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September 23, 2011 12:57 PM   Subscribe

DSLR Filter- Narrowed my choices down, need an outside opinion on a couple details.

After reading the various MF threads and taking notes, I'm able to narrow down my question to a much finer point. This thread in particular helped.

I am a sports/news videographer and reporter for my local TV News station who also houses the college newspaper. They provide me with video equipment but have absolutely no DSLR's for me to use and quite often I'm the only one on scene or at an event. This means no stills for the news website or for the paper. I'm not entirely ignorant of the art of framing, lighting, etc so I'm going to buy a DSLR and start using it at sports games and the other random events/festivals/what-have-you that I get assigned to. Because I'm paying for it myself I have a relatively crappy budget to work within.

I can afford a used Canon 1D Mark II (it comes with an OK lens, I can save up for a nice piece of glass) and I know it is awesome for sports, but at 8mp perhaps not so awesome for the other half of my work, especially if it's going to be blown up past 8x10. On the other hand I thought perhaps a compromise from the 8/fps of the mark II to the 5/fps on the Canon EOS 20D would lend itself to allowing me more 'all around' shooting. But I've been advised that at this point, even Canon's cheapest new gear is beyond the 20D. Finally, the Nikon D3100 seems to have great reviews, good ISO options for the lower lighting part of my job, good for the outdoor events I'm always going to and also fits nicely into my budget. The one i spotted comes with an AF-S 18-55mm VR Zoom Lens for $400.

So my question is this: I need to shoot sports in the afternoons/evenings (Domed football to regular soccer fields) and sunny, all day outdoor events alike (not to mention taking it with me hiking/vacationing.) I have a budget of $600 and could eventually afford a really nice lens. Which body & acceptable lens should I be looking for that can accomplish great shots in both of these settings? Is the Mark II only good for half of my requirements? Is the D3100 fast enough for sports? I'm truly looking to be better at my job and get those great shots that I'm missing out on. (I taped Wayne Newton singing Happy Birthday to Arizona last weekend, would have loved to been able to do more than film a wide shot of him and the crowd.)

Thanks for your time.
posted by MansRiot to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The big problem is going to be the lens more than the body. To shoot indoor or low-light sports action shots you need a fast telephoto like a 400mm f/2.8 (or a 200mm f/2 for indoor volleyball). Those kinds of lenses are phenomenally expensive, I'm afraid (i.e. several thousand dollars).

Many professional sports photographers take at least two cameras so that they don't have to swap lenses. That way they can use a long (e.g. 400mm or 600mm) telephoto when the action is far away and then quickly swap to a shorter lens when the action moves close.

I think something like a 180mm f/2.8 could be okay (the Nikon one is ~$800-$900), although you might have to move yourself around a lot in order to make up for the loss in telephoto capability. Definitely invest in a good monopod in any case.

Depending on how frequently you get these assignments, lens rental might be another option. Is there a camera shop that rents lenses in your area? You can rent a lens many, many times for the cost of buying it, even if you also buy lens insurance.
posted by jedicus at 1:14 PM on September 23, 2011

Have you tried convincing the station that they need to purchase this stuff? Because if you're doing this work on assignment, it makes sense that they'd provide the equipment.
posted by The Michael The at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2011

fwiw...the nikon F mount has been around a decade or two longer than canon's lens mount...allowing you access to older/cheaper lenses...on the other hand, older lenses tend not to be as fast. i have a nikon d200 and i love it... 10MP and can shoot 7-8 fps. have been considering 'upgrading' to the d5100 because of its superior low light performance and 1080p video, but unfortunately neither it nor the d3100 have a built in focus motor, making half my lenses incompatible (well, manual focus only anyway). lenses with built in motors are a somewhat new tech and a bit on the pricey side (there are some exceptions where i've found it's the same price for a lens that has a built in motor...tamron or sigma...i forget). a good general suggestion: make your 'ideal lens collection' list first and tally it up, it might make more sense to spend a little more now to save a lot later.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2011

What is your budget in total? What kind of sports events will you be photographing?

Your camera body is going to be much less important than your lens selection. Canon and Nikon bodies are both excellent. Pentax, Sony, and Olympus are all fine, too.

I would stay away from entry-levels like the D3100. Better to get an earlier-generation semi-pro body, which will be more sturdily built and possibly have some weather sealing, as well as superior ergonomics.

Don't skip over older cameras just because they're old, either. The 20D's output is perfectly fine for most normal human beings.

Ask your company about buying you a camera. It's pretty silly that they have you doing this without any equipment.

Also, to clarify sexyrobot's point: Nikon's F mount has evolved piecemeal, whereas Canon's EF mount appeared in one fell swoop. This means that old Nikon lenses will not work properly on D3100/D5100 cameras, whereas all EF lenses work on all EF mount cameras, and all EF-S lenses will work on 1.6x crop cameras from the 20D onward.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hate to be a pessimist, but I have to caution you: you're asking to spend entry-level money for professional output in a setting where the required lenses are particularly expensive because what you need is a large aperture telephoto for sports. $600 simply is not going to get you this kind of output. Forgetting the body, you won't find a lens alone (new or used) at that price that's going to do what you want.

I'd suggest talking to the station about pitching in the money for this, and couching it in terms of getting something like a 7D, which you could shoot HD video and get great stills out of. The construction isn't the most pro-grade but that and the Sigma 100-300 lens still seems to me to be the cheapest option for getting what you want, and unfortunately it's out of your range.
posted by drpynchon at 1:48 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're really talking about two entirely different ranges - one looking at a full frame camera from Canon with superb lens compatibility and two looking at Nikon's entry level cropped offering that isn't compatible with many older lenses if you want features like auto focus/etc.

If you're going to go Nikon, I'd start a D7000 (or 90 or 80), but it's not going to be cheap. The D7000 has some amount if weather protection, although a lot of that will be dependent on your lens.

It's hard to go wrong with Canon or Nikon, they both have superb product lines and lenses. I'd rent a model from each vendor that you're considering that fits in your price range for purchase and see what you are most comfortable with and that gives you the mix you're looking for.
posted by iamabot at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2011

OP Here:

The station feels that it has enough DSLR's for it's newspaper staff. They aren't cold about my asking and I do good work for them, so I think I can make a difference in mindset but it's going to take me proving the need to them, for them to provide more cameras/equipment overall. I should have been clearer up front that I go on assignments with a full video setup for reporting news (I'm a one man crew, both filming and interviewing) and that being a photog isn't actually apart of the job. I just personally feel that a lot is being missed by not having a photographer there and I want to get in there and take them myself, SO I'm hoping (perhaps naively) that I can find a setup that will take good enough shots to prove it's worth them taking it seriously, but that is also in my range of affordability. It's time for me to get a serious DSLR of my own so I'm trying to fit the semi-pro needs of my job into my personal use camera. There IS an equipment checkout on the college campus and I have a little bit of leeway with them to probably get a fast lens here and there. I've already contacted a manager who is onboard with it, with a couple of acceptable caveats. Which is why i'm focusing more on finding the right body than lens (which iamabot nailed.) If i can borrow the fancy lens then I can put more money on the body.

DrPynchon I don't see your post as pessimistic at all- it's exactly the problem. I have $600 to work with now, and a macbook pro I never use (i have a desktop and an ipad that get way more use.) So I can look forward to a much better lens after the sale of the macbook. So overall my budget is $1600.

As an aside, i shoot EVERYTHING manually. When I have borrowed my boss's personal DSLR i put that thing into manual, too. I am more comfortable, in fact, knowing that i set it myself and that nothing will change if my subject twitches. The studio camera's autofocus loses it's shit the second the subject shifts weight to another foot, so i set my depth focus then frame the shot- if the coach is a shifter, or if the player likes to talk and move around, I'll never have an out of focus shot.
posted by MansRiot at 2:22 PM on September 23, 2011

Find what lenses you can borrow and base your decision around that.

Are you going to be shooting sports events like an all-out sports photographer, or will you be shooting things that happen around these sporting events?
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:08 PM on September 23, 2011

OP Here:

Sticherbeast- When I do sports, it's for the highlights- I catch a goal, crowd reactions, a football snap, a soccer goalie blocking, etc. Once I have good video of the important highlights, i have a lot of downtime. (There is a separate crew there to film the game in it's entirety, for the folks at home.) This downtime is when I could be snapping pics of soccerball head-butt's and the like, as well as anything that might be going on around the event.
posted by MansRiot at 3:21 PM on September 23, 2011

Okay. Well, in that case I'd get a used semipro body of whatever's appropriate to the lenses you'll be borrowing.

Be aware that $1600 is how much appropriate lenses by themselves cost, at a general minimum.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:32 PM on September 23, 2011

I think you might need to re think your budget for what you want to photograph.

I would second the 7D suggestion as the ideal canon camera from your description. A used Canon Txi (x=1,2,3) might be adequate and is closer to your budget.

As was suggested above, your real problem is the glass. The "right" lens is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM, but this will set you back ~$2k

On a budget, a used 70-300 mm F4-5.6 can be found relatively cheaply on Ebay and will do a good job in the sun - not so much indoor or at night.

For the evening games I would go with a fast prime lens - 50mm F1.8 can be found for around $100 and will be fast enough, but unfortunately will not give you the range if you want tight shots from far away - a 100mm F2.8 is a reasonable compromise for distance and speed but might blow your budget (~$500 I think)...

BTW. canon is meant to release a new DSLR soon (although it's been soon for a long time) - this might add some cheaper used bodies to the mix...
posted by NoDef at 5:04 PM on September 23, 2011

Yeah, the 7D2 is supposed to be coming out sometime this year, or early next year, but that might not be soon enough for the OP for its presence to drive down the price of a 7D.

A used Canon 40D would be a fine budget substitute for a 7D. Personally, I'd pick a 40D over a Txi - sturdier construction, better handling, better weather sealing.


Frankly, if you need a budget, I would recommend going Pentax. Pentax is an underrated camera manufacturer: not only do they make solid cameras, but their cameras mount any K-mount glass. That's a decades-old library.

A used Pentax K-7 with a 50-200 4-5.6 lens would cost you about $1000-1100, and the whole thing would be weather resistant. You could also get a Pentax K-7 with a 50-135 2.8 for a little bit more.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:14 PM on September 23, 2011

Canon is releasing their new lineup of cameras with their new sensor very soon. This may cause the prices of their current cameras to come down somewhat if you can wait a little while.

Honestly, from what you have said, I don't know that it matters too much which body you get, since it seems like this is more for "demonstration" purposes, rather than a part of your job that you are being paid to do. A good photographer with a 20D will get much better shots than a bad one with a new 5D. The lens is what is going to make or break your shots 90% of the time. Since you have so much experience with video already, you probably have a good eye for photography, so I would say put as much money as you can into a good lens or two, and buy a camera body that is going to feel good in your hands and isn't too beat up.

Once you convince them that they should be providing you with a camera body, make sure they get you something which has good low light performance and fps. A 7D is the best all around reasonably priced news camera (at least on the canon side, I don't know about the other manufacturers), and while that is out of your current budget, you should push for that or an equivalent from your company.

As for lenses, I would avoid the canon 50mm 1.8 if you can. It has good image quality, but the build quality isn't great, and the auto focus isn't great, and those are the things which are going to get you when you are out in the field.
posted by markblasco at 6:51 PM on September 23, 2011

Here is my suggestion. The D3100 has a problem in that it doesn't have a front wheel which, in the Nikon universe, controls aperture (see here). My guess is that you have to go into the camera menu to change the aperture (or you have to hold down a button).

Now, none of the sounds particularly onerous, but among the attributes that separates the consumer market from the professional market is not having to hunt things in menus. The Canon S95 and the Canon G12 are very similar cameras (same sensor, etc.) but one is a premium product because of the analog controls.

The other problem with the D3100 is what was spelled out above...compatibility with older lenses. This doesn't mean that you need to go semi-pro, though. The D7000 is an enthusiast level camera and one of the highest rated cameras on DP Review, and you can buy it body-only. This is great because for all of the high marks that the Nikon kit lenses get, they just aren't up to snuff for the low-light uses.

So what will you do about lenses? Well renting is one option. Used is another.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2011

D7000 is a good recommendation. If you want to save a few hundred dollars, get a used D90 - it's the camera the D7000 replaced. The D90's sensor is not as nice as the D7000's sensor, but it's nicer than the 7D's sensor.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2011

I'd shop the other way around. Find the lens that you want and then find a body that it works well with that fits your budget. Many manufacturers keep the same or similar lens mounts over time, but not all do. The idea is that you keep lenses when you upgrade your body.
posted by dantodd at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2011

I just wanted to pop in and thank everyone for reading my question and for their input. I was fortunate enough to find a brand new D7000 and 50mm F/1.8g within my budget (which grew to $1500 after the initial post. After shipping I paid $1350 for the body and prime lens.) The telephoto lenses I can borrow from work and will not have to buy! Midwest Photo Exchange took great care of me.

posted by MansRiot at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2011

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