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Old Aug 22, 2006, 3:56 PM   #1
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I am pretty new to DSLR photography. I just got a Canon 30d and I am looking for a good zoom lens to shoot little league baseball, football and some mountain bike racing my son participates in. I have been referred to these two lens quit a bit (Canon 70-200 F4L and Sigma 70-200 2.8 Macro) but thought I would ask for some input on this forum. I have heard that going with the 2.8 will give me a larger range of shooting capabilities as you can shoot in lower light and use faster shutter speeds for action shots. Not sure I know what I need, so any suggestions, thoughts and advice would be great.


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Old Aug 25, 2006, 12:04 AM   #2
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It looks like those sports will be out doors, is that correct?

If they are played in good light, then Canon might work well. If you expect to shoot in school gyms and such, the f2.8 is almost a necessity (and you'll be shooting at higher ISO values too.)

I've heard mixed things about the Sigma you mention. Some love it, some don't. It might just be sample difference. Sigma might keep the price lower by shipping lenses of lower quality than Canon is willing to do. Who knows?

Eric
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 12:55 AM   #3
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You want the fastest lens you can afford for sports. It's not just getting fast enough shutter speeds but also shallow depth of field to isolate the subject.
Given these lenses cost about the same (the canon is a little cheaper but I think the sigma comes with hood, case and tripod collar) the sigma is probably the way to go.
The canon's advantage is that it is quite a bit lighter. It also has a reputation for being the best value L lens canon make and also for being optically superb. Canon have a better reputation for quality control than sigma though I'm not sure if this is really true anymore as sigma have been making some fantastic lenses lately.
Both are great lenses so you win whichever you buy.
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 10:55 AM   #4
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I agree with Jacks that Sigma's quality control has improved greatly in some lenses (especially the EX lens line, which the lens in question is in) but they seem to have improved the optical quality but they still have too much variability in that quality. They improved the top end but still some times ship duds, and more duds than Canon. (I'm sure Sigma could ship an average higher quality product than they do now if they want. It's part of why they have a lower price....)

If you buy the sigma, I would suggest doing it from a place that is good about taking a return. That way if you get a "dud" you can always send it back and say "I want another one, this one isn't good."

I've also heard that the build quality (materals and such) is lower on most sigmas than the matching canon lenses. I have no idea if this holds true for the EX lens line, though. That line is definitely better than their normal lens line.

I agree with the shallow depth of field for sports. But at sports distances it really isn't that much of a difference:
On the 20D at 200mm f4 with a subject at 25ft away the DOF is: 13.4 inches
On the 20D at 200mm f2.8 with a subject at 25ft away the DOF is: 9.45 inches

The difference between f4 and f2.8 is only 4 inches. That isn't that much. I agree you don't want the player in the background in focus, or worse yet, the stadium or the backstop. But nothing but other players will be effected by that difference in DOF, and even then not that much.

Check my numbers if you want, I prefer this DOF calculator:
http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

Oh, another thing I thought of. With the sigma you get higher percision auto-focus on non-pro bodies (you didn't mention which camera you use.) They require an f2.8 lens to get that. This could be a HUGE difference for sports... less hunting when focusing, and more precise focus. Heck, I'm starting to think that that pushes me over the edge and I'd get the sigma. I was mixed either way before.

Now, I don't shoot sports, so my advice should be taken as coming from an experienced photography... not as a "sports photographer." I photograph wild animals (and I sell and how my images, so I take it seriously.)

That canon lens is stunningly good and very well made. The Sigma lens is very good in its own right. Not an easy choice.

I would suggest trying out both (renting or borrowing) would be the way to go. Both lenses have their strengths on paper, and you might have to try them to really pick.

Eric
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 10:17 PM   #5
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It's not actually the shallow depth of field that you want for sports. In fact, a deeper depth of field is very desirable as it gives you much more chance of getting your subject in focus.
What you are looking for is how out-of-focus the background is. The extra stop of f2.8 over f4 results in the background being quite a lot more blurry. If the background is a long way behind the subject this won't matter too much but the extra stop gives you a lot more leeway and really does show in the pictures. Shallow depth of field (and more out-of-focus shots) are the price you pay for this.
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 11:44 PM   #6
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Quality bokeh (which is the term for what you're describing) is not only related to subject distance, but other aspects of the lens as well.
You find way more than I can say about it here:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/bokeh.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokeh

These links my show me wrong (I haven't read about bokeh in awhile) but I believe that aperture is not the dominate thing that leads to quality out-of-focus area (bokeh.)
Eric
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Old Aug 26, 2006, 12:14 AM   #7
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I'm not talking about the quality of bokeh, but the amount. The more out of focus something is, the more it will be blurred and the less it will catch the eye. This is true regardless of wether a lens has 'good' or 'bad' bokeh. An f2.8 lens will create more blur than an f4 one. The bokeh of the f4 might look better if the f2.8 lens was truly awful in this regard (both the lenses were discussing have good bokeh though).
A lens with bad bokeh will create artifacts in the out of focus areas that will catch the eye and thus partly defeat the purpose of blurring the background in the first place.
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Old Aug 28, 2006, 7:08 AM   #8
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As suggested, the 2.8 lens is the way to go. But, I suggest you try to find the Sigma 70-200 2.8 NON Macro lens. The psuedo-macro capability of the new version buys you nothing for sports and the lens elements have been redesigned so the new lens doesn't have much of a proven real-world track record yet. So, save some $$$ and get the non-macro it's a fabulous lens.

I'm also going to recommend you use the money you saved and buy a matching 1.4x tc. 200mm is a little bit short for football and baseball. And, if the lighting is good enough your ability to capture shots will be greatly augmented by the added reach the TC can provide.

Of course, you have to realize the 2.8 lens is going to be heavier - that's just a fact of life - it's the downside of a 2.8 lens but the weight is well worth it.

I do a significant amount of sports shooting - including football and baseball and I honestly believe a 70-200 2.8 plus 1.4x TC is the best way to start in outdoor field sports - you get fast (2.8) when you need it and reach (280mm at f4) when lighting is good.

Good luck in your decision and with shooting your son's games.
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