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Old Nov 3, 2008, 8:18 AM   #1
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Looking for a good entry level DSLR. Primarily a family time camera for vacations, holidays, school events. However, I am looking for a camera that will be good for shooting kids sports, both indoor and out.

I'm not sure what features to look for in a camera that will fit my needs. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old Nov 3, 2008, 8:50 AM   #2
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Any of the entry level cameras on the market would be good for the family stuff. The more difficult aspect is the sports shooting. Sports shooting, especially indoors, is VERY demanding of equipment (i.e. it takes bodies / lenses designed for sports use).

From a DSLR system point of view, Canon and Nikon have the best sports shooting solutions. The Sony A700 is also a very good camera for sports use. Neither Pentax nor Oly are particularly good at sports shooting compared to the competition.

Having said that, you wanted entry level cameras. The problem is the entry level Nikon cameras (d60, d40) aren't very good for sports as they won't work with most prime lenses (which you'll need for indoor sports) and they have downgraded focus systems. A real shame too since above the entry level Nikon makes top notch sports cameras (d90, D300, D700, d3) - probably the best in the industry currently.

In the Sony family, their entry level cameras also aren't that fantastic for sports. Better than previous generations but their high ISO performance and focus performance still isn't up to the competition (again, by the time you get to the a700 the camera competes quite well but it's little brothers do not).

Which leaves the Canon XSi (450d). Probably the only entry level camera I'd recommend for sports shooting.

If it weren't for the sports thing and DSLR would fit the family stuff.

But the camera is only part of it. It has to be paired with proper lenses. Which lenses depends on:

1. What sport

2. For each sport, what level of play (lighting is very different in pro arena vs. Div I college vs H.S)

3. For outdoor sports, what level (i.e. full field soccer or full size diamond is different than U6) and what time of day (night time football / soccer under lights is very different than during the day).

No kit lens with ANY camera on the market today will allow you to shoot indoor sports. So, give me a bit more information on points 1-3 above and I can let you know some lens options.
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Old Nov 3, 2008, 3:22 PM   #3
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John:

Thanks for the info! In answer to your questions:

1-3. Sports are Soccer, Baseball, and Competitive Cheerleading. The Soccer and Baseball are outdoors, Soccer being full sized field HS level, and Baseball Little League level. The majority of the Soccer/Baseball is during the day but an occassional night game under the lights. Cheer is indoors usually at convention centers or college auditoriums at which the lights are only on the competition area during routines.

Also, are the different lens manufacturers soley for one type of camera or are they universal, ie. nikon lens works with canon body?

Also, would you reccomend buying a kit on Ebay? where are some other options for used or discounted equipment? Also, would you buy used or stick with new?

I really appreciate your help as I get into this confusing hobby.
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Old Nov 3, 2008, 5:33 PM   #4
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Big Texx wrote:
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1-3. Sports are Soccer, Baseball, and Competitive Cheerleading. The Soccer and Baseball are outdoors, Soccer being full sized field HS level, and Baseball Little League level. The majority of the Soccer/Baseball is during the day but an occassional night game under the lights. Cheer is indoors usually at convention centers or college auditoriums at which the lights are only on the competition area during routines.

Also, are the different lens manufacturers soley for one type of camera or are they universal, ie. nikon lens works with canon body?

Also, would you reccomend buying a kit on Ebay? where are some other options for used or discounted equipment? Also, would you buy used or stick with new?

I really appreciate your help as I get into this confusing hobby.
HS Soccer: Soccer is one of those sports that requires a LOT of reach. If you have access to the field and can shoot just off the touchline, you can get some good shots with a 300mm lens (not 300mm equivelant but an actual 300mm lens mounted on a DSLR). The reality of the situation is though that 300mm is really only good for about 40 yards of reach. That isn't much on a soccer field. If you don't have field access and have to shoot from behind a fence that makes it VERY difficult. You're going to want a 400mm lens then.

Little league baseball is a little easier. You can shoot with a 200mm lens IF you're shooting from on the field (i.e. just off the baseline). By the time you get to full size diamonds you need at least 300mm if shooting from on the field. If you're off the field, think 300mm for little league and at least 400mm for baseball.

And unless you're willing to spend a LOT of money I would plan on NOT getting shots under the lights. The lenses for that are going to get very expensive. You're better off concentrating your efforts on the day games.

Before I go into lens recommendations I'll answer another one of your questions: Canon lenses only work on Canon cameras, Nikon on nikon cameras. There are adapters to use one lens on another manufacturer's body but they won't work for sports use - you just won't have fast enough AF (if AF works at all).

So, what lenses would I recommend for Canon - skipping lenses in the $2000 and over category?

1. Sigma 100-300 f4 ($1000)

2. Canon 100-400L IS USM 3.5-5.6($1400)

3. Sigma 50-500 3.5-6.3($1000)

4. Canon 70-300 IS USM (NOT the 75-300, the 70-300) ($560)

5. Tamron 70-300 / Sigma 70-300 ($200)

The first 3 lenses are top notch lenses. The Canon 70-300 is probably the lowest I would ever recommend. I only mention the Tamron/Sigma lenses because they're the budget options. They're not going to get you great results - they're slow to focus and soft from 200-300 - a significant drop in quality from the Canon 70-300.

Now, there are a number of 70-200 lenses out there that are good to pro quality. The problem is 200mm is just way too short for full field soccer. So I think those are a poor choice.

For competitive cheer - that's one sport I haven't shot. It also poses a unique challenge. When you shoot in low light you have to use lenses with a wide aperture (low f-number - typically f2.8, 2.0 or 1.8). A result of that is what's called shallow depth-of-field (DOF). Where your subject is in focus but the background and foreground is blurred.

Here's an example - notice how the defender BEHIND the player with the ball is very out of focus? And the player in front of her is slightly out of focus? That's the affect I'm talking about.



So, competitive cheer is unique in that unlike most other sports you often want MULTIPLE subjects in focus. Professional photographers solve this by using strobe lights (lights on stands or in rafters just like you'd have in a photographer's portrait studio) - this gives them more light so they can shoot at narrower apertures and have more of the image in focus. You don't have that luxury. I'd also be willing to bet using a flash on the camera is prohibited for safety reasons - although I could be wrong. So, here's my advice on that front - check out some OTHER forums and find people that shoot the sport. You're going to find people on this forum and others ready and willing to give you advices - sadly, most of those people don't shoot sports at all, much less competitive cheer. My advice is don't take advice from people that don't shoot it. I shoot a LOT of sports (soccer, football, baseball, softball, basketball, MMA, gymnastics, volleyball, swimming) and I'm hesitant to advise you because I can envision what some of the challenges are. When you find someone to offer a suggestion on what equipment to use for shooting competitive cheer, make sure you see galleries of their work (not just a single picture). That way you can judge for yourself whether the advice they give is worth anything. And, in some cases you can say - hey, I don't need shots THAT good (i.e. it isn't worth spending $5000 on equipment) so the goal is to find someone offering a solution you can live with without breaking the bank.

As for where to buy - I personally would NEVER buy a used DSLR. That's just my take - it can be difficult to tell how much abuse the camera has seen and impossible to tell how many actuations the shutter has. As for lenses, I'd be careful there too. You're talking complex optical and electronic devices. Personally the only time I would buy a used lens is if it was from another professional sports shooter. I would never recommend buying consumer grade lenses used. But that's just me. If it was an old manual focus lens for a pentax camera I might as long as I had a period to test it out. But not an AF lens. I also only buy gear from reliable camera stores (B&H, Adorama, Buydig.com, etc...). If a price is too good to be true it's a scam.

I'm going to leave you with this. There are 3 aspects to sports shooting - all 3 are very important. Without all 3 your chances of success are pretty slim:

1. Photographer ability. Sports shooting is difficult. There is a LOT to learn. It is NOT a point and shoot thing. To be successful you have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to do it, including learning proper post-processing skills.

2. Equipment. You need the right equipment to have success. A camera's focus system is paramount (and the first thing to be underestimated by people who don't shoot sports), the lenses focus ability is paramount (sports grade lenses have their own focus motors - the camera determines focus but the lens' focus motor actually achieves it), lens optics become important especially at longer focal lengths (see the difference in price between the sigma 100-300 and 70-300 lenses) and when you start getting into low light sports (under lights or indoors) a lens' widest aperture becomes important. To illustrate these points we have the Canon 70-300 lens ($560) pretty good optically but useless in low light. The Canon 300mm 2.8 (prime lens - no zoom capability) comes in at $4000.

3. Accessibility. It's a fact of life. If you have to shoot from the stands for soccer, it really doesn't matter how good the equipment is, you're going to get poor shots. You're too far away and your angles are all wrong. You can shoot from right at the fence but then you need to spend more $$$ to get those 400 or 500mm lenses so you have enough reach to get good shots.

In the last couple years there has been a HUGE increase in the number of parents I see at HS sporting events with DSLR cameras. And most of them still get crappy results because they have the wrong lens, they don't know how to shoot sports or they're shooting from the stands. It's easier at little league, U6 soccer and such because lighting is good and there usually aren't fences - you just have lawn chairs right off the field anyway.

I just like to point this stuff out BEFORE you spend your hard earned money. If you do decide to do it, sports photography is HUGELY rewarding.

Good luck to you!
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Old Nov 3, 2008, 5:36 PM   #5
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I would go with JohnG's recommendation, the Rebel XSi.

Here's Steve's review:

"Bottom line - The Canon EOS Rebel XSi is whole lot of camera for an entry-level model. It's stellar performance and superb image quality offer a lot to the first-time dSLR user."

I'd recommend buying new, your not likely to get much of a deal on a used XSi at this point.

Best to buy online from a reputable online camera store. I usually shop at B&H Photo Video, very competitive prices and a rock solid company to buy your gear from.

Here's the XSi with a kit lens for $654 plus taxes plus shipping at B&H:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Si_a_k_a_.html

Hope you enjoy your DSLR!



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Old Jan 9, 2009, 12:56 PM   #6
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Hello John,

Your response to Bigg Tex has also helped me very much. I would like to know what lenses for the Canon XSi you recommend for shooting indoor basketball games. Right now I can actually shoot from anywhere on the floor, but as my daughter gets older I will only be able to shoot from the stands. Please recommend lenses for both situations. Thanks for your help.
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Old Jan 9, 2009, 1:02 PM   #7
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Prof G wrote:
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Hello John,

Your response to Bigg Tex has also helped me very much. I would like to know what lenses for the Canon XSi you recommend for shooting indoor basketball games. Right now I can actually shoot from anywhere on the floor, but as my daughter gets older I will only be able to shoot from the stands. Please recommend lenses for both situations. Thanks for your help.
With the XSi you'll have to use prime lenses. At ISO 1600 you won't be able to get fast enough shutter speeds with a 2.8 lens (the widest aperture in zoom lenses for Canon).

The 85mm 1.8 is the workhorse lens from the baseline. The 50mm (1.8 or 1.4) is nice for right under the basket but not very versatile with only 15' of range. So the 85 is my choice. From the stands it's obviously tougher. You have distance to worry about and you're not in a great shooting angle. If you were still shooting with the XSi then the 100mm f2 is a good choice - the 135mm 2.0 is nice but expensive.

Or save up for an xxD (now 50d - who knows what by then) - paired with a 70-200 2.8 it's a great combo for shooting from the floor or the stands.

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Old Jan 9, 2009, 1:53 PM   #8
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Thank you again. I had been looking everywhere regrding sports photography with an entry level slr and stumbling on your information has answered all my question. I will be purchasing both the 85mm f1.8 and the 100mm f2.
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Old Jan 9, 2009, 10:49 PM   #9
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JohnG wrote:
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Big Texx wrote:
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I'm going to leave you with this. There are 3 aspects to sports shooting - all 3 are very important. Without all 3 your chances of success are pretty slim:

1. Photographer ability. Sports shooting is difficult. There is a LOT to learn. It is NOT a point and shoot thing. To be successful you have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to do it, including learning proper post-processing skills.
This is a great thread. John, would mind sharing some of what there is to learn, or recommend some books? Also, what kind of post-processing do you do?

I have tried to photograph soccer, and I appreciate how difficult it is. I'd love to get some advice on how to be better at it.

Thanks!

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Old Jan 10, 2009, 7:58 AM   #10
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elliotm00 wrote:
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This is a great thread. John, would mind sharing some of what there is to learn, or recommend some books? Also, what kind of post-processing do you do?

I have tried to photograph soccer, and I appreciate how difficult it is. I'd love to get some advice on how to be better at it.

Thanks!
Here's my suggestion - start a new thread down in the sports forum. Be specific as to what sport you want advice in (including level - shooting u6 soccer is very different than full field adjult soccer)as well as what camera equipment you own. You'd get even BETTER advice if you post a couple of the photos you've taken of the sport so far. By posting down in that forum we keep this forum to it's intended purpose - what camera to buy - and down there other sports shooters can help as well. It's always good to get multiple opinions.
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