View Full Version : Proud new owner

04-18-2007, 04:53 PM
I got my Alpha last week. Unfortunately the weather had been horrible all week and my first shots were inside shots. The pictures were OK but I wasn't sure they could be considered exceptional, though I really think the fault was mine being a newbie and all. I was playing around with the settings and I could never get anything better than the AUTO setting. Though that makes sense because I think the camera knows more than I do at this point! :) I understand the concepts of Aperture/Shutter speed/ISO etc... But don't know the nuances of how to make them work together to get the best exposure. I just need to practice. I tend to like to take pictures without a flash and I noticed that the pictures were definitely better with the flash. (I may have to break down and invest in the external flash.) The beauty of digital SLR is that you can see your results right away and make adjustments and keep practicing.

Today I finally got some outside shots of my son playing tennis and the pictures were AWESOME. I popped on my 70-210, set the camera to sports mode, and got some great shots of his serve. Every shot was clear! I'm planning to print one to frame eventually. This was one of the big reasons I wanted the DSLR, I hated the shutter lag and blurred images with the compact digital cameras. So I'm excited that they came out so well! I just hope the indoor basketball shots of my daughter come out in the fall....

I am always trying to think of things to photograph and can't wait till spring finally gets here so I can get outside and really try some new shots.

Thanks to all who post with all their advice, comments and photos.

04-18-2007, 08:07 PM
Welcome to the DSLR world! I had similar experiences to yours when I started last year. Probably, your disappointing shots came from shooting indoors. There is so little light indoors, that you almost always need the flash, unless your lens aperture will open all the way to f/2 or so. Some (less expensive) lenses open only to f/5.6 or so when fully zoomed.

You can also try bumping up your ISO to 800 or even higher inside. That will help capture more light with a shorter shutter speed, but it will give you lots of noise. Which can be reduced in post-processing.

One last thing -- hope it's not too much information -- have you experimented with White Balance yet? It made a huge difference in my indoor shots.

Good luck, don't worry, you'll get this down. Have fun and post some shots!

04-19-2007, 04:41 AM
Thanks for the encouragement. Yes it was really only on some of the inside shots that I was disapointed. Really only on some of the pictures without the flash. I think my initial expectations of a dslr were that ALL the pictures should be incredible, but that's just not realistic! I guess I say that for other newbies out there, don't expect miracles (at first!). The pictures are much better than what I got on my compact digital, but still only as good as the photographer! I do LOVE this camera and can't wait to learn more!

I played around with the iso/shutter/and aperature but haven't tried adjusting the WB. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for the advice.

04-19-2007, 11:11 AM
Do not despair, for better shots are on your way.:)
I can tell you from my experience (I come from the P&S world) there's a learning curve when you enter the dSLR. So, the more you handle, the faster you'll learn. It took me about 10 days before I started to feel comfortable with the camera, and now....well, I just do not know how I lived without it:p .
For those indoors shots you need a lens with an aperture wide enough, a lens with at least f/2.8. I can recommend you buy a Minolta 50 mm f/1.7, which you might find used on e-Bay for about 70 bucks. I have one myself and the shots you get from it with available light are great.
Again, my best advice is shoot, shoot, shoot and then some more... you'll be a pro in no time:D

04-20-2007, 06:30 AM
One thing to remember, when taking images with ANYTHING, it that there is a common detail to all of them:


Despite the quality of the camera, no light ... no image.

One of the better investments you can make is having a light meter with you, which allows you to measure and KNOW what is going to turn out and when, depending on the settings you or the camera automatically chooses when you take the shot.

Simply put: Set the ISO you plan on working with (probaby ISO-400). You measure the light available to your shadows. Then take a measurement of your highlight, or brighter areas. Determine the f-stop spread between these two. (Your camera only has a spread of 3 to 4 f-stops of available contrast) ... which means ...


If your shadow areas measure f/2.8 at 1/60 sec
your highlights measure f/22 at 1/60 sec

... thats 5.5 stops of light ... which means if you set your camera to f/8 at 1/60 sec ... you should get everything.

Now, if your shadow areas, indoor, drop to measurements such as f/1.0 at 1/30sec and your highlights are f/8 at 1/30sec ... this is trouble. For one thing, darn few cameras can obtain enough light under these circumstances, even with great optics, therefore the solution is "flash." Even adjusting your ISO all the way up to 1600 (high noise)... your shadows will now measure f/2.0 at 1/30

Now add in your chosen optic ... it's a basketball game ... you've selected a standard 70-300mm f/4-5.6 (everyone's got one of these, right?) whose maximum aperture is f/4 at you shortest focal length (70mm). It just gets worse as you zoom. What do you have to do to get that f/4 to even register your shadows? A: Two f-stops of speed slower ... or shutter speed 1/8 sec. @ ISO-1600 ... at 70mm.

If the subject is moving ... you should have a noisy BLUR as a resultant image. Obviously, this in no way to shoot. You are not going to be happy. There are better ways to waste time ... in fact, just put the camera away and try to enjoy the game ... you're done shooting.

What if you spent some money and substituted an f/2.8 continuous aperture lens, instead. Perhaps a 70-200mm f/2.8.

That buys us back a full f-stop of light ... or of speed, in this case. We're back at 1/15 sec ... but still noise at ISO-1600. Take the shot ... it is "livable?" If you are shooting the A100, the built-in-the-body-ANTISHAKE will allow this, if you steady up. Do you have a post-processing software package that can take out the extra noise?

I suspect you may still be blurry ... and you could try and pushed for faster speed ... 1/60 or even 1/125 ... but you will never get an f/4 or worse lens to to do this. It'd be like shooting in a tunnel. Good rule of thumb "f/4 = outdoor."

Also, with the constant aperture 70-200mm f/2.8 ... you can zoom back and forth and get the same amount of light into your sensor. That's a pretty significant improvement over the 70-300mm f/4-5.6.

What does this all mean? If you are shooting indoors, you are going to need a higher quality lens (f/2.8 or better) or resort to flash. We know that the flash option is not always possible, so the good glass is your only fall back. Most camera sensors tend to look quite awful at 1600, so most people tend to shy away from using that setting.

Once again, this is just a small sample of the real mathmatical issues you face when shooting indoors. Your eyes may adjust, but the camera has serious mechanical limitations. It only sees what the lens on the front allows it to. You need to test where these limitations lie ... and plan (and spend) accordingly. ;)

Biggest suggestion ... before the event, have a friend walk out and pose at the very spot place you plan to shoot at. Take a few test shots, varying the settings. Use "T" mode. Remember: if IT moves ... your cut-off in shutter speed is around 1/60 sec. Anything slower, you blur badly. Evaluate the shots ... creep the ISO up to 800, to help out (shy away from using 1600).

The following images are indoor shots (taken with a Canon EOS-20D, just for demonstration of technique) ... the first with the pop-up flash, the second with the ambient indirect light through a window @ ISO-400, the third with the ambient indirect light through a window @ ISO-1600, and the forth with the ambient indirect light (measured f/2.8 @ 1/2 sec incident source-daylight) through a window @ ISO-400

All 200mm shots taken at a dist to subject of 5-feet.

The flash shot was taken with "Program" settings and pre-flash.
200mm @ Auto-settings = f/4 - 1/60 sec - ISO-400)

200mm f/2.8 1/25 sec. ISO-400

200mm f/2.8 1/25 sec. ISO-1600

200mm f/2.8 1/25 sec. ISO-3200

At the higher ISO, you can begin to see the color breakup ... the introduction of noise in the shadows. The image breaks down, as we force the sensor into overdrive. I used 1/25 sec to allow the maximum use of the Image Stability of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, to kind of simulate what you might be able to do with the SONY A100 ... with a similar performance lens.

Okay, how about we simulate the 70-300 f/4-5.6 @ 200mm - f/5 - 1/25 sec. - ISO-400 ... and just look at what you can expect to see.

Oh, now isn't that an award-winner? :eek: At least with the f/2.8 you could really tell what the suject was ... now squint and see what you can make out. Another ... "non-keeper" -> Electronic bit-bucket, here you come.

"But, Don ..." you say, "I would push my 70-300mm to ISO-1600 ... what then?

200mm - f/5.0 - 1/25 sec - ISO 1600

Okay ... that's doable? Oh, is it? That's also at 1/25 sec ... ACTION SHOOTING takes place BEGINNING at 1/60 sec ... what then?

I'm afraid, this ...
200mm - f/5.0 - 1/60 sec - ISO 1600

Now, please take into account that these are all relative shots, under ambient light. Your result may vary, but the relative results of these images given the adjustments should be identical, as all cameras pretty much work the same.

Bottom Line: f/4 lens? Don't forget your external flash.

No f/2.8 zoom to swap to? Break out the ol' AF 50mm f/1.7 prime and start running back and forth

Canon EF50mm - f/1.8 - 1/60 sec - ISO-1600 - (dist. to subject: 1-foot) <- you have to get a lot closer with 50mm.

Here's the SONY A100 w/ Minolta AF50mm f/1.7 @ f/1.7 - 1/60 - ISO-1600 - (dist. to subject: 1-foot)

The apparent difference in subjuct size is directly due to SONY having a DCF of 1.5x and the Canon DCF of 1.6x. The dist. to subject was the same.

Of course, when you go with the screaming wide aperture ... your IQ (image quality) takes a major hit because of DOF (depth of field) restrictions ... so as always, it's give & take.

So, I hope this gives you some insight as to what a "no-flash" decision can mean, indoors, without some improved lensing.

Usually, what it means is "no usable pictures" :rolleyes:

04-20-2007, 05:05 PM
Thank you for the very detailed explanation, as well as for all the sample shots. I still have a lot to learn. I really have to get out and get some pictures in all sorts of lighting and get an understanding of what my lenses can and can't do. I may have to splurg on a better lens in the end. But at least that's an option that I have with a dslr. :)

04-20-2007, 09:14 PM
You will find, over time, that you will need to have your ACE zoom. This will be the one lens you go for the most excellent work you can produce. Sure, you can carry the other lower players, but when push comes to shove, this "bad boy" gets the call.

For me and many others, it's the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM. Unfortunately, it only works on the Canon EOS body, so my SONY languishes, in that regard. I could fork out about $1900 and get the SONY G lens, which is novel in its own regard ... but I'm not a "pro" and I can't write these expensive pieces of glass off like others can. I do it for love of the sport.

Come the Fall of 2007, though, TAMRON releases their newly introduced SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro, which will be my choice for the ACE lens on my SONY system and should do nicely as the "go to" lens.


Once you have the "go to" lens in your bag ... the rest gets easier.

Right now, I will struggle a bit with the TAMRON AF 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 to do general capture on the SONY system ... and go to my Canon system when I do the important shoots, until that time. I also use the TAMRON SP AF17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) (Canon-mount) for most indoor work. I will eventually get this in the SONY-mount, also, improving my low light captures. It is a terrific lens, overall.

It's all in the plan (whatever that means), but half the fun is just getting there. :D