Sports Dad needs DSLR to shoot sports action at night

dengebre

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Feb 19, 2017
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I am a newbie photographer looking for a digital camera to shoot sports action at night. My kids play softball (infield) and baseball (outfield), typically under the lights. It needs to have a good zoom and burst mode. I currently own a Sony DSC-H400 and it is not up to the task. Its “burst” mode seems like one shot per second and the viewfinder goes black between shots. Night shots are either fair resolution but blurred action, or sharper pictures that are too dark. I was hoping to keep the price under $700 but don’t know how realistic that is. Can anyone help a sports dad out?
 

gondo

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Just the lens will cost the entire $700. I like the pentax bodies for their quality and weather resistance.

For sports your looking for a zoom. Something like a 60-250mm would be ideal. 60mm allows you to get the entire field, and 250mm zooms in on the kids. 135mm isn't really much zoom and I'd prefer more like 250mm-300mm. When you get into 400-500mm it's a heavy lens requiring a tripod and not great for hand photos.

For the night aspect you want a fast lens with a large aperture. Cheaper lenses will be something like F3.5-6.5 for example. So when zoomed in at 250mm it's equivalent to F6.5. A more expensive zoom will have a fixed aperture like F4 across the entire range. F4 vs 6.5 makes a big difference at night and lets in way more light.

Pentax has a 60-250mm F4 that is weather resistant for about $1200. Canon has a 70-200mm F4 for $600. There is plenty available. A $1200 lens will have better image stabilization and autofocus.

Tamron makes a 70-200mm F2.8 in Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax mounts for $750. The F2.8 is awesome and would give you an intro into night photography without breaking the bank. But buyer beware, autofocus and tracking can be a problem with lower prices optics.

Check out bhphotovideo.com to see what's available and pricing.


 

kanewolf

Splendid
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I definitely agree that 135mm isn't a lot of zoom, but for lower cost and F2.8 it can be as good as you can get. Additional "zoom" can be done by cropping a high MP camera depending on the output media.
 

gondo

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That's some good advice. Many people don't take into account the value of post processing and photoshop. A good 135mm F2.8 with great quality is better than a subpar 250mm. You can just crop the 135mm shot and get better results.

There is no denying the value of quality optics and there is no shame in spending money on quality lenses that can last 30+years through many camera bodies. Plus learning to clean up your photos in photoshop can do wonders, especially for night photopgraphy.

http://www.davemorrowphotography.com/ is a fantastic site from a guy that teaches the tricks for landscape and sky night photography. Not quite sports, but more tripod based photography but he's a great teacher for setting up for night shots. He also shows all the tricks for using photoshop and creating great shots afterwards using photoshop. He can take a so so picture and turn it into something National Geographic would be proud to publish.

I'll stress though the trick is to have a large aperature for night. An F2.8 would be ideal for a zoom. If that means only a 135mm then so be it. It'll give you great shots. Save up for that dream zoom if you can't afford it now. But don't compromise and get an F7 or something. It's no good for night. Sports photography means quick photos without a tripod. You need super fast shutter speeds to capture the action, so there is no time to gather light. You need a large aperature or you're forced to increase the ISO to levels that will give grainy pictures. Even something better than F2 in a fixed lense might be suitable rather than a zoom.
 
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