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Old Aug 21, 2007, 10:43 PM   #1
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I'vehad a Canon 350D (EOS Rebel XT) for about 8 months, with the standard 18-55mm lens and the basic 70-300mm EF f/4-5.6lens that I got with the camera at Circuit City. I've tried and tried to make things work shooting my daughter's volleyball and basketball games in poorly lit gyms and have come to the conclusion that I need to invest if I'm going to get decent photos... So I went to my local camera store and rented a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 85mm f/1.2 to try out at tonight's game. The gym started out with plenty of ambient light, but got darker as the games went on..

The only editing I've done is using Picasa, some brightness adjustment, cropping, and sharpening.. For some reason, exif data isn't transfered when I post the pictures using Picasa, but you can see that information in the album (link below).

All pictures were shot in M mode, with only changes to Aperture, Shutter, and ISO.

Here are some samples:

Fairly close up without much movement - high ISO:

Same photo, but after using Neat Image to clean up noise:

More action - shot from the end line:

Another longer shot:

I took over 250 pictures, of which I salvaged about 30 - is 10% a good or bad ratio? Here is a link to the entire album, feel free to critique away...


OK, some general comments on the lenses and the subject...

1. The 85mmlens seemed to be a better choice, since it was brighter in the gym environment, but it was much harder to get the subject of the picture in the frame and in focus. Seems like the focus is so sensitive at f/2.0 and lower, I didn't get any really sharp photos..

2. Volleyball moves so fast the autofocus was moving in and out constantly, and it was near impossible to keep the ball in the camera frame. So, it seems to me the only alternative is to take wider shots, then try to crop... Unfortunatley, with the high ISO and slower shutter speeds, the quality really goes down..

3. I tried shooting from the middle of the gym, in the corner of the stands, and the baseline - each area has it's pros and cons.. Any suggestions on location?

Any wisdom, advice, comments, critiques are all welcome..


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Old Aug 22, 2007, 6:54 AM   #2
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Yep - volleyball can be tough. I would suggest neither lens you tried is the best for the job. If you're shooting from the floor you'll want to use an 85mm 1.8 (not the 1.2 - focus is faster on the 1.8). And, 2.8 isn't really good enough in most non-college gyms (in most gyms I've shot in, I've had to use ISO 3200 when using 2.8). From farther away, the 135mm 2.0 is the choice.

So, if you can shoot from the floor - give the 85mm 1.8 a try. But here's the thing - these lenses aren't zooms - in fact they were designed as portrait lenses. What does this mean? It means for the 85mm 1.8 the max focusing distance is around 15-20 feet. It's really designed for tighter shots. So, you have to shoot extremely tight with the lens. I suggest shooting from around the center with the lens looking back toward your players. Use center focus point only (really screws up the composition - which is a real benefit of the 40d coming out having all 9 sensors cross-type) since it's the most accurate. Other focus points in that lighting won't work too well.

The 135 is a great length for shooting from the end line to get shots through/over the net of your team on blocks and spikes - but 85mm is too short to get quality shots.

With practice, your keeper rate will improve. Shooting at 2.0 is very tough and does take practice. Unfortunately it's necessary for most gyms.

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Old Aug 22, 2007, 9:42 AM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback.

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