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Old Dec 22, 2006, 8:21 AM   #1
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Having problems shooting action shots in high school gyms. Would like to know what camera and lens people would recommend for this type of photography. Really don't want to use a flash. I am using a Minolta 5D with a Sigma 28-70mm f2.8 lens

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Stoltzy
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Old Dec 22, 2006, 9:34 AM   #2
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You probably need a brighter lens.

Most of our sports shooters here are using primes for indoor sports, since f/2.8 really isn't bright enough for some gyms.

Also, judging fromMTF Charts, that Sigma issoft at wide open apertures (unless yours is a different optical design), adding to your difficulties, since the camera isn't going to see as well for AF purposes with a softer lens, and you'll get softer photos even if focus is good with the aperture wide open (although center sharpness looks to be OK, sharpness looks like it falls off pretty fast going to towards the corners):

http://old.photodo.com/prod/lens/det...0_28-748.shtml

What ISO speed are you using and what issues are you seeing? Chances are, you're going to need ISO 1600 or faster in some gyms to get rid ofmost motion blur, and f/2.8 may not cut it.

What would make getting accurate exposure easier is switching to manual if exposure in as issue. Then, make sure you don't underexpose any at higher ISO speeds, since that will increase noise levels (using your histogram as a guide to get your settings just right).

Have you got a 50mm f/1.7 you can try? If so, see what you get with it (shoot at around f/2.2 with it, and you'll probably get pretty decent results, although the DOF will be shallow).

If you want to try a different camera, I'd probably move up to something like the Canon EOS-30D (or EOS-20D) as a next step. It's got pretty good detail retention at higher ISO speeds if you need to use ISO 3200 to get your shutter speeds fast enough, pretty good AF, and has a faster frame rate for sports.

Then, buy a bright (f/2 or wider apertures) prime or two (50mm 85mm, etc.) You'll get faster shutter speeds and sharper photos with a good lens (not to mention better AF since the camera can see better), and you can always stop down a prime if lighting permits (and you'll get much sharper photos at f/2.8 from a brighter prime than you would from a lenslike that Sigma shooting with the aperture wide open).

Just keep in mind that Depth of Field is going to be shallow at wider apertures. So, it's a good idea to target the faces versus bodies using the closest focus point to them if you need to shoot at wider apertures with a prime.

You may want to post some samples of problem photos in the Sports Photos Forum and get some tips from some of our Sports Shooters, too. Technique is going to have as much to do with getting good images as anything else.


P.S.

Look for tips from Mark1616 in our Sports Forum. Mark was shooting sports with a KM 5D, and now uses a EOS-20D and may be able to give you some tips.

Also, look for tips from JohnG

JohnG shoots a lot of indoor sports, and he'll tell you that f/2.8 is just not bright enough for high school gyms. He uses brighter primes instead of a zoom, sometimes using ISO 3200 when the light isn't good enough. You can see some of his recent basketball photos here (using an EOS-20D):

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=82

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Old Dec 22, 2006, 11:46 AM   #3
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Stoltzy,

Jim hit all the high points:
  • 2.8 isn't bright enough for most HS and below level gyms[/*]
  • Sigma 28-70 is a little soft and it's slow to focus in low light (compared to other lenses more suited for low light use).[/*]
  • Shooting at 2.0 or wider is TOUGH - often have only a few inches of DOF to play with so your focus needs to be dead on.[/*]
  • The two most popular focal lengths for Basketball: 50mm and 85mm. Wider shots can be nice but you need a workhorse lens and if you're in a gym requiring 2.0 that means primes - and primes wider than 50mm are kind of a luxury for sports - start with one of these focal lengths. But make sure the lens in question has a good reputation among sports shooters for focus speed. As an example, Canon has two 85mm primes - 1.8 and 1.2. The 1.2 wasn't designed for action and it focuses very slowly (they came out this year with a MK II version that's supposed to be faster). The Sigma lens you have is a good example - great in good light, slow in low light (I say this not from personal experience but passing it along from another sports shooter who has used both it and the Canon 24-70 and Canon primes - he likes the sigma for it's size/weight when light is good but not for indoor sports).[/*]
  • Mark1616 is a great resource since he has experience with the Minolta cameras as a sports shooter and now is using a Canon - thus he can give you the best idea of how the two systems differ and whether it's worth a jump to Canon or not.
[/*]
Best of luck to you!!
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Old Dec 22, 2006, 12:59 PM   #4
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You rang!!!!

Hi Stoltzy.... I really liked my 5D and it is now in the hands of my father and he is having a great time using it.

There are some things about the 5D that I think are better than my Canon 30D mainly colour capture when shooting Jpg (especially in the reds) and also having the image stabilisation built in for low light shots, however I was struggling when shooting sports as neither of the two above are essential. I found that AF was a little slow and also that there were not enough lenses available for me to use (such as the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 which is high on my list) also no vertical grip (OK a 3rd party option is now out there which might have slowed down the change).

Anyway that's enough about that, lets look at the differences in shooting sport with the two. The advice above is spot on and I will try not to repeat anything but will try to help you see Apart from AF speed one thing I have found helpful by switching was that the ISO noise at 1600 and 3200 is much lower with the Canon and also that the Canon's 3200 is in fact about ISO 4000, this has meant that I have managed to get away with shooting at f2.8 in situations where I could not have even considered it with the KM5D. There is a really cheap way to get sport shooting with the 5D and that is to pick up a 50mm f1.7 from eBay or similar. I used one of these and it was quite good at f2 although the AF was not fantastic so tried to prefocus if possible. As long as you were able to track the subject clearly then I didn't have a problem with it. The 85mm option is expensive as it is a f1.4 G lens which is very nice but you might want to donate an organ or something to get it!!!

How much do you want to shoot sports? If sports are going to be the main focus of your work then I would suggest that you look at switching as there are too many limitations with the KM5D, however if it is not then I would stick with it and get the 50mm f1.7 (as long as you can get on the sidelines) and also look at the possibility of using flash which will also help the situation. I used the 3600HS and found this to be very good.

Well there you have it 3 long posts to read so I hope that Jim, John and I have been able to shed some light onto the situation.

Happy shooting!!!!

Mark
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Old Dec 22, 2006, 2:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
The 85mm option is expensive as it is a f1.4 G lens which is very nice but you might want to donate an organ or something to get it!!!
LOL

Another option in a longer lens is the Minolta 100mm f/2 (if you can find one, and unfortunately, it doesn' t look like Sony will offer a similar design anytime soon).

It's sharper at all apertures in common compared to the 85mm f/1.4G according to MTF Charts and gets high marks from it's owners. The 85mm would probably be a more practical focal length in more conditions. But, I wouldn't trade my 100mm f/2 for one.

BTW, http://www.keh.com has two Minolta 50mm f/1.7 AF lenses for under $100 right now (one in excellent condition at $99, and another in budget condition for $79).

You can probably find one for less on EBay. But, keh has a very good reputation and includes a 60 day warranty with their used gear (as well as a 14 day return policy from invoice date if you're not happy for any reason). Make sure the aperture blades are not oily if you buy used from another source (as that's a common problem with some of the older ones, causing the aperture blades to stick).

I'm not a sports shooter (I haven't even been to a basketball game in over 30 years, much less taken photos at one). I don't even watch basketball on TV (blasphemy, right?). lol

But, I'd be inclined to grab my Minolta 50mm f/1.7 if I were going to try and grab some shots at an indoor game, bringing my Minolta 100mm f/2 along as well. Both are reasonably sharp lenses at wider apertures (both are very nice at around f/2.2 or so and still usable wide open).

In low light, I tend to go withprimes versus something like my Tamron 35-105mm f/2.8 (even if light is better than expected), since they're going to be sharper at f/2.8 if lights permits stopping them down to f/2.8 versus trying to use the zoom with the aperture wide open.

As for exposure, one thing I've found is that the KM 5D will heavily weight exposure towards the selected focus point with the default Matrix metering (metering in diffucult lighting is probably my biggest gripe with the KM 5D).

So, exposure can be all over the board if you're not very careful of what of you're metering on. I wear glasses, so that probably compounds the issue with me (since light entering through the viewfinder can impact metering and you've got more space between your eye and the viewfinder for light to enter wearing glasses).

So, I'd be inclined to use Manual Exposure to eliminate the metering headaches indoors. Just dial in ISO 1600 for starters, making sure you're not underexposing (which can cause higher noise), using the blinking highlights and shadows features as well as the histogram to help with settings for a bright exposure without blowing needed highlights).

The 5D does tend to lose a bit of detail at higher ISO speeds shooting JPEG (as is common with most cameras to keep noise levels more manageable). But, given the speed of the action, raw may not be that practical given the 5D's smaller buffer size.

Write speed to media is pretty good with a fast card though (it can write around 1 raw frame/second after the buffer is full with a fast card like a Sandisk Extreme III).

Then, if you find that your equipment versus technique is limiting you, look at moving up to a camera better suited for sports use like the EOS-20D or 30D if Sports Shooting is your primary purpose for a camera.

Or even better, if budget permits, grab a EOS-1D Mark II N with a super fast 45 point AF system and 8.5 frames per second. It's geared towards that type of shooting.

If you really don't need the extra pixels for the viewing/print sizes desired, the Nikon D2Hs would be worth a look for sports shooting, too. Steve didn't review it here. But, he did review the older Nikon D2H. This particular model was a bit prone to premature failure (usually starting with a flaky meter). But, Nikon has been pretty good about fixing them at no charge if you get a bad one. The newer D2Hs should have the issue solved now.

The model numbers with single digits are the pro series cameras and tend to have much more robust AF systems, larger buffers, faster frame rates and better build quality compared to the entry level cameras. Of course, that also means a larger and heavier camera compared to what you're accustomed to with the little Maxxum5D.
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Old Dec 22, 2006, 3:41 PM   #6
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Stoltzy I feel sorry for you having to read all of this but hopefully it will help.
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Old Dec 23, 2006, 9:15 AM   #7
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Guys really appreciate the advice, I do have the Minolta 50mm f1.7 which I used last night. I posted some pics on the sports action site. Need advice!!!!. Anything you can throw my way would help.

Thanks
Stoltzy

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=82
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Old Dec 23, 2006, 12:53 PM   #8
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I'll let the guys that shoot sports comment on technique.

But, some of the photos look a bit underexposed to my eyes (faces versus uniforms).

Personally, I'd be inclined to blow a few highlights to get better exposure of the faces. For example, the shots at ISO 1600, 1/125 second and f/3.2 look much better to me compared to the shots you took at 1/160 second, f/3.2 and ISO 1600. Given that you're concerned more about shutter speeds for sports, I can understand not wanting to do that. But, you may want to consider using ISO 3200, too. You may find that a well (or slightly overexposed) ISO 3200 might be preferrable to an underexposed ISO 1600.

When shooting at ISO 1600 or 3200, I'd rather lean towards overexposure with a few blown highlights to get the faces well exposed and keep noise levels down with a less "muddy" look to images, unless I'm shooting in an environment with a dark background (in which case, I'd prefer to keep the background dark so that noise is not as noticeable). That's not the case in the environment you're shooting in. So, I would probably lean towards slight overexposure.

If you need to shoot jpeg versus raw, dialing back the contrast a tad can sometimes help with dynamic range (the default tone curve is a bit contrasty and your dynamic range can be a bit "thin" at higher ISO speeds). Sometimes I dial mine back, and sometimes I don't, depending on what I plan to use the images for.

Blown highlights are not the end of the world. I doubt that most people would even notice (other than other photographers pixel peeping). ;-)

You may want to consider using a custom white balance, too (or at least a preset). The camera's Auto White Balance can leave a bit to be desired in Artificial Lighting. Some shots look fine. But, others have a bit more color cast than desired. I've noticed that a custom white balance can give you a bit better noise characteristics in some lighting, too.

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