Best Body and Lens Combo under $800 for shooting sports...

Discussion in 'Sports' started by ken_wayne|1, May 9, 2016.

  1. Hello,

    I looked around the site first to try and find a question relative to the one I'm asking and didn't find anything recent.

    I have a friend on a budget of $500 to $800. She has children who play a lot of baseball and soccer outdoors and basketball inside in the winter months. Yet she obviously wants to be able to take family shots as well. I assume every camera on the market today is able to take nice still photos but she needs one that would be more suited for sports photography. I told her the more focus points she can get the better but I'm not hip to the latest products so any help is greatly appreciated.

    I'm more apt to buy prosumer products but it looks like it's hard to find anything in her price range so I'm guessing she needs to buy the more plasticky consumer models. She said she doesn't want anything that's big and gawky.

    So can someone in the know suggest a nice kit for her?

    I'd be very grateful. And if this has already been discussed elsewhere then I respect that my post can be deleted if someone will tell me where to look.

    thanks in advance,
  2. in that price range, i wouldnt expect much in the way of sports shooting specialness. you can get a new upper-entry level Canon or Nikon DSLR and a kit lens, maybe a two-lens kit (18-55+55-200). your best bet might be to look for an older model with a kit lens deal. The kit lenses might be okay for daytime soccer and baseball. for indoor basketball, kit lenses will be too slow, but fast zooms may be out of the price range. you could maybe get by with a 50/1.8 for lower-light but that may not get you close enough to the action, depending on court position. another option might be just getting a cheaper body-only camera, and buying an inexpensive fast zoom like the sigma 17-50/2.8 OS. all that might be too complicated for a newbie, though. i also wouldnt worry too much about number of focus points at this level. just use center-point AF and AF-C.
  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Eric. I needed to add that she only wants a new kit. She's not much on buying used though that's the route I would personally go. Thanks again.
  4. Also, can you briefly explain why more focus points wont matter as much in sports photography? I mainly shoot products so never use my gear for sports really. Can you explain the difference between focus points vs. center-point AF and AF-C? I thought the more focus points the body has the better chance she has of getting her photos in focus. Up to this point that's been her main objection with her older camera. She says she can't get good focused shots. But her digital camera is from 2005.
  5. As Eric indicates, the main issue is a suitable lens for indoors sports. Fast lenses also provide more light for the AF module, and it's certainly also for this you a f/2.8 lens is much prefered. But a suitable long f/2.8 lens for less than $800 - not likely.
    The problem with more focus points is that it's easy to think more is better, but as always, things aren't that straightforward. Not all focus points are created equal and aren't all equally sensitive; having more can help tracking, but that will depend heavily on good light, or a fast lens (so back to square one). Plus, more complicated AF modules mean more settings, and it's easier to get it wrong too. There is a learning curve, it seems many people expect magic, but as photographer you'll still need to master your tool.
    As a first step, I'd go to a store with here, and let her see, hold and feel some of the cameras in her budget in her own hands. A camera as the Nikon D5500 is quite a bit larger than the Sony A6000, but with a large(r) lens possibly also easier to hold. It has to fit her hands.
    The cameras Eric mentioned are in pole position, but try others too of course; also check and consider the total cost of lenses and the availability of suitable lenses.
    A last thing to look out for are deals on previous models; for example the Nikon D5200 and D5300 deliver the exact same performance as a D5500, but can be found for less. Similar for the Sony A6000 now that the A6300 is out.
  6. This is very tricky. She needs a fast lens for indoor sports. Unless she gets multiple lenses, these are expensive, and what your friend would probably call "big and gawky". For soccer and baseball, she doesn't need such a fast lens, but needs a lot of focal length, and it would be better to get a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, which is cheaper and smaller. (In Nikon, she should avoid the non-VR version at this focal length--the VR one is a much better lens.) Even these focal lengths aren't ideal for baseball or soccer: if her children are playing the outfield, or are on the other side of the soccer pitch, they will be very small in the photos. (Sadly, parents are rarely allowed on the field during play, running after their children, camera in hand.)
    Finally, the lenses that are good for the long subject distances she will encounter when shooting sports are not the best for family photos. There are all-in-one zooms (18-300mm) that would work for everything except indoor sports, but these are expensive and large.
    I will make a different kind of suggestion, possibly it will help: For her budget, she could buy (1) a point-and-shoot camera for family photos and (2) a consumer video camera with, say a 40x zoom or more for her children's sports. Some of the video cameras do surprisingly well in low light.
  7. In this price range you will not be able to buy fast lenses, so I think the suggestion of the Nikon D5500 (or
    D5200 / D5300) with its kit lens makes a lot of sense. While EVFs are improving fast, at this price point and at
    this time, for sports, I would prefer a real optical view finder. Also, since she will not have fast lenses, a camera
    with really good high ISO and DR would be beneficial. If she can find a deal that has both the kit lens and VR
    telezoom (as suggested above) within her budget, that would be ideal. If needed (in the fall/winter when youth sports moves indoors), she can pick up a cheap 35mm f1.8 or 50mm f1.8.
  8. can you briefly explain why more focus points wont matter as much in sports photography? I mainly shoot products so never use my gear for sports really. Can you explain the difference between focus points vs. center-point AF and AF-C? I thought the more focus points the body has the better chance she has of getting her photos in focus.​
    sure, i assume we're not talking about an experienced sports photographer here, i.e. someone who knows what they are doing, so just to be clear im not talking about sports photography in general, just your friend's experience level as a limiting factor. but to give you an example, i have a D300 with an auto-AF mode with 51 AF points. i never use that mode, because the camera doesnt always put the focus points where i would want it. instead i use a manually-selectable focus point and AF-C for tracking moving things. if your friend is comfortable moving around the focus point within the frame, then, sure, you can use that method. But at a basic skill level, sometimes simplifying things eliminates user error. The D5500 and A6000 both have advanced focus tracking features, but that won't help if you don't know how to use those features. Keeping the AF in center point should result in a decent hit rate even with a basic camera. Correctly using focus tracking is a little bit more complicated and sophisticated, and takes a bit of practice. The other thing is that the outer focus points tend not to be as accurate on many cameras, whereas the center AF point is usually a cross-type sensor. This obviously depends on the specific camera, but even with a 3-pt or 9-pt focus system, you can get keepers by keeping things simple and sticking to center-point AF.

    WRT to AF-C, that is continuous autofocus mode, where the camera's servo follows the subject you select around the frame. It's what you want to use for Things That Move (instead of focus and recompose and AF-S or single-shot AF). It allows you to shoot even without focus confirmation, as in a burst, prioritizing speed over accuracy. In single-shot AF, you can't fire the shutter until the focus locks. Sometimes that will be too slow for fast-moving action; by the time you obtain focus confirmation, the subject has already shifted its position, resulting in an unfocused shot. That's why you dont want to use AF-S for non-static subjects. In AF-C, you should get a focus confirmation dot in the viewfinder confirming focus, but you can still fire the camera without the lock-on and beep. Another trick for faster focus is using AF-On to separate focus acquisition from image capture, it saves a split second or so. Theoretically, in AF-C, the selectable focus should stay with the target as it moves through the frame.

    To summarize, having more focus points helps with getting in-focus shots around the frame, but only if your technique is such to where you correctly select the right focus point. In other words, having multiple focus points is only part of the equation. As i said before, the most accurate focus sensors on a DSLR are the cross-type ones. i have an 11-pt focus system on my D90, but only the center-pt AF sensor is cross-type, which means it registers horizontal and vertical information. in practice, when i shoot non-static subjects with that camera, i tend to stick to center-point AF because it's more accurate. Note that the A6000 might be a little different as it is a mirrorless camera and has hybrid AF, meaning the sensor uses phase detect and contrast detect AF systems together. DPReview says it works well for focus tracking, but i have no specific experience with that camera, so i cant tell you offhand how well that works in practice.
    I think the suggestion of the Nikon D5500 (or D5200 / D5300) with its kit lens makes a lot of sense​
    My understanding is that the D5500 is a little bit better than the D5200/5300, particularly in terms of AF and focus tracking. Despite sharing the same sensor, these cameras are not interchangeable. The 5500 also has touchscreen focus while using the OVF, which could be useful.
  9. I thought the more focus points the body has the better chance she has of getting her photos in focus. Up to this point that's been her main objection with her older camera. She says she can't get good focused shots. But her digital camera is from 2005.​
    Getting photos in focus really depends more on the photographer than the camera, in general. I could have an $8000 Canon 1ds or a $6500 Nikon D5, but if i didn't know how to set the camera for best results , and the technique necessary to obtain those results, i might as well be using a $100 point and shoot. Without knowing what specific camera your friend is using and seeing her shots and the EXIF data, it's hard to say what she's doing wrong, but there's a high likelihood of this problem being a technical limitation of the shooter, not necessarily a limitation of the camera itself. A lot of times, we think buying new cameras will improve our photographic abilities without us having to actually learn how to better use our equipment. Sadly, that is not the case. Even with a basic, entry-level camera, a photographer who learns that camera inside and out and masters the learning curve may get better results than someone who just buys an expensive piece of gear and expects the camera to do all the work. I should also add that in sports or action shooting, you really dont ever want to use the 'sports' scene mode where the camera is picking the settings for you. i never know what those modes are actually doing. You want to take as much control over the camera as possible, including shooting in full manual mode to control shutter and aperture. Sometimes i will use auto-ISO in variable lighting as well.
  10. Panasonic model with the 24-600mm f/2.8 lens is worth looking at.
    Not an SLR and not perfect but it works well and the price is in her ballpark.
  11. Panasonic FZ1000 or the Panasonic FX300.
    One goes from 24-400 while the other is 25-600 with f/2.8 at every focal length equivalent.
    All in one, simple for someone not used to all the SLR adjustments and right in the price range.
  12. The consumer level cameras are just fine. One just has to THINK.
    She just might be able to assemble a kit with a long VR zoom within her budget.
    Here is a Canon setup that comes in at $600
    And a Nikon kit for $650
    And both are under budget enough to get a 50/1.8 for the dim gyms.
    I would like to second the comment about AF points.
    For a beginner, using the multi-point/dynamic AF, the camera could select to focus on something other than the subject. Then they wonder why the subject is out of focus. Or they see that the camera has selected to focus on something else, but have no idea how to correct that. So following the KISS principle, lock it on center point AF.
    Depending on the camera, the selected camera mode will drive the AF selection as well.
    Example, With Nikon, "Auto" focuses on closest subject. So the camera could focus on the head of the person in front of her, rather than her son on the basket ball court. Or it could focus on players on the sideline, rather than her son in mid-field. So do NOT use the "Auto" mode. This why I NEVER use the Auto mode for anything.
    You will have to read the manual for whatever camera she gets and determine what mode setting she should select for sports, which will be different than general family photography.
    Once she get familiar and comfortable with the camera, she can progress to use the other/advanced features. Heck that is what I am doing with my new DSLR, as it has a LOT more features that my old one. The brain is like a sponge, it can absorb only so much, before the excess flows off.
    I also second the recommendation for a VR/IS lens in the 80-300mm range, for the daytime sports. IMHO the average person NEEDS the help of VR for shooting with a long lens.
    VR/IS will help, a LOT. BUT VR helps only so much., she also has to be taught how to hold and shoot a LONG focal length lens. It is relatively easy, once you learn the tricks. She needs to learn to hold the camera with one hand under the lens and on the zoom ring, and the other on the body, not both hands on the body (like holding a book). And tuck the elbows in. This properly supports the camera and lens, and is a more stable position for those long zoom shots.
    For indoors, today with as high as DSLRs can push the ISO level, she might be able to get away with the kit lens, depending on how lighted or dark the gym is. But FAST GLASS will be much better, as she will be able to use a higher shutter speed. I recommend a 50/1.4 or 1.8. This would probably be over budget, so I would hold off on this lens, as it is less important.
    And related to all this, she has to be taught when and how to adjust the ISO level to match the situation.
    ISO 100 would not work indoors, as ISO 3200 would not work in daylight.
    Thanks for helping out a newbie.

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