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Old Mar 18, 2008, 12:37 PM   #1
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Howdy gang! Newbie here with the usual request for HELP! I'm looking to make the move from the P&S world into a dSLR. I'm not a photog buff and know very little about the technical ins and outs of photography. I'm ok with learning and using basics like ISO, f-stops, maybe a custom white balance and which auto-focus setting to use. Beyond those basics, I'mclueless.

My need for moving into the dSLR world is mostly my kid's sports/action shooting. Specifically;

- Indoor; ice-hockey and equestrian

- Outdoor; softball, baseball, equestrian

I would also use it for family functions but honestly, 90% of the time a good P&S is more than sufficient for those events. I would probably never bring the SLR on vacations as I really do not like lugging lots of camera stuff around. I'll do it for the sporting events and the odd family function but I do not like to be saddled with large cameras and/or gear bags.

My goal is to keep the initial expense for camera or perhaps a "kit" to around $600.00. I want to be able to spend $$ on glass for the ice-hockey shooting by next fall so I have to leave some $$ for additional glass.

The more I read posts, reviews, and data sheets, the more confused I become. I've changed my mind on a brand or model at least 3-4 times over the last two weeks. I know from reading posts here for the last few days that you all get requests for help choosing camera A or camera B more than you all probably care to answer. So please, be gentle on me. The truth is that coming from the P&S world pretty much any dSLR will be a huge improvement and major step up for me. I just would rather not have to be "upgrading" a year from now and want to be able to use what I get for the indoor hockey and equestrian shots. Sorry for rambling on, here are the choices I'm pondering;

Rebel XTi w/ EF-S 18 – 55mm approx $590.00

Rebel XT body only $380.00

Rebel XT w/ EF-S 18 – 55mm

Pentax K100D Super w/ DA 18 – 55mm $500.00

Or….would I just be better off splurging and going for a D60 kit with 18-55VR and 55-200VR lenses for $950.00?

Also considering a used Nikon D70s body only in very good condition with all original box and materials for $300.00.

I'm so darn confused. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated!



Natty

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Old Mar 18, 2008, 3:32 PM   #2
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Natty,

I think we can help you out here.

Sports is the primary use of the DSLR, so my advice is to stick with Canon, Nikon or Sony. Pentax and Oly DSLRs aren't in the same league yet as far as sports shooting is concerned (great for other purposes but not as good as the competition in sports shooting).

All 3 of the above manufacturers can handle your requirements, but certain models should be excluded.

Nikon - I would exclude D40,D40x,D60 - your indoor shooting may require the use of prime lenses and most prime lenses in the focal lengths you need wont AF on these bodies because the bodies don't have focus motors. The D3, D300 and D80 is really the only DSLR in their lineup I would recommend for low light sports. The D3 and D300 are too expensive. Noise performance on the D200 and D70s make them poor choices compared to the competition IMO.

Sony - only the new models (i.e. not the A100). The problem I have with Sony is availability and expenseof NEW lenses. The bodies may have the necessary requirements but lens selection, availabilityand cost still lags behind the competition. In a couple years that may change but right now it's simply easier to find Canon and Nikon lenses, and they are often less expensive for the quality of lenses you need.

Canon - The XTi has significant AF improvements over the XT. I would definitely select the XTi over the XT for sports shooting.

So, of the kits you have listed, only this one is one I would recommend:

Quote:
Rebel XTi w/ EF-S 18 – 55mm approx $590.00
The other bodies are poor choices for low light sports IMO.

But realize, that kit wont let you shoot ANY of your sports. None of them. Let's talk about what you would need to shoot these sports:

Outdoor sports:

Softball - if you're on the field you can get by with a 200mm lens but 300 is preferable. If you're not allowed on the field you'll need at least 300mm preferably 400mm

Baseball - depends on the level of play. By the time you're on a full size diamond you need a minimum of 300mm if you're shooting from on the field. If you're not on the field 400mm - 500mm.

Equestrian: if you can get right down by the railing then you can get by with 200mm although 300mm would be preferable.

But focal length is only part of the story: without spending a lot of $$$ you wont be able to shoot in low light. The less expensive lenses have max aperture of 5.6. Slightly better lenses have a max aperture of 4.0 (but these lenses let in TWICE the light, so you can get shutter speeds TWICE as fast - and shutter speeds are important in sports - the faster the better). The best outdoorlenses have max aperture of 2.8 - which lets in TWICE the light of 4.0. To put this in terms that are easy to understand, lets take a person running in baseball or softball. You wannt a minimum shutter speed of 1/400 to get decent shots of people running. In poor lighting at dusk under lights (but not yet dark) you may get 1/400 at f2.8 (at the max ISO your camera would have of ISO 1600) - a 4.0 lens would only have 1/200 shuttere speeds so arms and legs and maybe head would be a bit blurred. A 5.6 lens would have shutter speeds of 1/100 which would have unacceptable blur.

So, here are my selections for lenses for these sports:

Option 1: Sigma 100-300 f4 ($1000). Fantastic lens - you can attach a 1.4x teleconverter so the lens becomes a 140-420mm f5.6 lens which would be more useful for baseball if you couldn't get on the field. Wont be usful for the indoor sports.

Option 2: Canon 70-200 2.8 ($110) plus 1.4x TC. THis option becomes viable and more desirable if your indoor conditions allow you to use 2.8 apertures (see below). In that way you can use the same lens for all sports. Even with the TC it will be short for baseball on a full size diamond if you're not shooting from on the field. So it's not a great solution but it's a very workable one. The other benefit is you can use this lens at low light levels without the TC and, potentially indoors.

Option 3: Sigma 70-200 2.8 ($850). Same benefits / restrictions as above. The sigma is a little less sharp at 200mm than the canon and it's slower to focus in low light but it's a very usable lens - I shot with one for years. I think if you go the 70-200 2.8 route it's a very viable alternative to the Canon - especially if budget is a concern. Now, Tamron is coming out with a new 70-200 2.8 lens but it's completely unproven as a sports lens. The focus motors in lenses matter in sports because the lens is continuously focusing. Tamron to date does not have any track record of providing fast-focusing sports lenses. But, by the time you're ready to buy that can be re-evaluated.

Option 4: Canon 70-300 IS USM ($560). Good reach and a lot less money than the above. But with 5.6 aperture it isn't very useful when light levels get lower. And of course it isn't the same quality as the other lenses but for your needs it's ENOUGH quality. Of course, for baseball it's short unless you're on the field - and this lens will not allow you to use a TC (you lose the autofocus and quality really goes down so for sports its a very poor solultion to try and use a TC on).

option 5: garage sale option - Sigma 70-300 5.6. This lens is under $200 on-line. It's a nice value lens but signficantly less performance thant the $560 Canon 70-300. Image quality from 200-300mm is not very good and it's slow to focus compared to the lenses above. But it is a possible option if you need to go low budget.

Indoor sports:

This is tougher.

70-200 is a good focal length for the two sports in question (assuming you're on top of the action and not 40 feet away in the stands), BUT and it's a BIG but, you'll need a minimum aperture of 2.8 to be successful. AND, depending on the lighting, even 2.8 may not be enough. If the lighting is poor enough you may need 2.0 aperture - which means fixed length lenses (i.e. lenses that dont zoom). You have 3 realistic options here:

Canon 135mm 2.0 ($1000) - fantastic lens but very pricey.

Canon 100mm 2.0 ($360) - excellent lens but really limited to about 30 feet of coverage. Given your sports I think this lens is preferable to the 85mm one - you'll need all the reach you can get.

Canon 85mm 1.8 ($360) - excellent lens but really limited to about 25 feet of coverage.

So, the kit lens wont be useful for any of these sports. So you'll need to spend additional $$$. The key to spending wisely is to find out what you will need for the indoor sports first. If the venues are bright enough for 2.8 (at ISO 1600) then I think a 70-200 2.8 lens is good choice. If they're not bright enough for 2.8 then one of the longer lenses for outdoor sports and prime lens(es) for indoors is in order. The only way to determine whether 2.8 will work indoors is to take some actual test shots in those venues with the lighing as it would be - with a subject wearing the hat or helmet as they would in competition. Taking some test shots with any digital camera without flash will help us determine what settings will be required. The last thing I think you want to do is buy a 70-200 2.8 which is short for your outdoor work and not have it be bright enough for your indoor work.
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Old Mar 18, 2008, 9:15 PM   #3
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I second everything JohnG said.

The indoor sports are going to be tough.



I took this in the best lit indoor riding ring I've ever seen. I was using a 135mm f/2.8 lens wide open, and an ISO setting of 800. I still could only get a shutter speed of 1/60, which resulted in a fair amount of motion blur.

For ice hockey, the ice may reflect enough light so you can get away with f/2.8, but you should really get something with a larger maximum aperture.
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 4:52 PM   #4
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WOW! I'm floored by the incredibly informative, helpful respone. I cannot thank you enough JohnG. I know that response must have taken a good deal of time and your willingness toshare your experience and expertise is GREATLY appreciated.

Couple quick answers to questions posed;

1. I can get onto the ball fields with no problem.

2. I can get rinkside to most, 90%, of the hockey games.

Many of the arena's have poor lighting and apprently most of them have some sort of weird vapor lighting which cast an orange-ish hue to the color.

3. Probably half of the horseback riding pics I'll take of my daughter will be outdoors. County fair, 4-H, local/regional shows.

Tcav...would also like thank you too for providing a visual aid to drive home the points and for adding your backup to what JohnG said. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Thanks both of you!

Funny how things come full circle. a couple of weeks ago when I made the decision that I was going to jump intoa SLR, the XTi was my first choice. Then read this, read that, talk to this guy at work, a friend of a friend who knows someone, and so it goes. I'm happy to report that a brand new Rebel XTi kit is on the way. Hopefully the little brown truck shows up tomorrow and I'll have the weekend to familiarize myself with the camera. I also ordered a spare Canon battery (had bad experience with no-name replacement batteries in the past) and a couple Sandisk Ultra III cf cards. I'll have my first chance at some ice-hockey shots next weekend as my son will be playing in a tournament up in Marlboro, Mass.

I was thinking of using one of those lens rental places on the web. I saw a Canon 200mm, f2.8 lense that I thought might be a good place to start with next weekend's hockey. I'm guessing that many here have used these lense rental places.....seems like a great way to try many different lenses before making a big purchase. If that particular lense isn't a good starting point I'd love to hear alternatives.

Again, thanks so so much! I'm pretty excited to get started with this stuff!

Natty
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 5:42 PM   #5
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Natty,

Be sure to let us know how the lens rental goes. I haven't used one before so I'm curious. When I looked a year or so ago it seemed like the popular sporting lenses were always out of stock. I'm sure since the business has grown it's better now.

Also, be sure to share some of your shots on the sports forum. We've got a very helpful bunch of sports shooters who can help you out.

First piece of advice for the hockey game - if you're not setting a manual exposure, you'll want to use a +2/3 exposure compensation. The camera will naturally underexpose the shot because of the ice (the camera wants the ice to be grey not white).
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 6:47 PM   #6
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Thanks for the tip JohnG! If the shots aren't too embarrassing I'll post one or two, but, me posting a pic here is like bringing a paint by numbers to The Louvre.
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 6:56 PM   #7
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Natty wrote:
Quote:
but, me posting a pic here is like bringing a paint by numbers to The Louvre.
Dont look at it that way. This place is a great place to learn. Most of us have benefitted greatly by seeking out help and feedback on our photos. You'll be amazed how quickly you can improve the quality of your sports photos by seeking out feedback on your photos. Most of us in the sports forum are looking to get better not trying to show off. We were all beginners at one point and we'll do our best to help you out. So don't be embarassed. Trust me, my first sports photos are not something I would want people to see now :G
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