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07-15-2011, 12:02 PM   #1
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Lens for Indoor (Gymnastics) Photos

I'd like to purchase a lens for my k-x to take my kids' gymnastics photos. A flash is not allowed at the meets, so I need a set-up that allows for low light. I've been wondering whether I should get DA 50-135mm f/2.8 or a multiple prime lenses (FA 50mm f/1.4, DA 70mm f/2.4 and the like). DA 50-135 mm is going for about $1,000 new and the two prime lenses mentioned above cost about the same. I've read the reviews and based on my basic understanding, I'm leaning toward DA 50-135 mm because I wouldn't know how close or far I may be depending on the gym setting. I thought the zoom lens would give more flexibitliy in that regard? But I also see that the zoom lens is a lot bulkier and heavy, which I do not like.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I also looked into used lenses, but the ones I looked didn't seem to give enough cost saving considering lack of warranty - is that too risk-averse?

07-15-2011, 12:31 PM   #2
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The DA 50-135 would be a good choice, IMHO the Sigma 70-200 2.8 would also be an excellent choice...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/555141-REG/Sigma_579109_70_200mm_f_2_8_II_EX.html





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07-15-2011, 12:32 PM   #3
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I think you're right to look for a fast zoom. I use a Sigma 50-150mm f2.8: it's been discontinued, though. I must have gotten one of the last ones but there may be one or two still out there (somewhere). The DA 50-135mm is probably the best bet available new.
07-15-2011, 01:39 PM   #4
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how far away do you intend to be?

at the edge of the mat, or in stands further away.

something to consider here is how much of the frame do you want to fill with the gymnist

remember image size = subject size * focal length / subject distance.

once you know roughly where you will sit, you will know the rest.

Also consider lighting, many indoor venues are really only lit to shoot at F2 or faster, unless you push ISO.

also watch out for WB and flourescent tubes.

For many indoor things like Tai Quan Do I use a 50mm F1,4

07-15-2011, 02:29 PM   #5
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There's a thread here in the past 2-3 months about this topic that is worth searching for but the bottom line was that indoor non-professional arenas are incredibly poorly lit and the faster the lens the better. I got my FA50/1.4 for use under similar circumstances because the f3.5 just wasn't cutting it even on my K-x.

Last edited by Docrwm; 07-15-2011 at 02:39 PM.
07-15-2011, 02:33 PM   #6
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I've been photographing my daughter at her gymnastics meets for the last couple of years.

An f2.8 lens seems the way to go IMHO. Even with high iso.

As mentioned above, when sitting right beside the floor mat, sometimes you can get the opportunity to go as wide as 28mm. But if seating is limited, you're probably more than often further away, so 50-135mm makes more sense.

I've got a 28-105mm f2.8. I find the 28mm usually wide enough. Just a few times I got caught wanting wider, but not very often. But I've found the 105mm too short very often. I won't have the funds for a faster longer zoom (like a 70-200mm f2.8), so I'm going to try to compensate by getting a body that goes to iso25,600 and see if I can survive with a cheap 55-200mm f4-5.6 lens for the next year.

Have you tried taking pictures with your current lenses? And if so, what focal length range do you tend to use?
07-15-2011, 02:37 PM   #7
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I started a thread on Tae Kwon Do, I ended up with the FA 50 f/1.4. I tried that and my DA* 16-50 f/2.8. The results from the FA 50 were much better. I was right down on the mat, so I was able to get close to the action. I was not able to appreciate the speed difference between 1.4 and 2.8 until I saw it first hand.

Lowell is right it all depends on how far back you are. Tamron makes a 28-75mm 2.8 that's highly regarded. Also a Tamron or Sigma 70-200mm. With the higher ISO ability of the K-x you may be able to make 2.8 work for you. I'm assuming your gym will be as poorly lit as most gyms.
07-15-2011, 03:15 PM   #8
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Regarding the distance, we are not allowed on the floor but we are not confined to the stand, either so I can get relatively close. I took a few photos last season with the kit 50-200mm and looking at those pictures, the farthest was 90 mm. So I thought 50-135 mm would do. But I also saw very sharp photos taken by another parent, who used prime lenses (on Nikon D90). Thus my hesitance in getting the zoom, though I read that DA 50-135 can produce "prime like" images.

07-15-2011, 03:42 PM   #9
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You received already some good advice. I shoot indoor volleyball and a few other school sports. Let me share a few comments.

I believe that the earlier posts pointed two key issues:

* Will you be at the edge of the mat, or in the stands further away?

* Sport halls are very poorly lit and you must consider a large aperture lens (f1.8 or f1.4): that is, a fast lens.

If you are at the edge of the mat you can use a focal length about 30 to 50 mm. There is a good choice of excellent fast primes for Pentax: FA31mm f1.8, FA50mm f1.4, DA*55mm f1.4, ....

If you are in the stands, you need a longer focal length (150-250mm) and a largest aperture (lowest f) is likely to be f2.8. There are fewer lenses and these are more expensive (eg DA*50-135mm, DA*200mm f2.8).


Back to my own experience, I prefer to shoot from the lines of the court (or edge of the mat) rather from the stands. I like to use my prime lenses: Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 (MF), Tamron 90mm f2.8 (AF) and Zeiss 85mm f1.4 (MF). All these gave me good results. When the lighting is poor, I prefer to use MF and Hi continuous shooting. I set the focal distance (on the focus ring) for the distance between the action that I want to shoot and myself. I only do slight adjustements by hand. The Hi continuous shooting is a must be have a few good shot(s) for every take.

An further issue is the need for a fast shutter speed to capture the action. In dim lights, this requires a large aperture (f1.4) lens and to boost the ISO in-camera. I found that anything slower than 1/50 s is near useless and I tend to shoot at or faster than 1/100s for sports like VB and basketball.

Two examples are shown below, both taken with VL58mm (MF) and minimum PP. Both were taken in poorly lit halls.

To sum up: you will need a fast lens. If you can stand next to the edge of the mat, you will have a better choice of fast prime lenses (an often cheaper than the longer focal length lenses).

Hope that the comments will help.
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Last edited by hcc; 07-15-2011 at 04:04 PM.
07-15-2011, 04:06 PM   #10
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Think also of you angle of view. If the kids are vaulting, on the bars or mats, try to get head-on to the action and pre-focus with high speed shutter on an area where you guess they will land.. You will stop the action more successfully at lower shutter speeds than if the action is crossing your field of view.
07-15-2011, 06:30 PM   #11
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hi mango

you don't need an expensive lens for good results. this shot is from an old manual f4 80-200mm lens. it is shot at 200mm (300mm for 35mm) the major reason it turned out was because of a mono pod.
it was shot 640 iso at 1/100 second. what you can do is prefocus at a spot and once they get in that spot shoot away. 80% will be blurred but if you take a lot of shots 20% is a lot of keepers.



hope this helps
07-15-2011, 06:58 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mango Quote
Regarding the distance, we are not allowed on the floor but we are not confined to the stand, either so I can get relatively close. I took a few photos last season with the kit 50-200mm and looking at those pictures, the farthest was 90 mm. So I thought 50-135 mm would do. But I also saw very sharp photos taken by another parent, who used prime lenses (on Nikon D90). Thus my hesitance in getting the zoom, though I read that DA 50-135 can produce "prime like" images.
You might want to consider the samyang 85 F1.4 although manual focus it is a good lens. Sharp and fast and for 85mm relatively inexpensve
07-15-2011, 07:00 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
You might want to consider the samyang 85 F1.4 although manual focus it is a good lens. Sharp and fast and for 85mm relatively inexpensve
It comes in various re-branded flavors so the pricing varies WIDELY on it.
07-15-2011, 08:19 PM   #14
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+1 on the Samyang - by all accounts, pretty incredible piece. Here is the thing also with that lens, not only is it super sharp (1.6 and up) and super fast, the IQ is oustanding which gives you the ability to crop in with extremely minimal loss in quality.
07-15-2011, 08:56 PM   #15
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You likely won't get close at meets; even at practice you won't be as close as you like. Nobody wants a dude crowding the landing area of the vault run or standing at the corner of a mat.

here's some numbers based on the equation Lowell gave. Lets say you shoot in portrait mode; you'll want the gymnast to dominate the scene so the scene will be 6-12' high. The equation is approximately:

Scene.distance = scene.height (focal.length/25)

F=50mm
scene height = 6', distance = 12'
scene height = 12', distance = 24'

F=100mm
scene height = 6', distance = 24'
scene height = 8', distance = 32'

As you can see you'll likely need a lens longer than 100mm because you won't likely be able to get within 25' of the gymnast.

I wouldn't worry much about auto focus as it probably won't be fast enough to keep up so you'll have to prefocus - a manual lens will be fine for that.

The bottom line is to get a fast long lens - an smc 135:2.5 might be a good choice. Or a 70-200:2.8.

The Takumar Bayonet 135:2.5 is inexpensive and not too awful.
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