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Old Mar 8, 2007, 2:14 PM   #1
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Well, I've searched the forum, but coudn't glean enough info to make an intelligent decision - there are SO many choices, and SO many opinions!! Hopefully I'll have a reasonably dependable opinion one of these days after I practice a lot more!!

I got a Canon XTi for Christmas and it had the standard 18-55 kit lens. It takes great pictures outside, but my husband and I are having a hard time getting nice pics inside and in they gym wherehis boys play ball (blur blur blur). I'm also having trouble feeling like I"m getting the aperture effects w/ that lens that I want to (eg blurred backgrounds) - could very well be my skill level.

Here's what I want to be able to do: indoors (we're planning on babies here soon - will be taking LOTS of 'em then!!), sports - both in the gym and out, such as soccer and t-ball. My husband wantsa zoom lens, but I've read that Canon doesn't make any great ones for the small sensor digitals (at least in our price range - under $600). I don't mind looking at a 3rd party lens.

I'm planning on getting a decent flash, and also the 50/1.8 by Canon.

Would any of these be a good lens choice if we only plan on getting one right now?

*28-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM - I'm leaning towards this one, but read it had bad lens creep, does that matter?? Is it huge?

28-105 / 3.5-4.5 II USM

17-85/ 4.5 - 5.6 IS USM

OR, I could keep the kit lens and put a EF 70-200 f4.0L with it.

I realize no one lens can be everything, (nor can a good lens make up for operator error!!), but I'm looking for a good compromise - any suggestions? THANKS SO MUCH!


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Old Mar 8, 2007, 2:49 PM   #2
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If I understand correctly, you're happy with the kit lens and the photos you get for the non sports shots - is that correct? If so, we won't discuss replacing it with another walk-around lens.

Now, your next topics included blurred backgrounds and sports - including gym (and since you mention boys I'll assume the sport is basketball - let me know if it's something else as the sport makes a difference), soccer and t-ball.

Let's tackle (no pun intended) the sports question first:

The challenge here is - the indoor sports and outdoor sports require 2 different lenses - it's a harsh fact, but until you get into college level gyms, the outdoor lenses won't yield good results indoors. The 2 essentials to shooting any sport from an equipment standpoint are: 1) having the right focal length lens for the sport and where you'll be shooting from and 2) being able to get a fast enough shutter speed to stop the player motion while still having a proper exposure (i.e. who cares if your shutter speed is 1/2000 if the photo is completely black because its underexposed).

In most human-played sports, a good MINIMUM shutter speed to aim for is 1/400. Any slower and you get unacceptable motion blur (there are plenty of exceptions, but let's keep it general here - so 1/400 is the goal). With the gyms you'll be in, you likely won't be able to get those shutter speeds without a lens with a 2.0 aperture. Canon doesn't have any 2.0 aperture zoom lenses. So it means you really need a prime lens. Assuming you can shoot from either the floor itself or the first 2 rows of the stands - you have 2 lens choices - the inexpensive 50mm 1.8 (about $75) and the better 85mm 1.8 (about $380). The same lenses can be used for volleyball as well. If the indoor sport is wrestling or swimming let me know - that's a different case. So, assuming as I am that we're talking basketball, which lens you buy will likely depend on which lens you settle on for your outdoor sport lens.

For outdoor sports lenses: I am going to make another assumption - ALL GAMES YOU WILL SHOOT WILL BE IN DAYLIGHT. Big assumption. If you desire to shoot evening/night games under lights let me know - that will restrict you to certain equipment ONLY. Assuming you want to shoot during the day, what you need is a telephoto zoom lens of at least 200mm and preferably 300mm.

Here are the lenses you should consider for the soccer / t-ball (assuming we want to stay under $600):

Canon 70-300 IS USM - about $560

Canon 70-200 f4 USM - about $560

That's about it. In that price range I don't recommend anything else. Sigma makes a 70-300 for around $200 but the canon is much better. There are better lenses than above but they start at $1000 so we won't discuss them.

What is the difference between the lenses? Well, the f4 is an L lens - top of the line build quality and optics. It is sharper than the 70-300 and is f4 while the 70-300 is 5.6. But, the 70-300 has more reach (which will be beneficial in both sports) and has Image Stabalization - which, while not that useful in these sports may be useful for your other types of photography. As a sports shooter, I have a tough time saying which one you should get. The 70-200 is a fantastic lens but the 200mm is a little short. Maybe not if you're talking u6 soccer and t-ball but when you get into little league and beyond it can be very limiting. Given the age of the kids and the small fields I might be inclined to say the overal quality of the 70-200 wins out over the reach of the 70-300. BUT, I don't think you can go wrong with either choice for your chosen sports.

Now - on to blurred backgrounds. The blur is a result of something called depth-of-field - which basically means how much in front of and behind your focus plane is in focus. There are several components which affect DOF - Sensor size (you're using the same camera so this will be constant no matter what lens you buy), aperture, focal length of the lens and distance to subject. These are the factors that control DOF. On top of that, the more distance between your subject and the background the more blurred that background will be. For example, if your DOF is 4 feet - if a tree is 2 feet behind your subject, it's still in focus. If it's 40 feet behind your subject it isn't (theDOF remains the same - 4 feet but it's affect is different).

So, how do you get a blurred background? Wide apertures OR long focal length lenses with the subject as close as possible while still being the right framing for your picture (i.e. you don't want just the eye-ball you want the whole face). The challenge is distance plays a huge part. If your subject is close, the 50mm 1.8 at 1.8 will blur the background. If your subject is 25 feet away, even at an aperture of 1.8 the background will not be blurred. Conversely a 400mm 5.6 lens at 25 feet will have a VERY blurred background but at a distance of 5 feet you might not get your whole subject in the frame (so using a 400mm lens to achieve this affect in your living room isn't very practical). So, indoors in a living room, wide apertures are a better way to achieve this - while people shooting birds outdoors typically use really long focal lengths to achieve the same affect (since there subject is further away).

The reason I'm saying all this is becaue - the answer to "what lens should I use to blur my background" depends entirely on what the situation is - shooting a bird outdoors is very different than your baby indoors.

I'll post some example photos in a bit to illustrate these points.


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Old Mar 8, 2007, 3:12 PM   #3
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some examples:

Background blur as a result of long focal length (400mm lens at f8 about 15-20 feet away) - notice the grass in the background - complete blur of green



this one, 41mm (from 28-135 lens) f4 at about 5 feet. Background slightly blurred but not much:



now, 85mm at f2 and about the same distance:



Here's a shot that illustrates the DOF works both in front and behind the subject - both the players in front of the QB and the background are blurred - you can see the background is blurred more because it's farther away:



Now, as the father of a 7 year old (from above) I have found I enjoy having both fast prime lenses (50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.8) for great available light shots but also an external flash (which I see you are planning on) is also essential. Sometimes there just isn't enough light - even with a 1.8 lens.

Available light with 85mm 1.8:





with the help of a flash:





as well as the 2 earlier photos from the DOF examples which both used a flash.

But as my son gets older, the 85mm and 50mm will be too long and I'll have to get wider lenses that also have 2.8 or better apertures. But that's down the road.

Now, I also have to say - with regards to the sports shooting which is about 90% of the photos I take - it aint easy. Getting good results takes a lot of practice and skill - especially the indoor sports. Having the right equipment is necessary but by no means guarantees success. It's tougher than it looks - even when you have the right equipment. So, before you spend the $600 on new lenses make sure you or your husband (or both) are wanting to put in the time to learn how to shoot sports - it isn't a point-and-shoot thing - especially not the indoor sports. Lots of experienced sports shooters here who can help and give advice but I just wanted to forewarn you that slapping a 50mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 lens on your camera won't guarantee you'll get usable basketball photos. HOW to shoot these sports is a topic for another thread. For now, let's stickk to the equipment
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Old Mar 9, 2007, 7:52 AM   #4
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Hey! Thanks for all the great info - this will help me tremendously :-)

In answer to your question, I'm pretty sure I want to find a replacement for the kit lens. I was hoping to get a mid-range zoom IF it could cover me in most situations - it looks like indoor basketball may get the shaft with something like the ones I mentioned in my original post, though! But maybe w/ a nice flash and a 50/1.8 we could do better than what we're getting now.



I would LOVE to have one of the nice zooms you mentioned, but I know us and we will most likely tend to leave one lens on the camera - heck, we're doing GREAT if we can remember the camera and just take some pics! One day when I'm more experienced and have put some time into developing more skill, I will definitely get a large zoom.



Also, I think more of our pictures will be indoors, family, portraits - like the ones you posted - they were great! i'd like to be able to take those kind of pics, and more candid ones, too, in available light if possible WITHOUT getting in people's faces...what lens will do this?
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Old Mar 9, 2007, 11:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
I would LOVE to have one of the nice zooms you mentioned, but I know us and we will most likely tend to leave one lens on the camera - heck, we're doing GREAT if we can remember the camera and just take some pics! One day when I'm more experienced and have put some time into developing more skill, I will definitely get a large zoom.
Nothing wrong with that approach as long as you understand what that means going in. As noted, you can't do that at all for the indoor sports. I think you get the point you'll need the 50mm 1.8 in addition to whatever you use as your walkaround lens. And, with the 50mm 1.8 you won't need to use the flash for the sports photos - the 1.8 aperture will give you the fast shutter speeds you need. You may still need flash for family pictures though. Also, though you need to realize that any zoom lens under 200mm isn't goinng to get you great shots of the kids in outdoor sports. So, as long as you understand that going in - that's OK. Everything is a tradeoff. Now, one possible answer for you might be to replace your kit lens with something like the sigma 18-200 lens. I don't know what the price tag is on this lens but these types of lenses are designed for users that want a 'jack of all trades but master of none' lens - i.e. a lens that covers a large focal length but isn't terribly great at any one type of photography.

Quote:
Also, I think more of our pictures will be indoors, family, portraits - like the ones you posted - they were great! i'd like to be able to take those kind of pics, and more candid ones, too, in available light if possible WITHOUT getting in people's faces...what lens will do this?
This one can be a little dicier to solve. There's a lot going on here. To get the blurred backgrounds indoors in a house type environment I have in some of these, you need wide apertures (in my case the 50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.8). Those lenses aren't conducive to group shots. A lens like the kit lens or some of the others yo're considering are more conducive to general indoor photography (and here is where the external flash is key) - BUT they won't give you the blurred background. There is no 17-85mm 1.8 lens. So you can't get the best of both worlds. The closest would be canon's 17-55mm 2.8 lens. But 2.8 at these focal lengths won't give you the great blur that an 85mm 1.8 does. So you're going to have to decide which features are important to you -especially since you don't want to change lenses.

I would say since you're planing on the 50mm anyway you plan on using that when you want the blurred background photos inside. Then plan on using your all-purpose lens (whatever you decide to replace the kit lens with - the 17-85 or the sigma 18-200 or whatever) AND an external flash like the 430ex (or sigma 500 dg super).

I use the 28-135 as my walkaround but I also have a 17-40 for when I need wider. Since you want a single lens I will say 28mm is too tight for some indoor shots - especially with groups. SO I would recommend going with a zoom that starts at 17mm. And just realize that your outdoor sports shots won't be that great until you're ready for a telephoto zoom lens.
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Old Apr 9, 2007, 9:19 AM   #6
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I was in a similar situation when I got my first canon dSLR. I went with the 28-135 myself, and I'm quite happy with it.
The one place it doesn't do very well is low-light indoor situations, as it's just not fast (low f. stop) enough to capture motion in low light. (Great with a tripod for still situations, but I wouldn't try to shoot indoor sports without a flash.)

I'd say you should get the 28-135 as a good all-purpose lens, and get a flash for your indoor work to give you enough light.
I'm no pro however, just an amature shooting SLRs since I could walk. :-)
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