Nikon 85mm f/1.8G for indoor sports

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by zafar|1, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. I am looking at this lens for indoor sports shoot in poor lighting condition. I have tried it briefly before, not with the intent of testing for sports, but I found the AF to be slow to lock.
    Can other people who own this lens comment on the AF of this lens and it suitability for action events?
  2. What camera are you trying to use for this? A lot of shooting sports is body dependent instead of being lens dependent.
  3. Even on a DX camera, 85mm is pretty short for most sports. It might do for "ringside" shooting of Judo, Karate, Boxing etc., but for team/field/ball sports it's going to be a bit short. The little bit of sports shooting I've done has always demanded at least a mid to tele zoom and I wouldn't even consider a prime, no matter how fast. High ISO is your friend for sports shooting, rather than a superfast lens.
  4. I will be using it on D800E, the same camera on which I tested this lens a couple of months ago.
    For high school events, I will have ringside seats :). The f/2.8 zooms have required ISO between 6400 and 25600. The noise is not bad at all for the ISO, but still.
  5. I have in the past and still do use primes shooting sports. But when I do it is because I can pick a spot get it focused and wait for the action to get there. But Horses going over a jump or around a barrel are kind of specialized photography. High School sports I would want at least a 70-200 f/2.8 and maybe a 120-300 f/2.8.
    Other thing is that a D800E would not be my first choice of a camera to shoot sports with.
  6. Your custom settings are important too. here are some that a friend of mine uses for birds in flight. You might have to modify these for your sports situation.
    Drive Mode CH
    AF-C - either S, or d-9 or d-21 (recommend against d51, auto or 3D)
    a1 - Release
    a3 - Short to Normal - you choose
    a4 - depends on if you want the shutter button to AF or just the rear button
    a6 - on
    a7 - 51
    a8 - off
    Joe Smith
  7. I am using an 85/1/8G on D600 & D800 bodies, with good results for HS BBall from the base line. To my eye, the results are better with the 85 than with my 70-200VRI. I usually choose to run the lens at f/2.5 or so, and try to keep the ISO at 6400 or a little lower.
    Try the D9 or D21 AF-C settings. The AF-A or 3d 51 pt settings seem to slow AF operation too much for me.
    When I shoot at venues with a lot more light, I do use the zoom for framing, but I don't think it focuses much faster. The real difficulty is getting the thin plane of focus exactly on the players eyes with the shallow depth of field, and getting enough shutter speed (I try to keep it at 1/640, more would be better).
    Am thinking about trying my 50/1.8G at the next game.
  8. I try to stay at above 1/500 too, and that is why the ISO goes in five digits, when using f/2.8.
    There is no doubt that 85mm is at the short-end but I don't think 135mm f/2 is going to cut it for action at all, and 200mm f/2 is well out of my reach.
  9. Actually on my D4 the 135mm f/2 does a nice job of keeping up. On the D300 it was just long enough and more then fast enough to track a horse around a jump course
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I think several of Nikon's recent 50mm and 85mm, f1.4 and 1.8 AF-S lenses have relatively slow AF. They apparently are designed for slower portrait or people photography so that the emphasis is AF accuracy, especially when depth of field is shallow at f1.4 and f2. Those lenses are not optimized for AF speed.
  11. This year, I tried a 28-70/2.8 AF-S, and 70-200/2.8 versions I & II along with the 85/1.8G for shooting BBall. When I had 3-4 more stops of light with good color rendition at the center court at one tournament that was lit to college broadcast levels, the 70-200VRII I had with me ruled and the images looked fantastic. But when I am at the home court and forced to 1/640-f/2.5 @ ISO6400ish (I use manual mode, let the ISO float for exposure), the shots just lock cleaner and more detailed with the 85 prime at 2.5 vs the others at 2.8. I am pretty sure that a good part of the image quality improvement is a result of about 1/2 stop less needed ISO (the T value of the lens factors in, also).
    I could go on, but back to the OP's question, I think that the 85G is a good choice in truly dismal light. AF seems fast enough to track BBall action. No doubt that a D4 with a 2.8 zoom or a 200/f2 would be better tools. I wound up leaving the 2.8 zooms at home for most games, but would use them if I had another 1.5 stops of light. I have a 105/f2DC that I have tried also, but had less AF success with it. It would probably be OK if I were a little further from the action, though.
    BTW, I don't have any statistics to support, but it seemed like my in focus keeper rate improved when I changed from the 85/1.8D to the G version last year, using a D3s.

  12. Those lenses are not optimized for AF speed.​
    i'm going to risk getting dinged here, but i would suggest trying out the Sigma 85/1.4, which may be the most optimized for AF speed out of any lens in its class. if possible, i would rent both the 85/1.8g and the sigma and try them both under the same conditions.
  13. I recently shot the women's World Squash Championships. It was played at night, outdoors, in a glass court. One of the features of the court is a couple of clear photographer's ports on the front wall - low down, on either side. I used D700 with a variety of glass, with a target SS of 1/800 - although I sometimes dropped that as low as 1/500. With the fast primes, I could keep the ISO as low as 1600, although with the zooms I was up around 6400 - which is higher than I really prefer to go on this body.
    After sorting my shots, the keeper rate was as follows:
    14-24: 3.5%
    50 1.8g: 3.5%
    70-200 VRII: 31%
    85 1.4g: 62%
    I did find that the focussing on the 85 was considerably slower than the 70-200. Squash is a fast game, so there were a LOT of out of focus shots that didn't make the cut - however my keeper rate was enough to make my employer happy. I haven't used the 85 1.8, however I gather that it focusses perhaps slightly faster than the 1.4, and so may have been a marginally better option for this usage. Really, the biggest improvement I could have made to my keeper rate would have been to use a D3s or D4 body, but alas, we work with what we have available.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    70-200 VRII: 31%
    85 1.4g: 62%
    I did find that the focussing on the 85 was considerably slower than the 70-200.​
    Chris, perhaps it is my misunderstanding, but your comments don't seem to match your statistics. Could you clarify that part?
    And Chris is referring to the f1.4 version of the 85mm AF-S, not the f1.8 the OP has in mind.
  15. Yes, Shun is correct. I have the 85 1.4, not the 1.8. I imagine that the similarities between the two fast 85mm primes would be greater than the differences, however not having used the 1.8, I could be mistaken.

    The 70-200 absolutely focusses faster than the 85, however - in the conditions I describe above, at the cost of 2 stops of ISO. It was the loss of dynamic range more than the increased noise that resulted in fewer keepers from the zoom. There is a big difference between ISO1600 and 6400 on the D700.
  16. Chris, I think you see the same type of IQ improvements that I see when I use the 85/1.8 vs a 2.8 zoom in poor lighting.
    This morning in good light, I compared the AF speed between 85/1.8G and 70-200/2.8VRI lenses. I focused on a tree at about 100', released the button then focused on a leaf at 10'. The 70-200 was very slightly faster, but either lens would easily refocus MUCH faster than ANYONE could RUN the distance. Am sure that a VRII zoom would be perceptably faster than the VRI. Camera was in AF-C 21 pt mode.
    I am convinced that lens focusing speed is only part of the issue(s). When the camera is set to f2.5 or 2.2, the depth of field is less than at 2.8. So, the camera has to deliver greater focusing accuracy in already poor light vs. f2.8. Also, remember that when a subject gets closer to the plane of focus, the amount of lens element travel increases significantly in order to change focal distance incrementally.
    To "help" the AF system, I try to anticipate where a shot will take place, and prefocus on something in the area if possible. Then I start tracking hopefully a little before I want to hit the shutter button to give the system time to get going. I do think the camera AF system lag is less with the D800 (and D600) than earlier generations.
    A lot happens when AF is activated on a moving target in the AF-C mode. The motion is rarely uniform in velocity relative to the camera, so the camera has to deal with changing velocity and acceleration . The perfect AF point (eye) is too small to track with 51 or 39 discreet AF sensors IMO. While our 2012 tools are certainly more capable than the manual focus FM I started with in the late 70's, I am sure that there is a lot of room for AF system improvement by all of the manufacturers. I think we have enough pixels, I would like a quantum improvement in AF systems in future generations, and another stop or so of usable high quality ISO.
    Just for fun, go try the 100' to 10' trick with a "slow" focusing 180/2.8AF. Bet you can't outrun that lens, either! Sorry about the ramble, but this is an important topic for me, since I would like more keepers!
  17. I think we have enough pixels, I would like a quantum improvement in AF systems in future generations, and another stop or so of usable high quality ISO.​
    i agree. i have a d3s, which is pretty good at focusing, and also good at high-ISO, but it's not always perfect, even with top-tier lenses.never-failing AF would be good, as well as the ability to shoot at ISO 25.600 cleanly. dont need 36 or even 24 megapixels; 16-18 would be enough to crop.
  18. Not ever attempting it, I have little to add as to the capabilities of the 85 f/1.8G for use at a sporting event, but, would not the lack of variability with regards to framing discredit the use of a prime lens in sport photography?
    I understand the pick a spot and wait for the action to come to that spot, but that is not really how I would choose to shoot a sporting event other than the earlier example of horse jumping and even then I see limitations.

    Just a point I thought I would share.

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