Nikon D5100 lens for youth sports?
September 3, 2012 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to rent a lens for my Nikon D5100 for the weekend to shoot a bunch of youth (8-10 year olds) soccer games. What would be the best lens at a reasonable price?

We've got a barrelful of soccer games this coming weekend at which I'm going to be taking a whole bunch of pictures. My current go-to lens is a Nikon AF-S 55-300 f/4.5-5.6. I love it to death, but am looking for something with a bit better reach. What lens is going to give me the best results at a reasonable rental price?

The games will all be played in full daylight (between 9am and 4pm), and I can get fairly close to the action (pretty much camped on the endline with a monopod)

I'm seriously considering going with the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG HSM OS ($69.75 for a four-day rental) and praying for a sunny day. I know it's not terribly fast, but the 8- to 10-year-old girls we're going to be watching aren't exactly world-class athletes with 4.4 speed.

The Nikon 200-400mm f/4 would be awesome, but at over $200 for a four-day rental, is a bit more than I want to spend.

posted by Doofus Magoo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
The sigma is basically the best zoom short of the Nikon you mention. Good copies can be very good, but unfortunately Sigma has a bit more sample variation than Nikon.
posted by zachawry at 5:36 AM on September 3, 2012

Best answer: I know you are looking for reach, but I've found that a higher quality, faster lens gets better soccer pictures. I'm not a Nikon guy, but on the Canon side something like a 70-200mm f/2.8 is what I'm suggesting. You will need to crop to get as close as a 300mm, but a lens like this (with the fast shutter speeds you will get in the sun) is easily sharp enough.

The other benefit of a faster lens in this case is the ability to use an extender (probably a minimal increase in rental cost). The above lens with a 2x extender gets you 140-400mm f/5.6.
posted by NoDef at 6:01 AM on September 3, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, cost being equal, get a shorter, faster mid-telephoto lens.

You'll get more light for a higher shutter speed to freeze the action, just as much depth separation, and the rental will be hopefully cheaper. You might spend all day at 200/2.8 and wishing you had a little more but those shots will be bright, crisp, and will pop. And they'll crop down nicely -- remember a 1/4 frame crop on your camera is 4 megapixels (twice 1080P) and is effectively 400mm and unless you're printing posters that will be enough data.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:43 AM on September 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks! So y'all would recommend, say, the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 ($105)?

There's also the Nikon 300mm f/4D ($50), but I think I'd find myself too limited by it... right?
posted by Doofus Magoo at 6:55 AM on September 3, 2012

Best answer: I would suggest sticking with what you know, or biting the bullet and renting the longer and faster Nikon lens.

Why? In my limited experience with DSLRs, I've noted that the Nikon Dxxxx cameras like light. They just don't look good in edge situations. In looking at the sample pictures on Nikon's site and on Flickr, it just seemed like unless you had full daylight or the option of a long exposure, the images just looked flat.

You're right, you won't need a fast lens to capture the action without blur. But you'll want the extra light of a fast lens to be able to get good exposure without having to resort to bumping up the ISO. Especially if you get hazy or overcast weather.

Because what I also noticed is that with the DSLRs having such high-resolution sensors, you can do a LOT of cropping and retain good quality. But only if the image is free of motion blur and noise. Which the fast lens will get you.

In other words, what NoDef said.
posted by gjc at 6:57 AM on September 3, 2012

You might consider renting something like this, too. You lose zoom but gain a full stop of light.
posted by gjc at 7:20 AM on September 3, 2012

And by this, I mean this. Sorry.
posted by gjc at 7:21 AM on September 3, 2012

I'd say stick with your 55-300 for now (That's a new lens to me, never been keeping up with technology...) and just shoot, if you need to "zoom in", crop the photo, and keep the shutter speed up with iso. Renting a new lens is great option, but it always takes me awhile to "learn" the intricacies of a new lens - if you do rent, do remember to bring along the 50-300 as backup.

The other lens I do use when I'm not shooting seriously is the 70-300VR, it covers the same range as your current lens, sadly, but if the 50-300 performs similarly to the 55-200 I used to own, it would be a big step up in terms of AF speed and clarity.
posted by TrinsicWS at 7:34 AM on September 3, 2012

OR: Another option if it is within your budget: The 70-200VR2 (make sure its the vr2) with 2X extender. Sample photos show this is a pretty damned good combo with minimal resolution loss, superb af and is pretty compact for what it does.
posted by TrinsicWS at 7:36 AM on September 3, 2012

Best answer: I'd recommend a fast lens, rather than a long lens, as the answer for quality photos. A Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II gives you the opportunity of shallow depth of field and bokeh which makes your photos stand out.

At most kids' games, you're allowed to roam some, as long as you discuss it with the referee before hand and make sure not to be a distraction (i.e. don't cheer for a team, don't dispute a call.) This means you can get by with a shorter lens than at a professional event, where you are expected to stay put.

When shooting action sports, action-stopping shutter speeds are usually the top priority (1/500, 1/1000 or higher). Outdoor sports are often played in bright daylight conditions - but fast lenses are still an advantage. Wide apertures can blur the distracting background and can yield the fastest shutter speed/lowest ISO setting combinations. Professional quality telephoto lenses often focus faster as well.

In my opinion, the 300mm f/4 is the poor man's version of what you'll see pros carry on the sidelines/endzone of professional events. They general have two cameras on them, one with a 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 and one with a medium telephoto for close-in shots. and both have excellent histories.
posted by blob at 4:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! On realizing that the Bigma was going to give me roughly the same performance as my current 55-300, just with a longer reach, I decided to go with the 70-200mm f2.8G VR2 from -- only $56.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 11:00 AM on September 6, 2012

Good luck and have fun... Just a couple of things to try. Take some pictures wide open f/2.8, if it's really sunny take some pictures stopped down a bit till you start to get shutter speeds around 1/1000, if it's not super sunny try some shots at iso 200 to up the shutter speed to 1/1000.

Getting close to 1/1000 will stop the ball and just about everything. Closing the aperture gets you more of the picture0 in focus - this can be a nice change from the majority of picture you will get with the background blurred. I prefer the blur personally, but I've also got some interesting pictures where most of the interest is in what's happening on the field behind the person with the ball.. There are some really interesting sweet spots for fast shutter speeds with the right aperture to get ultra sharp images...

And remember to shoot along your own shadow (with the sun to your back) if you can...

Sorry if I'm telling you things you already know - it took me quite a while and a good bit of trial and error to find the way I like to take pictures at soccer...
posted by NoDef at 2:08 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A quick update... I ended up renting the 70-200 f/2.8, and was freaking delighted with its performance. The day was actually a mixed bag, weather-wise. It started out fairly cloudy, during which I was definitely getting better pictures with the 70-200 f/2.8 than I would have with my 55-300. Once the sun came out, however, I didn't feel there was much gained from using the 70-200 f/2.8 -- the pictures didn't seem much better than what I typically take, except that the focus motor seemed to be blindingly fast.

We've got a mid-November tournament coming up. If the weather looks like it's going to be beautiful and sunny, I'll probably give the 50-500 Sigma a look. If it's looking like it might be overcast and blah, I'll go with the 70-200 f/2.8 again.

Thanks again, everyone. Learning this stuff is fun. :)
posted by Doofus Magoo at 12:38 PM on October 18, 2012

« Older Cookie Dough + Cheesecake = ?   |   Comments as testimonials? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.