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I want to find a camera and lens that will for work for sports photography, specifically soccer and basketball. I would like to be able zoom in across the field for some good action shots.

I am eyeballing a Cannon EOS Rebel T3 12.2 MP DSLR with 18-55mm lens. How would this camera be for what I would like it to do? Any other lenses?

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Indoor sports is very demanding! "Getting started" could mean spending upwards of $1500 for basic equipment in this field! It looks like you have a price limit of around $600, which will limit your options a great deal! Second hand lenses are probably a must, along with end of life camera bodies. Even then, this is a tough task. –  dpollitt Dec 26 '11 at 23:35
    
The cheapest option would be to get the 55-250mm lens with the T3. There should be a nikon equivalent with the D3000 as well. Neither will be much good for fast auto focus or shutter speeds in low light though. For that you need a much higher budget as many of the answers have noted. If you are looking for high reach then you might consider an ultra zoom p&s. Just don't expect fast performance from it. –  ab.aditya Dec 27 '11 at 7:38
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Another point that would help us answer the question is what you intend to do with the photos and what other uses you see for your camera. –  ab.aditya Dec 27 '11 at 7:40
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Sports Photography is one of the most expensive type of photography. Indoor sports are even more demanding than outdoor ones. The cheapest solution is get the 55-250mm lens, but it will still be very challenging. Anything significantly better will easily cost ten times more. It is rare for people not making a living with photography to invest that much for the right gear for sports photography. –  Gapton Dec 30 '11 at 16:33

7 Answers 7

I'm not sure you'll get both a camera and lens that does what you want for $600, but I can tell you how I did it...

I have the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, and think it's great for capturing sports and action. Especially on a crop body as it will be the equivalent of a 160-640mm lens.

New, one of these will set you back about £1250, but I got mine second hand on eBay for about £820 (A real bargain!). I don't regret one second of buying it or using it. It's a versatile lens, great for the sort of work you want.

It is however quite a slow lens, so you'll need to marry it with a body with good low-light, high ISO performance. I use it with the EOS 7D, and the two go really well together. For quick moving sports action you also need a camera with good auto-focus, and the 7D again excels at this with 19-point AF, and great AF tracking. It also has an 8fps continuous shooting rate which is ideal for sports as you'll want to rattle off a fair few shots, then pick the best later in post.

Apologies if this is way out of your price range, but believe me, it would be easy to spend a heck of a lot more to get similar shots (the cost of a 400/4 for example). Anyway, hope that gives you some sense of what to aim for...

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OK great. Thanks for your help and knowledge. –  Rich Dec 26 '11 at 23:12

I think the others have made some very good points. However, one area where you may be able to compromise is on megapixels.

If you were happy to drop down to 6MP or even less you should be able to pick up an older but higher quality DSLR body on ebay or a second hand camera shop which will be more suitable for taking sports photos. i.e. better autofocus, fps, etc.

There's still the problem of a lens but likewise you may be able to pick up a bargain if you're patient and vigilant.

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The 18-55 kit lens is too short to be useful for soccer. And it's too slow to be useful for most indoor basketball courts.

The camera you've selected will be okay. Not great. It's the lowest level DSLR. Fine for a beginner, but don't expect miracles with its autofocus.

What's your budget for a lens? Is this to take photos of your kids? What age? (Size of soccer field usually depends on age, and that will influence what kind of lens will work best.)

Unfortunately, the two examples you've chosen will likely not be solved by a single lens.

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My son is 13. He plays on a full 11v11 field.I was hoping to get a good quality camera for about $500-600. If you suggest any I would be open to see them. –  Rich Dec 26 '11 at 19:30
    
For about $600, you can get a Rebel with the 18-55 kit lens. You'll really want something in the 300-400mm range for a full sized soccer field. In your original question, you want to zoom across the field for good action shots. Even with a 400, you won't have close pictures across the field. This is a good lens, but it's $1100: bhphotovideo.com/c/product/12129-USA/… –  Eric Dec 26 '11 at 21:17
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For soccer on smaller fields, I use either a 300/2.8 or a 70-300L ($1350 with the current rebate.) For basketball, I use either a 35/1.4, 85/1.8, or 24-105/4, depending on lighting conditions and where I'll be located. –  Eric Dec 26 '11 at 21:21

soccer and basketball require different length cameras. basketball will be possible with a shorter power lens; it and hockey can be shot quite succcessfully around 200mm. Soccer will likely need more power, up to 300mm or 400mm to get good shots.

The canon 100-400 is a good option here. I used that for a long time, but just upgraded to the 70-200F2.8IS and when I need more power, throw in a 2X tele. I'm just starting serious field tests on this, but it looks to be a good setup.

I'd serious suggest looking at the 70-200 F4, non IS version. That's about $600US and gets you in the door so you can figure out what you really want to do at reasonable cost. consider renting a 1.4x tele and trying it on the lens for soccer and see if you can shoot what you want with the 70-200 alone or whether the 1.4 gives you enough more to warrant getting one. the 2x won't AF on the F4, so I'd probably not try to use that for now.

That'd be a nice complementary lens to what you already own, but not be a killer investment until you know how serious you want to get (and how much you want to spend).

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How about getting a used EOS 40D or 50D it has a good burst rate and you should be able to get one for around $250-350.

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For the camera body, it's useful in sports to be able to take a burst of 3-4 shots quickly. The T3 does this, but from reviews it appears to be relatively slow compared to other cameras. In general, more expensive cameras will shoot faster bursts and will tend to autofocus faster and more accurately.

For soccer, I use an 80-200mm lens. Even right on the sideline you tend to be far from the action most of the time. I probably use it nearer to 200mm then 80mm most of the time. You can use the 18-55mm at 55mm and get shots, but a longer focal length would be useful. You might look at the Canon 55-200mm zoom. The 18-55mm is good for all around photography, so it depends on how much sports you'll shoot compare to other things.

For basketball, assuming you mean indoors, the problem is the lighting is usually poor. The problem with the 18-55mm lens is that at 55mm it has a maximum aperture of f/5.6, which is going to mean that you'll not be able to shoot at a high shutter speed, and you'll end up with blurry photos. You'll probably want a fast prime lens, like a 50mm f/1.8 if you're on a budget, for around $100. Focal length required depends on where you are, right on the sideline or up in the stands. Up in the stands you'd want something longer. That 55-200mm canon lens has the same problem with small maximum aperture, so you'll need something that's f/1.8 or f/2.8, unless they let you use flash.

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Do you have suggestions for another camera? Price range between $500-600. What do you think about buying a used or refurbished camera? –  Rich Dec 26 '11 at 19:32
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@Rich: If high FPS is your prime consideration at that price point, I think the Pentax K-r is the current best in that regard. I wouldn't buy on one feature alone, though (not that the K-r would be a bad choice). For buying refurbished, see this other question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/17639/… –  mattdm Dec 27 '11 at 5:08
    
@mattdm, as the owner of a K-r, I can say that it does a decent job with indoor sports with the 55-300mm lens, but I still have to deal with a lens that is slow in both in terms of aperture and of autofocus. I'm afraid that even the K-r 18-55/55-300 dual lens kit might be just past his budget... –  DragonLord Dec 27 '11 at 6:15

To get started, any DSLR body will do. However, the more expensive bodies (D300s, D700, D3, etc) have a much faster burst rate. The speed of burst is important in sports photography so that you can capture the fast pace nature of the sport. ISO and Noise also comes into play. You will likely have the ISO up around 800 or higher so that your shutter speed is fast. So a camera with good noise reduction at the higher ISO ranges can be important. As far as lenses go, you wouldn't necessarily be shooting at f/2.8 so to get started I would look at a more economical lens like a 28-300mm. The possibilities are endless really. My recommendation would be to visit a local camera shop, get your hands on the equipment and see what feels right. Also ask the sales person questions, and a lot of them.

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