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Best settings \ lens for indoor action shots

by tgoyette / December 6, 2007 9:20 PM PST

My wife has an Olympus E-Volt E-500 camera with a 14-45 f3.5/5.6 Zuiko and 40-150 f3.5/4.5 lens. The biggest challenge for her has been fast action shots (girls being thrown in the air) in low light conditions. Should I consider getting her new lens for Christmas or will one of these two lens work? If the current lenses are acceptable what settings should we be using?


A cheer dad

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Low light action....
by Papa Echo / December 6, 2007 11:19 PM PST

Try shutter priority - set to at least to 1/500 sec. to "top the action", and set ISO to 1600 or higher, hoping that the camera will be able to set an aperture large enough to let in enough light, while getting the correct exposure.

Try also Aperature priority - set to the largest allowed by each of the lenses at a particular stage of zoom- to get in as much light as possible, hoping that the camera will be able to set a shutter speed high enough to stop the action, while getting the correct exposure.

Note that flash is not used, since it limits the shutter speed to a low level, e.g. 1/60, which is not appropriate for "action shots".

Depending on the light available, you may be able to get good shots. Experimrnt.

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Low Light Action
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / December 7, 2007 12:12 AM PST
In reply to: Low light action....

Papa Echo hit on something that causes many problems in low light.

If you are within 20 feet of the action, the flash may work for you.
If you are further away......turn off the flash (there is an option to do that).

When you are further away, the flash is too weak to do any good.
And having the flash turned-on will confuse the camera.
You may get a photo that is exposed properly, but it will have a lot of action blurring.


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by tgoyette / December 7, 2007 12:33 AM PST
In reply to: Low Light Action

These suggestions are great and I will give them a try. Should I also be considering getting a different lens with different f stop capabilities or are the lenses that came with the camera sufficient. These are shots normally taken from a distance. Most of the shots are taken from arena or gym style seating with the girls performing on stage.

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by snapshot2 Forum moderator / December 7, 2007 3:20 AM PST
In reply to: Thanks

Olympus has lenses that are brighter than the lenses you have, but before considering them you should see what kind of results you are getting using Papa Echos suggestions.

The brighter lenses are quite expensive.
A lens that will gain you only one f-stop will cost you $830.

Your present 40-150mm should be the lens you use when taking photos from the stands.
It is brighter than the other lens.
The next time you take the photos from the stands try this:
Take one photo without using any zoom.
Take the next photo using whatever amount of zoom you like.
A zoom lens looses some light when zoomed.
So its brightest setting is without zoom.

And if you are in the stands.....turn that flash off

Every time I watch a night football game and see all those flashes going off in the stands, I wonder if those people think their little flash is going to light up a stadium.
The best it can do is light up the back of peoples heads for a few feet in front of the camera.


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Great information
by tgoyette / December 7, 2007 3:30 AM PST
In reply to: Olympus

Thanks for the great information. I will save the money and by her something else nice for Christmas.

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Fast low light action
by hjfok / December 7, 2007 10:01 AM PST

Getting a fast lens is an expensive way to get low light action shots. The fastest zoom lens has only f/2.8, barely enough to get the shutter speed needed in low light even at ISO 1600. Here is a shot taken with ISO 1600 with f/2.8, only able to get 1/640 shutter speed:

Getting a larger aperture prime lens will face another challenge, out of focus due to shallow depth of field.

So your most practical bet (without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars) will be using flash and stay close enough for the flash to be effective, as snapshot2 mentioned above. Learn how to anticipate the moment you want to capture, and time your shot and flash to get that big smile or scream in the air. When using flash, your camera's shot to shot time will be slowed down, so you have one chance to capture that moment.
You can also rescue your shot using Photoshop or other softwares. You can improve digital noise with softwares like Noise Ninja. You can sometimes use sharpening to fix a slightly blurry face (but don't expect miracle). Sometimes you can turn a blurry photo into some artistic form to show the dynamics in the photo, emphasizing on the fun of the activity rather than a clear shot of the face. Here is a photo that appear a little soft on my original shot, which can be fixed with sharpening. But I changed it to have a more dreamy look instead, and like this version better.

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Stage photos
by hjfok / December 7, 2007 10:20 AM PST

The stage is usually lighted. Your 40-150mm f/3.5-4.5 lens should be adequate. Like snapshot2 said, you will probably get a better shot at 40mm than 150mm. The 40mm range will probably cover the whole stage, but you can crop the photo to enlarge your subject of interest. You can then compare whether the cropped photo look better or the zoomed photo. Here are some sample photos I took a while ago. There is one photo that I cropped and enlarged the subjects of interest. The other close up shots are done with a tele lens. The cropped photo still looks good enough for a family photo. These are all done with ISO 1600 and f/2.8. You will likely need the f/3.5 to get better shutter speeds, but I have some friends who are able to get good shots at f/4 if the motion is not fast.

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Your best bet is to buy an accessory flash
by clamaster / December 8, 2007 9:42 PM PST

I am going to guess that you are using either lens zoomed almost completely out to take the pictures, so your effective f-stop will be the lower of the two numbers (i.e. 5.6 and 4.5). Than being the case you will be better off using the 40-150 because it is going to give you more light. Even using that lens you are probably not going to be able to get a shutter speed of 1/500th at an ASA of 1600. I have shot in a lot of gyms and can't recall ever shooting in one that bright. Also, 1/500th may not be fast enough to stop all of the action.

Your money would be better spent on a good flash that mounts on the hot shoe attachment on the top of your camera. A better flash will put out significantly more light and completely avoid the low power internal flash. It will give you the added bonus of not continually draining the main battery.

A flash will trigger at a much higher rate than your shutter speed will ever be able to match, so set your ASA somewhere that will give you good quality and let the flash stop the action. You may get a dark background with heavy shadows, but I am guessing that you are more interested in seeing your daughter than what is behind her.

One last suggestion, if you decide to work with a high ASA, high shutter speed and low aperture setting try to time the photos so that the subject is at the top of the jump. There is an instant when the subject actually stops moving up, and starts to go down that will result in much sharper pictures.

Good luck!

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