Sports camera w/300M lens under $1000? Considering some options


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Dec 5, 2012
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I'm looking for a camera and lens combo that can handle daylight sports for under $1000.

Currently, the ones I'm considering are these:

Sony Alpha SLT-A57 that comes with a 18-55mm lens and also getting a Tamron 70-300 USD
Sony SLTA57K - Alpha SLT-A57 - Sony SLR - 16.1 MP Digital Camera W/ 18-55mm Lens - Tamron SP AF70-300mm Di USD For Minolta & Sony, With 6-Year USA Warranty

Nikon 1 V1 with 10-30mm, 30-110mm lenses and 70-300mm lens and FT1 adapter:
Nikon Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 10-30mm and
Nikon FT1 Mount Adapter 3613 B&H Photo Video

Primarily, I want speedy autofocus, high burst and continuous shooting rate, fast saving to memory card. The Sony Alpha with the Tamron seems to have these features (I think the Tamron's AF is faster than Sonys 70-300). I *think* the Nikon 1 V1 is also fast, but not sure how fast the autofocus is compared to the Sony/Tamron. One thing I do like about the Nikon is that it has the capability to do a 400fps (or higher I think) video rate which would be great for playing back sports in slow-mo for analysis.

If anyone has some input on this search or recommendations of other suitable equipment that I can put together for UNDER $1000 (and it has to be under that cause I'm getting screamed at enough for the $1000 price tag ) I would appreciate it!
For under $1,000 you are looking at less than 5 or 6 fps burst being high. You might be able to find some fast used glass for under $1,000 but it won't come with a camera.
What are your goals for shooting sports photography? The answers to your questions depend greatly on if you're doing this as a hobby or trying to make money off of it.
I'm doing this as a hobby. Just getting into it.

The Sony has a 12fps rate and the Nikon has a 10fps rate and I can get both those new with the lenses indicated for under $1000, so I don't think I'm being unrealistic. Unless I'm missing something.
You should be able to easily get a handgun, ski mask and gas money for the get away car for under $1000

Thats the only way youll get what your asking for for under $1000
I'm doing this as a hobby. Just getting into it.

The Sony has a 12fps rate and the Nikon has a 10fps rate and I can get both those new with the lenses indicated for under $1000, so I don't think I'm being unrealistic. Unless I'm missing something.

Yes after the body your not going to be able to get a decent lens that will focus fast enough for sports.
If you get lucky you might be able to find the canon 300mm f4 Non-Is version for around $700. They are tough to find but you can get reasonable prices on them. Try to pair that with a 30d for around $325 and you have quite the set up. But before you search, you need to know it will be tough to find a 300mm f4 non-is.

Good Luck
Nikon d90 and a 300mm f/4. Problem solved.
The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 EX HSM lens that gw2424 mentioned is a VERY HANDY lens for daylight sports. I own one...if the lens in question works well on a Canon 30D body, YES, I would say that would be a fine daylight sports camera/lens combo. I've shot baseball,softball,and track and field with the Sigma 100-300 f/4 EX HSM lens, and it's a super-handy range to have!!! The ZOOM feature is what makes it so much handier than a 300/4 prime, which I also have...and it's NOT that heavy of a lens. It looks a bit large, but it really does balance well, and it's got easy-to-work controls. It's a good compromise between a 70-200/2.8 and a 70-200/2.8 + TC 1.4x converter...the Sigma zoom is optically better I think than 'most' 70-200 + 1.4x zoom combos, and the reach advantage is very real...

A lot of times when shooting sports you'll find that your 300mm prime is not an asset--but somewhat of a liability. Having a decent zoom lens can really,really make life easier when you are positioned at "X" location.
FWIW - I shot outdoor action sports for pay, and hardly ever used burst mode. Part of the skill set in doing action sports photography is anticipating the action.

A 300 mm will require you to scurry up and down the sidelines if you want to avoid doing a lot of cropping post process to maintain subject image scale.

Sony SLT-A57 In-Depth Review: Digital Photography Review - Explore the issues related to high FPS rates and electronic viewfinder display lag.

Conclusion - Pros

  • Very good Raw file output up through ISO 6400
  • Dynamic range at the top of its class
  • High magnification EVF with comprehensive information display
  • Manual focus 'Peaking' option for both stills and video modes
  • 10fps shooting in full resolution mode
  • Class-leading 1080/60p video resolution with manual exposure control
  • Useful function menu provides access to shooting parameters
  • Two customizeable buttons (AEL and ISO) with wide range of options
  • Fully articulated rear LCD for flexible viewing options
  • Good-sized image buffer and improved write times (compared to A55)
  • Fast and responsive operation
  • Form factor and body design matches the higher-spec'd A65
  • Eye sensor for switching between EVF and rear LCD
  • High capacity battery
  • Optional live view exposure simulation
Conclusion - Cons
  • Mediocre JPEG processing with mushy detail and visible artifacts
  • LCD viewfinder (vs OLED panel in other Sony models)
  • AF not compatible with manual exposure control in video mode
  • No live view in 8 or 10 fps continuous shooting modes makes accurate panning very difficult
  • Counter-intuitive setting of aperture in manual mode
  • Awkward to navigate between stills and movie playback modes
  • Main menu system is tedious to navigate
  • Clear Image Zoom offers no IQ benefits over post-capture upsampling
Burst mode to catch action is a myth and pure luck, things move so fast that even at 12fps you miss the action with poor timing. A reference I like to use to illustrate this is a highschool fastball thrown at 60mph travels 88.5 feet in a second.... even at 12fps that ball is moving over 7 feet feet between shots.

You need to up your budget a bit though, take a look at some of the older used Canon and Nikon pro level models (built like tanks and there are lots out there with plenty of good use left in them) and you might be able to come in around 1800.00 with a 100-400 lens that will work for bright daylight sports shooting.

FWIW since I am a Canon shooter, if I had to pinch pennies to shoot outside sports I would be looking at a Canon 1DMKIIN and 70-200 2.8 (either Canon or third party).... the lens will let in plenty of light and the MKIIN has fast/accurate focusing and great quality all the way up to ISO 1600 with room to crop in tighter on images. Quality at higher ISO is useable with good technique and exposure.
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I have the Nikon version of that Tamron SP 70-300 and although it would "work" the focus is not the fastest and you are better of saving for a higher quality lens for sports.

Other than sports that's a great lens for the value
cash - I'd get the Sony. With a fast card, you can shoot 12fps all day. Check this out (not a video - shot with 12fps burst mode):

There are at least one or two good stills here - and, by the way, the A57's non-OLED viewfinder works fine. I shoot mirrorless, and you don't need an OLED to have a bright, clear EVF.

Here is a bundle with the A57 body, the 18-55mm kit lens, a 70-300mm Sony lens (not a Tamron) plus accessories for $819. (maybe that will keep you from getting screamed at ;))

Hope this is helpful,

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