Best camera for shooting in Gym with no flash?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by john_e|2, Jul 31, 2011.

  1. l'll be shooting in local gyms this year, none of which allow flash photography. They are dead serious about No flash. I'll need to get a new camera and lenses and have been looking into the high ISO canons and Nikons but have no experience with the high iso. I've looked at camera's in the $1000 range up to $7000. I can't afford the $7000 cameras. Many of them advertise ISO to 12,000 and beyond, but I'm very worried about noise and quality. I found a pic I took last year with a borrowed D3000 at 3200 ISO and it's pretty noisy which makes me nervous aoubt the 6400 or 12000 ISO level. what type of cameras do the professional sports photographers use that produce the razor sharp indoor action shots, i wonder? anyway I really appreciate any info on what direction to go from those of you who have experience shooting higher ISO.
  2. use a fast lens like the 200/F2.0 (often considered THE indoor sports lens) and high ISO won't be much of a problem.
  3. Does nikon or canon outperform the other as far as ISO goes? or are they both about the same?
  4. I really dont know. I dont participate in the high ISO wars :)
    Check a few extensive reviews and see what real world tests are like.
  5. John, to freeze the action in indoor sports like basketball, you need a shutter speed of at least 1/500 for players moving toward you, and 1/1000 of a second for players crossing your field of view. The way most high school and many college gyms are lit, that requires a lens with a maximum aperture of f2 or better, which means a prime lens, not a zoom.
    If you can position yourself behind the baseline to one side of the basket, you can get great shots of the action in the paint with an inexpensive 50mm/f1.8 or a mid-priced 50mm/1.4 lens. When there's a stoppage of play, shift to the side of the key away from the low referee, or his butt will be in every shot. If you shoot at the top of the players' jumps for shots and rebounds, the players are nearly still, which improves your chances of a sharp image.
    An 85/1.8, 100/2 or 135/2 is also great for action in your end of the court, shot from the baseline or sometimes the corner. My 200/2 is outstandingly sharp and fast, but it's too long for shooting from courtside. Shooting from the stands is not a good vantage point in most gyms for several reasons.
    A frame rate of 8fps is also handy for short bursts of 3 shots or so to improve your chances of getting publishable shots, although 5fps will do.
    The same lenses are also good for volleyball, if you can shoot from near the net on the referee's side, not the linesman's. The 50mm lens can get good shots of net action on your side of the court, and the 85, 100 or 135 can cover the other side. If you have to shoot from farther back, the 200/2 is superb, but they cost close to $5000.
    Some gyms have two lighting intensities. If you can persuade the home coach to crank it up the higher level (in exchange for lots of free publicity shots), you usually gain 1 f-stop, the difference between 1/250 and 1/500, or 1/500 and 1/1000.
    I shoot Canon, but acknowledge that the top Nikon bodies have had about a one-stop edge in usable ISO for a few years, especially with the D3. You can now get a used D3 in excellent condition on for a reasonable price. Canon's 1 Series bodies are certainly adequate. (Note that advertised ISO claims do not mean much). I've used a 1DMkII for years, and the noise level becomes excessive above 1600ISO. Noise from my 5DMkII is acceptable up to 2400ISO, about the same as the 1DMkIII and MkIV, but the 5D frame rate is slower. My friend's D3 is usable to 3200ISO.
    Hope this helps.
  6. Thanks Brent that's exactly what I needed to know.
  7. Before answering your question, what camera are you using now? What lenses do you have? Are you looking to dump all of that and buy new gear?
    The Nikon D3s is generally regarded as the best high ISO camera out there. The original D3 is about 1 stop worse and can be found used for under $4000. The Canon 1D series are also excellent cameras but have a 1.3X crop factor. If you go to a more consumer level body with a 1.5/1.6X crop then you generally lose another stop of high ISO performance. More importantly the different crops drive what lenses you are going to use. The lens choice is far more important than the body choice.
    The D3000 was the last camera to use Nikon's 10MP sensor that was first used over 5 years ago. I think the D3000 was already behind the high ISO times when it was brand new.
  8. I just did a quick check in the Buy and Sell forum on, and lightly-used Nikon D3 bodies are going for $3000 to $3300.
  9. Since I can't afford Both a high end camera and High end 1.4 lenses would it best to go with a lower end camera and High end lenses? I just tried out the 7D and the D7000 at Best Buy(those were the highes end cameras they had) and they did a good job in the store with ambient. Based on the LCD it seemed the 7D did a better job than the nikon. they both had 18 - 105 zoom 3.5 lenses. I was able to get up to about speed 300 at 6400 iso anything beyond that was too dark. I can definately see how a 1.4 lens would help out. I
  10. If you can locate a used Nikon D700 body, and a AF 85mm f1.8D Nikkor lens to start with, you can shoot in the ISO 6400 range without the need for *flash* in a gym. It make take a bit of tweaking to get the light-balance just right -- some gyms have odd lights in the ceiling.
    Camera body and lens: maybe $2,400 (or less.)
  11. Have a friend visiting to photograph baseball tournaments. He does sports professionally - so I asked him.
    He says Canon 1D MkIIn bodies(700-900 dollar range). Canon 50mm f/1.8 - inexpensive and works well for basketball in gyms. Canon 85mm f/1.8. Under $400 and works well in crappy lit gyms. Canon 24mm f/2.8, inexpensive and works well when shooting in some gyms, especially if you are backed against an end wall and it is light colored and will reflect some light into faces.
    He shoots RAW and pops the exposure, contrast and sharpening in converstion to Jpegs or Tiff files. Says he shoots at 1600/3200 and can pull two more stops out during RAW conversion while the noise reduction and sharpening works well. Nikon probably is as good if not better in many respects. Don't get so hung up on 'grain/digital noise' as that is part of things just like grain used to be with pushed film. Mainly a worry of photographers, not clients who are generally pleased to get action work that is good.
    Whichever way you go, good luck.
  12. This weekend I shot ice skating indoors using a D90 + 70-200 f2.8. I used ISO 1600, f2.8, 1/400s. ISO 1600 is a bit grainy for my taste, but it was my only option. My friend who shoots a lot more indoor ice skating was shooting at the same settings with the same lens and a D300 (same high-ISO performance) and gets better results because he processes raw files better than me.
    My D3 was in the shop. It would have been ideal, giving me 3 stops advantage. ISO 1600 on the D3 still looks great.
    A D7000 should give you 1 stop advantage over a D90 or D300.
    IMO, you've got no alternative to getting a fast lens. 70-200 is the best choice for the sports I shoot. Primes and shorter lenses just don't work for me.
    Next priority is a body. D90/D300 is the baseline. D7000 is 1 stop better. D3/D700 is 3 stops better than D90/D300.
  13. In my experience, hockey is easier to shoot than BBall or VBall, because arenas are generally more brightly lit than gyms, enabling an f2.8 zoom to work well. It may just be the reflectivity of the ice compared to a wood floor.
  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The very first key to arrest the noise problem when shooting any camera at an High ISO: is to NOT crib on the exposure - i.e. do NOT underexpose.
    To ensure NOT underexposing in all the difficult circumstances you will face shooting in poor lighting situations, you will NEED fast lenses. Most likely you will need fast lenses, irrespective and more important than whatever camera you purchase: because no matter what ISO your camera is capable of gaining - the faster lens will always give you more leverage when you are at the limit of Tv (Shutter Speed).
    So I would suggest biasing your budget to the lenses and not the camera.
    Also recognize that if you nail the exposure the noise reduction programs available to you, will work more efficiently to reduce the noise of the High ISO you used to attain that correct exposure in the first place
    As an example, here is an (old) Canon EOS 20D, pushed to ISO3200 and shooting in crappy light - it looks more than “OK” at a 14inch wide print:
  15. John. Just get a d700 with the 70-200vr2 and a 50 1.8. Thats what I have to shoot all indoor sports. Don't foget the mb-10 grip. Thats about five grand. The results at 5000 iso at 1/640 make even the most seasoned phographers really smile. I think this is your best bang fo your buck! When it comes down to being in the feild your image quality is just as good as any other nikon.Oh. I forgot to tell you that Ihave the 24-70 to. Thats still cheaper than just 1 body without anything. It seemed to be a no brainer for me.Hope this shot opens your eyes a little more. Hears a shot at iso 5000 f 2.8 1/640 200mm.
  16. I would suggest that you take a few shots with your current camera to see what the light level is. Then you can decide what you need. The 1/500 F2 and ISO 3200 is 6 EV which is very dark. I shoot ice hockey not in gyms but here I find that more modest kit will work well. I used to use my old 1DIIn and a 70-200 f2.8 (non IS) and find that 1/500 and ISO 1600 work for most shots at F2.8 as the ice rinks are usually EV8 or more. While I do not shoot in gyms EV 6 would appear to be very dark for sports. I would check the likely light levels and start from there - you will probably find that a good APS-C body and a 70-200 F2.8 zoom will work just fine. I would suggest you look at the Canon 7D and the Nikon D300. The zoom will be all you need as will allow you more latitude in framing your shots. On an APS-C body it gives you an effective 105-300 on a Nikon and 112 - 320 on a canon as they have slightly different sensor sizes. The advantage of canon is actually in the lens if you choose to go this route. canon makes four 70-200 zooms and their 70-200 F2.8 without IS is fine for sports as you need fast shutter speeds to freeze action and thus do not need to worry about camera shake (where you benefit from VR or IS). A 7D with the 70-200 F2.8 non IS is only $1420 so you can get a 7D and 70-200 F2.8 non IS brand new from Adorama for $3020. By the way the Canon 200 F2 is $5700 by itself. So long as you nail the exposure (APS-C bodies seem more sensitive to underexposure causing noise at high ISO) you will be able to shoot ISO 1600 1/500 and F2.8 (EV 8) at 8fps with an AF system that is very good and have full court coverage due to the zoom.
    If you do discover that you need to be able to shoot in EV 6 then you really do have to look at a 200 F2 and a body like the D3 and a 200 f2. this will set you back $11,100. You will also have less reach (200mm vs 300mm equivalent) and lose the flexibility of the zoom for when the action approaches you. The only lower cost option is to buy a full frame body like the 700D or the Canon 5DII and a fast lens like a 135 F2. the Canon option is good to ISO 3200 and thus you can crop the 135 F2 and still get a good photo. It will set you back about $3,500. However, the AF on the 5DII is not the best (although it performs as well as my Canon 1NRS which was the top Canon sports camera until about late 2000 with the EOS 1V) and the frame rate is slow at 3.9 fps. The 5DII and 135 F2 will allow you to get high quality images in EV6.
  17. I should say that Gary's advice is also good (but for more money) The D700 is $2700, the battery pack (to get 8fps) is about $400 with a battery and the 70-200 f2.8 VR is about $2200 making a total of $5,300. That said this combination will go down to EV7. Of course a 7D with the 135 F2 gives you an EV 7 combination for around $2800. As I said earlier if you are shooting with one body a 70-200 zoom will make your life easier but you must get an F2.8 one.
  18. I've had very good results with the Canon 7D and 85mm 1.8 combo
  19. I am an amateur photographer and sports fan. I am lucky enough to get to shoot from the sidelines of my university during their basketball games. I currently shoot with a Canon 50D, but hope to move up to a 7D later this year. Here is a shot I took with the 50D and a Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens earlier this year.
  20. John:
    My little experience in photographing sports may help... Air shows and auto racing are where I have the most experience. I have a Nikon D50, Which is not an expen$ive camera, and use my 70-300 VR lens. My camera's highest ISO is 1600...plenty for us mere mortals, sez I.
    I plan to keep using it till it breaks, then will have it rebuilt.
    I photographed my granddaughter's indoor tennis tournament with my old 28-105 F/3.5-4.5 zoom...AND goof of goofs, I didn't adjust the was at the usual 200! Foolish, I know, but that's the sensitivity I use 95% of the time, and I didn't even think about it until I was editing the pixes. BUT! The results were very acceptable.
    For my grandson's basketball games, I use my 50mm f/1.8, and/or my 100 mm f/2.8, with ISO at 4-800. I may try 1600 one day but, so far have not felt the need.
    Maybe this winter, when I try gymnastics and Ice skating, I will see the need, and "noise" be damned! There are some fellows on Pbase that shoot gymnastics. They use f/2-2.8 lenses, and some jack the ISO to stratospheric! Their work is amazing!
    A good f/1.8 lens is usually less expensive than the f/1.4s, and the difference in aperture is just a smidge...not enough to bother with in this digital age.
    I guess my point is that we don't need terribly expen$ive equipment to do very good work! Just the willingness to experiment with what we have, and find out what It will really do, then evaluate our needs in the light of what we can do.
    Don'tget me wrong...I'd LOVE to own a D7000, a 70-200 f/2.8 VR, and a Mercedes, but, it isn't likey to happen in this lifetime, sooo...I'll do the best I can with what I have. When photo isn't possible, I'll sit and enjoy the race!

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