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-   -   What lenses for shooting football, basketball, and rodeo (

jweehler Nov 11, 2007 4:38 PM

I have a Nikon D40. I want to know what lense would be best to purchase to shoot football, basketball, and rodeo.

JimC Nov 11, 2007 5:27 PM

How do you feel about using Manual Focus? ;-)

The basketball lens is going to be tough. Is this high school basketball?

We have a few sports shooters here that can probably give you some tips on lens choice. But, as a general rule, a brighter prime (fixed focal length versus zoom) is the lens of choice (in most high school type gym lighting, an f/2.8 lens is not bright enough to stop enough blur from subject movement, even at higher ISO speeds). You might get by with f/2.8 (it all depends on the gym) at ISO 3200. But, a better choice would be a bright prime (fixed focal length versus zoom lens).

A bright prime like an 85mm f/1.8 is usually the lens of choice if you can shoot from the floor. But, Nikon or Sigma don't make any bright primes in the focal lengths normally used for that kind of thing that would Autofocus on a D40 (the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 is not an AF-S lens, and Sigma doesn't have anything that bright in a similar focal length either with HSM).

So, you'd probably need to choose between trying to go manual focus, or trying to get by with an f/2.8 lens (either a Nikkor AF-S type lens or a Sigma HSM type lens).

I'd probably lean towards something like a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM or Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR type lens (their non-VR lens in this focal range is not AF-S) if you have to shoot basketball and want Autofocus. Or, perhaps one of the HSM or AF-S primes that only have f/2.8 available. But, your percentage of keepers may leave something to be desired, depending on the gym lighting.

For football, if you're shooting night games, you'll want an f/2.8 zoom. If budget permits, a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 would be one choice to consider. It's got HSM (so it would Autofocus on a D40). But, it's a bit pricey (close to $2700).

So, you may want to try and get by with a 70-200mm f/2.8 and use it for both basketball, football and rodeos. The main problem is that it's really not bright enough for basketball in some school gyms, and you may want something a bit longer for football.

You'd probably need to use ISO 3200 to increase your percentage of keepers without motion blur in many high school gyms for the basketball (and even ISO 3200 may be a bit lacking in some dimmer gyms with an f/2.8 lens). It really boils down to the percentage of keepers without blur (you'll have more blurry photos trying to use f/2.8 versus a brighter prime) and how bright the gym is.

There would be more (and less expensive choices) with Autofocus for basketball with other Nikon bodies. Ditto for the football and rodeo use (some of the non AF-S f/2.8 Nikkor lenses are not priced that bad, especially used. But, you're going limited to the lenses you can use because your D40 doesn't have a focus motor built in (if you want Autofocus). Hence my question (how to you feel about manual focus). ;-)

What kind of budget do you have? If budget is real tight, I'd probaby be inclined to go with one general purpose f/2.8 zoom and try to use it for everything (using ISO 3200 for the basketball). But, that's not really the optimum solution.

Personally, I'd be inclined to sell the D40 and buy a different body if sports is important to you. You may end up saving money that way in the long run (since you could find less expensive lens choices on the used market if you didn't need to use lenses with a built in focus motor, and take advantage of brighter primes, without needing to use manual focus). If you think you'd be OK with Manual Focus, then a D40 might work OK.

The use of the images and your expectation of quality also comes into it. It's all very subjective and the percentage of keepers is what is going to change the most with slower (i.e., not as bright) lenses. The D40 is just not the greatest choice right now for some low light sports since Nikon doesn't offer any bright primes with AF-S yet in the focal lengths of choice for that type of thing. Hopefully, this will change as time passes.

I'll send a note to a couple of our sports shooters and let them try to give you some tips if they have time, too.

JohnG Nov 11, 2007 6:13 PM

Well Jim pretty much hit the hight points. As he mentioned the D40 is going to give you the most trouble in shooting basketball since you won't be able to autofocus with the lenses you need to use.

A 70-200 will work fine for rodeo - how well depends on the lighting. A rodeo I shot over the summer had pretty bad lights so I was shooting ISO 6400, f2.8 and about 1/320 - not ideal by a longshot.. And a 70-200 2.8 is a great start for football. But there are some other choices - much of which depends on what type of football. If you're only going to be shooting in good daylight you have more options. But if you are going to be shooting at night under lights you need to get a 2.8 and even then you'll likely require ISO 3200. The other point I'll mention is that 200mm is a bit short, even for football. It's good for about 25 yards worth of coverage (assuming you want quality shots).

So, a couple of questions:

1. how important is the basketball to you?

2. What level basketball?

3. What level football?

4. Are you able to shoot from the sidelines for football?

Also - forgot - Jim was also right on the money. If sports is a primary reason for the camera, the D40 isn't a great sports camera so a body switch (d80 or new d300)might not be a bad idea if sports shooting is very important to you.

cameranserai Nov 12, 2007 2:17 AM

Jim has pretty much summed it up; you can't get great sports results on a tight budget. Just look aroundat the photographers atfootball or basket ball and you'll see the kind of equipment they have and it isn't cheap. The D40 should go to be replaced with really a D300 since only the latest range of cameras will give the results you need at high ISO ranges when shooting indoors. If you bought a D40 I assume you were on a reasonably tight budget to start with so probably the 70/200 f2.8 lens is comparatively dear but, frankly, if you want good sports photos this will have to be the way to go as well, unless you first change the body then other makes and types of lens will become available.

Summing up, for outside sport the Nikon or Sigma 70/200 or the Sigma 120/300 are sound choices, but for indoor work you need to rethink the whole package. I guess I've just wasted space since all I've done is to reiterate all that said above, but sadly it is the only way to go. I wouldn't recommend the D80 though for indoor work.

jweehler Nov 12, 2007 6:22 AM

Level of play is Jr. High and high school. Rodeos I shoot of my kids are during the day, so I have daylight to work with. I can get right on the field for Pop Warner games in football and it is in daylight also. My least concern is the basketball so that sounds like a good deal, since that is the hardest with lighting. Where is a good dealer to buy a lenses from also? Oh, and I am just taking pictures for myself, kids scrapbooks, and friends. Never bigger than a 5x7 needed.

JohnG Nov 12, 2007 6:31 AM

What is 'Pop Warner' football? Is that something below HS level?

jweehler Nov 12, 2007 6:33 AM

yes, it's 4th, 5th and 6th graders. much "slower" paced than even H.S.

JohnG Nov 12, 2007 7:08 AM

Ok. If we throw out the basketball, I think the best bang for the buck comes from the Sigma 100-300 f4 lens. It's HSM so it will focus on the D40. But it's $1000. Does that fit in your budget? If not, what is your budget?

JimC Nov 12, 2007 7:18 AM

Don't be bashful about budget. If you only have $200, tell us that. Trust me, I buy some very inexpensive lenses myself from time to time. My last lens purchase was a $79 Lens with a bad reputation for AF speed, flare resistance, sharpness, etc.. ;-)

Sometimes it's better to have some pictures of the moment, even if they're not ideal for quality, versus no pictures at all.

In the budget lens category (around $200) for outdoor sports in daylight, a lens like a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO is usually the first choice many users make. But, it will not Autofocus on a D40.

That's one reason I'm thinking switching bodies may be cheaper in the long run if sports is important to you (because by the time you make compromises on lens choices and/or pay more for higher end lenses with focus motors built in to get the focal ranges you need, you could have sold the D40 and got something different for the same money overall.

With a D40, you'll either need to go with a shorter lens, or increase budget (if you want Autofocus) for daytime sports.

That 100-300mm f/4 JohnG mentioned is a really good lens by all reports I've seen if you can afford one.

If not, you'll have to compromise.

If you can live with 200mm (which means you won't be framing as tight as desired for many shots, and could have AF difficulties with further subjects), here is an inexpensive choice that would Autofocus on a D40:

Nikkor 55-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX Autofocus Lens for $169 at B&H

Downside: it may not be quite as long as desired, and it's going to be useful only in good light. If you had to stay with a low cost lens, this is probably one of the better choices right now for a D40. They also make a VR (Vibration Reduction) version of this lens for not much more. But, as JohnG mentioned earlier, 200mm is really not as long as desired for football.

Nikkor 55-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Autofocus Lens for $229 at B&H

In something longer (reaches out to 300mm) with AF-S (so you'd have Autofocus on a D40), the next step up in the Nikkor lineup would be this lens. It also has Vibration Reduction:

Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G IF ED AF-S VR Auitofocus Lens for $479 at B&H

Again, this is only going to work in good light (not suitable for night games).

After that, you get into more expensive alternatives like the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 JohnG mentioned.

If you have the budget, you may also want to consider one of these for more versatility (so you'd be able to use it in less than optimum lighting, too).

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens at B&H for $879 (out of stock right this second, but other vendors probably have it).

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR Lens at B&H for $1624

Then, use a 1.4X TC (Teleconverter) with one to extend the range. That way, you'd have a longer lens for daylight use, and would also have a lens you could use for night games when the kids got older without a TC. You might even be able to get some keepers shooting Basketball with one if the lighting is good enough at ISO 3200, depending on the percentage of keepers without blur you can live with.

For the basketball, you may want to see if you can get any keepers using Manual Focus, too. If on a real tight budget, pick up a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF Lens.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF Lens at B&H for $114.95

A better choice would be something like this (so that your kids would fill more of the frame). But, for smaller prints for home scrapbook/album, you may get away with the 50mm if budget won't permit the longer lens. Again, both of these (50mm, 85mm) would require Manual Focus with a D40.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF Lens at B&H for $399.95

Let members know what kind of budget you have for best responses.

jweehler Nov 12, 2007 7:42 AM

I would like to stay around $1000. No more than $1200

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