Best lens for taking gymnastics pictures

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by april_grissom, May 7, 2012.

  1. I have a Canon Rebel XTi and I need help finding the best lens for taking pictures of gymnastics where you cannot use a flash. I am not a professional so I am not close which means I also need a pretty good zoom. Currently I am just using the 55-200mm f1:4.5-5.6 lens which zooms well but does not take good low light pictures. I am just taking pictures of my daughter but would really like to be able to get good pictures. I need to keep the price reasonable too since this is just recreational photography. Thanks for any help you can offer.
     
  2. Consider raising the camera's ISO. You'd likely need a lens that is 2.8 or faster. However, if you chose a zoom, that will be expensive.
    Consider a 50MM 1.8. Not a zoom... but lets lots of light through.
    Also check to see if all the lights are on in the gymnastics gym. I've been to indoor sports events where they only had on half the lights. After asking an employee to turn on more lights, pictures came out better.
     
  3. Fast + telephoto + cheap is just not available.
    If you could make do with 100mm, you could get a 100mm f/2. It's an excellent lens, very fast, runs around $500. If you were sitting near the front it could work. From about 55 feet away, it would frame a 12x8 foot area with an XTi. From farther away you'd probably be cropping.
    You can go longer and stay fairly fast, but it quickly gets extremely expensive. Next lenses out would be 135mm f/2 ($1000), 200mm f/2.8 ($800), 70-200mm f/2.8 ($1400); past those are multi-thousand-dollar lenses like 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 400mm f/2.8.
    If you only shoot the pictures occasionally, you might look at renting a lens.
     
  4. 100 f/2 or the 135L
    Depending on distance you might be able to squeak by with the 85 1.8
    Some of those gyms are real tough so you will need to be shooting at 1600 I'm betting.
     
  5. 100 f/2 or the 135L
    Depending on distance you might be able to squeak by with the 85 1.8
    Some of those gyms are real tough so you will need to be shooting at 1600 I'm betting.
     
  6. zml

    zml

    Lens, camera, ISO, et cetera are one thing. The other component is skill. Sports photography is way more than just rising the camera to the eye and pressing the button, so learn the sport(s) you are shooting, acquire a modicum of skill and then see which part of your equipment, if any, is deficient. If you cannot be close to the action, like near or on the floor, then you will need a longish lens (probably 200-300 mm or so.)
    Judging from my experience, in an average gymnastic hall (high schools and colleges may be darker...) you should be able to get by with 1/125s and f/4 at ISO 800. Bust since every sport has a totally static phase(s), learn WHEN to press the shutter to catch that static moment (gymnast suspended in the air after the jump, just before the fall, a "finishing" stance on a balance bar, etc.) and 1/125s will be enough to stop the movement. OTOH you may want to learn panning and/or slow shutter techniques to convey movement. Just rememebr that it takes 1/2-1s, or longer, between the time you decide the press the shutter and the time the shuter opens (your reaction time plus shutter delay) so learn to anticipate and act accordingly.
     
  7. Use your zoom the work out which focal length suits you best, and then pick the fastest prime you can afford that matches that focal length. The 85 f1.8, the 100 f2, the 135 f2.8 and 200 f2.8 are at the cheap end of the scale as far as fast primes go. Anything faster and you can pretty much more than double the cost. The 70-200 f4L is also at the relatively cheap end of the scale and buys you one stop of imporvement over the 55-250 at the long end. A second hand 70-200 f2.8 might also work.
    However, fast (f2.8), cheap telephoto zooms simply don't exist.
     
  8. it

    it

    85/1.8 is a cheap-ish good alternative for this.
     
  9. The 85/1.8 (or 100/2) is ideal for this type of work - assuming you can get close enough. Generally speaking, most people who shoot this type of stuff choose longer primes because of the extremely fast aperture, and good IQ, and lightning fast focus speed (much faster than much bigger-more expensive- zooms). Really, primes in this range are ideal for this kind of shooting.
    Alternatively, if you have $5-700, you can easily find a used Sigma (HSM) or Tamron 70-200/2.8 zoom which, while slower, will give you considerably more flexibility. Any of them will significantly outperform your 55-250. The XTi's AF will also perform better with one of them (or the prime) than it does now w/ your 55-250.
     
  10. William

    William Moderator Staff Member

    I believe the best low priced options would be the EF85/1.8 or the EF 100/2 and crop the results to suit, if you are too far away: but arriving early and getting a good seat is also part of the battle.
    I often use the EF85/1.8on an APS-C Camera, for Low Light Indoor Sports.
    Often Underexposure and / or too slow a Shutter Speed is the cause of poor Gymnastics Images – you should consider if either of these is a also a problem for you. In other words it will usually be better to push the ISO to the maximum to ensure correct exposure and also an adequate Shutter Speed.
    I expect for most Gymnasia (like High School or Amateur Performance), you will be using your limit of ISO1600, even with an F/2 or an F/1.8 Lens, so . . . I think you will have less joy with an F/2.8 lens in most poorly lit gyms. . .
    BECAUSE . . .
    It is likely that your Camera’s ISO ceiling is also limiting you: A sample image of a typical scene and typical lighting with the EXIF attached and a description of the type of Gymnastics and the Age / Competence of the Athletes, would be very useful to provide further comment in this matter.
    As already mentioned, managing the SHUTTER RELEASE to coincide with any (nearly) STATIC Subject Position is a technique that will certainly make better photos for you.
    WW
     
  11. The XTi actually has the 3200 ISO on it, just disabled.
    The "hack" to make this usable is at http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=742806
    If that is gibberish to you, consider getting a used 20D or better --for a little more money-- a used newer model like the 40D. These have the ISO capability up to 3200 or so already.
    Years ago, I did some gymnastics photography on a Nikkormat FTn with a f/5.6 210mm max zoom and Ektachrome 400 film. So it can be done if you're not too picky about things like noise (grain then, of course).
    00aMcr-464677584.jpg
     
  12. William

    William Moderator Staff Member

  13. Well, I've had that link for a long time.... I don't remember exactly, but that first link may have been for some of the tools, not the hack itself... ?
     
  14. Is that ISO 3200 a 'real' ISO setting or does it just cause the camera to underexpose by one stop at ISO 1600 and then multiply by 2 in software? If the latter, you may as well shoot at ISO 1600 with -1 stop exposure compensation and tweak the exposure in post-production: that gives less risk of blowing highlights.
    Shoot in RAW, use a monopod so at least your own hands shaking won't affect the image too badly, consider going to fully manual settings. (Take a few test shots before the event starts to work out the exposure you need.) Buy the cheap 50/1.8 first of all and if that isn't long enough you can splash out later on the 100/2 or similar.
     
  15. Before buying any of the prime lenses suggested, take a look at what focal length you've been using on your 55-250. If you're always at the 250 end, the 50, 85, and 100 aren't going to be useful to you and will be money wasted.
    How often are the competitions, and how many of them does your daughter have each year? Renting a better lens than you could afford to buy outright may be a solution. There are several well rated rental companies that will ship the lens to you, so a local camera shop isn't required.
    If that's not practical due to the number and/or frequency of events, then also consider buying a used lens. KEH.com has a grading system that is buyer favorable, and you won't go wrong even with BGN grade lenses.
     
  16. Agree 85/1.8 or 100/2 are good, not so expensive options. ISO to 1600 and hope for the best.
     
  17. If you're shooting gymnastics, then does the action predictably occur at exactly the same place (e.g. a balance beam)? If so, then you can use a good, old, FAST prime telephoto lens. By way of example, I just picked up a mint condition 70's era Asahi Pentax (Takumar) 500mm f/4.5 lens for around $600, mostly to photograph a nearby osprey nest. (This lens has always been on the cheap end of decent telephoto lenses of this length, BTW. The Canon 500mm f/4.0 IS L has an MSRP around $7000!) I will adapt the 42mm screw mount to my 40D with a cheapo Chinese eBay variety adapter (approx $15) that I already have. I can use my camera's liveview feature (available 40D and forward) for 10x magnified manual focusing. I suspect most of my shots will be around f/8, but the f/4.5 is there if I need it. (Wide open aperture means not as sharp.)
    You may not need as long a lens as this, which will make your candidates even cheaper. What focal length of lens do you feel would be ideal?
    You could also add a kiss of flash with an inexpensive device called a "better beamer." Google it.
    Finally, you could decide to photograph gymnasts when they're moving slowly or when they're stationary, rather than when they're flying through the air at lightning speed. Then you could shoot with a lower shutter speed and smaller aperture. Alternatively, you could just "embrace" the motion blur. "Fast" telephoto lenses (meaning large maximum aperture -- or small minimum F number) are extremely expensive. Those are the lenses that will let you shoot with very fast shutter speeds that will better freeze the action.
     
  18. zml

    zml

    > better beamer
    I MUST STRONGLY OBJECT. "Better beamer" will direct such a strong beam of flash light that it might BLIND the person being photographed and potentialy couse a serious accident, especially in sports competition. If you must, always obtain prior consent BEFORE using any light modifier, and especially such a concentrated, blinding, beam of light.
    Some menatally and morally retarded photographers use "better beamer" for animal photography ("oh, that monkey looks soooooooooooo nice with catchlights in his eyes...") without any regard to animal welfare. It is so wrong!
     
  19. menatally and morally retarded​
    Come on, now! Is that necessary?
    The best a better beamer could do is to add a "kiss" of light -- certainly much less light than if you were taking a photo at a more typical distance of, say, 10 or 15 ft.
     
  20. As already mentioned you may need to boost your ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed. With an XTI make sure you have a modern raw processor - I find the current version of Apple Aperture processes ISO 1600 on my XTI much better than it did several years ago, with less visible noise. I'm sure Lightroom has improved similarly. In addition a decent noise reduction program like Topaz Denoise will make a difference to those high ISO images. Any of those will set you back a lot less than a new lens, and if it gives you more confidence to use a higher ISO than normal it will be beneficial Regarding the ISO 3200 hack - in my tests I found it similar to deliberately underexposing ISO 1600 by 1 stop and then pushing the exposure up inside Aperture. YMMV David
     
  21. It's nice when one lens can serve more than one function (the reason zooms were invented), so for your purposes, I'll add a vote for the 100/2 or 85/1.8, as both serve well for gymnastics/concerts as well as for portraits. Similarly, I like the 100/2.8 macro - a stop slower and heavier, and a little more expensive, but adds a third capability. Maybe let the availability of what you can find used influence your decision between the three?
    I should add that at my daughter's most recent meet, the pros were shooting massive 2.8L zooms exclusively, on monopods, and were photographing beam and floor only, not bars nor vault. Predictably I guess, my own best shots from that meet (using a 135L mostly on a 60D at ISO 1600-2000 and shutter 1/320-400), were on beam and floor, although as previously posted, position and timing are everything. You might get some extra practice in at a local collegiate sports event (next year, I guess), although you probably won't be able to get as close.
     
  22. zml

    zml

    Just fore the record:
    Sarah: Have you EVER used a "better beemer"..? That "kiss of light is blinding...
    And yes, many, way too many, nature photographer harm the animals by intrusion, noisy, inapropriate behavior, destroying their natural habitat, using intrusive photographic techniques (light, trip wires, etc.), disturbing the young, etc. I shoot for conservancy (and tread very lightly, with lots of scientific help...) and by the virtue of being "there" I can see the zoo of photographers in many places, but Costa Rica seems to stand out as both the magnet for photographic loonies and its very lax conservancy policies. Fist time you see a poor turtle turning back to the sea without nesting because droves of "photographers" follow her every step, you may actually start to understand the severity of the issue.
     
  23. I will add a vote for the 135 f2. I have used it for volleyball, basketball and wrestling with great success. The 135 is a great length, when after a few environmental shots with a wider angle lens, you are going to want to fill the frame with your daughter as best you can. It is also sharp at f2 where you will be shooting all the time. I have found the difference between f2 and say f2.8 to be very important in these dark gyms. Samples here www.brianboland.net/TAFT/Taft-Volleyball/Volleyball-10-27-07/3730239_cTJGB5#!i=214178334&k=vVLMY . I think shooting 1/500 or faster makes a big difference. I also recommend using manual exposure, manual white balance, center focus point only, servo mode, raw, start at iso 1600 and as fast/open as your lens will go.
     
  24. April:
    Your best bet for a faster lens as inexpensive as possible is a prime lens.
    What focal length do you need?
    Have you used your current zoom? Disregard noise or blur or anything that has to do with exposure. Just look at the framing. What focal length on your zoom did you use with your favorite photos? Start with that, and then we'll be in a better position to help you.
    Next question is what is your budget? What's the dollar amount which you absolutely, positively will not exceed?
    Eric
     
  25. Just fore the record: Sarah: Have you EVER used a "better beemer"..? That "kiss of light is blinding...​
    No. Have you? As a fresnel lens cannot make more light than is already there, I doubt very much that a distant flash, inefficiently recolumnated, can be any brighter than a flash used in an ordinary way at ordinary range. Is your frantic opposition to the "better beamer" based on opinion or fact? If the latter, can you point me to any authoritative sources that indicate it has blinded any person or animal or precipitated some sort of serious injury (of course when used properly, not when used to refocus the light right into someone's eye at close range)? If so, I'll never mention the device to anyone ever again.
    And yes, many, way too many, nature photographer harm the animals by intrusion, noisy, inapropriate behavior, destroying their natural habitat, using intrusive photographic techniques (light, trip wires, etc.), disturbing the young, etc. I shoot for conservancy (and tread very lightly, with lots of scientific help...) and by the virtue of being "there" I can see the zoo of photographers in many places, but Costa Rica seems to stand out as both the magnet for photographic loonies and its very lax conservancy policies. Fist time you see a poor turtle turning back to the sea without nesting because droves of "photographers" follow her every step, you may actually start to understand the severity of the issue.​
    I have no idea where this came from. If it's any help, I would represent some of the scientific help you receive in your conservancy efforts. (I am a biologist.) I promise not to club our local ospreys with my enormous lens. OK?
     
  26. Oh, FAIW Michael, although I've not used a "better beamer," I've experimented with a fresnel lens about the size of a car door to recolumnate flash at close range. It's a way I invented to create a softbox look over a very small area and with very little light spill. So far nobody has been blinded or discomforted. That said, I do have to use common sense and dial down the intensity of the flash.
     
  27. William

    William Moderator Staff Member

    "Regarding the ISO 3200 hack - in my tests I found it similar to deliberately underexposing ISO 1600 by 1 stop and then pushing the exposure up inside Aperture."​
    Thank you.
    I was curious and I investigated and downloaded and was playing yesterday with our 400D - my initial results (indoors typical room lights) appear to be the similar, using Photoshop and tweaking the exposure and the Highlights - there does not seem to be much (any) improvement in the shadow detail /noise, nor general image quality, by using the hack.
    I will continue to play more rigorously at a later date.
    WW
     
  28. [​IMG]Taken with Canon 7D + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on a monopod, at f/1.4 and 1/800th sec at ISO 3200. Some modest cropping involved but no other manipulations.
    00aMt4-464967584.jpg
     
  29. You don't need to spend anymore than on any used EF 70-200/2.8 series zoom. It closely matches your "just recreational photography" use. Your camera will change in the future to something better.
     
  30. I think the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 is a great low price option here. You are not going to be able to go much wider than 2.8 as you will start running into focusing issues becauwe the focal plane will be so narrow parts of the body will be in focus while others are not. the most common lens for sports is the Canon 70-200 F2.8 and a Canon 70-200 F4L is a great alternative. However, if you need f2.8 which I do, the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 is an excellent choice.
     
  31. Interesting thread. I've been to many gyms where using a flash is prohibited. Coaches and players will use the flash as an excuse for a missed shot, play, move, etc. and who can say they aren't right sometimes. On the other hand, parents with their little P&S cameras are flashing left and right.
    Depending on the gym, sometimes you have to use the fastest lens you have and either work close or farther away to compensate for a lack of zoom. I've certainly used 85mm 1.8 lens for dark basketball work. My favorite lens for gymnastics is the 135 L f2, but any number of good zooms can be used if your camera produces good high ISO results.
    Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and spend money on a quality lens-camera combination.
     
  32. I'm also in favor of 135 L f/2. Also, plus additional teleconverter 1.4, it would serve as a 190 f/2.8 lens as well (not sacrificing too much on the aperture). Total cost, around $1000 or less.. (especially when bought used).
     

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