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Thread: a900 as a wedding cam?

  1. #1
    Shelby Lewis
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    a900 as a wedding cam?

    Hey All... first post in this forum.

    I'm a pro in Tennessee who's fussed with Canon for a long time... I also am well aware of the current strengths of the Nikon system but find myself in a peculiar situation. ie, needing resolution and file quality with occasional high ISO. I'm no longer going to be shooting weddings for myself this year... but instead only portraits. The a900 will be quite nice for what I do (I like to have highlight "tolerance").

    However, I will be shooting weddings for another studio as a contract shooter. ISO 1600 won't be the norm at all, but I imagine it will be common. I often "foof" and bounce a gelled flash in tandem with natural light and have concerns about the higher ISO files from the a900. I don't mind noise, AT ALL... I sometimes add it to my photographs to break up the un-natural smoothness of canon files... but since I'll be shooting for a canon studio, it needs to be minimized. Any thoughts?

    I'd love to see some well-exposed wedding files if anyone wants to share.

    Thanks! Great work everyone!
    my website
    (the overly smooth "senior" skin is a current marketing move... check out my wedding, portrait, and baby posts for more of my "normal" work)

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    I would have thought so. Having said that it's purely based on second hand knowledge.
    It isn't going to give you the high iso of a D700 but it compensates to some extent with it's stabilisation. Obviously if you need the shutter speed it isn't any help. There are plenty of examples around of the Sony, many on this site. I saw this iso set and found it interesting http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Sony-Alpha-A900-10214
    Personally I would buy for my needs and if I shoot for someone else then they have to accept what I have. I am currently trying not to buy a a900 with 24-70 and 135 Zeiss lenses. I don't need them I just want them, it depends on how work pans out over the next few months.
    One last thought Why do you need 24mp for portraits? unless you are doing very big prints 12mp could be enough
    David
    Last edited by DavidL; 12th February 2009 at 12:34.

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    Hey All... first post in this forum.

    I'm a pro in Tennessee who's fussed with Canon for a long time... I also am well aware of the current strengths of the Nikon system but find myself in a peculiar situation. ie, needing resolution and file quality with occasional high ISO. I'm no longer going to be shooting weddings for myself this year... but instead only portraits. The a900 will be quite nice for what I do (I like to have highlight "tolerance").

    However, I will be shooting weddings for another studio as a contract shooter. ISO 1600 won't be the norm at all, but I imagine it will be common. I often "foof" and bounce a gelled flash in tandem with natural light and have concerns about the higher ISO files from the a900. I don't mind noise, AT ALL... I sometimes add it to my photographs to break up the un-natural smoothness of canon files... but since I'll be shooting for a canon studio, it needs to be minimized. Any thoughts?

    I'd love to see some well-exposed wedding files if anyone wants to share.

    Thanks! Great work everyone!
    my website
    (the overly smooth "senior" skin is a current marketing move... check out my wedding, portrait, and baby posts for more of my "normal" work)
    Hi Shelby, not sure but I may be the only one on this forum that uses an A900 for weddings.

    My wedding roller consists of an A900 with added battery base, Zeiss 24-70/2.8, Sony 50/1.4G, Zeiss 85/1.4, Sony 70-200/2.8G APO, and a Zeiss 135/1.8. However, that bag also contains a Nikon D700 and a couple of lenses for higher ISO and/or when I need faster focus (not that the Sony is bad as much as the D700 is so double darned good,)

    If you stick to ISO 640 or less with the A900 and expose properly, I think you will get what you're looking for. I use 800 and even 1000 because the noise doesn't bother me like it does others. With an 8X10 wedding album print it's hardly noticable. But between 100 and 400 it's incomparible IMHO.

    I've only done a couple of weddings with it so far, but I'm already loving it a lot. The skin tones are spot on right out of the camera compared to a lot of other cameras I've used previously. But the 3D "POP!" is what really makes some of the images stand out.

    Here's a typical wedding shot, no great shakes, but one of those necessary ones for the family that you have to cover ... hard to see on the web, but this A900 image printed beautifully at 17" X 22" ... A900 @ ISO 640, on-camera diffused flash, Zeiss 24-70/2.8 @ 70/2.8 ... of note is that I hand held 1/30th shutter with the Steady-Shot turned on to capture more of the ambient light in this very dark room. In effect, all the lenses are IS/VR

  4. #4
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidL View Post
    I would have thought so. Having said that it's purely based on second hand knowledge.
    It isn't going to give you the high iso of a D700 but it compensates to some extent with it's stabilisation. Obviously if you need the shutter speed it isn't any help. There are plenty of examples around of the Sony, many on this site. I saw this iso set and found it interesting http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Sony-Alpha-A900-10214
    Personally I would buy for my needs and if I shoot for someone else then they have to accept what I have. I am currently trying not to buy a a900 with 24-70 and 135 Zeiss lenses. I don't need them I just want them, it depends on how work pans out over the next few months.
    One last thought Why do you need 24mp for portraits? unless you are doing very big prints 12mp could be enough
    David
    Thanks David... good thoughts. I had similar ones myself. Shutter speed isn't usually a big prob, but it would be nice to get enough stabilization from the SSS to not have to sit at 1600 all the time. I currently shoot a pair of 5d (mark I) and don't mind, at all, sitting at iso 1600. Even with the resolution gain, I just don't want to be stepping backward.

    As far as the 24mp. I do print big, but i also do some architectural work from time to time, and I'd LOVE the extra resolution. The 16-35/2.8 looks like it'll best anything I could use on the canon side (except for nikon or zeiss with adapters)... so the sony system is looking better and better.

    I have to admit, though... the high ISO stuff on the dpreview review is pretty bad. But they used ACR... not a good choice.

    I guess my major hangup is I've just not seen that much higher ISO stuff online or in print. A system change is a BIG decision and I don't want to get caught at a wedding turning out inferior stuff.... even if it's not my main gig. I might just shoot bi for a while.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Hi Shelby, not sure but I may be the only one on this forum that uses an A900 for weddings.

    My wedding roller consists of an A900 with added battery base, Zeiss 24-70/2.8, Sony 50/1.4G, Zeiss 85/1.4, Sony 70-200/2.8G APO, and a Zeiss 135/1.8. However, that bag also contains a Nikon D700 and a couple of lenses for higher ISO and/or when I need faster focus (not that the Sony is bad as much as the D700 is so double darned good,)

    If you stick to ISO 640 or less with the A900 and expose properly, I think you will get what you're looking for. I use 800 and even 1000 because the noise doesn't bother me like it does others. With an 8X10 wedding album print it's hardly noticable. But between 100 and 400 it's incomparible IMHO.

    I've only done a couple of weddings with it so far, but I'm already loving it a lot. The skin tones are spot on right out of the camera compared to a lot of other cameras I've used previously. But the 3D "POP!" is what really makes some of the images stand out.

    Here's a typical wedding shot, no great shakes, but one of those necessary ones for the family that you have to cover ... hard to see on the web, but this A900 image printed beautifully at 17" X 22" ... A900 @ ISO 640, on-camera diffused flash, Zeiss 24-70/2.8 @ 70/2.8 ... of note is that I hand held 1/30th shutter with the Steady-Shot turned on to capture more of the ambient light in this very dark room. In effect, all the lenses are IS/VR
    Thanks, a lot, for the anecdotes. The skin tone remark really helps as well. 640 or less? Whew, not standard wedding fare, huh... but with judicious use of flash I guess it's entirely possible. I do a LOT of bounce flash... how does the sony system do, metering-wise, with flash.

    Ceremonies seem like they could be a real problem then, as flash is usually not allowed and ISO often gets in the 1600 range pretty quickly.

    Do you find the resolution "trumps" the noise once printed?

    I'm mostly a prime shooter, so I could maybe go with the 35/1.4 and 85/1.4... and 135/1.8 for tele to keep the shutter speeds up... I'd definitely also like the zeiss 2.8 zooms, but money doesn't grow on trees. TOUGH decisions.

    Any more samples? MUCH appreciated. I'd be interested in hearing more.

    Thanks!
    Shelby

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    Thanks, a lot, for the anecdotes. The skin tone remark really helps as well. 640 or less? Whew, not standard wedding fare, huh... but with judicious use of flash I guess it's entirely possible. I do a LOT of bounce flash... how does the sony system do, metering-wise, with flash.

    Ceremonies seem like they could be a real problem then, as flash is usually not allowed and ISO often gets in the 1600 range pretty quickly.

    Do you find the resolution "trumps" the noise once printed?

    I'm mostly a prime shooter, so I could maybe go with the 35/1.4 and 85/1.4... and 135/1.8 for tele to keep the shutter speeds up... I'd definitely also like the zeiss 2.8 zooms, but money doesn't grow on trees. TOUGH decisions.

    Any more samples? MUCH appreciated. I'd be interested in hearing more.

    Thanks!
    Shelby
    Well, it's hard to tell. Sounds to me like a Nikon D3 would serve you better. none of the high meg cameras seem to do that well at high ISOs. Canon does but at the mushy expense of detail.

    I don't mix up the abilities of the 2 cameras. I use the A900 for high meg needs and the D3 for speed and low light work.

    Frankly, I've done ISO 1250 with the A900, and thought it was fine.

    Here are a couple of available light ceremony shots (no flash allowed) ... I tend to use a monopod no matter what SLR camera I'm using in this kind of light.

    Ring shot is ISO 1250 using the 70-200/2.8G APO ... the other is 640. using the 24-70

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    That is some nasty blotchiness on her arm. I'm not as bothered by 'grain' as such but colour noise and blotchiness are my two no go's.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    That is some nasty blotchiness on her arm. I'm not as bothered by 'grain' as such but colour noise and blotchiness are my two no go's.
    Ben, the blotches were there and had nothing to do with the camera. My D3 and even my assistant's "plastic skin" rendering Canon D40 recorded the same thing.

    I usually don't try to alter a client's skin to much and make it artifical looking. This ruddy complextioned, freckle covered Irish gal was perfectly "comfortable in her skin" as they say ... So no need to turn her into a blow-up doll

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    It must be said that most of us are just learning the A900, and I doubt most of us will master it's advantages for awhile. It has been the same drill for every new camera I've ever been involved with. These forums are very helpful in doing that.

    Here's my take on this camera as far as weddings are concerned. It differs from others in a few respects ... it's very high meg with some interesting lenses for those who like that Zeiss look, and any lens you put on it is Image Stabilized including my much used 24-70/2.8, 50/1.4G and 135/1.8 wedding staples. Like ALL the A900 lenses, the Zeiss 16-35 will also be in-camera Image Stabilized. This is something not available from Canon or Nikon on the most used lenses in wedding photography.

    How that impacts me personally may be more important than it is for others. I use fill flash a majority of the time when shooting a DSLR in crap mixed light so prevalent at weddings ... so I do not use super high ISOs as much as others ... usually 640 or 800 tops. I'm more interested in opening up the backgrounds using a bit slower shutter speed (to a limit) while letting the flash freeze the subject. In camera IS does exactly that without having to boost ISO ... which even with cameras that are good at high ISO there are penalties.

    My experience to date with high meg cameras has been this A900, and Canon's 1DsMK-II & MKIII. The Canon's aggressive filter and noise control smeared detail at high ISOs, so IMO was limited to 800 or lower also ... but still suffered from the aggressive filtration even at lower ISOs. From the reports I've read, the Canon 5DMK-II does the same thing to detail in it's own way. I personally do not like that look at all, and ultimately that was the reason I left Canon.

    In looking at the spec's for the new Nikon D3X, it's also working with-in limited ISO parameters. This seems to be the way it is with 35mm frames packed with pixels ... or to get higher ISOs requires aggressive noise abatement that I find unacceptable.

    So, it's horses for courses regarding the A900. It will come into it's own as summer approaches and I do all my outdoor weddings. The D3/D700 stays in the wedding roller as the super low light, available light machines. I am not one to worry much about having the best from a few different systems in one bag. I often carry a M8 also, and occasionally substitute the high meg 35mm camera with a H3D-II/31 which tops out at ISO 800, but blows away everything else in the 35mm DSLR world.

    I experienced a perfect application of the Sony at my last wedding. The client had a wedding party the size of the Chinese army. No way could this Bridal Party shot be done at the church, so we did it at the Hall from a balcony for which I had 10 minutes to do. They wanted a monster print of the shot so they could see all the people clearly. A900 resolution to the rescue.

    I particularly like how A900 files translate into B&W which I do a lot ... and find the A900 B&W conversions more film like than when shooting Canon. Like this quick candid shot:

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    You played with the D3X at all Marc? I just played with some RAW files, the D3X at iso 1600 seems to be on par or slightly better than my 5D's for noise/detail. Was astounded to see that. Admittedly if the exposure isn't perfect then the file falls apart fast when pushing but compared to what I've seen from the A900 it's still incredible.
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    You played with the D3X at all Marc? I just played with some RAW files, the D3X at iso 1600 seems to be on par or slightly better than my 5D's for noise/detail. Was astounded to see that. Admittedly if the exposure isn't perfect then the file falls apart fast when pushing but compared to what I've seen from the A900 it's still incredible.
    No Ben, I haven't even touched the D3X, for $8,000. I'm not in a hurry to either ... more importantly, I haven't seen any prints from it yet.

    I don't judge cameras using computer screens ... prints are the criteria because that's what I sell ... and the Sony prints are really something special to my eye ... much more to my liking compared to my Canon 1DsMKIII ... which looked better on screen than in prints ... where the Sony is the opposite, and looks better in actual prints ... just like with scanned Film. I wonder if it's the noise structure of the Sony that makes it that way?

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    I have to agree that the A900 color rendition is so film-like. It may show more noise than the "competition" at higher ISO, but I also agree with Marc that up to ISO 800 and may add after some cleaning up to 1600 grain is not only not objectionable, I actually like it.

  13. #13
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I don't judge cameras using computer screens ... prints are the criteria because that's what I sell ... and the Sony prints are really something special to my eye ... much more to my liking compared to my Canon 1DsMKIII ... which looked better on screen than in prints ... where the Sony is the opposite, and looks better in actual prints ... just like with scanned Film. I wonder if it's the noise structure of the Sony that makes it that way?
    I sell prints as well... but I have to admit that on-screen, which is the initial place most people see my work before inquiring, the high ISO sony file are not that nice (from the EXTREMELY limited samples I've seen). I think the on-screen rendering is just as important in this age of google, facebook, and websites. That's my main concern.

    That aside... I still think it may be the cam for me... but would LOVE to see more (many more) high ISO files. I wish I were in the position to buy one and print away, but the economy has me at a disadvantage, lol.

    Photographz... I too use a LOT of fill flash, bounced especially, but tend to shoot my 5D's at higher iso to open up the ambient a bit... are you saying that you accomplish similar things pretty well via the slower possible shutter speeds afforded the in-cam stabilization?

    Thanks all!
    Shelby
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    I sell prints as well... but I have to admit that on-screen, which is the initial place most people see my work before inquiring, the high ISO sony file are not that nice (from the EXTREMELY limited samples I've seen). I think the on-screen rendering is just as important in this age of google, facebook, and websites. That's my main concern.

    That aside... I still think it may be the cam for me... but would LOVE to see more (many more) high ISO files. I wish I were in the position to buy one and print away, but the economy has me at a disadvantage, lol.

    Photographz... I too use a LOT of fill flash, bounced especially, but tend to shoot my 5D's at higher iso to open up the ambient a bit... are you saying that you accomplish similar things pretty well via the slower possible shutter speeds afforded the in-cam stabilization?

    Thanks all!
    Shelby
    my site
    Yes, but only a stop or so IMO.

    I do not agree about computer screen presence being any kind of criteria: its the great equalizer ... I have old 30D shots that look as good as 1DsMKIII shots. If that were the case, I would be fine with a 8 meg Rebel and a lot richer.

    I still think this is NOT the camera for you.

    IMHO, those that want smooth noise free high Meg/ISO would be better served by a Canon.

    I personally don't advocate getting something that clearly doesn't meet personal aesthetic requirements. I do not subscribe to the notion that this camera will suddenly be a high ISO machine. It is what it is. We may learn a trick or two to enhance ISO performance, but it'll be minor. I deal with this with my 39 meg MFD camera which is best shot at ISO 200 or less and can do 400 in a pinch. I also accepted it with the Leica DMR that was replaced by this Sony.

    I don't care that the ISO is a bit limited. With the technology where it is now, I don't like any high meg camera at high ISOs ... either it's noisy, or it's aggressively filtered. Which is why I also carry a D3/D700 ... 12 meg, full frame with a larger pixel pitch for higher ISOs.
    At ISO 400 and below the Sony trounces the Nikon ... 640-800 the Sony holds it's own if exposed well ... above that the Nikon walks away quickly.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    ISO 800 is just fine for me personally no matter what type of shooting i do. i am a old film buff thinker the lower the better. I'll pull lights out if I have to squeeze more than 800 but that's me.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    ISO 800 is just fine for me personally no matter what type of shooting i do. i am a old film buff thinker the lower the better. I'll pull lights out if I have to squeeze more than 800 but that's me.
    And me also.

    There are certain applications and uses where I like a higher ISO camera ... like I wish the Leica M8 were a bit more noise free at higher ISO because it's an strictly an available light camera as far as I'm concerned. IMO that camera's sweet spot is ISO 640. The D700's exactes only a small penalty around 1000, maybe 1250.

    Hey, if I could shoot noiseless ISO up to 5000 with a 25 or 30 meg camera I'd love it ... but it doesn't exist.

  17. #17
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I still think this is NOT the camera for you.

    IMHO, those that want smooth noise free high Meg/ISO would be better served by a Canon.

    I personally don't advocate getting something that clearly doesn't meet personal aesthetic requirements. I do not subscribe to the notion that this camera will suddenly be a high ISO machine. It is what it is. We may learn a trick or two to enhance ISO performance, but it'll be minor. I deal with this with my 39 meg MFD camera which is best shot at ISO 200 or less and can do 400 in a pinch. I also accepted it with the Leica DMR that was replaced by this Sony.
    Let me be clear... noise is not a bad thing, in my book. The ultra-smooth aesthetic is also not my preference, hence my interest in the sony system. Color fidelity and resolution... along with highlight tolerance are of much more importance than an overly smooth iso 25,600.

    Check these out (from my blog)... of course, not a900 images:




    I hope it shows that i don't mind, at all, obvious texture in my images and that I'm not baggin' on the a900's high ISO. I'll be shooting a bunch of weddings, for sure... but my bread and butter is portraits and lower ISO commercial stuff. I do definitely know my way around supplementary fill flash... but I'm just at a loss for examples of the high ISO qualities of the cam (and also examples of the flash system working well) . Everyone talks about ISO 800 being just fine, but I just haven't seen enough examples to actually get a feel for this. I've seen a few. Textual anecdotes are fine, but I'm most interested in actual samples. The few I've seen here are illustrative of only a few small situations, and are really nice examples...

    I think the majority of which is due to the fact that so few photographers use the a900 currently in a wedding situation. (not due to a lack of quality in the posted examples)

    I make my money with a camera and just want "proof in the pudding" before I plunk down the money. I'll agree that the web can equalize things, but there are subtleties about the images posted thus far that speak volumes to my eye.

    I DO appreciate all the comments. They are helpful!

    Thanks all...

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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    Let me be clear... noise is not a bad thing, in my book. The ultra-smooth aesthetic is also not my preference, hence my interest in the sony system. Color fidelity and resolution... along with highlight tolerance are of much more importance than an overly smooth iso 25,600.

    Check these out (from my blog)... of course, not a900 images:




    I hope it shows that i don't mind, at all, obvious texture in my images and that I'm not baggin' on the a900's high ISO. I'll be shooting a bunch of weddings, for sure... but my bread and butter is portraits and lower ISO commercial stuff. I do definitely know my way around supplementary fill flash... but I'm just at a loss for examples of the high ISO qualities of the cam (and also examples of the flash system working well) . Everyone talks about ISO 800 being just fine, but I just haven't seen enough examples to actually get a feel for this. I've seen a few. Textual anecdotes are fine, but I'm most interested in actual samples. The few I've seen here are illustrative of only a few small situations, and are really nice examples...

    I think the majority of which is due to the fact that so few photographers use the a900 currently in a wedding situation. (not due to a lack of quality in the posted examples)

    I make my money with a camera and just want "proof in the pudding" before I plunk down the money. I'll agree that the web can equalize things, but there are subtleties about the images posted thus far that speak volumes to my eye.

    I DO appreciate all the comments. They are helpful!

    Thanks all...
    Okay, understood.

    I just wanted to avoid over zealous touting of this camera to the disappointment of someone looking for what it can't deliver ... at least yet. We all have a lot to learn ... at least I do. Like I haven't even tried other RAW developers yet and have only used ACR and CS4/LightRoom.

    After seeing some of your shots, here's a few that may help in your quest.

    Kiss, shot at ISO 800 in very dark reception conditions; Sony 70-200/2.8G APO @ 200/2.8; (of interest is that 200mm was handheld @ 1/50th.)

    Eye Close-up at ISO 640 (this is as it was shot right from the RAW file without any post work); Zeiss 24-70/2.8 @ 70/2.8; 1/200th

    Mirror on wall (also as shot): ISO 1250; Zeiss 24-70 @ 70/3.5; 1/40th

    Guy (also as shot): ISO 1250; Zeiss 24-70/2.8 @ 70/2.8; 1/50th

    Little girl: (lifted a lot in ARC & PS): ISO 640; Zeiss 85/1.4 @ 1.4; 1/80th

  19. #19
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    They look really clean Marc and what noise there is I like the look of it
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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  20. #20
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: a900 as a wedding cam?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I just wanted to avoid over zealous touting of this camera to the disappointment of someone looking for what it can't deliver ...
    ...and I really appreciate that. really. It's refreshing to deal with people excited about a cam who aren't blind to what it can't do.

    Your examples are quite nice... I especially like that, in the presence of noise, there is still so much detail. That speaks volumes if you ask me. I also appreciate the natural rendition of the color in the files. Even though I tend to process my album wedding images with a bit of a vintage flair, I strive for the initial files that have pleasing and (most of all) accurate colors... and then move on to the "arty" stuff. My canon cameras often struggle with red shifts and magenta-heaviness.

    Thanks.... much appreciated!

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