Shooting High School Mountain Biking

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by leigh_mazion, May 3, 2015.

  1. My daughter has started racing high school mountain biking, so I've dusted off the equipment and started shooting again. I currently own
    a D300s with my primary lenses being an old 70-210 f4 and a 35 f1.8. The 70-210 is nice, but a little slow to focus. The 35 is primarily
    used for shots around camp. What lens or lenses would you suggest for this type or shooting. To add a little challenge, I may occasionally
    shoot a High School band or musical. Thanks in advance for any input!
  2. What's your budget like?
    ...and what's the most common focal length you use at the long end?
    If you find you rarely go beyond 150mm, I'd recommend the Sigma 50-150mm 2.8 HSM OS.
    If you're regularly over 150mm it's either the new Nikon AFS 70-200mm f4 or if your budget allows the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8. If you want 2.8. but can't afford the Nikon the Sigma and Tamron equivalents are highly recommended.
    If you can control the shooting position, a prime lens such as the Nikon AFS 85mm 1.8 G would be handy too.
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Leigh, 5 years ago you decided to get the D300S:
    Today, while the D300s is no longer state of the art, it should still perform well for outdoor sports. Back then, you had the 70-210mm/f4. I suppose that is the AF/AF-D lens with screwdriver AF. Do you still have that 70-300mm AF-S VR?
    Since you are shooting athletes + mountain bikes, your subjects are fairly large. Do you find 70-210mm a good zoom range for your typical distance from the athletes? If so, getting some f2.8 AF-S lens in a similar zoom range will certainly improve AF. f2.8 lets more light in and will help AF speed, especially when it is overcast outside. There are the old 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S without VR, the two Nikon 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR as well as Tamron and Sigma options, depending on your budget.
    f2.8 will also help indoors for those musicals, in that case having VR is a plus, but be prepared to carry more weight. An f2.8 70-200 is considerably heavier than the f4 version.
    We have had several recent thread on similar topics (although the sports are different):
  4. I agree on the various forms of 70-200 2.8. But before you spend money, have you tried manual focusing your 70-210? I dont' have any real experience with mountain biking but from pictures I've seen there are basically two situations. One is where the bikes are moving left to right (or right to left) at a more or less fixed distance from the camera, if not along a track or trail at least along some sort of line. If that's the case, you can probably focus manually on that point with a couple of bikes that come by ahead of your daughter and leave it there. Since this is presumably daytime you can probably have enough depth of field to help in case you're off a little.

    Second situation is where bikes are coming at you. But if you pick a certain point that they all have to pass and prefocus on that, you can have your focus set and just click when she comes along.

    All of the above applies regardless of whether the subject is a bicycle, motorcycle, car, boat, runner, etc.

    I've become more reliant on AF myself, but shot tons of sports and other things back in manual focus days and was always able to get the shot.
  5. The VR 70-200/2.8G II has excellent AF and it is possible to use it indoors as well, so that's what I would choose, budget permitting. Its predecessor, the VR 70-200/2.8G is available second hand and has some advantages and disadvantages relative to the II version. The VR 70-200/4G has become my favourite outdoor telephoto, and is somewhat more affordable. I wouldn't be able to say which is optically the best, they're all very good. The 70-200/2.8G II is better at f/2.8, and 200mm, in particular, and better with a 1.4X TC than the 1st version of that lens, but the 1st version has in my opinion nicer rendering of out of focus areas and loses less focal length upon close focus.
    With a D300s, the indoor shooting (of musicals / bands) is going to be challenging, and if this is an important application for you, a newer camera body (e.g. D7200 or D750) would improve image quality and sensitivity of AF, but it's a significant investment, of course.
  6. You might want to give your 70-210 f/4 a try first. It's not very quick racking out all the way from its closest focus to infinity, but the much smaller adjustments needed to keep a moving subject sharp at typical working distances are a lot more manageable. I've never tried it with mountain biking, but I have shot road cycling with this lens on a D300. This combination was able to track Bradley Wiggins in the Olympic time trial, and Mr Wiggins goes quite quickly! Of course a mountain bike might move less predictably, so YMMV, but I imagine you'd still want to set up the shot first by picking a place on the course in advance, as Craig suggests. Incidentally, if you don't have one the MB-D10 battery grip for the D300 is very cheap on the secondhand market nowadays, and usefully raises the framerate.
  7. In my opinion, a $2200 lens is not necessary for shooting amateur outdoor mountain biking during the day. if we are talking about track courses, those are generally well-lit/ daylight conditions so even a 5.6 lens should be okay there. if the main issue with the 70-210 is focus speed, even a 55-200 would be an improvement there. if you have the budget, a 70-200 VRI (about $1500 used) would be fine on DX, where the corner performance will be less of an issue, but an older sigma 50-150 non-OS will cost 1/2 as much if you can find one and also deliver fast AF. typically, you will need a 1/500 shutter or faster to freeze motion, so stabilization isn't a must there. you may also want to lower your shutter at times to emphasize motion of the wheels.
    as Ilkka mentions, shooting indoors--which i assume musicals are--is a little more challenging with a D300s, which is limited about ISO 1600. so you may need a 2.8 or even faster lens. range depends on your location; an 85 might work fine, depending on where you are.
  8. You might want to check out using AF-On to focus if you haven't already. AF-On and AF-C and probably release priority.
    It makes it very easy to prefocus somewhere on the track and then shoot several shots when the riders arrive.
    Even lenses that are slow to autofocus are fast when they don't have to focus at all or if they just have to fine adjust the focus.
    In most cases lenses that have ultrasonic motors inside of them faster focusing than their older brothers. They're called AF-S lenses on Nikon and HSM on Sigma lenses.
  9. look for an AF-D 80-200 / 2.8, they are really cheap this days
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Hi Leigh, I think we have reached a point that we need more information from you:
    1. Is AF speed and accuracy your main issue for photographing mountain bikes? I.e. are you happy with the 70-210mm zoom range on your current lens? Nikon has made a number of 70-210mm lenses over the years. My dad still owns a manual-focus series E 70-210mm/f4 from around 1980. I assume yours is a screwdriver AF f4 version?
    2. Do you still own the 70-300mm AF-S VR lens? I think plenty of amateur photographers use that lens for outdoor sports photography. Since that is AF-S, AF speed should be decent with plenty of light, but it is a slower, f5.6 lens on the long end.
    Shooting musicals is a different game and probably needs different equipment. I would say solve one problem at a time.
    And how much you are planning to spend on a new lens is important to come to an answers. I am sure the rest of us have very creative ways to spend your money :), but e.g. you can get a used 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S for well below $1000 and get good results. I sold mine a few years ago for around $850 or so.
  11. Leigh, I shoot with the D7000 and I took someones advice hear on the Sigma 50-150 f2.8, and really like it. However I have the old version which does not have VR but it is lighter and doesn't extend when zooming. With the newer version you get VR and a considerable amount of extra weight. Sigma makes great lenses and I'm not afraid to recommend them. Oh the 50-150 focal length is the same as 70-200 on full frame sensor bodies.
  12. Ok, it’s been a busy week and I’m just getting back to this thread. Thanks for all of the responses so far! Let me see if I can provide a little more information. 1.) Budget: I’m flexible, but ideally I would like to stay under $2k. If I keep it lower, there’s more room to upgrade the computer for post processing!  2.) Yes, I still have the 70-300VR. I shot this one last weekend at a race. This was the first time shooting this since my girls were in soccer years ago. I got good results, but it was sunny and in open terrain. I would like to be able to isolate the subject a little better with an open aperture. 3.) The 70-210 is the AF version, and it was my go to last year. I mostly shot it in the 70-120ish range. In mtn. biking you have some flexibility in where you shoot from. 4.) I can pick-up a 80-200 f2.8 AFS for about $700. Not sure how much I would gain over my 70-210 vs dropping a little more for the 70-200 VR or other option. 5.) I was carrying two bodies last year, but the D90 was given to my daughter. She likes to shoot after her race is done. I will likely carry one extra lens. Thanks for all the help so far!
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you can afford as much as $2000 but understandably would like to spend a bit less, I would forget about the non-VR 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S and instead consider a used 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 1 (no longer available new), the Tamron or the Sigma. A used 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 2 is also a possibility, but even a used one is probably closer to $2000 than $1000.
    For any indoor work, such as those musicals, VR is going to help. Clearly you still need a not-too-slow shutter speed to stop any motion, but VR may let you use 1/100 sec, 1/60 sec indoors. Not every image will be sharp, perhaps mostly due to subject movement, but if you shoot more samples, you can get a good number of keepers. Having the extra stop @ f2.8 will help.
    Nikon's 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S has a relatively wide/fat barrel and so does the Sigma. Version 1 of the 70-200 AF-S VR is narrower towards the mount; I find it more comfortable to hold with my left hand. Its main drawback is very soft corners close to 200mm. That is a non-issue on your DX D300S; it is also a non-issue if you shoot sports, portraits. However, that could be a deal-breaker for landscape work, at 200mm on FX.
    I would recommend against the Sigma 50-150mm/f2.8, although its zoom range may fit you better now. That is a DX type lens. Further down the road, you may want to upgrade your old D300S as well, and perhaps you'll go FX, especially for better low-light results for any indoor performance. Now in 2015, I wouldn't buy any high-end DX lens.
    See the barrel tapers off towards the lens mount end on version 1 of the Nikon 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR (right).
  14. Ok, I just pulled the trigger on a mint condition 70-200 VR1 from my local camera store. The lens didn't have a mark on it and was a good price. I've clicked off a few test shots and lens performs great. I'll give it a full test this weekend at a race! Thanks for all of the help!
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Leigh, I think that is a good choice. Please share some images with us and see how it all works out.

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