I had a friend recently ask me to take some pictures of his daughter who plays basketball for Northampton. So far this year, I have taken exactly ZERO pictures of basketball, mainly because the lighting in local high school gyms is pretty bad (and that’s being generous). You’d think that since Liz made Varsity, I’d be taking tons of shots, but when the light sucks, the pictures suck too! Over the past several years, I have taken thousands of pictures in dozens of gyms through the Northeast. The one thing I learned is that most gyms have bad lighting, even to play games so unless you’re using off-camera lighting, you get what you get and it is usually not so good. I even tried using my Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens to see if I could squeeze a little extra light out. While it DID give me a little better performance, you’re limited to a VERY narrow field of focus and if you’re off by a little, you’re shot will be out of focus.
Luckily, for this shoot, I have friend in town who recently purchased a Nikon D3s and offered to let me use it any time I’d like! So, I took him up on the offer and went down to Minnechaug to snap some shots of the JV and Varsity teams.
The D3s takes some gorgeous pictures – it ROCKS in low light. Here is a comparison between the D3s and my D700. Note that I too them in different gyms, but both are in Minnechaug, so the light is comparable.
This was taken in the “green gym”, note that the picture is a little dark, grainy and not very sharp. I’m really pushing the limit of what I can capture with the D700 here. I usually use Aperture priority, and set my Auto-ISO to 200-3200 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/400. You can see, the camera couldn’t even do 1/400 with the available light! In both cases, I used my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
Now, I can use different techniques to lighten and sharpen this image, but I wanted to show how the image looked straight out of the camera.
Here’s an image from the other night…
Similar settings, Auto-ISO set to maximum of 10,000! The D3s did a much better job of capturing the image and hitting the 1/400 speed minimum… and while the two images are similar in their graininess, the D3s image is much sharper at almost double the ISO. The cool thing about this is that when you print these out, you almost can’t see the grain at all, and they look pretty impressive.
While I can see that I could capture way more shots that are keepers right out of the camera with the D3s, I just can’t justify the price right now (because there isn’t really a market for indoor action shots). People like to look at their kid’s action pictures, but not many buy them. Unless we get commissioned to take the pictures (i.e. paid), it’s just not worth $5199 on the chance someone will buy a $7 shot!
I didn’t really get to use the D3s for much else, but I do plan to borrow it again in the Spring when Lacrosse starts up, just to compare the focus speed, and performance difference between the D3s and D700.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if the camera fairy should show up with a D3s, I wouldn’t send it back!