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Old Jun 4, 2012, 1:15 PM   #1
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Default Yet another 70-200, 70-300 question.

Hello Everyone,

I've been reading around quite a bit as I am looking for a new lens and the answer I keep reading is "it depends on what you want to shoot", so now I'm seeking a personalized answer. I'm going to tell you what I want to shoot.

First, currently, I have a Canon Rebel XT with a 17-85 USM IS, and this is what I've been using free hand.

Second, my wife competes on stage (in door) in fitness competitions and I want to take pictures of her on stage. My distance to the stage varies form show to show - sometimes I'm 3rd row, sometimes I'm in the 50th row. The auditoriums are generally very dark, but the stage is bright. The venues are pretty typical - think any time you've been to a play or ballet.

Third, the issues I'm having are the my images are either blurry due to slow shutter speeds or are very noisy due to high ISO.

Fourth, possible solutions as I see them (from least expensive to most expensive):

1) 70-300 f4-5.6 IS
2) 70-200 f4
3) 70-300 f4-5.6 IS + T2i
4) 70-200 f4 + T2i
5) 70-200 f4 IS
6) 70-200 f2.8

Right away, I don't love the idea of the 70-200 f2.8 because it's a very heavy lens. The 2.8 IS out of my budget.

So, my question is this: what will work well for my situation?

I'm not sure I am sold on an IS lens as although I do shoot handheld, by the time I need IS, the subject is blurry anyway from moving on stage. The reason I have a T2i paired with a new lens as a solution is that I could shoot at a higher ISO with it. Ideally, I would like to go with the least expensive option, but will the results be good?

Thanks for your help,

-Paul
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Old Jun 4, 2012, 1:58 PM   #2
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If you want to get faster shutter speeds in the dark, without cranking up the ISO too far, you need a larger aperture.

If the venue is like typical theaters, if you're too close, you'll be looking up at the stage, which will give you an odd perspective on the performers. Plus, if you're not in the center of the orchestra seating, then if she's on one side of the stage and you're on the other, you won't get many good shots.

Being in the center, near the back, with a long lens will give you a better perspective, so the 70-200/2.8 would probably be the best choice. If you can do ok closer to the stage, you might also want to look at Sigma's 50-150/2.8; the smaller size and weight might work out for you as well.

Canon also has some nice large aperture, medium telephoto primes that you might be able to use. Their 85/1.8 and 100/2.0 could serve you well if you're in the right place at the right time.

Since you want to keep the shutter speed fast, you can probably do without a stabilized lens.
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Old Jun 5, 2012, 7:23 AM   #3
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You've got a definite problem here. As you discovered, you need wide apertures and high ISOs. Your XT isn't very good at high ISO by today's standards - it maxes out at 1600 and the quality at 1600 isn't very good. The 70-300 option won't work well - you can't get wide enough apertures (f5.6 is the same as your kit lens). For what it's worth you can't use a TC of any kind on a lens like that. You can only use a TC on the f4 and f2.8 lenses.

Now, TCAV makes a point about angle, but you have to be careful too. You cannot be too far away. With a 200mm lens, you need to be within 25 yards of your subject. So, row 50 is just too far back.

Prime lenses are less expensive than the 70-200 2.8 lenses, but you need to be fairly close - the 85mm 1.8 for instance you want to be within 25-30 FEET (not yards, feet).

A 70-200 2.8 IS is your best bet - but you say it's out of your budget. With a better high ISO performing camera, the 70-200 f4 would be a good option. But you'd probably need at least ISO 3200 and your current camera can't do that.

You could get a lens like the 85mm 1.8 and just shoot when you're up close. not perfect, but I think it's your best option.
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Old Jun 5, 2012, 12:40 PM   #4
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Hello,

Thanks for the replies. The 50-150 2.8 sounds like a great solution, but after reading a few reviews about it, despite it being a good lens, every reviewer had trouble with the focusing. Decent AF is a must for me. Plus, it's a fairly expensive option. Canon has a rebate on their lenses right now (in Canada at least) that makes them a really good deal. The 70-200 f4 is about half the price of the 50-150 2.8).

The 17-85 I have now is just a little on the short side, so I think a 70-200 will be plenty long enough so an 85mm wouldn't do much for me. Also, because it varies where I sit, I do need a lens with a flexible zoom. Walking up to the stage is not an option.

It seems IS is unnecessary for me as if my shutter is slow, my subject blurs before camera shake is a problem, so I don't really want to spend the money on that.

From reading around a little more and looking at specific lens reviews it's looking more and more like the 70-200 f4 is the way to go especially for the price (about 50% of the 70-200 2.8).

Anyway, thank you both very much for you help and input! I really appreciate it!
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Old Jun 5, 2012, 1:10 PM   #5
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Since your XT maxes out at an ISO of 1600, you're going to need as much light as you can get in order to get shutter speeds fast enough to prevent motion blure due to either camera shake or subject movement.

f/4 isn't going to do it for you. That's only one stop faster than you're getting with the 17-85 lens you've already got. f/4 will give you half the motion blur you're getting now. Only you can say whether that's enough, but if you post a sample of what you've been getting so far, we can better help you.
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Old Jun 5, 2012, 1:11 PM   #6
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Again, I would caution about the f4. It's a question whether or not f4 will be "good enough" with your camera. I've shot a lot of sports and some stage work, but I haven't shot fitness competitions. The key is how much motion the subject has. For example, if it were body building, you could get by with slow shutter speeds since subjects are posing. So, 1/80-1/125 is probably pretty good (but you would need IS at 200mm at those shutter speeds). But with more movement you may need 1/250-1/400. You've already said you don't like high ISO on your camera.

What you might want to do is look at RENTING a 70-200 f4 and see if that does the job for you. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending $500 and still get unacceptable results.
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Old Jun 6, 2012, 5:07 AM   #7
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The other option is getting a T2i which should go down in price if a T4i is announced, this will get you a higher ISO. then rent a 70-200f4 and see if that helps
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Old Jun 6, 2012, 2:30 PM   #8
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Renting may be a good option, but the next show isn't for a few months (off season just started) and I would like to take advantage of the Canon rebates.

Here's a sample shot (I shrunk it a bit in Photoshop, but you get the idea):



f5.6, 1/60 sec, iso 800, 85mm.

The noise is apparent even at 800, and lens isn't stellar... Hence my want for the upgrade.

There isn't a lot of subject motion, and when there is, it's walking on stage at a normal pace.

I did a little more reading and it seems the focusing issues are with the old 50-150 f2.8 Sigma. There isn't much out there about the new IS version, but from what I've seen thus far, Sigma fixed the focusing problem, so that may be a good option again.
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Old Jun 6, 2012, 3:01 PM   #9
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One more thing to note:

The Sigma 50-150 f2.8 (IS) is $175 less than the Canon 70-200 f2.8 (non IS) right now.

The Sigma is 86.4mm X 197.6mm vs the Canon at 84.6mm X 193.6mm.
Weight is: Sigma: 1340g, Canon 1310g.

So all in all, the Sigma is bigger and heavier. If we called them "the same price" (close enough), which is the better option?
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Old Jun 6, 2012, 3:32 PM   #10
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It's tough. There's not much info on the sigma. Sigma is a tough company to figure out. The last few years their telephotos seem to have had real problems with quality control. I really haven't seen much comment on the 50-150 2.8 OS. I owned a much older sigma 70-200 2.8 lens and still own/use a sigma 120-300 2.8 (again an older version). But it's tough for me to recommend sigma with the QC issues they've had. When they were bargain priced it was easier. With their current high prices, they have to prove they have QC to match those prices. Maybe with the newest OS lenses they've fixed their QC issues. But I haven't seen much evidence one way or the other.

The challenge is this: in your environment, you are going to be around shutter speeds that might benefit from stabilization. Of course, one solution is to use a monopod - I've used them before indoors. Without that or image stabilization, you'll need to develop very good hand-holding technique for a heave 200mm 2.8 lens. If you're steady not a problem. If not, you could find you're introducing too much camera shake.
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