Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography

Started Mar 22, 2011 | Discussions
dnbhavens
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Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
Mar 22, 2011

OK, I tried an engine search but the most recent threads seems to be over a year ago. I have never had an SLR - only point n shoot digital where I basically used auto functions.

I will use it mainly for outdoor sports - youth baseball & soccer. I'm sure as my boys get older they will also do football and other sports. Of course I will use it for school and family gathering indoor pictures.

Budget is $1000-$1600. For what I'm using it for - recreational not professional, I don't need the top of the line. I just want to make sure I get something that will teach this gal an entry to DSLRs with ease.

TIA for any information and recommendations.

John Glover
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Re: Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 22, 2011

Any entry level DSLR will work for you, no need to get anything fancy. What matters for sports is the lens and your technique. For outdoor sports, I'd recommend getting an entry level with a two lens kit. Generally this is an 18-55mm standard zoom and a 50-200mm class telephoto zoom. The 200mm may be a bit too short and with some kits, I know Pentax and Olympus, offer kits where the telephoto lens is a 55-300mm. The longer focal length is much better and more flexible for outdoor sports.

Indoor sports becomes another matter. Here is generally where the faster lenses, such as the f/2.8 class zooms, tend to rule the roost. Problem is these lenses are costly, about $800 or so for a third party lens like a Tamron or Sigma, and upwards of $2k for an image stabilized Canon or Nikon lens. You can make the slower 55-300mm class zooms work provided your camera can be cranked up to a high enough ISO to get you a decent shutter speed, but that is an iffy proposition in most high school sports gyms, as the light level is quite low.

I can't comment on other brands as I shoot Pentax but the Pentax K-x or K-r paired with the 18-55 and 55-300 zoom would make and excellent starter kit and be in the lower end of your budget. This will run you about $900 or so for the K-r which is the newer model camera.

If you do decide you want to go the faster 70-200/2.8 zoom route at some time, then Pentax becomes limiting as their lens selection in fast zooms is quite small....ok, almost non-existent!

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dnbhavens
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How abouth Canon DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to John Glover, Mar 24, 2011

Thanks! Great place to start. Anyone with Canon advice if I go that route?

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beagle1
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Re: How abouth Canon DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 24, 2011

dnbhavens wrote:

Thanks! Great place to start. Anyone with Canon advice if I go that route?

Canon 60D or 50D with 18-55IS and Canon 55-250IS - if it's inside sports like basketball then you will need Canon 85 1.8

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illini
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Re: How abouth Canon DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to beagle1, Mar 24, 2011

On the cheap def Canon 50D or 40D. I think their 6 or 7 fps pretty fast rigs. What sets them apart for me than any other camera is the ability to customize the buttons on the back.

The way i do it is program the AF button right where my thumb would be. That way you keep your AF separate from the shutter button. This way you can keep the AF button mashed and hit the shutter button as many times as needed. Its very fast and very important feature for shooting sports or wildlife.

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Bjorn_L
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Re: Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 25, 2011

dnbhavens wrote:

OK, I tried an engine search but the most recent threads seems to be over a year ago. I have never had an SLR - only point n shoot digital where I basically used auto functions.

I will use it mainly for outdoor sports - youth baseball & soccer. I'm sure as my boys get older they will also do football and other sports. Of course I will use it for school and family gathering indoor pictures.

Budget is $1000-$1600. For what I'm using it for - recreational not professional, I don't need the top of the line. I just want to make sure I get something that will teach this gal an entry to DSLRs with ease.

TIA for any information and recommendations.

You need to look at a fast focusing camera with some motion tracking capabilty and as good a lens as you can afford.

If the camera body sensor is capable of good performance at high ISO this is an advantage. Since with sports one of the challenges is to keep the shutter speeds high enough to freeze the motion. This means the other two factors in exposure will feel some "pressure". These are ISO and aperture.
The 3 variables (other than available light) are:

Shutter speed -- how long the camera has the shutter open, the longer the shutter is open the more motion blur you will get.

Aperture -- How wide you open the "iris valve" in the lens. This is measures in f-stops (google is your friend). A lens with a f2.8 will let in twice as much light as a lens with a max of f4. A f2.8 lets in 4 times as much as a f5.6 lens.

ISO -- the sensitivity of the sensor. (actually it is how much the signal from the sensor is amplified, but ignore that since it can be confusing). Not all sensors are created equal. DXOMARK.com has measured most of the more popular ones. And, it is not just the ISO which comes in to play. Some cameras, like the Pentax K-X can suffer from highlight clipping.

Finally there is selecting the right type of lens. Not all lenses with the same numbers perform the same. The Canon 70-300 and Nikon 70-300 have nearly identical specs, but the Nikon focuses a good deal faster (bodies used to compare were a Canon 500d and Nikon d90). Similarly the Sigma 70-200 and Tamron 70-200 are both f2.8 lenses but are quite different. The Tamron has better image quality, the Sigma focuses much faster (nearly as fast as the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 vr)

Canon and Nikon have the best lens selection in this area, how much this matters depends on how far you want to take it. For example the Sony a580 paired with a 70-400mm lens does alright in good light and is neither very heavy nor bulky. And, it compares very well to the entry level 400mm lenses on Nikon and Canon (80-400 and 100-400 respectively). But if you ever decide to take it up a notch, the Nikon and Canon 70-200 f2.8 lenses are much better than the Sony option. Also, Canon and Nikon offer a very good selection of weather sealed options (Nikon more so).

So, my basic start kit would be the Nikon d7000 and Nikon 70-300vr or the Canon 60d and 70-300is. The Nikon is better, but not leaps and bounds. I would avoid the Canon 50d since it suffers from too much ISO noise.

If you are looking for a lower budget option, consider the Nikon d90. A real gem for the price. If you are looking for some fancier bodies, consider the Canon 7d or Nikon d300s (both out perform the lower end bodies with better focus speeds). The Nikon d7000, d300s and Canon 7d are weather sealed. This becomes important for many sports. The Nikon 70-200vr is particularly well sealed. I have used mine in a monsoon.

Read reviews, don't just fall for internet opinions as they are all biased and most people giving advice are either new to the field or have experiance with only 1 brand (possibly only 1 camera model). Reviewers are not perfect, but they at least tend to have tried lots of different cameras.

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neil holmes
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Re: Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 25, 2011

dnbhavens wrote:

OK, I tried an engine search but the most recent threads seems to be over a year ago. I have never had an SLR - only point n shoot digital where I basically used auto functions.

I will use it mainly for outdoor sports - youth baseball & soccer. I'm sure as my boys get older they will also do football and other sports. Of course I will use it for school and family gathering indoor pictures.

Budget is $1000-$1600. For what I'm using it for - recreational not professional, I don't need the top of the line. I just want to make sure I get something that will teach this gal an entry to DSLRs with ease.

TIA for any information and recommendations.

If you are just talking entry level then ANY dslr from ANY brand would be fine.

If you have an unlimited budget, then the latest greatest from Canon or Nikon would be great (and at a price that is maybe going to be higher in the short term thanks to the earthquake/Tsunami/meltdown.)

When you put budget limitations I think it comes down to specifically what you want to shoot.

The lenses are more important in many respects than the camera.

You need reach and shutter speed BEFORE you need frames per second and multiple focus points and weather sealing.... etc etc etc.

Pros will use higher cameras and expensive lenses but then they will want as many shots as they can get of as many players as they can get or as good as they can get for publications or sale...newspaper pros will often only be there for a short time so will want everything in their favour to get a useable shot. if it is just for yourself and family and you have all game, then it does not matter so much if you miss some shots and that is why a lesser camera can do well....if the lenses give you the reach and shutter speed you need.

Cameras these days have good high iso so that plus as fast a lens as possible will give good enough results in may cases.

For large field spsorts you need longer reach and with a faster aperture that can cost money. Shooting at night also costs money.

Sometimes Pentax can be a BETTER choice for those on a budget because you can get some nice old manual focus lenses for more reach for the same price....something like a K-x for instance, will give you the reach and shutter speed with a nice old long lens and it is a good high iso camera and as fast as many (faster fps than even a D90).

I am no sports expert but do my share of sports like softball, football (various types) and Cricket ....even at night...and a Kx and my Tamron 300 2.8 (and with a auto focus adapter...giving me 516mm 4.8) is great for sports...including night time and fast moving sports like Greyhound racing. For Greyhounds I also use an equally old 70-210 3.5 manual focus lens (and also auto focus it with the adapter).

In your case if there is not too much difference (between the needed lenses for the sports you want to shoot) and you want the canon, then you would need a 85 1.8 for basketball (if the kids went that way) but would need something longer with the field sports and that is where your costs are going to rise and more so as the games get later....you WILL want longer, faster (lens aperture)....if you can spend the extra, fine....if not then thats when you need to make compromises and start taking away things. I also use Nikon but would not use a entry Nikon for this right now unless you are ONLY going to get the likes of the longer kit lenses or the 70-300 VR and shoot in the daytime only.

For people who ONLY want that sort of thing, Nikon (and Canon) again come into play....

so to me...unlimited budget...Canon or Nikon .... limited budget but want more than just a lens or something longer, Pentax can be a good choice (so can the others, Olympus with the "crop" might be worth a look....Sony has some nice cameras.

JUST want a lens or two for daytime sports, again, maybe Canon or Nikon (but the others are also good value in some cases).

neil
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M Kalvan
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Re: Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 25, 2011

i am facing the same problem here......

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DWEverett
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Re: Beginner - DSLR for Sports Photography
In reply to dnbhavens, Mar 26, 2011

I agree with several of the posts that any of the current entry level options will do a good job. Mid level cameras like the Canon 60D and Nikon 7000 are great, offer better access to some adjustments and (for most people) have better balance with larger lenses.

That said, I don't see much reason to have to spend that much money when you are just starting out and don't have those large (and expensive) lenses. For outdoor sports you can get great shots with an entry level camera and a relatively inexpensive lens. It won't give you the % of keepers that a top camera/lens combination will but you'll have lots of games so missing a shot here or there probably isn't critical.

I'd probably get the kit 18-55 lens just because it's usually very cheap. I don't know how old your kids are. For small size soccer fields the 55-200 is fine. Once they move up to the full size field you'd be better off with a 75-300.

Canon, Nikon and Sony at least have multiple options (and price points) for the 70/75 - 300. I have one of the higher end ones and it is more crisp than my old lens. That said, I got lots of nice shots in that first year before picking up the other lens. I don't think you lose much by starting with a reasonably priced one.

For the indoor, around the house shots the kit lens isn't great. You have a couple choices. Most (possibly all) of the companies have some form of cheap 35 or 50mm prime lens that's 2.8 or faster that's good for the birthday parties etc. The other option is to spend some of the budget on a shoe mounted flash. Being able to bounce the flash makes a world of difference in terms of the quality of the pictures.

As folks have mentioned, indoor sports is a different animal. How ugly depends on the sport -- I have two daughters in gymnastics and I've just about given up being able to afford to really be able to do it.

FWIW, I shoot Sony. I have an A700 and had a chance to use my dad's A33 that I bought for him at Christmas. I was using it with my Sigma 50-150 and had a Sony 70-200 on my camera. Granted, it's years newer technology but I was impressed with the A33. You have to decide if you like the electronic viewfinder but it came across as a pretty solid contender in the entry level market.

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