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Old Apr 19, 2009, 1:13 PM   #1
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I'm thinking of getting a new camera and was wondering if any of the new "superzoom" class cameras are adequate for shooting sports (mostly baseball but football and basketball too). What are some of the trade-offs and limitations I can expect with this type of camera compared to a dslr? What is the best sports solution for under $400?



Thanks in advance.
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Old Apr 19, 2009, 5:40 PM   #2
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For sports, you need fast shutter speeds. If you can't use fast shutter speeds, you'll gettoo much motion blur in your shots.

In general, the lenses in superzoom P&S Digicams are as fast (have maximum apertures as large) as many telephoto zoom lenses on dSLRs. What superzoom P&S Digicams don't have is low noise at higher ISO settings.In order to get fast shutter speeds,you'll need to decide between noise from a high ISO, or motion blur from a slow shutter speed.

For indoor sports, unless the venue has a television contract, the lighting will be poor, so fast shutter speeds are even harder to get. dSLRs can use faster lenses than superzoom P&S Digicams have.

So, while you might be able to get away with a superzoom P&S Digicam for outdoor sports in daylight, you very likely won't get good results when shootingindoor sports or outdoor sports at night.
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Old Apr 19, 2009, 5:49 PM   #3
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I imagine JohnG will be posting a response of his own - and he's the guy to listen to on this subject because he's a professional sports photographer.

But, in the meantime, here's a general answer: Most of the superzoom cameras don't tend to be fast enough for serious sports shooting - both in terms of frames-per-second speed while shooting in burst mode and in terms of general response (taking into account auto focusing, metering, etc).

Sony's new HX1 superzoom, due to hit the stores sometime this month, is supposed to offer 10 frames per second at full resolution - but it'll only do it for one second. Currently, the top two superzoom cameras - at least in terms of image quality - are generally considered to be the Canon SX10 and the Pansonic FZ28.

The HX1 lists for about $600, with the price not expected to drop until the camera has been out for several months. The Canon can be had for about $400 and the Panasonic can be found for under $300.

Advantages of a superzoom versus a DSLR? Smaller size, lighter weight and the convenience of having a lens that zooms anywhere from 26-28mm all the way up to 500mm and beyond without having to carry around extra (and often heavy) lenses as one would with a DSLR.

In bright light and under conditions that aren't too demanding, the best superzooms can offer photo quality that approaches that of a DSLR - especially to the untrained eye. But even in the best of circumstances the small image sensors of the superzooms can't offer the same kind of dynamic range that a DSLR can.

In low light and at high ISOs, substantially more noise and less detail can be seen in images from superzooms versus those from a DSLR. And those long zoom lenses that superzooms feature are, by definition, compromises. That means a certain amount of distortion and things like chromatic aberration and fringing. But if you're not shooting for money, perhaps this can be overlooked.

Here's the problem on the flipside: You could probably buy a Sony A200 or an Olympus E-420 - both DSLRs - for about $400. But the slower (f/3.5-5.6) kit lenses that come with both cameras aren't going to do you any favors with sports photography. In order to use shutter speeds high enough to freeze action without blurring the subject, you need a lot of light at the camera's sensor. You get that light by either using fast lenses (on the order of f/2.8 or faster) or by using high ISO's (sensor sensitivity) - such as ISO 1600 or higher. Often both a fast lens and high ISO. And the cost of fast, sports-appropriate lenses (and you'll probably need at least two lenses) can easy double or triple the cost of that $400 DSLR.

Perhaps you can help us give you more-specific advice if you tell us exactly what kind of sports you intend to be shooting - and how you intend to use the photos you get. Are you shooting for money? Friends and family via Internet? Prints? You get the idea.

And, finally, if you go the superzoom route, here are some things you can do to help the camera's limitations a bit:

1) Get close enough to the action to use the wide end of the camera lens's zoom range (often easier said than done). That's where the aperture is the biggest (usually f/2.8 or thereabouts). This allows you to get more light into the camera, meaning you can use higher shutter speeds.

2) Make sure you're using a single, center focus point instead of multiple focus points. That allows the camera to auto-focus much more quickly.

3) Use the sports or action mode if the camera features them (most superzooms do).

Hope this is a helpful start. I'm sure others will have more for you. And, by the way, welcome to Steve's.
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Old Apr 19, 2009, 5:55 PM   #4
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Hi TCav... there was no response when I began my long-winded reply. But I think we're in agreement. :-)
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Old Apr 19, 2009, 8:54 PM   #5
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Thank you TCav and Biro. After a lot of reading here (excellent forum btw) I decided to go with the FZ28. Costco had a bundle with camera, bag, and 1GB memory card for 299.00. I think the value is good. I read that the aperature is able to stay open at longer zoom settings with this camera.



I have a Nikon D50 but the kit 18-55mm kit lens is busted and the performance in sports settings was OK but not great. After some reading here I quickly came to the conclusion that I am not close to serious enough about photography to warrant the expense and hassle associated with the equipment I would have to buy in order to get great shots at sporting events with a dslr. I am hoping that the PZ28 is the answer. My son has a game tomorrow so I guess I'll know right away if this camera is a keeper of if I need to invest a lot of money into a usable rig for my Nikon.
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 10:03 AM   #6
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The FZ28 is a fine superzoom. And it's among the more-speedy cameras in its class. Image quality should be fine up to ISO 800. And the Intelligent Auto function works quite well. Even if you decide to get a DSLR in the future, the FZ28 makes a fine back-up/vacation camera. Good luck!
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Old Apr 21, 2009, 7:58 AM   #7
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I used the camera yesterday and really liked the results. I'm no pro and don't have a critical eye when it comes to photos but the shots looked really good to me.




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Old Apr 21, 2009, 9:16 AM   #8
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CDaq wrote:
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but the shots looked really good to me.
That's what matters!!!

Glad you're enjoying your new camera and are getting the results you were hoping to.

Best of luck and don't be a stranger on the forums.

John
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Old Apr 21, 2009, 10:08 AM   #9
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Very nice shot!

I notice that you used a shutter speed of 1/1000 and an ISO of 100.

Generally, especially for Baseball, you don't want to use a shutter speed quite that fast. Most sports photos look better with a little motion blur on pitched balls and swung bats. For the focal length you were using, you had a maximum aperture of f/2.8 yet you shot this at f/5.6.

You could have doubled the ISO from 100 to 200 so the shutter speed would have been halved from 1/1000 to1/500. You could also have opened the aperture from f/5.6 to f/4.0 to halve the shutter speed. Byincreasing the aperture (selecting a numerically lower number), you'd have gotten less depth of field so the background would have been blurry. A blurry background is a way to accentuate the subject in the foreground.

Play around with the settings the next time you have a chance, and see what you get.

And please come back and post some more of your results.
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Old Apr 21, 2009, 10:14 AM   #10
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TCav wrote:
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Generally, especially for Baseball, you don't want to use a shutter speed quite that fast. Most sports photos look better with a little motion blur on pitched balls and swung bats. For the focal length you were using, you had a maximum aperture of f/2.8 yet you shot this at f/5.6.

You could have doubled the ISO from 100 to 200 so the shutter speed would have been halved from 1/1000 to1/500. You could also have opened the aperture from f/5.6 to f/4.0 to halve the shutter speed. Byincreasing the aperture (selecting a numerically lower number), you'd have gotten less depth of field so the background would have been blurry. A blurry background is a way to accentuate the subject in the foreground.
I'm a bit surprised at this advice.

Quote:
You could have doubled the ISO from 100 to 200 so the shutter speed would have been halved from 1/1000 to1/500.
Doubling the ISO would double, not halve the shutter speed. So shutter speed would go from 1/1000 to 1/2000

Quote:
You could also have opened the aperture from f/5.6 to f/4.0 to halve the shutter speed.
Again, opening the aperture would have the opposite affect. Shutter speed would double, not halve.

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you'd have gotten less depth of field so the background would have been blurry.
The part about less DOF is true. But it would not really blur the background a whole lot more. It's still true you want to get as much blur as possible but with that camera you won't achieve a blurred background.

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Generally, especially for Baseball, you don't want to use a shutter speed quite that fast. Most sports photos look better with a little motion blur on pitched balls and swung bats.
I'll definitely disagree with this advice. 1/1000 is a slow shutter speed for pitches / bats. You don't want a slower speed as you'll get blur in the head. And you'll still get plenty of bat blur at 1/1000.
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