Go Back   Steve's Digicams Forums > Digicam Help > What Camera Should I Buy?

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Mar 22, 2007, 7:46 AM   #11
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378

JohnG and Mark1616 are the two sports shooters we have in our forums that post most often.

Both are now shooting with a Canon EOS-30D, and use the lenses I mentioned above (Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 for the types of sports you're interested in.

The Canon XTi has the same Autofocus Assembly (it was upgraded from the older XT). But, it's going to have a smaller buffer and slower frame rate (frames per second shooting continuous mode).

The consumer grade lenses within your desired budget (trying to stay within $1000 for a camera/lens package), are not going to have the same kind of Autofocus Speed that you'll get with the higher end lenses these guys are using.

So, that can mean a bit more work on your part to increase your percentage of keepers with rapidly moving subjects. That's what it really boils down to (percentage of acceptable shots). No matter what combo you use, you can't capture every little nuance without some issues, and your skill will also be a big factor. It will take some practice.

On the plus side, if you're shooting in good light with a lens like the ones being mentioned, you'll have more depth of field to work with at the smaller apertures available to the lower cost lenses we're discussing. That means focus point won't be quite as critical as trying to use an f/2.8 zoom wide open in lower light. That will help out some.

No... I don't know of anyone using that combination (Canon Rebel XTi, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6) for sports right now. Chances are, there are a lot of parents starting to use that combination. I just haven't noticed posts in our Sports and Action forum from it.

But, it's probably about the best you'll be able to do with a $1000 budget if you want another lens to go with it for the wider end, too (something like the kit lens I mentioned). I doubt you'd have too much trouble getting some good keepers with that combo for daytime sports. Low light sports is an entirely different matter (which is why I pointed out the better lenses you'd need for that purpose above).

I'll send a note to JohnG and Mark1616 and ask them to comment in this thread if they have the time. These guys shoot a lot of sports and can give you some better advise than I could on the subject.

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 22, 2007, 8:03 AM   #12
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 8,529

airtaz wrote:
One of the most important uses will be for sports. I was 'told' with this camera I should be able to take a picture of my son's baseball team pitching and actually stop the ball and see the stitches and writing on it........ I would love nothing more than to be able to take really fast shots while zoomed in to capture the look of my son's eyes just before he sacks a quarterback.
The different kits on ebay are just in the range we can really do, around the 1000 dollar range.

I shoot primarily sports and use the Canon system, so I thought I'd chime in. This is a good news / bad news kind of thing. First the good news - yes the camera is capable of what you want touse it for.

Now the bad news - sports shooting is a lot like race car driving - A good driver will still do poorly with poor equipment and even with the best equipment a novice driver will still fail horribly. Sports shooting is similar in that it is equal parts equipment and photographer ability. Having a capable camera is a requirement. Next comes the lenses - which are just as important. The sigma Jim mentioned is a great BUDGET lens but it is still just that - a budget lens. It is not very sharp from 200mm-300mm and it is slow to focus (compared to other sports lenses) because it lacks a high speed focus motor (designated as HSM in sigma line or USM in canon line). It's still better than the Canon 75-300 but not as good as the Canon 70-300 (a $560 lens).

But, let's say you get the XTi and sigma lense. Let's talk about shooting baseball and football. First - football - you need to be shooting from the sidelines not from the stands or behind a fence. If you don't have access to the field you're pretty well doomed from the start. You'll be too far away and either have poor angle (shooting down) or have too many people in the line of site to get good shots.

Now, with that camera, a 300mm lens is good for about 40 yards of coverage from you to your subject when shooting sports. Beyond that range, focus and sharpness issues will start to degrade your shots remarkably. So keep that in mind - if you'r behind a fence 15 yards from the field you only have 25 yards of coverage. So, even with the right gear you can still fail in your goal if you can't get close enough - and I would venture to say anyone telling you it's OK to shoot from farther away doesn't really shoot sports. If you do have field access, you can get by in football with a 200mm lens - you simply have 25 yards of coverage. This means you have to follow the line of scrimage and are limited to action from center of field towards your sideline - so plays to the other sideline are going to be out of range. but it can still be done.

For baseball - same thing applies. You need to be right up on the field. If it's a high school game - a 300mm lens on your camera is just enough to get from the 1st base line to the 3rd base line. And for little league, while the fields are smaller, so are the players so a 200mm lens MIGHT be ok if you're on the field - if you have to shoot from off the field you'll want a 300mm lens (or a 200mm wiith a 1.4x TC).

I would strongly advise you to consider extending your budget a bit and get the canon 70-300 lens. It's worth the extra $350 for sharpness and focus speed. But if you can't you cant - just get the Sigma if you can't afford the canon 70-300 (the canon 75-300 is a very poor lens).

Now - here's the real kicker. Even if you can get close and even if you have the right gear - sports shooting is not easy. The camera is not a miracle worker. While you can start off in sports mode, you'll find that it has a lot of limitations and you'll need to move into aperture priority or manual mode so you can get proper exposures. You'll also find that you initially get a lot of out of focus shots. I'm not going to lie to you - it isn't the camera's fault - it's the shooters. And it's because getting good focused shots of sports is not easy - it aint like the canon commercials where mom is standing with her digital rebel and kit lens and takes a perfect shot. It takes skill and a lot of practice to get good. There's a lot more to it, but suffice it to say - if you want to take sports photos you have to be willing to work hard at it. I just like to warn people that think they can plunk down $1000 and the camera/lens will do all the work. Such people are in for a very costly lesson.

Now - for your specific examples - seeing the stitching and writing on the ball. Don't expect those results for a couple reasons. One, the quality of a $200 or even $500 lens - you'r pushing the envelope there. Two, depth of field - basically DOF refers to how much in front of or behind your focus point is actually in focus. So, depending on what your focus point is (hint - it should be a player and not the ball) the ball may not be in good enough focus. Three, did I mention proper focus is tough?

So, while you can get occasional shots where you can see that level of detail:

you'll often be very lucky to get shots with this level of sharpness in the ball...

And even with a good shot, somemthing like this is much more likely (note - shot taken with a $2000 Sigma 120-300 2.8 lens which is much sharper than any lens in your budget):

So, let me say - if you're expecting sharper results than above - you're not going to get them without a lot of skill/practice and spending about $10,000 on pro level equipment.

For getting a shot of your son's eyes - ah there is also a probem you'll find out soon enough - different lighting conditions. Bright sunlight looks nice to a spectator but it sucks for a photographer. Take a picture of your son in a football helment in bright sunlight and chances are you won't see his face at all - it will be completley in shadow. If the lighting is too poor, you won't be able to get shuttr speeds fast enough to stop the action. There are techniques to help you - but my point is again- you need to know how and when to use these techniques the camera won't do them for you.

But, if you know what you're doing, are close enough and your technique is good - yes you can get the look in your son's face before he makes the hit:

So, before you plunk down a grand with an eye towards shooting sports, ask yourself if you are going to be able to get close enough AND are going to be willing to learn and practice proper technique - it aint as easy as it looks. If you are, then sports shooting is terrific fun and it's very satisfying photography.

JohnG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 22, 2007, 8:30 AM   #13
Super Moderator
Mark1616's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 7,451

Hi Airtaz and welcome to the forums!!

You are about to enter a really exciting world of photography and be careful it can eat away your child's college fund LOL.

Anyway down to your specifics.

I bet John will reply while I'm writing this so hope we don't clash or just repeat things too much. Shooting sports it not easy and depending where you can get will affect the quality of the results as lenses work best withing certain parameters. For example with a 300mm lens then going over about 30m in distance will be very poor. As Jim mentioned there are great lenses if the budget allows however like you when I started out shooting sports I had limited budget and kit. I was using a Konica Minolta 5D (same as Jim) and my long lens was a Tamron 70-300 which is similar quality to the Sigma. As long as you have good light then you will be able to get pretty good shots with this which will be better than any of the cross over prosumer camera.

Here are a couple from when I was starting out with the said kit.

Since then I have learnt a lot and the largest way that I have improved the quality of my work is by learning technique/positioning as you can see in the above shots I'm too high (I'm only standing but at 6' 6" it give a funny angle).

Now by moving to the better lenses and getting angle/timing sorted the sort of thing I am now getting is more like the below.

I guess the main thing it to ask will the XTi with Canon or Sigma (Canon if you can afford the extra) 70-300mm lens do the trick without going for the brighter/faster f2.8 lenses which allow more light in thus you get higher shutter speeds in lower light than with the cheaper options?! The answer is yes to an extent, you will be able to replicate the sort of shots in my first 2 examples and by improving your technique (there is a wealth of knowledge on here) you will be able to do better than those. You will not get the sort of results in the 2nd pair without upgrading lenses however the good new is by going Canon (or Nikon) you have the possibility to grow your kit as your skill and budget also grows. You might however find that for what you want the 70-300mm lens is good enough so then you will be set!

If you have any more questions then feel free to fire them at us.

Happy shooting,

Mark1616 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 22, 2007, 8:42 AM   #14
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378

I glanced through some of the albums on Pbase and found this game shot with a Nikon D70 using a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO lens. So, you may get some ideas of what to expect looking through it if you take plenty of photos and practice a lot to get some keepers.


Just remember that for every good shot you see in this album, there may have been many more that didn't turn out as well.

I've also noticed that this same person is now using a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 (which is a much higher quality lens) for some of the newer games. ;-)

Here's a baseball game from a Canon EOS-20D owners using a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 for some (but, not all) of the photos. Again, the photographers skill is going to come into play, and for every good photo, there may have been lots that didn't turn out as desired. Most shots were probably post processed some, too (levels, sharpening and more). Look under the images, and you'll see the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 shown for the ones taken with it (a different lens was also being used during the game for many of them). Try starting in the second row with the photo labeled Photo 15 and go from there.


You can find many albums here of users with this lens. Just keep pressing the "More" you'll see on the page for random photos, and when you see a shot of interest, click on it to go to the album it's in. This is the non-DG version. But, the optics should be approximately the same (the newer DG version also has improved coatings).


If you have the budget, I'd take John's advise and get a lens that will do a bit better job (faster focusing, sharper images on the long end) with less work on your end. It's probably going to boil down to your expectation of quality, what percentage of keepers you'll be happy with, and how hard you're going to work to get some shots you like.

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 23, 2007, 11:06 AM   #15
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 27

This is great information. I showed this thread to my wife, and she also agrees that maybe the ebay kits aren't the way to go (and she's tough to convince, GJ ). Can you help with a new garage ? :-)

So it looks like we are going to go with the piece together method and just not get the extras in the kits.

I'll post questions and a response from BH in the lense forum, to help keep your forums organized

Thanks guys for all the info.


airtaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 26, 2007, 8:02 PM   #16
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 27

JimC wrote: Well, I just came back from our only camera store here, and they have the 30d on a sale for 1099.00. There was also a kit on the top shelf with the 30d/17-?? lens/and some digital pack(not sure about that). Anyways, they were closing and clerk was checking someone out. So I didn't get the price of that.

Was a huge drop in price!
airtaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 29, 2007, 5:52 PM   #17
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 27

OK. Here is an update. With all the info you guys have given me (here and in the lenses section), I have done quite alot of research. This has led me to 2 out of 3 things I know.

1. No longer getting the XTI, getting the 30d
2. Walk around will be the kit lens until alot of practice under my belt
3. The sports thing again, undecided

Going with a used 30d/kit lens (like new). After buying a mem card (thinking of the sandisk extreme III), maybe a bag and w/e other stuff I may 'think' I need to accessorize this with, I have some money left over for the sports shooting lens. It won't be the $560 one, unfortunately (hard to find a good used lens for this), but heavily considering the Sigma one mentioned.

We appreciate the info. I am sure we will be very much happier with this decision in the long run (getting 30d vs XTI).


airtaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Mar 29, 2007, 7:26 PM   #18
Senior Member
mtclimber's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Oregon, USA
Posts: 18,143


Ithink your choice of the Canon 30D over the Canon XTi is very logical. You will certainly have a camera with a much better grip conformation that the grip offered on the XTi. In the long term, that enhanced grip will be a real plus for you.

mtclimber is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 3:23 PM.