Indoor sports photography lens?
December 4, 2012 5:27 AM   Subscribe

What is a good lens for shooting youth indoor sports when I will be close to the action?

I'm going to be taking pictures at an youth (8-12) indoor futsal tournament in a couple of weeks. What would be a good (Nikon) lens to rent for the day?

The tournament will be held on an indoor roller hockey rink, with lighting that is somewhat decent. I will have access to the rink while the games are going on, so long focal length isn't too much of a priority.

I've got a 50mm f/1.8 that can take very good indoor sports photos, but would a telephoto f/2.8, like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED or a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 II EX DC HSM be a better choice? Or do I need to stay with the wider aperture, in which can maybe a Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S ?

I've got a Nikon D5100 if that matters.
posted by Doofus Magoo to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd go with as fast a lens as possible. The 85 1.4 would probably be a great choice.
posted by entropic at 5:37 AM on December 4, 2012

I have photographed some swim meets with my daughter and I think you will find you need more length than you realize, especially if you want to really get the player's facial expressions. I was happy with a 100-400 lens on a full frame camera, and found I didn't have to go all the way out to 400 very often. The official team photographer got very good results with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a crop camera. The pool is 25 yards long, so we were anywhere from a few feet to 25 yards away. Based on that experience, I would suggest the 50-150 sigma, or maybe even something a little longer. That would be a pretty versatile lens for other things as well.
posted by TedW at 5:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Sigma 50-150 is a far better choice than the 85/1.4, and a better choice than the 24-70. Field sports is one of those situations where a zoom lens is critical. The sigma will let you get some good wide shots and cover close action, but will critically let you zoom in on good stuff happening at a distance. f/2 is excellent for light gathering in sport, and on a crop sensor like the 5100 you've got effectively a 75-225 f/2.8 lens on a full frame sensor, which is great!

The 85/1.4 is a beast and completely inappropriate for sports, for reasons that are too large for this margin. The 24-70 probably will not give you the reach you want, even if you're close to the action.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:54 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd go with the fastest, widest-range zoom you can get. That will give you the fastest shutter speeds and help when the action moves faster than you can. The Sigma sounds like a good choice but get the OS (Optical Stabilizer) version if you can, it should give you a couple of f-stops or so more help if you're not using a monopod.
posted by tommasz at 6:03 AM on December 4, 2012

Fast aperture and zoom ability are the key. I'm a Cannon Guy so I can't give specifics but I used to do basketball games with a 75-300, 28-200, and 12-24 that capped out at f/3.5. The long end of the zoom where the aperture wasn't as open was always tricky.

I did a few games with my 50 km 2.8 bit the inability to zoom canceled out the awesome shutter speeds I could get.
posted by theichibun at 6:40 AM on December 4, 2012

I'm not a Nikon guy, but get something like: 70-200mm f/2.8. On a crop sensor this will give you plenty of reach. Having the ability to zoom will be very useful.

A fast prime 100mm f/1.8 is a good budget compromise (although you lose the zoom 100mm is in the middle of the useful range) will very likely need more reach than the 50mm f/1.8 will give you.

Shoot with a fixed shutter speed > 1/160 (1/250 is better) and liberal use of noise reduction software (lightroom, noise ninja) will be your friend...Futsal is very fast paced, you will get lots of blurry photos if you don't work with fast shutter speeds...
posted by NoDef at 7:51 AM on December 4, 2012

70-200 f2.8 w/ image stabilization would be best

(but stupid expensive)

then 70-200 f4 w/ image stabilization

and then

70-200 w/ out image stabilization

also a monopod is really great for this kind of stuff.

with the crop sensor camera, you could also probably do pretty well with a 28-70, depending on how close you are.
posted by mockpuppet at 7:54 AM on December 4, 2012

From Mr. Apparently:

I've shot indoor sports extensively including indoor soccer, judo, and swimming with my Nikon equipment. Your greatest challenge will be to maintain a high shutter speed (to avoid motion blur) despite the low light indoors. For 8-12yr olds who don't run that fast, you'll need to use shutter priority and keep your shutter at least 1/500 preferably 1/750 ideally 1/1000. That means you need a fast lens (at least f2.8) or your ISOs will be too high and the pictures will be noisy. You'll also need a lens that autofocuses quickly and accurately for moving subjects. You'll need a zoom lens because the kids will be all over the field and you want to be able to compose shots where the action is. The ideal lens for this is the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII. The 85mm f1.4 is inappropriate because (1) it cannot accurately autofocus moving subjects; and (2) it will be too long for action near to you and too short for action far away. The more practice you have before the event and the more you experiment with your autofocus settings ahead of time, the better your pictures will be.
posted by apparently at 7:59 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I shoot sports (amongst other things) for a living. I had to look up what futsal is but saw some photos and I personally would use a 70-200 f2.8 and something shorter for when they get close like a 50 1.4 or even wider. I would sit in one corner and get the players attacking the goal. If you only have one camera then shoot one quarter with the 70-200 and one with the 50 and then repeat. Give you a bit more to work with for images. With the 50 I would move around more. Maybe move up the side a bit or more towards the net depending on where I was allowed to go.

Shoot with the 70-200 at f2.8 exclusively. Get there and make some test frames. Put the camera in manual and play around with the shutter speed and iso. You will probably need to be in the 1600 iso range and that should hopefully allow your shutter speeds to be upwards of 1/500th. If you need to go up in the iso and these aren't being used for big prints or magazines then you should. Like Mr. Apparently said, you need the shutter speeds at 1/500th at least. It being kids you may be safe at 1/400th but. Once you dial in the exposure then leave it alone.

Don't use a monopd with a 70-200 it's unnecessary so long as your shutter speed is over 1/250.
posted by WickedPissah at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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