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Old Apr 19, 2005, 11:20 PM   #1
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I currently have a p/s Kodak 6490, and have gotten very comfortable with it in different situations (manual settings). I have found it's limits in other forms of photography, and I think I have found it's sports limit. I have been able to get some good shots of my daughters playing softball (action shots) but only in FULL sunlight. The night games under 'ball park lighting' are either too blurry, or after manual adjustments, too dark. My camera's 10x optical zoom lets me get pretty close, but there doesn't seem to be enough light. Now, I have come to conclusion that I need to follow the next progression of photography, and go DSLR. After some research I THINK I have decided to shoot for a Pentax *ist DS (or any other "starter" to learn on), but what I'm afraid of is that I am trying to get shots that will only be able to be made by a dslr with $1,000,000 glass on it. Obviously, that won't be an option in my VERY limited budget, but am I asking the impossible? I already know I eventually want a DSLR, I'm just in the self-justification stage of the decision process, and trying to figure out what problems I will be able to fix with the right tool. Also, being a 'self-taught' photographer, when I go DSLR, I will be forced to learn what different types of lenses do. Can anyone make some recommendations as to which type of lense to shoot for first given my current interest in sports photography? Also, I am still open to Canon or Nikon recommendations as well.

Thank you to anyone willing to read my questions and offer any suggestions or answers.

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Old Apr 20, 2005, 12:57 AM   #2
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I am in a similar condition. I want to buy a DSLR but they are so expensive for me for the time being.So idecided buying a film SLR instead. There are really very cheap film SLR's which i beleive doing great job. Also i think it will be possible to use the lenses of film SLR in a DSLR if i buy it later (assuming i will buy compatible models). I am currently evaluationg Canon EOS 3000N (namely EOS 66 or EOS Rebel GII) and Nikon F55.

I think that approach can also be an alternative for you. Nice shots for low price!:-)
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Old Apr 20, 2005, 1:44 AM   #3
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DaveN wrote:
Can anyone make some recommendations as to which type of lense to shoot for first given my current interest in sports photography? Also, I am still open to Canon or Nikon recommendations as well.
Any of the entry-level SLRs cameras will let you take relatively good sports photos. The biggest advantages of the SLRs are almost non-existent shutter lag, fast continuous shots (2-3 fps for entry-level cameras), and the ability to shoot at high ISOs,. Each camera has its own advantages and disadvantages, and your remarks about money sunk in lenses is basically correct--you will be buying into an "optical system" rather than a mere camera body, so think carefully before purchase. Camera bodies will evolve and you will probably trade up in a few years, but assuming you like the overall results you've been getting, you'll probably keep the lenses. Which means buying a body from the same manufacturer (unless it's the 4/3 system and Panasonic or other mfgs come out with additional bodies).
Overall, this means you should handle them all and take all their features into consideration before putting your money down. Most of the manufacturers are now making available budget lines of lenses alongside their more robust professional series, so the cost isn't so high as it would've been a few years ago. Third-party companies (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) also make inexpensive lenses for each of the camera brands. For your kids' sports, you'll probably want something reaching out to 150-200mm (the actually amount of magnification will depend on the size of the sensor in the camera you buy).

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Old Apr 20, 2005, 7:08 AM   #4
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Well, the good news is you don't need a $1,000,000 lense to shoot sports. But there are some critical components of both lense and camera that will increase the number of keeper shots you get:

Camera qualities to look for:

1. Ability to shoot at high ISO. This is what cripples p&s cameras for the most part. At ISO 200 most have significant noise. I can't speak for Pentax, but I know the Canon line (350d and 20D) have very low noise up to ISO800 and acceptable ISO 1600 - and with noise reduction post processing they can look extremely good. If you're looking at the Pentax - see how well it performs at high ISOs.

2. shutter lag/focus speed - all lead to how fast from the time you point the camera to the time the shutter 'fires'. In any camera you can reduce this by pre-focusing but that takes much more ability on your part to predict where the focus point should be.

3. Burst rate - how many frames per second can the camera take. Can be important in something like baseball/softball where the act of a pitch or swing is less than 2 seconds - having more shots in that time increases the chance of a 'keeper'. I believe most entry level DSLRs should have 3 fps burst rate or better.

4. AI Servo - may be called something different but it's the camera's ability to re-focus on an object moving towards or away from you. So when you're shooting a burst, the camera actually refocuses before each shutter fire. I know an annoying attribute of my old Canon Digital Rebel was you could only gaurantee this happening in their 'Sports mode' which also forced you into a certain ISO - not desirable. So if you really want to shoot sports make sure you have this ability in your creative modes - Av, Tv or M - where you will be doing most of your shooting.

5. Buffer speed - or in practical terms, how many shots can you fire off continuously. For instance my old 300d could take 4 before the buffer it had to wait for the buffer to clear. So, again you were limited to an effective 4 shot burst. Better than p&s. But when comparing camera bodies it's something you should look at.

Lenses for outdoor sports:

1. SPEED, SPEED and more SPEED - For outdoor sports in good lighting you will want a lense capable of f4.0 throughout the entire focal length (e.g. some lenses Start at 4.0 at their shortest zoom but may be 5.6 or worse at their longest zoom). I highly recommend a lense that has a speed of 2.8 - that way you can use it for indoor sports as well - plus you can add a teleconverter to it to get more reach and STILL have a lense with 4.0 aperture. Many people shooting indoors will use faster lenses but that's a little specialized - for your case I would look for lenses in the 2.8-4.0 range.

2. Reach: A standard 70-200 is a great zoom range for a lot of sports (assuming a camera with a 1.5 or 1.6 crop factor). 300mm can be a bonus in certain sports like soccer or football with the long field but you can overcome that a bit by your positioning.

The good news is there are some good third party lenses - Sigma makes great lenses in the 70mm - 300mm range (not necessarily a 70-300, but they have an excellent 100-300, 120-300 and 70-200 lenses). You can expect to pay from $400-$900 for a good sports lense. I personally use the Sigma 70-200 2.8 (often with a 1.4x TC) and it's around $760. In fact a lot of people on this forum use it.
Here's some baseball pics from a pretty good distance away at a pro game. Even from this distance the Sigma did an outstanding job (with 1.4 TC)


But, bottom line is you will have to pay a price for good glass. Shooting sports takes a good lense - not a $7000 lense like some of our wildlife photog's use but a good one. If you are buying a DSLR with the intention of shooting sports - I think you will be less than thrilled if you buy a $200 lense and expect great results. So, if money is an issue I recommend starting with a kit lense and saving for better glass (like the Sigma) - I'm not a big fan of spending $300 on a so-so lense with the intention of 'upgrading' in the future. The resale value on those lenses is pretty poor so you spend a lot more in the long run.

Good luck in whatever you decide!

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Old Apr 21, 2005, 11:22 AM   #5
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Thank-you all for your informative responses. Good examples you posted JohnG!!! I appreciate the help.

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