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Best budget camera for sports photography

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Tucsondriver, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    I'm not an experienced photographer at all. Don't know an F-stop from a white level setting, but these days I'm able to get paid more for turning in photos with my stories. At $25 a pop, adds up quick. I've done a bunch of research on digital cameras and haven't found much useful info related to sports photography. Nevertheless, I think the two most important factors are speed and zoom, and thus I've narrowed my choices to the Casio ex-fh25 ($250 to $275 on eBAy/Amazon) and the Fuji hs10 ($308 on Amazon warehouse deals). The Casio is much, much faster, capable of 30 shots a second at 9 megapixel res. The Fuji has a 30x zoom compared to the 20x on the Casio. I guess part of the question is what's more important, speed or zoom? and is a 30x zoom really going to help or is the speed of the casio a better bet? I'm sure there are a multitude of factors that go into making a good sports photography camera (how it handles low light in dim gyms, shake, etc...), but just wondering if anyone has any suggestions on this. The photos would be mostly for the web, occasional print, but probably not Sports Illustrated. They don't need to be perfect, but I'd still like them to be as good as I can get.
  2. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    There are two factors you need to worry about: F-stop and ISO.

    Sorry, but if you don't know what they are you need to educate yourself. Start with dpreview.com - they have a couple primers you can read.

    You can get away with a cheaper camera outdoors, where optical (not digital) zoom becomes important. Indoors, you need a better piece of glass that lets in more light.

    A $300 camera will not produce good sports action shots. You can shoot non-action instead if the paper will let that suffice.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Useful info on sports photography


    If you're getting paid money to shoot photos, invest in a better camera. Unfortunately, a great lens will cost more than the body.

    Point-and-shoots won't cut it.
  4. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    With a point and shoot, he might be able to get a point guard coming up the floor, or a running back coming toward him (especially before it starts getting dark). But he'd be extremely lucky to get anything under the basket.

    Like others have said, you need a much better camera than a point and shoot for anything worthwhile to be able to stop the action.
  5. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    It may be that there is no point-and-shoot camera that will get me decent action shots in the $250 to $300 range. The "prosumer" or bridge camera is pretty much a new category, and my thinking is that they might work for me. Figure I can always return it if it doesn't work out. I'm not averse to learning about manual settings, but spending upwards of $500 for a camera that I wouldn't be able to use for a somewhat extended learning period and for photos that pay $25 doesn't make sense for where I'm at right now. It might be that the camera I'm looking for doesn't exist yet, but I think within a few years it will...
  6. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    A post on another messageboard linked to photos some guy shot at a Cowboys game using the Fuji HS10, one of the ones I'm looking at. Some of the shots are pretty crisp. Motion blur on the Cowboys cheerleaders' hair flying around sucks. Perhaps a faster non-dslr (i.e., the Casio I'd mentioned earlier) would fix that. Guy says he was in the nose bleed seats and I assume using the full 30x zoom.

  7. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    Another thing to remember: photos that may look good as a normal print may not translate well to the print medium.

    Resolution will likely be fairly low on that Cowboy shot, especially if it was shot with zoom.
  8. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    This still may not work within your budget, but one way to go might be to buy an old camera body. The digital SLRs from even 5 or 6 years ago don't have as many bells and whistles and the resolution they shoot at might only be 4 or 6 megapixels (which will still be plenty big enough for newspapers to run). I haven't looked, but I'd guess you can pick up a used original Canon Digital Rebel (D300) or the second Digital Rebel, (the xti? I think it is the D450) for $100 or $200.

    The three problems I can think of off the top of my head will be, 1) the buffer on those cameras may be a bit slow, so you can only fire off 3 or 4 shots and then have to wait for several seconds before you can shoot again, and 2) you can get away with the $100 camera body, but to shoot sports, you are going to have to spend some cheese on a decent lens. One that is fast and has a decent focal range. And that might throw you past your budget. But with some research, maybe you can pick up a used copy of a Tamron or Sigma lens that will do what you need for a few hundred bucks. You may have to look a bit, once you identify some lenses, but a good place to try to buy is fredmiranda.com. A lot of photographers on there and when you sign up, there is a buy/sell board. 3) With the used camera body, you have to worry about how many clicks the shutter has already seen. The shutters break down after a certain number of clicks. You can get lucky and get a camera whose shutter gives you a lot of life, or you can get one that only gets to 75,000 or 100,000 shots. And replacing the shutter will cost you $150 or more, I think.

    Anyhow, if you are serious, that is the way I'd be thinking. Cheapest, old, used digital SLR camera body I can find -- a Canon Digital Rebel would be ideal. It is compatible with a zillion old lenses by so many third parties. And then hunt for a used copy of the right lens. You may be able to clock in relatively inexpensively with a kit that can (barely) get you a couple of shots at a game.

    Good luck.
  9. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    i second the "buy an inexpensive used canon, etc. and spend your money on a good lens" suggestion
  10. Beef03

    Beef03 Active Member

    Seriously the point and shoot will be more trouble than it's worth and will only leave you frustrated and pissed off.

    Huge difference between optical and digital zoom.

    Go the used route, that might hold you over, if you're extremely lucky on the body, for a year. If you take care of the lens it will last you a long time and if you stay within the family on future bodies you will be able to use the lens with the new body.

    This is just one example of the industry not meeting up between cost for the worker and pay (among other things like housing, food, etc.), especially for those starting out. But if you are serious about it, find a way to make it work, even if it is just with old beaters for the next couple of years.
  11. Pilot

    Pilot Active Member

    The used idea is a good one. I took a ton of great sports photos with a mid-range Nikon, and got good enough with it that it's been a major, major boost in my career. I.e. I'm fairly certain I recently avoided being laid off because of it. I've since upgraded to a much nicer camera, but with a little creativity and patience, you can do about anything you want with a five-year old mid-range camera.

    Here's what I'd do:
    Buy one of these two used. The Nikon D70s, what I used, or the D80, a slightly older brother.

    D70s, starting at $275: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0009I4VE4/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used

    D80, starting at $350: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000HGMX5M/ref=sr_1_2_olp?ie=UTF8&qid=1293914684&sr=8-2&condition=used

    I always thought the D70s was a little better suited to what I actually used it for, but the D80 is a little newer with a few different bells and whistles.

    Buy these two lenses:

    50mm f1.8, for anything inside, basketball, wrestling, scholarship signing. $120: http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-50mm-Nikkor-Digital-Cameras/dp/B00005LEN4/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1293914880&sr=1-2

    70-300mm zoom, for anything outdoors during the day, soccer, football, track. $135: http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-70-300mm-4-5-6G-Nikkor-Camera/dp/B00005Y3OM/ref=sr_1_4?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1293914976&sr=1-4

    The 70-300 won't do you well outdoors at night (football) without a flash, which can be had for about $200, for a suitable Nikon one. You might be able to pick up an older model that would work OK as well, but you won't save much money. But you CAN survive without it if you learn manual mode inside and out, and keep your eyes open. Use the 50mm and wait for the action to come to you at the sideline, or shoot players and coaches celebrating.

    Camera do break and repairs can add up, so by going used you'd be taking that chance. Save your money you make with the used one and invest in a $1,000 or $1,200 new model in a year or two.
  12. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    A point-and-shoot doing 30 shots a second? Sorry, not buying it.
    I'm on my fifth Nikon D1H body. My reporter now uses one and my boss got one for himself as well. Low res (2.7 MP) but 5 frames a second, fast AF and a sturdy workhorse. You can get them around $200, then get a lens like a 50/1.8. Battery life sucks but you can get batteries for about $20 or so and flashes for under $100.
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