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*
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