Night Time Football - Type of Lens - Macro, Zoom or Telephoto

Discussion in 'Sports' started by terri_brouillard, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. I have a Sony SLT-A55 and I'm looking to improve the clarity of the pictures I take at high school football games. I'm currently using the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 PZD All-In-One Zoom Lens with Built in Motor. I take the pictures from the stands. I'm considering the below and I'm looking for input on which would be the best between the Tamron and Sigma, and then also between Macro or Telephoto Zoom. Or do you have any other suggestions, but it would have to fit the Sony.
    • Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 di LD IF Macro Lens - $769
    • Tamron SP 70-200MM F/2.8 DI USD Telephoto Zoom Lens - $1499
    • Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 II EX DG HSM Macro Zoom Lens - $1199
    • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD Large Aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens - $1199
    I also have a son that will be playing college football starting this year Would one of these lens work better for the daytime games than the Tamron that I'm currently using?
    Thank you!
  2. The lens you have is simply too slow (6.3 when zoomed in) to shoot night football, so any of the four lenses you're looking at would be a huge improvement. I have the first of the two Tamron 70-200 lenses you list and while it's a tack sharp lens for portraits and events and news, it doesn't AF fast enough for night-time sports, so I rent a Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII for those jobs but that doesn't help you with the Sony. The second Tamron is newer and may AF faster. For day games it's less of an issue. Haven't used either of the Sigmas. None of these are macro lenses despite the name -- they focus down to maybe three feet, not three inches.

    I've shot sports off and on for 40 years and IMHO you're not going to get good pictures from the stands, at least nothing resembling a closeup of your son. At the high school level you shoot be able to shoot from the edge of the field if you introduce yourself to the coach/principal/others ahead of time, depending on the school and how bureaucratic they are. At the college level, that won't happen unless it's a very small school.

    Wherever you're shooting from, for night games you need to be shooting at least 1600 ISO and wide open at 2.8 to have any hope of a shutter speed high enough to stop action. VR/IS etc helps some with camera shake but not with stopping the motion of the players. Shooting wide open gives you no depth of field to cover focusing errors, so you have to experiment with the AF settings on your camera to see what gives the best results. Most of all, you have to shoot a lot of frames and expect to throw away a lot in order to come up with a few good shots.
  3. I've used the old Minolta 70-210 F4 lens, known as the Beercan, in this type of situation. If you are prepared to consider secondhand you could save yourself a load of cash with it.
    Definitely try to get on the touchline.
  4. Another possibility (that may or may not be acceptable to school authorities) is a focusing flash. A Vivitar 283 has an adjustable focus. It is also possible to build a rig with a custom fresnel lens that will focus the flash to a tighter beam that will match a 200 mm telephoto. If you shoot from the sidelines, such a rig could provide enough light to reach more than half way across the field.
    With a flash, you can't shoot in bursts so you have to get good at anticipating the moment of action. Flash photography is far less common at sporting events today so check with authorities before you give it a try.
  5. Shooting sports at night is one of the reasons Canon and Nikon (and Sony) make expensive hi-speed lenses and cameras. Once you shoot sports with a 70-200mm F/2.8 or a 300mm F/2.8 you won't try it with a slower lens. Another factor you need to consider besides cost is heft. These lenses are heavy! With the 300mm you will need a support system. Most photographers use a monopod. (Note: Spend the money and get a carbon fiber monopod, you won't regret it!) I sometimes use a pistol grip under my Canon 300mm F/2.8 for support. I also have a strap on the lens and one on the camera. This gets clumsy at times but the security of not dropping my lens makes up for the minor inconvenience strap entrapment. Someone mentioned shooting at ISO 1600, at most night high school football fields, I wind up shooting at 2000 or 3200, at 1/400 and up. Go to the game early and practice shooting the players during warm-ups. That way you can get used to their speed and adjust your framing. If you do get on the sidelines, remember that you cannot go past the 30 yard marker into the team's area. (The team can't come past the 30 while on the sidelines going to the goal line). Also stay away from the guys with the chains. The refs get really peeved if you get in the way when they have to move the chains. Although I know, I always ask a ref where I can stand on the sidelines. That way he knows I'm there and that I know what to do. I also shoot from the end zone, especially if the play is coming towards me. For your own safety do not stand in front of another photographer or anybody else. (If the players come rushing your way, you tend to automatically back up. Which becomes a problem if someone is behind you.) One more point about the stands, I wouldn't recommend using a 300mm F/2.8 lens in the stands as if your sitting, the people in front of you will jump up when something exciting happens. And depending on the excitement, your lens might get knocked around or worse.
  6. Please take this, not as criticism, but advice that save you money, save you aggrevation and get the best photos in the long run.
    1) Getting permission to shoot on a college football field is much harder to get that you might imagine - call the AD at your son't college as ask him. If he's going to a major college football program - forget it'
    2) College football is more intense and moves at a much faster pace than high school ball - both on the field of play and the area around it. Not a place for a novice.
    3) There will be other photographer's around the field taking photos (for pay) for the local newspaper, the campus paper, etc -- the bigger the school the more photographers.
    4) If you want good photos of your son I suggest you talk to someone in the Athletic Dept and see who shoots for the school or if he has contact on the local paper and then I'd approach one or both and tell them you son't son's number and position and ask them what they'd charge to get some good photos - it will be less expensive that any of the lens that would work for you and you can sit in the stands and enjoy the game.
    I've shot my grand-daughter's soccer games since she was 5 to the present when she play's on both a ECNL soccer team and her high school team and she will be heading to college next year of a scholarship (soccer and academics) and very few of her team mates parents bring camera's to the game anymore after they my results - I don't do it for a living but I do pay for all my gear plus traveling expenses and a team party once in awhile.

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