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Old Sep 4, 2007, 8:29 PM   #1
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First off.....my hat is off to some of the people who have posted great shots of this sport. This afternoon, as I let off my tennis team, I noticed the volleyball team was playing and thought I'd try a few shots.

All I can say is "Wow!" The speed and difficulty of anticipating the action just about overwhelmed me. Too often, I would get a decent shot of a player going up....but "no ball."
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Old Sep 4, 2007, 8:32 PM   #2
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I was shooting with a Takumar 135mm f2.8 manual focus lens. The one somewhat decent shot in which I got the ball was a hair off on focus, with crispest focus being on the back of the player on the near side of the net.
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Old Sep 4, 2007, 8:34 PM   #3
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I got a number of decent anticipation shots, but could never time ball contact.

As always, comments, criticisms, and suggestions welcomed.
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Old Sep 4, 2007, 8:38 PM   #4
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Like everything it comes down to practise and I've only shot a couple and have a lot to learn.... guess who is the best at this LOL!!!???

You only get one chance at this unless you have 8fps+ so timing is really everything. You need to learn when to shoot either by using both eyes (one in camera and the other for peripheral vision) or just by learning how players act when the ball gets close. I use the 2nd option personally for this as I find it too distracting and need to be fast with framing so need to concentrate on that. Digs are easier than spikes so for those I will wait until just before the ball contacts the wrists and then you should have contact.

You will find that f2.8 is not really bright enough inside so f2 or faster is needed I also think you are going to struggle with MF lenses, fast AF really helps out with Volleyball.

I like the last one as the eyes tell the story, no possibly with this one you were early enough that if you were shooting multiples that the next shot would have had the ball.
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Old Sep 5, 2007, 10:56 AM   #5
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Yep, vball aint easy

ISO 1600 and 2.8 just isn't going to be good enough. For that matter I would think you'd have to be incredibly skilled to do manual focus for this as well. Seeing as you need extremely wide apertures (1.8 or 2.0) the dof is very thin - so focusing manual is going to be tough - unless you do shots only from the side (so when a player moves forward or back a bit they stay within the same focal plane). I tried to look but I couldn't tell what was available in the Pentax line that would equate to the standard vball lens in Canon / Nikon - an 85mm 1.8/1.4

And again, af speed is crucial in lighting this low - so if you want to shoot vball I'd find someone actually using a given pentax lens for vball before buying it. You can't go by max aperture alone - focus speed is important. For example, Canon has two 85mm lenses - an 85mm 1.8 and an 85mm 1.2. The 1.2 version focuses too slow to be a good sports lens but you'll never know that by reading it's specs - the only way I know that is by feedback from people who have used it for sports and have used other lenses - because speed is a relative thing.

I don't mean to get down on you, really I don't. But you cant pound a square peg into a round hole. Low light sports shooting requires certain equipment. In this case fast focusing wide aperture lenses (wide meaning 2.0 or better). As you've already found - the sport is diffiicult enough even if you had the proper equipment.

Eventually you'll need to decide which is more important to you: shooting specific sports or just plain sports shooting. If you just want to shoot sports, with the gear you have you need to be shooting the sports that occur in good light. But trying to shoot low light sports with that gear is just asking too much of the gear.

It's like trying to tow a 24 foot boat with a toyota prius. A prius is a great car. It just isn't made for this type of job - you need something with a bigger engine, more torque and a frame designed to tow things. So, in that example, the driver needs to decide what's more important - driving the Prius or towing the boat - the two goals aren't compatible. Same with your shooting. If you want to shoot sports you need to decide if you want to do so with the limitations of your current gear meaning well-lit sports (i.e. your last tennis post was much better than any of the football or vball posts because the task was within the capabilities of the gear) or if low light sports is important enough you're going to have to invest in gear better designed for the task.

You're discovering a painful lesson about sports shooting - each sport is different and many sports require specific tools to have any degree of success. And unfortunately those tools are often expensive.

So which is it going to be - the Prius or the Boat? Only you can decide.


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Old Sep 5, 2007, 5:20 PM   #6
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John,

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"After reading your post, I did some research to find out what lenses might be available for the Pentax that would meet your criteria, and found there is no true comparabe AF lens currently available for the Pentax. (Or, if there is, I haven't found it yet.)

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"There are a couple of AF options available in the 75mm to 135mm range at f2.8, but I can't find anything any faster. To get a faster AF lens, you just about have to drop to a 50mm and I would assume that would be too shortfor most instances. Pentax makes an f1.4 50mm AF. The problem there would be too great of distance, resulting in too high of a crop percentage, I would assume.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"The bottom line is that, if I want to shoot low-light sports, there is going to have to be a trade-off--reachfor speed.Were volleyball the only thing that goes on in a gym, I would probably not worry too much about it, because I really don't anticipate shooting much volleyball, but I would assume that the issues would be the same for basketball or any other gym-based event.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Do you think the 50mm would give me anything?

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Second question, unrelated. On the shots above, I used Automatic White Balancing. What is generally the best setting for gym sports? You can tell from the shots above that the gym has typical "yellow" cast lighting.
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Old Sep 5, 2007, 5:38 PM   #7
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Hey Trojan,

Custom WB is usually the way to go. I currently use a grey card - I really need to get a 'true' white card for setting this. I've heard of using a coffee filter or a white piece of paper, etc. but haven't tried. I still get a slight yellow tinge but not as bad.

On using a 50mm lens - the problem with short primes is they weren't designed with sports in mind. So they have a very short distance they were designed to focus until - usually about 10 feet. While shooting beyond that distance is fine for architecture and such, the problem with sports is you want to end up filling the frame with the subject - so if you shoot with a 50mm lens at a subject 20 feet away and crop the results down - they aren't that great - not unlike cropping down on a 300mm shot from 50-60 yards away. The lens just isn't designed to focus accurately that far away and you don't get enough fine detail. The problem is the lens, not the camera. For instance if you take a 300mm shot of something 50 feet away and crop down you can still get a sharp result. So it isn't about the camera capturing detail - the problem is a 50mm lens isn't designed to produced fine detail from 20 feet away.

I've not used a 50mm for volleyball but I have for basketball. Its a great length on 1.5 or 1.6 crop body IF you're right behind the basket shooting action right at the basket. Once you get out toward the arc it's beyond the range the lens was designed to operate at and results start going down hill in a hurry. So, carrying that over to basketball, you've got about 10 feet maybe 15 to work with if the action isn't moving toward you - so if you limit your shots to action within that range you'll get decent results ASSUMING the autofocus speed is good enough. Remember my mention of the Canon 85mm 1.2. My guess is the 50mm 1.4 was designed for some portrait work so you'll need some first-hand recommendations from someone that's used it on whether or not the focus speed is good enough for low light sports. That's the tough part - reviews don't usually cover that. And 1.4 lenses are usually a bit pricey - so I wouldn't recommend spending $300 on a lens unless you know it's going to do the job you want it to (and you're willing to live with the limited shot selection that you'll get with 50mm). That last part is what makes indoor sports shooting so frustrating at the non NCAA Div 1 & pro level - being relegated to primes which means either multiple prime lenses (for volleyball, 85mm and 135mm being common lengtsh - 85 for action at the net and 135 for action from behind the court thru / over the net). It's also why it's exciting we're seeing more development in high ISO performance. If the Nikon D300 can deliver ISO 6400 near what the canon mk III can do (and consequently equivelent ISO 3200 performance) then the serious enthusiast has some real options to start using zoom lenses in these gyms.
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Old Sep 5, 2007, 8:35 PM   #8
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**cough, cough** Pentax 77mm f/1.8Limited
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Old Sep 5, 2007, 10:35 PM   #9
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I had overlooked that one, and at $ 600 after hundred dollar rebate, I'll probably have to overlook it for a while longer. I will probably have to go with the 50mm f1.4 FA for basketball at a little under $ 200, then adjust my shooting. If I'm going to spend more than 500-600 for a lens, I have to make the first priority an ourdoor lens since I'll shoot far more soccer and football than volleyball or basketball.
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Old Sep 6, 2007, 6:41 AM   #10
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Yeah, you aren't really going to find a longer, fast, AF lens for any camera very cheap... I have the 50/1.4 ($162 from BuyDig.com after $25 MIR) It's a great lens, snaps right into forcus on the K10 (sometimes it searched a little on my DS). It may be a little short, but it's a hell of a lot faster than anything else you can get in the sub-$200 category.
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