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Learning to shoot action photos on Sony a6000

nward

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Hi there!

I'm a newbie to photography as a hobby so I know there's a lot of little tweaks and stuff I'm missing so I wanted to ask for help.

I recently upgraded from a Canon EOS 30D to a Sony A6000 and I'm having some problems figuring out how to shoot in a lower ISO in low light environments and still get crisp photos. I feel like I'm having to raise my ISO pretty high even when the lighting isn't complete trash just to capture the scene. I'm also having some problems with photos being hella low quality after I edit them in the photos app on my iMac.

Any suggestions? Should I upload some photos for a visual reference?

Thanks so much in advance.
 

nward

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Here's an example of one of my photos that just isn't crisp at all. I haven't experimented enough with shooting in manual mode to see if I can get the hang of aperture settings + shutter settings.
 

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nward

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Thanks for replying!
I'm honestly such a newbie that I had to google how to get the full EXIF data, so my apologies for asking any exceptionally stupid questions. This is the data for the photo above.
I consider anything over 8000 a high ISO, especially if I feel like lighting should be acceptable. If it's not extra low light or directly lit(the martial art that I shoot mainly is a pretty high paced and scrambly type so the lighting is always changing) I feel like I should be able to get an okay photo, except its me, so I can't.
I think part of it is possibly that my lens just doesn't have a low enough f/stop for the sport I shoot and I'm compensating with other settings.
 

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WoodWorks

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I agree that ISO 8000 is too high to get a noise-free image. I have my A7RII to max out at ISO 6400, and even that will allow for more noise than I like to see in an image. But a shutter speed of 1/160 sec is going to be too slow to capture most sports, especially close up images like the one you posted. I suspect you're either going to have to use a faster lens, or find some way to introduce more light. That 55-210mm lens is a good outdoor lens, but indoors it shows its limitations.
 

bdbits

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There are no stupid questions, we all have to start somewhere. No worries. For future reference, if you are editing your photos, usually the export/save has an option on whether to embed the EXIF into the file. I think the default in Lightroom, for example, is to strip it. Usually we can then see the EXIF info below the pic. Anyway the screenshot was fine, too, and a little more foolproof (there are some bugs with this on the forum software).

From what I recall when I owned an A6000 an ISO of 8000 is going to be a bit much. I think I usually tried to keep it at 1600 or less, maybe 3200 depending on circumstances. But the real issue I think is as you suspected the lens. A max aperture of 4.5 is definitely an issue if you are trying to do anything in low light. You'd want to try and get to at least 2.8 and preferably a lower f-stop than that, in my mind, which will let you keep the ISO down and use a reasonable shutter speed (reasonable being defined by subject). Of course wide aperture lenses are more expensive especially for zooms, but if budget is an issue maybe you could find a used Tamron 28-75 or 28-200 or something similar for not-too-crazy money. Many find these to be really good lenses. If you are willing to go to primes there are some other cheaper possibilities but I suspect a prime will not work well for shooting sports. I do not know zooms very well, so maybe there are some other more inexpensive suggestions from other people here.
 

nward

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Thank you both for your responses. I figured a lower f-stop would be the likely culprit, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't going full on buy-all-the-"best"-equipment-and-pretend-that-makes-me-good route.
A zoom lens is certainly ideal. I have an 18 - 50 lens of some sort, but I just can't get in the action the way I like to, and that's in a setting where I actually have freedom to move around. A lot of opportunities to shoot I won't have access to the close range I have in this particular setting.
I'll do some more research on lenses and dickin' around with the settings and check back sometimes. Thanks for the recommendations!
 

Richard Crowe

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I am definitely not the guy to recommend new equipment as a panacea for images that people are not happy with but, the bottom line is that sports photography, especially indoor sports photography is an area in which equipment can cause severe limitations...

Sports photography will often demand longer fast lenses and the kit lenses (including the 55-250) just do not have apertures wide enough to support the shutter speeds necessary to capture faster moving subjects at an ISO which will produce clean imagery. Some lenses like the nid-range zoom kit lens and the 55-210mm tele-zoom do not have the ability to keep up with the fast moving subjects,

Back in the days when most photographers could not afford fast lenses, we made do with slower shutter speeds by trying to shoot when there was a pause in the movement or trying to catch the peak of the action... An example of the peak of the action is the moment when the basketball player is jumping for a shot and occurs at the split second when the player is at the height of the jump and before he begins the return back down. The player is momentarily suspended in space. This is not easy but, it can work.

Another way around the expensive lens syndrome is to try to get close enough to the action so that a 50mm (which is an equivalent 75mm focal length) f/1.8 can get you what you need. The f/1.8 aperture would have allowed you to shoot in the same lighting conditions and at the same shutter speed but using an ISO of somewhere around 1250... Or shooting at twice the shutter speed at ISO 2500. Either ISO is quite in line with the capabilities of the A6000 camera. The 50mm f/1.8 lens can be had quite reasonably on the used market...

For a some more money, you might be able to find an 85mm f/1.8 lens (Sony or another brand) which would be quite decent for indoor sports. I paid $350 USD for my Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens used from Adorama. Viltrox has in inexpensive e-mount f/1.8 lens while at a bit heftier price, Rokinon has an auto focus f/1.4 AF lens available...
 
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Thad E Ginathom

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Unlike sportsmen, Carnatic (South-Indian classical) musicians sit still, but there is expressive movement of the arms and hands, and a lot of small, even micro movement of the head. It is enough to blur the photograph at slow speeds. My 85/1.8 has been a wonderful lens for me, with a high rate of success, defined as sharp focus/detail: of course, they are are not all good photographs. I try not to push ISO beyond 1600; at 3200, there will be noise in shadowed skin tones. My new "fast" 70-180/2.8 zoom gets me in closer and gives me so much flexibility, but also makes it necessary for me to try to catch the still moments as per the previous post. Or be satisfied with a softer photo.

The concerts I am photographing are not brightly lit. The light on the stage is barely more than that on the audience. I'm guessing that, if I could have a few hundred more watts (in old-fashioned terms) of light on the stage, f2.8 would be more than enough. And I'm guessing that most sports events, like theatre, would have a heap more lighting.

I'd say that, one way or another, the answer is in the lenses. But I'm curious that
@nward gives the impression that he got better results with his previous Canon.

I'm only two or three years into returning to "real-camera" photography. Initially, I bought the a6000 two-kit-lens set. I didn't understand what I needed for the photography I wanted to do, and, as a result, my new kit gave results that weren't much better than my compact P&S. They have seen some use, out of the concert hall, but on the whole they were a waste of money for me.
 
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Richard Crowe

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If I were shooting with a mirrorless camera and wanted to capture events like indoor sports and/or theater events, I would seriously look at a 85mm f/1.8 lens. Viltrox has a very low priced e-mount 85mm f/1.8 which costs about $400 USD new.
If I were shooting only with an APSC camera, I would look at the 17-70mm f/2.8 Tamron. At $800 USD from Adorama (today's price) the Tamron is certainly not the cheapest lens on the market but, the f/2.8 aperture and 105mm equivalent (on a crop camera) focal length would be quite decent for theater and indoor sport uses and IMO, this is about the best general purpose APSC lens on the market.

Another very viable and possibly the most inexpensive option, but one which would require more skill and experience to use would be a 135mm f/2.5 Super Takumar lens adapted with a focal reducer. I use the Kipon Bayess Focal reducer which would provide you with an equivalent 141mm f/1.8 lens. Of course, the focus would be completely manual but, with focus peaking and focus assist, it is as easy to use a manual focus lens on an A6000 as it was to use that type of lens on a SLR camera designed for manual lenses. Photographers shot with manual lenses for a long time before auto-focus was introduced. The cost of such a combination would be around $200 total...
 

unlo

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I agree that ISO 8000 is too high to get a noise-free image. I have my A7RII to max out at ISO 6400, and even that will allow for more noise than I like to see in an image. But a shutter speed of 1/160 sec is going to be too slow to capture most sports, especially close up images like the one you posted. I suspect you're either going to have to use a faster lens, or find some way to introduce more light. That 55-210mm lens is a good outdoor lens, but indoors it shows its limitations.
I agree, if you have the option for an OCF that would allow you some faster shutter speed and lower ISO. Took me a few missed opportunities to realize the need and benefit of OCF
 

unlo

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If you are willing to buy used, there are even some older A-mount lenses that can be adapted
I have the 200mm 2.8 from Minolta. (older than me) and it's been one of my favorite indoor basketball lenses to date. esp on aps-c
 

WNG

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I own your camera+lens combo and have discovered its limitations for low-light conditions. After looking at the EXIF data....

1. the 1/160 sec. shutter is too slow for the action photography subjects. Unless you are desiring motion blur. Unless they are still, you can't get a tack sharp subject. I would try 1/250-1/800 sec. Unfortunately, there is no option to limit shutter speed floor in Auto modes with most Sony bodies.

2. ISO is way too high for APS-C sensor to expect low noise. The usable ceiling is 3200 for the a6000, IMHO. I cap my ISO to 1300 max if in AUTO ISO mode.

3. The SEL55210 zoom is a fair weather daylight zoom lens. It's woefully too slow for indoor sports especially. Its f/4.5 is only at the wide end. If you zoom out to 210mm, the lens starts at f/6.3, which is likely what your shots were taken at if in program modes.

4. As others stated, you need a faster, constant aperture lens of at least f/2.8. If AF is needed, I recommend the Tamron 75-180 f/2.8. Most affordable Sony mount zoom of f/2.8.
The Sony FE 85 f/1.8 is a great recommendation to gain you speed and a little more reach than a 50mm.

5. Be sure OSS is enabled, AF-C enabled, you can try to narrow down the focus area too for more subject focus hit rate. 11 fps is spray and pray if the AF is 'release'. I believe the a6000 defaults to this with no option.

6. Richard beat me to it, as I also recommend a relatively cheap alternative is to find a very good manual focus 135mm f/2.5-2.8 prime. There are several excellent candidates in this focal length costing between $25(Vivitar 135-f/2.8 by Komine) - $150(ie. Nikkor 135-f/2.8). On the a6000, the effective focal length is 202.5mm. You'll have to learn to do it the old fashioned way of zone focusing. But DOF shouldn't be an issue at those distances. I've shot air shows with a manual 60-300mm zoom and managed to get some keepers.
The Sony's focus peaking and focus magnification assist features make using manual lenses a breeze to focus.

7. Lastly, rely on the RAW files for better noise and color fidelity instead of the JPEGs. Edit your RAWs with Capture One. Don't recall if they still have the free Sony Express version in the latest version. You'll have to check. Unless you're already using Lightroom on your iMac.
 

Thad E Ginathom

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Viltrox has a very low priced e-mount 85mm f/1.8 which costs about $400 USD new.
irresistible!
I would look at the 17-70mm f/2.8 Tamron
I have one on its way to me. :biggrin:

I'd consider the Sony 50/1.8. The APS-C one. It has OSS too. I don't think it gets a lot of technical love, but it is far better than the mentioned kit lenses, and gives you some speed.

I'd look at the Sigma DC DN lenses. They go to 1.4. I got the 30mm used, and I'm very happy to own it.

As per Richard's 85mm example, do check out the third-party-but-native-e-mount competition to Sony's range.
 
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Dan Euritt

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Some xlnt advice in this thread. For the o.p., I would add that you shot that photo in aperture priority mode, but when freezing motion in action sports, you want to be in manual mode, fixed aperture wide open, fixed shutter speed at 1/800th minimum if at all possible, and float the iso.
 

Boblou

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irresistible!

I have one on its way to me. :biggrin:

I'd consider the Sony 50/1.8. The APS-C one. It has OSS too. I don't think it gets a lot of technical love, but it is far better than the mentioned kit lenses, and gives you some speed.

I'd look at the Sigma DC DN lenses. They go to 1.4. I got the 30mm used, and I'm very happy to own it.

As per Richard's 85mm example, do check out the third-party-but-native-e-mount competition to Sony's range.
I think the Sony 50 1.8 is not a bad lens.
Look at these photos through the plexiglass.
DSC02744_DxO.jpg
ILCE-6000    E 50mm F1.8 OSS    50mm    f/3.5    1/800s    ISO 1250
DSC02821_DxO_DxO2.jpg
ILCE-6000    E 50mm F1.8 OSS    50mm    f/3.5    1/800s    ISO 1250
DSC03021_DxO.jpg
ILCE-6000    E 50mm F1.8 OSS    50mm    f/3.5    1/800s    ISO 1250
DSC04022_DxO.jpg
ILCE-6000    E 50mm F1.8 OSS    50mm    f/3.2    1/1000s    ISO 1600
DSC04066_DxO.jpg
ILCE-6000    E 50mm F1.8 OSS    50mm    f/3.2    1/1000s    ISO 1600

The A6000 is a camera with a fairly good focus.
 

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