What Not to Shoot with a Typical Zoom at Sporting Events


I love shooting with my Olympus 75 to 300mm II f4.8-6.7 zoom lens. I've captured many beautiful images with it.

The temptation with a long lens such as this, however, is to push it beyond its capabilities. The most common scenario is at sporting events, especially indoors or at night when there isn't as much available light. In those situations, you'll have a difficult time "stopping the action" because the lens isn't "bright enough" to achieve a fast shutter speed.

Here are a few examples of what I recommend you should, and should not shoot with a consumer telephone under these conditions.

Should: Portraits and Human Interaction


There are so many opportunities for interesting people shots, and your zoom can help you isolate them. Both the fan image at the top of the article and the portrait of Yasiel Puig were terrific long zoom opportunities. Fan Shot: Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 zoom, set to 78mm, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/200th. And the portrait of Puig: Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 zoom, set to 300mm, ISO 3200, f/7.1, 1/400th.

Should Not: Action on the Field or Court


In all honesty, it's not so much that you should not shoot these images. It's more that you should not expect them to look like a pro-caliber capture. Generally speaking, they won't.

Why? It really comes down to shutter speed. Even at a high ISO, there just isn't enough light to provide the shutter speed you need. This shot of Puig sliding back to second base was captured at 1/200th of a second. There's lots of motion blur. Plus it looks like I moved the camera a bit during the capture also. To have any hope of freezing the action, I would need at least 1/500th, and probably 1/1000th of a second.

With a pro lens I would have an aperture of f/2.8 or f/4. With this lens, I could only get f/6.7 at 270mm. That's 2.5 stops darker than f/2.8. With an f/2.8 lens, I could have had a shutter speed in the neighborhood of 1/1000th instead, and that's without raising the ISO any further.

What I'm really saying here is to manage your expectations when using consumer gear in these situations. And by adding plenty of portraits and fan moments to the mix, you'll feel that your overall shoot was more successful.

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