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Which lens for indoor sports?

Alysia Horcher , Dec 27, 2012; 05:40 p.m.

Hello,

I am a college student with a love of photography. I currently work for my school's football team, which is fast paced and usually well-lit since most games are in the early afternoon. I have been offered a job from a communications director in the athletic department to shoot all sports. I am interested in buying a lens that will allow me to shoot basketball, volleyball and swimming/diving. A friend suggested a 70- 200mm f/4 or 2.8. I am still very new to photography so I'm not sure what to be looking for. I currently have a Canon EOS Rebel XS, so it's not a super fancy camera. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me, especially about which one of the lenses my friend recommended is better or if I should be looking into a different one.

Thanks, Alysia H.

Responses


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Leszek Vogt , Dec 28, 2012; 02:21 a.m.

Although I currently don't do any sports, I've done my share while in HS. The daytime game will be completely different game (pun intended) than murky lights (often uneven through the court) of the interior.

What you need is a combination of quality optics like "L" type and camera that can deal with low lights = high ISO's. These parameters get proper results, but also at a cost....substancial cost.

The only camera that can handle that + decent FPS speed rate, would be 5DIII. Much depends what level of quality you desire. Also the camera has pretty decent AF. Some of this would depend how far will you be from action. For nearby I'd get 85mm F1.8 or 1.4 (also expensive and F1.2 version even more). For all around lens with some reach the 70-200/2.8 would work. For better reach, funds permitting, 300/2.8....and 24-70/2.8 for everything in between. If the zoom gives you good coverage and it can handle low lights....then you probably could skip the 85mm option. I'm strictly speaking of FF.

Using smaller sensor camera like 7D or 6D can save you some cash, but the glass still applies. There are several primes in the neighborhood of F1.8 or 2.0, but none of them are inexpensive.

You could jump into the Canon EOS part of the forum and they may put a somewhat different tonality on this subject.

There are several pluses on the Nikon side, though you would need to sell your equipment and pretty much start over. Anyhoo, something to mull over. Good luck.

Les

Wouter Willemse , Dec 28, 2012; 04:52 a.m.

Hi Alysia,
There are a few blanks you'd have to fill first before anyone can properly answer your question: what distance of the court do you have? Do you need a lens to give overview on the entire game, or also zoom in to make action-portraits? Or a simpler approach to that: which lenses do you currently have, and could you try them (at a non-critical moment) in the gym to see which focal lengths you need?
Any idea how good the lighting is going to be? Can you measure the lightlevel with your current gear, and then see what aperture and ISO you'd need to get decent shutterspeeds?
And last bu not least, how much can you spend?

William W , Dec 28, 2012; 05:33 p.m.

Answers to Wouter’s questions would be very helpful.

Also, you need to answer:

  • do you have access to ALL of the playing field / court?
  • do you have the ability to roam? (i.e. move about DURING the game)
  • do you have the ability to use FLASH for any of the indoor sports?

However, even without those questions answered -

I am interested in buying a lens that will allow me to shoot basketball, volleyball and swimming/diving. A friend suggested a 70- 200mm f/4 or 2.8. I am still very new to photography so I'm not sure what to be looking for. I currently have a Canon EOS Rebel XS, so it's not a super fancy camera. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me, especially about which one of the lenses my friend recommended is better or if I should be looking into a different one.

IF you are NOT allowed to use flash then depending upon the LIGHTING LEVEL in the Gymnasia or the INDOOR Swimming Pool we can realistically expect that the F/4 lens will be next to useless and the F/2.8 lens will be struggling.

As an example, amongst other sports, I shoot swimming in indoor (Olympic Accredited) pools – with the Lighting Banks at about one third, which is typical for School and some University Meets, I am pulling around: F/3.5~F/4 @ 1/800s @ ISO3200.

Gymnasia, typically, are less well lit: for some University Gymnastics I have been at: F/2 @ 1/800s @ ISO3200.

From memory your camera can attain ISO1600 according to its specs – I use a 400D and that is a similar camera to your 1000D – and I know that underexposing by one stop to get to (an equivalent of) ISO3200 is really dangerous: the best solution there is to underexpose and convert to B&W if that is absolutely the only solution.

But even if you have an F/2.8 Lens and you push your camera to (a theoretical) ISO3200, you will very likely still be short of Tv (Shutter Speed) to arrest the Subject Motion in some (many?) situations.

It is very likely that the solution to your problem does reside in just a lens – but the camera will very likely part of the issues at hand, also.

But as already requested - much more information is required from you, to give you any detailed advice.

WW

Footnote: the EOS 7D is an APS-C sensor (a ‘smaller sensor’) – the EOS 6D is not, the EOS 6D has the same size sensor as the 5DMkIII.

Christopher Sperry , Dec 29, 2012; 09:49 a.m.

"Last year, I made a few purchases. I bought a Canon EOS Rebel XS camera, which came with a 18-55mm IS lens. I also bought a 70-300mm Tamron lens around Christmas. I used the 18-55mm lens all season. It worked great, but I felt like sometimes the action was too far away".

I am interested in buying a lens that will allow me to shoot basketball, volleyball and swimming/diving.

Canon 85mm f/1.8 EF USM.
(link)

Christopher Sperry , Dec 29, 2012; 10:17 a.m.

Perhaps you can rent or borrow the 85mm f/1.8, or a 50mm f/1.8, and decide if there is adequate light for you, given your camera's top ISO of 1600. The Rebel XS is highly rated -- in its class -- for high ISO performance. You will need to be shooting with a large aperture, and a shutter speed that will not necessarily freeze all the action. Therefore, accurate focus and good timing will be important. You may get some great shots of the divers if you learn to track the diver in the air, blurring the background (vertical panning). A lens with image stabilization will not help to add light to your exposure: You need a fast lens.

David Haas , Jan 02, 2013; 02:01 p.m.

For swimming / diving - typical rules in the states are No Flash photography during dives and camera should be further away from the divers (ie not right up against the pool) to minimize noise distractions. For swimming flash is allowed typically except during starts, since most US starters use both a flash and a horn.

I'd suggest the 70-200 f2.8 - if money is an object - get a Sigma for about 50% of the cost of the Canon.

Yes, you'll have to bump up your ISO, but the 85mm won't be nearly long enough for many swimming / diving shots.

Dave

David Haas , Jan 02, 2013; 02:01 p.m.

For swimming / diving - typical rules in the states are No Flash photography during dives and camera should be further away from the divers (ie not right up against the pool) to minimize noise distractions. For swimming flash is allowed typically except during starts, since most US starters use both a flash and a horn.

I'd suggest the 70-200 f2.8 - if money is an object - get a Sigma for about 50% of the cost of the Canon.

Yes, you'll have to bump up your ISO, but the 85mm won't be nearly long enough for many swimming / diving shots.

Dave

William W , Jan 02, 2013; 02:08 p.m.

IF - the aim of using Flash with Swimming is to arrest Subject Motion: then the limitation/difficulty is getting the Flash close enough to the Subject.

My original post was 'considering' using Flash for Volleyball and maybe BBall.

WW

welcome back from a no internet holiday, David - happy new year

David Haas , Jan 03, 2013; 06:53 a.m.

Thanks for clarifying William - and a happy New Year to you also.

For swimming, I've seen other photographers do one of two things (I'm assuming that it would work for other sports as well):

1) Use an on camera flash - assuming you are on the pool deck - or in other sports close to the court. Cut the power down to 1/16 or so.
2) Use a pocket wizard or other remote trigger and use a studio light as an arena or area flash (This is a poor man's way of doing what the press / team photographers do - they are all tied into the stadiums pre existing or their own pre-existing bank of lights)

Both present some challenges - such as when can / can't you shoot, power, and in the case of using a remote studio light - making sure that a) it stays where you put it, b) no one trips and falls over it and c) no one knocks it over and destroys it.

Dave


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