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Old Dec 29, 2006, 6:57 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 8,529

Dave, here are some attempts at answers to your questions. I'll let others help you with the walk-around lens - since mine (28-135) is not the latest and greatest out there (although I'm still very happy with it):

1) Are any of the f2.8 zooms going to be useful for indoor sports? I understand I may need fast primes (f/1.2, f/1.4. f/1.8 for low light indoor sports.
The answer is simply: it depends. It depends completely on the lighting in the gyms you shoot in. In two of the gyms I shoot in, I find myself shooting at around ISO 1600, f2.0 and 1/400. So, I could bump the ISO up to 3200 and shoot 2.8. But with that increase, comes increased noise. So, at least in my gyms, it's a matter of choice to shoot primes and stick with 1600 as much as possible. ISO3200 on the canon's is usable (still the best in the industry) but I try to keep it at 1600 if possible. Your gym(s) may be completely different - they may be brighter or they may be darker. One thing I will tell you - in my experience it's bad advice to underexpose high ISO shots and fix the exposure in post processing. You need to get the exposure correct, in camera, to get the cleanest images. Canon cameras meter to protect highlights - so if you let the camera meter indoors and there are white jerseys you might be amazed how underexposed things come out. For example in a gym last night, I set the camera to AV mode - when pointing at a player in dark jersey, the camera came up with a shutter speed of 1/400. When pointing at a player in a white jersey the camera came up with a shutter speed of 1/1000. I was taking photos of the team in white all night - at 1/400 and the exposure was perfect. Had I listened to the camera the exposure would have been under by a stop or more. So, make sure the exposure is CORRECT - which in my experience is not the exposure the Canon will tell you.

2) How useful is IS for indoor sports? Does it matter if I am panning vs. not panning? If useful for indoor sports, the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS may move to the top of my list, due to its very fast AF.
For non-telephoto lenses and sports with high shutter speeds, IS is useless. For racing or such where you are panning with slower shutter speeds I could see a use. Or when you're hand-holding a 300mm 2.8 or 400mm 2.8 lens - yes. The IS in something like a 17-55 isn't going to buy you a single thing for the sports you're shooting (remember you're shooting for shutter speeds of 1/400 or 1/500 - if you can't hold a 55mm lens steady at those shutter speeds then sports shooting isn't your bag). But IS can be very useful for other types of photography - available light shots of non moving targets. So I'm not saying IS isn't a good thing - just that for a lens this size it won't help you with sports shots.

One word of caution though - you mention "very fast AF" - I would get recommendations from people that have used that lens for low light sports before making that call. It may very well be fast AF. But 'Fast' is relative. People that don't shoot sports/wildlife have a very different definition of fast AF. And some lenses that are fast in good light (and yes some 2.8 lenses fall into this category) aren't necessarily fast in low light. The lens sounds excellent - great focal length with 2.8, but I would look for sports shooters who use it - preferably ones who have also used the Canon 24-70 2.8 (still the standard wide zoom for pro Canon sports shooters). That way they are speaking apples to apples when they say whether the lens is fast or not.

4) Does it make sense to start with the 17-50 lens and then go wide and/or long depending on most pressing needs?
I definitely recommend getting a SINGLE mid-range zoom lens and using it for a couple of months or more before deciding on another lens. Don't be swayed by people who tell you what focal lengths you MUST have. What works for them might not work for you. Let your own needs and style dictate what focal lengths (and apertures) you need. And, to be honest, you won't completely know that until you start using your new camera. Get that single lens first - after a couple months or more you'll find if there's a photographic goal you can't accomplish with your current setup. Don't get baited by people that give you a laundry list of 5 or 6 lenses that are the ultimate collection. I think if you took a survey of people here with 5 or more lenses the collections would be completely different. Why? Because each of our needs are different. So use one lens for a while and then when you can't do something you want to do come back and ask - I need a lens to do macro or wildlife or baseball or whatever.

5) What additional prime(s) would be good to fill specific niche(s)? Once I get some initial feedback and suggestions on these questions here and in another forum, I'll try to put together some specific scenarios for final review and input.
Same advice as above - there are a vast array of prime lenses out there. Don't worry about niche lenses until you have identified what 'niches' you like to shoot. Again, someone like Peripatetic would tell you the 28mm 1.8 is a great prime to get. While BobbyZ might tell you the 400mm 5.6 is a great prime to get. They're both right - as long as your style of photography requires those focal lengths and apertures. So, develop your own style and when you do you'll be able to find someone here with a similar style and they can recommend what lenses work for that style.

For a more specific example - take one of your indoor sports - basketball. The 85mm lens you have is basically a 'corner lens' - you shoot from the corners of the baseline with it. Some folks like to shoot from the stands - which means a 135mm 2.0 is a good prime to have. Some like to shoot from under the basket - which means a 50mm or even 28mm is in order (depending on the style of shot you like). So which lens you buy next for basketball (if you ever do) depends on your own style. In today's world, you can buy a lens and have it within a week - so don't be rushed on these other lenses. Pick your walkaround lens and if you find down the road you 'gotta have' a specific lens you can have it within a week.

JohnG is offline   Reply With Quote