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Old Jul 10, 2012, 10:47 AM   #1
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Default Really, will I even know the difference???

I continually read "Purchase the best lens you can afford".

With that said, financially speaking, I can afford professional lenses.

However, I'm wondering as a complete newbie, will I even know the difference as I don't have a baseline for performance?

This is not a money making adventure for me... Just want to start taking as many photo's of my family and kids as possible and would very much like to start on their sports fields to capture those 'moments', that soccer break away, that stretched out line drive catch-of-the-day, the lacrosse shot from the 12m arc, etc. etc...

At the same time, in my short 42 years and different hobbies I've been involved in... I've spent a hell of a lot of money on "beginner' grade items only to have spent additional monies to upgrade after a year or so...

Asking the questions...

(1) Will I know the difference between lenses when I've never shot any other lens.

(2) Regarding durability... There is such a price difference between professional and consumer... What's the durability difference between the two?

Thanks in advance,
Mike Shannon
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Old Jul 10, 2012, 12:03 PM   #2
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It's hard to tell a good lens, but a bad one will jump out at you when you least expect it and really don't want it.

No one is going to tell you that you should spend $1,500 on each lens, even though it's hard to go wrong in that neighborhood. But if you'll be confining your choices to the $150 neighborhood, eventually you'll encounter plenty of reasons why you should have spent more.

There are few really bad lenses out there, and even with the least good lens on the market, the majority of the photos you take will look just fine. But the more photos you take, the more obvious the flaws will be, and the lower your tolerance for them will be.

If you spend $300 on a lens, use it for a year or so until you're tired of putting up with its imperfections, and replace it with a $600 lens, that experience actually cost you $900. It's certainly your call, and you certainly gained some wisdom you would not have if you didn't try to save some money initially, but in the long run, you'd have been better off spending the $600 in the first place.

If you're considering a lens, rent it first. That way, you can see for your self whether you should spend the extra money.

But the real test is to buy cheap lenses first.
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Last edited by TCav; Jul 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM.
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Old Jul 10, 2012, 12:22 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response.

Another question... re: Low Light Picture Taking.. and f-stop lenses

Does the average outside 'shooter' need to worry about a 2.8 lens vs a 3.5-5.6 lens?
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Old Jul 10, 2012, 12:32 PM   #4
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For general shooting, the kit lens is always the best bet. The thing is: as you move up the lens food chain, the quality and price increase but the areas the lens are used for DECREASE. So, you have to have a better understanding of the specific photographic needs for a lens in order to buy the better lenses.

In general, you will see/feel a distinct build quality difference right away. Image quality benefits tend to be when using the lens at it's widest apertures and (with zooms) at the extreme wide or long end. More expensive lenses typically also come with wider apertures - allowing you more flexibility in depth-of-field (DOF) control and ability to shoot in lower light shooting conditions without flash or camera support.

Now, you mention sports. I've spent a lot of years shooting sports. Sports shooting is NOT a point-and-shoot type of photography. It's also one area where gear makes a very big difference. I shoot sports with professional grade gear (Canon 1dIII and various 2.8 and 1.8 lenses). I am also the family photographer. For family party and vacation shots you'd be hard pressed to notice a difference in the photos from my gear and from modern entry level DSLR with kit lens (and external flash for indoor stuff). But, sports is another matter entirely. However, sports is tough because there are multiple factors that key success:
  1. Skillset - it isn't rocket science, but you still have to learn how to shoot sports and shoot each sport - they're all different and have their own challenges and techniques.
  2. Location - this is critical. Your ability to make great shots is impacted by where you can shoot from. If you have to shoot lacrosse from the stands it's going to be very tough to make great shots - no matter how much money you spend. Distances are too great and angles are bad. Conversely, you can make some nice volleyball images from stands with a 70-200 2.8 type lens.
  3. Camera body - all modern DSLRs produce very good image quality. However there are 3 major aspects to the body that greatly impact sports images:
    1. Focus system: this has the biggest impact to the sports shooter. It's also the most difficult thing to judge and doesn't show up on a spec sheet. In many cases you're tracking a moving subject - how well does the camera's focus system do in that regard?
    2. High ISO performance: the more you shoot sports the more you'll need high ISOs. I've shot outdoors daytime at f2.8 and ISO 1000. Shooting indoors or at night and this is critical.
    3. Frame rate: I don't advise the spray-and-pray approach, but reality is the more fps you have the more chance you'll hit peak action and/or the more shots you can select from that are around that peak action.
  4. Camera lens - First, the lens has to be the proper focal length for the sport in question. A 400mm 2.8 is a fantastic lens for lacrosse, but fairly useless for basketball. A 70-200 2.8 is very useful for most indoor sports, but too short for full field baseball, lacrosse or soccer. Next, when you go up the lens food chain you're getting wider apertures. That means you can get faster shutter speeds, lens will focus better in lower light AND you can blur distracting backgrounds. It's also worth noting that the best focusing lenses have their own focus motor. Not all lens focus motors are the same. For example, focus performance of Canon 75-300, 70-300 non L and 70-300 L are very different. They have 3 different focus motors. When you're shooting static subjects that doesn't matter much. When you're shooting moving subjects it starts to matter more.
There's more, but you get the idea. Again, what gear is needed depends on the sport, where you can shoot from and lighting conditions.
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Old Jul 10, 2012, 1:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
For general shooting, the kit lens is always the best bet. The thing is: as you move up the lens food chain, the quality and price increase but the areas the lens are used for DECREASE. So, you have to have a better understanding of the specific photographic needs for a lens in order to buy the better lenses.

In general, you will see/feel a distinct build quality difference right away. Image quality benefits tend to be when using the lens at it's widest apertures and (with zooms) at the extreme wide or long end. More expensive lenses typically also come with wider apertures - allowing you more flexibility in depth-of-field (DOF) control and ability to shoot in lower light shooting conditions without flash or camera support.

Now, you mention sports. I've spent a lot of years shooting sports. Sports shooting is NOT a point-and-shoot type of photography. It's also one area where gear makes a very big difference. I shoot sports with professional grade gear (Canon 1dIII and various 2.8 and 1.8 lenses). I am also the family photographer. For family party and vacation shots you'd be hard pressed to notice a difference in the photos from my gear and from modern entry level DSLR with kit lens (and external flash for indoor stuff). But, sports is another matter entirely. However, sports is tough because there are multiple factors that key success:
  1. Skillset - it isn't rocket science, but you still have to learn how to shoot sports and shoot each sport - they're all different and have their own challenges and techniques.
  2. Location - this is critical. Your ability to make great shots is impacted by where you can shoot from. If you have to shoot lacrosse from the stands it's going to be very tough to make great shots - no matter how much money you spend. Distances are too great and angles are bad. Conversely, you can make some nice volleyball images from stands with a 70-200 2.8 type lens.
  3. Camera body - all modern DSLRs produce very good image quality. However there are 3 major aspects to the body that greatly impact sports images:
    1. Focus system: this has the biggest impact to the sports shooter. It's also the most difficult thing to judge and doesn't show up on a spec sheet. In many cases you're tracking a moving subject - how well does the camera's focus system do in that regard?
    2. High ISO performance: the more you shoot sports the more you'll need high ISOs. I've shot outdoors daytime at f2.8 and ISO 1000. Shooting indoors or at night and this is critical.
    3. Frame rate: I don't advise the spray-and-pray approach, but reality is the more fps you have the more chance you'll hit peak action and/or the more shots you can select from that are around that peak action.
  4. Camera lens - First, the lens has to be the proper focal length for the sport in question. A 400mm 2.8 is a fantastic lens for lacrosse, but fairly useless for basketball. A 70-200 2.8 is very useful for most indoor sports, but too short for full field baseball, lacrosse or soccer. Next, when you go up the lens food chain you're getting wider apertures. That means you can get faster shutter speeds, lens will focus better in lower light AND you can blur distracting backgrounds. It's also worth noting that the best focusing lenses have their own focus motor. Not all lens focus motors are the same. For example, focus performance of Canon 75-300, 70-300 non L and 70-300 L are very different. They have 3 different focus motors. When you're shooting static subjects that doesn't matter much. When you're shooting moving subjects it starts to matter more.
There's more, but you get the idea. Again, what gear is needed depends on the sport, where you can shoot from and lighting conditions.
Wow... Thank you so much for taking the time responding in this detail.

Really appreciate it and provides me more food for thought.

Mike

PS- I've been thinking a 7D body w/ EF 70-200mm F2.8 L USM as my "starter" kit for sports and see where I go from there... That's a chunk of change for "testing" the waters in the world of photography... Then I think maybe just pick up the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM for a fraction of the cost to just "get started". Being that I really don't know the difference either way, I'm thinking I'd probably be quite pleased with initial results and for a couple of hundred bucks it's like a throw-away if I really wanted upgrade.

Last edited by MikeShannon; Jul 10, 2012 at 1:24 PM.
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