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Old May 11, 2006, 4:54 PM   #1
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I have a Canon Dig. Rebel XT. I use a 75-300 lense. Is there any way for me to get better photos from the stands at a high school soccer game with this lens, or does anyone have suggestions for a "big" lens I can get?When I use the action mode, the camera doesn't get enough light, so it takes slow and blurs greatly. If I use a manual mode and set the ISO to 1600 andopenthe aperture all the way, the pictures don't look right. Any help is greatly appreciated!
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Old May 11, 2006, 5:57 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forums.

What do you mean by "don't look right".

Are they too dark (underexposed)?

If so, you've got the shutter speed set too fast for the lighting, aperture and ISO speed. Use the meter in your viewfinder as a guide if shooting using manual exposure (when it's centered, your settings are correct for the lighting, as far as the way the camera is metering it).

If you shoot in Av Mode with the largest available aperture (smallest f/stop number), the camera will pick the correct shutter speed for proper exposure. That may be easier than shooting in full manual setting both aperture and shutter speed.

If it's underexposing with the metering you have selected, simply use a +EV setting with Exposure compensation until the exposure is correct.

If it's overexposing, then darken the exposure by using a -EV setting until the exposure is correct.

All that will do is vary the shutter speed from what the metering thinks it should use if you're shooting in Av Mode.

You will probably need to use ISO 1600 to have any chance of stopping the action with a 75-300mm f/4-5.6 on the long end of the lens. Actually, that probably won't do it unless you catch the players when they're relatively still. f/5.6 is not very bright, even at ISO 1600.

With a lens as long as yours, you may need to use a monopod to help out with blur from camera shake if shutter speeds aren't fast enough, too.

Or, are you referring to the grain (noise)?

You will have more noise at higher ISO speeds. Don't underexpose, or noise will be even worse, just as if you used an even higher ISO speed after you try and brighten the photos using software. Although that could be better than blur if shutter speeds aren't fast enough.

There are some pretty good tools like like Neat Image, Noiseware or Noise Ninja that can be used to help reduce the appearance of noise when higher ISO speeds are needed.

For night sports, a brighter lens is usually preferred. You're probably using an f/4-5.6 lens, right? Most low light sports shooters prefer an f/2.8 lens.

If you can get by with a 70-200mm lens, on the budget end, I'd probably look at a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG ($839 at B&H). You could add a 1.4x TC to it if you needed something longer (but, you'd lose a stop to f/4 if you did that).

If you must have 300mm and want a similar zoom range compared to what you've got in a much brighter lens, Sigma makes a 120-300mm f/2.8 that is a very high quality lens by most accounts. It's $2,399 at B&H.

You could also look at primes (fixed focal length lenses) versus zooms.

BTW, you can often find some pretty good deals on the used market, too; once you narrow down a short list of possible choices that you'd be happy with.

I'll move this thread to our Canon Lenses Forum where some of our Canon owners can offer suggestions, depending on your requirements and budget.

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Old May 12, 2006, 8:06 AM   #3
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mr8677 wrote:
If I use a manual mode and set the ISO to 1600 andopenthe aperture all the way, the pictures don't look right. Any help is greatly appreciated!
Please post some examples so we can see what 'not right' is. But, as a sports shooter, I can tell you, Jim is right on the money - 5.6 isn't fast enough, 4.0 isn't fast enough. You need at least a 2.8 len for night sports. And, unless the field is well lit, a 2.8 lens at ISO 1600 may STILL not be fast enough.

As Jim pointed out, a 70-200 2.8 is usually the first lens to go with. But you won't have enough reach from the stands - you need to get down by the field. When you're shooting low light sports, it means high ISO - which means noise. Even with my 20D which has the best noise performance out there at ISO 1600 and 3200 there's still noise. This noise can be cleaned up with the software Jim mentioned, but what you can't successfully do is crop a photo heavily. THe noise and noise in the original photo will remove enough detail that a heavilly cropped photo will look pretty bad. So that means you have to get as close to the action as you can and have enough reach so you don't have to crop heavily. Now, 200mm on your camera body will still be short even if you're on the sidelines of the game - so you'll have limited shooting range.

Again, Jim's got it right - the next step up from a 70-200 2.8 is the Sigma 120-300 2.8 - which is what I'm currently using for my sports shooting. It's a good quality lens but it's heavy. You really don't want to shoot sports with it without a monopod - you can, but I would not recommend it.

After that, the next step up is Canon prime lenses - 300mm 2.8 ($4000) - 400mm 2.8 ($6700).

But, I still caution - even 2.8 might not be good enough. When I shot HS football last fall under stadium lights I shot at ISO 3200, f2.8 and I was getting shutter speeds of 1/320 inside the 30 yard line (better speeds around mid field where more lighting existed). So with only ISO 1600 available that would have been 1/160 not nearly good enough for sports shooting.

So, post some shots and provide the ISO, aperture and shutter speeds for the shots. If at iso 1600, f5.6 you're getting shutter speeds of 1/60 - you'll only improve that to around 1/250 with a 2.8 lens. That will produce very marginal results.
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Old May 12, 2006, 2:47 PM   #4
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Thank you for all the suggestions, I will definitely take them into consideration. I am sorry to say, but I don't have any of the pictures because they were forthe school yearbook, so they are on computers at my school. Also, the sports that I can take photos for are finished until next year, but thank you again for the advice. I can try these out and if I have any more questions I will post again. Thank you.
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Old May 13, 2006, 6:46 AM   #5
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Practiceand figure out how to deal with "available darkness" photography now instead of waiting until you have something important to shoot. Learn what the limits of your gear and your technique are. Learn how to stretch those limits.

To start, take a look at the EXIF data in the photos you shot that didn't turn out. What was the cut off in the combination of f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO between those that worked and those that did not? Figure out why they failed: shake, underexposure, and high noise are the likely culprits.
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