Noob needs telephoto advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by PegasusMedia, Oct 23, 2006.

  1. PegasusMedia macrumors member

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    #1
    So I'm buying my first DSLR...I've done the reading, gone to the store and played with the Nikon D50 and the Canon Digtal Rebel. I've decided that I find the Canon more to my taste.

    So I'm going to buy that with the kit lens (I know it's crap...but for the moment, so am I!)

    But I also need to buy a telephoto. One of the major reasons I want to upgrade to SLR & learn more about photography is that my kids are involved in dance & theater. I want to be able to capture good close in shots of them on stage. So assuming I'm at the back of a medium sized venue...say 30ish yards away...what should I be looking at?

    These are older kids in fairly serious productions...so assume good "professional" theatrical lighting of the stage.

    I see a Tamron 75-300mm in the online kits, and I assume it's garbage. Is it?

    Any insight would be GREATLY appreciated.
     
  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #2
    Second hand 70-200 from eBay? I recently picked up an f/4 for considerably less than new and it's still sharp and feels like it's amazingly well made. The f/2.8 is obviously faster, but it's heavier and more expensive and the f/2.8 IS heavier and more expensive still.

    The Rebel is a cropped sensor camera so you are looking at a 1.6x multiplier on those focal lengths. These also work with Canon teleconvertors making 1.4x or even 2.0x multipliers available as well.
     
  3. Zeke macrumors 6502

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  4. beavo451 macrumors 6502

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    #4
    I don't know of any theatrical production that allows flash. Flashes are extremely distracting and in the case of dancers, dangerous.

    You might be able to shoot theater with that lens, but the stage would have to be very brightly lit. Otherwise, you are looking at a f/4 lens at the very minimum and high ISO. Perhaps you can get an EF 85mm f/1.8 if you are going to be that close to the stage.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #5

    It's still what we call "low light". It will be very hard to get good shots without access to the stage. What you want is a "fast" lens. You need at least f/2.8 but one of the even faster primes would be ideal.

    Some Math: if you are at 30 yards distant and want a 3 yard section of the stage to fill the frame then you want a lens of about 200mm lenght. This would capture a full lenght standing person and about 9 feet width of the floor. If you want a waist up shot then go for a 400mm lens. But the longer lens will require at least a monopod but I'd prefer a tripod. Don't even concider any of those slow f/5.6 lenses for this usage. Expect to pay low to mid four figures for the lens.

    It would be much less expensive to see if you can get in durring dress rehersals when you can have better access to the stage. Getting closer can save you not only loads of money in expensive glass but you get some better angles. Many performances like this ban photogrphy. Are you sure a camera is allowed?

    You are doing what everyone new to SLRs does. You picked the camera body first. In your case the lens will be BY FAR the larger investment. I would think you would want to select either a Canon or Nikon lens and then buy a body to fit it. Determining which $2,000 lens to buy based on the location of some butons on an entry level SLR body seems backwards. You will own the lens for life but that body will be upgraded or replaced every 3 to 4 years. That said canon does make some nice lenses of the type you need.
     
  6. Zeke macrumors 6502

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    #6
    I was pretty sure they wouldn't which would rule out his original posting. Something to consider: rent a nice lens when you need it. You can rent one of these 200mm primes to take the shots you need without dropping the $2k for it.

    http://www.rentglass.com/shop.aspx?type=Canon

    $33/wk for the 200mm f/2.8 L
     
  7. PegasusMedia thread starter macrumors member

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    #7
    Thank you SO much for the responses. You guys are awesome. I'm so glad I hang out here.

    Great advice, all of it...I obviously have a lot to learn. I thought the stage lighting would be enough. Not true I see.

    There are different situations...but I have yet to be turned down on stage access during dress rehearsals, so I guess I'll think more along those lines. Better angles, cheaper lenses. Both sound good! If I can't live without the "real" show pics, I'll be going rental for now. I just can't drop that much on a lens.

    As for access and cameras being allowed, I admit that I cheat. I'm a video nerd for a staging/production company so I know all the people in most local venues that would tell me "no." I can almost always get into the sound booth or something(as long as I don't flash, obviously) I've done this with video up to now, but somehow photos have more...what? power? emotion? They trigger memories so much more that video. So I want to start getting better photos. I'm reading and studying the subject like a fiend right now. I hope to develop it a a hobby even beyond these particular pics.

    Having said that..I get your point about choosing gear 'backwards'. I think I still feel good about the Canon as a first SLR to learn with. Right?

    Thanks again. This forum is the best.
     
  8. snap58 macrumors 6502

    snap58

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    #8
    I would go with a prime.

    The 135 2.0L is used a lot for this type of thing, on a 1.6 crop its 216 mm, and add the 1.4 TC its a 2.8 300 mm with almost no loss of sharpness or contrast. It is considered one of Canons best lenses and a bargain as far as L glass goes at about $900. See review

    http://the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-135mm-f-2.0-L-USM-Lens-Review.aspx

    A less expensive option would be the 100 mm 2.0, a very sharp lens and under $400.

    http://the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-100mm-f-2.0-USM-Lens-Review.aspx
     
  9. PegasusMedia thread starter macrumors member

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    #9
    OK...so I've thought about all the advice and here's where I am....

    I've scrapped the telephoto idea. I'll rent glass if I need to do that.

    I started from scratch with the shopping based on lens first, body second, as ChrisA recommended. I've still come to the conclusion of Canon..which is surprising because I kinda like the Nikon name, and expected to prefer them.

    So now I'm asking this...For a noob wanting to shoot theater as described, but during dress rehearsals up close..and for general use as I explore my interest in this as a hobby, does this make sense for starting out...

    My first lens...Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Image Stabilizer...paired with the E350 body. I can do this for just over a grand.

    To me, it seems to get me plenty of flexibility as I learnand find a niche that I enjoy. I'm also considering a 50mm f/1.8 prime for the low light theaters. They're under $100...seems worth it. Will this even be necessary if I'm right up there and have the above mentioned lens?

    Thanks again. Your guys have helped a lot.
     
  10. Zeke macrumors 6502

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    Greenville, SC
    #10
    I don't think the 28-135 is the best choice. IS isn't really going to help you with what you're trying to do. I'd say the lens you need first is the 50 1.8. I would also recommend the Tamron 24-135 as it has a better range than the 28-135, is cheaper, and has much better reviews. If you want to spend even less and get a pretty decent lens you can go for the Canon 28-105 (f.3.5-4.5 (NOT the 4-5.6 as it's crap)). I had this lens when I first started and kept it until I outgrew it and went with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 (AWESOME lens!). I'm now selling the 28-75 in favor of the 17-50 f/2.8 because I wanted a better wide angle than what I had. Now my lineup is : Tamron 11-18, Tamron 17-50, Tamron SP AF 90 Macro, Canon 70-300 IS. Can you tell I have had good experiences with Tamron. I'm not a fan of the cheap line of Canon's lenses. They're L's are gold (and priced accordingly) but for nice inexpensive lenses I don't think Tamron can be beat. The Tamron 17-50 (and also 28-75) beat the pants off of anything comparably priced by Canon.

     
  11. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Before going to ebay, I would recommend keh.com for used lenses. They rate conservatively so bargain is still in pretty good condition. (I've bought a lot of bargain stuff including lenses from them.)

    They have a 14day return policy too if you aren't happy with the condition. Not something I could say for most ebayers.
     
  12. glennp macrumors member

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    Washington, DC
    #12
    Well...here's my $.02 (sorry if a ramble a bit).

    For general use and shooting dress rehearsals that probably will have more ambient lighting than showtime, the 28-135 will probably suit your needs well. I have the lens and like it a lot, it's probably my must used lens.

    However, for shooting theater during the show, you are definitely going to have to work hard to get a shutter speed that'll capture the action on stage. As Zeke said, it's not a fast lens and the IS isn't going to help you much, if at all, doing this. Boosting the ISO will help but depending on the lighting, even 1600 might not cut it with that lens. I know that at my daughter's school concerts, I need to use a f2.8 lens if I don't want to use flash and even then, I'm still shooting at ISO 1600.

    But you'll never know until you try in the actual location. It's a solid choice as a starter lens for everyday/general use as you learn your niche. You might just need to be prepared to rent a faster lens to shoot the actual shows or investigate alternatives if you really need your walkaround lens to be used in this capacity.

    As for the 50mm f1.8, I'm of the opinion that this is a great lens for the money. I'd recommend picking one up as you won't find a sharper lens anywhere near that price range and you'll have a much faster lens to use in low light situations. In fact, buy this first and test it out at your locations. If you need to use it at f2.8 or faster in the scenarios you're talking about, the 28-135 won't cut it. One final note about the 50mm f1.8, it's not the quietest of lenses while auto-focusing so you may want to take that into consideration if noise may be an issue during shows although it'll probably only be an issue for those immediately around you.

    When it comes to lenses, everything's a compromise :)
     
  13. PegasusMedia thread starter macrumors member

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    Jacksonville, FL
    #13
    Please....ramble all you want!

    I'm learning a lot here.

    So we all agree the 50mm f1.8 is basically a necesssity for my goal of theater shooting. This will give me full body and closer shots in low light? Right? So that's first on my must have list.

    Sorry for the Noob questionn, but...am I correct in thinking that this will also be a good choice for trying my hand at portraits of the kids. In ballet poses, etc. Full body and closer?

    (I have lights, backdrops etc from my video business...been shooting and editing video professionaly for many many years. I'm hoping that experience will make the transition into still photography a bit easier. There are differnces, but I look forward to learning them!)

    And a non-kit "everyday walking around lens" is on my list...and obviously opinions differ a bit on which is better. I read and hear both good and bad reports on the Canon and the Tamron we mentioned above. But bottom line, the best 28ish to 135ish I can afford is a good all purpose lens for everyday use, right?

    Thanks again! I am exctited about getting started.
     
  14. glennp macrumors member

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    #14
    A *fast lens* is a necessity for low-light shooting, but how well that particular focal length will serve you in capturing full body shots will depend on your distance from the subject (YMMV). IMHO, a normal lens should be in everyone's kit. And at $80, the 50mm f1.8 almost makes it silly not to have at least one fast prime.

    Sure. Many have used a 50mm on the crop bodies (1.6x bodies like the Canon 350) for portraits. You'll just have to use your feet to zoom in and out between the full body and close shots.

    One of the general rules with portrait work is you want to shoot wide-open to blur the background as much as possible. Easier to do on a lens like the 50mm f1.8 than on something like the 28-135 f3.5-5.6.

    As much as I like the 28-135, with your intended use for theater shots and new stated desire for portraits, something with a constant f2.8 like the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 or similar may suit you better. You'd lose the range and the IS of the 28-135, but a normal zoom with a constant f2.8 would be better in low light and portrait work.

    Like I said, it's a compromise.
     
  15. clintob macrumors 6502

    clintob

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    #15
    If you want a fairly "quick" answer, here goes (photographers have a tendancy to be longwinded so I'll to keep a lid on it):

    First, and most importantly, your lenses are 100 times more important to clear, crisp shots than anything else (body, etc). The better your lenses, the better your photos. It's that simple. Spend your money on your lenses and get a cheaper body. You'll get better results.

    As far what makes a lens "better", well that's complicated, but as a general rule, if you can afford it, ALWAYS get L-series (professional) lenses from Canon. They use the best glass, have much more stringent requirements in testing, and much better construction. You'll pay a premium for them obviously, but if you're serious about your photography there's no substitute. They're also usually much faster (in both ways... aperture and focus speed) than consumer lenses, so you can shoot in low-light conditions without hassle.

    My two cents, after years of shooting, is that Canon's lineup (with the exception of the monster telephotos) boils down to the following lenses that stand out from the rest. It really depends whether you prefer the convenience and flexibility of zoom lenses (I do), or if you feel the slight edge in sharpness and speed of the prime lenses is worth the lack of flexibility:

    Zooms
    17-40mm f/4L
    24-70mm f/2.8L
    70-200mm f/2.8L IS

    Primes
    14mm f/2.8L
    35mm f/1.4L
    85mm f/1.2L
    100mm f/2.8 Macro
    135mm f/2.0L
    200mm/1.8L

    That, obviously, exclues the big boy telephotos, since most people have no use for those unless you do sports or really serious nature photography. There are some cheaper alternatives to these L series lenses that you can find, but in my opnion, if you love photography and are serious about it, save up your cash and buy the better lenses. They last a lot longer than bodies, and as long as you stick with the Canon system, you can use a nice sharp lens forever.
     
  16. sjl macrumors 6502

    sjl

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    #16
    All excellent lenses. If you're going to spend that much money on lenses, I'd throw in the 50mm f/1.4 - its bokeh is much better than the f/1.8.

    If speed isn't a major need, the 24-105mm f/4L IS is nicer than the 24-70 - it has IS, so handholding becomes easier, and the zoom range is a bit longer. It is one stop slower than the 24-70mm f/2.8L, though.

    Another lens to consider if you're seriously into macro photography is the MP-E 65mm. Superb lens, but very specialised, and very hard to use correctly - manual focus, and being a macro lens, depth of field is a definite concern.

    Note, though, that the 200mm f/1.8L is no longer available new. If you can get a good copy second hand, it's well worth having, but it can be hard to find.
     
  17. clintob macrumors 6502

    clintob

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    #17
    Ditto that... I've been looking high and low for a good one without much luck. I wasl lucky enough to use a friends for a few months and was heartbroken when he asked for it back. Unbelievably sharp photos, even wide open! Probably the best telephoto I've used in a long time...
     
  18. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #18
    Just for fun looked up the price of the closest Nikon equivalent the "200mm f/2G ED-IF AF-S VR" It seem that you can pick one of these up for $4,300 at any of several places.
    You pay a LOT for that one extra stop, 20mm and VR. The 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF sells for about $750. But for my money I'll pick up a used 80-200 f/2.8 for about $650.

    For the person who started this thread, who wanted to shoot in a theater. the 80-200 f/2.8 is about the best option (next to renting) because it is a general purpose lens
     
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #19
    A 50mm lens will do a full body shot of a standing person if you are about 16 to 18 feet back and holding the camera in the horizontal (landscape) position. For a full body vertical shot you need to be about 12 feet away. You can look up the angle of view on the web and then apply some trig.

    I think I wrote above that it is MUCH cheaper to get close. a 200mm f/1.8 lens would cost an arm and a leg. but that 50mm lens is cheap. I'd spring for the 50mm f/1.4 Half a stop does not sund like much untill you think about the difference between 1/40th second and 1/60th and how that effects blur due to camera shake.
     
  20. Silentwave macrumors 68000

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    #20
    Heck, you can pick it up for $3799-3999 most of the time.

    I got mine for $3200 used but mint.

    You do pay a lot but it is the absolute sharpest lens I have ever used in my life. And I've used quite a few.

    I used it to shoot our most recent school play. The lighting was abysmal, but I managed to get a good shutter speed (1/60-1/160 at ISO 1000-1600 f/2.0-2.8 depending on the scene). VR helped a ton- used it on a tripod tensioned but not locked down for ease of movement.

    Using the 17-55/2.8 and 70-200 VR on another body, my results were not nearly as good.
     
  21. extraextra macrumors 68000

    extraextra

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    #21
    The Sigma 70-300 DG APO is about $200 and gets some pretty good reviews. A little soft wide open on the long end, but resized, images look just fine. However, for your theatrical stuff, I don't think it would work. But as a general telephoto, it's good.

    I would suggest trying to get the Canon 85mm f/1.8 and securing a spot somewhat close to the stage. Definitely not 30 yards away. :p
     
  22. cgratti macrumors 6502a

    cgratti

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    #22
    your going to want a f/2.8 lens at least, if your shooting indoors. f/4 wont be wide enough for the lighting, unless you can use a flash. The wider the aperture the more you pay.

    Buy good glass, dont buy cheap stuff, you get what you pay for most of the time with lenses. 70-200 f2.8L is a superb lens, but its about $1100US.

    You will also want to shoot at a high ISO (800 or better).

    As extraextra said, the 85 1.8 lens is sweet, but you'll have to be close. With the 85mm, and a 1.6 crop factor your esentaially shooting at 136mm. (85 X 6 =51) then add the 51 to 85 = 136mm.
     
  23. PegasusMedia thread starter macrumors member

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    Jacksonville, FL
    #23
    OK. Final answer.

    I'm going to shell out for the 50mm f/1.4, with a E350 body, and hold off on a zoom lens for now. My immediate needs are photos of the upcoming Nutcracker show (dress rehearsals, backstage life, etc...), which this is perfect for, and some (stumbling, feeble) attempts at portraits for Christmas. This lens hits both of those needs well from what I have learned here & on the links I've chased down with your help.

    Long live the sneaker zoom!

    Thanks again, all. I appreciate the guidance.
     
  24. Mike Teezie macrumors 68020

    Mike Teezie

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    Nov 20, 2002
    #24
    Good choice.

    The 50 f/1.4 is one of my favorite lenses.
     

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