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garman Dec 17, 2007 12:42 AM

I am having worlds of problems shooting in a hockey rink. I typically set the camera to manual. Set to 125/800iso. I find that this is way too grainy for use. I can't shoot with flash, glass is the problem. I would prefer to shoot in burst mode to capture action shots. Are there any options left or am I looking to move up to the rebel.

JohnG Dec 17, 2007 11:50 AM

It's one of the things I don't understand about Canon. Their DSLRs lead the industry in high ISO noise performance, but their digicams are middle of the pack at best.

Even without the grain, 1/125 is too slow for most action shots. 1/400 is about the minimum - and even with that there will be some blur.

If you haven't already, try using noise reduction software (noiseware, neatimage, noise ninja). They all have free downloads you can try before you buy. See if you can live with the results.

Because, to get really good results you'll need a DSLR. If you stick with Canon, the XTi has only ISO 1600. Which means you need at least an f2.8 lens (least expensive option is sigma 70-200 2.8 for $850 - the canon version is $1100 for non-IS or $1600 with IS). But it's also possible you might need a prime lens with 2.0 aperture if the lighting is poor. I won't know without seeing sample shots so I don't know if ISO 800, 1/125 is even proper exposure (remember exposing faces it what counts). Let's assume it is. To get 1/400 you need 2 2/3 stops more. ISO 1600 gets you one stop more. The lens on this camera is 3.5 zoomed out. Going down to f2.8 is 2/3 stops. So at ISO 1600 and f2.8 you'd have shutter speeds of 1/400. So, if that was the proper exposure then you could get by with the XTi and 70-200 2.8 lens. But if that's NOT the proper exposure things get more difficult. You would need a prime lens: Canon 135mm 2.0 is $1000, Canon 100mm 2.0 is $360 and Canon 85mm 1.8 is $360

garman Dec 17, 2007 4:39 PM

I was hoping you were not going to say the four little letters I was dreading to hear "DSLR" . So your telling me If I went out and bought the XT for example I say XT becuase it's on sale. I believe the XTi is no different, but for the 2mp that canon stuffed into the sensor. Anyway the lens that came with the camera, are you saying it's inadequate for my purpose. I am mostly shooting behind the net in front of the glass. Will I be able to shoot in burst mode during the game. Thanks garman

JohnG Dec 17, 2007 6:19 PM


First, I suggest you TRY the noise reduction software first. If you're still not happy THEN go the DSLR route. There are some digicams that have better high ISO performance than your current camera but none will have great results. There used to be some Fuji cameras that were pretty good, but Fuji decided megapixels were more important and the current crop aren't as good as the previous generation at high ISO. Still, give the noise reduction a shot first - it's a free download.

But, if you do go DSLR then YES I am saying the kit lens from any DSLR is going to be inadequate. Sports shooting is my main photographic interest. And while I don't shoot ice hockey (not big in my local area yet) I shoot a LOT of indoor sports and I'm aware of what is required for ice hockey.

First though - the camera BODY. One of the critical aspects of sports photography is the focus system of the camera. Canon and Nikon have the best focus systems in general for sports (and it looks like the new Sony A700 is right up there with the other two). But, even within Canon there are differences between the focus systems in the various cameras. Besides the extra mp, the XTi has a better focus system than the XT does. It has the same 9 point focus system employed by the 30d (although the new 40d has an even better focus system). So, more than the mp, the focus system of the XTi makes it a better sports camera. Either the XT or XTi will allow you to shoot in a burst mode of roughly 3 frames per second. To get a faster burst rate you need to step up to the 30d or 40d which have 5fps and 6.5 fps respectively.

But, the camera is only part of the equation. The other part is the lens. There are 3 things you want from a lens for low light sports use:

1. Sharpness

2. wide aperture (low f-stop) - typically 2.8 or lower number (2.0, 1.8)

3. Fast focusing. In the canon system, the lens focuses by means of a motor in the lens. Not all focus motors are created equal. In Canon system there are 3 types of focus motors (non-usm, micro USM and ring USM). The only third party lens system with an equivelant focus motor is Sigma's HSM. So even though some third party lenses have 2.8 apertures they are still poor for low light sports use because they lack the fast focus motor.

4. Right focal length. If it's bright enough in your arena for a 2.8 lens then either the Canon 24-70 2.8 ($1000) or Canon 70-200 2.8 ($1100) or Sigma 70-200 2.8 ($850) are good options. If you have to use prime lenses, realize the 50mm 1.8 ($75) is good for about 15 feet of coverage from your shooting position, the 85mm 1.8 ($370) is good for about 20 feet. The 100mm 2.0 is good for about 25 feet. Then there's the 135mm 2.0 ($1000). The problem comes in when the action occurs too close or too far away. So, prime lenses work well in low light but they restrict the shots you can take to a VERY specific range (since you can't zoom and you can't realistically move closer or further away from the action).

This is important to know before you waste your money on a DSLR and kit lens and still find yourself getting poor results because you don't have the right equipment. Shooting low light sports is difficult and expensive work. I've given you the prices of some of the lenses. In the end, you don't really save any money with any particular manufacturer.

Alternatively, you can check the fuji digicam forum and sites like (in their fuji forum) to see if anyone is using any of the current fuji digicams for indoor sports - especially hockey. While the results will be no where near as good as a DSLR they'll still be better than what your current camera gives. It's all about cost-benefit. To get really good results you have to spend a lot of $$$. The question is, would you be happy with:

1. Noise reduction software and your current setup.

2. One of the fuji diciams

or do you need DSLR. In which case, plan on spending some good cash.\

One last piece of advice - be careful who you listen to about buying gear for this purpose. Low light sports is very difficult and demanding. Make sure whoever suggests a solution to you has some low light sports photos to back up that recommendation.

Good luck!

garman Dec 17, 2007 11:24 PM

John, thanks, my head is starting to hurt and so is my wallet. Sorry, I did try some noise filter program. But In the context of free software... the pc world seems the way to go, but as a mac user, it's limited, either way. I did run it through my friends version of NN, not too happy with the results. I'll see what my wallet can squeeze out. I can buy the xti but that would leave me with less money for a lens. If I go with the XT that would allow me to buy a better lens, is the better way to go.
I am not trying for professional shots though I would love to get some... just wanting to capture my kid play hockey and try making some hockey cards for him and his friends. Thanks for your great advice John.

garman Dec 21, 2007 8:09 PM

Okay so I broke down and bought the XT. The XTi was too expesive for my pocket and the money I saved will go toward a decent lens. Any suggestions. I am eyeing the Sigma 70-300 APO (f4-f5.6). Is this a good starter lens for sports photography. I have this feeling that it may not cut it for indoor sports.

JohnG Dec 21, 2007 8:21 PM

garman wrote:

I am eyeing the Sigma 70-300 APO (f4-f5.6). Is this a good starter lens for sports photography. I have this feeling that it may not cut it for indoor sports.
Your fears are correct- the 70-300 will be a very poor indoor sports lens. See point 4 of my email for appropriate lenses for hockey. The Sigma 70-300 is a nice budget lens for some outdoor work but it's a useless paperweight when it comes to indoor sports.

garman Dec 22, 2007 4:47 PM

Thanks again John. I'll start eyeing the used stuff first before I re-mortgage my house for a quality lens. Once this Xmas stuff passes and hockey resumes. I'll take the XT out to the arena and see how well or poor the kit lens performs. The good thing, I have 150 dollars to start with since I told the wife I am buying the XTi, but purchased the XT..... unless she reads this post and clues in. :)

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