Indoor Volleyball - worth it to upgrade from f/1.8 to f/1.4?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by wade_thompson, Oct 28, 2009.

  1. I love sports photography...well MOST of it.
    When the light is bad, I get really frustrated with it all.
    Take last night for example: I'm shooting indoor volleyball at a high school with notoriously bad lighting.
    My Nikon f/2.8 AF 80-200mm at 3200 ISO is not adequate. At least 2 feet of blurred arm movement. I currently use a fixed Nikon 50mm f/1.8 just to freeze the subject at 3200 ISO but the noise is just atrocious and trying to clean it up is almost a waste of time.
    I am considering forking out $1100 on a AF 85mm f1.4 but don't want to be dissapointed again.
    So, is it worth it to go from f1.8 to f1.4 (2/3 stops?)
    I'm about ready to just tell them to take a hike unless I can use a flash in these poor lighting situation.
    What do you think?
    Here's an example of the "best" I could get from last night:
  2. What are you using to clean up the noise?

    Is the image above resized down or is it a 1:1 crop?
  3. How about the 50mm f/1.4? A lot less money.
  4. Wade -
    You didn't mention what body you're using ...D200, D300, D700 or something else....
    My advice would be to go with the 50mm f1.4 if you find that focal length works for you. Only go with the 85 F1.4 if you're missing shots due to the Focal Length.
    Depending on which body you have - I might even suggust an upgrade to one of the newer ones... D300,700, 90 all have good if not great high ISO performance.

  5. The 85 1.8 has been an often used lens for volleyball(indoor). The 1.4 lens, I've also read is a bit slowerlocjking in focus than the 1.8. so that is a dtraction. Also, the DOF shooting at 1.4 or 1.8 is very, very short. I think too short for fast action sports shooting.
    I have a D300 and D300S and use the 85 1.8. I found shooting at f2.2 I was getting fewer sharp images than at 2.5 and 2.8. My shutter spd was 1/320 or 1/400 and ISO of 1250/1600. At 1600 I don't like the amount of noise on the 300 bodies, either one of them. Generally use manual setting as the light inside is 'relatively' constant brightness(or lack of!!). What shutter speed are you suing?
    The 50mm lens is too short unless shooting about 10 feet from edge of court and trying to get shots of the girls on your side or middle. If you have 2 bodies, get the 85 1.8 for one body and use the 50 on other body. I might just try that tonight at a HS game. I have the 50 1.8 lens also. I have a few recent volleyball shots here on P.N, my code name: shoppix, and hundreds at .
    On flickr I came across some beautiful shots in "Volleyball" group by a guy whose initials I think are fmr or frm ??
    He shoots with a 200 f.2 at f2.2 on a pro body. Go look at them and drool. That;'s all I can do since the lens is a $4800 pc of 'glass!! And, the Pro body, that's up there too!!
  6. Typical results for indoor volleyball are f/2 at ISO 1600 and shutter at 1/250 or 1/320. At ISO 3200, you should be able to use the f/2.8 lens. If the gym is really too dark for this, then it is probably inadequately lit even for effective volleyball. You might bring it up to the principal that the facility is too dimly lit and may be harmful to the girls' eyes.
    If they won't replace the lights, I think it's up to you to provide strobes for your photos. Get approval to use battery-powered flash at the event.
  7. Wade,
    I went thru the same thing as you. Using D300 was just too noisy, so i entered the world of the D700.
    Was soo great, i got a 2nd one, and didn't look back.
    I would suggest if you can swing it, go for one
    No need for the 1.4 lenses...the 2.8's are fine...and in fact, you may not even have enough DoF witha 1.4
  8. Great comments.

    More info... using D200 here.. very noisy ISO 1600 and above but I can't stop the action in this gym at anything less than f1.8... my AF f2.8 makes unacceptably blurry pictures at the resulting shutter speed.

    Software is "Paint Shop Pro X2"...for whatever that's worth.

    At $2,800, I really can't justify that kind of expense to get to get the noise out... although the Ken Rockwell comparison of the D200 vs. D300 did show a big improvement at same ISO.

    D300 at $1,800 is much more palatable.

    So, overall you think it's my camera body and not my lens??
  9. Try DXO software (they offer a 30 day free trial). It will breath new life into your ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200 images - a processed ISO 1600 image will look like it was shot at around ISO 400.
    Chances are an f1.8 lens will meet your needs. If you are on a tight budget, the choice is easy. If you not, you certainly won't be disappointed with the f1.4 lens. Fortunately both give excellent results.
  10. I would say it would be a better investment to spend money on a couple of Alien Bee 800 with 11" reflectors. You would get lower ISO photos, freeze action better and get better quality images. Look at this link and see how bounced strobes make for great photos.
  11. I use Alien Bee 800's when flash is allowed for indoor basketball, but flash often isn't an option. That's why I bought a D700.
  12. Please excuse my ignorance... but are strobes something I can get wirelessly for my D200? I've got two SB-600 Nikon flashes and I was wondering if I could buy a wireless strobe and point it to the ceiling like the link above shows and fire them wirelessly?

    How much money are we talking about?
  13. Wow, as I was re-reading one of the links above... they say I can try shooting my SB-600 in manual, at full power, 90 degrees straight up at the ceiling?
    I had not even thought of that. It would eliminate the concern of blinding the players and might solve the light problem. Might have to experiment to see what f and shutter speed to try.
    Anyone else ever tried that in a gym?
  14. Since when does flash blind athletes?
  15. i've got a d90 and its as good as the d300... at $900 or so its worth a shot - maybe rent one and check it out
  16. One SB-600 will not give you enough power to bounce off ceiling and have the power to get the flash 2-3 stops over ambient. If you dont get flash to be the dominate light source you risk ghosting issues. You can use the 2 SB-600 as off camera but in direct mode. The company that makes Alien Bees also makes cybersync wireless triggers and they are very reasonable in price. I have one transmitter and 3 receivers that I use. These were taken with 2 Canon 550ex in the corner of gym about 10feet up in the stands attached to the hand rails aimed at the net. It was still not enough power to get high enough over ambient so there is still a little ghosting.
  17. I would rent one and see how it worked for you before I bought it.
    I am just a novice – I take pictures mostly for the “fun” of it, and to share with my family and friends. My daughters play volleyball in some of the most poorly lit gyms in the rural south. I own a 50mm 1.8 that I use at ISO 1600 on a D90 set to Aperture priority with decent results. I recently rented a 85mm 1.4 and fell in love. But it did take some getting used to. It did allow me to take pictures in gyms I wasn’t able to it the 1.8.
    One thing I wondered about it your picture; was the scorers table on the sideline one of those back lit ones? I recently shot at a poorly lit gym with one of those and it really gave me fits.
    here are a couple of links to some taken with the 85mm 1.4
  18. I once sot a college basketball game. The college had their regular hire shooter there also. I was just doing it to learn and practice. The other guy had flash heads - not 'Speed Light" strobes -up on stands about 20ft high, one in each corner of the gym. speedlights will not help much, if at all. Bouncing off a ceiling 20-30 feet up, with 'speedlights' is ...very wishful thinking!!
    If the gym is that dark and you're not getting compenssated, it's a lot of money to invest in strobes powerful enough to light the gym evenly. Get the best you can with a D90 or D300 and an 85 1.8/50 1.8, or don't bother shooting. I've decided to walk out after trying to get something half decent, but my daughter wasn't playing!
  19. Kelly Taylor
    "D90 set to Aperture priority......was the scorers table on the sideline one of those back lit ones? I recently shot at a poorly lit gym with one of those and it really gave me fits."
    Yes the table was a back lit type scores table in my shots.
    The reason a back lit scorers table was giving you fits was because you was in AV mode. The camera would "see" the extra light and change exposure settings to give what it thought was a "proper" exposure. In a gym where the lighting will be the same it is best to go all manual and set your exposure and aperture. That table might get blown out but the action on court is what you are shooting so those will be consistent.
  20. Yes, I also try to work away from the scorer's table lighting when I can...but that only solves one problem.
  21. Ben you are right. One of my biggest hurdles as a novice and a parent is thinking on my feet. I get too caught up in the emotion of the game to think clearly.
    I have started to keep “tips and tricks flash cards” in my bag for those tricky situations, from the things I learn here….
    The other problem we frequently run into here are gyms where a lot of lights are burnt out. So the light isn’t very consistent on the court. Another parent recently asked me in one of those gyms “what are we going to do?” I figure the only thing you can do then is pray they run into the light with the ball….. here is a “bad” example….
    All of you guys rock by the way. I have learned so much from everyone here. Thank you Thank you!
  22. I shot Jr High And club indoor V-ball. I use a d300 and af2.8 70-200 and 17-50 f2.8 when i can get court side. I am quite happy with the shots i get. Some do come out dark (if it is a shot i want to keep for me i will brigthen it in elements 8) or in d-lighting.
    What I do with my school shots is. I send them to all of the parents via e-mail and tell them that what they get is straight off the card no touch ups... I get many thanks for the shots of their girls, of the few that do try to take pictures with their p.a.s they get nothing.
    You should be happy with the shots you have taken they look good. You are shoting in tough conditions, you can spend alot of money on lens to get great shots, and have lens only useable for indoor sports. I say if you got the cash go for the lens, I can not afford to do that. Be happy with what you get becuse i am sure it is alot better then what others get..
  23. I shot the D300 for about two years, and while it is marginally better at high ISO than my D70 (or D200), I was always disappointed overall. I found that while I could control noise to some extent, the final product was extremely soft and free of fine detail. Dynamic range and color saturation and accuracy were also highly compromised on anything above ISO 1000.
    Last week I shot my first volleyball match with my new D700. Wow! This is night and day compared to the D300. forget needing f/1.8, I was able to shoot my 2.8 zoom with impunity. ISO 3200 looks like 400 from my D70 and 800 from my D300. You may not be able to justify the cost today but eventually you will become frustrated enough to go there. Why waste your time with the D300? Used D700's can be had for around $1900 these days if you look around.
    I can also earnestly recommend using flash bounced into the ceiling or high on the wall for gym stuff. The perception that flash blinds athletes is false. The duration is so brief that it's not even noticed by athletes focused on the game. Every NBA shot you see in Sports Illustrated is shot with high power flash. The CyberSync radio slaves from Paul C. Buff are inexpensive and astoundingly reliable.

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