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D7100 Shooting Sports Indoors

edited January 2017 Posted in » General Discussion
I have the D7100 with the 55-300mm lens that came with the kit. I've been able to get good shots outdoors of football and lacrosse. My problem right now is indoor sports (basketball, wrestling, indoor lacrosse). The pictures are coming out dark and blurry at times. I purchased your cheat cards for this lens but there is nothing about sports indoors. I know lighting is always an issue. Can you recommend a starting point?

Thanks, Anthony


  • edited January 2017
    The D7100 has pretty good high ISO performance and good AF in low light, but that lens will always be slow to focus, and it's always going to be difficult.

    I imagine one reason there is nothing in the cheat cards for sports indoors is that the lens is not recommended for the purpose. If possible, I'd make sure your ISO is as high as you can tolerate, make sure you have AFC on, and use a relatively narrow AF pattern (either single point or 9 point dynamic area, as these seem to work best for catching difficult moving subjects).

    It would help if you can figure out whether the blur in question is motion blur from slow shutter speeds or from poor focusing. If the former, your main cure will be to open up the aperture to max, and try for as high an ISO as you can to allow a high enough shutter speed.

    If the problem is focus, then you'll just have to try to nail focus more quickly, or to take bursts and hope that the focus catches up before the buffer fills.

    As far as poor exposure goes, if the subject is fairly small in a dark environment, and especially if there are bright lights or windows elsewhere in the frame, you might do better with spot metering or center weighting. The former will ignore all but the subject. The latter will give preference to the subject but still factor in the rest.

    If possible, and if you're not having problems with buffer size, shoot in Raw mode, and you can adjust exposure some in post processing in ways you cannot with a JPG image.

    One other issue with this lens, as with many AF lenses, is that if you are out of focus, it does not always know which way to go to get back in. Especially if focus is far off, it has a habit of going the wrong way, then turning around and coming back. It generally gets it, but it can take too long. Putting your camera on continuous shot mode will help. If you have AFC set on release priority, as is the default, the camera can shoot as the lens comes into focus. If you're waiting for some action to occur, it helps if you can pre-focus on a spot. The closer you can get to the correct spot before shooting, the more likely the lens is to go the right way.

    How you set your continuous mode may depend some on your style and how quickly things happen. As you undoubtedly know, the D7100 has a small shot buffer, and for Raw files in CH, you only get 6 or 7 shots before it stops and slows down. You can extend that by a shot or two if you switch to 12 bit Raw, and maybe another one or two if you switch to compressed 12 bit, which is still quite good. The compression effect is rarely noticed, unless you're working on difficult highlights. If you switch to CL, you can adjust the shooting speed, and get a few more yet at the cost of slower sequencing.

    If you're far from the action and expect to need cropping anyway, you might consider switching to 1.3 mode in the camera. This produces a smaller, cropped file, but it's still a pretty decent size. Because the crop is done in the camera, the smaller file increases your shot buffer considerably. If you can then shoot at a wider focal length, the AF might speed up a tiny bit too.

    Make sure too that you get a fast SD card. The faster the buffer writes to the card, the better.

    One other potential cure for poor focusing might be to shoot a little wider than you'd like. The lens aperture is faster, and it can be easier to nail a subject in a slightly wider field. The D7100 has a dense, sharp sensor that allows you to crop later with little loss, and the lens in question is sharper at 200mm or so than at 300mm, so sometimes you'll do better shooting wide and cropping later than trying to crop in the shooting.

    Ultimately, though, you're always going to be pushing the envelope a bit with this lens for indoor sports.
  • edited January 2017
    Thanks for the feedback and opening my eyes some to the world of photography. I know the lens that came with the kit is just an OK lens; a lot of playing around to get it right. Could you recommend a better lens to use that won't break the bank? A friend recommended I try this lens,
    Sigma APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM
    Any thoughts or input would be great.
  • edited January 2017
    I'm afraid I don't know much about what lens might be better. The 55-300mm is what I have. I don't do indoor sports, and find that one pretty good for the things I need to do, mainly traveling fairly light. Although slow in focusing and light in construction it's reasonably sharp optically, and very portable. If you can do with a somewhat shorter focal length, it's worth trying one of those fast aperture zooms like the Sigma, but I have no experience with it. A good f/2.8 zoom is likely to be a big improvement.

    Although a lens with an internal motor will almost always be faster in operation than the older "screwdriver" AF lenses, don't forget that the D7100 can AF with any autofocus lens, motorized or not, so as you're researching and asking others about such things, remember that versatility, which is not available to D5xxx and D3xxx shooters.
  • Hi @ajgab - The cheat cards are designed around the strengths of each individual lens. Some lenses are fantastic in low light, while others simply struggle.

    In order for a lens to perform well in dim situations, it needs an aperture of f/2.8 or lower to allow lots of light into the camera. More light equals sharper, brighter, better looking photos.

    The 55-300mm can only get down to f/4.5 at 55mm and f/5.6 at 300mm. This is the equivalent to the camera wearing a pair of dark sunglasses indoors.

    For low light sports/action, I recommend parents rent the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 (if you are close to the action) and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 (if you are far away from the action), once or twice a year for an important event. This would allow them to capture wonderful low light action shots to remember it by. Depending on what part of the world in which you live, there are online retailers that do this sort of thing. In the States, we have and

    Anyways, I hope that all makes sense. If it doesn't please do reply back with any questions.
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