Budget lens for hockey

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Feb 12, 2006
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I took some photos when my hockey team played, using my D500 and a 105mm micro lens. The teams liked them, but I really need more reach, and the focus was often on the background (I used 3d focus tracking). So, what is the best budget lens for hockey, probably a zoom, probably ~70-150mm or ~70-200mm? I’m no pro, just happy if I get some pictures that the players like. Note that I can only stand in the middle area or at either end near a face off spot. I don’t want to spend buckets of money as this is just for fun.
 
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With the D500 you do have a crop factor to consider. What kind of light are you working with?

In my AHL team's arena we have LED lighting and I use Nikon's 18-140mm VR lens. I also shoot through a photo hole. For the team's purposes, they are fine with ISO ranging from 2500 to 6400. For focusing, use AF-C, set the camera up for back focus button and 21-point. I find hockey is way to fast for the 3-D tracking to work for me.

If the lighting is far from optimal, I would look for a used Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens and shoot over the glass if you do not have access to a photo hole. With the crop factor, I find the 70-200, even at 70mm, too close if shooting along the boards unless I am going for player closeups. The VR I version could be a good budget buy.
 
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Thanks. The light is not good, so I do need F2.8. I guess the 80-200 zoom or similar is the way to go. I did wonder if any third party lenses were worth considering. Sigma have a decent reputation these days.
 
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Thanks. The light is not good, so I do need F2.8. I guess the 80-200 zoom or similar is the way to go. I did wonder if any third party lenses were worth considering. Sigma have a decent reputation these days.
just my personal experience, but I’ve had horrible focus issues with sigma lenses on Nikon DSLRs. I’d say look into a used Tamron 70-200/2.8 if looking third party.
 
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SF Bay Area, California, USA
Between Sigma and Tamron, I would go with the Tamron 70-200/2.8 at about $1,200.
The single reason (for me) is that the zoom ring turns in the same direction as Nikon lenses. With a Sigma zoom, I was constantly turning the zoom ring in the wrong direction, as I zoom with muscle memory. When I zoom, I don't think turn left or right, I think zoom wide (shorter FL) or zoom tight (longer FL), then my hand turns the zoom ring in the appropriate direction. Those of you who shoot sports or action will know what I mean.

But, with the Z cameras out, you may find deals on used Nikon F mount 70-200/2.8 lenses, as people move from F to Z cameras.
You can find great deals on AF lenses, BUT, they cannot be coupled to the Z cameras, if you ever get a Z camera.​
Only the AF-S and AF-P lenses can be coupled to the Z camera, via the FTZ adapter.​

If you can get away with the f/4 lens, the Tamron 70-210/4 is both lighter (about half the weight of the f/2.8 lens) and cheaper at $600 (about half the price of the f/2.8 lens).
If you are shooting for a long time, HOURS, the lighter f/4 lens makes a big difference in how tired and sore you arm gets.​
I personally use the Nikon 70-200/4, and got it primarily for the lighter weight. Shooting two sequential field games (football/soccer/lacrosse) = about 5 hours of shooting. And unlike some of you guys, I am not a youngster, weight makes a difference.​

Note, the Tamron 70-210/4 has a FRONT positioned zoom ring. At first I had my doubts about putting the zoom ring in front. But in actual use, it worked very well. The lens is in my left hand, and my fingers are on the zoom ring. The zoom ring turns very easily with my fingers. THAT is the key. The front positioned zoom ring, has to be easily to turn with the fingers. If you have to muscle the zoom ring to turn it, you can't do it with your fingers, and the zoom ring would have to be further back, where you can grip it and use your hand/arm to turn it.
 
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SF Bay Area, California, USA
Rather than 3D tracking, I suggest using D9 or D21, AF mode. At least try it.

According to the manual, Nikon's 3D tracking on my D7200, uses color to track the subject. That is fine, BUT when shooting sports, half the players are wearing the SAME COLOR uniform. So tracking the subject by color is easily fooled when the teammates of your subject get close or cross in front of him.
I also found that 3D tracking can be fooled/confused. When shooting down on a tennis court, the tracking would sometimes lock onto the lines on the court :confused: That immediately stopped me using 3D tracking for tennis, from the position that I was shooting from.
To me, it is an issue of experimenting, and finding where 3D tracking will and will not work.

I use D9 when I shoot most of my sports, and manually track the subject, and accept that I will miss the subject about 10% of the time when shooting field sports. My miss/OOF rates goes up to about 20% when shooting volleyball, primarily when changing from subject A to subject B, very quickly. The more you shoot, the better you get at manually tracking the subject. So if you have trouble, hang in there, and keep practicing.
 
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Jul 11, 2017
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If your on a budget....
Try a Nikon AF-P 70-300 VR...rent one or borrow from a friend who got on in a kit... I know its f/6.3 at 300mm but IMHO the fastest focusing lens. It is cheap plastic, but super light. The lighting on the hockey rink should be sufficient.
Put your D500 on AF-C mode, auto ISO set to max of 6400, and shoot in Group Mode.
 
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I have shot some hockey, using both a D750 and Z6 with Tamron 70-200 G2, under poor lighting. Personally, when I shoot most any sports I always want more reach than 200mm (which is a plus for DX, you get more reach with the same glass!), the issue is that fast telephoto zooms beyond 200mm get very expensive. I am not thrilled with the Tamron lens for fast sports — it does OK, but I think the Nikon 70-200 VR2 and E lenses focus more quickly. I would not use a 70-300 for hockey unless you have an over abundance of light; most likely you’ll end up with extremely high ISO to get the shutter speed that you need. I have found faster glass and cropping later gives better results.

Z6 with Tamron 70-200 G2 (via FTZ), pretty heavy crops

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For white balance, go to your Nikon manual under White Balance, and look under Fluorescent, where Sodium Vapor lighting is listed...2700 K, and it reads "found in sports venues". I found that manual information after 2 seasons of shooting Women's Gymnastics, and not being terribly satisfied with my WB. Now, I have it set in my U1 menu, and hope this year, Covid won't ruin the gymnastics season! :cool:
Years ago, I photographed the Paralympics Hockey games with my 6006, negative color, ASA 400 and my 70-210 4.5-5.6 (I think) zoom, and had some fair results. If you could find something in 2.8, that, with adjustable ISO...Avoid old Sigmas... should do you very well. Good luck! (y)
 
Joined
Feb 12, 2006
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Thanks, useful info. The camera gets white balance really well, but yeah I have to try the AF suggestions here. 👍🏻
 

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