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Old Aug 18, 2006, 5:53 PM   #1
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I have a Canon Digital Rebel EOS 350D. I want to take pictures at my son's football games and I can't zoom enough. So I need help with I guess a telephoto-type of lense. My budget isn't real big for this item, so please don't suggest the $1400 model. :shock:

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

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Old Aug 19, 2006, 10:31 AM   #2
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Day or night games? If night, well lit? If you are comfortable handling it my first, knee jerk, answer is Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8 at about $1100 or the smaller, lighter, less expensive 70-200mm f/4 at about $575. One of the nice things about the f/2.8 is that if you feel you need more reach you can add the 1.4x tele converter and have still have a f/4 lens at 98-280mm (yes, this would add some size and weight). Sigma makes a 70-200 f/2.8 but, for myself, I couldn't see saving less than $300 by buying a 3rd party lens. Either of the Canon lenses above would give great results and last a lifetime with reasonable care. You may decide to do what I do with a heavy lens and use a monopod.
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Old Aug 19, 2006, 10:40 PM   #3
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Just having enough 'zoom' is not enough. You also have to be able to get fast enough shutter speeds. To get fast shutter speeds you need fast lenses and fast lenses with enough zoom for field sports are necessarily big and expensive.
If you are shooting in bright daylight then f5.6 and ISO1600 will be plenty enough to get good shutter times and so you will be able to use a cheap lens such as the sigma 70-300f4-5.6APO. You would get better results with a faster lens even then, as a wider aperture makes the depth of field smaller allowing you to isolate your subject, and would also allow lower ISO, helping noise levels.
If the light is not bright (and even late afternoon is not bright) then the above lens will only be good for taking shots of still players using a tripod.
For sports, you often in fact need a $1400 model.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 11:53 AM   #4
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Jacks has some good advice. The two priorities are having enough reach and having enough shutter speed.

You need at least 200mm to shoot from the sidelines. If you're not shooting from the field already, then do so. If you don't have a 200mm lens you need at least that.

As Jacks suggested, if your son is playing mornings or afternoons a cheap Sigma 70-300mm lens is the least expensive solution at about $230. There are a slew of other lenses that will also work:

Canon 70-300, Canon 70-200 f4 ($630), Sigma 100-300 f4 ($900), Sigma 70-200 2.8 ($800)

If your son plays night games you can forget about any lens but a 2.8 lens. In which case the least expensive lens is the Sigma 70-200 2.8 (non Macro) for about $800. You can get a matching 1.4x TC for $160 and that will give you more reach for when the lighting is good.

Some people use external flash and you may have to try that route if you can't afford the right lenses. I would suggest the Canon 580ex (I have a Sigma 500 DG Super and it's OK but recycles slower than the Canon), a good 2 sets of 2700mah rechargable batteries and pair that with a slower 200mm or 300mm lens. The results of this are not nearly as good. Typically many pros will use a fast 2.8 lens AND use a flash at reduced power - say 1/16 with the sole purpose of filling in facial detail - in this case they're using it as a fill flash not as a flash with enough output to illuminate and freeze the motion of the entire subject.

Now, if all you're using is a 70-200mm lens you have to be within 25 yards to getgood shots. You can get acceptable shots out to maybe 40 yards but you won't be able to crop down to a single player. A 300mm lens allows you to back off to 35-40 yards.

In any case, you'll get the best results if you fill the frame with your subject - your camera will focus better and you'll get more sharpness and detail. You really want your subject filling 2/3 of the frame in-camera - 1/3 is the minimum. If they don't fill up 1/3 then you probably won't have the focus accuracy and detail required to crop in tighter. So, the point here is - whatever equipment you end up using - realize what it's limitations are - don't waste your time and energy trying to take photos beyond that range. Position yourself smartly and wait until the action comes to you.
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