A basic guide to getting the beat gear and the beat photo of awesome sport
Buying a camera has never been easier thanks to the overall quality of the hardware — and never been more difficult thanks to the overwhelming amount of choice. There are a few simple guidelines and truths we can pass on here so you get the right camera and use it in a way that gets you the best dirtbike shots. It can get pretty funky and techno but if you follow these simple tips you’ll be on the right track to get the best gear and best results.
YOU SAY YOU WANT
First of all, the whole megapixel/ resolution business is a load of crap. Cameras have had more than enough megapixels for years now so don’t get sucked into a sales pitch where those terms get thrown about.
For example, to double a camera’s resolution you have to quadruple the megapixels. So if you’re drawn to a 12-megapixel camera and a salesman is trying to sell you onto the 14-megapixel job, tell him DIRT ACTION said to get his hand off it. There’s just so little difference that it’s not worth spending more on that fact alone. WE SAY: If its over 10-12 megapixels then happy days.
YOU’VE GOT TO FOCUS, MAN…
When shooting dirtbikes, the single most advantageous feature is fast autofocus. The faster your camera can focus the better it is for shooting a sport that doesn’t stay still or move slowly.
Unfortunately, this is also one of the harder features to get good information on. It really takes a good practical demonstration to determine whether a camera has fast focusing. And keep in mind that a fast lens is a separate thing from fast focus.
To at least get some idea we recommend you hold a camera up and pan around the room, picking out areas near and far, and take note of how quickly the focus can jump from something in the distance to something close by. The faster it does this the better it will be to shoot dirtbikes.
You also want it to settle on your target quickly and not hunt around for the focus point. WE SAY: Don’t compromise on this aspect.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
In general, the compact point-and-shoot camera isn’t ideal for shooting bikes as it isn’t really designed for the demands of sport shooting.
The megazoom category is a good start point, though, and for up to about $500 you’ll get a camera with a good lens, sensor and far better zoom reach and quality.
There are a couple of other steps between but we’d go from a megazoom to an entry-level DSLR. The advantage of a DSLR is that you have a better sensor; you’re able to use a quality flash and an optical viewfinder; and you have better video quality, better battery life and access to the best interchangeable lenses.
From there you go to the prosumer and pro camera ranges. Here’s a little secret for you: at DIRT ACTION we use a camera that’s categorised as a prosumer DSLR – prosumer being a mix of pro and consumer needs and wants. It’s not strictly an all-balls pro camera but we love it and it costs about one fifth of the pro unit many of our competitors use. WE SAY: Megazoom or prosumer for best results and bang for buck.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
The DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) is so named because it doesn’t come with a fixed lens. It’s a body only and you choose the lens you want to attach at any one time.
For shooting bikes we recommend two lenses because sometimes you can get right in amongst the action and other times you have to shoot from the side of a track and away from the bikes.
The lens we use the most is a 70-200mm which is one of the most versatile lenses on the planet. It’s not too heavy and covers a huge array of circumstances. If this was the only length lens you had, you’d be doing OK.
There’s not much need to get a bigger lens than the 70-200mm so consider something wide-angle as the second lens; something that takes you up to around 50mm would be sweet. WE SAY: 70-200mm is the king
WHAT WE USE
DIRT ACTION’S KIT ISN’T ALL THAT FANCY. JUST LIKE A BIKE, IT’S ALL ABOUT EASE OF USE AND RELIABILITY
At DIRT ACTION we have access to a number of cameras but it may surprise you to learn that they aren’t all expensive. We use Canon gear and our main body is an EOS 7D which is about a $1500 camera. Given the top-of-the-line Canon comes in at anywhere between $8000 and $10,000, we’re kind of doing it on the cheap. That’s OK though because the 7D has everything we need and a bit of knowledge can get you around any shortcomings. In fact, to give you an idea of just how little you can spend to get a good camera, I was until recently still using an old EOS 40D, which is long superseded and you can buy on eBay for about $200. It was a great camera that wouldn’t die and now my youngest daughter is using it to take countless photos of our dogs.
We also have an old EOS 1D Mark II that’s on its last legs and a 5D Mark II, which is a beautiful camera but the focus is too slow for sports.
We have a few lenses which are shared between Matt and me. We each have a 70-200mm and we share a 100-400mm as well as a 14mm fisheye. Matt likes to use a 17-40mm wide angle and I have an old and beaten 10-22mm that I love.
We also have a selection of Canon flashes and remote flash triggers.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS JARGON HEAVY SO HERE’S A QUICK EXPLANATION OF THE MOST COMMON GOBBLEDEGOOK
Takes a shaky image and makes it stable. If this term comes up, ask if it’s in-camera or in-lens. The best results are from in-lens image stabilisation.
A fixed-lens camera (can’t change the lens) with good-sized zoom capability and better lens quality than point-and-shoot.
The resolution (image quality) of a camera is measured in megapixels.
The sensor is the part of the camera that actually records the image. It plays the role film used to (excuse the pun).
The camera’s in-built focusing function.
An actual eyepiece that generally sits above the LCD screen.