This is a new photo of my younger son, taking a shot while warming up at his most recent basketball game. I used the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, mounted on the D750. This was the first time I used the 70-200 in this particular gym (I’ve photographed my older son playing ball in this gym several times), and will no doubt be the last time I use the 70-200 in that gym…there just isn’t enough light in there to get away with not using something wider than f/2.8 (with this particular camera, anyway). It’s a very poorly illuminated room, with those harsh fluorescent bulbs recessed into an awkwardly high ceiling. It’s a weird gym in that regard…it’s narrow and small, with bright red padded walls, and the ceiling is ridiculously high. When out on the court, you feel like you’re at the bottom of an enormous McDonald’s cup.
This was also the first time I used the D750 to get action shots. Since I could go no wider than f/2.8, I bumped up ISO to (gulp) 5000 in order to get enough light for the exposure. And, the photo leaves you with no doubt that the camera was not pleased with me shooting at this high of an ISO…there’s significant grain, and it’s not the attractive kind of grain. It’s the tear-my-eyes-out-with-a-blunt-wooden-spoon kind of grain. I used to own the D4, which was able to handle higher ISOs more impressively than the D750 seems to…which is to be expected given the D4’s reputation. I guess I got a little spoiled using the D4, because the 750 is seemingly pushed to its limits in this environment.
And, let’s be fair to the D750…this particular gym is a pretty harsh environment to shoot in. As I said before, the gym has poor lighting, and those bright red padded walls make for an atrocious background. Fortunately, the subject in this image is adorable enough to take your eyes away from the background.
Had I brought the lens I’ve always shot with in this gym, the Nikon 200mm f/2, I could have worked at f/2, and dropped ISO down to 2500 (everything else being equal). With the D750, there’s a HUGE difference between 2500 and 5000. The D4, not so much. I could have shot all day long at f/2.8 in this gym with the D4, and ISO 5000, without any significant grain to speak of.
Regardless, I much prefer shooting with the 200 f/2 over the 70-200 f/2.8 anyway. It’s just a better lens. Don’t get me wrong, the 70-200 is a good lens…a little overrated (some people kneel before the 70-200 2.8 as if it’s a gift from God), but still a high quality product. The 200mm f/2, however, is truly a gift from God.
I absolutely love the 200 f/2. It can handle any environment I’ve thrown at it, and it’s always there to cover for all of my shortcomings behind the camera. Physically, it’s not light by any means, and it’s awkwardly chunky and short…if I were to randomly visualize a portable grenade launcher, the 200mm f/2 looks pretty much like how I draw one up in my head. (And I use the term “draw” very loosely, as I cannot draw a stick figure without royally screwing it up.)
Here’s one of my older son taken with the 200mm, at ISO 1600, 1/1000s, f/2 (in a gym with clearly better lighting and better background):
The 200mm does a spectacular job isolating a subject off the background. If you (and your subject) can deal with its relative girth, the 200mm is a wonderful portrait lens, either on a tripod or hand-held. Some people tend to get a little nervous when a portable RPG is pointed at them…but if you can calm them a bit and talk them into believing it’s really a lens and not a finely tuned piece of military equipment, you will get some amazing shots, regardless of where you are. Even if you’re in a poorly illuminated gym…