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Capture moving subjects from a distance (indoors) with my D5100

edited March 2012 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
I was talking with a fellow D5100 owner over on my Facebook page and she was wondering which setting and lens would be best for her upcoming trip to the show Disney on Ice where she will be shooting distant, moving subjects. I thought it would be beneficial to share our conversation with all of you...

Jill's Question: I just bought a D5100 with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lens. I will be going to "Disney on Ice" show and wondering which lens would be best for this?

Moose's Answer: It's going to be tough with either lens, but of the two I would say go for the 55-200mm. More than likely you're going to need some reach and the 55-200mm will allow you to zoom into distant subjects. The problem you're going to run into is shooting at a distance, in low light with a lens that has an average aperture range. Ideally you'd be shooting with a lens that could obtain an aperture between f/1.4 to f/2.8. This would give you fast shutter speeds (freezing subject movement) and lower ISO's (reducing the amount of image noise).

Your 55-200mm can only go down to f/4 when shooting towards the wide-end (55mm) and f/5.6 when shooting towards the long-end (200mm). Because of this, you're going to be forced to use a high ISO's in order to get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze subject movement. This equals images full of image noise (grain). You can clean up image noise using programs like Noiseware or Noise Ninja, but they can only do so much to save a photo from tremendous amount of image grain.

In regards to settings, I would first go into your menu and adjust the High ISO NR to 'Off'. Next, access the ISO Sensitivity settings and enable Auto ISO. Lastly, I would activate Spot metering and enable Continuous (Burst) mode. With those settings in place, enable Shutter priority mode (S on the mode dial) and set your shutter speed to 1/250 using the small command dial. Focus on the subject and then hold down the shutter to rattle off a series of images in quick succession. This will improve your odds of finding a keeper.

Jill's Reply: For the future - is there a certain lens that would work better for this type of situation?

Moose's Reply: Telephoto lenses that are designed to capture action in low light are extremely expensive. For example, the "cheapest" Nikon branded telephoto lens for indoor action would be the 80-200mm f/2.8. Sigma and Tamron both offer more "affordable" alternatives, but you're still talking about $750 to $850 bucks. Ultimately it comes down to how often you take indoor action shots from a distance. If it's a high percentage of your shots, then it may be worth adding despite the steep investment. The nice thing is that these types of lenses retain their value very well. If you were to purchase the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 and sell it in a couple years, you're probably only looking at a loss of $50 to $100.

Jill's Reply: Have you ever tried a "lens rental"? I don't have the cash right now to buy the lens, but wondering if a lens rental for a weekend would be the way to go to try it out?

Moose's Reply: Yep, if you're in the mood to test out specific lenses or equipment, I would go with Borrow Lenses. They're extremely helpful and very trustworthy, which makes the rental process safe and easy. :)

Jill's Reply: I think I will be going with the rental for now. What settings should I set the camera with this 80-200mm f2.8 lens?

Moose's Reply: I would enable Shutter priority mode (S on the mode dial) and set your shutter speed to 1/250 using the small command dial. I would also adjust the High ISO NR to 'Off'. Next, access the ISO Sensitivity settings and enable Auto ISO. Lastly, I would activate Spot metering and enable Continuous (Burst) mode. Focus on the subject (with a half-press) and then hold down the shutter to rattle off a series of images in quick succession. This will improve your odds of finding a keeper. :)
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