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Old Dec 3, 2009, 10:42 PM   #1
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Default need help picking my first digital slr

I hope that someone can help me with buying my first dslr camera. The camera I have right now is a Kodak Z812 IS ZOOM. While it takes good pictures I was hoping a slr would help me take some better pictures. I take a lot of pictures of my daughter playing sports and the do not always come out as sharp and clear as I would like with my camera. I take a lot of her playing lacrosse and field hockey. So I am taking a lot of action shots from a distance and they are not always clear and sharp. I also take a lot of her playing basketball which are also difficult. With that besides them being action shots I also have the problem of the weird lighting in gyms, I guess they are like fluorescent type lights. The flash does not help because she is to far away. But again I need a good zoom. With all of these type shots for all the sports a tripod will not work since I can't use them in the stands.

So I am basically looking for a camera that will give me the best shots for her sports, where they are the clearest, sharpest and most colorful. I need something with a good zoom because I want close ups and am pretty far away. I'd like to move up to a 10 or 12 MP. What I like about the camera I have right now is it has an optical image stabilizer, which helps with sports/action shots. Don't know which slr would help with that? I also want where I can later buy other lens that might be even better , but still not cost me an arm and a leg.

I would like to keep the cost of the camera and lens around or less than $1,0000.00 since I would also most likely have to get 2 memory cards, I always like to have at least two. Plus the same goes for the battery, at least two plus a charger, so those would cost some money as well.

I am new to the whole slr thing and while I can't spend a lot I also don't want a piece of garbage. I want something that will give me the crisp clear sports shots as well as good every day and scenic type shots.

I have had friends tell me all different things about which camera to but. I have heard any type Sony. I have heard either the Olympus E-600 or E-620 because they both have in body image stabilization. But even with the two lens kit it only goes to 150mm. One is the 14-42mm and the other lens is 40-150mm. I have heard the Nikon D 5000. But if you buy that kit the one smaller lens is VR which helps with stabilization or vibration, but than the one that goes to 200mm is not and if you want the good VR lens they get pricey. Than finally come the Canons I have heard the Rebels or the T1i, but it seems the kits have cheap lens.

Any help or suggestions anyone can give would be greatly appreciated. If some kind of stabilization is offered it would help with the type of pictures I take and since my hands are not always staedy and I can't use a tripod in most cases for my sports shots. I really hope someone can help me with what I need.
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Old Dec 3, 2009, 11:06 PM   #2
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For sports, you need fast shutter speeds. For outdoor sports, sunlight helps out a lot. For indoor sports, most gyms use sodium vapor lights because they produce a lot of light from a little bit of electricity. But even at that, there's not enough light to get fast shutter speeds without relying on large apertures and high ISO settings.

BTW, because you're using faster shutter speeds to shoot sports, image stabilization isn't much help. IS helps when you're using slow shutter speeds, but motion blur due to camera shake happens at a frequency of about 18-22Hz. A fast shutter speed will beat that handily. But again, in low light, you need to make up for the fast shutter speed with large apertures and high ISO settings.

Also, in order to accurately focus on moving subjects, you need a good autofocus system. Olympus dSLRs don't fall into that category.

Probably the best entry level dSLR for indoor sports is the Canon T1i. It has a good AF system, can use high ISOs, and Canon has some very good large aperture medium telephoto lenses for shooting indoor sports. The Canon 85mm f/1.8 is an example of a good choice.
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Old Dec 4, 2009, 7:13 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forums. Yes, shooting sports is difficult. Difficult to get good, sharp results. Now, there are a few things you should be aware of BEFORE you spend your hard-earned money.

First - there are 4 components to getting good sports shots. And, each of these components is important.

1. Photographer technique. People that don't shoot sports regularly or don't get good results may think it's easy and the camera does all the work. That's wrong. It isn't rocket science, but it is far from point-and-shoot photography. Each sport has it's unique challenges and you'll have a learning curve in order to get good results in each sport. If you're expecting a DSLR to be a magic point-and-shoot for sports you'll be disappointed in the results. Also - as part of this - 100% of your sports images will benefit substantially from post processing. So, if quality is what you're after be prepared to spend time in the 'digital darkroom' improving the images.

2. The right camera body. The camera body has the brains for focus and tracking moving subjects, it also controls the high ISO performance, frames-per-second, ergonomics etc. Make no mistake about it - for sports use, not all DSLRs are even close to being equal. Here is my list of PROVEN sports bodies. Be extremely careful of people suggesting cameras for sports. This list crosses systems because I'm not a fan-boy to my system. But I don't include cameras that haven't been proven by people in the field for sports use. NOrmal camera reviews do NOT test a camera's ability to take good sports photos. So, here's the list (alphabetic order): Canon 1dmkIII, Canon 7d, Canon 50D, Canon T1i, Canon XSi (although limited to ISO 1600 so T1i is a better choice). Nikon D3, Nikon D700, Nikon D300s, Nikon D300, Nikon D90, Sony A700. You'll notice there are cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony NOT on the list - that's because I haven't seen evidence they're as capable of shooting sports as the cameras on the list or they're simply NOT as capable. You'll also notice I don't have Pentax or Oly cameras. The Pentax K-7 and Oly E-3 represent the best those two systems have - they're good within their systems but from what I've seen comparitively they're not as good as their competition - i.e they're not as good as the Canon 50d or Nikon D90 much less the 7D / D300s.

3. Lens. The camera body is only part of the equation. The lens plays an important role. It has to be the correct focal length (i.e. you're not taking lacrosse photos from the stands with a 100mm lens), it has to have the right aperture capability (bright sunlight lacrosse may be OK with an f5.6 lens but indoor basketball will require an f2.8 or f2.0 lens depending on whether you want to use ISO 3200-6400 or not. The lens also is the single biggest contributor to sharpness. And, very, very important - a good sports lens has it's own fast-focus focusing motor. Make no mistake lens focus speed is NOT universal. Take the same Canon body and use different Canon lenses and you'll see different focus speed performance: 70-300 DO focuses faster than 70-300 non-DO and 300mm 2.8 foces faster than 70-300 DO.

4. This last one may be your achilles heel - LOCATION. Good sports shots require you to shoot from a good vantage point. You're not going to get many good Lacrosse photos sitting in the stands. They're too far away and you'e shooting DOWN. Similarly in basetball - you can get some better shots from the stands because they're close BUT you want to get FACES not backs of heads - faces are best gotten from shooting on the baseline since players usually are facing the basket and most action takes place around /inside the arc. So, even though you can get more images from the stands in basketball than lacrosse because of distance the quality of the images still won't be as great as the baseline because you'll be missing faces.

More to come...
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Old Dec 4, 2009, 7:52 AM   #4
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OK, now let's talk about camera choices. The Nikon D90 and Canon T1i represent the best sports low-level sports cameras IMO. The nikon models below the d90 do not have focus motors and thus will have issues with shooting basketball. The Canon XSi is a good camera, but the ISO 1600 limit can be an issue for basketball. If all the work was outdoors, things would be different.

Now, let's talk about what is needed for basketball. You will either have to shoot at ISO 3200 with an F2.8 lens or ISO 1600 with an f2.0 lens for GOOD highschool lighting. If the lighting is poor you may be shooting 3200 at f2.0 or 6400 at f2.8. But 3200 at f2.8 / 1600 at f2.0 is the BEST you can hope for. Here are some lens options for Canon (same options exist for Nikon):
85mm 1.8 ($380) - GREAT basketball lens. Sharp and fast to focus. BUT it's range is 25 feet. That isn't a lot. If you're shooting from the baseline it gets you close to half court. It's not long enough to shoot sideline to sideline - you can google bball court dimensions and use simple geometry to figure out what the range would be frorm a given location. Sitting in the stands, things get worse.

Canon 50mm 1.8 - $110 - this is the budget choice. Wide enough aperture, but slow to focus and only 15 foot range. You have to be on the baseline to get shots with this lens and with only 15 foot range your shot selection will be limited.

Sigma 50-150 2.8 - $750. Good range for indoor sports. Good quality and good focus speed (though not as good in low light as the Canon 85mm or 70-200 2.8) - important thing is it's good enough. BUT, at f2.8 you'll be shooting at iso 3200-6400 AND 150mm is too short to be useful outdoors.

Sigma 70-200 2.8 - $800. Great range for indoor sports - I use a 70-200 2.8 for basketball/volleyball/wrestling. Also a little better for outdoor. It's good for 25 yards of coverage. So SOME field hockey / lacrosse photos IF you're right on the field - not good enough if you're in the stands. Also outdoors you can use a 1.4x Teleconverter on it - making it a 280mm f4.0 lens which will buy you an extra 5-10 yards of coverage. Tamron makes a 70-200 2.8 but it is not fast to focus so it's a poor investment as a sports lens.

Outdoors: Assuming your Field Hockey and Lacrosse is during the day, you won't need f2.8. BUT, what you do need is REACH. 200mm is very limiting from the field - way too short from the stands. 300mm is a better choice from the field - still short from the stands. So, the best advice is to get on the field - if you simply can't talk your way into access you're going to have to stand down at the fence to get as close as you can. IF it's all day games you can get by with an f5.6 lens.

Here's the problem though. You're going to have to decide how sharp you need your images to be. 300mm lenses that focus fast enough and have quality optical performance at 300mm are VERY, VERY expensive. There are lenses like the Canon 70-300 IS USM ($560) that are pretty sharp. But that lens has a mid-grade focus performance (micro USM focus motor. Canon's ring USM focus motor is the fast one). The budget 55-250 for $250 is a decent budget lens - not as much reach, not as sharp but same focus performance.

HOWEVER, here's where reality comes in. You have a budget. You can't get the best results with a limited budget. So, you have to make some sacrifices and accept something less than the best. Right now, Canon has a sale going - buy the T1i with 55-250 lens and get an instant $200 rebate. So you get the 55-250 lens for $50. You'll only have 30-33 yards of coverage with the lens so if you're outside the fence you'll be very limited. BUT, to get a lens capable of good shots at distance you'd have to step up to the Sigma 50-500 at $1100.

So, IF you can live with the distance limitations of the lenses I mentioned I think the following gives you a good kit:
Canon T1i with kit lens PLUS 55-250 lens - $825 at Adorama (looks like $899 but when you add it to your cart the price goes down to 825)
Sandisk Extreme III 8gb SDHC card - $60

Then either the 50mm 1.8 if you can live with 15 feet and slower focus for $110 or $360 for the 85mm 1.8 - but still only 25 feet coverage.
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Old Dec 5, 2009, 10:59 PM   #5
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Thank you so much for all the help and information. From what I had been reading on line the Canon T1i seemed like it might be good for what I need and after reading what you had to say it just seems to back it up. All the other information is also very helpful.
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