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Old Jun 30, 2005, 11:39 AM   #1
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I've spent the last year or so getting a general idea of the digital SLR market and the best thing I've learned is that the big camera makers are courting photographers like me, who reside somewhere midway between amateur and professional. (I'm alot closer to amateur but have put myself on the fast track within my field.) They've even given us a name, "enthusiast". Fine.

Now that I've whittled down my choices on camera bodies (to models like the Canon 20d and the Nikon D70s) I need to figure out what lenses I should be looking at.

I have aVERY SPECIFIC need. My main focus is shooting action sports at a distance. Specifically the sport of surfing. All other photography is taking a back seat to this at the moment. SO, I need to know what telephoto lenses are on the market that don't cost 5 grand but can still do a quality job. In other words, something compatible - in terms of quality and cost - with the camera models I mentioned. You might say an "enthusiast's" telephoto lens.

I also just learned that they make teleconverters to accompany these big lenses - not onlyfor cheap amateur cameras. This sounds like a great option for keeping costs low while getting maximum reach.

So if any of you are experts in this specific area I would be very, VERY appreciative of your insights. Thank you.

Rob K

p.s. So you know, I'm looking to upgrade from my current set up of a Lumix FZ10 with Olympus 1.7 teleconverter
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Old Jun 30, 2005, 12:47 PM   #2
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You can tell a good lens in the same way as you can tell a good wine...by the price! There are no $20 lenses that are up to the standard of a $2,000 lens...or else everybody on the Net would soon know about the 'terriffic bargain' and the manufacturer wouldput his prices up...to $2,000!

There are some general principles. Cheap lenses are cheap because they are built cheaply, out of cheap materials and with very loose tolerances. These are the lenses that you have to worry about 'sample variation' because nobody really does any Quality Control.

Agreat lens is a precision instrument made of the finest material and design and built to exacting tolerances..and EVERY lens is tested before it leaves the factory so there is NO sample variation because there isn't a sample...the whole run is tested...many times during the production.

So, you will get what you pay for. You will be content with cheaper lenses until you use one of the better lenses and then you will not be satisfied with the cheap stuff again.

For sports action (and surfing in particular) you will need a NON-ZOOM lens with a long reach (say 300mm minimum) and one that is relatively fast (f2.8 would be great but $$$$...f4 would be affordable). Depending on the brand that you end up with (Nikon or Canon) immediately cross off their cheapest models in their lens catalog...you will also eliminate their most expensive ones because of the cost...and then buy the best you can afford.
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Old Jun 30, 2005, 1:41 PM   #3
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IMO manufacturers make it easier for people to chose theses days - Most major brands have two lines, the economy entry level and the one for the more sophisticated buyers:

Canon have the 'L'
Sigma have the EX for their 'Pro'
Tamron have their SP/XR series
and Nikon have their own alphabet soup for their high-end

If you stick with the higher line of lenses you're pretty safe - They all have to compete on quality here... It's pretty hard to sell a doggy lens theses day with so many open public forums, and the 3rd party manufacturers have an edge on cost sometime as much as 3 time less (a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 EX vs a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L is a perfect good example)

Also don't discount the zooms - In most cases modern zooms are sharper than fixed primes! :idea:

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Old Jul 1, 2005, 12:04 PM   #4
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Why do you say that a zoom lens would be the wrong choice for shooting surfing? I have no idea, I'm just asking. Also I'm a bit confused about the trade-off in using teleconverters with these high end lenses. As I said I use a cheap one now with my Lumix camera and it works okay. But I'm reading that if I were to add one to, for example, a 300mm/ f4 lens then I would compromise the aperture as well and end up with a slow lens and dark images.

Please don't forget to answer the prime/zoom question as well, thanks a whole lot.

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Old Jul 1, 2005, 11:48 PM   #5
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Since surfing is usually done in the daytime and in good weather, you are less likely to need wide aperture fixed focal length lenses than you would be if taking night football pics. Of course, if you want to get full-frame shots of surfers 300 yards out, you are going to need a pretty long focal length.

Teleconverters are an option, but you will lose some light through one, which may bring you back to needing the wide aperture.

Meryl's advice on price/quality is good, so you have to decide whether your limiting factor is price, quality, portability, or your ability.

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