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Which camera for my kids' sports?

by Evfab4 / May 16, 2010 2:26 PM PDT

If my budget is $1,000 and I want a DSLR plus a second lense (zoom) what should I buy? I most like to shoot my kids' baseball, football and wrestling and basketball. I have a Canon Powershot XS 100 8mp 10x optical now. I take lots of picture because I crank out the team slide show. I want more, good action shots. I can't take good photos for wrestling and basketball now because indoors and poor lighting. Will DSLR help with these sports? Thank you! Evfab4

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Indoor or low light sports photos
by hjfok / May 17, 2010 6:09 AM PDT

D-SLR certainly helps to get better indoor and low light action photos, but usually not at the price $1000 or below. Usually will need a 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens or a prime lens with f/2.8 or larger aperture (smaller f/number). This kind of fast or bright lens will cost $1000 or more by itself.

However if you really need to stay around $1000, then you can try Canon XS with 18-55mm IS kit lens selling for about $550, and buy the Canon EF 100mm f/2.0 which cost about $450. You will need the 100mm f/2 for indoor sports. The 100mm will have 160mm reach on this camera. This is not much zoom, so you will likely need to do some cropping. But f/2 aperture should get you some nice and sharp photos, though you have to learn how focus with a large aperture lens.

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a little more less costly

I have one photographer friend that shoots basketball and volleyball and uses the Canon 85mm F1.8 lens. It does a tremendous job with image quality and speed of focusing. That lens runs around $350. With that difference, you might be able to still find a Canon XSI, which has a better centerpoint for focusing which will give you better accuracy with fast lenses.

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by STEVEDOAKMD / May 17, 2010 7:30 PM PDT

I have a very fast camera a NIKON D700 with a full size 24x36 mm detector, which easily supports ISO 6400 in applications such as this. The offset is that I get by with a Tamron 28-300 (equivalent to an 18-200 on a camera with an APS C detector.) That way I have all the advantages of FOV's from 75% to 8%. The fast lenses are very nice but you won't one with the versatility of the big Tamrons. I would hate to give up the versatility of the big Tamron lenses which I have been using for the last 18 years. So one has lots of combinations to consider.

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You're using a D700, which can do very good ISO 6400. A $1000 budget won't get you a D700. The other problem is that the person wants to do indoor sports. The Tamron is notoriously slow in focusing, especially when compared to a lens with a ring motor. Tamron makes great quality lens but they are too slow for fast action.

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kid sports is not easy
by hjfok / May 19, 2010 6:27 AM PDT

I understand what both you and kalel33 say, but have to agree with kalel33.

In general kids sports at night are not easy. The pro sports stadium and play fields are well lit or at least much better lit than the local park. Young kids usually get the worst field with the poorest lighting. And young kids are not as predictable as the trained pros, they can run in all directions.

Now the more technical part. For sports, you need shutter speed 1/500 or faster. You may be able to use 1/100 for slower actions or with panning. It is true that using higher ISO will let you increase shutter speed so that you may be able to get by with a slower lens, but at the cost of slower AF and noise. Slower lenses will hunt for focus in low light even at higher ISO, not as responsive as a fast bright lens. Nikon D700 is one of the best in high ISO with low noise (alongside its bigger bros D3 and D3s), so you may be able to get by at ISO 6400. But you can do much better with a fast lens (and crop if you need a tighter FOV). An entry level D-SLR with a smaller sensor will likely have a lot more noise.

Let me show you a couple of my own photos to illustrate what I mean. Here are 2 night soccer photos of my kid's team in a local park, with poor lighting. The shots are bad but I was the only parent who could still take the photos at that time. The other parents (quite a number) with D-SLRs and the regular tele lenses have packed their cameras away an hour before my shots. They only got some shots of their practice and missed the shots of the game.
(I have not processed these photos, they are straight out of the camera)
I use the Canon 5D Mark II (which is close to the Nikon D3/D700 in terms of high ISO performance) and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. Even wide open at f/2.8, I have to use ISO 3200 to get adequate speed for the action shot. This lens is more than 2 stops faster than the Tamron. So even ISO 6400 will not likely make it in this situation using the Tamron. And at ISO 3200, I can start to see some noise showing up (personally I have not used higher than ISO 3200 for my action shots). At regular print size, it may look okay. But definitely these are not the photos for wall size prints.

So my suggestion is to get the fastest lens you can afford for low light actions. If you like the versatility of a zoom lens, then get one with f/2.8. Most people will spend more money on the lenses than the camera bodies. I spend less than 1/3 of my D-SLR budget on the camera bodies (5D MkII and 30D). Photos always look better with better and more light (with a larger aperture lens) than to crank up the sensitivity of the sensor.

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Thank you!
by Evfab4 / May 19, 2010 1:22 PM PDT
In reply to: kid sports is not easy

I want to thank all of you who took time to respond. I plan to spend more time reviewing these this weekend. Thank you again! Evfab4

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