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Old Apr 1, 2009, 8:48 PM   #1
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I am looking for a camera and lenses for pictures, of reasonable quality, of dogs at play. While mostly the pictures will be viewed on screen and emailed, a few of the best will get printed up to 7" x 10" size.

Shooting is generally outdoors in good light, occasionally indoors (flash is OK). Friends get good results with various Canon Rebels, but I hear good things of other brands also. They almost invariably use the Basic Zones. So will I, at least for the first while. Looking at the EXIFs of their pictures, dogs wrestling near the camera are generally in the 90mm-120mm range. Dogs chasing each other are as far as 300mm (probably limited by the lenses being used). Image stabilization seems highly beneficial. Minimal shutter lag is essential (or the result is "doggonit"), as is "continuous focusing" on a moving target. The action is often too unpredictable for pre-focusing. Reasonable MP is helpful, as dog action shots are difficult to compose on the fly. Nice background blur would make the occasional dog portrait attractive.

The system will, of course, be used for a full range of amateur photography (except macro). The dogs at play, however, will be the most challenging component.

I am leaning toward the Canon XSi with two lenses, perhaps the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS for indoors with flash and outdoors for dogs nearby, and the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS for the longer shots. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II would be nice at a later date. This is the "top quality system" for the purpose, derived from Steve's and from http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos. It would be rather hard on the budget. Comments, plus suggestions re other cameras and/or other combinations of lenses would be welcome.

Thank you in advance.


p.s. The decision to go for dSLR rather than a superzoom was arrived at with the help of the What Camera to Buy forum.
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Old Apr 2, 2009, 7:32 AM   #2
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July,

The 70-300 is a good choice for the outdoor work. It's a very nice price point. The 70-200 f4 is a sharper lens with better build quality and faster focus but you lose some reach. For consumer grade glass though, the canon 70-300 IS USM is probably the best lens available with 300mm.

NOw - indoors:

First - I would suggest you put an external flash on the 'want' list. The built in flash on any dslr is very poor quality in comparison and the recycle times are terrible. For serious work I would suggest the 580exII but the 430ex is good for standard use (just not as powerful and slower to recharge).

But, the other question is what the indoor conditions are like with regard to room size. 28mm on an aps-c sensor is equivelent to 44.8mm - that isn't very wide. Now, I get the impression you or other friends have Canon DSLRs. I might suggest you confirm 28mm will be wide enough for your friend in the environment she'll be shooting in. If so, it's a very good consumer grade lens and paired with an external flash should get your friend the shots she needs assuming we're not talking full out running (the lens is not incredibly fast to focus so it wouldn't be able to keep up with tracking dogs running toward the photographer full tilt). If it's not wide enough then we have to discuss other options.
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Old Apr 2, 2009, 9:54 AM   #3
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John,

I have read that the 70-200mm f4 IS USM EF is indeed superb. It is likely, however, to be outside the budget. My guess is that the 70-300 is going to be good enough for the amateur purposes intended.

Yes, a good suggestion indeed, I'll put the 430ex flash on the shopping list.

I looked at the width of a 28mm composition and recall that at 8 ft the picture width would be well over 7 ft. While not enough for 10 persons at the dinner table, it would cover a good pile of puppies milling about. I expect that a true wide-angle lens would be in the future, justified by a two-week holiday trip to the mountains. In the meanwhile, suggestions would be appreciated on wider alternatives to thee 28-135mm that would still provide some overlap with the 70mm of the long lens. The idea is to walk out with one lens one day and the other lens the next day. I am familiar only with the Canon lenses, and not very knowledgeable on the subject in general.

A related question (also posted on the Which camera to buy forum): While IS is likely very useful for general purposes even at relatively short focal lengths, is it of value on a lens such as the 28-135mm when shooting dogs at play at high shutter speeds?

Many thanks.


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Old Apr 2, 2009, 10:25 AM   #4
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July wrote:
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John,

I have read that the 70-200mm f4 IS USM EF is indeed superb. It is likely, however, to be outside the budget. My guess is that the 70-300 is going to be good enough for the amateur purposes intended.

The IS version is indeed more expensive. But canon makes a NON IS version for the same cost as the 70-300. Now, the IS version happens to be even sharper than the non-IS version. But the non IS version is still sharper and faster to focus than the 70-300. If you didn't need the 300mm reach I would take sharpness, focus speed and build quality any day.

And, as stated in the other thread - for the action work you want to do, IS will be of no benefit.
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Old Apr 2, 2009, 12:26 PM   #5
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Good point and good info, John. So the decision on the "long" lens depends not only on the importance of the reach but also on the mix of use: is the dog at play the prime target, or is it important to pay for the IS for shots when the dogs are sitting down and looking cute. I don't expect that IS would do any harm, except to the purse, though. Am I correct to assume that IS lenses are reasonably durable?

Since the system will be multi-purpose, The decision is most difficult. The consolation is that, in the long run, the tools will help to shape the interests.

Thank you.


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Old Apr 3, 2009, 8:53 AM   #6
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is the dog at play the prime target, or is it important to pay for the IS for shots when the dogs are sitting down and looking cute.
IS is useful when you are using shutter speeds too low to hand hold and not using flash. If your subject is stationary or moving if your shutter speed is high enough then IS has no benefit. For 200mm think any shutter speed of 1/320 or better to hand-hold. For 300mm think 1/500 or better to hand-hold. With good technique you can hand-hold at much slower speeds. And of course not all lenses are the same weight - hand-holding a 70-300 5.6 lens is much easier than hand-holding a 300mm 2.8 lens.

Quote:
I don't expect that IS would do any harm
The 'harm' is in allocation of your resources. Let's take for instance, Canon's 70-200 2.8 lenses. The one with IS costs $1700, the one without costs $1100. If a person buys the IS version, certainly the IS does no harm. BUT, that's $600 that was used. If the majority of the time the lens is used it would be used at high shutter speeds, the person might get MUCH more benefit putting that $600 towards other purchases - tripod/head and/or flash and/or additional lenses. The "IS does no harm" argument isn't a good one IF you have to pay extra for the IS.

Now for something like the 70-300 IS USM lens there simply is no other lens that has the sharpness AND focus speed at that price point. Tamron and Sigma both have less expensive 70-300 lenses but they're not as sharp as the Canon and they won't focus as fast. So there is no other choice that gives you the same quality without IS. Now, in the case of the 70-200 f4 lenses it's a bit trickier. Why? Because the IS version is a slightly different design and it's actually SHARPER than the non-IS version. Don't get me wrong the non-IS version is still one of the sharpest telephoto lenses you'll get - certainly for less than $1000. It's just the IS version is even better. Focus speed is about the same. So, the extra $450 gets you not only IS but also a sharper lens.
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Am I correct to assume that IS lenses are reasonably durable?
Depends on your definition of 'reasonably'. There is no direct correlation between IS lenses and build quality. Don't make the mistake of assuming IS lenses are of a higher build quality than non-IS. Canon's best built lenses are the L lenses. The 70-200 f4 is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more durable than the 70-300. The 70-200 is metal, does not have a rotating or telescopic barrel. The 70-300 is plastic (well built but still plastic) with a rotating front element and a telescoping barrel. That is one of the benefits of the L lenses - their build quality.

No easy decisions for sure. Still my advice is to determine how important the 201-300mm range is. If it's fairly important then go with the 70-300. If it's not really that important than the 70-200 f4 is by far the better lens. If price were no object then the 70-200 f4IS is the best.





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Old Apr 3, 2009, 9:40 AM   #7
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For 200mm think any shutter speed of 1/320 or better to hand-hold.

Aha, the film camera rule x the 1.6 crop factor.

If the majority of the time the lens is used it would be used at high shutter speeds, the person might get MUCH more benefit putting that $600 towards other purchases - tripod/head and/or flash and/or additional lenses.

Good point. My "client", for example, will likely be in the Basic Zones, at least for a year or two. Therefore, whenever taking pictures of dogs at play, the shutter speed will be 1/500 sec or faster, and the IS not of value. I will inquire what proportion of the lens use will in fact be of dogs at play and what of still pictures.

Yes, a wide-angle lens would round out the system nicely indeed.

Still my advice is to determine how important the 201-300mm range is. If it's fairly important then go with the 70-300. If it's not really that important than the 70-200 f4 is by far the better lens.

Yes, I will pass on your advice to the best of my ability. Reach, shutter lag, sharpness, build quality, and cost. - my head is spinning. Speaking personally, I will add one more factor: pride of ownership. I am more likely to take out good gear and to use it more thoughtfully that I would with indifferent gear that produces "just adequate" results. Amateurs like myself get much joy from the ownership of good quality toys.

Many thanks for your definitive replies. My client is getting ready for the decision - if I can present the information and advice without "overloading the circuits". I know well what I would advise, knowing the person, but hesitate to make a $2,000 decision on behalf of the beneficiary. What helps me is the firm belief that any one of the options will result in a delightful system.

Many thanks again, John


p.s. Please advise this newbie where I can get the info on the proper use of quotes in this forum
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Old Apr 5, 2009, 10:15 AM   #8
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I've not used Canon for quite a time (30D), but I do shoot dogs all the time. I think you will find that the 70-200 will cover most of your outdoor needs on a 1.6x body. Most of my shots would be covered in that zoom range.

Just to add to the comments reguarding that series of lenses. They are very, very good. The IS version (f4)may be the best mass produced zoom ever made. The non-IS version is a really good lens. I'm astounded they can sell that lens at the price they do. Its a bargan! The 2.8 versions are more expensive, but are also very good. I'd recommend any of the lot. All very good lenses, and all would make great outdoor action lenses for your intended purpose.

Greg
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Old Apr 5, 2009, 11:09 AM   #9
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Thank you, Greg. This thread has me thinking seriously about the 70-200mm L f4 and be satisfied with the 200mm reach for the foreseeable future. Whether I can afford the IS remains to bee seen.

For dogs closer at hand and indoors, I have not heard any objections to the the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS. For action shots the IS would not be needed. Realistically, however, this lens would be used for many other purposes as well (e.g. human family occasions). It would be nice to find a lens that would cover a 17-135 range, but I have not discovered one at a suitable quality/cost tradeoff. Perhaps, at a later date, I will get a proper wide angle lens.

I'm lookin forward to my Canon XSi in a few days. We'll be a two-camera family then; my wife is satisfied with her XT and uses her old Tamron 18-200mm for a carry-around lens with tolerable results.
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