Best Nikon dslr for low light and action?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by stephanie_giorgianni, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. Hi there!
    I do indoor sports photography and I am wanting to upgrade my camera. I am really outdated with my camera right's a d90 so
    that's why I want to upgrade. Prior to my d90, I shot Nikon film cameras so I'm still new to the digital world. :) I've considered the d3...any
    objections to the d3 for these purposes? As far as budget, I'd rather not pay over $2500/$3000 (new). What suggestions do you have?
    Lenses I have are Nikon 18-105mm, Nikon 70-300mm and Nikon 50mm.
  2. I'd go with the new D7100 for less than half of your budget, and use the rest for a faster lens or so.

    What sort of sports are you shooting, and what sort of access do you have? Is this all shooting-from-the-bleachers-at-gymnastics type stuff, or are you under the basket at a ball game? The nature of your shooting has a lot to do with lens considerations.
  3. The D7100 is a great camera for sports. ISO performance is quite good also so that you could get a faster shutter speed. of course, a full frame camera will out perform in the ISO range. indoor sports will entitle you to use a higher ISO to get a fast shutter speed. so, maybe a full frame would be better.
  4. Just want to give you another point of view. While it is true that a D7100 will give you better low light capabilities the D90 is a very good camera and is fine for sports. Have you considered looking at your lenses? The lenses that you have are good for outdoor action but they are not fast and will do poorly in low light conditions.
    For example, the 17-55 f/2.8 (about $1k) and 70-200 f/2.8 (about $2k) are excellent lenses for indoor sports. Also are you using a monopod? That will also improve the quality of your shots.
  5. If you do any high frame rate sports shooting, the D7100 is not a good fit unless you are shooting JPEG basic. If you shoot RAW, the buffer of the D7100 fills up in one second. I own a D7100 and have no plans to use it for sports. I use a D3s for all of my sports shooting. If your sports shooting is single shots for the most part I wouldn't hesitate to use the D7100. The single biggest reason for me to get the D7100 was the upgraded focus system. I have been using it for birds with a long lens, but even then just for single shots of birds.
  6. The best is the D3s. Of course, camera is only a part. The bigger part might be the lens.
    Kent in SD
  7. I agree with Matt. I've had a D90, good camera, but I switched to the D7000, and saw a significant improvement in low light performance. The D7100 is even better, with much better autofocus. I have the NIkon 70-300mm VR, and it is a nice lens, but not in low light. Depending on what sports you shoot, you might want to consider a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. The Nikon would use up most of your budget, but Sigma makes one that's cheaper, and Tamron is about to start delivering one that could be excellent.
    Finally, since your header reads "Best Nikon dslr for low light and action," that would be the D4, or a used D3s, but these are well beyond your budget.
  8. I agree with others and would say a D7100, which would only chew into less than half of your budget and give you at least a stop (maybe more) over the D90. With the remainder of your budget, you could invest in some f/2.8 lenses since you want to shoot indoor sports. If you are willing to go third party (Sigma, Tamron), then you can probably get a mid-range and a telephoto (along with the D7100) with a $3000 budget. If you sold your current zooms (not the 50mm prime), that could give you another $500 or so of spending money, you could certainly get used Nikon f/2.8 lenses (the 17-55 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8 VR - Version 1). These f/2.8 lenses are not only good for the larger aperture, but also because they are lightening fast when it comes to focusing, which will be essential shooting sports.
    A D7100, a 17-55 f/2.8, a 70-200 f/2.8 VR, and that 50mm prime would make a really sweet setup! Definitely good enough for shooting sports indoors.
  9. What type of indoor sports photography are you doing? What size prints do you typically make?
  10. For your budget the d600 is probably the best. The d3s and d4 are the best. You might look for a used d3s. Check but also consider
    frame rates and buffers if raw shooting.
  11. I've shot low light and sports with a D90 with no problems. Be sure you're getting the most out of that camera before you replace it.
    As far as what to buy, I believe in skipping a generation. D90 - D7000 isn't a huge jump like D90 - D7100 probably is.
    If you go D600 or used D3 or something, you may be buying new lenses, don't forget that.
  12. Hi Stephanie, for indoor sports I'd consider glass first. Even a D4 with a 70-300/5.6 won't do you much good under typical indoor gym lighting.
    The basic staple of indoor sports, as well as many different types of photography, is the 70-200/2.8. Very fast focusing very sharp. Takes TCs very well for extra reach outdoors. The current Nikon 70-200/2.8 AFS VR II would be ideal, but also consider a used 70-200 VRI or the older 80-200/2.8 AFS. The latter two easily within your budget while leaving enough for another body if needed.
    The Nikon D90 is a nice little body. Had one some time back and used it for sports and wedding, and the like. Not the best for sports, but knowing its limitations and working within them, it delivered.
    A D7100 would be a definite upgrade in both potential image quality and overall performance with its advanced AF and drive capabilities. The RAW buffer wouldn't concern me for sports. Except for the team photo, for example, all the actions shots are captured in jpeg normal. Indoors the exposure and lighting are typically constant (although never ideal), once you set it correctly for a particular venue, you're done. No need to play with RAW files in post. Given it's a 24MP camera, for most indoor sports I'd also probably set it to Medium size 13MP. It'll reduce the apparent noise and lessen the workflow burden.
    Without knowing the venues you will be in, hard to say if the high ISO of the D7100, or any other DX, would be good enough for your particular needs. Will be better than the D90, but not as good as any of the current Nikon FX bodies. For some of the venues I work in, to get a minimum shutter speed of 1/400 or 1/500 sec at f/2.8, I need ISO 6400-12,800. For that DX doesn't cut it. FX does for me, for my use and requirements.
  13. I've been using the D7100 for night shots and find it has very fast focus in very low light. I'm getting good ISO 2000 performance, and in a pinch I would shoot it at ISO 3200. I also have a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens. It is very fast focus on the D7100, to the point I would call it "instant." The 70-200mm range on the D7100 is excellent for volleyball and basketball. I intend to use it to photo night time softball games this summer. It's definitely up to the job, especially with the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens. The lens is the first thing I look at for this sort of thing.
    Kent in SD
  14. This year I used a D600 for HS basketball in pitiful lighting, with good results. Last year, I used a D3s. Either camera would deliver significantly better results than a D90 for indoor action at high ISO. Tough call on D600 vs D3s for me (and I own(ed) both), but the D600 can be had for around 60% of the $.
  15. Be interesting to see how the D7100 vs D600 comes out head to head, but I expect the D600 would provide 1-2 stops of useful ISO. I needed every bit of ISO I could get, our home gym requires around ISO 9000 on one end. Both the D3s and D600 struggle there.
  16. The D600 is a good option. Refurb plus a used 70-200 VRI would be a nice combo for the OP's budget. Focusing better than the D90, but not as good as Nikon's 51pt.
    Here's some real world images at an indoor track meet and fencing match with the 70-200 VRII and D600. ISO 6400, wide open at 1/500 sec to give you an idea of the light levels.
  17. Nikon D7100 and new 80-400mm lens review by Scott Kelby shooting down at the ice rink. Indoor sports all the way:
  18. As Scott said in that video, for the money, the D7100 is a great DX DSLR, no doubt. But while a f/5.6 lens might work in an indoor professional hockey rink with bright lights and a nice white fill card under all the players, but not under how most non-pro arenas are setup. Good to see real world use of the D7100 AF for sports.
  19. Hi,
    I am a photojournalist living in Mumbai India, shooting indoor and outdoor sports. I am currently using Canon equipments. The newly launched Nikon 7100 is a totally awesome camera, I think is perfect for most photography, the body is light small and handholdable, with the crop sensor it will give you a reach with without the weight of larger lenses.
    D7100 with 70-200 2.8 VR Nikkor is great for indoor sports and throw in a wide to normal zoom and it will fit your budget and a light bag perfectly..
  20. Tony, good stuff, jealous of your low light levels. In our home gym, I am at 1/640@f2.2@ISO6400 on the good end, drop to 1/500 and around ISO8000 on the bad end. Love it when we play at away venues so that I can use f/2.8 zooms.
  21. the D90 is a very good camera and is fine for sports.​
    you're kidding right? i have a d90 and a d3s. the d90 is only a great camera if you are not trying to shoot things which move. as soon as you do that, its weak AF system comes into play. it's simply not built for sports shooting, unlike the d3s.
    for the OP, the d3s is still the best sports camera, but i dont know that it makes sense in your case. you'd have to replace your DX zoom with an FX lens to get the same could migrate to a used d700 or d3--which are essentially the same camera, sensor and AF-module-wise--but you're still looking at a significant outlay for a good indoor sports lens. (although the tamron 28-75/2.8 would work there, albeit not as well as the nikon 24-70, which has better AF focus acquisition and is sharper at 2.8).
    even if you got a d7100--which has the same AF module as the D3s--i would still recommend upgrading your zoom from the 18-105 kit to a 2.8 lens. i've been using the sigma 17-50 OS for three years on my D300s and it delivers good performance for sports/action. i would also upgrade the 70-300 to a faster lens. the sigma 50-150 non-OS can be found used for much less than the 70-200 I or II, and it's optically very good, plus very fast-focusing.
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If one has a large budget and doesn't mind the weight, I would get a D4 for sports, but clearly the $6000 price tag is not for everybody. With a $3000 budget, I would get the D7100 and invest in better lenses, perhaps some version of the 70-200mm/f2.8, especially if you shoot indoor sports. The D7100 has a limited RAW buffer; that issue has already been discussed quite a bit, but given the budget, the D7100 should be the best compromise. Again, the emphasis should be better lenses.
  23. the emphasis should be better lenses.​
    agree that an 18-105 +70-300 combo aren't ideal for sports, but what makes the d7100 better than any other nikon DX camera for sports is the combination of its AF module and hi-ISO performance. (i havent yet used a d7100 but it's got to be better than the d300s in low-light, being two generations newer).
    if you have $3000 to spend, and a d7100 is $1200, that leaves $1800 for lenses. a used 70-200I will run about $1500, which only leaves $300 -- not enough to buy a standard 2.8 zoom, even used. that's why i recommended the 50-150, which can be had for around $600-$650. adorama has one right now for under $600. that would allow the OP to get a 17-50 tamron or sigma or maybe even a used 17-55 nikon.
    also, re: a d4. it's really not worth $6k unless you're shooting pro sports or money is no object. a refurb D3s is about $4400, but there are plenty of used D3 bodies on fleabay for under $3000, and a d700 used will be $1500-$2000. but as i said earlier, in moving from DX to FX you incur an additional cost by having to replace lenses and FX glass tends to be more expensive than DX glass in most cases.
  24. D3s. Enough said.
  25. Thanks everyone for the help, advice and tips! I didn't expect such a response so I apologize I won't be able to respond to each of you. I've read each post though and I'm taking it all into consideration while making my decision.

    To clarify, the indoor sports I am doing is mma fighting. The promoter is a friend of my husband, so it's not paid, but that doesn't mean I don't want to produce good work because I do get some business from it...especially because fighters have the option of buying photos. Also, I do have a Nikon 50mm f1.8, which obviously helps with the low lighting situation, but considering how it is to shoot this sport, a fixed lens just doesn't fit well. Although I'm standing at the cage on a platform, I still like to be able to get some of those close up shots of their faces and the "winning" shots. I do agree to a certain degree that as long as you have a good, fast lens, you can pretty much shoot with any camera....usually. However, in this dimly, florescent lit school gym, the d90 just isn't up to the least in my opinion.
    I'm leaning towards the d7100 as mentioned and getting a better zoom lens. I've never shot any other lenses besides there a real quality or performance difference between nikon lenses and say signma or tamron?
  26. OK. Here is some food for thought. I'm going with the D7100. The key is not what happens with it at the edges of the envelope but rather that you really study it and decide how you might use it. Check this out:
    The D7100 has a 1.3X crop mode. Using that you are essentially using 2x. If you are shooting 12 bit raw the camera will shoot 7 FPS with a buffer depth of 14 shots or about two seconds. This is not bad. But my guess is that under those conditions and given that you don't want to invest much on post processing you will be shooting JPEG large. If you are the buffer is 73 frames deep with a file size of 8.2 MB, The image size of the D7100 at this crop factor is 4800 X 3200 pixels 13.5MP! (The D3s at Large is 4,256 x 2,832). Hmmmmm. The D3 will shoot at 9 FPS which is nice but those last two FPS are not that significant. The D3S can shoot DX format at 11 FPS but a much smaller file.) So the deal is that if you can live with 7FPS the D7100 is looking better and better even compared to Nikon's flagship sports camera.
    So now you have spent 1200.00 on the D7100. What lens to put with it for your specific job. It has to fit in the budget and give you the range you want. How about the old 28-70 AFS F2.8. It focuses very fast. It is sharp as a tack. And it costs about $800 - $900.00 used. Maybe a bit less. So with the 1.3X crop factor that gives you a fast F2.8 lens at 56 -140! That ought to be right in your wheelhouse. And you have a ton of pixels with which to work. You can crop to your heart's content. Need to go wider? Fine. Click out of the 1.3 crop and you have 42 to 105. A small but not insignificant difference. And this rig keeps you at the very low end of your budget. You have another grand to use for wider fast if you want to. And after you have carried that 28-70 around for a few bouts you will be strong enough to compete yourself. But it is still lighter than the 70-200's. It is an FX format lens so if you go to FX someday you will still be fine with it. I like mine and use it frequently.
    If the picture I have in my mind is correct you are fairly close to the action. the 105 - 300 of the (70-200 F/2.8's) might be to cramped for the wider shots that are stock and trade in fight photography. (I used to find the 50 F/1.4 a bit cramped when shooting professional boxing from the edge of the arena in DX. We shoot with our elbows on the ring. Coming home bloody is always fun..... but then I digress.)
    Nikon really did some great work with the D7100. It is a much more capable camera than one might see at first glance. And by the way. Don't forget movie mode. Some of those fighters might like to have a nice movie of their beating some poor guy senseless.
    So my vote is for the D7100, the Nikon 28-70 AFS, and you get to save $1000.00 of your $3000.00 budget for tweaking your kit.*
    *I ruled out the D3s and D4 as too expensive even used. The D800 is at the top of your budget and you will still need lenses. Besides it is s-l-o-w.... plodding for sports. The D600 is 20% slower than the D7100 and costs twice as much. Lenses again. I would not argue with a used D300s and grip but for the money you are far better off with the D7100 and are only giving up 1 FPS.
  27. is there a real quality or performance difference between nikon lenses and say signma or tamron?​
    just to be clear, i have a DX set up with sigma 17-50/2.8+sigma 50-150/2.8. my FX set up is nikon 24-70+70-200II. i also have the tamron 28-75/2.8 plus the sigma 50 and 85 1.4s, as well as the sigma 30/1.4 and nikon 35/1.8. all of those lenses generally will blow away a kit lens or consumer zoom, especially at wider apertures.
    my real-world results, developed over several years, are that the 17-50 OS+ 50-150 are just as good, in a practical sense, as the 24-70 and 70-200. i dont hesitate to use my sigmas when i have my DX kit, and the biggest difference isnt in terms of IQ and performance, but from the sensor differences between DX and FX -- greater pixel density, more subject isolation at wide apertures due to shallower DoF, etc.
    the only reason i even went to FX in the first place was because the D300s wasnt up to the low-light challenges i put it to. If the d7100 addresses this issue, then i wouldnt hesitate to get it, having used the same AF module on d300s and D3s.
    as far as lenses go, the 24-70+70-200 are as good as it gets in terms of focus acquisition and IQ for pro zooms. but the 17-50+50-150 have provided me with plenty of keepers as well. They may be a hair slower to lock focus, but not so you'd notice on a high performance camera. i've also used the tamron 17-50 (screwdrive version), and that lens was a real workhorse which rarely, if ever, let me down. That said, i like the 28-70 AF-S recommendation, as long as you dont need wider or longer. keep in mind the tamron 28-75 will give you comparable image quality, with perhaps just a little less snappy AF, for less than half the cost, if bought new. at $800-$1000, the 28-70 is a good investment for a sport shooter, and has a rugged build the sigmas and tamrons can't match, but it's not heads and shoulders better optically than the best 3rd party offerings.
    IMO for the OP, it comes down to subject distance and whether you need more than 28mm (on DX) at the wide end. if so, get a 17-xx 2.8 lens, which can be paired with the 50-150 for an awesome two-lens solution to 85% of anything you will need to shoot, ever. a 28-70 would maybe result in less lens changes, but you also lose the wide and long ends of a dual-lens option.
    personally, i find the non-OS version of the 50-150 to be both a sleeper and a keeper, IMO it's a classic which works for sports/action and also portraits. even if you go for a 28-70, i would still think about a 50-150, even before a 70-200, since you are shooting indoor sports on DX. i get exactly the same coverage as the 50-150 on my FX/70-200 setup, but that lens is much heavier and longer, and cost me more than $2000! there just arent too many 2.8 telephoto zoom options out there, and sigma doesnt make the 50-150 i have any more, but as numerous recent forum posts have indicated, there's still a need for a lens like that among DX shooters.
  28. There are several ways to upgrade. I think you need to decide whether you want to stay with DX or switch to FX. (The biggest advantage to FX is the larger viewfinder and typically better high ISO results, especially with Nikon's latest FX bodies).
    Should you decide to stay DX, I would get the 17-55mm lens first and see if you are happier with the D90's performance with this lens. You may find it works adequately (stick with the center AF point) and you may not need to upgrade the body.
    You still have not mentioned what size prints you are making, which could impact your choices.
  29. If you can possibly swing it, try to buy a used Nikon D3s--it will significantly outperform even the best DX body in low light. My D3s' low-light AF performance bests even my Nikon D800E's "improved" AF module. You can shoot in near-darkness with a D3s, and still have acceptable results. I just bought a second D3s body for $3,200 USD. Later, maybe try to find a used or refurbished AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR I. They go for about $1,300 USD.
  30. Actually, Sigma replaced the original 50-150 f/2.8 with a stabilized version, but they also made it the same size as their 70-200 f/2.8, though a bit lighter. I bought one recently because I need the OS function, so I'm selling my 50-150 non-OS.
  31. D3s. Enough said.​
    I think that Sridip Nag said it all right there.
    How any of this is going to get done on a $3,000 budget, however, is beyond me. The glass alone is going to cost more than that.
    I think that I would keep the D90 and buy some better glass.
  32. And there it is. AFTER she tells us that she was just kidding and really meant that she could spend $5k then recommend
    the d3s. Enough said.
  33. BUT CHECK OUT THE D7100 ON DPREVIEW.COM IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO! (not just for Stephanie but for everyone who has not checked it out) Here are some samples using the 18-105, which I have used with excellent results on the D7000:
    [SAMPLE SHOTS FROM D7100 USING 18-105] (and be sure to check out file number 12DSC_0308)

    Stephanie, although you will get better high ISO-low light pics with an FX camera, a DX camera might just be the tool for the job. I have to second Matt and others who at the outset said to get the D7100 and put the rest into glass. I had the D3200, but this 24-mp camera is definitely a lot better.
    If these samples are any indication, then the D7100 is going to be a very big seller--and for very good reason.
  34. Thanks for all the help...I've decided to follow the advice of the majority and go for the d7100 and work at getting some better lenses as well. I'd love to get the d3 or better, but that's not in my budget right now. Sorry to disappoint. ;)
    Thanks again!
  35. Just be sure to get some really wide aperture lenses so that you don't have to increase the ISO so much. That way noise is much less likely to be a problem. I think that you made the right choice. I once had the lowly Canon T2i (550D, I believe), but it became glorious when I stuck a 24-70 f/2.8L on it.
    It is, after all, the lenses that make the images.
    I hope you enjoy the D7100. I am going out in a few minutes to rob a convenience store so that I can buy one and have it here by Wednesday or Thursday.
  36. I don't think I saw anyone mention the D700 with grip (8 FPS) in the posts above. I use mine with a non-OS Sigma 120-300 F2.8 on monopod for night college football games at a high school stadium. Horrible lighting. It's actually usable. With a little searching, you should be able to get this combo used for less than $3,000.
  37. Michael said:
    I don't think I saw anyone mention the D700 . . .​
    Good point! A quick Ebay search of completed listings show used D700 bodies selling for between $1,200-$1,600. Far cheaper than a used D3s, which runs between $3,200-$3,800. While not quite a D3s, the D700's full-frame sensor will still outperform any DX body in low-light. Thanks to the slew of new Nikon FX bodies, the D700 is now pretty affordable.
    If the OP can grab a used D700 for $1,500 or less, then acquire for a used or refurbed 70-200mm f/2.8 VR I for about the same, she'd have a pretty super system for about $3,000.
  38. I am wondering how the D7100 does compared to the D7000 when it comes to low-light shooting. After all, high pixel density usually does cause more noise. That is one reason that I got rid of my D3200 and got the D7000. I have found the D7000 very usable in low light. The D7000 is certainly not going to be as good as the D700 when it comes to low-light shooting, but it might be good enough.
    Still, Michael and Ralph are right: the D700 would do a fine job--and leave some money for a good lens.

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