Indoor Sports vs. Outdoor Sports

Discussion in 'Sports' started by mark_boles, May 11, 2014.

  1. Hi. I have a Pentax K50 with a 300mm Tamron telephoto lense. I've been able to take amazing pics of my daughters playing outdoor sports (lacrosse and soccer) on the "sports" setting but indoors for gymnastics the pics are all grainy. I suspect it has something to do with lighting but I need some help. What would I change to get good crisp action photos in indoor settings with typical fluorescent gym lighting?
  2. I mined the attachment's EXIF: 1/500th / f5.6 / ISO 51200.
    The ISO setting is insanely high and to blame for all that noise. How to lower it? - Try relying more on the SR and do barely handholdable shots instead of the "safe" 1/500th. - Maybe do some evaluating tests before to see what works and what doesn't. You could try shooting from a monopod too. - I'd keep the SR on but am no expert.
    Alternatives: Getting a faster lens. There is at least a Pentax 300mm f4.0 I have no clue who makes a 300mm f2.8 for Pentax AF but maybe the 200mm f2.8 could cut the cake for you somehow? The other options are limited - Fash? Get the most powerful Metz or Pentax or donate 15x as much light as they already have to that gym.
    In doubt forget about the real competitions and stage the shots with your daughter. During training nobody should mind the needed flash and you could get a bit closer to employ a faster lens / need less shutter speed.
    Maybe shooting RAW allows better denoising of high ISO images than straight out of camera JPGs but at insanely high ISO even pixel binning barely helps.
    The highest ISO settings are just offered to capture some memories in highest despair, but not for regular images.
  3. Jochen, thanks so much for the response. I can provide a sample from outdoors on the same setting. It would seem that I would need to manually adjust the ISO setting.
  4. Pentax makes a 300 F-4 which I believe will fit your camera. Sadly it is about $1400.00. They also make a 75 mm F/1.8 which would be super for indoor sports. It is about $750.00. That lens will give you a mild telephoto at 112 mm. With your 16 MP you should be able to crop generously. Tamron makes a k-mount 70-200 F/2.8 which would be ideal. It is also in the $800.00 range.
    If money is a concern Pentax makes a 50mm F/1.8 which should do just nicely as a 75mm equivalent. It is also a good portrait lens. You will have to crop but its faster speed will give you about 3 stops. That and reducing your shutter speed from 1/500 to 1/250 will give you another. So that takes you down to ISO 3200 which though noisy will be far better than the 51,200 the camera selected for you. You have stabilization which helps a little too. You could even go as low as 1/125 which should put you in a very nice quality 1600 ISO or so.
    The key to working with slower shutter speeds and sports (or any other moving target for that matter) is to anticipate the pauses. Your daughter on the bar you posted is an example. You could use a slower shutter speed for that shot because she is not moving very much. The top of a hand-stand or a nice landing are other examples. In gymnastic any time she "poses" is a good time to make your exposure. If you shoot while she is moving you will, of course, get motion blur.
    Since the 50mm F/1.8 is about the handiest lens in anyone's kit why not throw $200 at it and see how you do. Just sit as close as you can get and still keep her in the frame. I suspect you will come to like the lens very much. Wait until you see how it does portraits too.
    You are right that you will want to control the ISO. Shoot in Shutter priority so you can control your shutter speed and select the ISO.
    You will get some great pictures I know. Good luck.
  5. Thanks again for the responses. This is not even remotely my profession so significant investment beyond what it costs for my girls to do all these sports isn't appealing. I guess I have trouble with the notion having phenomenally crisp and perfect shots outdoors and then crappy shots indoors. It seems like the ISO is the issue. The camera does an exceptional job at being in focus and shots per second. It's purely the grainy issue that's a problem. I appreciate the advice about shooting in shutter priority to select the ISO.
  6. You can do much better without any investment if you are very careful. I really wish you could get the 50mm F/1.8 for $175.00. But if you decide not to do that you can do well with your Tamron. Do you have the 70-300 F/4 - F5.6? (I assume you do because the 28 is slower than that at 300 mm.)
    If so you can resist the temptation to zoom in. At 70mm the lens is a respectable F/4. Using the exif data on the shot you sent we can figure that the one stop on the lens and three in speed. That takes you to around ISO 3200 F/4 1/60th sec. You can bump that to ISO 6400 and still get acceptable results. (Its late so don't count off for my math errors.) With the judicial application of noise reduction you can get far better results than the ones you got at 51,200. It is all going to get down to your camera technique and shot savvy. Your camera will shoot raw and just under 6FPS. Use that to your advantage. Anticipate pauses as we mentioned earlier and rip off a few frames. Practice holding the camera is steadily as you can. Maybe you could use a monopod. You should get something nice fairly often.
    If it is any consolation you should know that even with the best equipment in the world there are some gyms that are just awful. Dim Mercury vapor lights, no access around the arena and nasty officials can make even a professional photojournalist want to run for the car. But have reasonable expectations and tenacity and you will get some beautiful pictures of your daughter.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “I have a Pentax K50 with a 300mm Tamron telephoto lense. I've been able to take amazing pics of my daughters playing outdoor sports (lacrosse and soccer) on the "sports" setting but indoors for gymnastics the pics are all grainy.”​
    The EXIF reveals “Action Program biased towards shutter speed”
    The ‘sports’ setting which you used is a “Basic Camera Mode” setting. The selection will probably have an icon of a running man. In this setting the camera is in a fully automatic mode and will be selecting the shutter speed and the aperture and the ISO - AUTOMATICALLY. I also expect that the maximum aperture of your Tamron lens is: F/5.6.
    So what is happening?
    Typically, the “sports” mode on most digital cameras will bias the exposure to use close to the fastest shutter speed possible; and if that is not possible, the camera will have a default slowest shutter speed that it will use if the ISO and the Aperture make that selection possible.
    What has happened is, because your camera is capable of attaining ISO 512,000 - it did so - simply to allow the shutter speed of 1/500s because it is seeking to arrest SUBJECT MOVEMENT.
    What to do?
    Now the point is: a shutter speed of 1/500s might not have been necessary to capture that particular shot, because the subject seems to be standing reasonably still and if you used the Shake Reduction Function in your camera, that Gymnasium shot might have been possible at 1/60s, which in turn would have allowed an ISO of ISO 64000, which is still very high but probably would have been better.
    But to do this, you need to take control of the camera and use Manual Mode –OR - a semi automatic mode (for example Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program Mode) and ensure what you choose will allow: the manual selection of ISO and also override control over the Shutter Speed and the Aperture.

    “What would I change to get good crisp action photos in indoor settings with typical fluorescent gym lighting?”​
    The sample image seems to be exposed reasonably OK, so we can draw the conclusion that F/5.6 @ 1/500s @ ISO 512000 is around a correct exposure for that gymnasium’s lighting.
    Assuming that we need to keep the shutter speed at about 1/500s to ensure “crisp ACTION shots”, we can therefore extrapolate that inside that gym, if we were using an F/2.8 lens then we could pull the shot at:
    F/2.8 @ 1/500s @ ISO 128000.
    Or using an F/2 lens: F/2 @ 1/500s @ ISO 6400.
    So you should consider getting a faster lens (bigger aperture).
    Young athletes typically do not move at break-neck speed, so to arrest their action you might be able to use a shutter speed of 1/250s, which will save another stop. In any case you will gain much by having a faster (larger aperture) lens.
    In some school gymnasia I use an 85mm F/1.8 Prime lens and I get access near to beside the device or at the side of the mat and typically I am shooting between ISO 3200 ~ ISO 6400. School gymnasia are notorious for poor lighting. A fast Prime Lens, like 85mm or 100mm might be an elegant solution, but obvioulsy you will need to get closer if you want those tight shots.
    Also you might not really need “action shots”, because, for many gymnastic activities there are moments in the discipline where the athlete is steady and still, even momentarily. With practice you can release the shutter at those times when the athlete is static and get a good, crisp shot. Again this is easier to achieve with younger athletes as their routines are not yet too complex or fast.
    Also, as already mentioned, using Flash is an option, however, where I reside mostly all Gymnastic Governing Bodies do not allow Flash Photography on the floor – you need to check that for where you live.
  8. "It would seem that I would need to manually adjust the ISO setting."

    Never, ever use automatic ISO setting. Never, ever use something like a "sports" setting.

    Not familiar with your lens but you need at least 2.8 to shoot indoor sports at most locations. ISO usually needs to be 1600 maybe 3200 but never, ever 51,200. If it's that dark, it's simply too dark to shoot.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I know plenty of excellent photographers who use auto ISO. I know they are excellent photographers because they have photos to show. Hard to take the advice of someone who doesn't seem to take photos.
  10. One need only look at the image to see the source of your problem. This is a very high level of noise attenuation as a result of using a very high ISO. If you have a lens that can be set to f/4 or f/5.6 without being wide open, you should be able to get away with using an ISO around 800
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    If you have a lens that can be set to f/4 or f/5.6 without being wide open, you should be able to get away with using an ISO around 800​
    Considering the sample image and the EXIF as disclosed, that seems a unusual suggestion. In any case I disagree with dropping the ISO to ISO 800 for that type of shot in that shooting scenario.
    The sample image was pulled at: F/5.6 @ 1/500s @ ISO 51200, and the exposure appears to be “OK”
    If the OP used ISO 800 for that shot and also used F/4 ~ F/5.6, then the shutter speed required would be in the range of: 1/15s ~ 1/8s.
    As previously mentioned, that particular shot might have been possible at 1/60s because the Subject seems to be standing still, but 1/8s to 1/15s is a Shutter Speed range that would be way too dangerous for Gymnastics, in regard to attaining Blur due to Subject Movement - even when the Subject is (apparently) "Standing Still".

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