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Sports shooters - how big a drawback is an 85 f/1.8 vs 85 f/1.4 for indoor winter

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Harry Lavo, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. Contemplating my needs for the winter, and just wonder in practical terms how important the difference in speed is when shooting basketball, wrestling, and gymnastics. If you use a 1.8, what percent of shots do you miss because you can't go low. If you use a 1.4, what percent of your "keepers" are below 1.8-2.0?
  2. ffb2t


    Jan 16, 2006
    There will be others who can better answer this, but I would think that you are talking situations where you have lowered shutter speed as far as you dare (probably 250), are not using any type of strobe, have increased iso as much as you are happy with and still just happen to fall one (actually not quite one) stop short.

    Based on that my guess it's not that often...or at least not enough to warrant the extra money spent...which I am guessing is part of the question.
  3. bruheim


    Jul 1, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    I haven't had the luxury of using a 1.4, but the 1.8 does a great job. I would guess that the extra-narrow depth of field would not help. I've been in situations, though, where the light was so bad - shooting basketball at 1.8 and ISO1600, could not consistently get speed above 1/180. Still got a high percentage of keepers, but you have to accept motion blur at that point.

    Consider the 1.8 the 'married man's' lens for indoor sports!

    Example (this one is actually 1/160 @ f/1.8):

  4. I've used the 1.4.

    I've owned the 85 1.4 and yes, used it couple of times for indoors/lowlight shooting.

    Action or no action shooting the 85 1.4 DO makes a big difference for me. Below is some examples of what it can do recently.

    Done with spot metering, 1/400, F1.4 and ISO 800.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View attachment 106464
  5. DrewC


    Jan 30, 2007
    Denver, CO
    what a crazy sport...
  6. headgear


    Apr 6, 2007
    What sport is that airbiscuit?
  7. I guess it depends on the sport and the lighting in the gym. I've used my 85 f/1.4 to shoot youth basketball. In those cases, I'm at 1/320th to 1/500th at ISO 800 using anywhere between f/1.4 - f/1.8. So given that, the 1.8 version wouldn't work for me.
  8. I shot a good about of sports with a Nikon 70-200 that I use to have. I'm not sure I would have used it at 1.4 because of the DOF. So even if you are not shooting at 1.4, what are the Pros and Cons.

    1. more light for you system to work with since it only closes down after it meters
    2. better out of focus areas
    3. 1.4 if you really need it
    1. Size
    2. weight
    3. cost
    4. alot of glass to move

    Out of focus areas would be better and one thing the 1.4 does alot better in the out of focus areas are lights that might be there. They look round with the 1.4 and not so much with the 1.8. (their was a site that I can't find right now that showed this with Xmas tree lights)

    Weight and a lot of glass. You have a D50. The 1.4 is heavy compared to the 1.8 and it has a big piece of glass to move. It can seem slow on my D200 so I know it would be slower on your D50. So although you would get more light for the D50 to work with the 1.8 might still work better for that body.
  9. ZBaum

    ZBaum Guest

    I shot basketball a few times this past school year, using a 50 1.4 and a Tokina 28-70 2.8. The 28-70 was barely fast enough to get some keepers, but the 50 1.4 was excellent. Most of my shots were at f/1.6, f/2, and very few at f/2.2. If you can afford it, I would definitely get the 1.4 over the 1.8, just because it will allow you to go to f/1.4 if needed. Since every gym is lit differently, there's no good way of knowing what speed aperture you'll need. And then when winter is over, you'll have an excellent short telephoto lens to use for pretty much anything you want.

    I'm going to try out my 135 DC for basketball and hockey this year, but it might be too long for basketball, I'll have to see.
  10. Hi the faster the better.

  11. Yup, the faster the better, just don't expect much DOF @ f1.4! Keep in mind the more important consideration is the lighting in the gym. I have the 85/1.8 and found that it was next to useless when shooting volleyball action shots in some high school gyms due to the poor lighting. College/university gyms usually have better lighting.

  12. Hi Harry. You may want to search previous posts as I think there has been alot of discussion on questions like this in the past. Twig is a pro sports photog who has posted alot here and I seem to recall that he likes the 50/1.4 and Sigma 30/1.4. Either of them may be more cost effective options (if that is the concern) that get you to 1.4.
  13. Nuteshack

    Nuteshack Guest

    faster is always better, PERIOD!
  14. kramk

    kramk Guest

    OK, let me first say I don't have an 85 1.8 ... so my comments are pretty much speculation. But from having shot indoor soccer and bball with the 85 1.4 (d2x), my guess is that the 85 1.4 is NOT a sure fire winner vs the 1.8, (for indoor sports).

    Two things...

    first, I almost always try to to stop the 1.4 down to at least 1.8 to begin with. F2.2 is the low light sweetspot IMO, when you're trying to trade aperture against iso because light sucks. Wide open, even apart from DOF issues, is simply too soft compared to stopped down a few ticks. So in my mind the real question becomes, how do the two lenses compare at f1.8 to say f2.2.
    But if the 1.4 isn't better around f2, I question how much value there is in f1.4.

    second, AF speed. The 1.4 is a bit of a dog. Is the 1.8 any faster? Again. dunno. But I'd sure like to find out.... it might be the better lens for this app if it's faster.

    A related aside... IMO forget real fast glass for indoor sports.... too expensive for mediocre results. Spend money on a strobe or strobes and get great results with whatever glass. For near court action, my fav is the 28-70mm, but so help me I think the kit lens would do fine. Far court, 70-200. With a strobe you can shoot at iso 200 or less and f5.......

    Just trying to offer some food for thought.

    best, mark
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2007
  15. haze2


    Mar 18, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    I'm struggling with same decision for the upcoming volleyball season. I like the idea of a strobe stetup (it's been discussed here before) but I've met resistance from coaches and players alike when I mention setting up a couple of strobes. I rented a Nikkor 85 f/1.8 for a game last year and it worked well during the day when I had illumination from skylights, but didn't do too well at night when I had to use the gym lighting. To be honest, the light was so bad at night that I doubt the f/1.4 would have made a difference. I'm probably going to go with the 85 f/1.8, but haven't decided for sure yet. I'd be interested to know what you decide.
  16. kramk

    kramk Guest

    Haze, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said your light was so dismal, f1.4 vs f1.8 wouldn't make a difference. Your light, my light, just about everybody's light who isn't shooting in a Very affluent or bigger league gym.

    Strobes. FWIW, I've copied advice that says to just set them up, walk over to the coaches or ref or whoever you feel needs to give approval, and ask them if the strobe firing bothers them. Fire them several times as you ask. Odds are they say, "let's see what they're like" and you say "I've been firing them as we speak"....

    best, mark
  17. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    I think kramk is right. I did a few low light venues where even if I had a one-stop faster lens, it would have only made accurate focusing more difficult and barely give me better results.

    Good use of gentle strobing is more important I think.
  18. Hi Harry,

    I shot BB w/ an 85f1.8 this past winter and while I was pleased w/ it, I recently sprang for the 85f1.4 (used) as I wanted the ability to have the greater speed, if necessary.

    The 85, w/ good light, does an outstanding job (see my post from this past weekend in the Sports forum) with good light.

    However, I did spring for an 85f1.4 (here, used) recently. I wanted the faster lens, should I need it.

    To second what's been mentioned is that I found setting my custom WB a key factor in good pics from indoors. Yup, strobes would be very helpful, but the setup (strobes + stands + pocket wireless) isn't in the budget right now; I got the lens as I can use it for a lot of other things aside from basketball. And I'm of the school that doesn't use flash, even more distracting than strobes.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  19. Thanks to all of you here for your commentary. I've learned alot about the issues, and the pros and the cons. I've reached a temporary decision, based partly on the budget and need for a macro and a second body, to go with the 1.8 this winter. I'll get some first hand experience with the various gyms in the area, and the limitations of the lens/lighting. I figure if it doesn't work, the lens is saleable at only a small loss, and I can go to the 1.4. Clearly, the 1.4 is the lens I need to end up with (or some strobes...hadn't really considered that...thanks so much) but not now. Again, thanks to all of you for some carefully considered points of view and posts.
  20. I used the 85 1.8 and the 50 1.8 for Basketball last winter and both worked well.
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