Canon EOS 5d Mark III – Indoor Sports, High ISO
I’m interested in sports photography what camera should I buy?
I have friends that shoot sports professionally, but most of the people I know that shoot sports are parents or students. I wanted to write a series of reviews for them. I get asked all the time what camera should I get to take pictures of my kids while they’re participating in sports. Also, a lot of my students are interested in sports photography for either yearbook or journalism, and they want to know what camera will get the job done. Just a little background, I’m a very cost conscious consumer, I know that the economy is doing better these days, but who doesn’t like to save some money right? Without sacrificing performance of course.
So what’s the answer? What camera do I buy? Here is my typical answer considering my audience, Moms, Dads, and students. A Canon EOS Rebel T3i EF-S , or the equivalent Nikon D3100 should do the trick. The reason I recommend what essentially is the low-end SLR cameras from the top two manufactures, is the relatively low “cost to entry”. For around $650.00 USA dollars, you can get a Low end DSLR with a kit lens and for out-door sports it should do the trick. Now that being said, if you “wanted” to spend a little more money or if the sport your child participates in is indoors, what should you buy? Now the answer gets a little more complicated.
Here are some obstacles to consider when looking for a camera that will do well indoors.
- Low light, indoor sports are usually held in high school gyms with poor lighting, or in converted warehouses with equally poor lighting.
- How “fast” your lens is, if you are using a kit lens, your lens most likely has a maximum aperture (F-Stop) of F3.5-5.6, which is not “fast” at all. Or if you are lucky enough to have a “faster” zoom lens, you will have a maximum aperture (F-Stop) of F2.8, which is pretty fast, but usually not fast enough to capture “indoor” sports.
Lets look at a typical enthusiast set up and break down the issues. Lets say you have a Canon EOS Rebel T3 with a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 Lens. Your shutter speed and aperture (F-Stop) combination at ISO 1600 will probably be F4.0 at 1/125 of a sec. At this combination you can get a decent image but everyone should be standing still or your subject will be blurry. Even with the setting at F2.8 at 1/250 of a sec. This equivalent exposure will give you, shallower Depth of Field but will allow your subject’s movement to be less blurry. Though not by much. A good basic aperture and shutter speed combination for indoor sports would be at least F2.8 at 1/1000 of a sec. unfortunately, the set up that we just looked at is “2 stops” short of this base. Now the only way to get this basic aperture and shutter speed combination for indoor sports is to increase the ISO. The high ISO performance of the Canon EOS Rebel T3 above ISO 1600 is not good. So what do we do? Look for a camera with better high ISO performance.
How does the Canon EOS 5d Mark III perform shooting indoor sports?
Just for reference the Canon EOS 7D has decent high ISO performance up to ISO 6400, BUT the Canon EOS 5d Mark III has even better high ISO performance up to ISO 25600. Basically the Canon EOS 7D at ISO 6400 looks the same at the Canon EOS 5d Mark III at ISO 25600. What does that look like? Lets take a look. For the test images below the indoor sport we’ll focus on is Judo. I focused on the high ISO’s of 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25600. I will show you the full image just as a reference and 100% crops at each ISO. You be the judge. Are the images at the extreme ISO’s of 12800 and 25600 pass-able?
Interpreting the images
As I looks at the results I started to get more and more excited. As you can see in the 100% crops at ISO 1600 you can see that I still have minor motion blur at ISO 3200 it all but goes away and from then on you get nice frozen motion. As you go higher and higher with the ISO you start to see more and more color noise. For some of you out there, from a purely technical stand point ISO 25600 may not look that great at 100%, but considering the user group and the potential final usage, these test images are highly exciting for me. Below are some more images and their various ISO’s.
As I stated in the beginning, the target group for these tests are parents and students. Consider their final product? For parents you may print out a 4×6, 5×7, all the way up to a 11×14. You will most likely have them on your hard drive and maybe use them in a slide show or DVD video. You will most likely email them to family and friends and post them on your Facebook page or other social media outlet. Now consider where students may use their images, In the school yearbook, website, or newspaper? A portfolio that you they may want to try to get jobs with or social media, or internet publication. The chances of needing the absolute quality to make a billboard or poster print are extremely low, making high quality prints for sale are low, and even if the user was an event photographer that sells prints to parents at sporting events, the customer (the parents) will rarely demand such high quality if you look at it objectively. I feel the quality of the highest ISO 25600 tested here is more than enough to make a very nice 11×14 print from Costco, or Sam’s Club right from the jpeg from the memory card, which is what most parents want. Get the best possible quality with the lowest possible effort and fuss. If you were so inclined to shoot RAW and play with the image in Photoshop or other image editing software you could get a very high quality beautiful print. The quality is more than enough to email, for social media, for publication, and even for print. Finally what really gets me more excited is whoever is going to buy this system whether for work or play the quality is so good that you now have the capability to use the lighter high quality zoom lenses and primes that cost a whole lot less. Traditionally the rule of thumb is “Pay for quality lenses, not cameras”. This applies mostly when you have to make a choice of where to spend your hard-earned money. The theory was based on the longevity of a quality lens will far out weigh the longevity of the camera body, especially with digital cameras where a new body is introduced every year. I’m not saying that I’m letting go of this sound advice. What I’m saying is that for those of you out there that have saved your hard-earned dollars and couldn’t afford the heavy and expensive L series lenses you may now be in luck!
Consider this example.
Total of $4200.00
Total of $4200.00
If I were going to spend the money and you gave me a choice right now. I would lean toward combo A. I get a better camera that will last longer and the quality of what I will be shooting (considering the target of this article) will be better. The speed that I lose in the lens I more than make up for in the camera.
Which would you choose?
Use the comments and let us know which combo you will choose and why.