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Old May 4, 2011, 3:43 PM   #1
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Default Looking to upgrade my sony dslr

I am looking into upgrading my Sony DSLR a380 and have some questions.

First, I love my a380! I have about 6 lenses to go with it and have taken over 3000 photos thus far.

Now, I want to upgrade to another Sony but need assistance on choosing. The a380 is an awesome camera, but I am in need of a camera that will take better low light action shots with a telephoto. My daughters are on their school dance team and I am unable to get decent photos with my a380 when using my Sony 18-250 lense. I am looking at either the SLT a55 or the SLR a580. I would love to get the a850, but out of my budget, if I want to get a 70-300 or 70-400 lense (for football season).

So, anyone out there have any advise for me? I am not a professional, even though I would love to be one. Still learning and hopefully one day I can call my self a professional. :-)

Thank you in advance for you input!
Talitha
Mom of 4 who loves taking photos of her kids and their friends.
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Old May 4, 2011, 3:51 PM   #2
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The A580 is probably your best bet as an upgrade path for better low light performance. It will have lower noise levels at higher ISO speeds when compared to other Sony models.

But, if you're talking about dance photos in low light (at night under the lights, or on a stage indoors), then none of the 70-300mm or 70-400mm lenses are very good for that purpose, as they're really not very bright and are better suited for good light shooting outdoors in daylight.

You'll want a brighter lens with wider available apertures (smaller f/stop numbers) to help freeze movement in lower light.. For example, a 70-200mm f/2.8 (provided you can get close enough to use one), since it can maintain f/2.8 throughout it's zoom range.
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Old May 4, 2011, 5:19 PM   #3
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How do you get it to maintain the f/stop? Can I do this with any zoon lense, or only the high end one? The only Sony lense that is 70-200mm f/2.8 is the SAL-70200G at $1799. Know of any cheaper?
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Old May 4, 2011, 5:31 PM   #4
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Lenses that can maintain f/2.8 throughout their focal range are higher end lenses. Most lenses get dimmer as you zoom in more. That's why you see two apertures listed in their specifications.

For example, a lens marked as f/4-5.6 has a widest available aperture of f/4 at it's widest zoom position (least apparent magnification), and a widest available aperture of f/5.6 at it's longest zoom setting (most apparent magnification).

Note that f/2.8 is twice as bright as f/4 (allowing shutter speeds twice as fast for the same lighting and ISO speed); and f/2.8 is 4 times as bright as f/5.6 (allowing shutter speeds 4 times as fast for the same lighting and ISO speed).

The aperture scale in one stop increments (with larger than f/1 apertures possible but very rare in lenses) goes f/1.0, f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11, f/16, f/22... With each one stop move to a smaller aperture (represented by higher f/stop numbers), you will need shutter speeds twice as long for proper exposure for the same lighting and ISO speed (only half the light gets through compared to a one stop larger aperture).

As for less expensive zooms with f/2.8 available throughout their focal range, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM is another option (a bit over $900 new now). The Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF lens would be another option (around $769 now). But, note that it doesn't focus as fast as the Sigma or Sony lenses.
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Old May 4, 2011, 5:53 PM   #5
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What type of conditions are you going to be shooting in?

If you're just talking about dance competitions on a stage and you can sit close enough, then you may be able to get by with a less expensive prime (fixed focal length versus zoom lens). For example, Sony makes a relatively inexpensive 85mm f/2.8 now that you may be able to get by with on a Sony A580 with ISO speeds set high enough.
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Old May 4, 2011, 7:20 PM   #6
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I am wanting to take photos of the dance team on field after sunset. My existing lenses do great with the sun up and even just before sunset. But they do horribly once the sun goes down and the staduim lights are on. Also at dance competitions. And, another daughter is doind volleyball next year, so I will want to get actions shots of her in the gym. Not sure how close I can get.

Thanks for all the info thus far. It is great!!
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Old May 4, 2011, 7:32 PM   #7
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I'd probably look at the Sony 70-200mm f.2.8 SSM or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM on a Sony A580 (which will do better at higher ISO speeds compared to other Sony models right now). Those lenses will focus faster compared to the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 (and you'll want faster AF speed for the volleyball).

Getting shots under the lights in a stadium at night, or indoors in a gym (even though it may look bright to the human eye) is very demanding on equipment, as you'll need both higher ISO Speeds and a brighter lens to get shutter speeds fast enough to freeze much movement so that you'll reduce the amount of blur you see in images.
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Old May 5, 2011, 4:51 PM   #8
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Okay, I have another question. What if I kept my a380 and just bought the 70-200 f.2.8? Would the camera perform up to the standards of the lense?
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Old May 5, 2011, 5:25 PM   #9
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Frankly... the A380 is not the best camera for low light use at higher ISO speeds (as noise levels would be very high trying to shoot at ISO 3200, which you'd need for the volleyball using an f/2.8 lens). Frame rate is also relatively slow with it and AF performance is not as good as it is with the A580.

How important is the volleyball? That kind of shooting is *very* demanding on equipment (and the skill level needed). You really need a very good camera with a decent Autofocus System that has lower noise at higher ISO speeds (think ISO 3200 or higher with an f/2.8 lens), and a very bright lens to increase your percentage of keepers.

Here's one thread on the subject:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/so...olleyball.html

Now, if you used a brighter prime (fixed focal length versus zoom lens) for the volleyball shots, you could probably get by with ISO 1600. But, you'd need to shoot at f/2 (limiting your lens choices to something like the inexpensive 50mm f/1.8 or much more expensive 85mm f/1.4); and you'd need to shoot from the floor to get close enough to use them (and you'd limit the shots you could get because you can't expect great focus accuracy when too far away with a shorter lens).

If I had to choose between a new lens and a new camera body, I'd almost be tempted to go with the A580 to get the lower noise levels and higher frame rate. But, because your existing lenses would be too dim, you'd still be crippled and couldn't expect a lot of keepers (as AF is going to be slower with a dimmer lens, and your shutter speeds would be too slow at anything much shy of ISO 12800 when zoomed in much with your existing lenses for shooting something like volleyball, since you'd be at a widest aperture of around f/5.6 with them zoomed in much). At ISO speeds that high, expect lots of noise with much of the finer detail destroyed by it. You really don't want to use a camera like that at it's highest ISO speed settings. So, you'd probably be stuck with using ISO 6400 and getting some blur in the images (you'd need to try and find the best balance between blur and noise levels with that kind of combo; and autofocus would also be a problem using dimmer lenses).

You need a well balanced combination of a good camera and lens for that type of shooting (not to mention a high level of skill using them for capturing good photos of rapidly moving subjects in low light).

Of course, what you consider to be "good enough" also comes into the equation (as perception of what good quality is varies). Print/Viewing sizes also enter into it (as if you keep viewing and print sizes small enough, then blur from subject movement and higher noise levels are not as noticeable).
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