Hi Karen, None of the fixed-lens mega-zooms (such as the FZ5/20) have enough ISO to allow you to take action shots in low light. This isn't a "problem" since this type of situation is outside of what they are designed to do. While they can take very good shots in low light, you will never get the shutter speed you need to freeze soccer players. The only way you are going to get decent shots is to use a dslr, most (if not all) of which will have the light sensitivity you need in order to get higher shutter speeds in low light. This type of camera is the only ones that will give you both high zoom and fast shutter speed. By the way, using a tripod would not make sense when taking action shots.
While my son and daughter were in school I took pictures of my son's soccer games and my daughter's fast pitch softball. I used a Nikon F100 film camera and a Canon EOS A2 with a 70 to 200 f2.8 lens. The night time shots are the most difficult to do. You need to use very fast film and/or fast telephoto lenses (I longed for a canon f1.4 300mm, but could never afford one.) I never considered flash because of the distraction to the players. I am in the process now of going to digital. Night time sports shooting will probably require an SLR digital that will allow you to control the ISO speed.
Both Nikon and Canon make cameras that will allow you to control the ISO to shoot in low light conditions. Both companies sell lenses which are fast (but expensive). The Canon will shoot more fps (frames per second) than the Nikon (when comparing similar cameras). This will allow you more chances to get a good action shot. Also a monopod will help a lot with action shots.
When you go to games, ask if you can move closer to the action so you can take pictures. I was a spectator, but was allowed on the softball field most of the time by the head umpire. At soccer games I was allowed to take pictures at the boundary lines Mike..
A tripod and/or monopod can help take the weight off, help keep horizons level, etc., but you have a moving subject which takes high speeds to "freeze" and low-light which takes low speeds and/or high isos to overcome. You do have to consider mobility and safety when using tripods or monopods but with more distance, they can be used safely. However, the low light or lit fields probably aren't really feasible short of a dslr. The Panasonics and others do fairly well in daylight but once you ge late afternoon or under the lights, they just won't cut it except for more passive subjects...
Hi all, Thanks for all your responses, but I really cannot afford a dslr. I'm going to have to go with the best of a bad bunch quite obviously, but now there's another camera as well. So now I have the FZ5, FZ20 or Canon S2. I will be unable to get closer to action at games as they are professional games and I shouldn't really be taking pictures at all, although many thousands of us do! Hence the need for the high zoom. So, out of the three mentioned, which would you recommend?? Hope you can once again help! Thanks, Karen )..
I Just bought the Canon S2 IS and I love It!..