Warning: Photo Nerd Alert

August 12, 2007

So I’m doing more serious photography these days and it occurs to me that there’s a few holes in my camera gear that need filling. Problem is, the main thing I need – a fast telephoto zoom lens – isn’t a small purchase.

If I’m shooting anything more than a few feet away, I’m screwed. if I’m in a church that doesn’t allow photographers to get close to the ceremony, or if I’m shooting a sporting event from the stands, my subject is going to end up as six pixels swimming in a sea of extraneous material. If I can’t get close, the shot is blown. The lenses I shoot right now are my fixed 50mm and my 18-50mm wide-angle zoom. That’s not long enough.

My need for a longer lens wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for my simultaneous need for speed. I could pick up a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens for pretty cheap – if I speed didn’t matter. But if I’m in indoor light, such as at a wedding ceremony or an indoor sporting event, no flash is going to help. The flash is ineffective at that range, and there’s the fact that most folks don’t want their retinas fried while they’re saying “I do.”

So there you have it. I need a fast telephoto zoom lens that I can shoot in available indoor light. F/4 might be okay for shooting wildlife in the daylight, but I need a 70-200mm f/2.8 that I can shoot indoors without a flash. Lenses like that can get pretty expensive. Even a cheap used one could cost me $600-$800 bucks. Ouch.

With that in mind, I thought I’d make sure it was exactly what I wanted before I broke open the piggy bank, so I decided to rent one. I looked around and found a rental place online, ziplens.com. They had what I needed, but by the time they threw in the shipping (both ways), the price tag was $80. That’s when I hit the neighborhood camera store to see what they could do for me.

Much to my dismay, they wanted even more: $100 for a one-week rental. I tried to tell myself that these brick-and-mortar camera shops are offering more than an online store could: advice, expert opinion and so on. But after speaking to the fellow there, I realized that I already knew everything he was telling me why a person needed a lens like this and how to use it. I’ve done a wedding and I’ve also shot some indoor sports.

So I rented from ziplens and the Nikon AF VR 70-200mm f/2.8 should arrive in a couple of days. That should give me enough time to shoot a few frames before I really put it to the test. On Saturday I’m shooting the Korean national youth taekwondo demonstration team, which happens to be visiting my martial arts school, J. K. Lee Taekwondo. It’s perfect: fast motion, indoor light, no telling how close I may be able to safely get to the action.

One last issue. That lens looks as heavy as it is long. I might need something to help support it as I shoot. So I bought a Manfrotto monopod.


No comments yet

  1. Speaking as a Canon person myself, if you can grab the 70-200, GO FOR IT, you won’t be sorry….before I parted with my gear last year (and believe me, it killed me!), I had the Canon-comparable version of a similar lens for all my auto racing photography), it was worth EVERY penny…..

    And more…..and I got mine of Ebay for a couple of hundred less…that was a few years back…….

    Sigh…..I miss my gear!

  2. Be careful at f2.8, you might have the light, but the depth of field is pretty narrow. Any action that is moving towards or away from you will require a quick shutter finger to clearly capture the action at the point of focus. Likewise, you may get the person or their foot (but not both) for someone kicking a paddle target unless they are kicking perpendicular to your line of sight. I had an f2.8 80-200mm ,manual focus telephoto since 1980 (Minolta mount) in my film days and ran into depth of field issues. Unfortunately, back then, you didn’t realize it until the film was developed. F2.8 is fine for indoor still shoots, but action gets tricky. You may still need to up the ISO speed to maintain f5 or higher.

  3. I’m betting pros shoot low light action with 2.8 lenses all the time. There’s no other way, really, to get above a 500th of a second shutter speed and still get enough light in for a usable exposure.

    DOF can only be dealt with if you have good focus. If I can autofocus on the subject, all is well – and I’m very careful about this. In fact, it’s mostly what I’m doing when the camera is up to my eye. Even better if I can I pre-focus, locking onto the spot where I know the subject will be shortly, and the flipping to manual focus so the auto doesn’t move, then shoot when the subject comes into frame. I did this a lot with our mid-air launcher photos.

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