Advice on investing my next $1000
/forum/topic/1171719/0

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each
Registered: Oct 26, 2012
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

I'm fairly new to photography but have some basic understanding of most of the concepts. I currently own a D7000 with the kit 18-105mm lens and the 35mm 1.8G. After getting terribly blurry picture of my daughter's (6 yrs old) gymnastics event with the slow kit lens, I realized that I need "more". The more i thought about potential low light issues the more scenarios i thought of. More gymnastics, upcoming school plays that my kids may be in, etc. Some of these may allow flash but some may not.

After a lot of reading I settled on a Sigma 50-150mm f2.8 OS. I liked the flexibility that I got with the varying focal length since I may be sitting at variable distances depending on the venue. Additionally, if I choose to capture a bit of video I have some zoom/pan options without moving. Then I read more. I keep reading that 2.8 is often not fast enough for gymnastics and those folks recommend fast primes. I'd loose the zoom flexibility and have to deal with really narrow depth of fields but at least I could get the shot. I put the Sigma purchase on hold.

Then I started thinking flash. Maybe I upgrade my SB-400 to something more powerful and couple that with an 85mm 1.8g. When I could use the flash, I'd use my kit lens with flash and when I can't I'd use the 85mm or 35mm primes depending on my distance from the action (maybe pick up the 50mm 1.8 too).

Ok, big wall of text later, while I'm betting I won't see a consensus, I'm looking to more experienced folks to give me their recommendations. What say you? How should I spend my next $1000?



mshi
Registered: Dec 13, 2010
Total Posts: 3317
Country: United States

Photography means drawing with light. Buying lighting is the Kosher way to go.



each
Registered: Oct 26, 2012
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

mshi wrote:
Photography means drawing with light. Buying lighting is the Kosher way to go.


I don't anticipate growing to off camera flashes (I'm just a dad looking to get good pictures of his kids). Given that, does the recommendation remain the same?



DTOB
Registered: Oct 07, 2010
Total Posts: 1359
Country: Canada

If you aren't doing off-camera, then upgrading the flash will allow you to bounce instead of firing straight on.

Still, I'd say a 70-200 or some sort would be best given your situation. The VR1 is just above your $1000 budget, the VR2 is well above. There is also the 80-200, a Sigma version of the 70-200 and the new Tamron worth considering.



hijazist
Registered: Sep 14, 2012
Total Posts: 1945
Country: United States

If you only need the flash for this kind of shooting then you don't need a $400+ flash. I have a YN465 I bought for $40 and it even has TTL, an SB600 is also a great option and goes around $150. How big is the gym? Where would you be standing? Can you use a mono/tri?

The 85 1.8 and a flash is a great option paired with the D7000 and especially that you have a 35 for wider shots. When I used to shoot indoor I used a 80-200 2.8 to have more reach and better control over composition but IMO the 85 1.8 is a better option and I wish I had it then.

Good luck



James R
Registered: Feb 25, 2006
Total Posts: 5108
Country: United States

Welcome "each"

On those blurry pics, what shutter speed, ISO, and f/stop were you using? Don't assume the problem was light. It could just as well be shutter speed or poor shooting techniques.



ckcarr
Registered: Dec 02, 2006
Total Posts: 5578
Country: United States

Use auto ISO for those indoor venues. You will be pleasantly surprised. Aperture or shutter priority.
More expert photographers can give you specifics although I would use a fast shutter speed of whatever you can get away with 1/800 and or an aperture of f/2.8 - f/4.0 Yes it's fast enough. Also get a vr (or equivalent) lens if you really need one.



Adam Bavier
Registered: Aug 05, 2009
Total Posts: 180
Country: United States

To stop the action you are going to need a fast enough shutter-speed.

To get the fast enough shutter-speed you'll need to find an appropriate combination of aperture and ISO to get you there. Have you tried adjusting the ISO with the fastest aperture of your 18-105mm? Your gymnasium might have enough light that you could use a reasonable enough ISO for the photo to look good at normal sizes.

The f/2.8 and f/1.8 and f/1.4 lenses will allow you to use a lower ISO and have less noise in the photo.



each
Registered: Oct 26, 2012
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

Thanks for all the comments thus far. Here are the answers to the comments/questions above:

- The gym is pretty big as it contains all the gymnastic stations. I'm between 40 and 150 feet away from my daughter at any given time. I don't think they mentioned anything about not using a flash but it's my understanding that's a common requirement at many gymnastics events. I could use a mono/tri but the thing I'm trying to solve deals more with subject motion blur.

- On the blurry pics I was using 2000 ISO shooting aperture priority with a setting of f5.6 (widest I can go on the 18-105mm kit lens) which resulted in a 1/40 shutter speed. The stationary subjects are reasonably sharp so, while I can definitely improve my technique, the subject motion blur is the main issue I'm trying to solve.

Now that I think of it, I'm guessing I can forecast how well the 2.8 lens would do. The 2.8 lens is two stops faster which allows me to double my shutter speed for each stop (right?). So at ISO 2000 and f2.8 I would have had a 1/160 shutter speed. If I bump the ISO to 3200 I've (almost) improved by another stop so I'm at 1/320 or so which _seems_ fast enough.

Can someone confirm that logic?



binary visions
Registered: Dec 28, 2004
Total Posts: 2249
Country: United States

each wrote:

Can someone confirm that logic?


All exactly right. Although ISO 3200 vs 2000 is a lot closer to 1.5x than it is to 2x

Whether 1/250th or whatever will be enough is going to depend on the type of movements they're doing... but it'll be sure as heck better than 1/40th.



Two23
Registered: Oct 28, 2009
Total Posts: 3392
Country: United States

mshi wrote:
Photography means drawing with light. Buying lighting is the Kosher way to go.



+1. Most beginners don't realize the value of a good flash. A used SB-900 would do what you want. If you can't use flash, then an f2.8 zoom is the best option. I would save up for either a used Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR-1 or try the Sigma 50-150mm f2.8. The longest single focal lens that gives you any real advantage over the f2.8 zoom is the Sigma 85mm f1.4, but I'm doubting 85mm will be long enough. I'm thinking that for fast movement you will want at least 1/500s. Otherwise, catching the action at a momentary pause (such as when someone is at the top and is about to start falling back down) will let 1/250s just fine.


Kent in SD



each
Registered: Oct 26, 2012
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

Thanks for all the input. It sound like the 2.8 zoom now and a flash upgrade next is the general consensus. I may still struggle to get to 1/500 shutter speed but I think the flexibility of the zoom outweighs the missed shot or two. Thanks again for everyone's input.



DigMeTX
Registered: Nov 26, 2010
Total Posts: 1482
Country: United States

mshi wrote:
Photography means drawing with light. Buying lighting is the Kosher way to go.


What do you mean by this comment? Do you mean that you disapprove of drawing with a light that is purchased?
brad



pbraymond
Registered: Oct 23, 2009
Total Posts: 1080
Country: United States

I would second the pick of the nikon 70-200vr1 or nikon 80-200AFS if you can get it at your budget, your pick of the sigma 50-150 seems reasonable as well. If you are happy with the reach of your 18-105, then the 85 f1.4 or 1.8's would give your more light, but at even shallower DOF (OK if action is parallel to sensor plane, tricky if it's not parallel). If f2.8 is adequate, the best reach for the buck is the nikon 180AF, though I suspect it may be too tight in some instances. I've seen them go for around $300-$400 here on the B&S board.

With respect to using flash, it has merits, but I would imagine it could make for a lot of very dark backgrounds, which would be a matter of preference. If you boost ISO high enough for the background to retain some (OOF) details, you may get ambient light blurring on the main subject.



BenV
Registered: Jan 01, 2008
Total Posts: 7835
Country: United States

I'd look into the new Tamron 70-200, supposedly its superb. Or maybe a fast prime telephoto, like the sigma 85, or even the new Nikon 85 1.8



Frank_Maiello
Registered: Jun 20, 2012
Total Posts: 226
Country: United States

each wrote:
Thanks for all the input. It sound like the 2.8 zoom now and a flash upgrade next is the general consensus. I may still struggle to get to 1/500 shutter speed but I think the flexibility of the zoom outweighs the missed shot or two. Thanks again for everyone's input.


I'll third the used Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRI recommendation (highly), but would avoid messing with flash until you have more experience. Concentrate on the the fundamentals, limit your variables, and work from there until you're comfortable enough to complicate matters. Flash can do awesome things and I highly recommend learning about off-camera techniques if you want to take excellent portraits (another good application for the 70-200), but it's also very easy to create boring, unflattering light with a naked strobe on the camera.



Chestnut
Registered: Feb 02, 2005
Total Posts: 693
Country: United States

I agree with all the advices to get faster lens rather than flash - I have photographed some gymnastics, and most of the time, flash is NOT allowed. This has to do with the safety of the athletes (the ones you're photographing as well as those you're not). Flash can be distracting and at times, harmful to athlete's vision if looked at directly. It's definitely a safety issue.

That said, you'd be surprised how much 2 stops can help (going from 5.6 to 2.8). Of course, more is better here, but then you struggle with focus speed and accuracy and thin DOF.

With the D7000, I wouldn't hesitate to use a 70-200/2.8 VR or equivalent. You may end up using higher ISO than you'd like to.. but at least the D7000 is good at keeping IQ reasonable. (much more so than film ever did!)

A lot of people still aren't satisfied with high ISO IQ in current offerings. Of course, anything can always be "better". But if you consider the quality we used to get from print film (think of those grainy 1600 films!), or even compare to a D200, we've come a VERY long way, and I don't think that 10 years ago, most people could have anticipated our current high ISO performance being actual reality this soon.

Sometimes, it's not all about the IQ, but actually capturing the moment! Especially to athletes, catching it just right, and seeing themselves in all the glory in a well made photo trumps our standard judgment of IQ any day. Heck, it could be a grainy black and white picture for all they care, as long as the capture was a good one!



James R
Registered: Feb 25, 2006
Total Posts: 5108
Country: United States

Each,

As a general rule, you should shoot indoor sports at 1.5 X the lens focal length. But, shooting at 2X is easier to compute and will give you better results. In your case, you should not be shooting below a speed of 200, unless you have crasy shooting skills.

Since you are documenting your children, I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's book on Understanding Exposure. It will help you make those captures better and, thereby, more enjoyable. And it is the cheapest thing you can do to improve your photography, much cheaper than a lens or flash.
http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exposure-Photographs-Digital-Updated/dp/0817463003



each
Registered: Oct 26, 2012
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

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.



pbraymond
Registered: Oct 23, 2009
Total Posts: 1080
Country: United States

each wrote:
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.


Bravo, sometimes I need a dose of "have to stop somewhere". Enjoy the extra 2 stops.



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