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Author Topic: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports  (Read 16196 times)  bookmark this topic!
bobsloop
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40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« on: June 26, 2008, 11:12:40 AM »

I am looking for a lens that will take pictures that a re not blurry of my daughter's gymnastics.  I have a 40D which came in a kit with the 28-125mm IS USM lens.  I took some pictures last night that were all blurry.  I was just using the basic sports mode and I figured that there was not enough light for a fast shutter speed setting.  Is that correct or do I not understand it right?  Will this lense work with fast action indoors or outside?  If it will not work in either of those settings, what is the best lens for these kinds of shots?  I am not against spending $1,500 if necessary.  I just want good shots of my kids' sports.
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KeithB
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2008, 01:18:59 PM »

A good cheap try is the Canon 50mm F1.8 lens.  This should get you a few more "stops."  (Each stop is a doubling of the shutter speed.)

I am not familiar with the 40D, but you might want to take it out of sports mode and use "Tv" mode.  Set the ISO as high as it will go (There might be a custom function to push it a bit higher) and set the shutter speed to a *minimum* of 125 - that is 1/125th of a second.

This might stop the action for you. 

If you are within 20-30 feet, you might also get the biggest flash you can afford - if it is allowed.
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danw
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2008, 09:31:12 AM »

I also have a daughter in gymnastics and have struggled with the same problem.  Nearly all of the gyms are poorly lit and as a gymnastics parent, I'm sure you know by now that flash is not allowed and can be dangerous for the athletes.

There are 2 sources of blur. One is the movement of the athlete, and the other is movement of the camera.  To deal with the movement of the athlete you need to get a lens that is as fast as you can afford.  Something at least f/2.8 or better.  To deal with the movement of the camera, an IS lens will help as will a monopod - a tripod is too much trouble in the typical gyms.

The 50mm f/1.8 sounds good, but you typically won't be able to get close enough to get good pictures with that lens.  Better options in primes would be the 85mm f/1.8 (about $350) or the 135mm f/2 (about $950).  There is also a 85mm f/1.2 but it is about $2000 and slow to focus so that might not meet your needs on either point.  I've had some success with those lens but have found that a little longer reach and the addition of zoom gives me much more flexibility and better results.  Your best option here in my opinion is probably the 70-200 f/2.8.  Canon makes 2 of these - one without IS for about $1200 and one with IS for about $1600.  The IS won't help get rid of the blur caused by the athlete, but it will help with camera shake.

You will probably find that your technique will have as much impact on the quality of your photos as your choice of lens.  You have to know what to try to shoot and what not to shoot.  Even with the best lens wide open giving you the fastest shutter speed possible, and with your ISO set as high as it will go, many of the gyms are just to dark to freeze action on some of the apparatus.  I've nearly given up trying to get good shots on vault and bars.  But there are great opportunities on floor and beam. The images I end up liking the best are the expressive dance moves that are more common on floor and beam.  It will help if you know the routines to know the best points to get your shots.  In both cases, and sometimes on bars too, you can get great crisp shots at specific points where the action is slower - at the top of a leap, at a pause between skills, etc.

So, get the fastest lens that will give you the flexibility you need, and fits within your buget.  And practice at getting the shots at the best points in the routines.  It can be frustrating, but when you start getting consistently good shots it is well worth it.

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bobsloop
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2008, 01:48:41 PM »

Thanks for the replies.  I have read about the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.  I don't mind spending the money if it will help me get good pictures.  However, I was not sure if 2.8 was going to give the camera enough light or if I had to find something lower than that.  I cannot get real close to the action.  I also do not want to use a flash to draw any attention away from anything I might be shooting.

Should the lens that came with my 40D (EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM) work fine with fast action outside where it gets more light?  Is it just a matter of not enough light inside or is this lens just not for action shots.

I assume a large part of the problem for me right now is my movement of the camera.  I am a beginner and I think it takes a little time to learn this.
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KeithB
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2008, 02:45:28 PM »

I think one big key - if your 40D is like my rebel - is to get to the "P" mode and leave the basic sports mode.  On my Rebel in sports mode I am limited to ISO400, but if I switch to P I can set the ISO to 1600 which is can lead to a 4x improvement in shutter speed!  The problem with the 28-135 is that you probably use it at the 135mm end all the time where it is a pretty slow f5.6.  f/2.8 (on the 70-200) is another 4x improvement in shutter speed!

For example, if you are shooting at f/5.6 and ISO400 now and getting good exposure at let us say 1/15th of a second, by going to ISO1600 (the 40D can go higher!) and f/2.8 (with the new lens) you can increase the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second - which will go a long way to stopping the action.
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danw
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2008, 03:36:07 PM »

Your kit lens is a very nice lens.  It has an excellent range for an everyday lens and since it has IS, it is quite a bargin by itself - even more so when priced as part of the kit.  If you were taking soccer pictures outdoors in daylight I think you would get very good results.  I think you can make confident use of that lens in many situations.

But for gymnastics you probably have to shoot from the perimeter of the competition area, or worse you have to fight the other parents for the closest bleacher seat.  If so, you are going to be a good distance from the competition in some of the events and probably using your current lens at the far end of its range.  That means your lens only gives you f/5.6.  f/2.8 will give you 2 full stops improvement which can make a lot of difference.  You can find faster lens, but the price curve starts climbing really fast.

You'll have more room to experiment in creative modes than in the basic modes.  .  You'll be able to choose ISO to get a faster shutter speed at some small expense to the image quality. You can use P or Av to setup at the most favorable aperture and let the camera keep you at a good exposure by adjusting the shutter speed.  You can also use your camera's meter to find the 'right' exposure and set your camera's shutter a little faster than what is 'right' in full manual mode.  You'll end if with images that are a little sharper - due to the faster shutter - but a little bit underexposed.  As long as you don't go too far, you can fix that up afterwards on the computer in DPP or Photoshop.

You have lots of options, but you'll just have to practice and experiment to see what works best for you.  In stead of just shooting the session that your daughter competes in, pick a meet close to you when the season starts back up in the fall and spend the whole weekend at a meet and use it to practice and experiment.  It will be some quality time with your daughter, she can spend extra time cheering and coaching her team mates, and you'll get tons of practice with your camera. 
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KeithB
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2008, 05:40:02 PM »

Here is an article about how to "push" your ISO by a factor of 2:
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/photoshop/pushing-iso.htm

He took the Rebel's 1600 ISO and turned it to 3200.  Note the increase in noise.
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bobsloop
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2008, 08:02:00 AM »

You guys are great.  Thanks for the help.  I did take some pictures of the kids running around in the back yard yesterday and got some good results of some pretty active kids.  I need to learn the best way to do set things out of the basic modes.  I think my current lens will work outdoors for their sports on sunny days.  I will keep going to gymnastics practice and try different settings to see how much I can improve the shots.  I do think I am going to need a different lens inside because mine will be at f/5.6 most of the time.  You just can't get very close to the action, even at practice.
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Jonnycorn
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2008, 07:24:45 PM »

Just a thought...  I recently upgraded from the Rebel XT to the 5D and wanted to make sure I was purchasing the right lenses for my "kit".  I spent a few weekends renting lenses and trying things out.  This made a BIG difference in my approach, as I was able to find what really worked for me - and realized that I didn't need all "L" lenses in my kit (saved a lot of $)...  Hope this helps.
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russ_becker
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2008, 05:35:18 AM »

Having spent the last year taking a couple of thousand shots of my daughter and her team mates gymnastics competitions using a 40D, I can tell you quite a bit about how to setup up your camera and which lenses are the best choices. 

I am sure you have noticed that gymnastics competitions typically take place in poorly lit gyms with lots of distracting background.  Worse, you need a high shutter speed to stop the action, and USAG rules preclude using flash photography.  You also need some reach unless you are only taking photos in your home gym and can get very close to the action.  This means you need the fastest lenses available, which pretty much eliminates zooms in favor of fast primes.  I have found the two best lenses are Canon's 85 f/1.8 and the 135 f/2 L.  The former can be had for about $350, while the latter is closer to $1000.  Both of these perform well at f/2, and auto focus quickly on the 40D, which is another thing you need to consider.

I use the camera in manual mode, ISO set to 3200, file storage is RAW, NR turned off since it isn't applicable to RAW files anyway, HTP turned off as well, WB set to either the lighting in the gym or Auto ( you will be adjusting this later in PP), and shutter speed to 1/400 at least.  Set up the custom functions to uncouple auto focus from the shutter button ( move it either to the * button or AF-ON, but remove it from the shutter release).  Set the AF mode to AI Servo and use only the center AF point; the clutter in most gym backgrounds will cause the 40D to lock onto something else at the most inopportune times.  Shutter is set to low speed burst, you can easily squeeze off one or two shots at a time this way ( I have never been able to squeeze off one shot using high speed burst).  All of these settings I save in one of the Custom modes on the 40D's mode dial.

There is a lot of technique in shooting gymnastics; whenever I get to an away meet  I take a series of test shots of various parts of the gym, usually using a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 set to f/2.8 and then study the histograms to see what you can get away with in various locations; also take some test shots of warmups or the other teams girls using the 85 or 135 to see which you need for a given event.  You want to expose a little to the right, about 1/3 stop or so ( don't under expose, I have found the 40D does a good job at ISO 3200 if the exposure is correct, or slightly over exposed).  The three best events to shoot are UB, BB, and FX ( the vault requires at least 1/640 shutter speed and usually you cannot get to the shooting location you need for good vault shots).  There are a lot of stop points in those three events which make good pictures, especially on the UB and BB, you need to spend some time watching the girls and memorizing their routines ( this gets more complicated when they are at optional levels since each routine is different).  It helps quite a bit to anticipate the their moves, rather than react.  You have to practice keeping the center AF point on their chest since you want their face in focus and most competition leos have some sort of contrasty pattern at this location.  At f/2, and with shooting distances of 10 to 20m, you have a DOF of about 1/2m ( or less ) so you really need to work to keep the AF on target.  If I find myself in a gym that is well-lit ( happens every now and then), I stop down to f/2.8 rather than increase shutter speed just to get more leeway in focusing.

Takes lots of pictures; if I am in a session with five team girls I usually take around 400 shots that I keep in the memory card; there are usually another 50 - 100 that are test pictures that get deleted.  If you take enough shots, there are almost always some good ones of each girl.  I have found the best thing about shooting gymnastics is that you have so much to think about you don't have time to worry about your daughter's scores.
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bobsloop
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2008, 07:47:51 PM »

The 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2 L sound pretty good.  However, would the EF 70-200mm f/2.7L IS USM work well indoors for the fast action?  This would give me one lens that covers a pretty wide distance.  Is this lens fast enough for gymnastics in some poor lighting or do I need an f/1.8 or f/2?  How much of a difference is there in these?
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danw
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2008, 07:14:53 AM »

The difference between the 70-200 and the 135 is 1 full stop.  For the 85 it is 1 1/3 stops.  So, the two primes are both faster.  The tradeoff is reach and flexibility.  The zoom will get you closer to the action, and will allow you to better compose and frame your images.  Often you will find that the floor is right in front of you, but the beam might be clear across the gym.  And often you will have to pick one spot to shoot from - or maybe you can roam one side of the competiion area.  Rarely will you be able shoot from all sides of the gym.  That's the advantage of the zoom.

I own and have used all three lens.  I started with the primes because of the cost and speed advantage.  However I ultimately purchased the 70-200 and that's all I've used since then when I shoot from the perimeter. On occasions when I get access to shoot on the floor, I still mostly use the 70-200, but I also carry a 24-70 f/2.8. 

So, it is pretty much a judgement call.  You have to balance the faster lens against the reach and flexibility of the zoom.  In my experience, I have no concerns with underexposing by a stop or so and then fixing it up in post processing.  And underexposing by that much will give you the exact same shutter speed gain as you get with the faster primes.

You might see if there is some place in your area that you can rent lens to give them a try before deciding which way to go.
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bobsloop
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2008, 08:06:32 AM »

What is involved with "fixing it up in post processing"?  Is there a good book that talks about this or SLR use in general?  I am new to this and would like to learn more.
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KeithB
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2008, 09:07:56 AM »

Here is an article about how to increase your effective ISO in photoshop.
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/photoshop/pushing-iso.htm

I would try this at home first - or at practice - before using it for a meet!
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danw
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Re: 40D Lens for Indoor Sports
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2008, 04:04:15 PM »

Post processing is making changes to your images after it comes out of the camera. 

The DPP software that came with your camera lets you make basic adjustments.  The tool palette in DPP lets you adjust your exposure by a couple of stops - although your image might start to degrade if you adjust it too much.  Look in the Help menu in DPP, or the instruction manual for some basic details.  There are also some video tutorials that give some basic instruction here http://www.photoworkshop.com/canon/dpp/

Set your camera in manual mode and use its meter to find the correct exposure for a test subject.  Then deliberately change it so you underexpose by a stop and take some pictures.  Download those to your computer and play with DPP for a while to see what you can do.

A more sophisticated tool for editing and managing your photos is Adobe Lightroom.  Version 2 of Lightroom is in Beta now and you can download and use it for free during beta from the Adobe website. 

As for books, try your library or book store and pick up a couple of books.  There are lots of good books written in all different styles.  Some general, some specific to a camera system, some theory, some practical.  The books by Scott Kelby are plain and simple cookbook style books with simple step by step instructions.  Some people really like them, others don't at all.  You kinda have to browse through the selection to see what fits your need in terms of style and content.
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