Camera for dancing!
I'm looking to buy a camera/lens combination to take photos of my hobby, which is salsa dancing!
It seems like taking good photographs of salsa will be difficult. It is inside, mostly dark, and people are moving fairly fast!
In light of this what camera and lens would you recommend, and how much will it cost me? If possible can you give me two scenarios.
The first is that money is not an issue, and I want to get the best possible camera and lens for these challenging conditions.
The second is if I would like to get the best bargain, while still getting a system that can cope with these conditions. This might involve buying a lower spec camera and lens, buying a lower spec camera and high spec lens, or vice versa. I'm also open to the idea of picking up items second hand...
I'm pretty green around the gills at photography, so the less jargon used the better! :)
hi and welcome. my thoughts are of camera with good quality high iso range. as for lens it would depend on how close you are to the action
Okay, as you requested 2 scenarios. I shoot Nikon, so I will stick to what little I know and leave Canon and other brands to those who know about those offerings.
Originally Posted by trevthedancer
In my opinion, there are multiple qualifiers within both scenarios. How much money means nothing if you won't use the equipment. (The weight of your camera & lens can be an unexpectedly-powerful factor.) I have shot highschool cheerleading competitions and they tend to be in very poor lighting with erratic, quick movements, so to me high ISO performance of the camera and having a fast lens is key as they both combine to allow you faster shutter speeds to freeze that motion that makes dance so incredible... This usually means a fast PRIME f/2.8 300mm when I am isolating a girl or two, and my 70-200mm f/2.8 for group shots. (NOTE: I am usually at the edge of the performance mat, so figure I am dealing with 20-40 foot distances between me and the subjects.) If I knew I was going to be right up on the action, I would trade-in my 300mm f/2.8 for the highly-coveted Nikon 200mm f/2 "Super-chub". All of these lenses would be paired to a new (If you can find one!) or used Nikon D3S which to my eye is still unsurpassed by any other Nikon for low-light/high ISO situations. (And I own the D800 & D700 full-frames as well as a D300S crop sensor camera body.) So we would have 1/250th as a minimum for poses and the like, but 1/500th would be the slowest I'd go to REALLY freeze motion. All of this can be done easily with any of the cameras I own, (Even the D300S) but I like the results I get best from: (in order) D3S, D700, D800 (Almost tied between them but the D700 looks just a little better to my eyes) and lastly D300S which I would only use if something prevented me from using any of the others as primary and backup bodies. (1 other note: I recently upgraded my Intel 2.4GHz Quad-core PC for an Intel i7 3.4GHz PC because the LARGE RAW files from my D800 (70MB or greater EACH PHOTO!) were causing my 2.4GHz PC to sputter and choke while I was editing them in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop! I love my D800 for studio work and portraits, but the horsepower needed to edit the huge files from it is something you should consider before buying one. Just saying...) ;)
A nice advantage YOU have is that depending on how small your venue is, and how close to the action you can get, you might even be able to get away with using an 85mm f/1.4 (Dream lens! My best lens for portraits as well.), 85mm f/1.8 (A good lens that lets in almost as much light.), or if you are REALLY close (Or don't mind cropping shots regularly) 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 (I own both, and I actally like the sharpness of my f/1.8 a little better.) So, with money as NO OBJECT: a GOOD Lightly-Used Nikon D3S (~$3,000.00 USD) | Used, CLEAN (Specify RETURNABLE if a lemon!) Nikon AF-S 300mm F/2.8 VRI/II(~$5-6,000.00) And I highly recommend the Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 VRII!! If you can only get ONE lens, I'd make it this one for the flexibility of the zoom, excellent optics, & fast/accurate low-light focus performance. (~$2,500.00) So right here, you're in for at least $4,000.00 USD just to get started with a D3S and even a 50mm f/1.8 with at least 1 spare battery, a camera bag/backpack, basic supplies, & memory cards (BUY GOOD CF(Compact Flash) Cards. I recommend the Lexar 600X or at least 400X cards. They have a great reputation for reliability and I've never had one fail on my in over 5 years. (I used slower SD cards before that...)
CHEAP ROUTE: IF you are SURE that you will be able to get close enough a 50mm F/1.8 (~$200.000 or less) is the cheapest lens you will want to use. (I DO NOT think that a 18-55mm F3.5 and slower "Kit lens" or similar is going to make you happy.) 85mm F/1.8 can be had for $300.00 or less. If not, then a used Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 can be had for $700.00 or less. For the body, there are really only 2 choices that I would consider. The new Nikon D7100 is my first choice. Why? becase the autofocus system has been improved over the old D7000 and the D7100 performs almost as well or equal to many of the full-frame bodies for focusing in low-light. (D600, D700, or D800) This is one of the two most important things in my book for this type of photography. (Who cares how fast it shoots, what it's high ISO performance is, or even what picture quality a camera can offer if the shots are constantly missed or out of focus?) The other being the high ISO performance. I've seen beautiful photos come out of my D300S, but NEVER when the ISO is above 1600! The lowest end I would go with camera bodies is the D5200. It performs admirably for an entry-level camera, and will perform slightly faster than the D3200 which is important because you ARE photographing DANCE after all...
One of the cheapest things that will likely improve your shots greatly is to buy a decent, ($80.00 or less) monopod to steady your camera due to the relatively slow shutter speeds you might be using. Why not eliminate as much camera-shake as possible since you are already fighting an up-hill battle to steady the motion of the dancers?
All of these suggestions are based on the assumption that you are stuck with using ambient light. Some events do not permit flash as it can distract the performers. If flash is allowed, then any recent Nikon DSLR body with a 55-200mm "kit lens" and an SB700 flash unit (DO NOT use the default, on-board flash to light your photos! It will look like a typical, washed-out "holiday photo", and for that you could get-by with a point and shoot...) I recommend either the Canon S95 or S100 which are both stellar point & shoots if that is the route you wish to go.
Just my opinions, and by no means the only options. But I believe that you will be happy with the capabilities of these kits. Sorry so long, but your question seemed important to you, so I wanted to be sure and answer you in earnest.
Thanks for the detailed answer Knorris. Just what I was after.
The dance shots that I will be taking will be on the dance floor. Possibly I will be taking pictures or videos of shows from time to time from a distance of up to 10 meters. However, most of the time I will be very close to the action! Between 1 and 3 m typically (3 to 10 feet). A flash may be an option, but I find (from looking at other peoples pictures) that often you lose some of the atmosphere if you use the flash and get too much of the background lit up...
I'm glad that you found it to be of value. Update: Your mention of doing video removes the D700 from the list of candidates since it does not have video capability. A D600 while not as sensitive/fast to focus in low light is now the minimum full-frame camera with the D3S D800 & D4 (Those 3 in order of personal preference for low-light applications) being your higher-end options. Just remember the trade-offs of huge files with the D800, and huge price tag with the D4. (All relative since we are talking multi-thousand dollar purchases for full-frame bodies no matter what...). I don't own a D4, so to be fair, I can't tell you much other than I preferred the D800 when I was comparing them to buy, but I don't have any real-life experience, so I'm basing my D800 preference on personal cost/performance criteria. (I have never felt the need to rapid-fire shots at the weddings or parties we work on, and my D300S with battery grip is fine for my nature/birds in flight photography at 8 frames per second, so no D4 upgrade for me.) I have no complaints with the D4 at all, and hope that I haven't made it sound like I don't like it... Also note that while the D3S CAN do video, it will be basic, 720P and not 1080P like the newer cameras which also have other newer video features which allow more creative freedom. Not implying that a properly created video can't still be made with the D3S, just that there are now more options available in the newer lines...
Originally Posted by trevthedancer
No matter what, I wish you luck and much enjoyment creating with whatever camera solution, (Nikon, Canon, or otherwise) you settle on.
Hi from the distances that you have mentioned then I would be looking at a zoom with a constant aperture of 2.8 and the range of 17-50 with IS, if you go beyond that then you would be looking at a longer lens.
Camer wise you would still need a high ISO if you dont want to use flash but there are ways to use flash. What i would do is get a short list whether its nikon or canon or another make, and go try them out see how they feel do you like the menu setup are the buttons in the right place for you. if it feels right then that a long way to being right.
Wave makes excellent points, and I highly recommend renting equipment to see if you like it before purchasing. Try it in a store to see if you have an interest in a particular model & brand. Then if you THINK you like something in the store, rent it for an event and practice with it before-hand so that you know what to expect when you are shooting "live". If you get close enough to what you are expecting and can improve with practice, you are done. If it has problems that don't seem easily remedied, ask for advice from users who handle that equipment. If it still seems like a problem, then try another combination of equipment or brand until you find the one that works best FOR YOU. I chose the Nikon system in this way, as I liked it the best "overall", but I have nothing but admiration for Canon products and fully admit that certain Canon bodies make me drool.. ;-)
Originally Posted by wave