Good indoor/outdoor sports lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by cathi_anderson, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. I am looking for a good sports lens for both inside (gymnastics) and outside
    (baseball and soccer). Found this one at Sonic Camera for 1500.00 and was
    wondering if anyone had this lens and how the inside pictures (no flash
    allowed) came out? I hate to make this investment for "mediocre" photos.
    Thanks! Cat
  2. Oops - forgot to post the lens Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor Lens. sorry first time poster! Thanks!
  3. bmm


    Spot on. This is the lens that 90% of people will point you towards for your application.

    For 2/3 the price the 80-200 is worth a look at as well (it used to be 'the' lens for years, until the 70-200 came along) and is very good but the downside is lack of VR.
  4. Right lens, WRONG STORE!


    Only shop from reliable stores.
  5. At that price, you are likely buying gray market. Make sure you buy from a reputable dealer with the US warranty. But the lens rocks, it's sharp and it handles nicely.

    For outdoor baseball and soccer, you don't really need the VR and could save yourself a few hundred dollars getting something like an 80-200/2.8 at KEH. The focal length is fine for youth sports but might be a bit short on adult size fields.

    Indoors for gymnastics, it really depends on how close you are to the action. f/2.8 probably won't cut it in darker gyms. What camera body are you using? You might be better off using the 50/1.8 or 85/1.8.

    Make sure you search the Nikon forums here for "gymanstics" and "volleyball". You'll see a lot of pertinent advice about the indoor shooting you want to do.

    You should probably try renting the 70-200 to see if it works for you.
  6. You did not say if you were using film or digital. With digital you could get away with a faster and older 135 or 200mm prime lens. they would be faster and sharper than any zoom lens not to mention lighter a 2.8 135mm or 3.5 200mm should do you nicely and you can crank up the iso as need. Just my thought from the other side of the wall.

  7. I agree with Tom. Depending on how close you are to the action, you might be better off with a couple primes. My vote? 85/1.8 indoors with the ISO jacked up, and the 180/2.8 outdoors. You'll be saving money, get better indoor shots (provided you can get close enough), and have a couple of lenses that are super-versatile. Just my two cents, though!
  8. Ditto what Tom said.

    An f/2.8 lens might not solve the problem you experienced with the indoor gymnastics photo you posted to the sports forum in January. The overall photo was sharp and well exposed, but the athlete was blurry. The problem was that at ISO 1600 and a maximum aperture of f/3.8 for the lens you were using at the time, the shutter speed was only 1/50th second. You'd need at least a 1/250th sec. shutter speed to reduce motion blur acceptably.

    If that lighting was typical of the gymnastics events you'll be photographing, an f/2.8 lens won't be fast enough. You'll need an f/1.8 or faster lens.

    For typical non-professional sporting events, which are usually poorly lit, a better and far more economical choice would be the 50/1.8D AF Nikkor, 85/1.8D AF Nikkor and similar primes. There are also f/1.4 versions of these lenses which will cost more but will enable even faster shutter speeds for such indoor sporting events.

    For outdoor sports in daylight (or brightly illuminated nighttime stadiums) an f/2.8 lens like the 70-200/2.8 VR or older 80-200/2.8 Nikkors would do.

    Buying used, with that same $1,500 you should be able to buy the 50/1.8, 85/1.8 and 80-200/2.8 AF Nikkors. Shop carefully and only at dealers with good reputations, which is easy to check online.

    Personally, I find the 80-200 focal range a bit short for most outdoor sports, even from the sidelines. I'd rather have the 300/4 AF-S Nikkor for school outdoor sports like football, baseball, soccer, etc. But it won't always allow for full length photos and following action with longer lenses can be tricky until you've practiced quite a bit.

    At any rate, you've already discovered that slower lenses won't cut it for indoor sports, so don't be tempted by the slower, variable aperture zooms with VR. They're fine for outdoor use in daylight but otherwise of limited use, especially for indoor sports.
  9. The first lens I would purchase is the 70-200. It is probably THE most versatile lens for sports. Excellent prices. Very reliable company. They will be closing for a week or so pretty quick.
  10. Some inspiration from a pro ... take a look at what lens he used for his gymn shots ...
  11. You'd notice that f/2.8 is OK if you can push the ISO to 1600.
  12. One piece of advice that I would add:

    The lens does depend a little on the camera. For example, the D300 can crank ISO's pretty high without adding much noise. However, the D80 cannot crank ISO's that high because it adds to much noise to the background. If you are only using the pictures to print as 4x6 or 5x7, then it might do, but if you are printing (or want the ability to) large prints, the D80 will not cut it. I have a D80, and I have used a D300 quite a bit. The difference is very noticeable. That being said, the 70-200mm is the best lens that I know of for sports (indoor and outdoor). It has VERY FAST AUTOFOCUS, professional color rendition and sharpness, and it is very versatile. It is almost as sharp as 200mm prime lenses. If you cannot crank ISO's as high, you might consider the 85mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.4 lenses. The only problem is that you have to get close enough for an 85mm prime. There is a big difference between f2.8 and f1.8. The difference between 1.8 and 1.4 is debatable for the price increase. I hope that helps. By the way, I am new to this site as well. I really like this community of fellow photographers!
  13. I too would consider the 85/1.8 for indoors, and the 180/2.8 for outdoors. I have not checked all the pricing but you might even be able to squeeze the 85/1.4 in within your budget. The f2.8 zoom is a little slow for gymnasiums.

    A better answer would be possible if we knew what camera you were using them on.

    The 180 is a little short for outdoor soccer so you would want to add a 1.4x converter and this would give you some flexibility compared to another option which would be the 300/4 for outdoors. I shoot soccer with a 200/2 and 400/2.8 and I would find the 300/4 to be ideal with my 1.5x D2X.
  14. I took a look at the full size JPEG Cathi uploaded back in January illustrating one problem she was experiencing with indoor gymnastics. It was shot at ISO 1600. There was less noise than the best ISO 800 film grain of a few years ago. There's nothing wrong with ISO 1600 in her camera. Most of us are willing to accept compromises to get the shot and don't expect ISO 200 type low noise levels in every photo.

    While the 70-200/2.8 and 80-200/2.8 zooms are excellent, f/2.8 is not fast enough for the type of lighting she's likely to encounter indoors. Few school gyms and kids gymnastics venues are lighted well enough for even an f/2.8 and ISO 1600 to freeze action. She needs an f/1.8 or f/1.4 lens for that, no way around it. The f/1.8 Nikkor 50mm and 85mm lenses are excellent values for this type of photography.

    For outdoor sports in daylight, the field is wide open. Heck, even the slower variable aperture VR zooms might be useful. Depends on her needs. If these are personal photos of her own kids or for a school yearbook, weekly newspaper, that sort of thing, the 70-300 VR might do very well. Cranking up the ISO a bit will help maintain a fast enough shutter speed.

    But if Cathi plans to use the longer lens indoors at all, at least in brightly lit gyms, go for the f/2.8 zoom or tele. I've used the 180/2.8 manual focus indoors for sports with good results, but some folks don't care for a fixed focal length.
  15. Thank you all for the answers and advice! I will go over each tonight and read carefully (wanted to say thanks first). I cannot find the 70-200 f2.8 VR in stock anywhere (checked out Sonic - not good). Is there an equivilent in Tamron or Sigma? Anywho, I am very much the amateur, shooting with D80 (much to much camera for my lack of knowledge). I have the 18-135 that came with the kit and also purchased a 50 f/1.8. I am sort of far with the gymnastics (cant get in too close) so I was looking for more zoom - also when my son plays soccer, he is on a much larger field but pix are pretty good with the 18-135. Just want more zoom. My brother has a cannon and just bought the equivalent to the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 and the soccer pix he took are awesome. The colors just pop and you can see the dirt flying off the cleates (that is what I desire). On the flip side, need good indoor gymnastic shots w/low light. I tried my 50 f1.8 but I am not able to get close enough. I have the $$ and want to make the right choice this time (have this one shot at the moment to get the right lens). Please keep the advice coming - I will review it all, check the forum as suggested and make my decision. I have about 2 weeks before I will need it for the gymnastics. Again, THANKS SO MUCH!
  16. You can get the 80-200/2.8 NEW for $915 from reputable dealers. Used right, this will do the trick and get you plenty close enough. But I STRONGLY recommend you try renting first. It's worth the $40 or so to do a weekend test drive. As long as you are shooting in the same gym as in the photo you posted in the sports forum, boost the ISO to 3200, set the camera to manual mode and use shutter speed 1/200" with f/2.8. Using A mode at f/2.8 should work okay too. Those lights _might_ cause some strange color banding problems at higher shutter speeds. To hold the camera steady, you should brace your arm on a shelf or knee or lean your left shoulder against any available surface. For out of camera jpegs, I'd be partial to seeing more grain and sharper edges. So I'd turn down the noise reduction and turn the sharpening up a bit. If you learn to do your own post processing, using RAW will let you do a lot more. But for now, shoot RAW+jpeg if you have the available memory in case you want to process the RAW yourself later. The 80-200 (or 70-200/VR) will work well for soccer, especially if it is on a field used by smaller kids. You could later add a teleconverter for $350. If you do go with a teleconverter, don't bother with third party models. Get the Nikon.
  17. Before someone complains about noise at ISO 3200, I should point out that the alternative is blurry photos.

    I also just noticed your comment that the D200 is "much too much camera". So I'd recommend aperture priority ('A' mode) with the lens set to f/2.8 and the ISO at 3200.
  18. Thank you so much! Am taking notes! Your picture is awesome and what I desire - I find with my 18-135 the pix are just not as sharp but still good (I probably need to take some lessons on the settings as this is where I get confused). I took some pictures at my daughter's game yesterday and for the first time, I trashed them all - all blurry. I had it on sports mode which usually gives me close to flawless shots with great freeze frame (but her field is smaller U9). I tried fooling with the wheels and evidently screwed it all up and now need to figure out how I had it set before. With the VR - does that come in to play very much when shooting outdoors with mid-day sunlight? My thought was possibly using the lens you referred (I cannot find a lens rental place anywhere near where I live) for 915 for the outdoor soccer games and something larger than the 50mm (is a teleconverter possible with this lens) with the f/1.8 to shoot the indoor gymnastics if the combination of the two lenses brings me within my budget. I will not be shooting inside and outside at close intervals so lens switch is not a problem. Any thoughts? I love your pix! I lost 20 years of pictures of my kids (2 older, 2 younger) in Hurricane Katrina so I have a deep heartfelt desire to get the best of the best that I can of my two younger kids.
  19. Outdoors in the mid-day sun, you'll have a high shutter speed so the VR will not matter.

    I actually own both lenses but now use the 80-200 rarely. The 70-200 is sharper, a slightly wider zoom range, and has the VR feature, though I've heard more complaints about vignetting on the 70-200 than the 80-200.

    And though the specs I'm looking at say the 70-200 weighs in at almost 1/2 pound more, it handles better and feels lighter. The 80-200 is very fat. The 70-200 is much more svelte and would probably be easier to hold.

    Much more important than which lens you use is how you use it. Either one can work well in your particular applications.

    Teleconverters are not available for the 50mm. Get the 85mm f/1.8 mentioned by Lex. ($400 new). After looking at your gym photo, I think the 85 is an excellent choice.
  20. Thanks again so much. Would you suggest I get the 85mm 1.8 for indoor sports and just keep the 18-135 that I have for outdoor or move up to the 80-200 (w/monopod) for outdoor soccer? I am contemplating getting both (after researching) the 80-200 and the 85mm along with a good monopod (I already have a tripod I can use at gymnastics)....or possibly just waiting for the 70-200 to come in stock. I dont know if the 85 will be enough but if the pix are clear from the distance and it has good cropping, this may work....just dont want to spend the 400 if I will practically ge the same results from my 50mm f/1.8. I'm just overwhelmed but you all have helped me beoynd my expectations - Thank you!!! If anyone has any sample pix with the 85mm f/1.8 shot from a distance in low light/ cropped I would love to see them!
  21. I used an 85mm f1.8 tonight to shoot middle school cheer in a basketball gym. D80, ISO set to 640 (I played around with this a little and found the pictures to get grainy with higher ISO), shutter priority set to 60, wb set to fluorescent. The pictures turned out good for relatively still photos (better than the 50mm, f1.4 lens I bought previously). the action during flips was very blurry. I was considering buying an f1.4 lens but should I just crank up the ISO and try again? I am going to try to use a monopod for the next go round. I have been shooting outdoor football and baseball for 2 years and thought I was pretty good but now I am thinking that any chimp could do that.
  22. A D-80 should act better in that situation.... I wonder if it is something new like Age of the Sensor? A D80 has finr grain/noise as you digital people call it. I will not talk about film.... : )

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