Night Sports - what lens to use?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by mikeclark, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. I've been shooting lacrosse and indoor basketball (girls 5th-7th grade) for a while but just started shooting high school night football, field hockey, soccer games. I currently have Canon 500mm f/4, 100-400mm f/4-5.6, 70-200mm f/2.8, and Sigma 85mm f/1.4. I didn't dare use the 100-400mm for poorly lit high school fields, the 500mm is too limiting other than standing in the corner of the end zone, and the 70-200 doesn't get me close enough. Considering the Sigma 120-300mm S, which appears could replace the 100-400, although the 100-400 is easy to hand hold during day games. Considering the pluses/minuses of selling both the 70-200 and the 100-400 to buy the Sigma 120-300. I'd hate to lose the 70-200 though.....Any thoughts? BTW, I shoot with a Canon 1DX full frame and do have a 1.4x and 2x teleconverter - if that helps.
  2. Every lens is a compromise.

    I shoot high school varsity football (night game) with a Nikon D7200 (DX 1.5x crop) and a 18-140mm/f3.5-5.6 lens (27-210mm FX equivalent).
    The 140 end (= 210mm FX) is not quite long enough to shoot to the other sideline, but otherwise just fine.
    I would not have thought the wide end would be of much use, but when the players were running past me on the sideline (less than 8 feet away), I used it. So, if you are on the field, don't overlook the wide/short end of the lens, in your quest to get a longer reach. If you are on the bleachers, then the wide/short end is less of a concern than the reach of the long end.

    For 35mm film the 80-200 was the standard football lens, and I would not have any issues using it today on a FX camera.
    The prime lenses that we used for football were: 105, 135, 200, 300, with the 135 being the best compromise.
    Personally, I would keep the Canon 70-200/2.8, you WILL regret selling it. For the distant shots, expect to have to crop the image.

    I don't know how old you are, but the Sigma 120-300/2.8 sport is 7.5 pounds!!! That is 3x the weight of the Canon 70-200/2.8 L. No thank you. You would have to shoot with a mono-pod to support the camera+lens. And that bulk and weight will get to you, as you move up and down the field.

    I set the ISO to 12,800 on the D7200, so that I could shoot at 1/500 sec, and the pix came out just fine.
    Your 1DX should not have a problem at same or higher ISO.

    Forget the tele-converter at night, mainly because they will just cost you 1 and 2 stops of light.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  3. Give me your ISO + shutter speed + aperture setting of the field, so I can compare it to the field that I shoot at.
    My exposure is: ISO = 12800, shutter speed 1/500 sec, aperture = f/5.6, mode = shutter priority (though the lighting is even enough to go manual).
    FL for above pix = 70mm (=105mm FX).
    BTW, I shot in fine JPG, because it was test/backup shooting for the yearbook. Otherwise I would have shot RAW.
    View attachment 1213965
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2018
  4. I've shot I don't know how many high school football games and find the 80-200/2.8 to be the most useful. You won't find any one lens that will do it all. The more reach you get the lower the f/stop or else it gets bigger and heavier. With night time limitations which here in Alabama usually means very dark lighting get the 2.8 zoom or something like a 180/2.8 or 135/2.8. You won't cover every play but you'll get plenty of useful images.

    Rick H.
  5. This is the reason for using the WIDE end of the 18-140.
    I was no more than 6 feet from the runner, as he was going down the sideline.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2018
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You'd gain little that you can't already attain by other methods - if you sell those two lenses to buy the Sigma you get 300mm at F/2.8, yet you can use the 70 to 200 at 200mm and then crop to the FoV a 300mm lens will give you, alternatively if you can sustain F/4 at night time then the 70 to 200 at 200 and the x1.4 Extender will get you to 280mm and no cropping.

    BTW You do not mention which of the three 70 to 200/2.8 lenses (or which model and make 'teleconverters') you have: all three LENSES are good with the CANON Extenders EF MkII and MkIII, but the best combination is the EF 70 to 200 F/2.8L IS USM MkII and the Extenders MkIII.

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  7. I should have taken a pix of the photog that I saw last night.
    He was shooting what I think was a FF Canon with a bottom grip + what I think was an 80-200/f2.8, on a monopod. It looked like he was relying on the monopod to support the weight of the camera + lens. He did not look very mobile/agile.
  8. Stick with the 70-200mm f2.8 if you can't afford the Sigma 100-300mm f2.8 or you don't want to sell your 100-400mm. However, the reason to use f2.8 lenses isn't only for low-light night games, it's also to isolate the action against the background with shallow DOF even during day games. So shoot at f2.8 even during the day. I don't know the cost of the Sigma VS how much you'd get for the 100-400, but I would take the Sigma 100-300 over the slower 100-400 even if it means using a monopod which is pretty standard practice for long lens sideline photography.

    bnelson, ghainousx and Gary Naka like this.
  9. Tom, I shot my 70-210 on my D7200 in aperture priority wide open at f/4, vs my usual shutter priority when shooting sports, and I saw what you said.
    Even with f/4 vs. your f/2.8, I saw the out of focus effect. It was quite a bit different from shooting at f/8.
    Thanks for the tip.
  10. Lancers vs Vikings (1 of 1)-3.jpg
    Anything f/2.8 or faster. Some lenses focus faster than others, the white ones are a good choice.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
    bnelson likes this.
  11. I shifted from my GP 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 lens to using my old 70-210 f/4 AF, for the night games. It is 1 stop faster than my GP zoom and I like the wider f/4 aperture, which makes the DoF shallower, than when shooting with my 18-140.
    The 70-210 f/4 is not as fast as a f/2.8 lens, but a heck of a lot lighter, for this senior citizen.

    3 of the 4 photogs that I saw using a f/2.8 lens at the last soccer game, were all using monopods to support the camera+lens.
    Those 3 photogs looked like they were setup for only a very limited arc of movement with their monopods.
    My experience has been that a monopod makes it difficult to follow the action on the field. Especially a large movement game like soccer, where on the sideline, I will often track the players through more than a 100 degree arc. With a monopod, I would have to pivot/rotate around the monopod.

    I do miss the wide end of the lens, as several times, they came quite close to me, and 70mm was way too long for those close shots.
    I may go back to the 18-140 if I keep missing the close shots.
  12. Tom,
    Turns out that the yearbook page editors don't like the shallow DoF. They want to see the other players (who are classmates) in the foreground and background IN FOCUS. So much for using a faster lens, when you have to stop down to get DoF.
    Unfortunately, for night games, the primary battle to fight is LOW light. So they will have to take the limited DoF of the 70-210 f/4 lens. Unless I use the slower 18-140, which is f/5.6 on the long end, and shoot at ISO 12800.
  13. Mike,
    If you are still reading this thread . . .

    Based on night shooting soccer with my 18-140 and 70-210 on my DX camera, I think the 70-200 on your FF camera is the lens to go with.

    For soccer, where they use the ENTIRE field, I don't bother shooting when they are on the other sideline or other half of the field. I find that is too far for a 200mm on a FF body, and I found it tough when the players go into the dim corners of the end zone. And I have to deal with fog right now. The farther the shot, the more fog between me and the subject.

    This is all based on me being on the sidelines.
    If you are in the bleachers, then my recommendation won't apply, as you will need more reach of a longer lens. From the bleachers the 100-400 would probably work. Just crank up the ISO to 12800, and try a bunch of shots to see how they come out.
  14. Well, I've had it with the 70-210 f/4 AF lens for night games. I've had the lens go into "hunt" mode a few too many times, and lost good shots. The really upsetting lost shots are the soccer goals. I don't know what it is about that lens that causes it to go into hunt mode so often. My 18-140 rarely hunts.
    Looks like I'm back to my 18-140 for the night games, until I get a better night game lens :-(

    I wonder if there is a difference between the AF / AF-D / AF-S that is causing this.
  15. For the Nikon guys, I just added another lens to look at, the Nikon 24-120 f/4 FX lens.
    • The wide end will be good for the near sideline shots, where the 70-200 is too long. On a FX body, it is more wide that I would need. On a DX body it would be similar to a 35mm lens on a FX body.
    • On the long end, 120 on a DX body would be just fine (180mm FX equivalent). On a FX body, 120mm might be a little short, but you can crop into the image. Though it is right in the middle of the 105 and 135 lenses, which were 2 of the prime lenses that we used to shoot football on 35mm film.
    • The more I think about it, the more I like this lens.
    Canon only has a 24-105, which is not long enough, even for a crop sensor camera.

    It would be nice to have a 35-150 for FX/FF. Less wide coverage that the 24, but a little longer on the long end for more reach.
    Yeah, I know, keep dreaming ...
  16. Canon's APS-C crop factor is 1.6x, so a 105 on the crop sensor gives the same FOV as a 168mm on FX - not that much different from the 180mm FOV your 120mm setting affords you.
  17. Yes you are correct Dieter.
    The Canon 24-105 would be fine on a crop body.
    The 105 FF equivalent is longer than the 135 that we used with film.

    That is an example of my getting confused going back and forth between FF/FX and crop/DX sensor.

    hmmm, that Canon 24-105 might be a lens that I might recommend to the yearbook advisor.
    Although that is about what a T7i + 18-135 costs. So camera+lens or lens?
    I need to think about this one.
  18. Just to keep the thread updated.
    I picked up a Nikon 70-200/4 lens (half the weight and half the cost of the f/2.8 lens).
    It has been working fine for me for night games
    ISO=6400, ss=1/500 sec, f/4 (wide open).

    There have been several times when I wish I had a wider lens, like the 24-120/4, for when the players came in close to me. But I've gotten to like the 70-200 and adapted to it.
  19. I think with today's useable high ISOs, one could get by with F4 lenses but, traditionally, we shot night football with f2.8 lenses so we could put a 1.4X on it - then we'd be maxed out. Depends on how tight you want your shots to be. And, yeah, a crop body would really help otherwise.
  20. If I were younger, I could handle a 70-200/2.8 lens.
    But at my age, the f/2.8 lens is too heavy for me to hand hold. Hence I use the f/4 lens.

    Yes, I tried and used a monopod. But a monopod significantly reduces my ability to track the players. With a monopod I have a small arc of movement, before I have to move my feet and body to track the players. Handheld I have a much larger arc of movement, before I have to move me feet. And the faster the sport and the more the players cover ground, the worse the problem.

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