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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!




"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."


Now that's a law I could get behind! The 100-400L IS II gets amazing shots on the football field (real, not flag), and baseball and softball diamonds.  Especially when I have to shoot from the outfield. When I get the 70-200, pairing it with that lens and the 24-70 should give me the complete package!  


Thanks again!

Another vote for the 70-200 2.8 🙂


I have so far avoided volleyball but I shoot a lot of basketball and also indoor soccer (with truly abysmal lighting).  


For basketball I keep the 70-200 2.8 on the 1DX 2 and the 24-70 2.8 on the 1DX.  Probably 80% of the shots I use will be from the 70-200 but there will be some where 70 is still too long.


For indoor soccer the best setup for me is the 300 2.8 prime on the 1DX 2 and with the 70-200 on the 1DX and for outdoor depending upon field I will use either a 300 or 400 prime backed by the 70-200.  The 70-200 is indepsensible for me.


No matter which lens you have mounted it won't be perfect all of the time but odds are the 70-200 2.8 will be an excellent choice for the majority of situations. It will be your first choice for most indoor sports events.


Indoor soccer at ISO 10,000 is a challenge, basketball at 4,000 is much nicer.





EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Thanks Roger!   Sounds like you have an amazing set-up. I'd have to hit the lottery to afford those lenses!


The basketball shot is nice considering it was at 4000 ISO.   I'm also impressed with the color.  That's the next area I need to improve. I can recognize good color when I see it in other photos, but I have a hard time 'seeing' it in my own and I'm constantly adjusting the WB and HSL sliders.   So much to learn!!



Thanks and I am far from great at color adjustment.  The indoor soccer arena is the worst because the lighting is insufficient and they use a mixture of mercury vapor and sodium vapor lighting, those sources have very different color temperatures not enhanced by the green hue from the turf.  Some of the lights are aimed directly at the field and others bounce off the dirty white of the dome roof.


Depending upon where the action takes place it is common to have two players in a shot with the same skin tone but with very different rendition depending upon which light predominates in their small section of the playing field.


Volleyball should be intertesting to photograph.  I got pulled into sports when I started coaching my daughter's soccer team when she was very young and continued through middle schoo and I started doing some game photography while coaching.  I did a few of the girl's high school games and then some of the boys I had coached earlier wanted good quality photos also and somehow that morphed into football and basketball 🙂  Football is the easiest to shoot because the plays are more predictable and you do get a chance to setup between plays, with basketball I still have an uncanny ability to get a great shot of a scene just after the ball has exited.



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

"Football is the easiest to shoot because the plays are more predictable ..."


This is a point I did not mention in the three most important things for great sports photography.  Corrected version is, "The three most important things in photography is location, location and know the sport."


As for the other topic of WB, remember ISO can influence WB and color.   While it is true there is no WB when you shoot Raw, Raw does record exposure settings. It is the luminosity of the screen as recorded by the sensor.  The sensor doesn't react the same to ISO 10,000 as it does to ISO 100. When you use LR it imports the Raw file and uses the embedded jpg tag file as a starting point to make a viewable image. You can not view a Raw file as is so this conversion is required. However, LR then uses it own rendering scheme to make the image you see in the Library module. IMHO, it is better, the best, way to do so.

Now it is up to you to make the WB and other adjustments you deem fit.

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

I dabbled in photography many, many years ago and then started shooting my grandkids sports (baseball, softball, football, volleyball) and fell back in love with it.  


Football is my favorite sport to shoot, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to get the timing down right.  This was one of my favorites as far as timing this past season.  (Although it helps that my grandson is the one carrying the ball)




Volleyball is difficult because of the light and sometimes it's hard to find the best place to stand.  But I'm determined to get better at it!


Thanks for you advice! 


A very nice image!  Was your grandson able to keep his footing and score?


Although you want to keep the ISO as low as possible, sometimes you have to go with what would have been considered ridiculously high sensor speed settings just a few years ago.  The capture below was shot across the field in one of the darkest spots on the field at ISO 40,000.  I would have much preferred good lighting and ISO 4,000 instead but the receiver was incredibly happy to have a photo of the best catch of his career thus far and the ability of the camera to record a usable image at that ISO made the photo possible.


Because of our orientation and experience we always try to do better  which we should but some images that I am not overjoyed at taking are the images that made players and parents very happy.  It is just another version of the old saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  Excuses shouldn't be used that allow us to grow complacent or sloppy but it is also easy to cross the boundary line into putting everything under a microscope like the "pixel peepers" who lose sight of why we capture images in the first place.


Have fun with the volleyball games.  I am leaving shortly to photograph senior night during halftime of the varsity basketball game.





EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Holy Cow! That shot's incredible for 40,000 ISO. And of course for the timing and the memory it provides. I never would have expected that!  (And it gives me hope!  If my ISO was up that high, I probably wouldn't even have bothered taking the shot)


I know what you mean about the images that make players and parents happy.  I take, and post, shots of all the kids on their teams.  But I take many more than I can possibly post and I'm always wondering if the parents would have chosen different ones. I enjoy the post processing very much, but I only have time for so many each week!


My grandson did keep his footing, but one of the running backs (? I think that's what you call them) nabbed him right before the endzone.  It was about a 70 yard run though!  

" If my ISO was up that high, I probably wouldn't even have bothered taking the shot..."


Not trying to take anything away from Rodger's shot, which is amazing, but sometimes we can get by with a slower SS than you might think. Thus using a more friendly ISO setting. Of course the ability to get the shot at all is fantastic.


Shooting Raw format gives a lot, more than you may think, of latitude.  Also, in a case like this a high frame rate is necessary unless you are just lucky.  The extremely high frame rate of the 1DX and 1DX Mk II are made for sports photography.


I can imagine that young man was thrilled with that shot!  And, that is what its all about and why we do it.  Right?

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

I can imagine that young man was thrilled with that shot!  And, that is what its all about and why we do it.  Right?


Absolutely!  But in all honestly, it thrills ME when I get lucky enough to hit the timing just right. Continuos shutter release is a must!  Another example of this below. (Granddaughter is the base runner).  This is with the 80D which has a decent fps rate. 


Unfortunately the 1DXs are out of my price range - and would be too heavy in any case.  These old elbows and wrists can't handle that much weight and keep it still!  I do use a monopod most of the time, but not always.  I actually screw a table top tripod into the bottom of the monopod.  Gives me more stability, I can still move around with ease, and I can use 2 hands for other things if I need to (with the strap around my neck, just in case!)


And I always shoot in RAW. Post processing is as much fun, if not more, than taking the pictures!



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