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Customer Discussions > Digital SLR forum

Best sports lens with image stabilization for under $1000


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Showing 1-25 of 49 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2012 10:19:04 AM PDT
j says:
Best sports lens with image stabilization for under $1000

Posted on Apr 15, 2012 12:52:16 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
Typically you don't need Image Stabilization (IS) in a sports lens, because your shutter speeds have to be high enough to freeze the motion of the moving subject (IS does NOT help with this), that your shutter speed it high enough to counter act any blur from camera motion (which is what IS does help with).

What camera do you own?

What type of sports will you be shooting?

Posted on Apr 15, 2012 3:23:35 PM PDT
j says:
Canon T1i I will be doing some indoor high school b-ball but mostly outdoor soccer, lacrosse and baseball.... and I will be needing the lens to be good for all around nature shots and maybe even portraits also I have hand tremors so IS relatively required ..... A lot to ask for?

Posted on Apr 15, 2012 4:04:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2012 5:30:15 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
We'll you're not going to get in under $1000. The best budget image stabilized sports lens is the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD Large Aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens it is $1300, but, that is still a bargain compared to the $2500 for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.

That said the genuine Canon lens has unsurpassed image quality, and I covet that lens. But, being a pragmatist I have a number of Sigma zoom lenses. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD has outstanding reviews and image quality.

You do realize a fast zoom lens like that will be large and heavy? You might want to consider at least a monopod like the Manfrotto 334B Automatic Monopod

edit: I just wanted to clarify a couple things. The Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II is the one with the unsurpased IQ, the older Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS while good, was not better than the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 (non-IS) that I own.

When I'm thinking about buying a lens, I look at pictures taken with the lens on Flickr. I figure that gives a good indication of how it performs in the real world in the hands of real people.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/sigma-70-200-os/pool/show/

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2012 7:06:06 PM PDT
"""
Canon T1i I will be doing some indoor high school b-ball but mostly outdoor soccer, lacrosse and baseball.... and I will be needing the lens to be good for all around nature shots and maybe even portraits also I have hand tremors so IS relatively required ..... A lot to ask for?
"""

For sports, the shutter speed should still compensate for tremors -- but for indoor you are looking at a constant aperture f2.8 lens (if zoom), and faster if non-zoom (a prime). And even with that you may need to boost the ISO to 400 or higher. The conventional wisdom for hand-holding a lens is for the shutter speed to be 1/(eff.focal.length) -- for an APS-C camera, a 300mm lens would need 1/480s (1/500 is the nearest standard speed).

For soccer, et al, you are probably looking at a lens in the 200-400mm length...

Basket ball, if you can get down to the edge of the court, and aren't shooting across it, a 70-200mm range may suffice.

Define "nature shots" -- landscapes typically want wide angle lenses, aperture doesn't matter much as you normally use a tripod... UNLESS you mean to pick out the one pinecone on a tree 500 yards away -- then you want a supertelephoto. If you mean /wildlife/, is it skittish (I was trying to track/focus a bumble-bee at five feet -- no hope) or erratic in movement, or slow browsing? The former is a "sports" fast lens, the latter is anything on a tripod.

Posed portraits would be tripod based, so tremors again should not be a matter. BUT portrait lenses, traditionally (full frame/35mm film) are 80-120 (+/- 10mm). That turns into roughly 50-80mm on APS-C cameras. {This range is popular because it puts the camera far enough away from the subject to produce pleasing perspective; using a short lens and getting close gives you the big-nose/small-ear effect; going too long puts you across the street for the portrait and may flatten the perspective too much} You'll also want f2.8 or faster for the portrait lens (an 85mm f1.8 is a /long/ portrait lens on APS-C but also a fast lens for the indoor basketball)... Also, for portraits, you may be using a diffused flash (bounced off a white ceiling perhaps; or using a bounce hood/soft box) -- even outdoors it is recommended to use a flash or reflectors to reduce the dynamic range between highlights and shadows [No one looks good when their forehead is washed out white, and the shadow cast by their nose is completely black -- so a fill flash outdoors is good]. Since the light from the flash is so short (1/750s or faster), it is only the ambient light duration that can register blur -- fastest sync speed is around 1/250s... using that speed and a small aperture will reduce the amount of ambient light that is recorded... but may be a technique that needs practice, Canon's E-TTL II tries to use the flash solely as a fill light and opens the aperture or reduces sync speed to obtain an exposure for the non-flash background]

If your hand tremors are really bad, I'd recommend fitting a monopod/walking-stick to the camera so you can brace it against the ground/floor.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2012 7:41:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2012 7:43:53 PM PDT
j says:
Wow okay then which IS lens under a $1000 covers most of that? Oh and I like the idea of the monopod... I think I know where I can get one that's not being used.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2012 10:06:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2012 10:07:17 AM PDT
Uhm... None!

The wider the ratio of the zoom, the lower the image quality, and the more likely the zoom is a slow consumer model (f3.5-5.6, or even some f3.5-6.3). You want an f2.8 for the indoor/sports (and maybe for shallow depth of field on the portraits).

Here is a link to Canon's lens line-up:
http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup

USM => Ultrasonic Motor -- fast and rather silent, but doesn't indicate if it is a desired Ring type [the ring type can be manually overridden without turning off auto-focus].

IS => image stabilized

<aperture>L => "Luxury"; professional, highest quality lens

You might find them at slightly lower prices on the open market. Third party makers (Tamron, Tokina, Sigma -- based on a sample of two Tamron and one Tokina, I'd rate Tokina the top; Tamron tends to have too many f-6.3 zooms which may not focus in reduced lighting, and slower/noisy focus motors) tend to be cheaper (25-50% less for equivalent).

Oh, a warning -- the 75-300mm Canon lenses are not something to consider; the 20 year old 100-300mm is a better lens (but cost is twice as much).

Posted on Apr 16, 2012 10:58:09 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
I shot sports with a 50D (same megapixels as the T1i). For one lens that does all off what you want the 70-200 f/2.8 is the way to go.

For soccer position yourself between the corner and the goal or on the sideline near the corner for shots of the goalkeeper. A 200-400 lens can reach end to end from the side, but, is too long for on field play. The 70-200 wont reach end to end, but, is much better for capturing play at one end of the field.

The 70-200 f/2.8 is THE bread and butter sports lens. While I use a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for indoor sports, you can use the 70-200 f/2.8.

I highly recommend you shoot in RAW and purchase Adobe LightRoom 4. The noise reduction in LightRoom is so good you'll be able to shoot at ISO 1600 to ISO 3200 and still get amazing looking shots.

Save up till you can afford the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD Large Aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens it will be worth the wait.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2012 1:48:17 PM PDT
"for indoor you are looking at a constant aperture f2.8 lens (if zoom), and faster if non-zoom (a prime). And even with that you may need to boost the ISO to 400 or higher"

Agree about the f2.8 lens. However, for indoor sports, I have yet to shoot an event where I could get away with ISO 400. I've shot a few where I got as low as 800.

A monopod can help the hand tremors. If you can fit the monopod with a pistol grip head that is strong enough to support your camera and lens, but which you can comfortable operate, that will make the monopod that much more useful. The shutter speeds required for sports should compensate for hand tremors, but, not always, and you know your own comfort level. Depending on the cause of your tremors, being able to rest the camera on the monopod may help with fatigue and reduce the shakes. Also, a good carry system may help with fatigue, the traditional camera strap can make your gear seem heavier than it is. I use a black rapid camera strap to help me deal with the weight of my gear.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2012 10:24:43 PM PDT
Amazon has a Tamron lens 70-200 f/2.8 for $769. Check it out.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2012 10:43:56 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
Except the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 lacks image stabilization and has a very old style focus motor that doesn't focus fast enough for sports.

Posted on Apr 18, 2012 7:03:51 PM PDT
j says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2012 7:22:41 PM PDT
No...

We are saying there is no IS /and/ Sports /and/ Fast (sports: something in 70-400 range depending on specific sport; fast: f2.8 zoom or f1.8 prime for low-light). Oh, and maybe USM focus motor too... <G>

There ARE IS lenses for under $1000 -- but they stink for low-light, or sports (15-85 f3.5-5.6 IS USM, 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM, etc.).

There are sports lenses for under $1000 -- but they need sunlight and high ISO ( http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_70_200mm_f_4l_usm is even a Luxury [pro] lens, but no IS and widest is f4.0)

There are fast lenses for under $1000 -- but too short for sports or non-zoom (there are 14 lenses of f2.8 or faster in Canon's line-up).

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 3:22:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 19, 2012 12:56:29 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
NOT what we are saying!

What we are saying is there is no under $1000, image stabilized, constant aperture f/2.8, long telephoto, zoom lenses for ANY camera. The ones that comes close the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD Large Aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens is a third party lens that would be your least expesive choice for Canon and Nikon.

Here's the genuine Nikon version of the sports lens you want: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens $2100.

Oh, Sony has image stabilization built into the bodies of their cameras. So maybe you should have gone with Sony. But, Oh, No, Wait for it ... Here's Sony's 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera $2000.

Shooting sports is expensive - Canon, Nikon, or whatever. Most professionals shooting sports have well over $5000 worth of gear at any single event.

Posted on Apr 19, 2012 4:26:32 AM PDT
Neo Lee says:
You don't need IS for sports but it's nice to have anyway, you know, for stuff other than sports. The lens for your budget is the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 that people talked about. It does have image stabilization. If you want fit for $1000, you would have to go for a used one.

You can't get similar lens for other makes under the price for Canon.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 6:57:27 AM PDT
Because sports calls for very high shutter speeds, IS is not terribly relevant, unless you have a very long lens.

Yes, shooting sports calls for expensive gear. Poor lighting and very fast action does not make for easy shots. At a good event I am shooting f2.8, 1/500th of a second, ISO 1600. At a bad event, the ISO goes up as high as 12,000. If you are stuck shooting at f5.6, you can shoot the good events, but the poorly lit ones will feature a lot of motion blur.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 8:35:42 AM PDT
EdM says:
"At a bad event, the ISO goes up as high as 12,000. If you are stuck shooting at f5.6, you can shoot the good events, but the poorly lit ones will feature a lot of motion blur."

I agree on the requirements and cost for sports. I'll add that since the OP's T1i came out in 2009, cameras like the 7D [especially] and the 60D have improved autofocus mechanisms. This becomes more important in low light action/sports. If the camera cannot autofocus speedily enough, then you will likely miss important shots.

Alternatively, you will need great skill and luck to be able to predict where the peak action moments will occur and to prefocus and perhaps manually preset exposure values to be prepared to get those shots. The T1i has only the one, center, high precision, cross type AF sensor, while the 60D has all 9 cross type sensor points and the 7D is even better. Not that the T1i is a bad camera, but it is less capable at the demanding task of sports photography. This puts more of a premium on the f2.8 "pro" zooms, or on prime lenses at the needed focal length for the particular sport which have a max aperture of f2 and larger.

Posted on Apr 19, 2012 12:07:06 PM PDT
T. Campbell says:
The only way that IS helps for sports in the auto-focus. The shutter speeds for sports need to be reasonably fast to avoid undesirable levels of motion blur. If a subject is moving toward you or away from you then the minimum speed should be 1/250th. If the subject is moving laterally (left, right, up, down) then the minimum speed should be 1/500th. This will freeze "most" action (all but extremely fast speeds.)

The minimum shutter speed for hand-held shots is 1/(focal length)*(crop-factor). The "crop factor" on a Canon is 1.6. So at 200mm, the minimum shutter speed for a hand-held shot that doesn't reveal any motion blur from YOU moving (which has nothing to do with whether the subject is moving) is 1/(200*1.6) or 1/320th. Since 1/500th (speed to freeze action in sports) is faster than 1/320th (speed to avoid motion blur in a hand-held shot without image stabilization), the IS doesn't help with the shot.

BUT... the camera has to focus. It does this (hopefully) BEFORE taking the shot. If the camera and subject are moving all over the place when it's trying to lock in auto-focus, then it could make the auto-focus take longer. For this reason, IS is _also_ used during auto-focus to help the camera lock focus faster. If the camera is in AI Servo mode (and for sports it should be) then it's performing continuous auto-focus AND it's also in "release priority" mode which means it'll take a shot when you fully-press the shutter button down whether anything was in focus or not. You need to visually see that it has locked focus before you continue to press the shutter button completely.

Note that this is NOT THE SAME way that the camera works when you are in "One Shot" mode (the mode the camera is in by default and the mode that should be used for subjects that are not moving.) In "One Shot" mode the camera uses "focus priority". It will not release the shutter (even if you fully press the shutter button) until it can confirm focus lock on at least one AF point. This means you can be semi-careless when shooting in this mode and still get focused shots. If you do the same thing in "AI Servo" mode (which uses "release priority") then you'll get blurry shots -- and they'll be blurry because you didn't know that the focus system changes in this mode (and it's designed this way SPECIFICALLY at the request of top sports photographers.)

This is one of those things where the camera is a "tool". If YOU know how to use the tool then the tool can help you get excellent shots. But if YOU do not take the time to learn to use the tool, it is not the tool's job to guarantee success. Buying quality woodworking tools doesn't guarantee you'll be able to build great furniture. The craftsmanship is YOUR job.

Lenses that do well for sports in marginal lighting (indoors or night-time games under artificial lights) are NOT cheap -- not from any brand.

The reason they are expensive has to do with how they're made (this isn't just the manufacturer's getting greedy.) The amount of light that a lens can collect and deliver to the sensor is based on a ratio of the lens' length divided by the diameter of clear aperture (the area through which light can pass.) If a lens gets longer then it also has to get wider so that the ratio is maintained. Now you'd think you could just scale up the design of some smaller lens. Unfortunately some physics gets in the way if you do that. As lens elements wider, the curvature of each element behaves like a kind of prism. This splits light into it's constituent wavelengths just like a a rainbow. The result is that you have undesirable color "fringing" on everything in the photo. To fix this problem, they have to use low-dispersion glass -- some of which is exotic and requires that they grow very large crystals in kilns, and you CANNOT speed this process along if you want the crystals to be free of defects and suitable for optical purposes. They also have to create achromatic "doublets" to try to counteract whatever fringing does occur. This means that a large f/2.8 lens actually is significantly more complicated and more expensive to manufacture than, say a variable ratio f/3.5-5.6 lens with equivalent focal lengths.

The problem is so bad, that in astronomy, they basically gave up trying to use refractive lenses after a certain point and instead switch to curved mirrors -- because the difficulty in creating usable optics with refractive lenses at very large sizes is so incredibly difficult and expensive that it would require budgets that would even make the Pentagon blush.

If you buy one of these $2000 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms, you are not actually getting ripped off. And if you take care of it, you'll find that when you go to sell it as a "used" lens, you'll actually get MOST of your money back on it. In some cases... you'll be able to sell a lens for MORE than you paid for it new.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 1:10:18 PM PDT
j says:
Okay Im getting great information But maybe I should have asked this way .... Of the SUB $1000 lenses by Canon that have IS which is the best for all around shots that will include High School sports and Nature shots and maybe portraits .... If its over $1000 don't bother mentioning it..... (Future Lens savings Fund has been started for a EF 70-200L IS)

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 2:02:20 PM PDT
Les Schmader says:
Why don't you just use the 55-250, push the ISO to the limit, and put the other $700 toward the L lens?

A 50mm f/1.8, monopod, tripod? You can get a lot of useful "stuff" for $700.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 2:34:48 PM PDT
Donovan X says:
@j says: LOL, new DLSR users are always shocked at the cost of serious lenses (not a criticism, I was there many years ago as well). As the general suggestions in this thread have stated, the lens you want does not exist at the price you want. Sorry. You really need to pick priorities and get the glass that will fulfill them. If you want a superb general use lens, with IS and barely under the $1k mark, then the CANON EF 24-105MM F4L IS USM is an excellent lens and will fit a full-frame body if you upgrade at a later date. If you will only ever use a APS-c body then check the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras. I have not used it but the reviews and samples are very positive. Do note it is not a solidly built at the 24-105L but is one full f-stop faster. But at only 105mm and 55mm respectively either will be lacking the reach for sports use. If sports and tighter head-n-shoulder portraits are the priorities you require, then again there is simply no such lens in the price range with IS. Options to consider are the 70-200 f/4L (non-IS) at sub $800 or seek out a used 70-200 f/2.8L (again, no IS) for around $1000. The f/4 is much lighter but looses a full f-stop. The f/2.8 is heavy but has very fast focus. I used that latter for several years and re-sold it this year for what I originally paid. It was replaced by the f/2.8 IS II version which is really as good as the hype surrounding it. And finally, if you want maximum reach and IS for under $1k, then a certain list by Craig shows the 300mm f/4L IS at around $950 (in my area of FL, results may vary). Fixed focal length prime lenses are more limiting but are always my preference for top quality images. I sincerely hope my opinions help further your decision. Good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 4:54:01 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
Les might not have a bad suggestion.
I'd recommend the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens over the 55-250.
But, if you're willing to do a little work on the computer, shoot in RAW bump your ISO to 3200 and process the images with the noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom 4.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 9:08:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2012 9:09:34 PM PDT
David L. says:
Well, if we're willing to bump up the ISO, shoot RAW, and clean up the image in LR, then my preference would be the fast Canon 70-200 L F/4 IS. Used copy in very good condition is at $1,033 on Amazon. Are you willing to look at used btw?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2012 6:08:31 AM PDT
j says:
Thanks that looks like a good choice for what I need (good price too) I will have to check out Adobe LR 4

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2012 6:42:57 AM PDT
Donovan X says:
@j says: If you do opt for LR4 and the slower, less expensive lens option, also consider using the Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software included with your SLR. Be sure to get the free upgrade to the newest 3.11.26.0 version at Canon's support web site (look under software for 5D MkIII). By shooting RAW (uncompressed image data) files you can use DPP to recover up to 2 f-stops in post-processing as well as apply sharpening levels that would look very rough if applied to a compressed JPG file. You will want this to compensate for the loss of detail caused by applying the heavy noise reduction required to clean up an ISO 3200 shot.
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