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Old Apr 12, 2004, 3:41 PM   #1
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Default good camera for sports action shots?

Hi! I'm in the market for a new digital camera that would allow me to take action shots of my son (he's a hockey goalie). I have a camera that I just purchased last year, thought it was good but the shutter speed is too slow, therefore missing alot of great shots

Can someone recommend a camera that isn't too pricey (I really don't want to go over $750 if I don't have to LOL). I was looking at the Minolta Dimage Z2 but am unsure if the shutter speed is good. Thanks in advance!!

Ann Marie
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 4:25 PM   #2
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Other things to consider besides shutter speed and shutter lag:

1) Will the lens be "fast" enough? (Not sure of you photographic knowledge... apertures, f stops, etc.) The lower the aperture number the more light the lens will let in...

2) What is the maximum ISO setting? And how "noisy" or "grainy" are the pictures at the hight ISO settings?

3) What are you expectations? Fun 4X6 pictures for photo albums or something for the cover of Sports Illustrated?

I bought a DSLR specifically to shoot gymnastics this year.... Same horrible lighting as most hockey arenas... also gymanstics is a NO FLASH sport! I'm getting good results... but I've also invested about $2,000 in the camera and lens...

hth,
john
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 5:40 PM   #3
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OK John. You've totally lost me LOL I don't have a clue as to what you're talking about. I've never even considered the lighting problems. I'm far from a professional. I just want a good decent camera that will allow me to take pictures while my son is making a great save (which doesn't happen often :lol: )

If the picture is good, I would like to be able to blow it up to an 8x10 if necessary, otherwise 5x7's are fine.

Thanks for the input!!

Ann Marie
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 7:36 PM   #4
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To elaborate on what John said here are some of the problems with sports/action photography.

If your son plays sports indoors, then lighting will be a serious problem. The human eye can see just fine in light that isn't bright enough for a good picture. The other thing the human eye & brain adjusts for is that lights often have a color cast to them. They aren't usually white, but can be slightly yellow or even slightly blue. You won't notice it (unless itís extreme) but the camera will notice it. The brain of the camera isn't as good as your brain.

If your son plays outdoor sports, then lighting can be good or bad depending on the weather. But you'll still have the same problem that an overcast day might be too dark for good photography.

Now lets get into how the light problem effects photography. Note that these problems are exactly the same with film as with digital photography.

Photography is recording light. You need light to take a picture. Sounds simple and it is... but people don't often think about it that way. All the settings on the camera (except focus) effect how much light you get.

There are four ways to control the amount of light the sensor gets. They are: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, and Flash. I will go through them in that order.

To stop action you need a fast shutter speed. Depending on the sport, 1/500 is good enough, but more could be required. John would know more about this than me (you could look at examples in the sport & action photography section of this web site and see what people use as well.) If you use a slow shutter speed, your son will be a blur in the picture. But the faster the shutter speed, the less light hits the sensor. The longer the shutter is open, the more light it gets... the shorter itís open, the less light it's gets.

So this means that to stop action you need lots of light. But if you are photographing inside, the lighting is probably not very good so it will be difficult to get the fast shutter speed required to stop the action. (Note, I didn't say impossible, just difficult.)

The size of the aperture used controls how much light the sensor gets as well. A larger opening allows more light, a smaller opening means less light. So to get the amount of light necessary to allow a fast shutter speed you need a big aperture. When you buy a camera or a lens, the aperture is listed as the "f-stop". An f-stop is a ratio. So a f/2.8 lens has a larger aperture than an f/5.6 lens. Just imagine this as the physical size of the lens divided by that number (2.8 or 5.6.) If you divide by a smaller number the result is a bigger number. I could go more into why f-stop uses these funny numbers and the system if you care. What you need to know is you want a camera with the smallest f-stop, which translates into the largest aperture, which translates into more light.

The downside of a smaller aperture is that the depth of field (how much is in focus) is smaller. That is life... you can't get around it. Usually a faster shutter speed is more important than a larger depth of field.

Another way to get a faster shutter speed is to use a higher ISO value. Raising the ISO value increases the light sensitivity of the camera. Every increase in ISO doubles the sensitivity. So if you shoot at ISO 100 & 1/250, you could shoot at ISO 200 & 1/500. This degrades the quality of the image, but allow for faster shutter speeds (which you need.) There are ways around the drop in image quality, but we can talk about that later (no, they aren't hard.) But note that cheaper cameras can't use many ISO values (some stop as low as ISO 200 or ISO 400.) More expensive cameras usually support higher ISO values and they usually have better quality (less image degradation.) So in this area you (usually) get what you pay for.

Another way to get more light is to use a flash. Flashes donít have as far a reach as you might like. The built in flash is very weak and only good for portraits. For sports shots the kid will be further away and it probably wonít help. But you can use an external flash with many cameras. External flashes have a lot more power (up to 6 times more.) But they are heavy, require extra batteries, cost more money and still donít have as much reach as you might like. And the sport might not even allow them (like with John and gymnastics.)

I havenít even gotten how far away your son will be. That means you need a camera with a long zoom. What sport does he play?

I hope all this helps. If you have any questions just ask. Realize that weíre doing this in our own time so donít ďexpectĒ answers, but weíre a friendly bunch so if you ask nicely youíll probably get an answer.

Eric
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 8:14 PM   #5
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wow Eric! I cannot thank you enough for your post! You have helped me to understand what John was talking about.

I have taken notes from your post and will use them to help me make a decision on what camera to buy. You have made it much easier for me. If anyone else has something to add, please do! I read this board frequently


Oh and to answer your question about what sport my son plays, he's a hockey goalie, so getting the right shot is important (and sometimes tricky)!!

Thanks again!
Ann Marie
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 10:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Oh and to answer your question about what sport my son plays, he's a hockey goalie, so getting the right shot is important (and sometimes tricky)!!
Then another consideration is a camea with a high speed continuous shooting option. This sort of mode will spend an initial [short] time to set the focus and exposure for the first shot, but as long as you keep the shutter button pressed, will take subsequent shots in rapid fire sequence until you run out of storage space in memory or you release the shutter button. This kind of mode is ideal for capturing action shots of a goalie where there is highly intense action happening at essentially the same camera to subject distance.
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Old Apr 13, 2004, 12:53 AM   #7
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Glad to help. I just started writing and it ended up being a long post.

A hockey goalie makes you life easier. You won't be that far from your son. Sure, it won't be 10 feet, but it's not like he plays football and could be 100 feet away.

You also know where he will be almost all the time, and which way he'll be facing.

The downside is depending on his age, the action could be very fast. Jawz is right, you'll want a camera that can shoot many pictures very fast. Without spending man thousands of dollars, you won't get faster than 3 pictures per second. So look for that as a "magic number."

Look for something with a 8-12x zoom lens. But it's more important to have a good high aperture (low f-stop) lens. I would go for a 8x f2.8 lens over a 12x f4 lens.

Image stabilization would be a good thing, but it only helps remove your movement. It won't stop action (that require more light, as I said above.) So don't overlook it, but good hand-holding technique makes up for not having it (as does a tripod or monopod.)

Also, expect to have trouble in the beginning. Photographing sports is not easy... but the nice thing is that you won't have to pay for all the developing of the shots that you missed. You can always review while the puck is at the other end and delete the bad ones.

Eric

ps. I had a friend in college called Ann Marie. Nice gal.
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Old Apr 13, 2004, 3:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eric s
You can always review while the puck is at the other end and delete the bad ones.
Bad ERIC! Chimping is bad habit to start!

ok... just kidding.. (yes, I chimp... ooohhh... oooooohhh.... ahhhh... ohhhh)
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Old Apr 13, 2004, 4:49 PM   #9
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I thought Chimping was when you showed it to others. If you just look at it yourself and prune, I didn't think that was Chimping.

And you know that she will Chimp! "Ohh, look at this great picture of my son saving that shot!"

Eric
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Old Apr 13, 2004, 5:04 PM   #10
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you mean like this....



You know actually that brings up another feature that I love about the DRebel (I have no idea if this is true on other cameras) I can switch from playback mode to capture mode simply by pressing the shutter button... No more fiddling with dials or switches and waiting for the camera to switch modes.. simply press the shutter button and your immediately taking pictures again... this is extremely handy when you get carried away while chimping!
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