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Old Aug 27, 2009, 2:54 AM   #1
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Default Beginner Action/Sports SLR Setup

So I've done some thinking about what I'd like my camera to do, what my budget constraints are and what things may be like in the future and here's what I came up with please let me know what you think about the options.

What I'd like it to do:
Shoot outdoor action shots of sports, animals in motion, humans in motion. I play a lot of sports, and am a pretty active person and love seeing sports shots. I'm a total beginner to SLR's so this will also be an experiment in if I will actually use and enjoy it (I'm also a tech nerd at heart). Examples of uses: amateur/youth Baseball,football,soccer, taking pictures of our new puppy romping around the back yard, park and beach. I also sold the boss (aka wife) on the idea by saying it would be good practice for getting good with an SLR camera for when we have a kid (1-2yrs out). So I will be doing some indoors portraits and landscapes but those will take a back seat in priority, just don't tell the boss

Budget:
Definitelyunder $1000 for camera and lens might have less to work with than that...

Future:
In around a year I could see doing more portrait kind of stuff when and if a kid is added to the family, but by then if I actually get good use out of the first rig I can justify upgrading . But something to think about if I have a quality lens I can bring along with me to the future rig.

Cameras:
Did some research on action DSLR's and most of what I found (including on here) pointed towards Canon due to the superior AF at the lower price points. Here are the contenders I came up with.

-20D old but with most money left over for lens(es)
-40D
-XSi
-T1i

Camera would most like be bought used to get the most bang/$

Any comments critiques and lens suggestions for these bodies that come in under $1,000 are appreciated. Also, if anyone knows a good forum for amateur/"prosumer" sports photographers I've been trying to find a good place without much success.

Cheers,

-Bill

Last edited by billmidd; Aug 27, 2009 at 3:07 AM.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 4:14 AM   #2
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I love to see the details regarding Canons' superior AF, can you give some links please?

Matt
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 5:09 AM   #3
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That's a good plan, but lenses are an important part of sports shooting. Something with an upper limit of about 300mm (on an APS-C dSLR) would cover the entire infield or from one sideline to the other plus a good portion of up- and downfield if you're shooting from the dugout or the sidelines. If you're shooting from the stands, you'll need something longer.

The Canon XSi with the kit lens, plus a Tamron 70-300 Di LD would probably work well and fit within your budget with room to spare.

For portraits, you could add a Canon 85mm f/1.8, but that would exceed your budget if you got the dSLR new. You could start with the Canon 50mm f/1.8, which would be ok for couples portraits and environmental portraits, as well as available light shooting indoors, but it's too short for conventional portraits especially of children.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 7:56 AM   #4
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I love to see the details regarding Canons' superior AF, can you give some links please?

Matt
Matt - simple: watch any major professional sporting event. See all the white lenses? Those are Canon cameras. Canon & Nikon control 99.9% of the pro sports shooting world. Some of that technology has filtered down to their entry and intermediate cameras. No other manufacturer out there has a pro sports body. The closest is the Sony a700 which is a prosumer body (competes with Canon 50d). The challenge when doing research is camera reviews simply do not perform tests of action photography. So, if you want to see results you need to look for examples from other people using the cameras in the field. But feel free to find a competant sports shooter - one who shoots difficult sports like basketball, volleyball, soccer, football and is using wide aperture lenses (300mm 2.8 or longer) where focus issues show up more who feels Pentax, Oly or Sony focus systems (other than A700) can compete with Canon & Nikon. And in Canon's case, the T1i and Xsi have a fantastic focus system at a sub $1000 price.

Edit: The challenge with Nikon is you need to jump up to the D90 to get a fully functional focus system. The d40/60 had stripped down focus systems. The D5000 has a better focus array, but it's unknown whether the brains behind the array is back up to D90 standards. From D90 and up, Nikon is top notch. In fact the D300 is still probably the best prosumer sports body on the market. But that's outside the OP's budget (as is the D90).

Last edited by JohnG; Aug 27, 2009 at 8:18 AM.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 8:14 AM   #5
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Bill,

The best bang for the buck will be the T1i. The XSi is a great choice but the lack of ISO 3200 can be an issue if you're going to do low light sports down the road. If you only plan on sticking to good lighting than the XSi is a tremendous bang-for-the-buck. But for a little more $$ the T1i gives you some flexibility.

But here's the rub. The camera is only part of the story. With sports shooting there are 4 components:
1) Sports shooting skillset and techniques. Sports photography is NOT a point and shoot thing. There are a lot of intricacies to each sport and it takes practice and good technique to get good results. It aint rocket science, but it's more difficult than most people think.
2) Right camera body. Without doubt Canon or Nikon (D90 and above) provide the best options for sports shooters. As mentioned in my other post, those companies dominate sports shooting and have for decades.
3) The right lens. Sports are different - a lens for football isn't going to be the lens of choice for volleyball. You need the right focal length for the sport, the right aperture AND - a critical part of lens design is the focus motor. With sports the lens is constantly focusing. The camera is the brains but the brawn is the focus motor. Not all lens focus motors are created equal. In canon there are 3 different types of focus motor - Ring USM (fastest), Micro USM (not as fast) and standard motor which has no designation (all canon lenses must have a focus motor). The only 3rd party lens with a focus motor comparable to ring USM is sigma's HSM. Tamron and Tokina don't have a comparable technology yet.

4. Access. Like it or not this is important. Taking HS varsity football photos from the stands is going to yield poor results no matter the gear. The further you're removed from the field of play and the more that is between you (like a 12' fence in baseball) the more challenging it is to get good photos. As TCAV mentioned a 300mm lens will work on a full size diamond from the dugout/base line. But if you're behind a fence now you need 400-500mm.

So, what lens? Well, my consumer grade recommendation for field sports in good light in Canon is the 70-300 IS USM. But that lens alone is $560 which will blow your budget. It's a steep drop after that lens. The Tamron and Sigma 70-300 lenses are the next option and < $200. The Tamron is fairly sharp - sharper than the Sigma for a budget lens. But neither are fast to focus (Tamron doesn't have fast focus motors and the sigma lens lacks HSM). So, you'll get sub-par results. It's not to say terrible results, but you're losing out on one of the benefits the Canon system provides. And for people that actually shoot sports and have used USM/HSM lenses and lenses without, there is a distinct advantage. Still, at only $170 you could buy the Tamron. If you really do enjoy shooting sports you could upgrade down the road. Now, realize, any of these 70-300 lenses are only good in daytime in good lighting. You're not going to be able to use these lenses under lights and in poor lighting (heavily overcast) you're going to run into issues because of the f5.6. For example, I shot my nephew's football game the other weekend - 11am start. At the start I was shooting at F2.8, ISO 800 and 1/1200. With a f5.6 lens my shutter speed would have been 1/300 - too slow. So at 11:00 am, I would have had too shoot at ISO 1250 or so to get fast enough shutter speeds if I was using an f5.6 lens. Just some things to think about.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 10:06 AM   #6
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Given this info I would be leaning towards a:
20D paired with a 70-300 IS USM

also within the budget would be a
T1i paired with a Tamron or Sigma 70-300
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 10:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billmidd View Post
Given this info I would be leaning towards a:
20D paired with a 70-300 IS USM

also within the budget would be a
T1i paired with a Tamron or Sigma 70-300
The quality from the first option is going to be better than the 2nd but I would only go for a 2nd hand 20D (or anything) if I knew that it was fully working and with a guarantee. If not you are taking too much of a risk.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 10:21 AM   #8
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The quality from the first option is going to be better than the 2nd but I would only go for a 2nd hand 20D (or anything) if I knew that it was fully working and with a guarantee.
I wouldn't accept a guarantee; I'd want a warranty. What's the point of buying a used dLSR plus lenses and accessories, and then just getting your money back for the dSLR? What can you do with all the other stuff you bought? Don't accept a guarantee. Get a promise that they'll fix it if it doesn't work, not just a promise that you'll get your money back.
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 12:22 PM   #9
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Also kicking around the idea of the 20D paired with a 200/2.8 L prime which would give me the option of shooting indoors.... hmm.200/2.8
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Old Aug 27, 2009, 12:31 PM   #10
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Also kicking around the idea of the 20D paired with a 200/2.8 L prime which would give me the option of shooting indoors.... hmm.200/2.8
Indoor what? A 200mm prime is a very odd focal length for any indoor sports. Also, using f2.8 indoors typically requires ISO 3200-6400. The 3200 performance of the 20d was great in it's day but not so great now. The T1i is better.

The 200mm 2.8 is a very sharp lens, but it's not a great choice as a primary sports lens. It's too short for full field soccer and baseball and even with a TC then you have problems covering the short stuff.
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