you may want your subject to stand out from distracting backgrounds). IOW, for people type photos, the corners are likely to be further away compared to your primary subjects and out of focus anyway.

I'd also consider lens availability for the system you choose.

With the Nikon D5000, you'll be limited to lenses with built in focus motors if you want Autofocus, meaning you couldn't take advantage of an inexpensive Autofocus lens like the Nikkon 50mm f/1.8; or a longer AF prime like the 85mm f/1.8, as those don't have focus motors built in (in the Nikon lineup, you'll need AF-S lenses for Autofocus with a D5000) The 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 are popular choices for use in lower light. They do have an inexpensive 35mm f/1.8 AF-S Lens that would Autofocus on a D5000. But, you may find that focal length to be lacking except for closer shots.

With Nikkor lenses, you'll need an AF-S (Silent Wave Motor) lens to get Autofocus with a D5000. With a Sigma lens, you'll need an HSM (Hypersonic Motor) to get autofocus with a D5000. With a Tamron lens, you'll have to look for lenses that specifically state they have a "built in motor" if you want Autofocus with a D5000 (and some lens models were made both ways, so check that kind of thing carefully before buying one).

So, you may want to look at a D90 instead in the Nikon lineup, so that you're have more flexibility with lens choices (especially where used lenses are concerned, where you wouldn't need to worry about having one with a built in motor to get Autofocus, as long as it's an AF lens, opening up your choices for both zooms and primes; and you'll find a number of them from Nikon, Sigma, Tamron and others without focus motors built in).

IOW, you may spend a little more on the body, but you could end up saving on lenses, depending on what you what you buy later. Note that you could use Nikon AF lenses with manual focus on a D5000, and get a focus confirmation in the viewfinder when you have the focus ring set so the subject under the active focus point is in focus. So, that would be an option. But, you may prefer the convenience of having AF instead.

In the Canon lineup, a body like the T1i would be a good bet; and Canon has brighter primes like the 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 available at reasonable prices. You'll find a lot of lenses available for EF Mount cameras, both new and used. I'd avoid the lower end Canon models (XS, XSi) for low light use (as they'll "max out" at ISO 1600).

In the current Sony lineup, the A500 or A550 would be your best bets. I'd avoid the A2xx and A3xx models as they won't do as well at higher ISO speed settings. You can find an inexpensive 50mm (either the 50mm f/1.8 DT AF lens, or a used Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lens for less). But, a brighter 85mm lens will cost you. For example, I see a used Minolta 85mm f/1.4 AF lens at $819 right now at keh.com (my favorite vendor for used gear):

http://www.keh.com/camera/Minolta-Ma...10500898J?r=FE

A longer lens like my Minolta Maxxum 100mm f/2 AF lens would probably run you close to the same thing (if you could find one, as they're hard to find and usually sell quickly when one does hit used listings). A new Sony/Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 will run you around $1369 right now.

You can use any Minolta Autofocus (a.k.a., Maxxum, Dynax) lens on a Sony dSLR (and they'd all be stabilized, thanks to the body based stabilization system), and you will also find lenses made by Tamron, Sigma and others in this mount. But, you're not going to find inexpensive primes with f/2 or brighter apertures available in 85mm or longer focal lengths. Think $800+, even going used.

Now Sigma announced a new 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens that will be available in multiple camera mounts (Canon, Pentax, Nikon, Sony). From what I can see from pre-order listings, it looks like street price will be around $899 on it. Here's a listing for one at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Sigma-85mm-1-4.../dp/B003NSC2Z2

But, it's not on dealer shelves yet (and may take a while before it shows up and is available).

With the Pentax K-x, it becomes tougher... as they don't have an inexpensive 50mm Autofocus lens (like the Canon, Nikon and Sony 50mm f/1.8 choices), where you could pick one up for between $100 and $150 (with the Canon at the lower end of the price range, and the Sony at the higher end of the price range).

So, you'd need to move to a 50mm f/1.4 instead (around $359 or so now for a Pentax 50mm AF lens). The 50mm f/1.4 is brighter, and it's very competitive with 50mm f/1.4 lenses from other manufacturers. But, you don't have the option of a less expensive 50mm f/1.8 AF lens with them like you do with Nikon, Canon or Sony (keeping in mind you'd need to move to the D90 to get Autofocus with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF lens).

Pentax doesn't offer an inexpensive 85mm AF lens either. You'd need to go to their 77mm f/1.8 Limited (around $1049 at some dealers, but it looks like B&H has a "cart price" of $784.95 right now). Again, the new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM will be available for Pentax. But, it's not on dealer shelves yet.

Note that you can find Manual Focus primes at reasonable prices for these cameras. But, accurate Manual Focus becomes more difficult with a dSLR because of their viewfinder and focus screen design (you don't have a split prism type screen unless you install a third party focus screen in one).

On the plus side, the Pentax has good "bang for the buck" for it's body price/features, with low noise at higher ISO speeds. It uses a Sony 12MP CMOS Sensor (as do the Nikon D5000, D90, D300, D300s; Sony A500 and Sony A700); and Pentax managed to squeeze a lot out of it. My guess is they're using a slightly weaker AA filter to get better sensitivity, with some tweaks to the tone curves for good results.

There are going to be pros and cons to any solution.

Personally, I'd probably want the option of brighter primes for lower light in tough conditions; even though I may use a zoom when lighting permits for more framing flexibility. IOW, I wouldn't want to pick one over the other (I'd want to have the option of using either a zoom or prime, depending on the lighting, the type of shot I'm trying to get, and my vantage point).

For most other types of shooting, an f/2.8 zoom is fine, especially given the higher usable ISO speeds available with some of the newer dSLR models. But, when you get into some of the stage lighting in very low light venues, sometimes a brighter prime can come in handy to increase your percentage of keepers.

You'll have to decide the best solution for you (as what's best for one user may not be best for another, as different users will value different features and make different compromises within a given budget).
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 8:21 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC View Post
They do have an inexpensive 35mm f/1.8 AF-S Lens that would Autofocus on a D5000. But, you may find that focal length to be lacking except for closer shots.
Reconsidering, I'd probably go with tclune on that one.

If you can move around and get as close as desired, that may be a good compromise, giving you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 53mm lens on a 35mm camera, letting you get wider shots without backing up as far as you may need to do with a 50mm.

There's no one perfect choice for all conditions. ;-)
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 8:24 AM   #24
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P.S.

You wouldn't have to buy all of your lenses at once for the camera you choose either. After getting some experience under your belt in the conditions you shoot in more often, you'd have a better idea of what you want and what compromises you're willing to make.
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 9:37 AM   #25
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Let me just mention my experience with the manual focus on the D5000. There is a dot that shows up in the lower left of the viewfinder when the lens is in focus. It is VERY touchy, which is what you want for being in focus, but kind of a pain for FINDING focus. And the dot isn't all that bright. It shows up very well in dim situations like we are considering here. But, in bright sunlight, I find it just plain hard to see at all. Maybe that's just because my eyes are getting older, but it's worth considering if you want to use manual focus as a general feature.

An alternative that is not too bad is to use the Live View zoomed-in to focus -- you can see the focus that way better than you can with the pentamirror, and you get continual visual feedback as to whether the focus is getting better or worse as you go. However, once again, bright sunlight is a problem for seeing the LCD. Further aggravating the problem is the fact that so many lenses omit the distance scale anymore -- so you have no way of "eyeballing" the distance to get you started if you are using that kind of lens.

I would be perfectly willing to use a manually-focused UWA, like the Tokina 11-16mm, because a trained gerbil could focus one of those (and they come with a distance scale on the lens to boot). But, for other lenses, I would only want to put up with manual focus if I were doing macro-only, where I'm going to have to contend with manual focusing anyway, I'll be using a tripod, and the subject is probably not moving around.

As always, YMMV. But manual focus as a feature of general-use photography is a real pain. I was brought up on manual focus -- but I was either looking at 4x5 ground glass under a black cloth or I was simply lining up two halves of a view using a rocker switch, and both of these are really easy to get right. It's a lot harder on the D5000.

I think there are lots of good autofocus lenses available that are comfortable to use with the D5000. But you want to give serious thought to lens selection with a complete appreciation of what it's like to manually focus. Before I bought a manual-focus-only lens, I would get something like the 35mm f/1.8, set it for manual focus, and try using it for a while. If I got to where it seemed natural for what I was doing, I wouldn't worry about buying an AF lens. Otherwise, I would be quite hesitant. FWIW

Last edited by tclune; Jul 21, 2010 at 9:40 AM.
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 12:45 PM   #26
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Thanks for those detailed explanations! I'm really learning a lot!

Considering my budget, I'd rather reduce some of my expectations though (finding the good shots for posters).
I'm not yet sure which body to buy (D5000 or K-x or even a Canon), but I'm nearly sold to the Tamron 17-50mm (25.5-75mm equivalent) f/2.8

Compared to the 18-105mm Nikon kit lens I had thought about before opening this thread, it's a good deal brighter and shows less vignetting. I'd like to know though, if it's AF is quick or a rather slow one. There's also a version with IS, but I don't know, if its optical performance is on par with the one without IS.

Compared to a prime lens the Tamron is considerabley darker, but as the D5000 and the K-x are capable to deliver good pictures with high ISO this may help. I may add a prime lens later (the Nikon 35mm, f/1.8G looks like a very useful lens).

Manual focus would be no option for me. If I will be buying the D5000, I'd have to use EF-S lenses. The D90 has some things I like (motor, better resolution on LCD, depth-of-field check), but the D5000 seems to be a little bit better in high ISO areas and has a movable LCD - and of course it's cheaper.

The K-x seems to preserve consderably more fine detail in high-ISO pictures compared to the D5000 and all the other APS-C cameras I found (according to test images from different reviews this has been my repeated subjective impression) and the pictures look "finished" right out of the box. That's what I really like.

I do not like the missing AF-indicators and the tendency to clip highlights mentioned in some reviews. The image stabilizer seems to be quite ineffective. The Nikon on the other hand has no IS built in the body...

Last edited by Hanseat; Jul 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM.
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 1:49 PM   #27
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IMO, you're really not going to see much difference in those models in real world use. Chances are, metering accuracy and more would impact your results more. The Nikon D5000, D300, D300s, D90; Pentax K-x; and Sony A500 all use a Sony 12MP CMOS Sensor. ;-)

There are some differences between them (AA filters, how they approach Noise Reduction algorithms, tone curves, etc.). But, they all allow you to tune some of that to taste, and when you start looking at noise versus retained detail for various parts of samples (not just a gray area in a test somewhere that doesn't really take detail into consideration), I think you'll find that they're all very close to each other for similar print sizes.

I hate to send you somewhere else, but if you want to see side by side samples in a variety of different controlled conditions, try the Comparometer here:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM

I'd look at the ISO 6400 samples with lots of different subjects in the frame (color charts, wine bottles, etc.), and make sure to look at the shadow areas (darker areas behind wine bottles, etc.), since noise will be more obvious in darker areas, and you'll have lots of shadow areas in the conditions you want to use a camera in. You'll also find some ISO series samples of a mannequin with IN in their filename, where the WB was set to incandescent (which is your best option for most stage lighting), to get a better idea of how a model does that way. Look at the neck area under the chin (where the mannequin isn't getting as much light) and you'll see how shadow areas can increase noise dramatically.

You'll find that each manufacturer takes a slightly different approach to Noise Reduction; and there are pros and cons to any approach (retained detail versus luminous noise reduction, color noise reduction, etc.). How much post processing you want to do to remove any remaining noise/grain for larger print sizes also comes in the equation.

We have some ISO series samples in the reviews here I'd look through, too. But, we don't have a K-x Review online. For the models we do have samples for, again, make sure to look at darker areas to get an idea of how bad noise and/or loss of detail from Noise Reduction can be when a subject isn't getting as much light.

Just keep in mind that overall noise and loss of detail at very high ISO speeds is probably going to be much worse than you see in those samples in concert type lighting for a variety of reasons (more shadow areas, different lighting temperature, etc.).
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 3:51 PM   #28
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Thanks again Jim,

i have found your advice and those of the other contributors very helpful. You've been asking the right questions and have shown me the appropiate options. Because of your help I now feel quite confident about my decisions.

The comparometer and the pictures you mention have been exactly the source I had been refering to (+ the high ISO comparison on dpreview). Those pictures have been the source for my impression, that the K-x is a really good performer especially retaining detail in high ISO pictures.

But you're right - the differences between the D5000 and the K-x are certainly not night and day and either choice will do for my purpose.

Now it's time to go shopping...
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Old Jul 21, 2010, 4:10 PM   #29
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I'd probably put more faith in the imaging-resource.com samples; as they tend to have more subject types in more lighting conditions and use very controlled lighting.

You may also want to check out the Thumbnails in the individual camera reviews there. If you go to a review and click on the Samples Tab, you'll see a link to Thumbnails under it. Then, scroll down to a given section (like the samples with the yarn, wine bottles, etc.), and you'll see thumbnails that take you to full size images using a variety of different settings (no NR, low NR, high NR, etc.), to get a better idea of how they compare. Again, they're all somewhat tunable as to how their Noise Reduction algorithms work. In some cases, you may even find that you have more retained detail in some areas with the High Setting (depending on camera model), as strange as that sounds (for example, I've seen that behavior for red fabric detail with some of the Sony A5xx models, as one setting appears to use a different type of algorithm compared to the other).

Lighting temperature can also make a difference (as stage lighting is not the same as the simulated daylight lighting you find in most tests, as the temperature of the lighting is much warmer, and different AA filters have different transmission characteristics).

You'll also see links to raw files you can download and test with various raw converters (as sometimes, one raw converter works better than another, depending on how well it "meshes" with the raw file from a given camera).

But, I really don't think you'll find much difference in cameras using the same basic sensor design. You can Post Process images yourself to remove any remaining noise so that you don't get grain in larger prints for cameras that less aggressive NR algorithms. But, if you do that, I think you find that any difference in retained detail versus noise will be negligible (with no more than about 1/3 stop difference between cameras using the same sensor, which is less difference than you'll probably see from White Balance and metering issues in complex lighting).

So, I'd be more concerned about the features you want, lenses you want, flash systems, ergonomics, control layout, etc.
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