Sports photography

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by stuart_h|1, Jun 16, 2016.

  1. Hi everyone, and
    I currently own a Nikon d7200 and my zoom collection consists of a Tamron 70-300 VC Usd and a Nikon AF 80-400mm. I am shooting
    field sports such as football and I have found that the 70-300 is very very good as it has great vibration reduction, is light weigt and is very
    smooth to zoom. The only problem is as soon as the clouds come over it is very hard to get light photos without reducing the quality of
    the photos. (High shutter speed to avoid blur) I though maybe the 80-400 would be agin better for reach and also might let some more
    light in but the lense is very heavy and the zoom ring is close to the body which I find is very anoying. The Tamron has the focus ring
    closest to the body.

    I thought maybe a Tamron 70-200 f2.8 would be the way to go? Lighter than the Nikon, good in low light, reasonable zoom range and the
    zoom ring is located after the focus ring.

    If anyone can give me their thoughts that would be very helpful :)

  2. Stuart, I can't offer you much in the way of Lens advice, since I do not have those. The longest lens I have is the Nikon 55-300F/5.6 and find it to be very good and fairly quick on the D7200 I use it for my grand kids soccer games.
    But ''if'' you are a jpeg shooter like me, then you will benefit from setting the DR to the max setting. Works great for me, especially when the sun starts to go down and the contrast is high.
  3. Sports in low light requires either high ISO (at the expense of quality) or fast glass (not something at f/5.6) or both. Yes, you need a lens that can open up to f/2.8, if your current lens isn't gathering enough light. Longer than 70-200 can be helpful at distances, but fast, longer lenses get very expensive, quickly. A 70-200 can get a lot done, as long as it focuses quickly enough.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Those f5.6 lenses are fine for day-time sports photography, but once you start talking about night games or indoor, preferably you want f2.8 both for wider aperture and for AF performance. A 70-200mm/f2.8 should be a good starting point.
    I assume the OP is referring to the type of football that is called soccer in the US, not Aussie-rules football or American football. I am not sure 200mm is long enough (even on DX), depending on your vintage point. Unfortunately anything longer such as a 300mm/f2.8 gets expensive pretty quickly, especially a 400mm/f2.8. There is also the Sigma 120-300mm/f2.8. It all boils down to what your desired results are and how much you want to spend on lenses.
  5. i have the Tamron 70-300, its 5.6 at max aperture. so is the 80-400. if you need more light, you need a larger aperture. i use the Nikon 70-200/2.8, so i can't comment on the Tamron version, other than try before you buy and make sure the AF speed is fast enough for your needs.
  6. Question folks. How would a TC work on an F/2.8 lens? Is this an option? Something like a 1.4?
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    How would a TC work on an F/2.8 lens? Is this an option? Something like a 1.4?​
    Once you add a teleconverter on any lens, the maximum aperture for the overall combo goes down. E.g. adding a 1.4x TC will make the f2.8 lens an f4 lens. Once again, you need a wide aperture for low light. f4 is better than f5.6, and f2.8 is better than f4.
    Action photography under dim light (night or indoors) is most demanding on equipment. Typically you want FX, you want long focal length and wide aperture. FX is no longer as expensive as it used to be in the first decade of this century, but long teles with a wide aperture cost big money.
  8. Agreed with Shun - one of your best ways to get an extra stop of light is to go to FX, but bear in mind that you're getting a wider field of view with it (a 200-400mm f/4 Nikkor on an FX camera is not dissimilar to the 120-300mm f/2.8 Sigma on a DX camera, from this perspective). If it'll reach for you, the 70-200 f/2.8 is probably the most sensible option (on DX, the previous version is still very good, and cheaper). Bear in mind the Nikkor lenses tend to have better AF performance than third parties. If you're positioned mid-field, a 70-200 might cope; I doubt you'll see much of the far end of a soccer pitch (as a Brit, calling it that feels so wrong...) with a 200mm.

    The problem is that gathering light requires large lens elements, especially at longer focal lengths, which make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive. Hiring something may be your best bet. If you're tempted, bear in mind the 200-400 f/4 is known to have problems at longer distances, and the far end of a field probably counts; Canon's equivalent (which includes an integrated optional 1.4x teleconverter) seems to be better, and would actually be a pretty good option for you other than being ridiculously large and expensive (and the wrong mount). Also, while the TC-14E does work on a 70-200 f/2.8 Nikkors, it does more harm to the optical quality than on some other lenses - it turns a very good zoom into a so-so one. Plus it's quite expensive - I'd seriously think about picking up a 300mm f/4 AF-S (non-VR if you're trying to save money and freeze the action anyway) if you just want more reach than the 70-200, but you'll obviously be stuck changing lenses.

    Just as a thought, I'd think about your post-processing workflow. I've generally been very impressed at DxO's PRIME noise reduction, though it's not magic - it's very slow (less so in version 11), but it might gain you a stop of usable high ISO over other default workflow. YMMV.
  9. There's another aspect that can be a factor in your final decision, but it depends on what you expect to do with your finished images.
    A 24 mp camera allows for a meaningful amount of cropping while still yielding a decent image. A 24 mp original image can be copped to the same image that can be obtained by adding a 1.4X TC and still give a 12 mp result. If that is enough to meet you printing and display needs, then you can crop a 70-200/2.8 shot to get a 280 mm field of view while still using f2.8.
    The older 300 f4 AF-S (non-VR) lens can be used this way with good effect. f4 isn't as fast as 2.8 obviously, but it isn't too bad, either, and cropping a 300 shot can give you up to 420 mm field of view at f4 in a 12 mp result. Something to consider.
    Noise software - not long ago Nik Software was bought by Google (I think) and they made their entire set of image tools available free online. I suggest looking for it and downloading it if it is still available. The noise program, called Dfine, works very well and allows selective application to parts of an image and adjustment of varying degrees to suit the situation - not bad for free.
  10. One warning about the cropping advice from Bob (which is perfectly valid for framing): when you throw away part of the frame, you're throwing away the light that hit that part of the frame. If you blow up a cropped section of a frame you make the noise bigger (relative to the whole image size) - which is why full frame cameras effectively have better noise handling at the same ISO as a smaller crop-body sensor. A crop sensor works just like a 1.5x teleconverter, in terms of increasing the effective focal length of the lens, decreasing it's effective aperture, and reducing the amount of light that hits the frame - you just don't see this in metering or ISO, because this would be confusing (if the metering or claimed ISO changed when you cropped the image manually, it would be very strange, even though they effectively cancel out). Obviously a DX body avoids any optical aberrations in an equivalent teleconverter, although there are a few down-sides too.

    So yes, it's no bad thing to crop the interesting information from the full resolution image, but it doesn't turn a 200mm f/2.8 into a 300mm f/2.8 - a 1.4x crop of a frame will give you just as much noise in the image as a 1.4x teleconverter (although it'll be spread across fewer pixels, so the noise per pixel will be better).

    That said, if you know you're going to be cropping, you can turn on the 1.3x crop in the camera. Then the images will take less space on the card, the buffer is effectively bigger, and you get an extra FPS frame rate. I've just kicked off a thread about doing exactly the same thing on a D810 (which has a 1.2x crop mode that gives it an extra frame). Just remember you've done it when the action gets close! I did pretty much this at the 2012 Olympics, when I'd recently acquired my D800 - there was a restriction on carrying large lenses, so I shot the tennis with an 80-200 f/2.8 and relied on the DX crop because I didn't feel I could bring a longer lens.

    And yes, other decent noise reduction facilities are available. (PRIME is unusual, in that it was developed as a "noise reduction with no performance compromises" solution and I believe it's genuinely better quality than thee alternatives, but other options may well do better than, say, Photoshop's integrated one. I've not tried many!)

    Hope that helps!
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I have had the older 300mm/f4 AF-S (pre-PF & VR) since a year or two after it was introduced. That lens is excellent optically but has very slow AF for an AF-S lens. That is why I don't use it for birds in flight in the morning with plenty of daylight. I don't think its AF will work well for sports under dim light.
    The early AF-S 300mm/f2.8, without VR, can still be a good choice today, but obviously you need to deal with the bulk and the weight. And even though the price has come way down in the used market, I think we are still talking about over $2000. That is a lens you need at least monopod support, and of course you are stuck with only 300mm although there is the possibility to add a 1.4x TC.
  12. the older 300mm/f4 AF-S (pre-PF & VR) [...] is excellent optically but has very slow AF for an AF-S lens.​
    Oops - I'd completely forgotten about that. (I've struggled with it for some wildlife too, although it does well enough if things hold still - and most of my subjects do, so I'd forgotten about this behaviour.) Shun's right, you'll struggle with it for football - unless you're just tracking someone as they run parallel to you; I retract my recommendation.
  13. I imagine that you have gathered from your own experience and the comments above that there really is no ideal solution to shooting sports in low light. For example, I shoot sideline sports with a D3S (and as of last week with a D500) on a 400/2.8 and unless you are shooting in a pro or D1 college stadium, night games under the lights or games in late afternoon/early evenings will still be a problem. And remember that the D3S can handle ridiculously high ISO's. That said, in some venues even shooting at ISO 6400 at f2.8, you will get heavy grain.
    The 70-200/2.8 will result in the same general issues as the 400/2.8 and of course is substantially shorter. I use a 70-200 on my second body while the 400/2.8 is on the monopod. That focal length is useful in situations where the action is close to the sideline where you are, but the majority of my keepers are at 400mm. 200mm is quite short to use as a main lens shooting field sports.
    Unfortunate fact of life is due to the laws of physics, if you shoot in less than ideal light, you have to accept some grain. I can shoot all day long with the D3S's at ISO 6400 and still produce excellent images if the shutter speed is high enough. When I stray north of 6400 ISO, the results are hit and miss. I find that for fast moving sports like soccer or football, anything less than 1/1000 is pretty much a waste of time and I generally prefer at least 1/1500th. So the choice for me in poor lighting is to shoot at f/2.8 and crank the ISO up as high as I dare. If I "need" the shots, I find it far preferable to use high shutter speed and get more noise than to reduce ISO and the shutter speed. I can deal with grain in post (I like Define2) and often salvage something usable, but an out of focus shot due to insufficient shutter speed is nothing but trash. I own a new version of 80-400 and wouldn't think of using it for sports, but then I have the luxury of owning 2.8 glass. I imagine that the 80-400 can work, but the loss of so many stops would make the needed ISO beyond the truly useful range of any Nikon body other than perhaps the D4 or D5. I have never shot with either to comment on the images above 6400.
    Other solution is to shoot only during good light which is regrettably not always viable.
  14. Thankyou for all of the responses. Yes even
    over here in NZ we often call it soccer but still
    feels like a grose word ;). I think for now,
    wothout changing my camera to a full frame
    camera, the best bet is to try out a Tamron 70-
    200 f2.8 focus speed and feel etc. If it can do
    can focus quickly then it could be the way to go. It is within my price range also. I have
    noticed on some other blogs that alot of
    people are recommending Nikons 80-200 f2.8
    as a more affordable option. Apparently is still
    a very good lense although its older now.

    Another factor I have thought of is The d7200s
    1.3x crop factor that you can shoot in. It will
    drop the camera to 16mp but you gain extra
    distance. Does anyone know a little bit more
    able this feature? The pros and cons?

  15. You don't say what ISOs your using. That body should be excellent up to ISO 1600. For those sports, 1/1000-sec. is sufficient. Maybe they don't light the fields as well as we're used to in the US, but there's usually enough light at those ISOs. If you need to go higher, try DxO's Optics Pro 11, with its PRIME noise reduction. It does an excellent job of maintaining detail while eliminating noise. You can get a 31-day free trial and it's pretty intuitive to use.
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    For sports, VR is not going to be that useful. I sold my 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S years ago and therefore have never used it on a modern DSLR. That is a somewhat bulky lens for a 70-200mm, f2.8 type. You might want to give it a try. For fast AF, I would stick with AF-S and wouldn't get a screwdriver AF-D version.
    The problem with 1.3x crop on the D7100 and D7200 is that you only get a crop frame in the viewfinder. I almost never use that feature (intentionally), but once I accidentally switched the D7100 to the 1.3x crop mode. It is not that obvious and I continued to compose with the entire frame in the viewfinder, and some of my subjects ended up partially outside of the capture area. If you use the 1.3x, you need to be careful with that. The D2X and D2Xs have that same feature (although it is called the 2x crop, which is 2x from the full FX frame, which is essentially the same as a 1.3x crop from the DX frame), and I ran into the same issue. The D2Xs would black out the area that is outside of the frame in the viewfinder, making it less confusing.
  17. Hi David, I have been shooting at a much
    higher shutter speed to capture the smaller
    faster movements such as the ball
    movements and peoples feet etc. They seem
    to be muh harder to capture. So around
    1250/1500. Then iso will need to be around
    800/1000. As soon as the clouds come over
    im shooting at 1250/1600. I feel like thats
    getting a bit too high but maybe its not.
    Thanks for that, I will look up the optics pro
    program after work tonight and have a play.
    Maybe its best I stick with the 70-300 because
    of how light it is. It still takes very nice
    pictures. I am quite impressed with it when
    you consider its price tag.
  18. I don't think that ISO 1600 is too high for your camera body. High ISO is generally better than under-exposing. I shoot birds and wildlife, which have much more fine detail (feathers and fur) than most sports subjects. I'm able to manage the trade-off between detail and noise reductions smearing of detail and still get happy results.
  19. I've always been wary of the 80-200 after my own bad experience - I had a mk1 (push-pull) with sticky aperture blades and a mk3 (two-ring) AF-D which had difficulty in autofocus at shorter range, and was soft at short range even when in focus. But that was short range - it was pretty good at a distance, and you may well be at a distance. Still, remember VR can help when panning with a subject. The 80-200 AF-S is supposedly optically better than the AF-D (the only one I tried was unwell), but apparently there are difficulties getting parts. I'd say the 70-200 f/2.8 mk1 is your friend, for price/performance.

    A 1.3x crop which allows you to see around the edges does have some merits when you're used to it (having used the crop mode in my D8x0s). It's a little harder to see the crop you'll get, but it means you can see things that are about to enter the frame. It's entirely equivalent to cropping the image in post-processing, but because the camera isn't recording those pixels you can get more images on a card and a higher shutter rate. If you know you're going to be doing it, it might save you running out of card/buffer at an awkward moment. I've not checked the D7200, but on the D810 there's a short cut for changing cropping - though it's not quite as instant as I'd have needed for it to be useful for the cheetah run I wanted to shoot. HTH.
  20. Thanks David and Andrew. I have just been
    offered a trade for an 80-200 for my 80-400
    but have decided not to take it and am now
    selling the 80-400. I have also just invested in
    a Tamron 70-200 f2.8, very excited to pick it
    up. Lets hope this lens works well for me :) I
    hink for now its best to hang on to the 70-300
    purely because of its smaller size and lighter
    weight. Just find it such a nice lens.
    David I will try and get some shots at a hugher
    iso like you say and now at a lower apeture
    and will see how the pics turn out.
    I am looking at making a facebook page
    where I can post some of my pics. Once I
    have done that I will post it on here and if
    anyones interested in checking the page out
    and giving some constructive critisism that
    would be amazing :)

    Thanks again,

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