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D40 sports settings

Steven Nydick , Jan 31, 2008; 04:29 p.m.

I have a Nikon D40 and am a novice photographer - I have a 55-200 zoom - I like to take photos of my kids basketball games - the sports setting and all others gives a blurry picture - what settings should I be using. thanks


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Elliot Bernstein , Jan 31, 2008; 04:53 p.m.

Are you shooting during the night or day?

Here is something you can try for daylight pictures:

1. Turn your Auto ISO on. 2. Set your camera to S mode. 3. Set your shutter speed to 1/500 or 1/1000

If you are shooting at night, there are other settings you would need to use.

Arnold Schmidt , Jan 31, 2008; 05:11 p.m.

You didn't mention if the games are indoors or not, if they are the 55-200mm may struggle to give you enough light to make proper exposures without blurring the action. As the previous user said try and use the highest ISO as possible.

Steven Nydick , Jan 31, 2008; 05:45 p.m.

Sorry - these are indoor basketball games - Elliot, how does a novice like me do your steps 1-3?

Michael S. , Jan 31, 2008; 06:26 p.m.

I have a slightly different recommendation. For mine, you'll want to at least have a peek at your instruction manual. :)

1. Set the iso manually to at least 800. Depending upon how well, or how poorly, the gym is lit, you'll probably need to raise that, possibly to the maximum (1600 I believe ?). The high iso setting will introduce some digital noise, but will allow for faster shutter speeds yielding less motion blur. And after all, these aren't fashion photos, they're sports shots.

2. Initially set your mode dial on the camera to S(hutter priority). In this mode, you select the shutter speed, then the camera supplies the aperture setting. Set your camera for continuous autofocus (probably called AF-C ?)

3. I would be surprised if you'll be able to get speeds as high as 1/500 or 1/1000 indoors with a comparatively slow lens. See how 1/250 works. You might have to go slower. Note: the slower the speed [1/250 is slower than 1/500 because these are stated as fractions of a second] the more you'll see motion blur in your photos.

4. Camera meters are easily fooled in gyms, where bright light at some point (but not necessarily at the point of the action you are photographing) can 'trick' your camera into thinking there's more available light. Hence, in the long run, I believe you'll want to select the M(anual) mode, where you'll control both aperture and shutter speed.

5. Note that the max aperture on your lens gets smaller as you zoom out. As you zoom, that lens will need more light to give you the same exposure. Since you cannot "turn up the lights" in the gym, you'll want to get closer to the action and zoom less -- or not at all -- if possible. You'll also find that the farther out you zoom, the more your sharpness will be hurt by camera shake.

6. Consider a 'faster' lens -- meaning one with a larger maximum aperture. But note that on your D40, only AF-S and AF-I lenses, and some Sigma lenses, will offer autofocus.

7. This is digital. There is no per frame cost for experimenting. So experiment. Buy a couple extra cards. Take lots of photos. Hundreds. I'm not kidding. Little by little, you'll see what your camera does as you change settings.

8. I would expect a number of your photos in that gym, maybe all of them, to be underexposed at the fast shutter speeds you'll use to freeze action. Keep in mind that it's generally easier in digital to correct (after the fact, in a photo editing program such as Photoshop Elements) for some underexposure (i.e., too dark) than it is to fix blown highlights or "hot spots."

Never thought this would be so involved, did you Steven ? :-)

Good luck and have fun !

Michael S. , Jan 31, 2008; 06:30 p.m.

Forgot to add: consider a position at or near one end of the court for at least part of the time. Depending upon how fast the guys are moving, it can be awfully tough to keep up with the framing as the action moves across.

Steven Nydick , Jan 31, 2008; 06:41 p.m.

YIKES - ok I get most of it except how to set the iso manually to at least 800. - Thanks for your help.

Arnold Schmidt , Jan 31, 2008; 07:08 p.m.

Setting the ISO won't be difficult, in M mode you will need to disable auto ISO (it may be on by default) and then set your chosen ISO of 800. The booklet will explain how to do this.

The Sigma lenses which focus with your D40 are the HSM models, they are exactly like the Nikon AFS ones.

Elliot Bernstein , Jan 31, 2008; 08:29 p.m.

Steven, while I somewhat agree with Michaels' recommendations, I still suggest you turn the Auto ISO on. Auto ISO is menu option 10. Turn it on and leave it on all the time.

Set your camera on S mode (top dial) and set your shutter speed to 1/320 (press the bottom left button on the back of the camera, rotate the thumb dial at the back of the camera, top right side until the number at the top left of your monitor's display reads 320.

Take some shots and see how they look. If they still come out dark or too noisy, you likely need a faster lens (a lens with an aperture of at least f2.8). There are a number of options - your best one (and most expensive) is Nikon's 70-200 lens. There are other choices if this lens is too expensive for you.

Shooting in a gym without a fast lens (f2.8 aperture minimum) is difficult. As you will likely be shooting at ISO 1600, you will need a good noise reduction program like Noise Ninja or similar.

Hope this helps.

Keith Lubow , Feb 01, 2008; 04:56 a.m.

If this is what you will be doing a lot, I would go ahead and invest in a 50mm 1.8 lens. The lens is cheap, fast, and has more than good enough image quality for journalism and lots of other things. Put your camera on f/2.0, pick a '320 minimum shutter speed. Adjust your ISO as needed to obtain a decent exposure. If you have plenty of leeway at a decent ISO (unlikely at a children's' arena), increase your shutter speed. This is all on M mode, of course, including manual focus. Your autofocus (or even lots of better autofocus systems) won't keep up with basketball. Just prefocus on the net and make slight adjustments as necessary. Believe me: you will get far more sharp shots this way. Don't worry. Basketball is an easy sport to shoot after a couple of tries. It is all pretty much prefocused, as you know where most of the action will take place. It's all about finding a good position and getting the timing...and having the right lens. F/2.0 is a heckuva lot better than f/2.8, although in a well-lit arena, 2.8 is fine.

With your lens, go ahead and use manual, and prefocus. Shoot wide open, don't skimp on shutter speed, and just expect your shots to be dark, and thus grainy and unsharp when prepped.

Good luck.


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