Sony Alpha 230

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Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:03 am

Im in Seattle for the next few days and i stopped by a camera store here since we don't really have any in Alaska worth a damn. I've been really wanting to get a decent camera to take pictures of the Aurora, Stars (we've got some amazingly spots 100's of miles from city lights), and of course awesome mountains and sunsets, ect. I'd really like to capture some of this with a great quality camera, of which there are none in Alaska for less than 650.00 or so. I was in this store and the guy recommended the Sony Alpha 330.... or the 230 if i didn't want to pay the extra 150.00 more. 399.99 for the Alpha 230, and he explained a lot of details about its stabilization tech, and the extra 150.00 for the "Live view" adjustable lcd, thats about it.

Any opinions on this camera or suggestions? Im trying to figure out if its even worth my spending money on.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:36 am

Sony's phase-detect live view is one of the best features of their DLSRs, and damned clever piece of tech. I'm not sure how useful it would be for astronomic photography, but I guess having a backup system couldn't hurt.

Actually, all the big DSLR makes (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax) are very good at the moment, and you can't go wrong with picking a vendor. Make sure you get a fast prime lens and a tripod to shoot the skies with. Don't even bother with the cheap kit zooms they try to push on you.

Here are some great night time pictures, taken with a Panasonic GF1 and a 20mm f/1.7 lens (and most importantly, a tripod). http://craigmod.com/journal/annapurna_moonrise/
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:22 am

The only real problem I have with the new Alpha series is that they feel really cheaply made as compared to previous ones. Other than that they look like a good solid camera to get started with.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:11 am

HOLD ONE FIRST. It can't be overstated how horrible I think the grip on the low end Alpha's are. The Alpha 230, 330 and 380 all have the grip and you MUST hold one before you purchase it and make sure you can even use the damn thing, let alone feel comfortable with it.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:40 pm

I held the 330 and then the 230 (same body) for well over 40 minutes last night and it seemed to be as very solid camera. My main concern when shown the live view feature was that it would easily break off or come loose... He pulled the LCD out as far as it would go, grabbed the camera and held the thing by JUST the LCD and gave it a good shake for about 5-6 seconds, was enough to prove to me that the thing wasnt going to break or come loose, he also pointed out the type of metal they use to secure it on there, very solid and durable. I was quite impressed with how sturdy the construction was in comparison to other Cameras I have felt (Including its rubberized grips and view finder). What I can compare it to from first hand use is the Nikon D70, which now that I held the Sony, would feel a bit flimsy in comparison, not to say that it is cheap and wont last, the sony just feels that much more solid to me.

Along with this purchase (if i make it) a good Tripod is going to be a MUST since of course im talking about long exposure shots. This would merely be a beginners camera for me to try my hand at some good quality wildlife and nature pictures, do you guys think that this would be a good buy or are there better options out there for me. The A230 seems quite solid all around as a starter camera, and im not sure for any additional cost that I would notice a difference in the picture worth the extra money at this stage, thoughts on that?

Nice link to those pictures, i'll have to read the entire article when I get a chance. Im assuming those are just straight JPEGs from a RAW without any post-proccessing done, i wonder if I could expect anything similar with the 230 and its stock Lens. I was also considering a Macro (im used to it being called Micro from Nikon) 1:1 lens later down the road if I end up really making use of the camera. At this point im leaning in the Direction of the 230, as much as I like the Live View, I just don't see the extra 150.00 for something like that, and in a start Camera none-the-less... to me I'd be better off with the 230 and get another camera a few years down the road if I feel I need more, either selling the 230 or passing it down to the GF who also is interested in photography.

Thanks for the input thus far.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:58 pm

This would merely be a beginners camera for me

It'll probably do the job, then. You can take great pictures with just about any camera, the only major difference (in my experience) is how much fun you have doing it. If you've held the thing and you like it, it'll likely be fine.

Now, I don't have direct experience using Sony gear, but I've browsed a lot of lenses and, outside of a handful of examples, Sony gear looks to be a bit more expensive than some Canon or Nikon offerings. Not a big deal at all if you intend to get only a handful of accessories, but if you were planning on building up a wide lens set - even over the next several years - you should be prepared to drop more coin. It's not like lenses go bad, though (unless, like, you break 'em or let mold start growing in 'em).
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:05 pm

Welch wrote: Im assuming those are just straight JPEGs from a RAW without any post-proccessing done, i wonder if I could expect anything similar with the 230 and its stock Lens.


All the shots were in RAW and PP'ed in Lightroom. Craig's view (one that I agree with) is that taking the shot is only half the battle for a great picture. You will definitely find that to be the case with challenging shots like aurorae. Good call on the 230, as it's always better to spend money on lenses than the body. With a sensor that's 60% bigger than the GF1, the Sony should be able to technically outperform it, but it's not the size of your equipment, it's in how you use it :p. My GF1 results are nowhere near as good as Craig's (yet ^_^).

It's hard to understate the importance of PP. RAW gives you much more detail than JPEG ever can (12-16 bits per channel vs 8 ). The Sony should come with some form of RAW processing software, but I'd still seriously consider getting Adobe Lightroom for its workflow and batch processing capabilities. It's good enough that I haven't touched Photoshop since using it. You can test Lightroom 3.0 Beta for free from the Adobe website at the moment.
Last edited by Voldenuit on Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:08 pm

SPOOFE wrote:It's not like lenses go bad, though (unless, like, you break 'em or let mold start growing in 'em).


Hehe. I've been reading that the Pentax Takumars can yellow with age, but leaving them in the sun for a couple of weeks clears the lens. Some people actually like the warm cast the yellow gives.

Can't wait to get mine in the mail...
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:35 am

I've been reading that the Pentax Takumars can yellow with age, but leaving them in the sun for a couple of weeks clears the lens. Some people actually like the warm cast the yellow gives.

See? They don't go bad, they just go "different"... :D
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:12 am

SPOOFE wrote:Now, I don't have direct experience using Sony gear, but I've browsed a lot of lenses and, outside of a handful of examples, Sony gear looks to be a bit more expensive than some Canon or Nikon offerings. Not a big deal at all if you intend to get only a handful of accessories, but if you were planning on building up a wide lens set - even over the next several years - you should be prepared to drop more coin. It's not like lenses go bad, though (unless, like, you break 'em or let mold start growing in 'em).


Don't forget...you can use Minolta lenses on the Sony Cameras. There's still a lot of good Minolta lenses out there to be had for a steal.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:59 pm

Yeah from what I read i can use 26 years worth of lens (or whatever many number of years). Well i went to go buy it last night and I couldnt help but SAVE these 3 old ladies from getting screwed over by a Best Buy Geek Squad idiot attempt to tell them they needed an I7 based laptop, when all they are doing is Excel and Email and the basics. Here they are wanting a laptop with 4+ hours of life and the I7 at best would have maybe got them 2...... uhh... the long of the short I ended up helping them for 2-3 hours and by the time I was done the store had closed across the street and I missed out...... ehhh. but I did see that reviews of the 230/330 are all saying its technically the same thing as the 200 and the 300 older brother, but that the layout is worse... i wonder if this is an issue since im not used to the old ones. So now im having second thoughts, im more worried about its overall experience and its ability to be a good learning tool for getting into the semi-pro picture world.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:49 pm

Go back to the store, pick up the model you're looking at, and pretend you've got that lucky, right-time-right-place, nature shot ahead...if the animal turns a little more to the right and then stops. Finger on the button. Steady...steady...

Now look at your right hand -- what is it doing around the enlarged portion of the camera body? Is it wrapping naturally, or are you splaying your fingers backward from the plane of your palm because your hand is too big? If the former, you'll learn how to use the rest of the camera with practice. If the latter, you will never enjoy holding this thing, no matter how good the pictures are.

I recently ended up purchasing a Canon EOS Rebel XS, and it works fine for me, but one of my friends cannot hold it for any length of time because his hands are fairly large. He also owns a half-frame Canon body, but it's a physically larger model and suits his grip better.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Wed Mar 03, 2010 8:53 pm

Hm... been reading up on the Sony A230 and A330 and... they don't have Auto Exposure Lock buttons??? WTF?

*Very* useful when shooting in snow.

Ditch the 230.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:59 pm

Correct me if im wrong...... but isn't that a Video only feature? I'm not going to be moving the camera while doing a longer exposure, it will be Tripod mounted. That or my understanding of what your talking about is locking in an exposure that your currently looking at when taking a still, I thought this could be achieved by setting an exposure manually... so the same result can be achieved with the 230, just through more setup and knowing what exposure you want???


BTW....... I contemplated the 230 and almost didn't get it but decided to go for it anyway since I'm not willing to spend the extra 150.00 or so for the Nikon equivalent, and from my understand the Sony has a few features (Stead Shot for one) that is supposed to be much better than Nikons or Rebels competition to the a230.

I felt the grip and will agree that compared to the Nikon D70 i'm used to feeling (which is perfect grip wise) is not nearly as comfortable or ergonomic...... however I did find how to hold it where it does not bother me much and i'm likely to get used to it. Not to mention the majority of the pictures I'm wanting to take are going to be Tripod mounted so I wont have to handle the camera nearly as much as normal. For 399.99 it would have been hard to find anything to match it, bang for buck I think it will allow me to learn about cameras and the techniques involved in taking a truly professional looking picture, and once I decided to upgrade to a higher end model I will have a nice starter camera to either sell or pass down to the girlfriend who is also interested in photography.

So my next question..... where is a great starting point to learning about photography... scene setup, picture theory, lighting concepts and all of the other useful techniques that you'll need to take a great picture.... I don't intend to just be a point and shoot kinda person and at this stage I don't plan to spend any more money on Lens or anything until after I've mastered some of the concepts.

I did buy a lens and a LCD protector, as well as an M-Rock camera bag to take care of my new investment.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:22 pm

Welch wrote:Correct me if im wrong...... but isn't that a Video only feature? I'm not going to be moving the camera while doing a longer exposure, it will be Tripod mounted. That or my understanding of what your talking about is locking in an exposure that your currently looking at when taking a still, I thought this could be achieved by setting an exposure manually... so the same result can be achieved with the 230, just through more setup and knowing what exposure you want???


AEL is useful for still photography, especially if you're shooting wildlife in snow (as you said you planned to) and don't have time to do everything manually. Meter off a nearby scene with less glare, press the AEL lock button, recompose, and snap. You can also pre-meter if you're expecting to shoot, say, a bird flying in the sky.

However, it's not a deal breaker, and as you say, you can meter manually. Problem with DSLRs is not having a live histogram, although I think you can get one if you switch to LiveView, then switch back to the mirror after metering. Or you can do what film grognards like myself used to do (back then, we had no histogram or shot review, and we had to trek uphill 5 miles to each shoot - both ways :p ) and just dial a fixed EV compensation (I used to go -1.7 to -2 EV for daylit snow) and see how that works for you :wink: .

You're also correct that AEL is useful for movie modes, but that depends a lot on the behaviour of that particular camera to changing light levels. Some do it very suddenly and jarringly to the point that you're better off avoiding it.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:50 am

Thanks Voldenuit, thats the exact answer I needed, cleared it up for me. Hmmmm, I believe with the 230 though there is a way to do something similar to a hotkey with the Function (FN) button for pretty much anything. I do know that there is a way I can manually setup something similar to a custom shooting mode that would be on the dedicated setting wheel. But again, i've only had a hold onto it for the last few days and not had much time to dive in deep. This weekend however I will get a chance to go over to the Ice Alaska and take some cool shots. Its an Ice Sculpture park that they do national competitions at once a year, they bring people over from even China, so some of the art is out of this world. I'll have two options, one being a day shot where the sculpture detail to be honest with you is hard to pic up on, or at night when they usually have colors lights (green, blue, red, ect) that I've noticed ascents the details quite nicely.

Any recommendations on aperture/exposure settings for something like that taken at night with some lights on it (usually at the base of the ice shinning upwards through the ice)... shoot in Manual mode with AF on or MF... these are the sort of things I'm having a hard time figure are the best way to get the right picture.

www.icealaska.com

I've also got to take a few pictures of number 26, my mom actually did the carvings hehe, really crude in comparison to some of the pros there, but this is her first season doing it by herself.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:59 am

Just take a ton of pictures and experiment.
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:13 pm

from my understand the Sony has a few features (Stead Shot for one) that is supposed to be much better than Nikons or Rebels competition to the a230.

As I get it, in-camera stabilization is not as good as in-lens stabilization; however, some is better than none, of course (and I don't even own any VR lenses, and have yet to feel any need for the feature; just goes to show it's more important to know your own wants and needs than to spend a lot of money on gear without a clear idea of your goal).
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Re: Sony Alpha 230

Postposted on Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:15 pm

SPOOFE wrote:
from my understand the Sony has a few features (Stead Shot for one) that is supposed to be much better than Nikons or Rebels competition to the a230.

As I get it, in-camera stabilization is not as good as in-lens stabilization; however, some is better than none, of course (and I don't even own any VR lenses, and have yet to feel any need for the feature; just goes to show it's more important to know your own wants and needs than to spend a lot of money on gear without a clear idea of your goal).


From my understand the the Sony stabilization was pretty close to the stabilization in your typical lens.... I wonder if the two work together at all, or one takes priority over the other. One of the benefits to the stabilization on the body though is if I do pick up on some lens for cheap (just to experiment with, like a wide angle) that does not have stabilization, I wont have to worry about it, so I guess for a starter camera it allows some flexibility.

I can't help but agree, know what your needs are before dropping a fortune. This setup cost me 399.00 (Admittedly 495.00 after everything... A Lens cover, LCD protector, Camera bag, ect). Where I could have easily doubled that had I bought something much more advanced running nearly 650-700 for the camera alone and another 100.00 on the accessories.

So far out of the few pictures I've snapped around the office (yes im taking pics at work... seesh) I've been pretty impressed with the quality and have not even messed around with any settings, mostly leaving it in point and shoot mode. The pictures appear to have good color, lighting and all which I'm also pretty happy with the built in flash for typical use. Once I get a bit into It I may consider looking into either the cost of buying or renting off camera wireless flash for things like portraits. Already had a co-worker asking if I would be able to do some portrait shots of her and her husband.
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