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Old Apr 15, 2011, 11:25 PM   #1
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Default 300mm f2.8

I've been wanting a 300mm fast telephoto lens for football pics for over a year now and I'm struggling with forking over the dough. The 3 I'm looking at are:

ef 300mm f/2.8L IS USM: $4,999 new, aproximately $4,200 used, ex+ condition

ef 300mm f/2.8L USM: $2,000 to $3,000 used, depending on condition

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 ex dg apo HSM $2,500 new to $1700 used

I've just about ruled out the Sigma, simply because I'm just concerned that I'll be disappointed with the performance and regret not having the Canon. My real questions are:

1. Since I'm primarily shooting sports, is there ever any time that the IS will be of benefit? I keep thinking that it wouldn't matter, & the extra $2,000 is just hard for me to swallow. I don't do a lot of wildlife stuff, but I might if I had the right lens (plus a canon 2x teleconverter maybe?)

2. Is the Sigma truly a quality sports shooter? Am I dismissing it unfairly? Does anyone use it and can they compare it to the Canon? The zoom is really attractive to me, but I'm just concerned that I'll be disappointed in a lens with $2K tied up in something I would just trade in later on anyway.

I'm just an amateur, I don't make money taking pictues, this is just a guilty pleasure taking pictures of my son and other kids on his team. Plus, I truly enjoy sports action photography.
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 5:14 AM   #2
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Hi Jerry,

I'm a 1DmkIII Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 shooter, I've also shot with a Canon 300mm f2.8 IS and 400mm f2.8 IS. Are the Canons better than the Sigma? Yep, they are sharper and faster to focus, also the 300mm is a real 300mm, on the Sigma it is about 280mm for most shooting conditions.

Like you however I the fixed focal length meant that I was concerned about restrictions in use, when I purchased I didn't have all the cash in the world and only shot sports with one body. If I had 2 bodies then the 300mm f2.8 (or 400 for that matter) in conjunction with a 70-200mm f2.8 on a 2nd body would have been choice.

I use the 120-300mm both with and without a 1.4x TC without real concern, it isn't quite so sharp and focus slows just slightly, for wildlife I will shoot with a 2x and by stopping down a little keeps it sharp enough.

As they say a picture speaks a thousand words so here come 3000 words all shot with the 1DmkIII and 120-300mm f2.8. The first is at f2.8, DOF is narrow so look at the red player as the white players head is in front of the focus, the second is at f3.2 so still narrow DOF and the third is with a 1.4x TC, f5 and again with that being 420mm the DOF is narrow. Also at 1/400s over the bumps/jumps in 2 and 3 there might be a little movement but as you can see the shot is still very usable. I don't use any high levels of in camera sharpening so that noise is kept low and I will always do PP before printing/sharing etc.

Photo 1 http://marksmithphotography.co.uk/forum/7Q3T9684.JPG
Photo 2 http://marksmithphotography.co.uk/fo...207Q3T4664.JPG
Photo 3 http://marksmithphotography.co.uk/fo...207Q3T3481.JPG

Happy to answer any other questions you might have.
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 7:29 AM   #3
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Mark,

Thanks for the reply. You understand my dilemna quite well. If I were carrying 2 camera bodies, I would certainly not hesitate to go with Canon. As it stands now, I would have to do something like use the 300mm one half & maybe switch to the 70-200 the other half. I'm trying to bring in shots like the one below of my son making an interception across the field. Right now, that kind of pic is so far away that when cropped, it really becomes unusable. A 400mm would be even better, but the 300 would bring it in close enough that it would be a usable pic, at least I think. The second pic is one taken up closer (about 25-30 yards), which is more of what I'm looking for on those longer shots. I didn't do any in camera NR either, but I'm going to try doing the in camera NR in the future to see how I like the results. (shrinking the file size for the post significantly reduces the quality of both of these pics, by the way).

The other question I'm wondering about is whether you think there is any benefit in sports action to have the IS? I don't think it would help me much with the 70-200mm that I'm using now without IS, but since I've never used one with IS, it's hard for me to guage the value. The price of a nice used 300mm or 400mm w/o (IS) is much more palatable for me, I'm just wondering if it would make the lens too difficult to use for other purposes (i.e. wildlife)? Even if I decide to go the Sigma route, I might spend $700 more and go with the new one with OS (when it's available, of course). Any thoughts?
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 9:50 AM   #4
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Wasn't talking in camera NR but rather sharpening, I avoid in camera NR as well as it isn't done as well as 3rd party products and also it doesn't give me the control.

With the IS then for the sort of sports we are talking then no, there won't be a benefit as you are going to be looking for shutter speeds high enough that the camera shake is removed. Also, I would expect you to be shooting with a monopod so again that helps. I'm not sure how sharp the new Sigma is yet, I've only had experience with the non OS version so that would also need to be considered when looking at the options.

With a 300mm lens you still don't want to try working at over 40 yards, less is better.

If you are considering the non IS 300 and 400mm Canon options you really need to check if they are still supported by Canon, there is a pretty good chance that you will put a lot of money into a lens only to find out that it can't be fixed by them.
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 9:58 AM   #5
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Good advice on the non-IS lenses. Also on the OS Sigma. I haven't seen a review of the Sigma either. One additional question for you since I want to explore all possible options before I spend the cash: have you used the Sigma 300mm f2.8? I've read that the 120-300mm is actually sharper, but that's hard for me to believe.
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 10:10 AM   #6
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Sorry to say I haven't had a play with one. There is a review on SLR Gear, but only for the 300mm f2.8 so you can't compare to the 120-300 which is a shame.
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Old Apr 16, 2011, 12:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdnan View Post
...

The other question I'm wondering about is whether you think there is any benefit in sports action to have the IS? I don't think it would help me much with the 70-200mm that I'm using now without IS, but since I've never used one with IS, it's hard for me to guage the value. The price of a nice used 300mm or 400mm w/o (IS) is much more palatable for me, I'm just wondering if it would make the lens too difficult to use for other purposes (i.e. wildlife)? Even if I decide to go the Sigma route, I might spend $700 more and go with the new one with OS (when it's available, of course). Any thoughts?
Well I do a lot of wildlife and loved the 120-300 f/2.8... Although I shoot mainly with a Nikon and the Bigma now because this setup is lighter and fit my outing with the kayak better than a larger 1D with the 500L or 120-300 which I still kept:
120-300 at 300mm: http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wi...breakfast.html
120-300 at 600mm with a 2x: http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wi...lue-heron.html

I don't find IS that much useful for wildlife as I try to capture mostly birds in flight (fast shutter): http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wi...ight-then.html

However both of theses images are shot with low shutter speeds (under canopy of trees) - What you'll find under theses circumstances are you 'll be shooting up against a bright sky with a bright background behind it, so you'll need a flash fill (a flash will negate IS):
300mm @ 1/200s: http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wi...tle-egret.html
600mm @ 1/200s: http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wi...-104300-a.html

-> If you did attempt this with IS alone then what you'll get will be just a dark silhouette and not a colorful contrasty image as with flash fill like above
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Last edited by NHL; Apr 16, 2011 at 12:27 PM.
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Old Apr 19, 2011, 7:07 AM   #8
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Thanks, NHL. I appreciate the insight on the IS especially. So, the Bigma is lighter than the 120-300? Wow, I didn't realize that.

I think I've decided to save up my pennies and go with an ef 300mm f2.8L IS USM. I would go with the non-IS version if I could find a good one at a good price.

Mark, you seem to indicate that the non-is may not be compatible with future EOS firmwear. Did I understand your post correctly?
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Old Apr 19, 2011, 7:32 AM   #9
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A few important points.

First, the biggest risk with the older 300mm 2.8 non-IS lens is parts. If it breaks you won't be able to get it fixed. So that's your risk there.

Now, in general IS isn't useful - and certainly not for football, where a monopod makes sense. Where it is useful is when you are hand-holding the 300mm 2.8. Photogs will do that for basketball/volleyball indoors and I've seen one doing it for softball as he had to sit on the dugout roof - and a monopod interferes with the ability to cover a wide arc as you can imagine with that shooting position. Personally, I would avoid the non-IS version just for the parts though.

Like Mark and NHL, I also have the 120-300 2.8. And, like you and Mark, I shoot with the sigma. Mark hit the points pretty well. I will say, on my mkIII though, my 120-300 doesn't work to well with the 1.4x TC. Mark's definitely works better.

It will be worth seeing how well the new sigma performs in the field - if they've improved the sharpness. The focal length probably hasn't improved to a real 300mm. But it better be sharper, faster to focus and better take a TC well and without microfocus adjustments at the new price point.

Still, the sigma is a solid performer - at the older price point. On night football shots I am now a convert - I prefer to use flash. I can stop down my lens for added dof/sharpness.




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Old Apr 19, 2011, 8:14 AM   #10
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Quote:
On night football shots I am now a convert - I prefer to use flash. I can stop down my lens for added dof/sharpness.
I've seriously thought about flash as well. Are you using the Sigma for these or are you using your 70-200? Focal length on the running back (last one) was 176mm. Shutter speed also said 1/304.4. Were you in shutter priority mode?
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