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Old Dec 12, 2003, 11:34 PM   #1
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Default Good Zoom camera for sports and every day shots

I am helping my friend at work pick out a digicam. They are new to digital cameras and need one to take pictures of her son playing football and baseball. Plus the camera will be used for everyday shots. I am trying to help her keep the price down ($400???? maybe $500???)
She needs enough MP's to make everyday snapshots (4x6) with the occasional enlargement. I was thinking 3MP would be good.

Is there such a thing as a digital camera that will take good sports shots at night??????

Thanks for your help!!!!!!!
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Old Dec 13, 2003, 10:11 AM   #2
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As a general rule, you'll want to use a Digital SLR with a Fast (able to gather more light) Lens for best results. Chances are, the lens alone would exceed the desired budget.

The problem is that you need to use higher ISO speeds so that the camera can use a fast enough shutter speed to prevent motion blur. This increases the sensitivity of the signal coming from the camera's sensor, but the downside is increased noise (similiar to film grain using higher speed (ASA 400 or ASA 800 Film), only it can be much worse.

A Digital SLR has a much larger sensor, and can shoot at higher ISO Speeds with lower noise in low light conditions. You'll also want a lens with better than average Optical Zoom, to get closer to the action. The faster the lens, the more expensive - especially in longer focal lengths (more zoom).

A zoom lens is rated by the light gathering ability of the lens at both full wide angle, and at full zoom. You'll see a rating that looks something like F2.8/F4.0. The first number is the light gathering capability of the lens at full wide angle, and the second number is the light gathering capability of the lens at full zoom. Less light can reach the sensor through the lens when using zoom with most cameras.

Aperture (indicated by F-Stop) is exponential. The lower the number the better.

F2.0 is twice as bright as F2.8; 4 times as bright as F4.0; 8 times as bright as F5.6.

Lower F-Stop number = Larger Aperture = Faster Shutter Speeds Required for Proper Exposure

Higher F-Stop number = Smaller Aperture = Slower Shutter Speeds Required for Proper Exposure

As a general rule, for a stationary subject, you want to use a shutter speed of 1/focal length. For example: at a focal range (zoom amount) equivalent to 200mm, you want a shutter speed of 1/200 second. For 300mm focal length, you want a shutter speed of 1/300 second. Using a tripod can help, as can the use of a Stabilized Zoom lens.

Here is a table that may help you to see how the Lens Rating, and lighting conditions impact shutter speeds you'll need to use for proper exposure:


Outdoor Sports in a well lit stadium usually have an EV Value of around 9. This table is based on ISO 100.

ISO speed is linear. ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100; so you can double the shutter speeds used. ISO 400 is 4 times as sensitive as ISO 100, so you can use shutter speeds 4 times as fast.

The best Consumer Camera for attempting Sports Photos at night would probably be the Sony DSC-F717. It's lens only "stops down" to F2.4 at full 190mm Zoom. The photos will have more noise at ISO 400, so print sizes may be limited.

Shutter lag (time is takes for the camera to focus after pressing the shutter button will be much longer than in a film camera; so some practice will be needed. You can use manual focus to reduce this lag time.

You can general find a Sony DSC-F717 discounted at online vendors for around $700.00.

It's 190mm Zoom Equivalent is more than most of the less expensive models in it's class, but still may not be enough to get as close to the action as desired.


This model uses a 5MP 2/3" Sensor, and has less noise than competing models at higher ISO speeds. Some of the newer, more compact 5MP models use smaller 1/1.8" (.556") sensors, that have higher noise levels in these conditions.

About the best you're going to be able to do within the desired budget is your Fuji 602z, using a 3MP 1/1.7" CCD, with a good noise profile compared to most (and a MUCH better noise profile than the newer "super zoom" models from Fuji, which have been criticized for excessive noise). It's lens is faster than most for it's 210mm equivalent focal length, only stopping down to F3.1 at full zoom.

You can find your 602z refurbished for a bit over $400.00. Here is an example at $419.00


This should allow shutter speeds of around 1/200 second at full zoom, using ISO 400 in a well lit stadium. Faster shutter speeds would be preferred to stop action, but with a limited budget, your choices are going to be limited.

Again, they may find the focal range of 210mm to be limited for getting "close to the action", but perhaps they can try yours to see what to expect.

The newer "super zoom" models will have most likely have very unacceptable noise levels at higher ISO speeds. Their smaller, densor sensors don't handle noise at higher ISO speeds anywhere near as well as your Fuji 602z with it's 3MP sensor.

As a general rule, the smaller and denser the sensor, the higher the noise levels, and most of the new "super zoom" models have smaller sensors, with smaller photodiodes (which don't handle noise well at higher ISO speeds).

A MUCH better solution would be a camera like the Nikon D100 or Canon EOS-10D, using a fast lens. However, these cameras runs around $1,500.00 (not counting the cost of the lens). These cameras perform much better at higher ISO speeds, because their sensors are much larger than the other models I mentioned -- and can shoot at higher ISO speeds with lower noise. The also focus very fast, helping to reduce shutter lag.

There is a newer, low cost model -- the Canon EOS-300D (a.k.a. Digital Rebel). It's available for $899.99 for the body only, but you'd still need a fast lens to go with it (which would probably be more than their budget allows, just for a decent lens).

For indoor sports, a camera like this is almost mandatory, since Gyms don't have as much light as well lit stadiums.

I'd suggest letting them try your 602z at ISO 400, to see what to expect from a noise, shutter speed, and focal range perspective for night sports.
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Old Dec 14, 2003, 2:52 PM   #3
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JimC has given you some very good advice! Here's another option, if price is very important to you. The Olympus C-2100 is still available as a refurbished unit, and the last one I purchased cost me $360. It has 380mm stabilized optical zoom, F2.8-3-5, and an autofocus assist lamp that will allow you to take pictures in very dim light. I am not aware of any camera of this quality with less shutter lag at or below the price range you specified. Add the FL-40 flash, BK-1 bracket and CB-1 cable, and you're set to take flash pictures with excellent results up to about 70 ft.

Yes, low light sports photography is quite a challenge, but it can be done! Good luck on finding a digicam that will meet your needs.
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Old Dec 15, 2003, 5:49 AM   #4
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Thanks for the information! I intend to pass it on to my friend today at work!
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