Need advice on fps for sporting photos

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by homebrew, Jun 14, 2007.

  1. homebrew

    homebrew TPF Noob!

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    I am upgrading my gear in order to take action photos of gymnasts (my kid is now a competitive gymnast). I'd appreciate any suggestions or recommendations on gear ------ but my primary question is: for action sports (such as tumbling and flipping action shots of gymnasts), how much real value will I experience between a 3fps and a 5fps camera?

    Here's my current plan/thinking:
    - Nikon 85mm f/1.4 fixed lenses for max speed (gyms are indoor and
    not lit too well, action is fast, I cannot get real close because of
    rope-off, flash is not allowed as it distracts the gymnasts, and
    there is usually quite a bit of "dust" in the air from all the chalk).
    So, I am going for a top quality, fast lenses. I'll deal with incorrect
    zoom through cropping.
    - Nikon D80 vs. D200.
    The D80 is 3fps and the D200 is 5fps. Is this a real "value" for my
    needs?
    Also, I've heard the D200 does not have a wireless remote release.
    Is this correct? That's a pain...

    Any inputs, suggestions, etc... are appreciated!!!
    Thanks.
     
  2. lkWinnipesaukee

    lkWinnipesaukee TPF Noob!

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    OH yeah, I have a 3fps for shooting sports and it is NOTHING like a 5fps camera. If you can afford the D200, get it. That is not to say, however, that you should just "spray and pray." You should get the skill to press the shutter button when the timing is right, not just take a burst of 20 and hope 1 is a keeper.

    As for the lens, never rely on cropping as a substitute for a good zoom. I'd recommend a medium telephoto with a max aperture of f/2.8 instead. How far away are you from the athletes? How much do you want to spend on a lens?
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't. Being able to shoot at F1.4 will allow you to use a much faster shutter speed. It's a two stop difference. That would allow you to shoot at 1/500, where you would only be able to shoot at 1/125 with an F2.8 lens. That's a big difference when shooting something like gymnastics.

    As for 3 vs 5 fps...I'm not sure. I always had 5 with my 20D and it's pretty fast. If you are good at timing your shots...you may not even need to shoot in burst...but in the end...faster is better.
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Get the f1.4 and the D200. There is more to being fast than just a lens. (and I'm not referring to the fps)

    One thing that will help you out immensely is for you to practice shooting with your eyes open- if you don't already!

    And the wireless remote? I hardly ever want one and when I do, the cable variety works just fine.

    mike
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Perhaps a more important issue when shooting gymnastics is the focusing. If you are trying to track your subject, you would probably need a camera with a very good AF system and a lens with a fast AF motor. Alternatively, you could prefocus and wait for the subject to come into your focus zone. This is where 5 fps would be really handy...especially with a fast lens like the F1.4...because the DOF may be very thin and you only have a fraction of a second when they are actually in focus.
     
  6. Boden

    Boden TPF Noob!

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    I've been through this recently with my step-daughter. Without giving specific advise (because I don't know what I'm talking about), there are some challenges:

    1) The lighting might be really difficult, especially if the gymnastics studio has a lot of big open windows and not a lot of bright artificial lighting inside. Flash would not be welcome unless you want kids flying from the bars, hehe.

    2) You mentioned being roped off from the action, which means there could be a fair amount of distance to shoot across.

    3) You can't necessarily be moving yourself around quickly in a place like that.

    I was shooting at a medium sized gymnastics studio, probably no more than 60-70 feet from my subject at most times. I was shooting with my 55-200mm and wished that I had more zoom power. I would not have wanted to be stuck with a fixed focal length, especially for events in which the kids are covering some distance.

    Because of the low light, I was shooting with aperture wide open at f/5.6. I had to bump the ISO up to 1600 on my D80 which allowed me to get shutter speeds of 1/200 which was bare minimum to freeze action, especially hand held. The images were grainy because of the high ISO, but surprisingly better than I imagined they'd be.

    So I guess all I'm able to say is that I was able to get acceptable "family photo" results from my D80 and the kit 55-200mm lens...but it's really it's not a good setup for indoor sports action. I'm definately looking forward to someday having a fast, powerful zoom lens, but I don't have thousands to spend. I also think that you might not get the photos you want with just an 85mm lens...maybe try a camera out and see.

    Oh, and I did not feel limited by 3fps. But this was just a beginner gymnastics program. I also couldn't imagine needing to remote trigger the camera at a gymnastics event.
     
  7. homebrew

    homebrew TPF Noob!

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    Regarding zoom vs. fixed f/1.4 fast lens:

    I have deliberated for a long time about the zoom vs super-fast 85mm f/1.4 lens. I tested things before with a 35mm film 70-300mm zoom (not particularly fast) and found that I was often in the "sweet spot" of about 135mm. That equates well to the 85mm digital lens. I'm not looking for super close-ups --- I generally prefer to have the whole body in the photo along with parts of the apparatus.

    So, since the 85mm is a good portrait lens too, and because I know the lighting conditions are almost always difficult, I still plan to go for this lens. Maybe I'll get an additional zoom later...

    Regarding camera:
    I will step up to the D200 for 5fps... I have a pretty good trigger finger and am becoming more and more familiar with routines, etc... so I hope to do pretty well. :)

    New Question:

    What DoF will I have at f1.4? Will the range of focus be that narrow? I've never shot with such a fast lens.

    For example, if I am 60-70' away from the beam, and perpendicular to it, and I focus on the center of the beam --- I have assumed I'll have crisp shots from end-to-end of the beam. The actual distance difference is quite small. Am I wrong?

    If I shoot towards the end of the beam, then I would expect focus challenges...

    Any further advice on what to expect when I'm wide open at f1.4 shooting from a 60-70' distance?

    Thanks again!
     
  8. Seefutlung

    Seefutlung TPF Noob!

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    Hey Homebrew,

    I shoot a lot of sports. For sports you want the fastest FPS possible with the longest and fastest lens you have.

    The dif between 5FPS and 3FPS is like night and day. At 3FPS you have to wait for the peak of action to release the shutter ... 5FPS you are capable of following the action while shooting in spurts or continious and know that you'll won't miss the peak shot.

    Sports Photogs like long and fast lenses ... and generally shoot at wide open or close to wide open. Both long and wide open help in isolating the subject, separating the subject from the background.

    The shallow DOF requires precise focusing ... which is why one tends to shoot a ton of images at each event.

    Gyms are usually ISO 1600 or ISO 3200 ... 1/250 or 1/500 at 2.8.

    My experience is that an 85mm at 60-70 feet is way too short of a lens. My experience is that typically a good tight shot will have greater impact than a good wide/not-so-tight shot.

    The D200 is a fine instrument but Canon's 30D and 1D series have better Image Quality at higher ISOs.

    If I was starting from zero ... no lenses ... for indoor/night sports I'd get the 30D and the 70-200 2.8L (if I was on a budget.) The zoom is so much nicer ... offering a greater variety of shots from a fixed position than a prime.

    Good Luck to you and you step-daughter,
    Gary
     
  9. smyth

    smyth TPF Noob!

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    I don't know about an 85mm prime, but with a 50mm prime the focus on a D50 is pretty damn fast.....
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nikon D2H, 8fps or bust. In reality unless you want a continuous strip why not line up the shot and just wait for the right moment to depress the button? Even cheap SLRs have a ludicrously fast response time (unlike P&S cameras).

    The fps of the camera would not be a determining factor for me to spend an extra $1000 (unless working for a newspaper which gives you a budget for a Nikon D2H).

    Also who needs a wireless remote? The D200 has a 10pin control terminal. Wired remotes are cheaper, don't need batteries, and work 100% of the time. Plus if you have people sitting next to each other you don't end up triggering both cameras at once.
     
  11. newrmdmike

    newrmdmike TPF Noob!

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    if your going to spend the money on an 85 1.4 you should just get the 70-200 vr.

    fps don't matter unless you can't time your shots.


    also, if you show a good portfolio and make friends with the right people you can prolly use flash units.

    also, it is a pain you can't use the remote, bc it only costs 20 bucks, the 10 pin remote is way expensive.
     
  12. newrmdmike

    newrmdmike TPF Noob!

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    but, if it really is that dark the 85 1.4 is an AMAZING LENS and i wish i had one instead of the 85 1.8

    i have the d200 and love it, but rarely shoot 5fps . . . but sometimes i have it on the continuous setting (usually low if i do though, which i have turned down to 2 fps)
     

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