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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:07 PM   #1
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I am trying to find a camera in the $600 range that will take shots indoors at gymnastics events with no flash, WITH live view. A good zoom would be very helpful too.

I had been using an Olympus-SP 510UZ, which could sometimes get a shot un-blurred, but usually not enough exposure. I was using the "available light" setting. But, now that camera is not working right (pictures have stripes and are washed out on every setting).

I know these are very un-ideal circumstances, but what would be the probable best option? I have ruled out the Nikon D60 for lack of Live View. I am considering the Olympus E-420. I don't know what lens would be best for that. Are there any other good options in that price range?
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:20 PM   #2
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I shoot gymnastics and I'm struggling with the desire for live view. Are you physically unable to use the viewfinder?

Beside that, the challenge with gymnastics is the lighting is almost always terrible. So you need good ISO performance AND good low light shooting performance.

Canon 40D and Nikon D300 would, of course be the top picks. But that's way outside your budget.

Choice 3 - Sony 700 is also outside your budget.

Below the E3 there isn't an Oly camera that has good enough low light focus and ISO performance to do very well IMO for the task at hand.

Pentax has better ISO performance but really not great focus performance.

Sony's A700 is great in both fronts. But by the time you drop down to the A200 (good price point) the high ISO performance isn't so great and the focus isn't on par either with the competition. For focus/ISO performance the least expensive camera I would recommend is the Canon XSi.

Here's the rub - you'd be lucky to have a gym you could shoot f2.8 in - even at ISO 1600. And there are places I've shot where f2.8 requires ISO 3200. So, you're either looking at a camera with 2.8 lens and ISO 3200 capability OR ISO 1600 capability and fast prime lens. Neither of which is going to happen for $600.

Even something like the inexpensive Canon 50mm 1.8 lens ($75) would be problematic - that lens is useful for about 15 feet. You're not going to get within 15 feet for most gymnastics shots. It's tough enough with 85mm (gets you about 20-25 feet of coverage). With that lens you still need floor access so you can get as close as possible to the aperatus. And that lens alone is $360 (slightly higher for Canon or Sony).

Now, everyone has their own idea of what is acceptable or not. I can't think of a solution for $600 that would produce acceptable gymnastics shots. But everyone is different. My only caution is this: if someone DOES give you a solution they say will work for that price point - be sure to ask for the gymnastics photos taken with said equipment. You'll likely get a lot of suggestions from people who have never shot gymnastics. So, just be careful before you spend your hard earned cash following advice from people that don't shoot the sport.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:34 PM   #3
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For indoor sports, you really need a large aperture lens, f/2.0 or larger, in order to use a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action and use an ISO setting low enough to avoid noise in poorly lit gyms. Since the largest aperturesavailable onzoom lenses is f/2.8 (or thereabouts), that lets out zoom lenses.

The only cameras with 'Live View' and large aperture lenses are dSLRs, and only a few are near your price range.

Olympus has the E-420 and E-520. They are much improved versions of the earlier E-410 and E-510, with a new feature that is particularly relavent to what you want to do. These earlier models could not autofocus in 'Live View' mode. The newer models correct that deficiency. The E-520 also has sensor shift image stabilization, which reduces (if not eliminates) motion blur due to camera shake. This is not so much an issue since you'll be using fastere shutter speeds anyway, but I think having stabilization is better than not having it.

Sony has the A300, which also has sensor shift image stabilization, and it's 'Live View' display is also articulating (the displays on the Olympus models are not.)

Adorama lists the minimum prices for these three at:
  • Olympus E-420 (body only): $440 [/*]
  • Olympus E-520 (body only): $600 [/*]
  • Sony A300 (w/ kit lens): $600[/*]
But that's only half what you need. A fast (f/2.0) fixed focal length lens with a focal length appropriate for what you want to do will not be cheap for the Olympus. The least expensive are the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ($400) and the Olympus 50mm f/2.0 ($425).

Sony has a 50mm f/1.4 lens for $350, but the good news is that there are many used Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lenses available for about $100 on eBay, KEH.com, and elsewhere. These are quite popular since Sonydecided not to make them anymore when they bought Minolta's camera business a little over a year ago.

So, to meet your requirements, I think your best choice is the Sony A300 with a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens for $700. It's a little over your budget, but it should do well.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:39 PM   #4
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TCav wrote:
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So, to meet your requirements, I think your best choice is the Sony A300 with a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens for $700. It's a little over your budget, but it should do well.
Just pointing out that nagging piece of reality about not getting good shots beyond say 15 feet with a 50mm lens. TCAV - do you by chance have any gymnastics shots with a 50mm lens?
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:53 PM   #5
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JohnG wrote:
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TCav wrote:
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So, to meet your requirements, I think your best choice is the Sony A300 with a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens for $700. It's a little over your budget, but it should do well.
Just pointing out that nagging piece of reality about not getting good shots beyond say 15 feet with a 50mm lens. TCAV - do you by chance have any gymnastics shots with a 50mm lens?
I did not say that this would give him perfect shots, first time, every time.

I said that, for his budget and requirements, the Sony A300 with a 50mm f/1.7 lens was his best choice.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 1:58 PM   #6
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Not to nit but you said it would "do well". This is why I suggest it's VERY dangerous to accept sports shooting advice without evidence. IMO, it would still do poorly. Before spending $600 I think it's beneficial for the OP to see how well/poorly such a solution would do. They MAY decide it's not worth the $600. Or they might. But I would advise against spending the money without seeing how the solution (or similar solution) performs. In my gymnastics shooting experience 50mm isn't good enough. Other people whove shot gymnastics might have different experiences though.

Edit:

For what it's worth I shoot indoor swimming, basketball, wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics. Of these, gymnastics is by far the most difficult - especially if you don't have free roam of the floor to set up by each aperatus.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 3:07 PM   #7
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Way back when I shot indoor sporting eventsfor the college newspaper and yearbookusing film. Yes it was a long time ago. Many times we were not allowed to use flash. While Basketball and Volleyball are not gymnastics, the issues ofinconsistent or low lighting conditions combined withfast action anddistance from the subject are very similar to your gymnastics.

I would travel with some of the teams to some offsite events. Even with fast B&W film, there were timesI couldonly shootwith myprimelens as the lighting was sopoor in the gym. With the primelens theshots were just about worthless other than a group shot showing the entire 10 players on the court at one time. Trying to shot just a single player or two players around the ball required a good sized zoom, something around 200 or even 300 mm (in 35mm speak) in size. For way too many situations therelatively inexpensiveTamron and Tokina lenses we used were just not fast enough.



Bottom line: the speed of your glass and ISOof your camera is going to make a world of difference.



I have no positive suggestions, just writing to say I concur with JohnG.


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Old Aug 13, 2008, 3:39 PM   #8
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The OP is currently using an Olympus SP-510UZ. After his experiences with that, I'm prepared to tell him that the A300 with a 50/1.7 will do well.

I had forgotten that the Canon XSi has 'Live View'and at $$630for the body only, plus $85 for the 50mm f/1.8 lens, it is an attractive alternative to the Sony I proposed. Though it lacks the articulating 'Live View'display, the kit lens, and image stabilization, it also has the added benefit of having an available large aperture 85mm lens for significantly less money than the Sony.

Thank you for correcting me on that.

As to the acceptability of images of gymnastics from a 50mm lens, no I don't have any examples. But perhaps you have some that illustrate its unacceptability? I trust the applicability of your experience,put perhaps what you consider unacceptable, the OP might be very happy with. Possibly, with a 12MP dSLR and a fast 50mm lens, the OP could crop and get something his or she is happy with.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 4:53 PM   #9
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Whether or not the a 50mm lens will produce acceptable results depends on how close you can get. I've never shot gymnastics, but I've shot basketball and volleyball in middle school gyms (poor lighting), and my 50mm is not long enough unless i get can get right on the floor. Otherwise, you're just not able to fill the frame. It might be a good place to start, considering the OP's budget, but it likely will not produce consistently great results.
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Old Aug 13, 2008, 4:56 PM   #10
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TCav,

No - I don't have a shot with the wrong lens. That's not the way I work. When I want a tool I find out what the people that are actually shooting use. Doesn't have to be what the top pros are using but what people that actually shoot the sport use. I did used to use the 50mm for basketball and have no shots left - why? Because it's a poor solution. When I say a 50mm lens is poor for beyond 15' it's because I shoot a LOT of sports. And I've learned from my own mistakes.

When I give advice it's based on actual hands on experience. Not on what I think might work based on what I read somewhere. But here are some shots of gymnastics. Perhaps you can share ANY gymnastics shots at all to help illustrate you have SOME experience upon which to advise what would and wouldn't work well?

It may seem like I'm being rude. But this is tough stuff. And way too often people that don't do it think it's easier than it is. 200-300mm is very common. I use a 70-200 2.8, 120-300 2.8 and 85mm 1.8 to shoot gymnastics (135mm 2.0 is a very common lens in Canon land).

Now, will your proposed solution be better than what they currently have? probably. But that doesn't mean it's worth spending $600 on. Photos and actual experience come into play there.

But again, you've got a strong opinion so you must have relevant experience upon which you're basing it right? Again, not being a jerk but I think you're giving poor advice. You mean well, but you don't have relevant experience so I believe your advice is uninformed advice. And it could end up costing the OP money in the long run if the gear you suggest doesn't meet with their expectations. That's all.

So, here are a smattering of shots - not great stuff, but at least illustrating I've actually shot the sport and when I make recommendations it's based on personal experience.

And again, something actual experience will teach you is it can be VERY difficult if you are not credentialled to get floor access. Even if you do have floor access, how far away from the uneven bars will you be? What is the distance from your spot to the top bar where a lot of the action occurs? Or how 'bout floor routine? In most cases they can start from any corner they choose. How far is the opposite side of the floor? Let me say if the action is on the other side of the floor 200mm isn't good enough. How do you think 50mm is going to fair?

By glibly answering without those important pieces of knowledge you mislead. Your response implies shutter speed is the only issue. So as long as you have good high ISo and fast prime you're good to go. Unfortunately that isn't enough. You need REACH with the lens too. Because you're often physically restricted from zooming with your feet.

Sometimes the answer is: you CANT do something well within a given budget. And I try to explain WHY and what equipment you DO need and why I think it's needed. In the end, it's the OPs choice. But I do like to point out when my experience tells me advice they're getting is bad. And in this particular instance I believe your advice is bad.







Here's a link to a sample gallery. It seems I've cleaned most of the gymnastics photos off my site. Still gives you and the OP an idea:

http://www.jagsportsphotos.com/galle...98_Tz7Gq#P-1-9

I am FAR from a great gymnastics shooter. I don't do it often enough. But I do do it. So I do have an idea of what's involved.
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