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Old Feb 21, 2006, 5:18 PM   #1
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I currently have a Canon G2 and I have missed more shots than I have taken. The autofocus on this is extreeeeemely slow. I bought it because of all the reviews at the time that said it was best of the best, but what good does that do if it won't lock on and take the picture?

So now I am ready to try again and am wondering if anyone can recommend a camera with really good autofocus that does well for sports action? I mostly shoot things like horse shows (need a good zoom for that) and soccer, but also lots of indoors family type shots too. Although I love the idea of really learning photography well enough to utilize the abiliities of a DSLR being practical, I doubt that I will ever get out of point and shoot mode (although i suppose I could use the DSLR in P&S mode just to get the increased responsiveness). I also don't want to have to post-process every single shot in Adobe just to get rid of noise, the occasional special shot is one thing, but every one is another. Every camera out there seems good on some aspects and not so good on others, and almost all of the comparison shots that are posted are stills, none of the reviewers seem to attempt any action shots for their reviews. At this point, my head is spinning! Any ideas and suggestions that anyone can make would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a bunch


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Old Feb 21, 2006, 6:34 PM   #2
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Try the Fuji FinePix S5200. 10X optical zoom (non-stabilized), 5 megapixels, very short shutter lag, pretty fast focusing, pretty good picture quality at ISO's 400 and below. OK picture quality at ISO's 800 and 1600 (for reduced size prints). You can get it for less than 300 bucks online and there's a 50 buck rebate no available if you buy from an authorized dealer.

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Old Feb 21, 2006, 6:39 PM   #3
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The Canon S2 would be a great choise.. It has 12x zoom.. image stabilization. And from my personal experience, handles action very well for it's camera type. It's FAST with the Digic II proccessor.
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Old Feb 21, 2006, 8:23 PM   #4
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For indoors, you need a camera that has low noise at high ISO (sensitivity).

Look for a camera that can achieve ISO1600 while still resulting in a decent image.

Also, for indoors, you need a lens that is F2.8 or faster.

Anything slower than that and youl will be disappointed.

You could look at the Fuji Finepix 5200 but see if you can review some samples at ISO1600.

Some cameras produce really nasty looking images at high ISO's.

The other thing to think about is responsiveness.

You need a camera with as little shutter lag as possible.

A lot of sports shooters I know use the Rebel XT. Produces very good images at ISO1600 and is very responsive with little shutter lag.

It's more expensive than the point and shoots, but you get what you pay for, basically.

If you want to check out what people are using, check out the sports photos part of this forum, look at a few posted shots, and ask questions.

-- Terry

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Old Feb 22, 2006, 11:06 AM   #5
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Well, let me add a couple thoughts:

I need to burst one bubble already: if you want to shoot indoor sports shots, and you aren't using strobes to supply your light - you absolutely WILL be post processing all the results. Unless you have incredible lighting (like college or pro arenas) you will be shooting at ISO 1600. That means you're going to have noise. You're also going to have to do cropping and possibly some levels work. That's the name of the game - regardless of which camera you end up with. For still shots with a 'fast' lens (2.8 or lower f-number) or still shots with a flash - you can get by with little or no post processing - assuming you know your gear well.

Now, I don't know about horse shows, but for indoor soccer I would think you would need at least 300mm effective focal length (a 200mm lens on a Canon 20d or 350d is equivelent to 320mm - on a Nikon body it's 300mm because of the 'crop factor'). On digicams there is no 'crop factor'. And you are going to want good results at ISO 1600 and a max aperture of 2.8 or better.

The other thing you have to consider in a sports camera (once it meets the above criteria) is: shutter lag, focus speed, frame rate and buffer handling. Even in good light, better frame rates and buffer handling are going to provide more keepers.

Bottom line is: if sports shooting is going to be a big part of your shooting, then a DSLR is the best way to go - especially if it's indoors. You'll have better high ISO performance than any digicam, better frame rates and shutter lags, etc. And, you have the ability to buy different lenses that fit an individual sports' needs.

Right now, the 20d (and newly announce 30D) are the best non-pro SPORTS shooter bodies out there. At 5fps, ISO 3200 capability, low ISO 1600 noise levels and very good buffer handling they are ideal for the sports shooter. Behind it is the Rebel XT, Nikon D70, D50 and the KM. If sports is 50% or more of your picture taking needs - go with a DSLR. If it's 75% or more or you plan on doing more serious sports work (not just your own kids) then invest in the 20D or 30D.

If you don't fit into those categories then I would say the money it will cost you to get good indoor sports shots out of your DSLR might not be justified and something like the S2 IS which would give you good outdoor sports shots and OK indoor sports shots but otherwise very good quality photos is a better route. Just know, if you go a DSLR route you are not going to shoot sports with the kit lenses. At a minimum you would need something like a Sigma 70-200 2.8 lens ($850) to have the range and speed to shoot indoor soccer. And even then you either need the ability to move with the action or will only get about 1/3 of the field in range for your shots. For horse shows, I wouldn't know - I've never shot anything remotely like that so I can't say what focal length would work.

I second Terry's suggestion about seeing what other sports shooters use. I would also suggest expanding your search to other places as there are only a few of us sports shooters on this site. Look at sites like pbase.com, fredmiranda.com and do searches for indoor soccer, horse shows and see what equipment is in the exif of the photos you return.
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Old Feb 22, 2006, 11:24 AM   #6
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Yup, I agree with JohnG.

As far as processing every photo goes, if you shoot RAW format you can do a batch conversion and apply the same changes (up the exposure, apply noise reduction) to all photos in one fell swoop.

It's difficult to get around having to crop, as probably most photos benefit from some level of cropping.

I included the Rebel XT in the search list because it's an affordable amateur option.

Definitely the 20D or the 30D is a better option than the XT but it tends to push the amateur budget, specially if you looking at adding a $850 Sigma F2.8 70-200.

Unfortunately sports photography, and especially low light sports photography,tends to push equipment to the extreme,so often expensive equipment is needed to get excellent results.

However, if you get good at it, you'll have no end of opportunities to take sports images because every sport is looking for good coverage.

I'm thinking of taking up some photography of x-cross snowboarding because it looks so cool, and I'm sure the x-crossers won't mind having the images and stories available to newspapers and magazines.

--- Terry

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Old Feb 22, 2006, 11:57 AM   #7
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Thanks everybody for your comments. You have given me alot to think about. I was afraid the answer would be that I need a DSLR, since I wasn't having any luck finding a superzoom with all of the characteristics you have brought up (fast lens, long zoom, fast autofocus, high iso capability, good burst mode). Luckily my daughter is playing outdoor soccer right now (in Calif we can play outside most of the year), but horse shows can be inside or out, and the arenas tend to be fairly large so either you have a long zoom or only take pic's as they are coming right at you. Would it be terrible to get a dslr and end up using it mosting in P&S mode (at least at first)? I am just so frustrated with my G2.:?
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Old Feb 22, 2006, 12:31 PM   #8
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Would it be terrible to get a dslr and end up using it mosting in P&S mode (at least at first)? I am just so frustrated with my G2.:?
Well, I have some more potentially bad news - but not terrible news. First, for most shooting conditions a DSLR can be used in full auto mode with little problem. The only two differences you will note with a DSLR in ANY mode vs. a point and shoot:

1. Depth-of-Field. This refers to how much of the image is in focus. You will find that, because of the sensor size of a DSLR (bigger sensor than a point and shoot) you will have less of the image in focus if objects are not the same distance from the camera. This can be troublesome at first, but in the end once you get the hang of it, this works to your advantage as it isolates your subject - the eye automatically is drawn to what is 'in focus' in the image.

2. Focus points - this ties in to number 1. Because of the lower DOF of a DSLR, you have to be more cognizent of the camera actually focusing on what you WANT it to focus on. There are several ways of accomplishing this: selecting a specific fosus point, or focus and recompose, etc.

So those two things combine to make DSLR shooting a little more work for the shooter no matter what mode you use.

Now the slightly worse news - you want to shoot sports. Specifically you want to shoot low-light sports. This means, you need to pay attention to shutter speeds. In the most basic terms you need to get shutter speeds fast enough to freeze action. While just about every DSLR has a 'sports' mode which attempts to do this, it tries to accomplish this by setting some default values that don't push the camera. As an example, sports mode on the Canon camera defaults to ISO 400 - and you can't change that. So, if you have an XT, there that can go up to ISO 1600 - you aren't getting the most out of the camera. In good outodor light, this won't matter and sports mode is a good place to start. Indoors, you likely will need ISO 800 or 1600. Which ISO you need is driven by the trade-off of shutter speed and noise (also why having a camera with low noise at high ISO is important). So, you are going to have to learn some photographic concepts to be able to figure out for a given shooting situation, what ISO, aperture and shutter speed are appropriate. But guess what? If you want to push a digicam to do sports shooting you have to do the same thing. Bottom line - there isn't a camera I've ever heard of that will take good indoor sports pictures in auto mode or in any preset mode - those modes don't push the camera enough. And indoor sports shooting pushes any camera to it's limits.
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Old Feb 22, 2006, 12:36 PM   #9
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I pretty much shoot most of my sports shutter priority.

You should learn to shoot shutter priority to that you can freeze the action at a specific shutter speed.

I would suspect that for soccer or horses you are shooting at 1/250th or 1/500th.

The other thing to learn is how to increase the ISO. Generally when you're indoors you dial the ISO up high (ISO1600 or ISO3200).

When I get a new camera, I generally try to figure out how to shoot shutter priority, how to dial up the ISO, how to set the cam from single shot to frames per second (FPS), and how to reformat the card. This is about 80 percent of what I need to know aobut a camera to survive a sports gig.

After I goof with the cam for a while, I start looking at the stuff like in camera sharpening, RAW format, etc. etc. and work my way through the rest of the manual over a couple of month period to make sure I understand the rest of the camera's features in case I need it.

It all sounds difficult, but after a month or two you won't even remember what it was like to use a G2.

And when you go back to your G2 and try it after using a DSLR, you will ask yourself "What was I thinking???".

-- Terry
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Old Feb 22, 2006, 1:31 PM   #10
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If it's for outdoor sports, you can find a number of models that can handle it much better than your old G2 now (Autofocus Speed and reliability, number of photos in a burst before the internal buffer fills up, cycle times between photos, etc.).

If for indoor sports or night sports, you'll want a DSLR with a bright lens having f/2.8 or brighter apertures available (represented by smaller f/stop numbers).

Keep in mind that f/2 (that you've got with your G2 on it's wide end) is twice as bright as f/2.8, 4 times as bright as f/4, and 8 times as bright as f/5.6 (which is the brightest that many lenses go if you zoom in much with them).

So, lens choice makes a big difference. You can quickly give up the higher ISO speed advantage a DSLR model has, if you put a zoom lens on it that's not bright enough compared to the F/2.0-f/2.5 lens on your G2.

For indoor sports or other low light conditions where you can't use a flash, a Canon Rebel XT, Nikon D50, or Konica Minolta 5D would be a good choice in the entry level lineup. Ditto for night sports in a stadium.

I'd get a bright 50mm lens to go with one since they're so inexpensive. You can get 50mm f/1.8 or brighter lenses for Nikon, Canon or KM models for $100.00 or less (although new 50mm lenses in KM mount are in short supply, so you would have to go with a more expensive and brighter f/1.4 from what I'm seeing lately with supply).

The used market is full of them though. I got a Maxxum 7000 in working condition, with a 50mm f/1.7 and a Minolta AF flash for $49 a while back. ;-)

I'd probably pick up a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX APO for sports use. It's probably got the most bang for the buck in a bright zoom for sports, and it's available in most camera mounts, including Canon, Nikon, and Konica Minolta.

In a shorter zoom lens for indoor use , the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di is a popular choice and available in most major camera mounts.

If you don't mind using your feet for zoom, a prime (non zoom) like a 50mm f/1.8 is going to be brighter and sharper than a zoom, especially if you stopped down the prime to f/2.8 if light permits. Then, get something longer as budget permits.

I've got a Minolta 28mm f/2, 50mm f/1.7, 100mm f/2 and 135mm f/2.8 that I got at bargain prices on the used market for use with my KM Maxxum 5D.

You can sometimes use lower ISO speeds with acceptable sharpness shooting at wider apertures with a prime, too (brighter usable apertures for the same shutter speeds at lower ISO speeds).

I don't shoot sports. But, if it were me, out of the entry level models, I'd go with the KM Maxxum 5D for sports use, especially indoor use, even though it's not as fast as some.

It's got ISO 3200 available, whereas the other 2 models only go to ISO 1600. It's relatively clean compared to most models at ISO 1600, too if you expose well.

You can see a noise graph from Imatest that Dave Etchells posted here:


It's also got anti-shake with every lens, including bright primes and third party zooms like the Tamron and Sigma lenses I mentioned.

But, I'm biased because I've got this camera. ;-)

You can get the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D at bargain prices, too. But, dealers have been running out of both the 5D and 7D, so supplies are limited.

If you need better performance for more serious sports photography, the next step up would be the EOS-20D. It's got ISO 3200, a faster frame rate with a bigger buffer if you really need it for trying to capture every part of a swing, pitch, kick or catch. ;-) You can get stabilized f/2.8 zooms for Canon models (pricey but stabilized).

Nikon also has some models available that are better suited for sports (for example, their D2Hs). It's lower resolution than the rest, but it's going to have superior performance for things like af speed, frame rate and buffer size compared to most.

If you need even better autofocus performance, better build quality, weather proofing, faster frame rates with large buffers and fast write times for sports, there are more models available from Canon and Nikon at higher prices.

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