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Do I really need the D40?

Hi all,

Last winter I shot several indoor figure skating competitions from the stands with my Rebel XTI, and the Sigma 50-150 F2.8 II (because I doubted my ability to physically hold up the Canon 70-200 F2.8L all day). Although I was very happy with the results in general, I felt that overall they were too dim, and that I missed too many good shots by a split-second. I experimented with different settings (Aperture, Sports mode, ISO changes, etc) and still had the same problem: too many dim shots, too many taken too late and/or out of focus. I want to do better this year, but I'm getting all sorts of conflicting advice, from professional photographers to dealers to my fellow amateurs:

1.) Ditch the Sigma. Suck it up and use the 70-200. Canon L will beat any Sigma hands down, and the XTI will do everything you need it to do.
2.) Ditch the Sigma AND the XTI. Upgrade to the 40D. You can't take good sports shots with the XTI no matter what lens is attached to it.
3.) There's nothing wrong with the XTI/Sigma combo. It's all in the skill, or lack thereof, of the photographer.

Leaving aside the full-frame and shots-per-second advantage that the D40 has, I'd be grateful for any clarification or suggestions.

Thanks in advance!!

------------- Trilby

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I meant "40D", of course. Sheesh!!

In reply to: Do I really need the D40?

Please disregard the intermittent dyslexia. :-p

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need more most likely

If your ice rink is like most public rinks then you will need something brighter than a 2.8. I know that's not what you want to hear, but you would be better to get a prime such as an 85 F1.8, 135 F2, or 200 F2(pick the one you would use the most). Bad lighting is common in public rinks and high school gyms and require brighter lens.

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In reply to: Do I really need the D40?

Your statements that the pictures were too dim, makes me wonder.

I would think that you would encounter blurred photos, not dim photos.
Of course, if you are shooting full manual, you can get dim photos.

1. Since you are in the stands.....make sure you do not use flash at all. You are too far away for the flash to do anything useful, and it can cause a picture to be dim.

2. I suggest you use the Sigma Lens, set the ISO to 1600 and select Aperture Priority with aperture set to f/2.8
Then the only thing the camera can do is adjust shutter speed.
Then check to see what shutter speed it selects.
If it selects a speed of 1/250th of a second or faster, you should be good to go.
If it selects a speed less than 1/60th of a second, it is too dark for the lens.
If it selects a speed between 1/60th and 1/250th of a second, you may get some motion blur on the skaters. Otherwise, you should get good results.

On your dim photos, check the EXIF information and see what the ISO, shutter speed and aperture setting are. Also check to see if the flash went off and what mode you were using.
Let us know what the settings are.


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I KNEW I'd get some real info here!!

In reply to: Skating

Thanks, Snapshot2! The settings I used were:

Flash: suppressed (not allowed to use it, period)
Metering Mode: Average
Aperture priority
Shutter speed 1/400 sec to 1/1250 sec
ISO 800 (Too grainy, I preferred 400 but those were rarely any good)

I would have thought the settings were fine, but... not so much. BTW - Besides the dimness, most of the shots had a pinkish-purple tinge; I could never get the color balance right.

FWIW -- My blurring problems occurred at the skaters' extremities (bodies clear, hands and feet not); and when there were 2 skaters on the ice (the camera focused on one and blurred the other).

I'm very glad you think I can keep using my Sigma lens; it's a fine compromise between a decent zoom, F2.8, and not having muscle fatigue or smacking my neighbor in the head.

Any suggestions you have will be most appreciated!!

----------- Trilby

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some options

To get rid of the noise, you can get a program called noise ninja that does a good job. The XTI should be able to do ISO 1600 pretty easy with little noise. I've seen many shots of hockey with it and they looked good at ISO 1600.

The purple you see in the photos could be lens flare from the lights or chromatic aberration. It depends on what it looks like in the photo.

The reason on person is in focus and the other is the shallow depth of field when using F2.8.

If you still are not getting the shots that you want, or they are too dark then I would look, at least, at renting a prime lens for the weekend and see how you like it. A Canon prime can also focus much faster than the Sigma lens.

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Renting -- now that's an idea!

In reply to: some options

Thanks, Kalel33 -- I'll look into renting a nice fast prime. There's no place around here that rents camera equipment, but I know of a couple of online sources.

---------- Trilby

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In reply to: I KNEW I'd get some real info here!!

It reads like you have ample light, you just need to make a few adjustments.

Let's start with the white-balance:
That camera does a good job with florescent lights in auto white-balance.
It does a poor job with incandescent light, which will leave you with a pinkish photo.
The skating rink is probably using incandescent light and you should select the white-balance "tungsten" setting.

The ISO setting of 800 should be OK.
The test result I saw, shows little noise at 800.

A shutter speed of 1/400 to 1/1250 is fast enough that I would change the Aperture setting to f/4.0 or even f/5.6
f/4.0 will cut your speed in half and will increase you depth of field.

You should also try switching to center focus (spot focus).
If the primary target is not in the center, then focus on the primary target and press the shutter button half-way down, then re-frame your shot and press the shutter button the rest of the way down to take the photo.

Blurring of the extremities is not really a bad thing.
That gives the impression of motion.
Many photographers strive to get just a bit of motion blur.
A frozen skater is much like a frozen propeller on an flying airplane.
It does not look natural.


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Thank you!!

In reply to: Skaters

I took a few practice shots at the local rink, and I think you've got me on the right track at last! Correcting the white balance made a huge difference all by itself. Thanks so very much!! The Sigma is so much easier to carry, and small enough that it doesn't annoy my seatmates (or at least not as much as the 70-200).

----------- Trilby

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Thanks for the feedback

In reply to: Thank you!!

Photography is a learning experience and it never ends.

When you get that fantastic shot .... we want to see it.


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