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Old Jan 24, 2011, 9:19 PM   #1
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Default Good lens for indoor sports?

Hi, I am new to this site and new to photography. A good bit of the terminology escapes me. I have been reading many of the threads trying to find an answer to my question but I am not good at interpreting a lot of the information.

I have a Nikon D3000. I would like to take good photos of my kids playing indoor basketball and indoor soccer. I'm doing fine with outdoor soccer and baseball and general pictures with my current lenses but the indoor basketball season last year could have been better. Although I did much better than the other moms and was fairly pleased, my photos don't compare to those I have seen on this site.

I have the standard kit lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 3.5 - 5.6 G and AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm 4.5 -5.6 G. I know I need a faster lens but I am not sure what is best.

I stopped by my local camera store last summer and they recommended the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm 1.8. I am afraid 35mm is not long enough (if that is the right term). I think they said it's equivalent to 50mm which I don't understand but in any event, I spent most of the basketball season using my 70 - 300 at the lower end to have the faster speed and played around with the settings as best I could. Will I be disappointed with the 35 mm ?? I can stand on the baseline for most games but I would also like to be able to shoot from the stands.

Since my camera does not have the motor in the body I know I am limited to the AF-S lenses and it seems like slim and very expensive pickings for anything from 1.4 - 2.8.

The 35 mm is very inexpensive, then I see the 50 mm just above it. From there it jumps to the 85 mm. Then in the zooms I see the 24 - 70 and the 70 -200.

I really never expected to put a $2000 lens on a $500 camera but maybe that's the way it works?? Maybe I should have bought a more expensive camera with a motor in it because the regular AF lenses don't seem to be as costly. In the end maybe it works out to be the same?? Any thoughts?

I like the flexibility that the zoom offers but is that the best option for this type of situation. If money is not an object (which it is), what is the best lens for this job? I would rather save to buy the one that will work the best than to try to be cost effective, buy the wrong one and be disappointed.

I see references to other brands of lenses. Can someone offer some advice on not only the best size (term?) lens but also on whether another brand would offer something better or the same for less?

I appreciate any opinions and advice anyone is willing to offer. Thank you and sorry for being so wordy.
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Old Jan 25, 2011, 8:01 AM   #2
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Welcome to Steves. Unfortunately there isn't a perfect answer to your question. The most versatile solution is a 70-200 2.8 lens. The least expensive non-used route is a sigma 70-200 2.8 ($800). The problem is - such a lens will still require you to use the boosted ISO 3200 of your camera - which means a lot of noise in the images which will require proper noise reduction software. Even then, if your particular gym is poorly lit, you still may not get the shutter speeds you need. We could tell if we had a properly exposed non-flash shot from that gym to look at and view the settings used. We could then calculate what shutter speed ISO 3200 and f2.8 would provide you.

The other solution is prime lenses. As you correctly noted, you're in a bit of a bind by not being able to use lenses that require the camera's focus motor. So one of the most popular lenses for basketball with other nikon DSLRs - 85mm 1.8 isn't an option. To be sure, a 35mm lens is indeed too short. A 50mm lens is good for about 15 feet of reach. So that would give you some shots from the baseline but not much quality from the stands.

Now the really bad news - indoor soccer is usually worse lit than basketball - and you don't get the benefit of light reflecting off the floor like you do in basketball. So you may find that ISO 3200 f2.8 still only gets you slow shutter speeds. That's probably one of the toughest sports to shoot because of that. And, unlike basketball you can't sit in one area and have 1/2 the action taking place within 30 feet of your shooting position.
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Old Jan 25, 2011, 7:10 PM   #3
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Hi John, thank you for your reply. I have a few more questions. Somewhere in all of the other posts I read I remember seeing something about needing an HSM Sigma lens due to the lack of motor. I was on the Sigma website just looking around for the 70-200 you mentioned and they have 2 options for that range, neither of which are anywhere near the $800 you indicated. This might not matter based on your other comment about the ISO requirements. I have already proven not to be that computer literate at "fixing" my pictures so the comments you made certainly make me think this is not a good solution anyway. But just out of curiosity do you have any input on which "exact" lens you meant? Also, in the ISO settings for my camera I seem to have up to 1600 and then "Hi 1". I don't think I have 3200? With the 2.8, why do I need such a high film speed. I thought the faster lens was what solved that problem?

Glad to hear that you agree on the 35mm. Thank you for that input. It really didn't sound long enough to me.

Why is the 85 mm 1.8 the most popular basketball lens and why isn't that available for me? I searched on Nikons lens finder and an 85mm 1.4 popped up. It's an AF-S and I thought that was all I needed to worry about? It says it's "new". Since this one is $1700 would there be an alternate brand that is comparable. I saw a Sigma HSM that was also an 85mm 1.4 for $1400. Still kind of expensive for a "mom" if you ask me but ..... If this would work would I still have the high ISO issues and if not, can you please explain why. I don't really understand that part very well.

I won't cry over the inability for the indoor soccer. I get plenty of great shots outside.

I would send you a photo to analyze as you suggested but we don't have a standard gym. My son plays tournament ball and they travel all over. Some gyms are way better lit than others but since we are really never in the same place my photos lack consistency and trying to accommodate one gym won't help with the others.

Thank you for all of the information and any other opinions and more information would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Jan 25, 2011, 7:39 PM   #4
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This is the sigma he is referring to:
http://www.henrys.ca/716-SIGMA-70-20...-II-NIKON.aspx

and i believe this is it on the sigma site:
http://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/70-20...o-hsm-ii-sigma

the price estimate was a little off.

i have it in the sony mount and i can tell you that altho i really like it for it's quality, it's heavy. i suggest you go to a camera store and just ask to take a few pictures with any 70-200 f/2.8 with your camera. then you'll have an idea. it could be tripod/monopod mounted tho so don't rule it out for your usage based on weight.

edit: "street" pricing:
http://www.adorama.com/SG70200DNKAF.html

if you dig into the extra words they have, you'll see it's an "EX" lens which is sigma-talk for "our best".

Last edited by frank-in-toronto; Jan 25, 2011 at 7:48 PM.
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 3:16 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Photo Mom View Post

Why is the 85 mm 1.8 the most popular basketball lens and why isn't that available for me? I searched on Nikons lens finder and an 85mm 1.4 popped up. It's an AF-S and I thought that was all I needed to worry about? It says it's "new". Since this one is $1700 would there be an alternate brand that is comparable. I saw a Sigma HSM that was also an 85mm 1.4 for $1400. Still kind of expensive for a "mom" if you ask me but ..... If this would work would I still have the high ISO issues and if not, can you please explain why. I don't really understand that part very well.
The 85 1.8 is around $400 and is a fine lens, I have one and use it to shoot basketball. Usually stand at the corners to get shots.

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Old Jan 26, 2011, 3:45 AM   #6
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The 85mm f1.8 is not a good choice for you is that it is manual focus only on the D3000 as there is no focus motor in the lens. If you had a D90 or similar then it would be a great option.
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 7:27 AM   #7
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Also, in the ISO settings for my camera I seem to have up to 1600 and then "Hi 1". I don't think I have 3200? With the 2.8, why do I need such a high film speed. I thought the faster lens was what solved that problem?
Yes, Hi 1 setting is what you would need - that is an artificial ISO 3200. Unfortunately for low light sports you often need wide apertures AND high ISOs. It depends - in well lit NBA arenas you can shoot at ISO 800 and f2.8. In NCAA Div I arenas you could get by with iso 1600. In HS arenas it's ISO 3200 and f2.8
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 8:44 AM   #8
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There was a Sigma zoom, 50-150mm f/2.8 which has been discontinued (and had an even worse than Sigma's usual bad quality rep) that might be a good fit if you can find one that isn't misaligned. People who ended up with a good one really loved that lens. It is DX-only and light for such a bright zoom. It comes with a motor in the Nikon mount. FWIW
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Old Jan 28, 2011, 8:52 AM   #9
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Hi again, I am still terribly confused about the choices but I have been muddling through trying to do some research and learn what this all means.

From the initial reply there was reference to a 70 - 200mm 2.8 but I would encounter problems with the 3200 ISO and need noise reduction software which seems scary to me. And an 85mm 1.8 that is "most popular for basketball" but it was said I could not use the 85mm due to my camera body

Keeping in mind that my D3000 does not have a motor and the lens I select must have it's own motor, I think the following work according to the lens finder tools on the sites?

AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G
AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II

and Sigmas seemingly comparable
70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM
85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Does anyone know if I am interpreting this correctly and all of these lens would work on my camera? Since the 85 mm was said to be a great basketball choice is that better and would I not have the problems associated with the 70-200 for hi ISO and noise reduction software?

I still don't really understand the relationship between the ISO and the fast lens. I thought the fast lens "fixed the problem".

Has anyone used any of these lens for indoor sports photos? Thanks again for any input
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Old Jan 28, 2011, 9:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
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I still don't really understand the relationship between the ISO and the fast lens. I thought the fast lens "fixed the problem".
No, it doesn't "fix the problem" it only makes the problem manageable. The only people that will tell you it "fixes the problem" are people that don't shoot low light sports. You'll find lots of opinions about what gear to use for sports - 90% of those opinions belong to people that don't really shoot sports or do it very poorly.
Let me give you an example. In one of the HS gyms I shoot in, my exposure settings are:
ISO 3200, 1/400 f2.8.

If I was using an f5.6 lens I would have shutter speeds of 1/100 instead of 1/400. 1/100 will show entirely too much motion blur.

Additionally you have to understand that these wide apertures let more light in. An f2.8 lens lets in 4 times as much light as an f5.6 lens. That makes it much easier for a camera to focus.

From the pro shooters I've heard from the VRII is an outstanding lens - quite possibly the best on the market in any brand.

I shoot canon so can't speak specifically about the 85 1.4 vs. 70-200 2.8 vrII. What I can say is that in general each will have pros/cons:
85mm 1.4 will let you shoot at lower ISO level - a full stop below what the 2.8 lens allows. BUT, framing is more difficult. 85mm lenses aren't designed to focus at great distances. The working range is around 25 feet. Beyond that distance and you run into focus issues. If you're shooting from the baseline you'll be able to get most of the action on your half of the court. BUT, the other problem is - with the 1.5 crop factor of the sensor on your camera, 85mm is awfully tight - so when the players are close to you, you won' be able to fit the entire player in the frame. That takes some getting used to. If you start to move more towards the corner of the baseline then you're too far away to get accurate focus around the arc near the other corner.

The 70-200 gives you much greater flexibility. But you have to shoot at higher ISOs to achieve it.

So, neither is a perfect solution. With the 85mm 1.8 (the lens you can't use) the decision was a bit easier - since that lens cost less than $500. That's why it was so popular. And, in prior camera generations, noise was too great at ISO 3200 for f2.8 to be a viable solution. With the current generation of DSLRs, ISO 3200-6400 performance is acceptable (with noise reduction) - so the flexibility enjoyed by PJs shooting in NCAA and NBA arenas is now enjoyed by those shooting their kids' HS games.

In case you're wondering - the ultimate solution is to add strobes to the gym - that allows you to use the flexibility of the 70-200 but be able to use lower ISOs. But that's not practical for a parent to do.
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