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11-27-2013, 11:21 AM   #1
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Which lens for athletics?

I've been shooting athletics events for a while now, using my 18-135mm lens, and I've been quite happy with the results overall.

Now I've purchased a Pentax DA 55-300mm ED lens and I am wondering whether I should rather use this lens for athletics.

I don't want to carry both lenses around, so I need to decide beforehand. What do you think?

11-27-2013, 11:52 AM   #2
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Which sports? Athletics in the traditional sense (i.e. Track and Field), or some other sports?
11-27-2013, 11:54 AM   #3
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Yes, traditional athletics - track and field events.
11-27-2013, 12:02 PM   #4
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Are you able to get down on (or rather, next to) the track? And what model camera are you using? (I shoot runners, which is why I'm asking).

11-27-2013, 12:02 PM   #5
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I haven't handled the 18-135, but I own the 55-300 and it can be a bit slow to focus, especially if you move from close to distant objects (that would of course depend on the body as well. In SA daylight should be bright enough (unless you shoot in Cape Town winters) for both lenses. I would say your choice in this case should depend on what you're planning to shoot on a particular day (135 is quite a bit shorter than 300mm)
11-27-2013, 12:07 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Are you able to get down on (or rather, next to) the track? And what model camera are you using? (I shoot runners, which is why I'm asking).
I've got full access to all the events and I can get very close to the action. I'm using the K5II.
11-27-2013, 12:14 PM   #7
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The K-5 II is why you're able to get good, fast focus. I never use the center focus point - pictures are too boring when they're not framed properly. Since I shoot 1000+ pictures per meet, I shoot just JPG and only crop about 1% of the photos later. Sports is about the only time I don't shoot RAW. I pick a side (usually corner) AF point, set the camera to AF-C, pick the runner I'm focusing on and track his chest (because the face is usually too high in the frame). I hold the AF button (or shutter half-way) and then click 1-3 times per runner when I like the shot. If you're interested, here are my shots from last weekend (a major meet). I was preoccupied with concurrently live streaming video from 3 cameras, so I didn't have time to choose locations with optimal lighting or the prettiest backgrounds:

http://www.racetimephotos.com/XC/2013/CIF-Finals/Highlights/i-t5wS5H5


You're generally going to be better off with the DA18-135, just in terms of focal length. In fact, I found the optical performance of the DA55-300 slowly tapers off longer than about 135mm, which is why I sold it. I realized there was no point in having it over the much better DA*50-135. I just had to spend over twice the money for it (I bought it used)! However, the DA*50-135 is slow in focusing as a sports lens as well.

I've read the DA18-135 is rather fast in focusing, so that's probably your better choice. I'm shooting Cross Country runners going right past me. Personally, I use the FA*85 at f/3.2 or f/3.5, FA135 at f/3.5 or f/4, or F*300 at f/5. I don't think you can get apertures quite that wide. But you've probably found (like I did) that, other than perhaps starting line photos, you need to stay between approx. 70-135mm to get nice shots.

Last edited by DSims; 11-27-2013 at 12:27 PM.
11-27-2013, 04:28 PM - 3 Likes   #8
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I shoot a lot of junior athletics. I'd recommend about 85-120mm FL for shooting LJ or TJ from front-on at the sandpit. I use a Sigma 70-200/F2.8 and a DA* 60-250/F4.

AF performance of the K-5 and various lenses in head-on LJ shooting is demonstrated here:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/172-pentax-k-3/241586-my-k-3-af-experienc...ml#post2583770

I've used a M50/F1.7 (MF/ME) and an A50/F2 (MF/AE) for tripod-in-the-middle shooting of 4-5 shot HJ sequences (take-off, rise up, over the bar, coming down). Here I use f/8 or f/9, 1/800s or 1/1000s and set up to either fully frame the whole bar at 50mm FL, or a bit closer with panning. I use the deep DOF to allow MF (I pre-focus with the K-5 on the brand name on the jump bar, using 10x zoom in LV.) With the K-5 and AF, I've found it difficult to keep the jumper always in focus, with the focus jumping to the background in some shots in a sequence. Hence my use of MF. Hopefully the AF tracking in the K-3 and, in particular, the AF hold sensitivity control, will permit AF to work better in HJ.

With sprints, I set up on the outside of the track near the finish line and cover from the start of the finishing start to the finish line. Here I use the 60-250, but the AOV causes problems right at the finish unless you move further back (and then sometimes people walk in front of you.) With head-on shooting of the 100m, the AOV change from the start to the finish is problematic. Superzooms can cover it, but you lose out on light-gathering, distortion and sharpness. If shot end-on, probably just concentrate on the finish.

With 400/800/1500m I use a Sigma 10-70/F2.8-F4.5 for the staggered start on the outside in front of the edge of the curved-line of starters, f/9-f/11 and snap them as they come towards/past me. Then I switch lenses to the 60-250 or 70-200 and run back to the outer finish line position for 400m races.

During the longer races (800m, 1500m, walks) , I've been going instead to the inside of track, sitting down on the ground, besides the track, near the finish line (or a little way down into the straight, depending on obstacles), and then using 70-100 FL @ f/2.8-f/3.5 to get blurred-background individual shots. I got a set of nice blurred-background shots in this position with a DA35/F2.4 fully open, but with 35mm FL the runners had to be keeping to the inside of the track and only filled the frame when they were fairly close to me, so 60-100mm FL would have been better.

It seems to me that a 100/F2.8 or 85/F1.8 prime lens would be a good choice for high-quality individual race & LJ/TJ shots. However it would have to be fast focussing. I've got a FA100/F2.8 Macro lens, but this is slow focusing for macro work, so I've never tried it for action.

For 60m hurdles, I use the 60-250 to get a wide zoom range from the outside finish-line or near finish-line position. Sometimes I get further away to get more coverage width. I shoot short bursts, 3-5 shots, trying to get one or more competitors in the optimum aerial position on each hurdle rank. I shoot raw and usually fill the K-5's shot buffer before the final hurdle. If I was to shoot end-on, it would depend of the lens AOV, presence of officials behind the finish line and whether I could shoot from above ground-level

Discus needs to be shot in front (if I can get field access - usually only at the local club level, not at regional or state level events) so a big FL is good here. For rotational discus , sequences work well.

Shotput is boring to shoot. If an O'Brien Glide is being used or I can't get frontal access, I've shot from the rear and you can still get an interesting facial expression.

Javelin, I find problematic.The only decent shot seems to be just after the jav has left the thrower's hand. If shooting up close from the side you have to be lucky to get it while it's still fully in frame.

With all throws, it's difficult because you can't convey the final result of the throw, only the emotion and effort during the throw.

With athletics, soccer etc. it's worthwhile having at least 1 zoom lens that is WR. The DA*60-250/F4 with its deep hood works well in the pouring rain, as long as it's not gusting too much i.e. the front of the lens stays dry.

Dan.


Last edited by dosdan; 11-28-2013 at 01:42 AM.
11-27-2013, 05:16 PM   #9
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It all comes down to this

Image size = subject size x focal length / distance

Image axis is usually either 24 or 16 mm based upon the approximate dimensions of the. APS-C sensor.

Assume subject is 2 meters (2000mm) tall

Therefore focal length to distance ratio is either 16/2000 or 24/2000 or .008 to .012. Inverting this gives distance over focal length of between 80 and 125 all depending on vertical or horizontal format

How far are you shooting from determines focal length needed
11-27-2013, 05:41 PM   #10
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So Dan, the word on the forum is that the Sigma 70-200 2.8 is the fastest focusing for sports, what do you think? And how much difference is there in reach between the 2? I'm actually wondering if it would be better to have a 70-200 with a 2x TC as opposed to a DA*60-250. There aren't many folks around here with both those lenses, so I'm guessing you can voice an opinion without fear of an informed contradiction.
11-27-2013, 05:46 PM   #11
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With athletics, it's not just simple subject height. Framing comes into it too. Take HJ. You can shot or crop just to show a jumper over the bar, and not include much else. The problem is that the viewer has no idea of how high the jumper has had to elevate him/herself to clear the bar. If doing a sequence, you can include a run-up shot where the jumper's shoulder height is shown in relation to the bar height to provide a scene of scale. Also, in a clearing-the-bar shot, you can include the ground in front of the mat so a scene of height is provided. See this HJ sequence. (A50/F2 @f/8, 1/500s, ISO200. 1/500s was too slow for action so there's some motion blur, even with panning. I was also using -0.7 EVcomp, but the bright reflections off the fibeglass bar were still blown in some shots.)

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.601328473239046.1073741843.1000008...1

Dan.

Last edited by dosdan; 11-27-2013 at 05:52 PM.
11-27-2013, 06:35 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
So Dan, the word on the forum is that the Sigma 70-200 2.8 is the fastest focusing for sports, what do you think? And how much difference is there in reach between the 2? I'm actually wondering if it would be better to have a 70-200 with a 2x TC as opposed to a DA*60-250
I was using the 70-200/F2.8 with a K-5 last Saturday to shoot LJ from the end of the sandpit, and still sometimes having issues with 1 of the sequence being OOF (often the mid-air or just-before-landing shot in the sequence). I was using AF.C & centre-point AF. Now the problem may be the jumper rising above or slightly to the side of the centre so the AF locks on to the background. I shoot LJ with the camera in portrait orientation on a low tripod, but I often try to pan a bit to keep the jumper centralised. Or the OOF may have been due to the rate of AF speed change with the subject relatively close at this stage of the sequence.

I'm hoping I'll be able to rely on the tracking around the centre-point when I get a K-3 so that the OOF shot(s) in the sequence are reduced/eliminated. But it may just just be too fast for the lens to keep up. I used to zoom out during the sequence, but recently I've been either keeping it just at 85-125mm FL or only zooming a little. I think lens AF performance changes at higher FLs. There is probably a sweet spot where the right combo of FL & distance back from the edge of the sandpit gives the best dynamic AF performance for a particular zoom lens.

I've been using a fairly high f-stop (f/6.3-f/9) to assist a bit here, but the final closeness of the subject & the big difference between the background & subject distance means that AF misses with fixed centre-point AF will still have severe consequences, f/9 or not. And the busy background (lots of competitors waiting for their turn) means that I really would like to use a shallower DOF with better AF tracking, On the other hand, too small a DOF this close can be a problem too during the jump as you can end up getting the thrust-forward arms or legs in focus, rather than the body/face.

Dan.

Last edited by dosdan; 11-27-2013 at 06:47 PM.
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