Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM for sports photography

Discussion in 'Canon' started by Peter, Jan 18, 2006.

  1. Peter

    Peter Guest

    This will be my first foray in sports photo. The lens gets rave reviews, but
    I wonder if it's really useable for fast-moving outdoors sports shooting?
    Should I _really_ go for wider apertures (ghastly expensive & heavier), or
    will this Canon do? I have Canon 20D, and would like use ISO 200 as anything
    above that starts getting a bit noisy.

    Peter, Jan 18, 2006
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  2. Peter

    C J Southern Guest

    I use a 70-200 F2.8 IS USM
    C J Southern, Jan 18, 2006
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  3. Peter

    piperut Guest

    Hi Peter,

    I have the Canon 75-300 USM F4-F5.6 lens that sells for $229 or there
    abouts depending on where you purchase it. I think you are looking at
    the one that is around $600?
    I use it mainly for taking photos of hockey games at an indoor arena.
    For that I would really like one more F-Stop. However, to get one more
    F-Stop the cost goes up to arond $2000 (give or take a little) for a
    lens. I am unable to justify that sort of money for a lens.

    It does fine for taking photos of hockey on 800 and 1600 ISO, and on
    250 to 500 shutter speed, depending on what I am trying to do.

    Daytime outdoor sports photography the lens is going to do fine unless
    you are going to take photos of the speed skaters on the frozen canals
    in the Netherlands in the wintertime.

    Now, for night time sports photos, that is going to be a bit rough with
    any lens.
    The only thing I have actually found that you can shoot night time
    football and soccer games with is Konica 3200 film, and that comes out
    really grainy. I have not tried doing a night time game with a digital
    camera (yet).

    piperut, Jan 18, 2006
  4. If this is strictly outdoor, and you really need to go all the way from
    75-300 in one shot, it's probably ok. For about the same price, you can
    get a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 that is much sharper wide open, faster focus,
    and obviously a much bigger aperture. For sports, the Sigma is the
    better value - not quite as good as the Canon 70-200s.
    If it's any further evidence, there are many serious amateur and pros
    still using the Sigma 70-200 for sports. I don't think any of them use
    the Canon 75-300.

    David Geesaman, Jan 19, 2006
  5. Peter

    Peter Guest

    This will be my first foray in sports photo. The lens gets rave reviews,
    Interesting suggestion. However, wouldn't lack of IS on Sigma be a problem?
    Also 200mm will not do... my targets will be far out in the sea, and I was
    actually considering teleconverter to obtain 600mm. Then again,
    teleconverter might work better on Sigma.

    Peter, Jan 19, 2006
  6. Peter

    piperut Guest

    If you are talking outdoor, daylight, Keiv USA has a F8 500 mm lens and
    a F10 1000 mm lens, that I think you can get in a Canon EOS mount. The
    glass on the lenses made in the former Soviet Union is really good.
    However, these are going to be useless in low light, like a hockey or
    basketball arena, or a night time game.

    When you say "Sports Photography" it is a wide field. Years ago, I
    picked a seat when they built a new arena for hockey in Utah to take
    photos. Then, after there was a death in an NHL game behind the net
    from someone getting hit by a puck, all the rinks put up nets.
    It has taken me two and a half season to figure out where I want to
    move my seat to in order to take photos.

    Years ago, a co-worker looked at my hockey photos, and asked me to take
    photos of his son's little league baseball game. I went and did this.
    I do not really follow baseball, or have much understanding of the
    game, other then playing it in school growing up. Photos were not the
    quality I was getting from hockey, because I did not have an
    understanding of the game in order to follow the play.

    In order to take good quality photos of a sporting event - you have to
    have an understanding of the game. You can take okay photos, but to
    get good actions shots, you really need to have an understanding of the

    Anyway, look at the lenses you are thinking about, and decide what sort
    of "Sports Photography" you are going to do. If you need the IS
    features more, if you need the focal length more, if you need the
    f-stops more... and balance the price against the most desired
    features. Then find the right lens for the job and your budget.

    Also, think about not just your current requirements, but your future

    piperut, Jan 19, 2006
  7. Peter

    cimawr Guest

    I have no experience with Canon lenses, but I do have experience with
    shooting outdoor sports - dog agility competitions- with a somewhat
    equivalent Nikon lens, the 70-300 f/4-5.6 G lens.
    I found that with the 4-5.6 lens, I had a lot of trouble getting
    fast enough shutter speeds to capture stop-motion, especially on cloudy
    days* - and it would have been even more difficult if I'd been sticking
    to shooting in ISO 200.
    My budget doesn't run to the f2.8 Nikon lenses, even second-hand, but
    I've gotten very good results with the Sigma f2.8 70-200 APO HSM which
    does also have a 1.4 teleconverter available.

    *(Some people don't seem to realize that "outdoor sports" does NOT =
    "bright sunny days". <G>)
    cimawr, Jan 19, 2006
  8. Peter

    piperut Guest

    On a cloudy day you can use a faster film, or a higher ISO for digital.
    There is a bit more grain/noise with a higher speed, but normally
    trying to justify the cost of the faster lens outweighs the problem
    with the noise or grain.

    Then we are getting into technique - stop motion instead of blurring
    motion to show speed of the action of the sport. This goes back to
    "Know the sport you are shooting"... before purchasing the lens. If
    you are trying to take dead still shots of dog shows, you need a
    different lens then I want to slightly blur the ice spray off the
    goalies skates. I can get by with an F4 lens for what I want, where
    you need a faster f stop. If you want background blurred, and depth of
    field... etc...

    The sport and your technique are going to drive the lens you want to
    purchase. That was my point. If you want to get dead still shots on a
    cloudy day - you need a faster lens. If you want to blur motion to
    show action on something like football, soccer, baseball, you can get
    by with a slower lens.

    If you are going to be shooting at night, you need a faster lens, and
    you may have to use a real grainy Konica 3200 flim. I have not
    attempted a night game with digital, so I don't know how night games
    turn out with digital cameras. I do know you can shoot badly lighted
    high school football games with Konica 3200 film and a F4-5.6 lens. It
    is grainy, but it can be done.

    piperut, Jan 19, 2006
  9. Peter

    cimawr Guest

    Yes, but not if you're mid-roll... and on the sort of days one often
    has where it's sunny, then cloudy, then it gets really dark and rains,
    then five minutes later it's bright sun again, it can be damn near
    impossible to have the right film for the moment.... which is one of
    the major reasons I went digital!
    Yes, and I often make that compromise when I'm shooting at indoor
    competitions. But the OP stated he wanted to stay with ISO 200.
    Well... that depends on what "normal" is, I think. For me, wanting
    the sharp shots made it WELL worth spending the money for the faster
    Yes, and you were dead-on with that, as well as in saying that you
    won't get the best shots unless you understand how the sport works.
    Point of note:
    Agility competitions aren't "dog shows". They're athletic
    competitions, and most are open to all dogs, regardless of ancestry.
    But... I can get the same results you do, if I decide I want them, by
    adjusting the settings. (And have done so, btw, in shooting pack
    interactions.) You can't reverse the process... so at some point, if
    you need/want stop-action, non-grainy shots, you'll need to upgrade
    your lens. Which I know you're aware of this; I'm saying it for the
    sake of general discussion.
    IOW, your compromise is to use a lens that has more limitations WRT
    possible clarity, but costs less and gives you a longer focal length;
    mine is to accept that shorter focal length means taking shots which
    need cropping (but are still FAR clearer than what I could get with the
    In terms of budget, my compromise is to buy secondhand, which does
    mean waiting for the right piece of equipment to become available at
    the right price, as well as in using Sigma rather than Nikon (which I
    know the purists sneer at, but that particular lens is a nice one).

    Shooting indoors, in UNlit arenas (only through the opaque roof) I've
    gone as high as 1600 ISO with the digital, and have gotten
    decent-but-not-great shots; pictures which are OK for, say, a newspaper
    article or documentary purposes, but not what people are looking for in
    terms of shots of their own dogs.
    cimawr, Jan 19, 2006
  10. Peter

    Peter Guest

    This will be my first foray in sports photo. The lens gets rave
    OK, I did some more research.

    Widsurfing photography involves shutter speeds of at least 1/500 sec, more
    likely 1/1000 - it can be pretty fast action. While it will probably be
    sunny fast shutter equates into wide apertures and little use of IS - am I
    right here? Sigma 70-200 with 1.4 teleconverter translates into 448mm max
    focal length taking into account 1.6x crop factor of 20D body. Might just
    work. I would really prefer longer focal length for those far-out action
    shots, but that would probably ruin my pocketbook...

    Peter, Jan 19, 2006
  11. Then I think the 75-300 will work ok, but remember it won't work with
    the teleconverter and the focus speed may be a bit slow. So as long as
    you have plenty of light, and accept that you'll miss some potential
    keepers due to malfocus, the 75-300 is a versatile starting lens.
    The IS is a major feature at such long lens lengths - more so than at
    70-200. The point is that when shooting at 1/500 or higher shutter
    speeds, camera shake is less of an issue - which is why many sports
    shooters with the money for a 70-200 IS don't always get the IS model.
    Perhaps you should consider a Bigma (Sigma 50-500) or something longer.
    Remember, a monopod or tripod + good lighting means your shutter
    speeds will handle most or any possible camera shake. Like the others
    said, "sports" is extremely broad, and the demands can vary widely.

    David Geesaman, Jan 20, 2006
  12. Peter

    piperut Guest

    Hi Dave, others,

    So the OP should really sit down, make a list of what the OP wants in
    the lens, and decide the best trade off for the particular sport(s)s
    the OP is going to be shooting most, and the technique of photography
    the OP takes, and the budget the OP has. For me, I can get by with the
    75-300 F4-F5.6 USM Canon Lens. Then go shoping for a lens. I wish I
    could have afforded a more expensive lens, but I can only spend so much
    on hobbies, or my wife gets a little bit upset.

    When I was using 35mm I had a non 75-300 F4-300 lens, and the USM is
    worth the extra $50.
    It is a lot nicer to use. I still have the other lens, but someone
    else in the family is using it with the 35mm camera now.

    I may have to look at some different lenses, I really would like
    another F-stop, but the extra focal length is nice also.

    piperut, Jan 20, 2006
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