Lens recommendations for indoor sports

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It's that time of year when sports in the northern hemisphere move indoors (if they are of that ilk) and shooting fast-paced action becomes problematic for m4/3 users on a budget. The tennis Champ has moved to a club with indoor courts and as the light draws in I am finding my faithful Sigma 60 is lacking the fortitude to deal with the lack of light. Any suggestions for something that will help? I'm using a GX8.

60mm is a good length for what I do, but something a little longer would not not be unhelpful. A P35-100 would fit the 'length' scenario. as would the more expensive Oly40-150. I'm sure the Oly75mm would also work, but to be honest, the few times I have tried my P42.5 (for the 1.7 part of it) I have not found much difference in noise capabilities from the 60 by the time one has cropped in for composition. My budget puts the PL50-200 out of reach, but I'm starting to think a 2.8 lens is not going to cut it anyway, sigh.

Am I looking in vain for a m4/3 solution, and should I perhaps be buying something FF (or ASP-C) for what I want to do? If I have to buy something specific, I'd rather buy something that is known to work rather than something that might do the job. Anyone who mentions a Sony A9ii will get a raspberry in their ear :D

As always, all suggestions are much appreciated.
 

Stanga

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If M4/3 f2.8 isn't fast enough, what lens were you thinking of using in FF?
 
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Hi Stanga - I'm not familiar with anything FF nowadays (I sold my Nikon gear in the late 90's) so would not have a clue, but from what I can gather FF would work better indoors apparently, especially with a higher ISO. Correct me if I am wrong, of course, please :)
 

RAH

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Hi Stanga - I'm not familiar with anything FF nowadays (I sold my Nikon gear in the late 90's) so would not have a clue, but from what I can gather FF would work better indoors apparently, especially with a higher ISO. Correct me if I am wrong, of course, please :)
I think I see what you are thinking, that FF would allow you to get perhaps 1 or 2 stops at the same noise levels, so that would perhaps allow you to use say a 2.8 FF lens and get better results (i.e. you could push the ISO higher using the same aperture). So, you'd sell your m43 to fund the FF stuff?
 

BDR-529

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It's that time of year when sports in the northern hemisphere move indoors (if they are of that ilk) and shooting fast-paced action becomes problematic for m4/3 users on a budget. The tennis Champ has moved to a club with indoor courts and as the light draws in I am finding my faithful Sigma 60 is lacking the fortitude to deal with the lack of light. Any suggestions for something that will help? I'm using a GX8.
The best MFT lens for indoor sports is also one of the cheapest ones: Sigma 56mm f/1.4. It's huge and bulky because it's actually designed for APS-C sensors but thanks to that smaller MFT image circle is very sharp even wide open which you end up using anyway.

I was also surprised about the speed and accuracy of AF on panny body. Note that I'm using focus priority and medium burst speed. There's no point to use higher burst rates because I'll just get more images which are out of focus.

I have used panny 25mm f/1.7 for indoor video (futsal) and results were acceptable despite the lackluster lighting in that arena.
I don't believe that there even is such indoor venue where lights are bright enough for anything slower than f/1.7
 
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No - not all all, Rich. I like m4/3's a lot, and it would remain my main system. A 'tennis' system would be a one-off specialist purchase, second-hand or even third-hand. I do not shoot that much tennis anyway so I'm thinking a Canon or Nikon outfit made up of bits available on eBay. I know the lens will be the most important bit - I'm not worried about burst rates as I shoot SAF anyway, so something quick enough to focus in poor light and still shoot fairly fast (1000+ shutter speed) would be the go, I suspect.

If I'm being ambitious, do let me know :)
 
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The best MFT lens for indoor sports is also one of the cheapest ones: Sigma 56mm f/1.4. It's huge and bulky because it's actually designed for APS-C sensors but thanks to that smaller MFT image circle is very sharp even wide open which you end up using anyway.

I was also surpriced about the speed and accuracy of AF on panny body. Note that I'm using focus priority and medium burst speed. There's no point to use higher burst rates because I'll just get more images which are out of focus.
Now there's a thought. I'd forgotten totally about the 56mm! Have you any examples of something indoors?
 

BDR-529

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Now there's a thought. I'd forgotten totally about the 56mm! Have you any examples of something indoors?
OK, I found one sample from relatively dimly lit indoor soccer arena. This one is shot as close as you might be to a tennis court which must also have a lot better lighting.
(This is an official match but I still try to avoid sharing images where players can be identified because it's an U19 game).

Sigma 56mm @f/1.4 1/500s ISO 400

sport sample.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
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Thanks for that! It sounds and looks like it will do the trick, but as I will have to sell the Sigma 60 and my P42.5 to fund it (pretty sure the 56mm can replace both of those), I'm not sure I'm willing to risk selling those lenses for a 'perhaps'. A quandary, sigh. But a pleasant one to have.

So, having found the answer, perhaps my next question for learned friends should be whether the exchange above is a good idea?
 

BDR-529

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Thanks for that! It sounds and looks like it will do the trick, but as I will have to sell the Sigma 60 and my P42.5 to fund it (pretty sure the 56mm can replace both of those),
I'm not sure if you can use mono/tripod and sit next to the tennis court but 56mm is actually quite long and Sigma does not have lens IS. Dual-IS really makes a difference when you don't have worlds best IBIS in your body. On the other hand in tennis you can keep your camera steady and pointed at player A because you know that the ball will come this way every second time whereas in soccer you need to follow the action around the entire 65*90m field in a totally unpredictable manner and swing your camera in wide arches.

The sample I posted was shot at ISO 400 so I'm a bit worried about your comment regarding panny 42,5mm f/1.7 which, you said, has essentially too much noise? 1.4 is not *that* much faster than 1.7 so is it possible that this tennis court could have even worse lighting than the soccer arena above? They might have hard time seing the ball in that case though.

I usually want some action blur in the images or otherwise they become too static which translates into shutter speeds between 1/250 and 1/500 or so. A bit more than above because there's only a hint of it in the ball and a couple of hands. If you really want low noise and 1/1000 shutter speed, then even Sigma 1.4 requires a lot of light.
 
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demiro

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I was going to suggest the 56/1.4 as well, though I've never tried it. What I did in the same situation is buy a Nikon D600 + 50 and 85/1.8 primes. Total cost ~$750 in the US. I don't think you can beat that kit for low light sports on a budget. Hopefully the Sigma is good enough, but I was never really happy shooting f/1.8 primes on m4/3s bodies for this application. Beyond low light capabilities, I have to say I hugely prefer the big DSLR body when firing off a few hundred shots at a sporting event. Don't prefer that bulk for much else, but it is comfortable when shooting a lot.
 

demiro

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I'm not sure if you can use mono/tripod and sit next to the tennis court but 56mm is actually quite long and Sigma does not have lens IS. Dual-IS really makes a difference when you don't have worlds best IBIS in your body. ...
I've always shot sports with no IS, and prefer that approach. But I'm trying to stay at 800 or 1000. Maybe it helps at 250? I usually like to take a few shots with blur, but prefer sharp [hopefully] with action frozen for the majority.
 
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That's funny - I have a friend with a D600 who would lend it to me without a problem, but I am not sure he has a suitable lens. He's a nature/birder, and I think he has a 35mm and a 100-600 Sigma. Not sure either of those would help me, lol

Regarding IS - the wife has a G6 which I have used for tennis and I found that when you're shooting 1000 or above it makes little difference, really, so not sure the lack of IS would bother me - the 60mm doesn't have any either and I've not found that a problem.
 

BDR-529

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I've always shot sports with no IS, and prefer that approach. But I'm trying to stay at 800 or 1000. Maybe it helps at 250? I usually like to take a few shots with blur, but prefer sharp [hopefully] with action frozen for the majority.
Even 56mm is already so long (112mm equivalent) that sharpness is easily lost to camera movement in sports like soccer where you must swing camera wildly because action jumps to new location all the time. It's a different story of course if you can predict where the action will be next and keep your camera steady on that direction (only penalty/corner kicks in soccer)

Indoor arenas are usually so dimly lit that 1/1000s is not an option anyway because 1600 is IMHO the max acceptable ISO for MFT and the best compromise is typically f/1.4, 1/500s and ISO 800 whenever there's enough light (usually not). At 1/500 or below even 5 stop IBIS or dual-IS will help substantially. There are very few sprots where the action stays at fixed distance from the camera so prime shots need a lot of cropping too which makes things even worse.

If there's a single application where MFT is not well suited it's indoor sports and the sample above is pretty much the best you can expect in a typical indoor venue around here. Some smaller arenas for futsal or basket/volleyball can afford much brigher lights though.

Even if you invest in M1X and Olympus f/1.2 lens, you will get a better hit rate but not significant improvement in low light IQ itself becuse this is the noise level you get from a 20MP Sony MFT sensor which is used in all of them untill GH6 with a new MFT sensor is eventually released (release date seems to keep moving further and further away every week)
 
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Another vote for the Sigma 56; I replaced my sigma 60 with one specifically because of the low light capabilities.
It's the cheaper than buying a new system, and you won't lose anything as you will have gained a better lens (IMHO).
It is my favourite lens and every opportunity I have to stick it on the camera I take.

The light gathering should be suitable for indoor sports, I took it to a carnival in February where the lighting was probably very similar.
Lots of movement and low light. The PL 12-60 was on the emii, but it couldn't cope with the light and movement , even at the12 mm f2.78 end, so I picked up my em5ii which had the the 56 attached and couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

I have used it in very dim conditions, but there is a point when autofocus stops working and you have to revert to manual focus.
 

ac12

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I shot high school indoor basketball and volleyball on an APS-C dSLR with a 35/1.8 and 50/1.8. That is a stop faster than the 35-100/2.8.
My exposure with the f/1.8 primes was ISO 3200, 1/800 sec, f/2
BUT, as a prime, half the time the lens is not the correct focal length for the shot; too short or too long. That is the price to pay for using a prime. So selection of the focal length is important.

The Sigma f/1.4 would be TWO stops faster than the 35-100/2.8,

With m4/3, I use the 12-40/2.8 on the EM1, and I missed the extra stop in lens speed, in the dim gym.
My exposure was ISO 6400, 1/800 sec, f/2.8

So, my recommendation is a fast prime of the appropriate focal length.

For going to another format, you NEED to do your research, and find which camera/sensor has good low light performance.
The different FF cameras have different levels of HIGH ISO / low light performance.
Then you have to find a FAST lens of the appropriate focal length.
But going FF would be a more expensive option.
 

BDR-529

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BUT, as a prime, half the time the lens is not the correct focal length for the shot; too short or too long. That is the price to pay for using a prime. So selection of the focal length is important.
There are some sports like gymnastics where action happens in one place and MFT body with said Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is really all you need for great shots assuming that competition is not held in a dimly lit boiler room at midnight.

But at the opposite end of the scale is something like soccer (at least 95m*65m) which is played also indoors here in the north. Situation outdoors might be even worse during winter months because only major stadiums have really good lights. The only practical way to shoot anything with primes is to select one end, position yourself so that you can take good action shots from that goal and ignore 80% of the events in the game because players are just too far away (or they are directly in front of you). Even in this case the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is the only affordable option for low light sports shooting.

In the linked youth sports thread someone had taken good shots with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 which might be even better focal length for most but it's more than twice as expensive as Sigma and Sigma is as sharp wide open as they get. F/2.8 just isn't fast enough for MFT indoor sports shooting which is a huge problem because there are no zoom lenses faster than that. If I'm ever going to invest more for sports shooting, I just have to cough up the money for FF body and 24-200 f/2.8 zoom which will set me back by 3500€
 
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If I'm ever going to invest more for sports shooting, I just have to cough up the money for FF body and 24-200 f/2.8 zoom which will set me back by 3500€
Exactly. It seems the cheaper option, and perhaps the Sigma 56mm really will work, too. I'm coming round to selling my S60mm and the P42.5 to fund the purchase - a couple of reviews have convinced me the S56 will work well for the indoor tennis and will also very adequately replace the two lenses. At some stage I still want to buy the O60mm for macro, but I think that just means it will be just a macro lens and I'll use the S56mm for standard use.

I have to do something as the Champ is starting ITF this winter (she's now 14) and I am guessing that as we will be doing just the French ITF tournaments (no flying on planes during COVID) I may be going along for one or two of them if they're close enough to home - it would be a shame to miss out on some of the opportunities that will be coming along. I can see a PL50-200 looming on the horizon for the outdoor courts...... sigh. Which kidney should I sell?
 

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