Making a Choice: Nikon® Sport Lenses
Let's talk about lenses for sports or action photography before we get into any recommended lenses or even photos of examples I want to talk about a concept that I came up with called subjects and this is the area your subject needs to be within in order for you to photograph them and the basic concept that I need you to I would like you to walk away with is that big lenses have big subject areas so let me explain what I'm talking about all right imagine that you are in charge of photographing an athlete that is coming towards you down a runway maybe it's the finisher of the marathon and you're standing at the finish line and this runner is going to come straight towards you so you could use any lens in the book to get their photograph because they're going to end up right next to you which lens should you use in order to photograph this subject so they're coming towards you and you can shoot wherever you want in order to get your photo all right? So let's put our camera right down her...
e at the end of this long runway where the runners are going to come and think about what are the different options in lenses and the implications of using the different lenses so the examples that we're going to draw from twenty for the fifty the one oh five, two hundred, four hundred and I've chosen these because they essentially just double in focal length and I want to choose a variety of him and we'll be ableto mathematically figure out some things as we go along the line here now in our frame we're holding our camera and here's the runway here's our athlete coming towards us we want to get a frame that has our subject filling as many pixels on the frame is possible, so we're most likely going to be shooting vertical all right that way we fill the frame with that subject so this is the shot that we would like to get but what if he's blinking at this very moment we better get a couple of shots and so we better shoot some ahead of time. Well, how early should we start shooting? Well, my theory is that once the subject is half the size of the frame, they are big enough that we can probably make a crop in an enlargement and make a decent photograph of it. So anything further back than this, they're likely to be too small in the frame, so once they're half the size of the frame that's a good time for you to start shooting anything else? They're just going to be too small in the frame, so right here is the back of the zone, so don't start shooting until they filled up half the frame or too small now is when we start shooting and we're going to take lots of pictures until they fill the frame, and then we're going to end up at the front of the zone because we're no longer going to be able to get a full body shot if that's we're looking for now, honestly, I would keep shooting and I would shoot here, here, here, here and its closest my camera could possibly focused so that I could get multiple shots, but we're just for right now we want to get a full body shot of our running runner coming towards us. So this the back of the zone of the front of his own? This is our subject zone. This is where they need to be if they're closer than this there too close, if they're behind this, they're too far away and they're going to be too small in the frame, according to the lens that we have on now is greatly depends on the lens. So what happens when you have a wide angle lens? It sees a lot from side to side and your subject needs to be very close to the frame. Where is the subject half size it's only a small distance away, let's go to a longer lens one o five the subject is a little bit further away and the half size subject is noticeably further back. So now we have a much bigger zone in us in order for us to get the shot. Let's, try this with a four hundred millimeter lands. Well, now our subject is very far away from our camera and the half size the back of his own is much further away, so we have a lot of time in order to get our shots. So what this looks like at the finish line of our marathon is that if we choose to use twenty four millimeter lens let's, figure out where our subject needs to be basically needs to be right next to the camera. Very, very close to the camera. So you have this really tiny range that is only one point two, five, one point one and a quarter meters in whip that that runners coming across when we double the focal length, we double the image of the subject's own. So the subject's own is now twice the size. We have twice as much time in order to get the shot with a fifty millimeter lands. When we go up to a one o five, we're going to double that number as well subjects a little bit further away, but we get twice as much space in order to photograph them. And so with each one of these this is a good thing because the longer the lens, the more time more opportunities we have of getting a nice clean shot. Now, of course, this is assuming that you have a nice clear shot forty meters away there could be somebody standing there that forces you to shoot with a one hundred millimeter lands rather than a four hundred millimeter lands, but if you have an unlimited unrestricted point of view, the longer the lens is going to give you more opportunity forgetting your shot so let's run some math. We've got a runner coming in twenty five kilometres an hour, which means they're covering a meter every point, one for four seconds and now we can run the math of how much time they're going to be in that particular zone, and so you can see the amount of time that they're coming through the zone. This is the amount of time that you have in order to get the photograph now let's assume that you have a pretty good camera that sports photography shoots at ten frames per second. We can now figure out how many pictures you can take with each lens you want to shoot with the twenty four you get one shot at it, one shot and then they're gone fifty you get three and we get all the way up to the four hundred, you get twenty eight shots while that subject is in that twenty meter zone for you to shoot want to guess what professional photographers use, they want to have the best opportunity possible of getting the shot and that's one among many reasons why they used longer telephoto lenses so imagine you're at the side of a football or soccer field using a twenty four millimeter lands you can take pictures of people that are basically right next to you on the sideline and that's everybody else's too small in the frame fifty millimeter lands is going to give you a wider arc of coverage the same thing with one hundred a little bit wider it's doubling that distance two hundred millimeter lands is just kind of the start for serious sports photography it's just starting to reach out you're not going to get the goalie's on either end of the field four hundred millimeter lens this is one of the most popular choices for the serious sports photographers they can really reach a fairly wide swath of the field now to be honest with you the way a lot of professional sports or shot are in teams teams of photographers what they will do is they will position photographer in each corner of the field and at that point each of them is going to have a different point of view and a different coverage area that will pretty much cover the entire field so a professional photographer might smartly choose a five hundred millimeter lands which covers a big swath of the field and then add to that a seventy two, two hundred which will cover pretty much everything nearby and that's probably everything they need some cases there's some photographers that will carry a third camera with a fifty millimeter lens on it in case something interesting happens right in front of them. So what does this look like out in the real world? Let's shoot an example from twenty forty eight hundred millimeters all right, so we're gonna keep our player in blue the same size in the frame alright and shot with a twenty four millimeter lands are player in white is gonna remain on this siri's aboutthe same actually what are we doing on this one? So these guys are relatively close together so as we move back we're trying to keep them relatively close in size and they're going to be just a little bit further apart shooting the video here just to show how far apart they are and so player in blue is that kind of the front edge of the subject's own and the player in the back is about it back edge and so once they get further back than that I don't want to shoot their picture because they're too small in the frame and with that hundred millimeter lens we have a greater working distance because they're farther apart now and so the front edge and the back edge of the subject's own with a two hundred millimeter lands gives me a wider swath to work with because they're further apart now so there's a lot of area for them to be playing and working with four hundred millimeter lens this is where a lot of professional sports photographers are working and they're just much further apart so that's a nice wide swath of area that you get a shooting and at eight hundred they're much farther apart so that's illustrating the front and the back end of that zone. And so when I'm shooting a bunch of cross country runners coming down the stretch, I want to use a really long lens because aiken hammer on the motor drive and I could get shot after shot after shot and they're not changing size that much, and then I can go back through that entire siri's and find out one frame that best tells the story or is the most interesting or is the best for whatever reason. And so when I'm shooting runners at the end of a race, I'm shooting a burst of pictures, maybe four, five, ten photos going back, finding the one that I want and when you get a lot of opportunities to shoot, the better and better the best of those choices are going to be so when we talk about the subject zone it's the area your subject needs to be within and big lenses have big subject areas and so in some cases I want to move bacchus far away from my subject with the biggest lens possible I don't always want to get closer depends on what my agenda is that I'm doing in that particular event. So thinking about different lenses for shooting sports what is important in choosing a sport? Lenz first before most focal inc what sport of you using how much access do you have? Where can you stand? How close to the athletes get to you what's the maximum aperture because when you're shooting sports you are most frequently at the maximum aperture of what that lands has to offer that's a two eight you're probably too ate almost all the time, but the five six you're going to get five six pretty much the whole time how fast is that? Lends it focusing what type of focusing motors doesn't have what level of quality of lens is that? How sharp is the lens? The sharper it is probably the larger we can blow things up and still have them usable. And so maybe we can shoot with somebody a little behind that subjects only we're just talking about because our lenses so sharp how big and heaviest this lens can I hand hold it? Do I need a mono pod? Do I need a tripod does it have image stabilization? I'm in stabilization does not help. Vibration reduction does not help in action because you need fast shutter speeds for stopping their action, but it can be handy in a variety of other types of purposes. But it's something to be aware of. The price of the lens that's always going to play a part. So in general we were talking about lenses that are two hundred two, eight hundred millimeters in length, depending on the sports. There will be exceptions to the rules, of course. So let's, take a look at different sports shot. So two hundred millimeters is what I use a lot. It's a very handy focal length. It's not too big. Give our subjects a little bit of it. How to focus background, which is really nice. If we have larger subjects, we can be a little bit further away from them. We're not allowed to get close. Three hundred millimeters is a favorite for a lot of photographers with kind of standard access for getting reasonably close to your subjects. But the three hundred to eight is really nice being able to blow out those backgrounds. So three hundred two point eight, isolating our subject with a narrow angle of view and the shallow depth of field. Now, just a moment ago I showed you a photo that was very similar to this that was shot with a two hundred millimeter lands and it was an f four. So it was a shorter focal ink and more depth of field. And I wanted to show you the comparison of what an extra hundred millimeters and one aperture does. So we have a three hundred to eight on the left and let's bring up our two hundred four on the right and so that extra hundred millimeters of focal ing that one stop faster on the aperture and that's. How much more you can blow the background out of focus now is that nice? Most people are going to say yes, it's. Nice option have. Okay, how much does that option cost me? All right, that option will cost you roughly four thousand dollars. Okay, so it really depends on how serious you are. And that's that's where there's a big jump where you want to go to the next level. That's a big jump because you could shoot it three hundred five. Six pretty cheaply, but three hundred to wait that's going to cost you bucks four hundred millimeter lands. This is where most of the serious professional photographer is going to be. Oftentimes, because those guys are getting thrown back into suit, certain shooting areas that they cannot and are not allowed to get any closer that and they're often photographing just sports on a bigger field and sow motor sports for instance four hundred and up would be kind of a minimum larger subjects with a six hundred millimeter lands you need a big wide open area here there's a lot of air between me and them but it is really nice when you can shoot with these long lenses because you get like ten seconds where you could be shooting pictures rather than two seconds it's really nice having those few extra seconds in order to get a shot normally the eight hundred is a little too slow and aperture for shooting sports but under good lighting conditions in big open areas like a rowing event is really tough to shoot because they're just so far away from where you can get unless you're out on a boat with them but you can get that compressed look and so it's a unique shot that it does not look like a two hundred millimeter shot so for your professional sports lenses we're talking about six to twelve thousand dollars and it's the fastest lenses available in these particular focal links from two hundred to eight hundred but mostly it's going to be topping up around six hundred only in this special special sports or they're going to want to use the eight hundred so sports photography is just plain old more expensive than everything else that's, just the way it is seventy two, two hundred is more mid level. I know that's a very expensive lenses, like twenty, five hundred bucks, but that's mid level here, it's going to be very versatile in a lot of different ways, but just not for the huge big open fields. If you are shooting the bigger open fields, you know, maybe something like a three hundred four might be nice. If you're indoors, you're shooting a little bit closer up. You have closer access to your subjects. The one thirty five of the one eighty might be better for, say, volleyball, for instance, or wrestling or a lot of high school sports for that take place in a gymnasium or inside and for entry level it's um, it's a little bit tougher world, because these lenses definitely do not have the light gathering capabilities, and they don't have the focusing speed that the other lenses have. I did throw in the eighty two, two hundred two point eight because that's, that older lands that does have that fast aperture, so that is going to be able to enable you to stop that action under low light conditions, the other fifty five to two hundred fifty five to three hundred or more just general dx zoom lenses that they are just there, ok lenses and if you use these and you're getting fifty percent results that are pretty good that would be pretty good with those lenses just because they're not able to track action as fast as these bigger lenses and the reason that they're not able to track is because generally they're inexpensive lenses that they put lower and motors for focusing the lens and secondly thes faster lenses are often two point eight an aperture which lets in a lot of light which enables the focusing system to have a lot of information to work and focusing whereas these lenses are at five point six when they're out of telephoto and so they're getting in one quarter of the amount of light toe work with so they're not working with his good of information to start with and so that's why they're added hindrance and these lenses are just some of the most expensive lenses in the recommendations because sports photography big fast telephoto lenses are very expensive and so the questions that I would imagine that would arise around this is, you know, what's the best one for doing this well you need to figure out what is the right focal length and can you afford the aperture that you would like to have in most cases the answer is no way would like to have a two point eight but I can barely afford the f or is there a five six available and so sometimes you need to compromise a little bit sometimes you need to be a little creative. Well, I would like to shoot this event with the three hundred millimeter lens well, if you sit in the stands yes you need a three hundred millimeter lens are you willing to stand on the sidelines? But you have to stand the whole game for the whole of that. Ok, well, now you only need a two hundred millimeter lands. Maybe you can get your school to write you a letter of recommendation and now you can stand on the other side of that line and stand there with the other photographers and not need that longer lands and so there's a lot of creative ways have been able to get closer to your subjects and maybe where they are going. I know like one of the events I shoot a lot of his I shoot a lot of cross country and I love shooting cross country because you have a lot of freedom and how you can shoot it because it's outside I can add strobes and lighting. I can stand right next to the path that they're running on or I could go find a big open field and shoot him way across the field so that's far more versatile and I know in some areas they have the runners go through certain path and they hold everybody back well, that may not be where I want to get my shot. I want to go up where they're going through the woods, where there's unrestricted access, and I could stand right next to the runners with a fish islands or whatever lens I want now in a lot of other sports, whether it's, professional or kind of field sports that have very specific outlines of where they're going to play. That's going to change those determinations and there's, just so many different answers as to what's the best lens for this price, for this sport in this type of environment. But hopefully, this will give you a good base in which to make a decision.