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Indoors Tennis Photography

posted Feb 18, 2010, 5:31 AM by Nenad Hodnikovic
More than fifteen years ago I went for the first time to photograph indoors pro tennis. Then I had no digital SLR camera and was using my Nikon F301 ( known as N2000 in US ), and ISO 400 film.

That was a Delta Tour of Champions circuit, with former ATP pro stars like John McEnroe, Henri Leconte, Yannick Noah, Bjorn Borg and other great players of the 80' and 90'. Funny enough, it took place in the very same sports hall as recent ATP 2010 PBZ Zagreb Indoors.  Nowadays I use digital SLR Canon, just for the sake of practicality and instant results.

Indoors sports' photography adds many challenges to photographers. The light is constant, quite contrary to outdoor events, where light conditions usually change even over a one particular match. That's the good news. And the bad news are - there is rarely equally sufficient light indoors, comparing to a normal sunny or even not overly cloudy day.

Given that, a photographer must consider two things:
  • using speediest possible lenses - the ones with a very low F number (such as 1.4, or 2.0)
  • using highest possible ISO sensitivity that does not produce too much noise.

It leads to conclusion, that you are probably left "out" with any small pocket compact camera, even with an "ultra zoom" compact model. Simply, both groups of cameras have their limits:

  • very tiny sensors, with overcrowded pixels - producing a lot of noise on any ISO setting over 400
  • lenses starting at f/ 3.5 (up to 5.6) - the "light eaters" AND
  • very long shutter latency time...  the third problem with shooting the "ball sports".

Generally, you will still be able to get some pictures, even these high resolution ones... but, actually these will be probably only worth as personal memories, not even applicable to display it at a local news portal.

Even modest DSLR cameras with bigger and brighter lenses - so called "pro-summer" class - may not perform good enough to award your photographic skills and enthusiasm with the technically well or excellent results. But - at least, these cameras offer very low shutter latency, so you may get more photographs of the interesting moments... like exact racket and ball contact or some interesting player movements or gesture.

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