Pop Photo staffer Dan Bracaglia froze the bball action with a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens on a Nikon D3s body.
ACTION: Highspeed 85mm's rock for indoor sports.
Into indoor arena sports like basketball, hockey, or boxing? A high-speed 85mm will deliver. Shot at or near maximum aperture, it will give you fast, action-freezing shutter speeds, even in challenging light. If the court, rink, or ring is decently lit, you can expect action-stopping shutter speeds of 1/1000 sec and faster at ISOs between 1000 and 1600. Dan Bracaglia, our assistant web editor, hedged his sharpness bets when shooting the photo pictured here—using 1/2500 sec, without a flash. “I was using the Nikon D3s, which has no issues with noise at higher ISOs,” Bracaglia explains. “So at f/1.4 and ISO 8000, the pictures were perfectly sharp.”
He didn’t stay at f/1.4 for long, though. A classic problem with this classic lens is the tissue-thin depth of field you get at maximum aperture. As Bracaglia noticed, when more than one player appeared in his viewfinder, usually only one would be sharp at f/1.4.
“I switched to f/4 in order to have all the players in focus,” he says. “With an 85mm lens, you want to shoot between f/2.8 and f/5.6. This keeps the foreground action sharp, and the background slightly out of focus.”
These lenses also promise a sweet set of composing options for sports. Get court- or fieldside and an 85mm on a full-frame camera will let you compose players, full figure, at distances of about 20 to 25 feet. For athletes closer to your camera position, the 85mm will get you up close for explosive body language and intense facial expressions.
Another great thing about using a high-speed 85mm for sports? You don’t need an expensive f/1.4 or f/1.2—and less-costly 85mm f/1.8 lenses may be a better choice. Their glass elements are smaller, often making for noticeably faster autofocus