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| p.2 #8 · Advice on investing my next $1000 |
Thanks again for all the feedback. Lot's of great responses. It's astonishing how much it costs to do it right. Ignorance sure was blissful!
Regarding all the recommendations for a Nikon 70-200mm VR1, that was my initial plan (I had a WTB posting on the Buy Sell forum) but the price is a little out of range. I really don't want to go beyond $1000. Since I'm on DX, the Sigma 50-150mm will result in a 75-225mm equivalent. I'm afraid the 70-200mm would be too long on the short end once the crop factor is added. I know the IQ and focus speed on the Nikon lens will probably be better but I have to stop somewhere and that somewhere for me is $1000.
I started in your shoes...so here is just another amateur dad's perspective/experience (who has struggled with similar circumstances)....buyer beware.
3+years ago I bought my very first DSLR camera (refurbed D60...still have it) and both of the lenses you have. I used the 18-105 to shoot one of my daughter's after school theater shows in a room that doubles as the school cafeteria. Similar to your gymnastics event, it turned out to be a very unsatisfying experience. I sat probably 30-40 feet from the stage and the 18-105mm just didn't cut it from a reach or aperture perspective. Little did I know that $500 worth of gear didn't get you very far if you are trying to shoot non-stationary targets in poorly lit rooms.
6mos later, said daughter is cast in a show which was performed in a real auditorium....a real dark auditorium with real theater lighting. Being the "frugal" type (my wife says "cheap") ...I borrowed a 70-200 from a photographer friend (it was either a Sigma or Tamron....can't remember, but it did have AFS, just no stabilization)...and I gleefully shot the show at f/2.8 the whole night. Nearly all of them at 1600 ISO (D60 doesn't go any higher), and I think the fastest SS I got was around 1/125 and that was only with all of the stage lights lit up...most of them were around 1/80. Lots of blurry finger tips, and lots of 1600 ISO noise (thank goodness for PP noise reduction). But I managed to get enough shots that I still felt like it light years ahead of my experience in the school cafeteria. key learnings: good technique is a must and fast glass is your friend (so is spot metering, but that's a theater thing, not a gymnastics thing).
Well, I didn't want to be the constantly borrowing from said friend...so after I convinced myself that my daughter wasn't going to quit theater, I made the decision to get my own glass. I went on a mission to get a bargain 70-200....but I'll be honest ...frugality really got in the way because I wanted the Nikon 70-200 (the one I borrowed had trouble hunting for focus in the low light several times) and I also wanted the VR since monopods aren't allowed in this particular auditorium. But after nearly 12 months I quit bargain hunting and finally bit the bullet ...paid market rate for a VR1. A big financial commitment (at least for me)...but I justified it to myself by crossing my fingers and whispering to myself three times...."glass holds resale a lot better than cameras" just in case said daughter had outfoxed me and did decide to quit...which said daughter has been known to do.....
But you already have a camera that's much better than mine...so you can probably shot at least 2 stops faster than I do with same/better IQ. I will also say that if you can get close and they will let you use a flash....then I really like the suggestion to add more light via flash. More light equals better pictures. It's an option that also appeals to the "frugal" side of me. Unfortunately, shooting with flash is really not an option for theater (unless you can shoot the dress rehearsal....and even then it's not exactly encouraged) So if theater is in your future, consider those caveats as well. If flash isn't a viable option right now...then you're likely looking at the choice between a new zoom or a new prime (or both!).
I'm guessing that you may need much faster shutter speeds for gymnastics than I can get away with for theater (well, maybe not now if she's only 6....but at some point, gymnasts move much faster than thespians). So primes may make a lot of sense here....particularly if you are able to walk around the gym (but watch out for really skinny DOFs at those short subject distances). But if you can't move around or don't like framing with your feet, then maybe consider the zoom.
As far as the 70-200 being "too long on the short end". I can tell you that I try to sit in the same seat as much as possible at the theater and it's about 50ft the the front of the stage. I tend to shoot at 200mm almost exclusively (and this is on DX) ... but I'm going for shots from the waist/shoulders up. I can easily get the entire body in the frame if I back off to 70mm. You may want to get the entire body and maybe even the gym equipment, so the 50-150 may make sense....but try it on your 18-105 and see what you think. I guess what I'm trying to say is be careful "going too short on the long end".
You are also smart to consider what you'll want/need to shoot a couple of years down the road when she's 8 or 10.
Good luck with your choices.....whatever you do, she's going to make it worth it.