Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5 AF-S VR for recital pics?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by aross99, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. aross99 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2006
    East Lansing, MI
    I have a Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm AF-S VR kit lens, and I am looking to get a longer zoom for an opportunity to shoot some pictures at my daughters dance recital.

    Conditions will be dancers in a dark high school auditorium with stage lighting. I can get within 5-10' of the stage, and the stage is approximately 10-25' deep. I can't use a flash. I will be hand holding the camera from my seat.

    I have had moderate success in the past with my bridge camera with a 38-380 "equivalent" lens. Hard to get enough light to get the shutter speed fast enough to freeze the motion though.

    I want something that will auto-focus on this body, so I am looking at the AF-S models probably with VR.

    My first thought was the Nikon 70-200mm AF-S VR model for approximately $200. I have looked at this lens briefly, and based on my experience with the bridge camera, I felt that I would like a longer zoom.

    After doing a little research I found the Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR model for approximately $540. The Tamron/Sigma models are available for considerably less (under $200). They will auto-focus, but don't have VR.

    The 70-300mm is a FX lens, so I believe it would be like a 105-450mm on my DX body. Seems like that would be a good range.

    I have seen a number of comments here indicating that the "cheap" 70-300mm lenses are not worth it.

    So my question is, what is your experience with the Nikon 70-300mm on a DX body and is it worth the price premium over the Nikon 70-200mm or the 70-300mm from Sigma/Tamron?

    I don't want to spend more than $550...

    What would you recommend for I want to accomplish?
  2. ronjon10 macrumors regular

    Dec 9, 2009
    The Nikon 70-300 VR lens is a really good lens, far superior to the non VR version. I'd say go with that lens. You might just try and rent it to see if it'll really work for your needs though.

    My guess is the Tamron/Sigma models will have a tougher time focusing in that lighting environment.

    If your camera will take decent pictures at 800 - 1600 ISO, hopefully able to get away with decent shutter speed so you can stop the action.

    One last thought. If this recital is a one time or very rare event, you might want to consider renting the 70-200 2.8 VR. I know you mentioned you wanted a little more zoom, but at 35 feet I think you'll be okay. You can crop down images to get that last bit of zoom. It's a fantastic lens that should get you much superior shots due to its quality and the fact that you'll be able to take pictures at a better ISO. It'll also focus faster.

    You can rent it here for ~100.00 / 7 days or you'll probably find it cheaper locally for a short amount of time.
  3. romanaz macrumors regular


    Aug 24, 2008
    f4.5 is awfully slow for indoors in my experience. Specially @ those focal lengths, where to handhold, your going to want 1/300 plus probably @ the long end, and even with the VR you will be pushing it. IMO my rule of thumb, if you can't use flash and are indoors, 2.8 is the slowest I'd go. Thats why I love the 70-200 f/2.8 IS for indoors, coupled with a flash makes life easier.
  4. flosseR macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    Right, so the op said not more than 500 USD and he cant use flash..... otherwise he would spend the 2grand and use a flash, I am pretty sure of it.

    Now to the op. That lens is very nice but you will only get "good" pictures if the lighting on the stage is good. The D5000 allows you to do some high iso, so you CAN push it to 1600 and that should allow you to compensate somewhat for the low f number. Handholding with that lens is not a problem because of the VR.

    However I have to ask, why not go with something a little longer but faster (prime) like a 85 1.8D?its 120mm but its fast, allows a lot of light and you can freeze the action a bit better. There are also longer primes you might be able to squeeze for 500 $ if you ahave time to look for them.

    The 85mm will also function as a really nice portrait lens after the recital.

    just my 2 cents.
  5. woodbird25 macrumors newbie

    Dec 5, 2008
    What about the nikon 80-200 2.8 af-d? It can be had used in decent shape for around that price and is a highly regarded lens. Anything less than 2.8 may be very tough for you in such low light unfortunately.
  6. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking about rectal pix...
  7. aaronw1986 macrumors 68030

    Oct 31, 2006
    I have the 70-300 VR and love it. However, it's best outdoors. I am not sure how good it would be the for situation you describe. What about renting the 2.8 70-200mm?
  8. rekud300 macrumors member


    Nov 30, 2009
    55-200 Kit lens D5000

    Here are some pics from my Daughters concert a couple of weeks ago.

    I was sitting probably 25'-30' back from the stage and used exclusively this lens. ISO2000 f/8 in Aperture mode, let the camera choose the speed.

    These are by no means High end, but for her scrapbook is more than acceptable for us. Get some noise but was to be expected.

    If you are looking for better pics, then do need different lens. If looking for scrapbook quality, can get away with this.

    Attached Files:

  9. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    (1) The 70-200mm AF-S VR will not cost $200 unless the front element has been shattered. I think you mean the 55-200mm, or you forgot an extra zero (although since you talk about the "price premium" of the 70-300 over the 70-200, it would appear that the former is the case).

    (2) A 200mm lens, be it a DX or FX designated lens, is 200mm. On a DX camera, a 200mm focal length will give an angle of view equivalent to 300mm on an FX camera, which isn't too shabby for 10' away from the stage.

    (3) Stage lights can be pretty bright, but if you're having trouble with your bridge camera, a 300mm f/5.6 lens on a DX camera (i.e. longer focal length, smaller aperture, and smaller sensor all require more light) probably isn't going to do you any favors. You'd be better off trying to find a lens with a larger aperture; specifically a 70/80-200mm f/2.8 zoom.

    Sigma and Tamron both make a 70-200mm, and Nikon has a 80-200mm, all of which can be found used for about $600 (maybe more for the Nikon) or new for $800 (Sigma, Tamron) or $1000 (Nikon). None of them have VR, but since you're trying to minimize your shutter speed, this should matter less. Think about it: an f/2.8 lens will allow you to shoot two stops (max. aperture at 200mm on the 70-300 lens is f/5.3) faster, whereas VR will (realistically) allow you to shoot two stops slower. Invest in a monopod instead - it's more appropriate for what you're trying to do.

    I know that these prices are a bit more than you were originally planning, but hey, that's photography for you.
  10. aross99 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2006
    East Lansing, MI
    You are correct - I meant the 55-200mm AF-S VR. I went back and looked at the 70-200mm 2.8. That is a SWEET lens, but yikes it's too rich for me. :eek:

    That said, my situation is very similar to the pictures posted above, so maybe the 55-200mm would be enough zoom...

    My bridge camera can capture the images, but I just can't get a fast enough shutter speed to capture motion.

    Wouldn't the D5000 do at least as well with the bigger sensor and faster ISO speeds?

    I guess the question now is, how does the 55-200mm compare to the 70-300mm, and is it worth the extra cost?
  11. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    Sorry, I should've said that, relative to an FX camera with a large aperture lens, there would be a disadvantage in the light-gathering ability of a DX camera with a smaller aperture lens. A bridge camera, on the other hand, can't really compete with a D5000, especially in low light.

    As far as the 55-200 vs the 70-300, the decision is on your end as to whether or not you want the extra reach. The extra cost is due to the longer focal length and full-frame coverage. Optically, there isn't much of a difference between the two lenses in the 70-200mm range that they overlap.

    So, if you want the extra reach and/or you can imagine yourself upgrading to FX anytime in the future, the 70-300 is probably your best choice. Otherwise, you can save a bit of money and go with the 55-200. I'll reiterate the recommendation to go with an f/2.8 lens. If your daughter's recital is a one-time occasion, really consider renting a lens. You'll get high-quality pictures for the day, and you won't be saddled with a purchased lens that isn't ideal for the job.
  12. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007
    I can't help you at all with your nikon questions as I'm a canon shooter.

    However, I shoot a lot of dance and will tell you I am highly doubtful you'll get much worthwile with that setup.

    I'm frequently shooting my 135F2 or even my 85/1.2 wide open at 1600-2000 ISO just to get enough shutter speed to get sharp pictures during dance.

    Maybe your stage will have much better lighting than the one's I've shot, but if at all possible go get some metering ahead of time, because I think you're in for a world of hurt at 1/60-1/200 tops with that setup, which is going to lead to a LOT of OOF/blurred shots. Personally I wouldn't even think about shooting dance with anything slower than f2.8 and as I said I've found even that is frequently too slow.

    For dance and stage lighting it's best to spot meter and shoot manual and know what shutter speeds you're getting - if it's less than 1/400 MINIMUM then plan your shots accordingly - pauses, rests, etc.

    Dance and gymnastics are IMO the two most equipment demanding activities that I've shot - both low light and fast moving subjects with no ability to flash and limited ability to move around.
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The lens is to slow. For this kind of indoor work on stage you will need all the aperture you can get. If I were shooting this I'd used my 85mm f/1.8 lens. It's a great lens at a great price but only work on the higher end Nikon bodies that have in-body focus motors.

    Look for something you can use that is at least f/2.8. No slower then 2.8. 1.4 is better

    Also, how will you use these images. if you are only maing small prints or showing them on some electronic screen then you can crop. Cropping is a poor man's telephoto. I would rather crop and image made with an f/1.4 lens than shoot with a slow zoom.

    Either way you look at it you want a "fast" lens. If budget is a problem look for a used lens.

    If you can get that close to the subject then you do not need a big tele. 85mm would be enough.

    Actually you can shoot with a relatively slow shutter is you really understand dance and can predict the movement. "Back in the day" we did not have auto focus camera with 3200 ISO. So what you did was wait for the motion to stop. If a dancer jumps she will stop at the top before she fall back to the ground. All motion is like that and has slip seconds of no-motion. The best photographers know when those split seconds are comming and shoot then. the ones with less skil try and to five frame per second "machine gun" setting and get hundreds of blurred frames all shot 1/5th of a second to late or early. This works well because all those split seconds turn out to be the best shots too, they look llike the peak of an action, they are.

    The trick is to kow the dance (or sport) well and shot just as some motion reverses direction.
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Really? A 70-200 f/2.8 will last you the rest of your life and then your kids and fight over who gets it. Concider what it will cost in dollars per year of usage and it is MUCH cheaper than your DSLR camera body which needs to be upgraded and replace periodically.

    They have been building that lens (or the 80-200 version of it) for 30+ years and there are many of them on the used market. I've seen many good used examples for $650.

    Many people choose the Nikon brand just so they can use this lens. It's a classic "bread and butter" lens that most Nikon shooters should own. You don't have to buy a new one.
  15. aross99 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2006
    East Lansing, MI
    This is a very good point. For my uses, I can easily crop the images, so at this point, I don't think the extra reach of the 70-300mm justifies the higher cost.

    Thanks for all of the input, and it is obvious now that the best solution is one that gives me the biggest aperture.

    I will do some research in to used lenses and see what I come up with...
  16. wesrk macrumors 6502a

    Nov 4, 2007
    I'm asking here instead of starting a new thread. Basically my question is the same as the OP's, but with a Canon 1100D. I'm thinking of getting the 50 mm 1.8, which would allow sufficient light to come in but it's not IS, would that matter if I'm shooting at high speeds?

  17. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Probably not. If you're shooting at 1/60 or faster to stop motion, you're also fast enough to avoid camera shake on a 50mm lens. Use the "1 over" rule- 50mm means minimum 1/50 shutter speed. Factor in the crop sensor and it's more like 1/75 or 1/80- likely what you'll want to be at anyways to stop subject motion.

  18. wesrk macrumors 6502a

    Nov 4, 2007
    Good tip, yeah, that's what I'll do. That lens is very cheap so it's worth having just in case. I'm not ready to invest in high end lenses just yet, so the 50 mm 1.8 makes perfect sense.

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