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gtsulli44 Mar 15, 2009 4:43 PM

I have a Nikon D80 and I like to take pictures of my son playing, the bad thing is that he plays at night. What lense to you suggest I get for this. Thank you!

JimC Mar 16, 2009 12:51 PM

Welcome to the forums.

I suspect that you're going to need a 70-200mm f/2.8 Zoom at a minimum, depending on your vantage point. For example, the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR, or Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM. The Nikkor 80-200mm is probably not going to focus as fast as the other two lenses (which both have fast focus motors built in).

If you don't use a lens with f/2.8 available, your shutter speeds are probably not going to be fast enough to stop blur from subject movement, even using ISO 1600 or 3200, depending on lighting.

But, you may find that 200mm isn't quite long enough for baseball if you want to cover the entire field. Unfortunately, f/2.8 lenses get pretty expensive when you get into models longer than 200mm. For example, a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 is running around $2899 now.

IOW, it's not going to be cheap, or easy to get shots of rapidly moving subjects at a night game (those lights are not as bright to a camera as they appear to the human eye, and you'll need a very bright lens and higher ISO speeds to freeze subject movement).

Perhaps one of our members with experience shooting night baseball will chime in and offer some suggestions (as I rarely shoot sports). You may want to let members know if you'll be able to shoot from inside the fence and give some details on the fields your son plays on (in case some of our members may be familiar with the lighting at a given venue).

JohnG Mar 17, 2009 11:29 AM

This is a tough one. A couple of issues come into play. First is: the lighting. Baseball fields below the NCAA Div I level don't tend to have great lighting - for example I find football fields to have better lighting than baseball. If the field in question has decent ligthing you could get OK shots with an f2.8 lens and ISO 3200. Are you comfortable with the performance of your d80 at ISO 3200? If not, then you're going to pay a lot of money for a lens and still be unhappy.

The second issue is distance. I would contend the maximum reach for a 200mm lens if you want quality action shots is about 75 feet. Do the math - that doesn't let you shoot an entire baseball diamond if you're shooting from ON the field. If you're behind a fence add an extra 20 feet or so to the distances. You start getting VERY expensive when you talk about 300mm 2.8 or 400mm 2.8 lenses (sigma 120-300 2.8 sells for $2700). In great lighting you can stretch that 75 feet a bit but in low light - no you can't because you'll have less detail to begin with and you'll have more noise so after you crop you really don't end up with a very good photo.

Angel L. Apr 16, 2009 8:39 PM

200mm f2.8 3200 iso and good noise reduction software will only be good for pics of the hitter from behind the fence if you can get that close. 200mm is only good for first and third base shooting close to the base line. the rest of the field is unreachable, unless you are willing to buy a 2k pro lense. I gave up on night high school games and take video.

JimC Apr 17, 2009 6:16 AM

When you have equipment and budget limitations, you often have to be more selective on what shots you can take and expect acceptable results. That's pretty common with indoor sports, where a single focal length prime may be a user's only option for fast enough shutter speeds with many dSLR models (since zooms providing more framing flexibility in order to cover more of a court may not be bright enough).

Ditto for skill level, as you may need to learn to time your shots for the least amount of motion blur if shutter speeds aren't fast enough, and improve panning skills (carefully following the subject to minimize movement across the frame) to allow for slower shutter speeds with less blur from subject movement, providing sharper photos than you'd have without good panning technique.

Quality is very subjective, so user expectations and what the images are being used for (web size only, larger prints, etc.) also enters the equation.

There are always tradeoffs when selecting gear (including size and weight).

Another option you may want to consider is shooting in raw for more post processing flexibility. The D80 uses a early generation of a Sony APS-C size 10MP sensor, and advances have been made since then (both in the sensors, and in newer cameras' noise reduction algorithms). You'll limit the number of photos in a burst when you shoot in raw. But, you may find that newer raw conversion programs and noise reduction algorithms will allow for better results with more detail retention when higher ISO speeds are needed.

For example, it looks like DxO Optics Pro's latest software has made some breakthroughs in Noise Reduction at the raw level. Note the noise comparisons here:

Note that competitor A in some of the samples was Nikon Capture NX, and competitor B was Adobe Camera Raw (click and hold your left mouse button down on one of the competitor labels to see the result).

Dave Etchells put together a video interview that goes through some of the results with DXO Optics Pro. It's pretty impressive stuff. You'll see it at the bottom of this page:

You may want to download a trial version and take it for a spin.

Angel L. Apr 21, 2009 1:11 PM

WOW Jim,

Thanks for the data on DXO, I am going to take some night shots with my D80 and my 80-200 f2.8 at 1600 and 3200 iso process with DXO and post for review. I hope it works, I hade given up on night games all together.

Can DXO be used as a stand alone application for editing, or as a plugin for Lightroom or Picassa?

JimC Apr 21, 2009 1:19 PM

It can work as a stand alone application, or as a plugin with Photoshop or Lightroom.

Angel L. Apr 22, 2009 12:00 PM

I am going to shoot a night game tonight in RAW and use DXO.

Should I disable noise reduction in the camera or leave it on?

JohnG Apr 22, 2009 12:03 PM

I would suggest turning it off. In camera noise reduction is usually not very good compared to what you can get from software.

Angel L. Apr 23, 2009 8:43 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Here are some pics from last night from the third base line with high iso, no in camera noise reduction.
First three dxo processing....
Next three picassa raw processing....

Lets evaluate if its worth the cost of DXO for high iso......

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