The right lens for gymnastics
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Jcaron5
Registered: Oct 09, 2011
Total Posts: 15
Country: United States

Both of my daughters, ages 5 and 8, are now competing in gymnastics events. I have been shooting with a canon 20D that I have owned for too long now along with a 70-200mm F4 with IS. Since gymnastics events have a "no flash photography" rule I am finding I can't freeze the action as I want to (I am not surprised). So, I am looking for another lens that is better in low(ish) light with action. The 70-200.. 2.8 is a little out of my price range at the moment so I am considering the 135 F2. I can afford the $750- 900 range. If anyone can provide some input I would greatly appreciate it. I am just a hobbyist with only limited experience as most of my photography is simple candid shots of my daughters (where I can use a flash if needed).


Thank you in advance for any input.

Joe



ALEX88MAC
Registered: Nov 26, 2012
Total Posts: 45
Country: United States

should be able to find a used 70-200mm 2.8 non IS for around 1200



Rick VB
Registered: Oct 04, 2006
Total Posts: 231
Country: United States

Joe, I am not a professional but I sold the 70-200 f/4L a few months back and picked up a used 200 f/2.8L II for just over $700. It was an EX+ grade at KEH and looks like new. If you don't mind the prime I think you would really love this lens. I already used it indoors a couple of times shooting volleyball and was very pleased with the results.



Russ Isabella
Registered: Jan 30, 2005
Total Posts: 9914
Country: United States

Depends somewhat on how close you can get. The Canon 85 f/1.8 is a fantastic lens for gymnastics and will give you an extra 1 and 1/3 stop of shutter speed over the f/2.8 lenses, which is HUGE if you're having trouble stopping the action. Plus, the 85 is FAST and quite inexpensive relative to the zooms or even the 135 f/2. I will take a prime over a zoom every time when shooting gymnastics (though the convenience of the zoom is sooooooo tempting....). I also have used a 50 f/1.4 and 35 f/1.4L with great results.



Paulthelefty
Registered: Feb 27, 2012
Total Posts: 548
Country: United States

There is a non-IS 70-200 f/2.8 on the buy sell board right now for $999

That would be a great way to go...

Paul



John P Mulgrew
Registered: Dec 10, 2005
Total Posts: 4493
Country: United States

Russ is right with the 85 1.8, IQ would probably be better with your 20D then a f/2.8 would be depending on the lighting or course.



Jcaron5
Registered: Oct 09, 2011
Total Posts: 15
Country: United States

Thank you all for the input!
I limited my price range for lenses because I am tentatively in the market for a new body also. It seems the older my duaghters get the more photos I take, many of them priceless to me so I may as well be properly equipped

I may start by renting each of the above recommendations and see if I can identify any issues with one vs the other. I had not considered the 85mm so that will be an interesting option, plus I can use it for portraits!

Again, a big thank you for all of the replies!



dankopp
Registered: Jan 07, 2010
Total Posts: 110
Country: United States

+1 for the 85. In addition to using it for sports, it's fun to play around with the shallow depth of field for portraits, flowers, etc. Great lens for the money.



Russ Isabella
Registered: Jan 30, 2005
Total Posts: 9914
Country: United States

I want to reiterate that while the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens has much to offer and should be in the bag of every Canon shooter who can afford it, for your stated purposes, there are likely to be circumstances where f/2.8 will not give you what you need, especially with a 20D, where you also are ISO limited. (If indeed you upgrade your camera body, you will gain more ISO leeway.) The fact it's a great lens is not enough to put it at the top of the list for your purposes.



Hammy
Registered: May 21, 2002
Total Posts: 2843
Country: temp

Joe,

Listen to Russ on this one! He has been shooting gymnastics probably longer than I have, but my business was started over 10 years ago with the EXACT same question that you have posted here!

My journey started when my oldest daughter (who turned 18 today!) started 'gymnastics' classes when she was less than 2 years old. She started competing at age 6 (started the season at 5, I think).

I 'needed' a lens/camera system to capture her. I was shooting Minolta film bodies at the time. I looked at the Minolta zoom: 80-200/2.8 I think and saw that it was several hundred dollars ($600) - for which my purchasing department (wife) was not in favor of... since I had "just bought" that fancy camera (7 years ago) - so why was it not good enough?

Light.

As you know, gymnastics no flash policy puts you into the realm of cave lighting, yet trying to get stop action. That's where I was, and my f/3.5 zoom wasn't going to cut it.

The more I looked around, all the gymnastics photographers talked about the 200/1.8 lens that was given to mortals from Hyperion But $4-5000!!! Who would pay that kind of money for a piece of glass!!

So I kept looking and found a Tamron 80-200/2.8 for Minolta at like $200. And I got what I expected/deserved: about 1 in 4 shots in focus... on film!

Back to the drawing board (internet)...
200/1.8
200/1.8
200/1.8

Well, I finally found one on ebay for $2500 - pristine condition, from a user who had used it less than half a dozen times and it was too much for him to handle. So I ended up buying it.

Wait... I shoot with a Minolta body!

On a trip to NYC, I stopped in B&H and held a 1V in my hands with price quote... but film at 10fps ends up being about $5 per SECOND of developing! {Sigh} I went home empty handed as there was talk about a sports capable digital camera from Canon (D30 was out at the time), but soon after ordered an EOS3 (film) and 85/1.8 to have another option of lens.

So I started her first season with the EOS3 and 200/1.8 - where I first learned about light cycling. In the mean time, I put my name on a wait list for the recently anounced 1D

Well, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get an email saying that my 1D has shipped and my credit card charged! $5500

Remember that same purchasing department that didn't approve $600...
Imagine where I was when she realized that I had spent nearly $10,000 on camera gear to this point.... just to take photos of our daughter's gymnastics!

Her response was..."Well, you'd better figure out a way for that to pay for itself!"
Which ended up next year with me getting two contracts for over 10,000 kids and spending ALOT more money to start our business.

All this to say... spend your money on glass. That 200/1.8 is so beloved, my wife was so jealous of me using it so much, she ended up buying another one a few years later! It is still our most used lens - for just about anything we shoot, yet I have lenses from 10mm-2000mm!

The best value lens is probably the 135/2 - VERY sharp and good range.
The cheapest (for your range) is easily the 85/1.8
But if you start off with the 200/1.8 (or newer 200/2), then I promise you, spending money on the 'cheaper' primes is so much easier once you've bagged the BIG ONE first!

Honestly, ALL of those lenses should be in your bag for gymnastics...eventually. You'll find yourself at some meets reaching across the gym to get a bars routine, yet right up next to the mat for floor, where even a 50/1.4 would be nice.

But as Russ said, f/2.8 rarely is enough to cut it in most gyms. First of all for the amount of light to get the shutter speed up. If/when you do end up getting a new body where you can push ISO, then it would help your shutter. But in the mean time and even with generous ISO, primes give you and the AF sensor more light to work with as well as so much more background bokeh that makes your gymnasts stand out from the clutter of tight gyms.

Again, start with glass - it will last you through many generations of bodies!



epphoto
Registered: Apr 24, 2005
Total Posts: 5129
Country: United States

Try to find an used Canon 135mm F/2.0 it will work the best



NCAndy
Registered: Jan 13, 2006
Total Posts: 832
Country: United States

I shoot gymnastics at the JO level with my daughter's team. Most of the gyms I have to shoot in are quite dark. Most likely the 20D will not allow an ISO high enough to get a shutter speed that freezes the action. I use a 5D3, had used a 5D2 or a 7D in the past. I'm often at 5000 ISO or higher. My most used lens is the 135L usually wide open. Fast glass is an absolute must. There are a few venues where I can get away with using a 2.8 zoom but they are mostly at larger college arenas.



dunderwood
Registered: Jul 29, 2009
Total Posts: 119
Country: United States

Think about a 85 f/1.8 and a used 50D. You can go up another stop or two on ISO (I felt comfortable shooting 1600 on my old 50D), and you can crop a bit more heavily thanks to the newer sensor.



SteveP
Registered: Oct 14, 2003
Total Posts: 374
Country: N/A

An 85mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/2 are both great lenses. Which would work best for you depends, IMO, entirely on how close you can get and how much freedom you have to move around during an event.



lite25e
Registered: Jun 29, 2004
Total Posts: 372
Country: United States

Others here definitely have more experience than I do, but I've been shooting my daughter and her gymnastics teammates for the last 3 or 4 years, so I'll off my input based on my experience. More than any other sport, gymnastics is where you will benefit from more expensive/better equipment. Especially because lenses hold their value so well, I would definitely recommend buying (hopefully used) and then selling if/when you don't need it anymore. A lot cheaper than renting for any period of time, and these lenses really hold their value.

I bought a used 100-400mm about 6 years ago, when my kids were playing soccer, It was fantastic for my needs, but I no longer needed it since none of my kids are now playing any sports on such large fields. I sold it last year for the same price I paid for it. I have a 50mm f1.2 that I have been using for indoor basketball (where I can stand right on the sidelines) for the last 3 or so years. I suspect this will be my last basketball season, and I'll then sell it, perhaps losing a few hundreds dollars or less.

Anyway, for gymnastics, I find that the lighting for the kids' competitions is terrible. The professionals that sell their photos that some of the competitions are using 1D IVs or 5D2/3s and 70-200F2.8s, and when I've looked at their images online, they are usually shooting ISO of 3200 or 6400 and F2.8. They typically know which shots they can get at around 1/250 of a second somewhat clearly, but there is definitely a lot of action that would be very blurry at that speed. I admit, however, that I don't think I've ever captured a really good vault picture, despite the ISO and speed. In my view, it just doesn't lend itself to good pictures.

I have been using a 1D IV and the 85mm F1.8 for the last few years, with significant success. My daughter is now competing at biggest gyms, so I bought the 135mm F2 for this season, which I don't think will be too long from where I will try to sit. Just as much as with the lens, I think you need a body with superior high ISO abilities. How about a used 1D III or 1D IV?

Best of luck,
Dan



dhphoto
Registered: Feb 16, 2003
Total Posts: 9406
Country: United Kingdom

I would agree with those that suggested the 85mm f1.8 and 135L as this is one of those situations where IS won't help at all.

So my suggestion is the forgotten hero right between the two, the excellent value and underrated 100mm f2.



mikegrados
Registered: Jan 13, 2011
Total Posts: 165
Country: United States

I think this is a situation where clean high-ISO body is needed moreso than faster glass. The darkness of the gym, and the need to freeze action with a high shutter speed...I don't think a couple stops gained by going f4 to f2.8 in the 70-200, or f2.0 on a 135 will provide enough of a gain.



NCAndy
Registered: Jan 13, 2006
Total Posts: 832
Country: United States

lite25e wrote:
Others here definitely have more experience than I do, but I've been shooting my daughter and her gymnastics teammates for the last 3 or 4 years, so I'll off my input based on my experience. More than any other sport, gymnastics is where you will benefit from more expensive/better equipment. Especially because lenses hold their value so well, I would definitely recommend buying (hopefully used) and then selling if/when you don't need it anymore. A lot cheaper than renting for any period of time, and these lenses really hold their value.

I bought a used 100-400mm about 6 years ago, when my kids were playing soccer, It was fantastic for my needs, but I no longer needed it since none of my kids are now playing any sports on such large fields. I sold it last year for the same price I paid for it. I have a 50mm f1.2 that I have been using for indoor basketball (where I can stand right on the sidelines) for the last 3 or so years. I suspect this will be my last basketball season, and I'll then sell it, perhaps losing a few hundreds dollars or less.

Anyway, for gymnastics, I find that the lighting for the kids' competitions is terrible. The professionals that sell their photos that some of the competitions are using 1D IVs or 5D2/3s and 70-200F2.8s, and when I've looked at their images online, they are usually shooting ISO of 3200 or 6400 and F2.8. They typically know which shots they can get at around 1/250 of a second somewhat clearly, but there is definitely a lot of action that would be very blurry at that speed. I admit, however, that I don't think I've ever captured a really good vault picture, despite the ISO and speed. In my view, it just doesn't lend itself to good pictures.

I have been using a 1D IV and the 85mm F1.8 for the last few years, with significant success. My daughter is now competing at biggest gyms, so I bought the 135mm F2 for this season, which I don't think will be too long from where I will try to sit. Just as much as with the lens, I think you need a body with superior high ISO abilities. How about a used 1D III or 1D IV?

Best of luck,
Dan

Here's a photo of my daughter on vault this weekend using a 5D3 and 135L. You can get good vault pictures but positioning and timing are paramount. (photo removed after time)



jerbear00
Registered: Jan 17, 2011
Total Posts: 665
Country: N/A

Doubt you can go wrong with the 135L if you don't need zoom flexibility. The other advice is good too. 1diii is a great camera to give you ISO performance. I know your budget is tight but they sell around 1300 here and if you hold out for a beat up one I suspect you could grab one for close to 1k. They are built like a tank too. The 200 f2.8 v2 is a nice cheap one too. Set you back around 500-600 used



convergent
Registered: Jan 16, 2005
Total Posts: 626
Country: United States

With your 20D, I would completely skip the 70-200... f/2.8 will not be enough for the ISO range the 20D can handle. I agree with the 85 1.8 and 135 2 recommendations. If you are looking to improve the body, I'd look at a used 50D as its near identical in build and handling to your 20D, but improved in every way. I sold mine, in mint condition, to a guy upgrading from a 20D and I think we ended up at $475. If you can go up to around $1000 on the body, the 7D used... if you can go to a few hundred more, the 1D3 maybe, but probably better to buy glass before going that far on bodies. I shot my 50D along side the 1D3 and it was able to perform acceptable to me up to ISO3200, which is way beyond what you can do on the 20D. At f/2 on those two recommended lenses, you should be able to vastly improve what you are getting now.

Going up from there starts to get very expensive, both for lenses as well as bodies.



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