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Old Jan 26, 2011, 9:26 AM   #1
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Default Camera for Cheerleading Competitions

I need advice on buying a camera. My daughter is a competition cheerleader and I can never get decent picture of her. Need recommendations for a camera and lens for use in fast action/low light situations. (I cannot use a flash and all the events are indoors) Thanks!
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 1:07 PM   #2
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What is your budget?
Ideally you'll need something like a 70-200 2.8 lens if you can't use flash. Even then you're looking at ISO 3200ish. That lens is going to be the critical success factor. Next is high ISO performance and high frame rate (5fps would be desirable).
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 1:34 PM   #3
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Sony A580 body at $799.99
http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/...52921666266160

Used Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 at $349
http://www.keh.com/camera/Minolta-Ma...9078370J5?r=FE

Used Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro at $254 for tighter shots if you need them, or if you don't get close enough seats.
http://www.keh.com/camera/Minolta-Ma...99035884N?r=FE

If these are indoor competitions on a stage, my thinking is that you'd probably be capturing a group of cheerleaders doing routines, so 75mm (the longer end of the Tamron 28-75mm) would probably be about right if you aren't sitting too far back and have good seats, and give you more framing flexibility for wider shots.

The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 would give you something a bit longer if you needed it at a good price (and macro lenses tend to be sharper than most, and since your subjects would typically be in a predictable area for focus, then the slower AF speed you tend to get with most Macro Lenses (they're geared for finer accuracy) shouldn't be a problem.

With the Sony body, you'd have a 21 frame RAW buffer (double what you'd have with a model like the Nikon D7000) and 7fps using Speed Priority Mode for short bursts (where focus is locked on the first frame), or 5fps with AF between frames, with very good image quality at higher ISO speeds (especially shooting RAW), coming in at a much lower price point compared to other models using a Sony 16MP CMOS Sensor (Nikon D7000, Pentax K-5)
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 1:38 PM   #4
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Jim,
from what I gather from people that shoot competitions, the OP won't be close enough for 75mm to be enough. 70-200 does seem to be the preferred focal length. The 28-75 is going to be too short.
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 3:33 PM   #5
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I think we really need to know the budget and what the op is using now
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Old Jan 26, 2011, 6:12 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by wave01 View Post
I think we really need to know the budget and what the op is using now
The budget would probably be about $2000. Just using a point and shoot now, so this is a pretty big decision for me.
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Old Jan 27, 2011, 8:28 AM   #7
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What are the venues like indoors?

Some of the shots I see of cheerleader competitions are using a stage like I'd see at a Theater or School auditorium here. But, others appear to be in larger arenas, depending on the level/type of competition.

How close can you get?

When I'm shooting something like dance recitals, musicals and plays at the theater and similar events on a stage around here, I can usually sit close enough so that a 100mm lens is fine for tighter shots using a camera with an APS-C sensor (which is why I suggested a used 105mm), and I usually bring a wider lens or two along (like my Tamron SP 35-105mm f/2.8) for getting some wider shots, too. I try to sit as close to the front as possible and go for an aisle seat whenever possible. That way, I'm not trying to shoot over as many heads to get some shots when shooting from the audience. ;-)

I'll usually shoot at around ISO 3200 (or sometimes 4000) at f/2.8 for the stage lighting I see around here, shooting RAW for more flexibility and better IQ. But, you may need ISO 6400 for better results shooting subjects that are moving faster, unless the venues are better lit than typical school auditoriums or theaters around here, since I often need to time my shots for less subject movement to reduce motion blur in dimmer stage lighting, even using ISO 3200 or 4000 at f/2.8 (which is at my limit for noise tolerance with my Sony A700, when balancing blur versus detail).

Assuming JohnG is right for the level of competition your daughter is at, and you won't be able to get as close as I can in auditoriums around here, then a 70-200mm lens sounds like a better bet. A longer focal length also let you zoom in for tighter shots of your daughter (versus wider shots of a group). Of course, what you'll be able to get will depend on how far away you are.

Do you have any images you've taken at these events using your Point and Shoot camera so that we can get an idea of focal lengths, lighting, etc.? If so, post a few typical shots including EXIF information (so we can see the camera settings used) and we'll have a better idea of your needs. Don't worry if they're blurry, noisy, etc. We can still get a better idea of the conditions by looking the images.

I'd downsize them first using something like the free Irfanview. Get it here:

http://www.irfanview.com/

Basically, just open an image (File>Open) and go to the Image>Resize/Resample menu choice. Then, make sure the "Preserve Aspect Ratio" box is checked and plug in something like 800 pixels for the longest side and click Apply. You'll also see algorithm choices you can select. I usually use Lanczos.

Then, use the File>Save As menu choice and give it a new filename (so that you're not overwriting the original), using a JPEG quality setting of about 80% (you'll see a slider that pops up for that purpose when saving a jpeg image). As long as the dimensions are downsized, then around 80% quality should keep the file size within limits for posting.

Then, if you type a new post, make sure to click the "Go Advanced" option you'll see here and use the Paperclip icon to browse for the new filename and attach it to a forum post here.

"about $2000", huh?

A Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM will run you about $799 now. It's available in popular camera mounts (for example, Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Sony/Minolta).

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search...tialSearch=yes

I'd get something for walk around use and wider shots when you need them, too. The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 I mentioned (also available in multiple camera mounts) is a good zoom lens for low light, depending on the subject type and distance. But, you may find that it's wider end isn't wide enough for closer quarters in some cases when not shooting in larger areas (as you'll want to use the camera for other purposes, too).

If you go with a camera using an APS-C size sensor (most entry to mid level dSLR models from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony use APS-C size sensors, which are smaller than 35mm film), you'll have a narrower angle of view (more apparent magnification) for a given focal length lens. To see how angle of view compares with a 35mm camera for most Nikon, Sony and Pentax cameras using an APS-C size sensor, multiply the focal length by 1.5x.

For example, a 100mm lens on a dSLR model like the Sony I mentioned with an APS-C size sensor would give you about the same angle of view as a 150mm lens on a 35mm camera (100mm x 1.5 = 150mm).

So, a 70-200mm lens would give you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 105-300mm lens on a 35mm camera.

On the wider end, a lens like the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 I mentioned would give you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 42-113mm lens on a 35mm camera.

That's one reason you'll find that most kit lenses start out at around 18mm (because they'll appear to be longer on a camera with an APS-C size sensor). So, an 18-55mm kit lens would give you about the same angle of view you'd have using a 27-83mm lens on a 35mm camera.

The larger the sensor or film size, the wider the angle of view (less apparent magnification) for a given focal length lens. The smaller the sensor or film size, the narrower then angle of view (more apparent magnification) for a given focal length lens.

For Sony, Pentax or Nikon models using an APS-C size sensor, use 1.5x as in the examples above. With Canon dSLR models using an APS-C size sensor, you multiply by 1.6x instead. For example, a 100mm lens on a camera like a Canon EOS-60D would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 160mm lens on a 35mm camera (100mm x 1.6 = 160mm).

But, the kit lenses like an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 really aren't very bright for use indoors without a flash when you zoom in any. You'll need to decide if you want something better optimized for shooting in a larger area, or if you need something starting out wider for shots in closer quarters or when you need a wider angle of view to fit what you need to into the frame.

For around $2K, you could do something like this...

Sony A580 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM lens (for General Purpose use when you're not shooting competitions and need something wider to get more into the frame). When purchased with the camera in a kit, it only adds $100 to the price of the camera body alone and it's a good lens.
$899.99
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...gital_SLR.html

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens
$799
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...2_8_II_EX.html

Sony HVL-F42AM Flash for other types of shooting (family gatherings, portraits, etc.).
$299.99
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...era_Flash.html

In a Canon system with a $2K budget, I'd look at the EOS-60D with a kit lens starting out wider, adding a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM lens for your competitions. Then, buy a flash later (for example, a Canon 430EX II) when budget permits.

In a Nikon setup, I'd lean towards a D7000 kit with a kit lens starting out wider, then get a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM to go with it, buying a flash later (for example, a Nikon SB-600) when budget permits so you'll have a good external flash for bouncing indoors when shooting family events, etc.. The D7000 may put you a tad over budget after including a wider kit lens though.

In a Pentax System, the K-5 would be your best bet. But, it would put you over budget compared to the other choices. Same deal... get a kit lens starting out at around 18mm for walk around purposes, and get a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM lens to go with it for your indoor competitions, buying a flash when budget permits. Note that the K-5 uses a Sony 16MP CMOS Sensor (as do the Sony A580 and Nikon D7000). The less expensive K-r uses a Sony 12MP CMOS Sensor, but Pentax gets a lot out of it at higher ISO speeds with their implementation. So, the K-r would be another camera to look at with a lower price point compared to the K-5, if the K-5 is cost prohibitive for you after adding the cost of suitable lenses into the kit.

P.S.

Another thing you may want to look into is any rules for bringing cameras into the venues you're shooting at, in case they have any restrictions on camera types and lenses allowed.
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Old Jan 27, 2011, 10:30 AM   #8
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Good advice but I would also concider the canon 7d which is a little more than the 60d or you could go for the T2i/550d saving some money and puting it into the lens budget.
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Old Jan 27, 2011, 4:55 PM   #9
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JimC,

This is her first year at these kind of competitions- they are all being held at big convention centers. I will probably be approximately 25 feet from her. (the bad pictures I mentioned were made in high school gyms at high school cheerleading competitions) Thank you so much for your advice.


Thanks wave01 for you input as well.
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Old Jan 28, 2011, 9:30 AM   #10
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That sounds pretty close for a big convention center.

I'd take JohnG's advise and get a 70-200mm f/2.8 from what I can see after looking at more images of competitions, as the girls do look like they're spread out more in some cases than I thought they'd be.

Now, that may be a bit "tight" for group photos if you're really able to get that close. But, some of what you get is a matter of style, too. For example, going for tighter shots of your daughter, with head and shoulders shots of smaller groups (versus trying to fit the entire squad performing a routine into the frame), and a zoom would give you more framing flexibility for when they're further away from the camera when they're moving during performances.

Some of the better photos I see of Cheerleading are more portraiture style photos versus photos of larger groups. IOW, trying to capture good photos of the individual cheerleaders performing, versus a style where you're documenting the routines using wider and/or taller shots.
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