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Good Entry Level Camera for sports Photography

Greg Mittelsteadt , Mar 03, 2009; 11:20 p.m.

Having worked as a college sports information director, I consider myself a very novice photographer. But, I am interested delving more deeply into sports photography. What recommendations would you make for me as I look to purchase my first camera and lens?
I understand that professional camera equipment is expensive but I am not looking for a Cadillac. I am more interested in finding a solid affordable camera and lens that will meet my needs as an entry level photographer. Thanks


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William W , Mar 04, 2009; 12:55 a.m.

Considering the budget theme to your question, the lens(es) will likely be more a critical selection, than the camera.

. what sport(s)?

. what illumination(s)? (day / night / indoor / outdoor)

. will you have the facility to roam? (i.e. to define / control your subject distance)


David Dennis , Mar 04, 2009; 01:57 a.m.

I agree with William.

But with out knowing anything more look at the D200 or newer for Nikon and the 40D or newer for Canon. With the 80-200 f2.8 for Nikon and the 70-200 f2.8 for Canon. And then maybe get a 50mm prime at f1.8 or faster for either system.

I wouldn't look at anything less. One of the most common posts here are from people wanting to know how to improve images that were shot indoors or at night games because they are simply not happy with the results. Many times they are useing a 70-300 f4-5.6 and a consumer level body. And the answer is simply really nothing. Their equipment isn't ment to handle that type of shooting environment.

So if you want to get a good system that will last you a long time, look at the equipment I mentioned above. But if you never plan to shoot indoors or at night games then you could go for a less expensive model.

Also check out B&H Photo and KEH.com. B&H has great prices on new equpment and also deal in used equpment. KEH is mainly used but you can get new. For new equipment got to B&H. There are other great places but I have had absolutly outstanding service from B&H everytime. And many times no one has been able to match their price.

Greg Mittelsteadt , Mar 04, 2009; 02:16 a.m.

To answer the questions posed, I am looking for something pretty versatile that would be able to shoot a variety of sports indoors and out. At games I have shot in the past, I have always been bale to move fairly freely. Probably interested in marketing to parents and possibly the local newspaper more so than to Sports Illustrated...

B.J. Scharp , Mar 04, 2009; 04:54 a.m.

I take all my sports pictures with a Canon 400D (XTi). Any modern camera will do (not to say that I wouldn't like a 40D or a 1D3), so invest in fast lenses instead is my suggestion.

Elliot Bernstein , Mar 04, 2009; 05:33 a.m.

The camera body doesn't matter as much as the lenses you use. All recently released DSLR cameras are capable of great results with the right lens and good hand/eye coordination. An indoor basketball game may require a different lens than an outdoor football or soccer game shot in bright sunlight (for optimum results).

My suggestion is figure out which lens or lenses you need to get the job done and then get the most camera you can with the money you have left.

Nathan Meador , Mar 04, 2009; 09:13 a.m.

I understand that professional camera equipment is expensive but I am not looking for a Cadillac.

Based on that, I assume you have a pretty tight budget. To get the versatility you are looking for, I'd suggest one of the third party 70-200 f2.8 (or one in that range) plus the 50 f1.8...either of which can be found for Nikon or Canon. The 70-200 f2.8 will be around $700-$800 and the Canon or Nikon 50 f1.8 should be under $100. The 70-200 will cover football, baseball, soccer, etc., plus close-ups for basketball. The 50 is mainly for basketball shots from the baseline.

If you can afford a little more, you can get the sigma 30mm f1.4 (around $400) which does very well indoors in low-light. If you can afford a lot more, go with the name brand 70-200 which has better image quality.

As others have said, it is more about the lens than the body.

Greg Mittelsteadt , Mar 04, 2009; 09:50 a.m.

Thank you everyonr for your help.

William W , Mar 04, 2009; 02:18 p.m.

Thank you for answering the questions I posed.

Regarding the camera, I agree with B.J. Sharp a Canon xxxD model, or any modern camera will suffice.
Looking at the Canon range only: I have also access to a 400D, which I use on occasion. But, I think there are advantages with the Canon xxD series over the Canon xxxD series, for sport.

When you look for a camera, I think these five features you need should consider closely:
. Range of lenses available;
. Fast & accurate Auto Focus ability;
. Viewfinder Brightness;
. High ISO capacity (ISO3200 is very useful - 6400 is pretty much gives you a good advantage to get what is largely impossible for many) and;
. the functionality of the controls.
(I did not list burst rate – that is because I consider timing the Shutter execusion, more important.)

It is important to hold and USE one from each series of camera, and different brands, they are quite different. I cannot comment in detail about other brands.



Do not buy a zoom lens slower than a constant maximum aperture F2.8.

As you will be working inside an outside (and assuming day and night), you will need (initially), a couple of fast prime lenses.
It is most likely you will buy an APS-C format body, therefore a 30mm or 35mm and an 85mm, would be a sensible pair of lenses to purchase.
A "fast prime" is faster than F2, for these FL ranges.
Although Nikon and Canon both make a inexpensive 50mmF1.8, I have not specifically mentioned that lens: it is not a bad purchase, but I find inside, (B.Ball, V.Ball Gymnastics) etc if you can move around, a 30 or 35 is suitable for close work and an 85 give the reach when needed, I use a 50 very little.
But on the other hand, considering your tight budget, and the fact you can move around, a 50mm only, might be the best choice for you, but you WILL have you move smartly.
I work with two cameras, and when inside especially, having two cameras has great advantages: so you should consider that as an option, too.
IMO it is foolish to believe that an F2.8 zoom (e.g. 17 to 50ish) will suffice for indoor sport, especially in gymnasia and the like, which do not have lighting banks approaching BCast quality / intensity. Therefore I would not be seduced into thinking that a 17 to 50/F2.8 and a 70 to 200/F2.8 will cover everything - you will need fast prime lenses.

A 70 to 200F2.8 is a very useful lens outside, and a x1.4 teleconverter would be sensible also. If there is enough light, this lens will be used indoors, too

A monopod will be your friend.


The reasons:
. to have a camera of High quality ISO capacity;
. to buy only fast lenses and;
. the need for prime lenses . . .
are explained in this link:
http://photo.net/sports-photography-forum/00SZdd (My post, Mar 03, 2009; 12:51 a.m.)
There is an example outlining the above points and also a tip that you should learn what shutter speeds are, that you will need to use for each different sport:


David Dennis , Mar 04, 2009; 10:56 p.m.

One thing that I have seen said here is that any new DSL will do. Bottom line that is correct. But there not all going to have the same image quality at high ISO settings. For instance I have a D100 that works great takes awsome sports pictures. But I open the ISO up to 1600 at a night football game with a Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 and I end up with a bunch of images that have so much noise in them that they are unsellable (even after noise ninja). Then I have my D300. Same ISO settings, same lens, and the noise levels are so much different that I can actually increase the ISO if I need to and still get a good clean shots.
The point I wanted to make is look at the level of noise the camera will give you at the higher ISO setting and ask yourself if that level of noise is ok with you. And depending on were you are see if there is a place near you that rents camera gear and rent a few times to test out different bodies and lens combos. I know here in CA in LA at Samy's Camera you can rent pretty much anything you like.

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