Ryu: The 2nd lens

It’s a known fact that photographers are serial shoppers.  Matters are more grave with sports photographers as our needs surpasses that of an ordinary photographer.   Not because we are better (we are), but because we have the right to own at least two bodies and two lenses; one for long and the other for short distance.  It’s so obvious that it even pains me to type it out for the non-sports photographers out there.

There is a finite number of bodies a person can use with two hands, but there is no limit when it comes to the number of lenses.   Ask your elitist, I mean your very humble Leica user and he’ll tell you that his Sumiluxcron aspherical 35mm f0.1 which costs roughly 3 x your mortgage and the virginity of your first born daughter is so good that he keeps it in his safe. We just can’t have enough lenses.  Before you tell your wife why she needs 30 pair of heels, you should look at your camera bag and ask yourself why you need 10 prime lenses.

But if you are a momtographer and have just started taking photos of your still virgin daughter playing football, you are most likely be shooting with one lens and a body.  Let’s say that you have taken up on our recommendation from our first podcast and are rocking the 70-200mm lens.  You’re quite satisfied with it, but you’re beginning to feel your inner Imelda Marcos clawing its way towards your VISA card.  As Syd, the acting president of  GAS will attest, this is the beginning of the end.  Say goodbye to frugality and hello to more lenses than you can possibly use in your lifetime.

Now that you’ve given in and stepped into the light, what will be that 2nd lens?  Let’s find out.

1. Go longer
My assumption is that you’re not using a full frame body which means your 70-200mm is about 105-300mm with the 1.5 crop.  This is more than enough for most, but on occasion you might feel that it is a bit too short to get the action in the midfield.  This is very tricky as if you want to go longer from 70-200mm, you’re left with the choice of long prime lenses or crappy zooms.  Long prime lenses will cost significantly more than your annual photography budget, so unless you are willing to ditch your Ikebana and Pilate classes altogether and eat air for the next 3 months, I won’t recommend it.  As for the crappy zooms, you will get a longer lens, but you will end up with f stop wide as a needle’s eye.  This is detrimental if you mostly shoot indoor sports and need as much leeway with your iso as possible.  Oh and it focuses a lot slower which is also a no go with sports photography.  My solution is to go with a teleconverter.   If you have the 70-200mm, you will be able to attach a teleconverter (1.3x, 1.5x, 2.0x) and make it go longer.  You will lose third, half, or full stop, depending on which teleconverter you go for, but it will be significantly cheaper than getting a long prime lens and you won’t have to sacrifice your iso compare to a crappy zoom.  You do sacrifice some focusing speed, but it’s a cheap price to pay for increase in length.  In case you are wondering, this is by no means an ad for male insecurity problems.

2. Go wider
Can’t shoot the entire stadium, can’t get both teams in the frame, and can’t stand that John from next door has one. Logically speaking, I have a feeling that this is where most people will want to go if they have the 70-200mm.  You’re not feeling the love on the wide end of your sports photography life.   The 1.5 crop in most DSLR gives your more reach than a full frame camera, but conversely it also gives you 1.5 crop on the wide end.  It sucks.

There are numerous wide angle zooms available at a decent price. Let’s start with something like the 24-70mm.  The problem with it is that 36mm (1.5 crop of 24mm) is not wide at all in my opinion.  I’d like to get into that ever so popular “What is a wide angle lens?” debate, but you’ll probably have to wait until next year.  But if you must know it starts at 24mm.  You are now faced with a legitimate sports photography dilemma: go for a wider zoom lens made for 1.5 crop or get a full frame DSLR.  Putting cost into the equation, full frame DSLR is significantly more expensive than most wide zoom lenses.  If you are serious about your wide angles, you will sell your current kit and go full frame.  Please try not to rub it into the 1.5 crop people you’ll be leaving behind like when my wife rubs it into me after every high score she gets on Fruit Ninja.   Initial cost will be much higher, but you’ll get the benefit of going truly wide, all the time.  But it’s more likely that you are not ready to commit to a lot of things amongst which is sports photography.  This will leave you with handful of 1.5 crop wide lenses.  They will most likely be as expensive as your 70-200mm lens, but that’s the price you’ll need to pay to go wide.

3. Go Prime
Not Optimus, but for most people this isn’t an option.  Sure, you want to show who’s the boss by lugging around the 400mm f2.8 like you own the joint, but in exchange you will likely find signed divorce papers on the kitchen table and you will have to sell the lens to pay for the alimony fee.  Although the quality it produces is unsurpassed (I love that word), prime lenses are not a sensible, practical, and obvious choice… yet. :)

As I have said before, you can never have enough lenses.  What I haven’t said is that you will not get better if you have more of them.  So even if you have amassed a lens collection that will make you the toast of dpreview.com forums, it doesn’t equate to you becoming a good sports photographer.  Good sports photographer knows which lens to use and when to use them.  By starting out with a single lens and understanding its strength and weakness, only then you should start considering the purchase of the 2nd lens.

Don’t worry, you’ll be wanting that 2nd body very soon.


*Please Read Below*
Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by supporting us on Patreon and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.

9 thoughts on “Ryu: The 2nd lens

  1. … and don’t forget, when you get the 2nd lens, you’ll need to do all the focusing and tracking exercises you did with your first lens!

    Syd – G.A.S. – President (Acting)

  2. There is always the prop-blur and the tack sharp pairing as well. When I go to airshows these days I put the 70-200 on a 1.4x and then slap it on my Canon 40D. I through a nice 3 stop ND filter on the front and I can use 100 ISO with a shutter speed as low as 1/60th in the bright sun at a reasonable aperture as well. This lets me capture the propeller blur on the smaller aerobatic aircraft or the old warbirds. The 100-400 goes on the 7D and I still shoot around 100-250 ISO with the shutter closer to 1/1600th to stop those 500 knot + fly-bys. Now I need a 400mm f/2.8 prime for hockey and a 600mm f/4.0 prime for airshows because I want to see the smile on the pilot’s face while he or she is inverted and diving…

    John – Member GAS (Paid in full, again and again!)

  3. I see that GAS is getting some traction here. :)

    Both good points. As Syd, said just because you know how to focus with the first lens, doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same with your 2nd one, so get practicing. :)

    As John said, in terms of shooting outside with a low shutter speed on a sunny day, you might have to invest yourself in a ND filter. Otherwise everything you take will be overexposed.

    I think the more you get into sports photography, less heavy your wallet will become.

  4. Thanks for confirming my thoughts about using a quality fast (2.8) -200mm lens with a tele-converter. With my setup, that will reach to an effective 600mm with a 2x tele-converter and still be acceptable dof for the big aussie rules football fields. It just seems to make sense and give the option of a good -200mm for smaller playing fields. PS, Great show, keep it up.

    1. Martin,

      If you ever become very serious about shooting sports, you will have to move up to a big fast prime lens. But until then, a fast tele-zoom with a teleconverter will be more than enough… as long as you shoot during the day.


  5. Would you guys say a Canon 200mm f2.8 L would be a good choice for a second lens?I intend to shoot mostly football(soccer) and would l like to get the sharpest images as possible.Reviews state that it is noticeably sharper than the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 at 2.8 and it cost a lot less,almost the same price as the Canon 70-200mm f4.The big question is do you really use the wide angle of a 70-200mm enough when shooting football matches?I already have a Canon 400mm f5.6L

    1. Roy,

      The rule of thumb is that you should buy the best lens that you can afford. Since lens do last longer and carry value a lot longer than cameras, this makes a lot of sense.

      I’d go for a 70-200 2.8 as it’s a lot more versatile lens than a prime 200 2.8.
      70mm is definitely not a wide angle and if you ever want to go wide, you should start somewhere around 24mm.


  6. I know 70mm isnt wide at all,I was referring to the wider length of a 70-200mm zoom lens.But you answered my question about the versatility between those two lenses.Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s