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Camera body upgrade? - Upgrade advice from EOS Rebel T3i

Vannoyes182
Contributor

I have been trying to get good photos of my sons wrestling matches. I have a Canon Rebel t3i and recently purchased a used Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8mm Di VC USD lens which can know is a dinosaur but it has the f2.8 and my budget was under $500 so this fit the bill. My photos are better but still not as sharp as I’d like. I shoot in manual at f2.8 ISO1600 1/500 shutter speed in Al Servo. The photos are quite grainy but I fix this as much as I can while editing. Do I need to upgrade my camera body? If so, what would you recommend? I’d like to stay around $400 and used or refurbished is fine. Another parent shoots with a Nikon 70-300mm f4.5 and gets as good if not better results. Her camera body is newer so I’m wondering if that’s my problem. Any advice? Thanks!

20 REPLIES 20

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Now if you really want to have the best photos of anybody, you need a photo editor.

Canon offers DPP4 and it is free. I prefer Photoshop. An editor is more important than any camera or lens. Matter of fact it is the most important part of photography.

If given the choice of the best camera and the best lens made in the world today and no Photoshop or a bottom of the line camera and lens with Photoshop, I would choose the latter with Photoshop every single time. No question.

You can d/l the very good DPP4 form the Canon web site.  Its a free d/l.  In addition set the T3i to use raw format and not jpg which I suspect you are doing now. Raw files have way more info in them but you can't make use of it unless you have an editor like DPP4 or PS. Nice think about DPP4 is, it will automatically u/l your images to your computer another thing I suspect you are already doing. Raw can give you as much as a 3or 4 stop advantage over jpg so if your shots come out a bit dark no problem DPP4 or PS will correct them. If the color balance is off, DPP4 or PS can fix that, too. Plus many other edits like cropping to get the perfect perspective you like.

Try all this before you spend money on stuff that may not do any good at all. What I have suggested is totally free so you don't have anything to lose. D/l DPP4 right now!

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

Thanks for your advice! I am shooting in raw and use Lightroom classic for editing which I am pretty comfortable with. Do you think DPP4 would be worth checking out over Lightroom?

"Do you think DPP4 would be worth checking out over Lightroom?"

 

No. You have the best one with Lightroom and Photoshop.

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

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

If the images are grainy, and you are otherwise happy with the performance of the camera, I would suggest looking at a piece of software like Topaz Denoise AI.  It comes on sale from time to time and is a very effective means of reducing noise in existing images.
As to the sharpness issue: the best thing is to post a sample of your images via a link (like Dropbox) of your original files, as shot.  We can have a look to try to see what the issue is.  It could be one or more of several factors, so saying anything definite right now may be speculative.


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

These are both unedited. 
IMG_7232_Original.jpeg

 ISO 1600 f2.8 1/500s  200mm

IMG_7305_Original.jpeg

ISO 1600. F2.8. 1/500s. 75 mm

Simple levels adjustment in Photoshop. Very easy one click.

 

IMG_7232_Original copy.jpg

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

wq9nsc
Authority
Authority

Wrestling is not my forte, I have only shot it once as a favor to a graduating football player so I don't have any expertise with it.  One question is how much cropping are you having to do in editing because that is where noise (aka graininess) and loss of detail from noise reduction are going to be killers?  Get as close as you are allowed to the action so that the scene comes close to filling the sensor.

You have to make the best tradeoff between sensor noise and motion blur when in a low light indoor setting and 1/500 is going to be on the ragged edge for motion blur in wrestling with any fast movement.  The one meet I shot, I settled on 1/640 because it was in the gym I referred to as "the cave" at the time because of poor lighting that was later upgraded.  I was using 1DX and 1DX II bodies at the time and using 135 and 200mm f2 lenses with ISO set to auto resulting in ISO 1600 to ISO 4000 depending upon where I was in the gym.

With any gear change you make, don't go to a slower (narrow aperture) lens than your f2.8 because regardless of body a wider aperture lens is key to low light sports.  A newer higher performance sensor is a move in the right direction but don't cripple it by going backwards by purchasing it with a slower lens and/or one that requires additional cropping.  One of my early favorite lenses for low light sports was Canon's EF 85 f1.8 which was inexpensive and focused quickly.

For sports photography, you are going to be restricting the focus system to a single point or a very small array of points because until we are replaced by AI it is up to the photographer to understand the sport and focus upon the point of interest.  And wrestling moves slowly enough that choosing that point is pretty easy.  So a good servo AF system is needed but you and not the system will be choosing the spot of prime interest.

Bottom line, get close so you don't have to crop excessively; shoot in RAW if you aren't already so that DPP or whatever editing software you use has the best chance at good NR without excessive loss of detail, and make sure your tradeoff between motion blur and ISO/noise level is the best for that venue.

Hopefully someone who specializes in shooting wrestling will be able to assist more with specifics for that sport.

Rodger

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

Thanks so much, those images are great! I am usually restricted to the stands but we have a couple home meets this week and will try to get mat side. I have a 50mm prime lens which I have used at meets as well with mediocre results. I had to crop quite a bit in that situation which sounds like may have affected the amount noise.

You are welcome!  Mat side placement will make a huge difference when low light forces the use of a higher ISO setting.

As an example, here are two crops of the same frame shot with a Canon 1DX III which is very well behaved at high ISO and this was captured at ISO 10,000.  The first jpg is from 80% of the sensor area while the second is from just over 8% and at this high ISO it makes the grain coupled with loss of detail very noticeable with a heavy crop. 

The third image is using the same 1DX III body and EF 400 f2.8 glass but at ISO 250 where this crop using only 7% of the sensor area still provides a decently clean and detailed image.  With excellent lighting allowing a low ISO choice, you can crop severely but once the ISO goes up then so does noise and heavy cropping results in a mixture of undesired noise and loss of detail.

Rodger

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

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Again I come back to your settings. "I shoot in manual at f2.8 ISO1600 1/500 shutter speed in Al Servo."

IMHO, manual mode is a last case option which should only be used when all else fails. It is never a first choice. Plus Ai-servo almost guarantees you to get blurry photos if not used and understood correctly. Shooting form the bleachers you will never get results like Rodger does. Even if you are ring side you most likely can't get the same results. He has the very best equipment and a lot of inherent talent. Now that said and understood lets get the best we cam from your situation.

Always raw format. Av mode, ISO 1600 or higher if possible. I don't remember if the T3i has Auto ISO but if it does that could be a solution, too. Set a lower and upper limit you are good with. Consult your manual if you do not know how to do or change any of theses settings. Try f4 but be willing to change if need to. And most important use One Shot, never Ai-servo.

It seems a pretty common when folks have a photography problem the answer is a new camera. And folks seem to be happy to spend other people's money too quickly especially when a setting or technique could be the answer. Lets exhaust the latter before we drop the dime. Just because a newer model comes out doesn't mean yours is no longer a capable camera. 

Besides the in camera setting perhaps a few tips on using LR and PS is in order.

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