Shooting Basketball - Best Recommended Equipment

Discussion in 'Sports' started by alex_dannenbaum, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. I have been shooting HS Football games this season, and have been asked to shoot basketball in a couple of weeks. My current equipment is a Canon 50D, with a 100-400mm f3.5-5.6L lens and a 10-22mm 3.5-4.5 and a 24-105 f/4 L. From what I have read all these lenses are too slow for basketball; I should be shooting a 2.8 or faster.
    How should I best restructure my lens/body collection to get good basketball shots? Would I be better off purchasing a 70-200 f/2.8 or purchasing a 50mm f/1.8 or possibly a f/1.4 and staying close to the action? I would consider getting both (long & prime) lenses, but then, I assume I would need another camera body on top of that and now $$$ really becomes an issue. (I do own an old 20D, in need of a shutter replacement...perhaps I should get it fixed and then carry both.)
    I would like to keep the transistion as simple as possible. If I was shooting with one body, what lens would serve me best? Are there other lenses I should be considering? Are carrying two bodies and lenses necessary for basketball?
  2. "Best" is a tricky word. You mention cost as an issue. What's your budget?
  3. Well, I would say my budget is in the neigborhood of $2K-$2200. I saw that B&H had a instant rebate for the 70-200 which came to $2069. I could squeeze in a used 50 1.8, if necessary. Of course I would love to save the money if there was a cheaper alternative.
  4. Roger G

    Roger G Roger G

    Would an 85mm f1.8 work? Along with 50 1.8 and possibly 200 2.8? You can get all 3 for under $1200 new. Or do you have to have a zoom? That 70-200 2.8 is pretty bulky and heavy, if that matters. As well as being expensive. The primes would be cheaper, lighter, and I think the bigger maximum aperture would help [although you might run into depth of field issues].
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    35/2 and 85/1.8; fix the 20D; take both Cameras and have the ability to move - even a little ability to move is good - and /or be situated near the action: in Coaches' area mid court; or near one basket - the one you are attacking, would be my first plan.
    If you only have one body (50D) the lens which will "serve you best" - will be dependent upon:
    Can you move around?
    How close you can get?
    What is the lowest EV (the worst lit BBall Gym) you will shoot in?
    Answer those questions and you have your answer - IMO.
    Just that IMO two cameras and two primes and the ability to get courtside, is the most flexible arrangement and the one I would choose if I had all options open.
  6. yep, 85 1.8 is great for bb
  7. I use an 85/1.8 on a 1.3x crop to shoot 9 year olds. That's just about right. On a 1.6x crop with high school kids, unless you're trying to shoot down court, I'd say that's too much.
    How well lit is the arena? I struggle to get f/2 at 1/200th at ISO 5000 in one gym. The kids played a game in our local professional basketball arena, and I was at f/4, 1/500th, ISO 800. Piece of cake. :)
    If I were you, I'd take the 24-105/4 to a practice just to see. My guess is it will be too slow. But you'll be able to find what focal lengths you like from where you'll be and how you want the players in the frame.
  8. I've only shot HS b'ball and can move around the gym pretty freely. But - not in front of the teams of course. I use 2 bodies(Nikons, but that doesn't matter). B'Ball is fast and no time to be changing lenses.
    The 50 is limiting in that shooting up towards bkbrd from behind or just left & rt. is often too much. I use Tamron 17-50 2.8 there. and...usually shooting around 35mm. that would be a good prime to get.
    The 70-200 2.8 is typical sportsshooter primary/secondary lens, along with a 300 or 400 2.8, for out side stuff. The 70-200 for inside as well in those dark caverns called 'gyms'! Yeh it's heavy, but the 2.8 is sharp! That you need.
    I Use an 85 1.8 for volleyball most of the time. Used it a few time in b'ball from court corners. I generally stay at one end or the other. Maybe get up in the stands,at court ens for different view points.
    I think 1.4 primes, and trying to shoot at 1.4 of fast action is difficult & has such short DOF.
    Good shootin and show us what you get.
  9. I use a 50mm 1.8
  10. Alex, I've only shot basketball for one season (last year) but I have the 50D as well with a 30D as a back up! Here is what I've found...
    The 50D works well but available light becomes an issue (I personally don't care for the on camera flash, it usually looks fake to me) My 30D just doesn't handle the low light nearly as well and I would assume the 20D wouldn't be any better. I shoot the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS and love the lens, I use it more than any other lens in my bag. However if the play gets very close to you the 70 is still to much with having the 50D's crop sensor. You might want to consider something to compliment this lens in the wider range. I don't have a lot of advice as far as the wider range goes because that is where I am lacking currently and I don't have the funds for a new lens right now!
  11. If you're on a budget, there are significantly less expensive options than the brand-new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II (the $2069 lens you mention). For example, if you plan to keep your shutter speed fast to freeze motion, you cold dispense with the IS and get a brand-new "mk I" Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L for $1300. You can get a refurbished version of the same lens for about $1100.
    I would definitely want two bodies, one with something like the 70-200mm and another with something shorter. I personally think the 40D is the best-value for action shooting. Used, they're running about $600 and under from dealers, and I would assume a bit less from individuals.
  12. My basketball kit really varies according to the gym i'm shooting in.
    i typically go with a 24-70 f2.8, 300mm f2.8 and 70-200 2.8. and 2 bodies.
    the 300 is great for getting "down court" shots" . You've got a pretty good budget, but i would suggest that the 100-400 will be too slow for most gyms.
  13. I shoot several basketball games each season in a poorly lit gym at our local junior college. The only lens I use is a 50mm f/1.8. I normally shoot at ISO 1600, 1/500th at f/1.8. I only shoot when the players are at my end of the court. With more light, I would rent a 70-200 f/2.8 lens, but the 50mm lens is still ideal for players up close.
  14. I want to thank all of you for your comments. You have some great suggetions and I use this info in making my final selection. It is clear my current lens package requires a faster lens to shoot basketball. The only reason I was considering the IS version of the 70-200 f/2.8 was that it provided me with some versatility when shooting something other than sports.
    One more question, I have a 20D whose shutter froze a year ago. I was thinking about reparing it for around $300 and using it as a second body. (This would be the cheapest alternative) Any reason why I should consider using another body?
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The only reason I was considering the IS version of the 70-200 f/2.8 was that it provided me with some versatility when shooting something other than sports.​
    AH! But you did not outline that in your question, or if you did I missed it. And in your question and later comments your emphasis seemed to be on the cheapest and most efficient value for money – and that is how I answered.
    But if you are buying to use lenses for a multiplicity of uses then the 70 to 200/2.8 IS makes sense to me to fit into your overall kit, making 4 zoom lenses . . . especially if you can do a deal on the original version.
    But that still might leave you needing more Av if the Gym is very dark. And you have not answered how close (or far away) you will be situtated to the play.
    I think that if we take the BBall out of the equation and just ask “how best to restructure my general kit . . . or “what should I work towards as a general kit" – then if you are interested in sports generally, the 70 to 200/2.8 IS is a very handy mate to the 100 to 400 you already own.
    On the other side of the coin the 10 to 22 and the 24 to 105 is a great pair of lenses for “walk around”.
    Then with four zooms, where I see your hole is (are) “fast lens” – and we get back to the question “where will you be situated when you need “fast” ?"
    For the BBall (as one example) . . .
    If you need fast and inexpensive and you can manipulate the shooting distance, by moving back if you are too close or crop if you are too far away . . . then it is a no brainer – get the 50/1.8.

    If you KNOW you will need the reach and you KNOW you need faster than F/2.8 for the BBall then the 85/1.8 or the 100/2 would be options . . . I would choose the 85/1.8.
    If you are pretty sure you can get away with F/2.8 - then just buy the 70 to 200 - the other lenses will still be in the shop next month . . .

    One more question, I have a 20D whose shutter froze a year ago. I was thinking about reparing it for around $300 and using it as a second body. (This would be the cheapest alternative) Any reason why I should consider using another body?​
    Yes, because the 20D can be pushed to ISO3200 reasonably with skill and correct exposure, the newer bodies can be pushed to ISO6400 and get the same or better results – and again this depends on what the EV is you are shooting – you need to get to the gym and answer that question also. Then it is a matter of is the $300 worth it to you or not.
    I have a 20D, I bought it new. If the mirror froze and I had to pay $300 to get it fixed I probably would not (even though I suggested previously you do – but I was basing that opinion on your emphasis on advice about the cheapest options).
    I would not get mine repaired but seek to get a few bucks, maybe $100 or $150 for a trade in on a new camera . . . but my 20D has about 80,000 on the speedo . . . and that has an influence on my thinking – I don’t know how “well used” is your 20D.
  16. Ron, I think you need a faster focusing lens.. most of those basketball you posted on smugmug are out of focus, and those that aren't, are way soft, making it not the ideal lens by far
    Sigma 70-200 in the tiny CC/JC gym from Tuesday..cannot get near the basket because the gym was built too short.. only about 4 feet from the wall to the endline and you'll get run over or injure a player being under the basket.
  17. William W...a question! You say:
    20D can be pushed to ISO3200 reasonably with skill and correct exposure, the newer bodies can be pushed to ISO6400 and get the same or better results – and again this depends on what the EV is you are shooting – you need to get to the gym and answer that question also. Then it is a matter of is the $300 worth it to you or not.
    Specifically, how do you push a 20D to ISO3200? I've seen this mentioned before and don't know how to do it.
    Many thanks!
  18. William W...a question! You say:
    20D can be pushed to ISO3200 reasonably with skill and correct exposure, the newer bodies can be pushed to ISO6400 and get the same or better results – and again this depends on what the EV is you are shooting – you need to get to the gym and answer that question also. Then it is a matter of is the $300 worth it to you or not.
    Specifically, how do you push a 20D to ISO3200? I've seen this mentioned before and don't know how to do it.
    Many thanks!
  19. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Specifically, how do you push a 20D to ISO3200?
    The 20D’s camera functionality allows for ISO ”H”.
    This is accessed via C.Fn-08 , ISO Expansion. Select “1” to enable.
    I understand that at ISO”H” (or ISO3200) the camera processing /activity is dissimilar to the other ISO values which are available. There are previous threads discussing this aspect of ISO”H” not being a “true ISO” – that said – it works for me.
    Note that ISO is manually selectable ONLY if the Camera is in a Creative Zone Mode – i.e. M; Tv; Av; P or A-DEP.
    Another method of attaining a facsimile of ISO3200 is to select ISO1600 and to underexpose by one stop and to adjust later in Post Production. I have attempted this and used several Post Production methods but I have not gained as good results as when I use ISO “H”.
    Critical to getting acceptable results is exposing the scene correctly and in most cases overexposing by about ½ a stop – thought there is a bit of “experience” in knowing when to or not.
    For functions, I generally use Caucasian Skin Tones to meter from and I adjust my exposure to suit. At some Sports venues I will use a Grey Card. The 20D does not have Spot Metering, but I use CWA and take a close reading using that – I do have an Hand Held Meter and can use the spot function on that, if I have the time.
    Also the harder the light the better the results: as the hard lighting gives an apparent sharpness to the final image - for example I get better results from venue Flood Lights than indoors with House Room Lights.
    Apropos House Room Lighting: I have noted that Tungsten Household lights can fool the TTL metering (not only in the 20D) and underexposure can result. Also IMO best results are obtained when shooting in Household Tungsten Lighting if I manually set the WB using °K. I set K = 2800°, and make minor corrections in post production. I have also used Colour Correction Filters for Household Lighting but for most subjects (Humans) the resultant Tv (Shutter Speed) is too long to be practical and suitable. However there is solid theory behind using CC Filters for such very warm lighting – most Household Tungsten Lights are about 1850° to 2200°. This has been discussed (and debated) before and I am not wishing to revisit that debate, but rather just answering completely and with minor details which are relevant, to get the best results.
    The preceding information goes to the absolute necessity to nail the exposure correctly – I cannot stress that enough.

    I shoot RAW + JPEG(L). When using ISO3200 I almost always use the RAW file. Correct Sharpening Technique is important. Correct Exposure is MORE important than using add on PP Noise Reduction Programmes - which I rarely use.
    I have uploaded some examples all shot with a 20D at ISO “H” you might note that the "better" ("perceived sharper") images are shot under harder lighting. But all the samples are quite saleable at 5x7 and most at fine to sell at 11 x 14 Prints, remembering that the screen is more severe than a print apropos noise and perceived acutance.
    It is important to note what the work is for – what the final uses will be – I would not suggest using ISO3200 as a general setting for Bridal Studio Portraiture.
    But at this Wedding I created a small album of some Candid Shots (Wedding Photojournalism) throughout the Day – and to differentiate the Evening I planned to use monotone only – so ISO3200 was quite useful sans Flash as the grain was integral to the set of images I made in Sepia – this is the B&W version of one:
    Responding to Groom's Speech
    20D, 50F/1.4: F/2 @ 1/50s @ ISO3200
    OTOH, the harder lighting of this Olympic Pool gives greater crispness to the shots: every shot in this montage was pulled at ISO3200, quite a few of these individual shots were used in newspaper print the Montage holds fine for as a Large Print.
    Medley Relay Gold/Record - Montage
    20D various exposures @ ISO3200
    Similarly a few years earlier at another venue, here:
    20D 70-200 F/2.8L: 200mm @ F/2.8 @ 1/800s @ ISO3200
    In this shot the Blacks of the Racing Skins caused me great pain as the Girls were celebrating just away from the main lighting bank and that cost me about a stop, so I could not use my over expose by about ½ stop, in fact it was under about ½ stop, because I still to pull a fast Tv – but it still holds up OK at a 14” wide Print (so this is one situation where I would have liked to be using the 1 Series or the IS version lens or both).
    And some shots just for fun:
    “Honey! Where did you park the Twins?”
    20D 70-200 F/2.8L: 70mm @ F/3.5 @ 1/200s @ ISO3200.
    20D 70-200 F/2.8L: 170mm @ F/3.5 @ 1/500s @ ISO3200

  20. William, this is incredibly helpful. Many thanks for your detailed response. I just love -- learn something new every day.
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You are welcome.
  22. Thanks also, William. Nicely done.
  23. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    And you are welcome, also.
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    . . . Alex what did you decide to do?
  25. Well, I decided that 2 bodies are better than one. I went ahead and purchased a used 20D cheap. I set the Custom Function to turn on the ISO expansion, so I am ready to go.
    I also splurged and got a EF 70-200 2.8 IS L II. I will use this on my 50D. I used this lens over Thanksgiving for some indoor family shots and was really really pleased with the results. It also worked really well at a nighttime football game. I may not have needed the IS, (since I am shooting at 1/200th sec or above for sports and could have saved $700 and a good bit of weight, but I take so many low light shots normally that I think the IS will come in handy at other times. I just hope I can mange lugging around this beast on the court for a couple of hours.
    I also sprang for a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I assumed I needed a lens at least this fast, and wide for those close in shots and was hoping to save some $$$ over the Canon alternative zoom. I am beginning to have second thoughts that this lens is a bit soft and has some CA. Perhaps I am just spoiled on Canon lenses. As an alternative I am considering an EF 50mm f/1.8 II. This is even faster and probably sharper, but doesn't provide me with any flexiblity. The only way I will know for sure is run some tests and try it on the court and check my results. I figure I will give the Tamron a try and if most of my shots are at or near 50mm then the Canon 50mm will probably make good sense.
    This will be my first venture with 2 bodies and I am looking forward to getting some great shots. I will need to experiment with on court shooting locations, to see what works best where. Season starts in a week.
  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks - That's great - have fun.
    This will be my first venture with 2 bodies​
    Driving two bodies is relatively easy once you get the knack, just take it easy the first night out and think it through before hand, especially how you are going to sling them.
    I would wrap the smaller lens / camera on a wrist strap and sling the telephoto around my neck I let the smaller lens/camera drop off my wrist and dangle whilst I am using the telephoto.
    This is hard on the forearm sometimes but it suits me - it doesn't suit everyone - so I suggest you have a play with a few alternatives.
    I recall a few threads about shooting with two cameras or managing two cameras on the Wedding Forum - you might want to search for those – perhaps there are some here on the Sports Forum too.
    Good Luck
    PS here are some – I don’t know how relevant to your situation - just the first few as my search result:
  27. I've shot some high school basketball and last night shot college basketball (University of Iowa - Carver H. Arena) from down on the court. Here's my 2c.
    First off, I find that using flash while on the court or near the court is tasteless. The players don't want it. If you can't take low light action photos without flash then step aside and buy faster lenses - or bump up the ISO, turn off the flash and do some noise reduction at home!
    Lenses I use for High school basketball in old gyms: 35 1.8, 50 1.4, 85 1.4. I don't have a 30 1.4 lens (Sigma) but if I did I would use it. There's no way I can use a 2.8 lens in a high school gym. Nothing slower than a 1.8 is going to touch my Nikon body. I bounce between the 3 lenses above. I shoot for 12 minutes with each of them and enjoy the different perspectives. Try and shoot with a 2.8 lens and you'll be cussing at your $1000+ purchase.
    Lenses I use for College basketball in fantastic arenas (like the Univ of Iowa): same as above (35 1.8, 50 1.4 and 85 1.4) plus a 28-75 2.8 ...and if I feel like lugging it around - the 70-200 2.8. Now these arenas can handle 2.8 with no problem. It's easy to shoot at 1/160th at 5.0 with an ISO of 1000 or 1200. Heck - that's almost as easy as outdoor soccer! Most other press pass photographers were using 70-200 2.8. Not me - too heavy - even with the VR lens option - of which most of them didn't have. And if you're courtside - you don't need 200mm unless you're trying to capture action on the opposite end of the court.
    If I had to take one lens to shoot indoor basketball in both poor light and great light? Give me my 50mm 1.4 and I'll bring you back some wonderful photos everytime....and the lens is light enough to manage without extra blur from the weight.
    Here's a couple images from the High School games:
    Photo below:
    Model: NIKON D300 with the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens
    ISO: 500
    Exposure: 1/250 sec
    Aperture: 1.6
    Focal Length: 50mm
    Flash Used: No
    Photo below:
    Model: NIKON D90 with the new Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens
    ISO: 1000
    Exposure: 1/125 sec
    Aperture: 4.0
    Focal Length: 85mm
    Flash Used: No

  28. Jeff B - You really brought clarity to my dilemma about fixed vs zoom lenses for this kind of shooting. While I'd love a 28-75, it's just not fast enough for me. I am getting great shots with me 85mm but ache for that wider-angle shot so often. When budget permits, I'm going for a 50mm next.
    Thanks for so eloquently helping me figure this out. I agree...nothing slower than a 1.8 is what works great.
  29. You're welcome Robin. I know that you can find some very nice used 50mm 1.8 lens for around $100 in the Nikon world. Not sure about Canon but I assume the same. It's the best $100 you can spend.
  30. whats your budget?????
  31. I use several lenses including a Canon 50mm f/1.4, a 85mm f/1.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. The Tamron and the Canon 70-200mm lens are the most used unless its a dark gym, then I use the higher speed lenses. I have a Canon 1D Mark III and a 40D. There is no question that the Mark III's faster 10fps is way better than the 40D's 6fps. As I shoot for a local paper, I'm looking for emotion in action, or somthing that can tell a story with just one photo. These lenses get me there, most of the time.
    VHSL Championship game. Copyright @2009 Marcus J. Wilson Sr.

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