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HELP: Choosing a dSLR for sporting events
Hello all,.

I have been looking for a camera to shoot cross country and outdoor track mainly, as well as indoor track (yes yes I know it's hard to get good indoor shots no matter how much money you have to invest, so the indoor isn't a necessity, but would be pretty neat).

I hope to get good action shots from 10-50 yards away..

My budget is roughly $1000, and I'm looking at ebay, amazon, shops, etc..

I've been searching all over the web and going to my more photography-savvy friends and I have narrowed my search down to several cameras. These are (in the best-to-worst order, in my opinion):.

Olympus E-510 - great I.S. but subpar focus is the only thing that has kept me from buying it..

Cannon Rebel Xti - IS lenses are awfully expensive...would have to go without it and pictures would probably be blurry...maybe not though, i'm new to this stuff..

Nikon D40/D40x/D80 - Once again...no internal I.S. I thought the camera was supposed to be MORE expensive than the lens...guess I was wrong..

Sony Alpha A-100 - Features the internal IS, but it's a bit of an older camera...would LOVE the A-700, but I think it's way out of the price range..

Basically, it's either internal IS, or no IS at all because of the high price. I am worried that the cameras with IS will have focus problems and give me blurry images. While the cameras without IS have great focus, I am worried that image shake will cause blur. Tripods are completely out of the question, because I will be running across the course at full sprint to take these shots. What is recommended for a situation like mine? Any additional recommendations are more than welcome...

Comments (24)

Also, what lenses do you like most with the camera choices...please keep my budget in mind...

Comment #1

You don't have to have IS to shoot sports. IS helps you to hold the camera steady. You say you are going to running at full sprint to take photos. This is not going to work taking still photos. You want the action to come to you. If you can't get close for normal lenses then you will have to save up and buy a telephoto lens..

Stevehttp://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #2

I plan on taking the pictures standing still, but I worry that I will be panting and the camera will not be entirely still when I get to the location from which I will take the picture. It makes sense that IS is not needed. Should good focus be priority over IS in choosing my camera then?..

Comment #3

Chasing your subjects is really not the way to get good sport pictures. You are going to have to purchase a good fast lens..

Stevehttp://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #4

All images would be taken from a standstill, not while sprinting after anyone. In cross country, if you do not run from one end of the course to the other, you may only see the runners pass one time. I can understand why I would need a good fast lens though, as my targets would be moving at me, especially when they pass quickly...

Comment #5

You say your "targets" will be moving at you. In that case any of the cameras you have mentioned will work fine. You will need to do some research on lenses made for each of these cameras and decide. Besides the lenses the camera manufactures make there are also third party lenses to choose from.http://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #6

Pick the brand that you think has the best lenses. Camera bodies improve every year and you will be tempted to upgrade your body every time a new body is released. However, that is the reason to buy good lenses the first time around. You won't ever need to upgrade a quality lens once you own it..

Pick a brand of camera based upon the lenses they offer for your desired use. Then get the highest quality lens you can afford. Start with the cheapest body if you must (or mid-range, semi-pro, or pro if you have the money) but lenses come first..

I have no doubt that I will upgrade (buy the newest) camera bodies every 2-3 years. But, I don't want to spend more money on lenses every time a new camera body is released to the public..

For sports you will want a 70-200 2.8 zoom or 300 2.8 to get close, stop the action and eliminate blur. After that you want a camera body with a high burst rate..

I picked Nikon but have friends that picked Canon and Olympus and they are happy for the ability to take great photos as well..

Here is a sports photo I took with a Nikon D-80 (3fps burst rate) and 70-200 2.8 VR lens (from 50 yards behind first base):.

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Mortphoto..

Comment #7

Nice action shot. Here is one with my 5D & 70-200 IS..

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Http://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #8

How did you get that shot? It looks like you are standing on the ice at the goal line by the boards.Mortphoto..

Comment #9

Absolutely awesome picture.

Do you by any chance remember how many mm's it was zoomed? Those 70-200mm 2.8 lenses are crazy-expensive...

Comment #10

Are you asking me? Because Steve Grodin's shot is amazing as he stopped the action in such low light. My shot was taken at 200 mm.Mortphoto..

Comment #11

IS simulates to some extent a tripod. It makes you steadier. So you could shoot the interior of a church at say 1/15th of a second and get a good Shot. Now consider the same lighting, the same shutter speed and a runner coming towards you. You take the shot. The church interior will be lovely.

In that case you'd either have to use a flash, or use a lense that let in enough light to bump the shutter speed way up, say a minimum of 1/320 and hopfully 1/400 or 1/500..

So back to cross-country, having an is lens isn't going to freeze your subject. You are not going to be helped by a simulated tripod. You need to more or less stop your subject with a fast shutter speed. And at a fast shutter speed the effect of your movement is not detectable. The fast shutter speed negates your movement just as it freezes the subject movement..

If you know the subject is coming towards you you can get a shot with many different focal lengths. A shorter focal length will get you a brief shooting opportunity (if you want your subject to fill a substantial portion of the picture) when they're close. A telelphoto lense will allow you to do this when they're further away and a zoom lens will give you even more choices...

Comment #12

As others have mentioned, IS isn't going to help you for moving subjects. If I were you I would look at the ability of the body to focus on moving targets and more importantly the selection of lenses available. You may want to stop action which may require a faster lense..

John1014 wrote:.

I plan on taking the pictures standing still, but I worry that I willbe panting and the camera will not be entirely still when I get tothe location from which I will take the picture. It makes sense thatIS is not needed. Should good focus be priority over IS in choosingmy camera then?..

Comment #13

John1014 wrote:.

I plan on taking the pictures standing still, but I worry that I willbe panting and the camera will not be entirely still when I get tothe location from which I will take the picture. It makes sense thatIS is not needed. Should good focus be priority over IS in choosingmy camera then?.

Yes, fast AF is desirable but first a few basics: to freeze fast sports motion you will need a shutter speed of at least 1/500th sec, maybe faster - so camera shake won't really be an issue, panting or not: the camera won't move much in that time..

You will beed a fast lens (i.e. with a wide aperture) as at that spped not much light is getting in the camera. For sports f/2 or wider is desirable, so look for f/1.8 or even f/1.4 ideally..

The other issue is reach: how far away you are. If you can get away with an 85mm f/1.8 that will be good, but if you need 200m or even more then you are getting into big money as long lenses with fast apertures are very expensive..

Alex.

Http://alexandjustine.smugmug.com/..

Comment #14

Yes I was standing at the edge of the rink. The rink had, (closed now), large skylights and that day the sun was shinning through which helped with the rink lighting. It was shot at 3 fps, ISO, 1600, 1/1000 sec, f2.8, @ 200mm..

Stevehttp://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #15

If you are asking me, the lens was zoomed out to 200mm..

Stevehttp://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #16

When I was looking for a DSLR this summer I had the exact area of sports as you (cross country, track). But I did want a pretty well round camera to take on trips, etc. Basically any of those camera you have are good options. As for a lens if you a on a tight budget the 18-55mm kit lens will get you through both sports because most of the time you can get pretty close to person, so I do recommend the kit lens because you want that close wide angle action as well as some close ups. If you can, I suggest something with distance too. Probably something between 50-200 just because when you want a shot across the track or xc field it's hard to run back and forth..

You said you were shooting outdoor track, but if you decide to do indoor track you will need a good lens for the bad lighting indoor. The 18-55mm kit lens will be OK if you adjust the settings enough but you rather get something between 1.4-2.8 if your budget allows..

I got the Pentax K100D Super for a great price and took some cross country pictures (as well as some other sports), can't wait for track to get some more variety!.

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Comment #17

IS is a great thing, but of minimal use for sports, as others have noted..

Outdoor is the easiest. Get the camera with kit lens and a 55-200 or 70-300 (40-150 on Olympus). The cheapest version the respective manufacturer makes should do fine. Nikon's 70-300G isn't AF-S. The 55-200's are..

Indoors is harder because of the light. Canon has the best low light performance, then Nikon, then Olympus. An 85/1.8 lens is probably the best inexpensive choice. Nikon's isn't AF-S. Olympus doesn't offer one..

The Nikon D40 and D40x can autofocus only with AF-S lenses, so you should probably exclude them..

So, I'd say Nikon D80 or Canon XTi. Even though IS/VR isn't going to matter much, Nikon's 55-200VR is optically better than the non-VR version. Same thing with Canon's 18-55's. I think the D80 is much easier to hold than the XTi, but I have big hands...

Comment #18

I must have read the D40x review a thousand times and every time I saw it I teared up when I read about the lack of autofocus...oh well..

I have almost cemented my choice....cannon rebel xti w/ sigma 28-70 F2.8 EX DG lens..

I choose this because most of my shots will be taken from relatively close (less than twenty yards...often less than five yards) and the relatively high aperture should keep blur to a decent minimum..

I think that if I continue in the pursuit of great pictures, I will seek out a nice zoom lens of 200mm+ to get better shots from across the course/track or for closeups (even though runners' closeups are generally VERY unflattering).

ONE LAST QUESTION:.

I have spent the past several days doing alot of reading on high aperture lenses, and I know they are ideal for less-than-ideal lighting, but I have had trouble with my issue of whether or not one is really needed for an action shot in good lighting. I'm sure they're recommended, as it seems like in nearly all situations, high aperture=good (expensive, but good). I was looking to maybe get a more inexpensive zoom lens as well, but I'm not sure how that would turn out. Could I get away with a low aperture lens for well-lit action shots, or will I just get a blurry mess?..

Comment #19

No you don't need a fast lens for outdoor sports but they sure come in handy when in low light situations..

Stevehttp://vette74.smugmug.com..

Comment #20

Thanks steve (and everybody else).

Awesome advise!.

I think the Canon with the Sigma lens will perform just fine for my needs. It has a good 9-point autofocus, exceptional continuous shooting speed, is widely compatible with lenses from canon and 3rd party suppliers, and quite honestly, it appears to be the most affordable of all my choices (except possibly the d40.) I already can't wait to get my hands on one and post some great shots!.

As an added bonus, I am a Mac user, and it just turns out their image editing software is Mac OS X compatible. Other Mac users will agree when I say that there is virtually NO inexpensive image editting software out there for Mac OS X. While it may not be very GOOD software, it's free, unlike photoshop CS3 or any of the other $200+ options that apple lets me choose from...

Comment #21

John1014 wrote:.

I can understand why I would need a good fast lens though, as mytargets would be moving at me, especially when they pass quickly..

Hmm, seems to be some confusion here... 'fast' in this context has nothing to do with how quickly a lens might move through space, but refers instead to it's light transmission capabilities, measured as it's maximum aperture - generally, anything with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or greater is called 'fast', as it allows a lot of light to travel through the lens to the film/sensor, allowing the use of high shutter speeds to freeze the action you are aiming at capturing. Be aware that fast zoom lenses command a definate price premium over fast prime lenses - the convenience of a zoom quite often outweighs the extra cost..

Rob.

Everyone, everywhere, has to do everything for a first time. There is no failure in failure, only in failing to learn...

Comment #22

John1014 wrote:.

I must have read the D40x review a thousand times and every time Isaw it I teared up when I read about the lack of autofocus...oh well..

The D40/D40x DO NOT LACK AF - I repeat, they do not lack AF. What they lack is the little screwdriver and motor in the lens mount to allow backwards compatability with Nikon's older AF lenses. The newer AF-S Nikkors with lens mounted AF motors work just fine with the D40. My advice to you however would be to get a camera with a more sophisticated AF sensor setup than the D40 - it's a nice little camera, but a sports machine it is not..

I have almost cemented my choice....cannon rebel xti w/ sigma 28-70F2.8 EX DG lens..

I choose this because most of my shots will be taken from relativelyclose (less than twenty yards...often less than five yards) and therelatively high aperture should keep blur to a decent minimum..

One thing here that may catch you out - the rate of change at close ranges will be a lot greater than it is at longer distances - to prove it, go stand by the freeway and watch the cars going past (try to follow them one at a time by turning your head), then jump back over the fence and watch the same bit of freeway from way up the street. A lot easier from a distance, isn't it - doesn't wrench the neck quite so much. The same applies when an object is moving towards you - closer = apparently faster than further away (look out the window next time you're landing at an airport). What does this mean in regard your photos? Can the camera adjust the focus quickly enough to catch up with the changing target position? Over to those who know about the Canon's performance, I'm a Nikon guy..

Best of luck in your endeavours..

Rob.

Everyone, everywhere, has to do everything for a first time. There is no failure in failure, only in failing to learn...

Comment #23

I definitely see your point. Canon's EOS 400D (xti) has an 9-point AF sensor, far improved over that of the EOS 350D. I'm assuming this will get the job done, as it is superior to the e-510 and (I assume) the D40/D40x. I think to get better AF is a big price jump...maybe I could take out a student loan to pay for it....hmm...does the D80 have a good EF function?..

Comment #24

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