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Author Topic: Optimal sports and action setup?  (Read 2599 times)

lexonio

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Optimal sports and action setup?
« on: February 11, 2012, 04:30:43 PM »
Hello everyone, this is my first post at this forum and, sadly, this is a question :)
I'm not a pro photographer (but I'm getting there), I'm just a regular guy with a camera who likes to shoot sports, outdoor activities and I'm also involved in a bit of journalism.
I currently use 550D and 17-70 Sigma OS the most, both of which I like, but I'm looking for an upgrade. Is it generally useful to go FF for action shooting? As I've heard 5dmkII is more of a studio camera and thus not so useful for my purposes.

Would you recommend me to wait for 5dmkIII and get 24-105 in the meantime as I originally planned, or is there a better way?

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Optimal sports and action setup?
« on: February 11, 2012, 04:30:43 PM »

smirkypants

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2012, 05:16:11 PM »
What kind of sports? What kind of distance? What kind of light?

neuroanatomist

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2012, 05:22:27 PM »
How about the 1D X?   :P

FF has the advantage of better low-light performance, which is good for indoor sports.  But fast-moving subjects require good AF tracking. To get that with a FF sensor from Canon means a 1-series body.

In terms of AF performance, the 5DII won't be too different from your Rebel, and pairing it with an f/4 lens for sports isn't the best idea.

Honestly, in your position, the first thing I'd recommend is a lens upgrade.  IIRC, the Sigma 17-70 is f/2.8-4.  Constant f/2.8 zooms like the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, and/or 70-200mm f/2.8L, or an even faster prime (85mm f/1.8, 135mm f/2L) will enable the higher shutter speeds you need to stop action, and give you better IQ, too.
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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 05:52:03 PM »
Alot depends on budget, but a very reasonable starting point for the enthusiast on a moderate budget is a 7d, with the fastest glass you can afford.  If MOSTLY doing sports then the extra reach of the 7d (or 1d IV) must be balanced against the better low light performance of the FFs - but I'd stay away from the 5d2 if SPORTs is the priority.  AF options doing sports is very tricky (doable, but tricky) and my keeper rates with the 7d & 1d IV are very good. Until we have solid spec's on the 5dIII/X, I cannot speculate there.
If budget is not an option and you can wait, the 1Dx would be the BEST (costliest) of both worlds.

But whatever body you choose, definitely put the most thought into your glass and WHERE you will be shooting.

If mostly indoors (gyms / courts / reasonably close action, typically poor lighting) my first purchase would be the 135/2. 
If funds are tight, then (believe it or not) I like the 50/1.4 or the 85/1.8 if you can be close to the courts. (the 85 1.2 is too slow on the AF for fast sports but beautiful if doing more photojournalistic shots and less 'action' shots).
If doing bleacher shooting and funds allow, then the better (BEST) option would be the 70-200 2.8 II.
 
If you do use the 135 (which I do and love, check out the lens gallery here) and it still doesn't "reach"your target,  then you'll NEED the 70-200 2.8 or the 135 with a 1.4 or 2x TC.  Again if budget is less an issue then the  200/2 is another thing of beauty, but as a compromise,  the 200/2.8 is a bargain at ~800 USD.  Be aware though, that shooting primes and sports requires a great deal of practice/knowledge to be in the right place at the right time to get the framing you need, and the 135 and 200 primes do not have IS, so a monopod is very useful.

Outdoor field sports is a whole different ballgame, where lighting is better (but more variable), and many more multipurpose lenses become more practical. 28-300 as a single option, 70-300 or 100-400 as cheaper alternatives. 

I'm leaving out the very good 24-70 as an INITIAL lens to recommend now that a new one is on the horizon (at the end of someone's pot of gold), but I do use this quite a lot, and am considering upgrading myself, but until I try out the mark II, I would hold out for now.  Though again, if $$ is not the limiting factor, it is an excellent court side choice (more versatile than the 50 prime),  The EF-s 17-55 2.8 is another great idea if you decide to go the 7D body as it is a superb all-around crop body lens, and has a niche for sports, if you do use 2 bodies.   The 24-105/4 is another nice piece of optics, but for sports, best reserved for the outdoor arenas.

You should begin there with these 2 focal length ranges (< 100 and 135-300 or more), and have 2 distinct perspectives, with enough shutter speed to get all the action.

If keeping 2 bodies is an option, then when you want the group / team photo holding the trophy, the 50 (24-70 or 17-55) on a crop body (with the Nike Zoom  :)) gives you the best chance to get the emotions of the moment without having to change lenses after the winning point and everyone is running around.

Bottom line, think about your camera's location (ambient lighting and your ability to get close physically or optically) before spending your money on the more expensive, faster lenses, but in the end, that is where I would start, good luck and happy shooting.
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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 06:20:23 PM »
Look at the photos you're currently taking with your lens.
Are you always at 70mm? Are you taking photos at 70mm and then cropping some more (or not cropping but having a small subject in the frame?) If you're only taking borders off, then 85mm might be the go. Cropping to about 3/4 of width*height and you're probably better off with 100 or 135mm. If you're cropping most of the photo to blow up a tiny subject, you're probably best with 200mm or more.

If that's the case, you need a longer lens. EF 85 f/1.8 and EF 100 f/2.0 are very good, sharp, and quick AF, and importantly, cheap(er than other options). I've ended up buying both for about $300 each, combined less than the 135 f/2.0 (although the 135L is a damn nice lens, I wish I could afford/justify it, bear in mind if you ever sell it down the track you'll probably break-even if you take care of it). EF 200mm f/2.8 is also nice and sharp and fast, and will do you well for side-lines of field-games.

Above all of them, in quality and budget, is the 70-200L f/2.8, the f/2.8 IS, and the f/2.8 IS II. Their higher prices reflect incrementally higher quality, the latter is $2000 new, but it will serve you very well for a lot of different purposes, lots of people can't live without this lens. (And then above them you've got your 200mm f/2.0, and all the other uber teles that you'll have to sell your car to buy).

But if you're in a situation where you're actually shooting below 70mm currently, maybe 20-30mm taking group shots of volleyball or something, then it's different. The sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.0 is actually a decent lens, from what i've read, especially around those lengths. The EF-s 17-55 f/2.8 is half a stop faster, and a bit better IQ around this area, but is it $1000 better? You're better off with a faster prime in this case, but there's nothing much good IQ-wise in this region that has AF (samyang and zeiss are MF, so no good for sports, unless you're very good, and upgrade your viewfinder screen). The EF 35/2.0 is a budget dated option, as is the EF 50/1.4 and EF 50/1.8. I've tried using the 50/1.8 for fast(ish) moving dancers in a dark room, forget about it, useless (although MF on live-view wasn't as bad). The 50/1.4 is probably your best option in those lengths.


Or you could go for a new body. 550D isn't bad, but you'll definitely notice the features moving up to a 7D. Only consider a 5D2 if you're constantly shooting in near-dark, the AF and frame-rate aren't built for sports. 7D (or even 50/60D) should give enough performance at a well-lit arena. 5D2 will also mean you need a new lens at the same time. 1D4 is the ultimate upgrade, with a 70-200 f/2.8 IS II you're at the level of most pros, but you're $6k in the hole.

So, the 24-105? haven't used it, but it is a nice well built lens. Not built for sports but that won't stop you (or others) using it as such. If 105mm is long enough, and your subjects are well lit enough to be at f/4.0, then it'll do you well until if/when you upgrade to FF.

But anyway, in your position i'd be considering the 85/1.8, 100 f/2.0, 135 f/2.0, 200 f/2.8 as first and cheapest options, if your budget is more than $1k then let us know, we all love spending other people's money around here...
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bigblue1ca

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 07:01:01 PM »
I'm just a regular guy with a camera who likes to shoot sports, outdoor activities and I'm also involved in a bit of journalism.

What sort of sports and outdoor activities are you shooting and in what sort of lighting conditions?  What is your budget?  If you are shooting indoors your budget is going to have to go up, if you are shooting outdoors in good light it can be less.

Sports cameras - there are currently 3 body options and maybe a fourth depending on it's specs if whenever  it finally is announcement: 7D, 1D MK IV, 1DX, and then maybe the 5DIII/5DX.....so your price range is $1300 to $6-7000 for a body.

Lenses - 70-200 2.8 IS II is a solid standard for a number of sports, it comes in 4 different flavours as mentioned already here, with the 70-200 4.0 with no IS being at the bottom end of the price range.....other options depending on inside outside range are 85 1.8, 135 f/2, 300 2.8, 400 2.8, 24-70 2.8 II (especially if the new reports of it focusing as fast as the 70-200 are accurate)....so your price range new is $400, $1000, $2000, and up to do you want to buy a lens or half car.

lexonio

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2012, 03:24:03 AM »
Oh, thank you very much for your helpful replies! What I failed to mention in my original post is that I'm moving away from my "sports" shooting habits. What I mean is that I'm close to getting a job as a photojournalist in one of our local newspapers, so I'll be required to photograph current events, e.g. local political meetings, events such as opening of new subway stations (so that means I'll have to do some indoors shooting), and etc.

It's nothing too serious as of now, so I'll have to do with my own gear, and considering the wide array of actions I'll be expected to do I've figured out I'd better be off with the same gear I used for my sports action, hence why I mentioned sports in the first place. I may have been terribly wrong with this decision, forgive me if that's the case. As far as my budget goes, 2-3k$ is close to my limit, that's why I initially thought about 5dmkII + 24-105. But it seems cropped cameras are better for this kind of actions (as I've figured out from your helpful replies), so I'm on a fence thinking whether I should wait for 7dmkII or get 7D and some decent lens now.

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2012, 03:24:03 AM »

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2012, 02:55:03 PM »
I'd go with the 7D now, who knows when the next version is coming? If you wait for the 5D upgrade, all your money will be used on the newer body.  While approaching 3 yrs out, the 7D body for ~1K is still a very nice camera, and this leaves you options ($$) for lenses. Once you understand /demonstrate to your employer what type of images you need and are capable of, then maybe they will pay for the next body  ;)
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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2012, 05:41:22 PM »
Oh, thank you very much for your helpful replies! What I failed to mention in my original post is that I'm moving away from my "sports" shooting habits. What I mean is that I'm close to getting a job as a photojournalist in one of our local newspapers, so I'll be required to photograph current events, e.g. local political meetings, events such as opening of new subway stations (so that means I'll have to do some indoors shooting), and etc.

It's nothing too serious as of now, so I'll have to do with my own gear, and considering the wide array of actions I'll be expected to do I've figured out I'd better be off with the same gear I used for my sports action, hence why I mentioned sports in the first place. I may have been terribly wrong with this decision, forgive me if that's the case. As far as my budget goes, 2-3k$ is close to my limit, that's why I initially thought about 5dmkII + 24-105. But it seems cropped cameras are better for this kind of actions (as I've figured out from your helpful replies), so I'm on a fence thinking whether I should wait for 7dmkII or get 7D and some decent lens now.

5DII with 70-300L is an excellent combination and gives top quality IQ. Make sure you get a decent flash like a 580EXII

Humans move slowly so the 5D will be fine - and it renders skin tones better, IMHO, than the 7D

lexonio

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2012, 06:05:08 AM »
Thank you for your replies! I think I'll stick to my old setup for now and see what this year brings. Maybe the new 7D will be comparable quality-wise to the 5dmkII, and if that won't be the case I might be able to get a used 5d for a modest amount of money. It seems cropped cameras still can't beat FF ones when it comes to quality, and that's a sad truth. Still looking forward for that new 7D.

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Re: Optimal sports and action setup?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2012, 06:05:08 AM »