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10-11-2009, 11:38 AM   #1
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Cheerleading

What lens should I get to capture my daughter's cheerleading routines? The performances are in stadiums and under low light. we usually are over 100 feet from the stage.
I have a k7 with both the 18-55 and 55-300 lenses.
The only flash I have is the pop up on the camera.

Thanks for any help

10-11-2009, 12:13 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by chilihead Quote
What lens should I get to capture my daughter's cheerleading routines? The performances are in stadiums and under low light. we usually are over 100 feet from the stage.
I have a k7 with both the 18-55 and 55-300 lenses.
The only flash I have is the pop up on the camera.

Thanks for any help
Hrm. A long, fastish lens would be better. How much is, say, five hundred dollars to you?

The K7 seems to have pretty nice high ISO capabilities: with that 55-300 and a monopod, you might be able to pull something off if you pump the ISO and can get focus. (Depends how low the low light is.

A cheap way out might be an older tele-zoom like an 80-200/70-210, something in that neighborhood. They're pretty plentiful if you don't mind lacking the A setting, and they tend to run to the faster than the modern slower zooms. (The trend went for slower and more portable just before autofocus came about. )

You'll want to practice a bit, though.

Have you tried the longer lens you have?
10-11-2009, 01:14 PM   #3
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Best of luck!

Long telephoto lenses with low-light are challenging unless you have access to a system (eg full-frame body with expensive fast tele lenses) that is especially suited to high ISO sports photography.

Just a few comments/suggestions, some of which you may already be doing, in which case apologies:

- Before any real cheerleading shoot, go into the venue with your 55-300 and shoot a bunch of test shots, then go home and pixel peep the results, to learn how the lighting works and what works best (or you can get away with) in terms of aperture, shutter-speed, ISO, depth of field, motion blur etc given the available light in the venue, the type of action you are trying to shoot, and the location of the action in the stadium. Also at the venue, identify where may be the best place to position yourself to capture the action you want, if you have any choice in the matter;

- Shoot in RAW, or RAW+JPEG - RAW will give you more options in post-processing to perhaps rescue any underexposed etc images, and will also give you the maximum image resolution, which may be useful for crops;

- Get a fast reliable SDHC card (eg at a minimum something like a Sandisk SDHC Ultra II) to help you capture those RAW files and boost your frame rate;

- If you find that you just can't get closer than 100ft, and that still isn't giving you the images you want. consider hiring a 400mm or greater lens (Tamron, Sigma) if there are any places nearby that hire in Pentax mount (best of luck), or buy a 1.4x or even 2x teleconvertor to give your 300mm lens a bit more reach (at the expense of lens speed);

- At 100ft flash may not be an option unless you buy/hire a powerful Pentax flash like the 540FGZ, but even there at 100ft with a 300mm lens you may not get much help out of it. (But it may still be a viable option if you pump up your ISO I guess - experiment.) But flash can also be quite distracting for the performers and other spectators too in venues that are poorly lit, and it's use may be discouraged;

- Don't be too afraid of using 1600 ISO if you need to (if you shoot RAW), or even above that. There will be noise, but you can clean it up afterwards if need be + it may not be terrible to look at depending on what print size you use, and at least you may get the shot;

- Use a tripod/monopod if you are seated in a fixed position. SR works quite well but at 300mm it cant perform magic.
10-11-2009, 03:08 PM   #4
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My advice - see if it's possible to shoot from closer. It will be cheaper to get a "fast" (larger maximum aperture, thus allowing fast shutter speeds) lens of shorter focal length than longer. Shooting from the sidelines, something like the Tamron 28-75/2.8 would probably do the job nicely. From farther back, you'd need the DA*50-135/2.8 or perhaps even the Sigma or Tamron 70-200/2.8.

The really cheap way to get the job done, though, is a manual focus prime in whatever focal length you find most useful. Use the 55-300 to figure that out. I'd probably be using my M100/2.8 or M135/3.5 if I were primarily interested in one person, or something shorter if I was trying to capture the whole group.

10-12-2009, 09:07 AM   #5
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It's been many years since my daughters were cheerleaders. I was still shooting film. I was getting good results at that time with a 60-180/f4 Nikkor with my Pronea and also with my Spotmatic with a 55/f2 Tak and a 2x converter. The zoom was more versatile and I had the advantage of AF. I would have preferred something faster than the F/4 I was using but it did the job but I did seem to get a little motion blur from time to time. The Tak without the converter did well if I could get close enough and sometimes I could use flash. I was taking shots in a gym so I didn't need as much length. Stadium shots will require a longer lens. If the closest you can get is 100 feet I think the 55-300 will work for you. The K7 is supposed to have good high ISO. I have shot night games from the outfield bleachers at Fenway and got decent results using a cheap SIgma 70-300 and your 55-300 is a much better lens.
10-12-2009, 09:10 AM   #6
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I forgot one important thing. Bring a tripod or a monopod if possible.
10-12-2009, 01:34 PM   #7
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It's really hard to beat a 70-200mm f/2.8 for indoor sports shots. You're going to find the slower speed of the 55-300mm a limiting factor indoors. You will need a shutter speed of at least 1/250th second in order to freeze movement during their routines. That's tough to accomplish at f/5.6 or smaller apertures unless you're shooting really high ISO. I wouldn't doubt that you will still be shooting ISO 1600 but shooting it at f/2.8 or f/4 should give you some much needed headroom.

If you can shoot from closer, your choices increase significantly. Like Marc recommended, any of the shorter f/2.8 lenses would provide plenty of speed.
10-12-2009, 04:28 PM   #8
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you can do it with yor eqipment + a good flash and get closer

1/160 f5.6 iso200 da 55-300 at 120mm


same lens 1/80 f 6.3 iso 800 at 55mm


1/80 f5.6 iso 400 da 19-55 at 55mm


shot in raw and minor pp 72 800 for bored i have a metz 48 flash

also consider the time if the game starts early you will have plenty of light



10-13-2009, 12:23 AM   #9
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If getting closer is not an option, you would have to bring tripod & shoot with your 33-500 wide open and at ISO3200, I would imagine.
10-14-2009, 08:39 AM   #10
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I'm not really sure that a tripod is the answer. I do a lot of cheerleading photos for my sister-in-law at night and the key to getting good action shots is achieving adequate shutter speed. I use a tamron 70-200 f2.8 for the most part and use Tv mode, with the shutter speed set to 1/125 - 1/200 sec depending on the lighting conditions. I also set auto ISO 100-1600 (I have a K10D, yours will go even to ISO3200)... With that high of a shutter speed, a tripod does you little good (except tick off the guy sitting in front of you).

The pop-up flash does you absolutely no good unless you can get close to the cheerleaders, but I like the suggestion from Captmacq of getting a hot-shoe flash if you're able to get closer... that'll really help.



10-14-2009, 01:32 PM   #11
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Optically, the DA 55-300mm is a good lens. But it is sloooow. You can shoot at higher ISO to offset this. However, low light AND action shots will result in some missed shots . . . probably a lot of missed shots. I have used mine at sporting events with success, but it was at day games with good light. The flash is one option, but that requires you to be fairly close in which case I'd just use the FA 50mm f1.4 and be done with it. The other option would be to scrounge up a used FA 135mm f2.8. However, if you have the money, Marc pretty much nailed it with those fast 70-200mm f2.8 zooms.

Edit: In fact, take a look at the results posted in the previous 2 posts.
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