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Best camera for shooting in Gym with no flash?

John E , Jul 31, 2011; 11:51 a.m.

l'll be shooting in local gyms this year, none of which allow flash photography. They are dead serious about No flash. I'll need to get a new camera and lenses and have been looking into the high ISO canons and Nikons but have no experience with the high iso. I've looked at camera's in the $1000 range up to $7000. I can't afford the $7000 cameras. Many of them advertise ISO to 12,000 and beyond, but I'm very worried about noise and quality. I found a pic I took last year with a borrowed D3000 at 3200 ISO and it's pretty noisy which makes me nervous aoubt the 6400 or 12000 ISO level. what type of cameras do the professional sports photographers use that produce the razor sharp indoor action shots, i wonder? anyway I really appreciate any info on what direction to go from those of you who have experience shooting higher ISO.


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Howard M , Jul 31, 2011; 11:54 a.m.

use a fast lens like the 200/F2.0 (often considered THE indoor sports lens) and high ISO won't be much of a problem.

John E , Jul 31, 2011; 12:25 p.m.

Does nikon or canon outperform the other as far as ISO goes? or are they both about the same?

Howard M , Jul 31, 2011; 12:48 p.m.

I really dont know. I dont participate in the high ISO wars :)

Check a few extensive reviews and see what real world tests are like.

Brent Reid , Jul 31, 2011; 02:04 p.m.

John, to freeze the action in indoor sports like basketball, you need a shutter speed of at least 1/500 for players moving toward you, and 1/1000 of a second for players crossing your field of view. The way most high school and many college gyms are lit, that requires a lens with a maximum aperture of f2 or better, which means a prime lens, not a zoom.

If you can position yourself behind the baseline to one side of the basket, you can get great shots of the action in the paint with an inexpensive 50mm/f1.8 or a mid-priced 50mm/1.4 lens. When there's a stoppage of play, shift to the side of the key away from the low referee, or his butt will be in every shot. If you shoot at the top of the players' jumps for shots and rebounds, the players are nearly still, which improves your chances of a sharp image.

An 85/1.8, 100/2 or 135/2 is also great for action in your end of the court, shot from the baseline or sometimes the corner. My 200/2 is outstandingly sharp and fast, but it's too long for shooting from courtside. Shooting from the stands is not a good vantage point in most gyms for several reasons.

A frame rate of 8fps is also handy for short bursts of 3 shots or so to improve your chances of getting publishable shots, although 5fps will do.

The same lenses are also good for volleyball, if you can shoot from near the net on the referee's side, not the linesman's. The 50mm lens can get good shots of net action on your side of the court, and the 85, 100 or 135 can cover the other side. If you have to shoot from farther back, the 200/2 is superb, but they cost close to $5000.

Some gyms have two lighting intensities. If you can persuade the home coach to crank it up the higher level (in exchange for lots of free publicity shots), you usually gain 1 f-stop, the difference between 1/250 and 1/500, or 1/500 and 1/1000.

I shoot Canon, but acknowledge that the top Nikon bodies have had about a one-stop edge in usable ISO for a few years, especially with the D3. You can now get a used D3 in excellent condition on www.fredmiranda.com for a reasonable price. Canon's 1 Series bodies are certainly adequate. (Note that advertised ISO claims do not mean much). I've used a 1DMkII for years, and the noise level becomes excessive above 1600ISO. Noise from my 5DMkII is acceptable up to 2400ISO, about the same as the 1DMkIII and MkIV, but the 5D frame rate is slower. My friend's D3 is usable to 3200ISO.

Hope this helps.

John E , Jul 31, 2011; 02:41 p.m.

Thanks Brent that's exactly what I needed to know.

Walt Flanagan , Jul 31, 2011; 03:12 p.m.

Before answering your question, what camera are you using now? What lenses do you have? Are you looking to dump all of that and buy new gear?

The Nikon D3s is generally regarded as the best high ISO camera out there. The original D3 is about 1 stop worse and can be found used for under $4000. The Canon 1D series are also excellent cameras but have a 1.3X crop factor. If you go to a more consumer level body with a 1.5/1.6X crop then you generally lose another stop of high ISO performance. More importantly the different crops drive what lenses you are going to use. The lens choice is far more important than the body choice.

The D3000 was the last camera to use Nikon's 10MP sensor that was first used over 5 years ago. I think the D3000 was already behind the high ISO times when it was brand new.

Brent Reid , Jul 31, 2011; 03:22 p.m.

I just did a quick check in the Buy and Sell forum on www.fredmiranda.com, and lightly-used Nikon D3 bodies are going for $3000 to $3300.

John E , Jul 31, 2011; 05:56 p.m.

Since I can't afford Both a high end camera and High end 1.4 lenses would it best to go with a lower end camera and High end lenses? I just tried out the 7D and the D7000 at Best Buy(those were the highes end cameras they had) and they did a good job in the store with ambient. Based on the LCD it seemed the 7D did a better job than the nikon. they both had 18 - 105 zoom 3.5 lenses. I was able to get up to about speed 300 at 6400 iso anything beyond that was too dark. I can definately see how a 1.4 lens would help out. I

Jerry Litynski , Jul 31, 2011; 06:54 p.m.

If you can locate a used Nikon D700 body, and a AF 85mm f1.8D Nikkor lens to start with, you can shoot in the ISO 6400 range without the need for *flash* in a gym. It make take a bit of tweaking to get the light-balance just right -- some gyms have odd lights in the ceiling.

Camera body and lens: maybe $2,400 (or less.)

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