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Which lens? EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM or EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - for indoor volleyball...


Or perhaps something else?


I'm looking for recommendations for the best lens option for indoor volleyball, typically shot in poorly-lit high school gyms. I'd also use it for indoor flag football, but this is not as critical as the volleyball. I hate noise!  I recently upgraded from an 80D (still own) to a 5D Mk 4. I own the Canon 24-70 2.8L II. (also own the 100-400L IS II for outdoor baseball, softball, and football).  While the 24-70 is a great lens, I do a lot of cropping (I prefer the close-ups).  Even at ISO 3200 (or 600!), cropped images are just too noisy for my preference.  I'm wondering if adding another lens will remedy this, and I'm considering one of the following:


EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM  (I've heard the III is not worth the additional cost)

EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM


Will the f2.8 at the longer focal length where I don't have to crop as much, give me enough light to limit the noise?  Or should I go with the faster f1.4 and sacfrifice the 86-200 length and the zoom factor? I'm aware with this lens I'd need to watch the DOF at the faster fstop.


I also shoot in RAW and process (including noise reduction) w/LR and ocassionally PS.


I know I can rent to try, but an overwhelming consensus one way or the other might remedy the need for that.


Thanks in advance for recommendations!





The 5D4 should be pretty good at ISO 1600, and begin to drop off at ISO 3200.  Can you post a sample photo?  


Too much cropping can make noise more visible.  I try not to crop by more than 1/3 horizontally and vertically, which results in a photo that is 1/9 the size of the original.  LR can remove all of the noise, if you wanted, but you will sacrifice resolution and details.


Was the aperture setting with the noisy photos f/2.8?.  I do not think you need to buy an expensive lens just to find out if a wider aperture lens would help resolve your noise issue.  A noisy photo shot at f/2.8 on one lens will be just as noisy as a photo shot at f/2.8 with a different lens.


So, the EF 70-200mm won’t cure the noise, but it could reduce how much you would need to crop.  How close to the court are you shooting?  Shooting volleyball with a 24-70, you would practically need to be sitting in “the chair”.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Thanks for the quick reply!


I agree with all you said, and I think the biggest issue (aside from being a noise snob) is the cropping factor.  I went back and looked at some of my images and found the ones where I don't have to crop as much are somewhat better.  There were even a few with ISO at 6400 that were not too bad as they were in better focus due to a faster shutter speed.  I also have to admit I've only had the 5D for a few weeks and all shots have been on the flag football field as volleyball tournaments have not started yet.  Lighting should be sightly better at volleyball due to the wood floors providing a better reflective surface.  The flag football field is green turf and it's pretty dark in there. I'm definitely going to add one more lens as I want something that fits in between the 2, so I'd still like to know which one would serve me the best...

This is easy. Buy the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens not even a choice.  The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens may not be a great upgrade form the Mk II but if you are buying first time get the Mk III.  It has a new lens coating that is impressive.  Not that big a deal from the Mk II but it is for the first time buyer.


Here is the rule for sports, never use a prime when a zoom will work. However are you forgetting the main most important three things about sports photography?  Yes, it is location, location and location.  Yeah where you shoot from is paramount.

I did the corporate challenge last yest in KC. I was allowed to be right at the boundary of the courts. Got some great shots with my 1D Mk IV and ef 24-70mm f2.6L II

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Thank you for your reply!  Valid point about the III vs the II lens. Everything I read about the III version was comparing it to the II, but you're right - since I'm not upgrading I might as well start with the most recent version.


And re the location - for the most part, I can get pretty close to the courts, but they play in a variety of venues all over New England and that may not always be the case.  And with the flag football, I can stand directly on the side line and can move up and down the field, but I can't run up and down it in the middle of the plays so the 70mm won't reach far enough for the long passes.  (But again, the volleyball is more important than the flag football). 


You've given me more to think about - thanks again!

"... for the most part, I can get pretty close to the courts,..."


What does this mean?  It is exactly why you want a zoom.  But if you are shooting very far from courtside your shots will not be very good. If you are just after a parent shooting their kid in a sport, they may be OK. If you are that varied in your shooting location you need everything from 24 to 200mm. Courtside, 50mm is long enough!



About your settings, it is best to set your camera with certain fixed settings.  I typically used Av mode and let the camera select the fastest SS it can. All lighting will be different.  It is just the way it is. I always avoid using Auto ISO. 

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

ebiggs1 -   "... for the most part, I can get pretty close to the courts,..."    


"What does this mean?"


It means there are some tournaments where I can stand right on the court boundaries, but some where I have to stay further back.  I like to experiment with location - I've even climbed up to the top of the un-open bleachers in order to shoot down on the girls as they look up at the ball. Definitely need a better zoom for that...


As far as settings -  I've used both Av mode and Tv mode depending on whether I wanted to focus on background blur or movement.  I just started experimenting with Manual mode and capped Auto ISO which, so far, is turning out to be a nice alternative.  One of the joys of photography - always more to learn!


Thanks again!

" I can stand right on the court boundaries,..."


If you are right at court side 70mm will probably be too long. And, not able to zoom shorter you need to consider the ef 24-70mm f2.8L also or a similar lens. The ef 50mm f1.2L could be that alternative too. Oh, wait, did I just suggest a prime? Yes in certain instances they make sense.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Hi ebiggs1,


"And, not able to zoom shorter you need to consider the ef 24-70mm f2.8L also or a similar lens."


Fortunately, I already own that lens and it is wonderful.  I expect to get even better results with it now that I have the 5D. I just know there will be venues that won't afford the opportunitly to get that close. With 3 grandkids all on some type of traveling team, the number of volleyball tournaments I can get to may be limited. And with my luck, the ones I get to will be the ones where I can't get close enough!  I think I'm just trying to convince myself that I 'need' the 70-200.  🙂  Everybody  raves about it!


Thanks so much for you advice.  I really appreciate it! 

"I'm just trying to convince myself that I 'need' the 70-200."


Oh, OK, ah,hum, here is my recommendation. In order to shoot *insert name* sports you absolutely need the  EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens. It is not possible without that lens. In fact it should be a law that all photographers have one. Go buy it today.


My best advice is get as close as you can. Close always wins out over everything else. Use Raw format and post edit in PS/LR. Those are fixed for best results. Mandatory! Do not deviate.  I use Av so the fastest SS can be used which is usually, but not always, best. I like to fix my ISO and have never been a fan of Auto ISO. Just a hold over from the olden days of film. I want to know what the camera is doing.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!