In need of some focal length advice/opinions...

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by chammer, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    So per my macro lens thread (for those that read it) I have been eye balling both the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 and the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 as my 17-50mm 2.8 is proving to be just a touch too short in some areas. More specifically, my dog show events.

    I thought it best to review some pictures from last year to refresh my memory on what I shot, what focal length, what aperture, what shutter speed, etc. to better get an idea of what I would like to have for this year (which starts next Saturday, May 1st).

    Here are 5 examples in which the subject is at varying ranges from the camera:

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    The thing they all share in common is the fact all were at 50mm, and all I felt are way to short. The other problem is that the indoor ones are having to be shot at 1600 ISO at f/2.8, and -1/3 EC, just to get a half decent shutter speed. One in particular (#4) was shot at 1/160 which is just too slow as blurring is visible on both the woman's foot, and on the dogs foot.

    As per my first paragraph I had been considering lenses that would give me either 20mm or 25mm more than what these were shot at. Looking at these again is pretty much telling me even that will come up shorter than I'd like. Under ideal conditions I'd like to be able to fill the frame (or as close to it as possible) with the dog in image #1 while still being able to capture a group image like image #3. I think in that regard, 70mm or 75mm is just going to be too short though plenty wide at 24mm and 28mm for the group shots.

    It's obviously then at the telephoto end where my issue is. With all that said the 24-105 f4L is looking more like a nice compromise, but then my second issue comes up...not fast enough. That one stop will be enough to kill me by turning that 1/160th shot into a 1/80th @ 1600 ISO. Looking at other shots of dogs mid-stride I've found one as low as 1/250th that has stopped the action nicely, so I figure that's what my slowest shutter should be in an ideal situation.

    That said can anyone think of any suggestions? While I do own the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS, I've only shot with it once at a dog show and found it to be way too long which is why the 17-50mm is my "dog show lens". There are times when I have needed just a bit closer than 70mm, even though those times have been more or less rare.

    In the event someone mentions it, as it seems to be common with indoor sports, I have been thinking about the 85 1.8 as well. I'm just not sure of shooting with a prime in this sort of setting. Another I have been contemplating is giving a try with my new 100mm 2.8L Macro, but again...not sure how that would work and it's for that reason for both prime options that I'd prefer a zoom.

    Am I at that point where I'm screwed unless I just bite the bullet and buy a second body to mount both the 17-50 and 70-200, and swap as needed? At this point I'd much rather be building out my lens collection than be buying a second body, but for the price of the 24-105L I could pick up another 50D. I really would hate that, however, as I was hoping when the time came I could snag a 7D or even a 1d3 (used).

    I guess another thing to keep in mind is that I am doing this for fun. As such, lugging around more than one body and trying to swap on the fly all the time may turn it into work. I hate work. :greenpbl:

    Any advice would be appreciated. I would like to order whatever either this Thursday or Friday to be here Saturday, April 24th.

    Oh, and I almost forgot one of the most asked questions when posting a "what should I buy?" thread... my budget. Ideally I don't want to go over $1,000, but if the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 is my only option then I can stretch it the extra $400, but only if I *have* to. :)

    Thanks!
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    You know, if you had a Canon 5D, your 70-200/2.8 IS would given you an excellent range of focal lengths to choose from; like you said, you tried the 70-200 once at a dog show and found that it was too long. Yes--too long on a 1.6x body!! Looking at your shots above all done with a 50mm lens, or at 50mm with your 17-50 zoom (not sure which), you say,and I agree, that the shots look too far away....

    Well, the way I see it, shelling out a lot of money for an f/2.8 lens that offers 24-70mm, you really gain very little; you gain only the range of from 50mm to 70mm, which is not much of a range or range gain (20mm), and you are still stuck at f/2.8 which although moderately fast, is not as fast as a 50mm 1.4 or an 85mm 1.8 prime lens. So...you want focal length flexibility so you can get the right framing at the working distances that you actually encounter in the "real world"...well, this is where I've been accused of harping on Full Frame as being better than 1.5x or 1.6x, but it is TRUE: your own experience has shown you that the 70-200 is too long on 1.6x, and 50mm looks too far away. You ALREADY OWN a lens focal length that was standardized in the 1970's as being an ideal range...you already own a top-grade Canon 70-200 Image Stabilizer lens---it is an ideal lens as long as you have a 24x36mm format body to use it on!

    You do not need another lens--you need a FF body to use (utilize) the useful angles of view a 70-200 will give you with its full field of view at 70mm restored. A used Canon 5D body, the Mark I, might run you $950 to $1000,and it would be a very good investment. The much larger sensor area will give you better high-ISO performance than the 50D. You'll be able to crop its files quite a bit if needed. Its IQ at ISO 1600 is quite good,since the sensor is 2.3x largr than your 50D's sensor...its not too shabby at 3,200 either.

    Regardless...I do not see the 24-70 as being worth what it costs...I think it'd be better and cheaper to buy a 5D body and use the lenses you already own. Looking at your pictures,and your 50mm results, and your 70-200 experience on a 1.6x body, you can see that you're in a situation where your focal length needs and the crop factor of the 1.6x body is really **hosing you** with regard to what it makes your expensive 70-200 into when shot indoors. I have long maintained that for close-up event/sports work, the 1.5x Nikon and 1.6x Canon bodies are not an advantage, but a LIMITATION, with the lenses that many of us actually own and want to use. You are not shooting birds or soccer or football--you are working indoors at moderate distances. A FF body is the missing piece at those types of distances.

    If you added a FF body, your problem would be solved, just like that Chammer.
     
  3. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Derrel. I was hoping you'd see this. :)

    I was really wanting that 24-70 or 28-75 too. I figured though since it was getting down to it that I would review, one more time, my pictures from last year to see if it'd help the decision.

    The FF thing is something I didn't want to hear at this point, but it does make perfect sense. I was really hoping when the FF time came that I could pick up the 5d2, but I do still see so many people using (and raving about) the 5d1. I don't print any of these so megapixels is really of no concern, and even in the event I do I doubt they ever be done larger than 8x10...especially any time soon.

    My only real concern looking at it is the Ai-Servo on it. With the center point selected and Ai-Servo tracking enabled, would it be able to track the "action" well enough? This isn't basketball, but at the same time I've had some tracking issues here and there (though rare...and probably my fault) even with the 50D which I'd assume has a bit better AF. They both are listed as having 9 AF points, however, so as long as it's at least as good with this slower paced stuff I'd have no problems using it.

    Thanks again! :)
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with Derrel, full frame would seem to solve your problem.

    However, since you said that you don't print these images and you're only doing this as a hobby....why not just crop them? Your 50D should have plenty of resolution for heavy cropping, more than enough to make up for a 20mm difference in focal length.
     
  5. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike: I do crop them, and sometimes it works and sometimes not. Being so far away tons of detail is actually being missed, so cropping actually brings out a ton of flaws and unsharp images. Getting closer, I feel, will bring back that detail (and provide a better base image for minimal cropping).

    I think if these were shot outside on a sunny day it wouldn't be as large of an issue as it was at these two particular shows. One being outside on a nasty overcast and rainy day, and the other shot indoors under crap lighting pushing the ISO close to the limits of this body. However, while sunny days have occurred, I need to be prepared for these less than ideal situations.

    Here are two more images showing the full scene, and then a sample crop I did really quickly on how I may crop these images for posting...

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    All that said, Big Mike, while it's true I don't personally print these I do really want to be prepared to print at least an 8x10 (perhaps at the largest) in the event either my girlfriend or one of her show friends wants a copy of an image I have captured.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Keep in mind that people who aren't pixel peepers (like us) likely won't notice the slight loss of quality that cropping brings. And by the time it's printed at 8x10, they will think it looks great.

    Remember that the people who do want prints of these photos, don't see pixels...they see the dogs that they love.

    Then, maybe you can shoot some portraits for them, with controlled lighting....and really blow them away with high quality images.
     
  7. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike: That's so true as well. One of my girlfriends favorite show pictures was a candid taken by a pro photographer a couple years back. Technically its only "OK", but the way it shows off her dog is perfect. I've yet to be able to capture a more recent (and better quality) image showing the dog off in the same way. :(

    I know too since I've learned so much since the last dog show I shot that I can also produce better quality than what is shown here without a doubt. So I don't really feel this is truly representative of my current work. Crops now may be miles cleaner than what has been posted here, but we'll see!

    What I figure I will do then, for now, is to do both. I'm going to keep tabs on the more pristine 5D's and snag one when the price/quality line up, but instead of buying a lens to have for next weekend...I will just see how thing's go with the 50D and my existing collection. It's an outdoor show so I'm already thinking of giving the 70-200mm another go (or maybe even the 100mm 2.8L if I feel I can get away with it). I'll probably bring the XSi along with the 17-50 mounted just in case though. :)

    Thanks again. It's very much appreciated!

    p.s.
    I do portraits for her, and so far only 1 of her friends *once*. I'd really love to be able to do them for more of them though. I've been offering (for free), but people just don't seem interested. :(
     
  8. Montana

    Montana TPF Noob!

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    I think you are causing some of your loss of detail. How clean is your 50D at 3200 ISO. I think your underexposure can possibly be killing some of the detail. You are shooting RAW I assume so that you can bring the exposure back up and control noise reduction yourself? I think if you use a better noise removal such as noise ninja or even topaz labs would help too.

    But I agree with Derrel on getting a full frame camera. Then you'd have two bodies. Clean images from the 5D and a useful 70-200 again. And the 5D autofocus will easily handle a dog show.
     
  9. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Looking at the way you cropped that shot i can't see how the 70-200 is too long, i use my 300F2.8L at indoor dog agility and i am not that far from the action
     
  10. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    Montana: 3200 can be made to work, but its not very clean. Especially under poor lighting. I was shooting JPEG last year because of the amount of shots I took (mostly because I didn't know then what type of shots I wanted or were best). I've already made mental notes of what I want to capture this go around, and will be shooting in RAW. I did underexpose on purpose to try and boost the shutter speed a touch. These were all straight from the camera, by the way. Noise removal, however, is something that I have since learn how to properly do so maybe 3200 is more possible than it was previously.

    gsgary: Agility is something I've been wanting to do as well, but it's rarely (if ever) at the confirmation events which for now is all we attend. :( I felt the 70-200mm was long simply because when I tried it I had to position myself about 15ft. from the ring border and shoot across it. I really prefer being able to sit up against the ring, and shoot into it. Also, there are times when I simply can't position myself optimally so I end up way closer than I'd like which cuts inside of 50mm leaving the 70mm end of the 70-200 too long. I also didn't get the 70-200 until late. Had I had it for the event where the first picture came from I would have probably used it. That really was an ideal distance for it.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Some pretty good point have been raised and gone over. I opened a couple of your darker indoor shots and tried brightening them by raising the curves, and also by adding 2/3 of a stop of exposure, and they were recoverable. I don't own a 50D, only a 20D and a 5D and an old Rebel, but my experience is that the 5D has the best High-ISO performance of those three Canons, and is reasonably close to the Nikon D3 at 1600 and 3200 ISO settings. Cropping is an option,as Big Mike pointed out, and as Montana astutely noted, a full-fledged high quality noise removal software product from Nik Software or other company could help. gsgary does some dog agility work with his original 5D, and the AF on an f/2.8 lens like the 70-200 is "decent", but not Earth-shatteringly good...it's not going to get the hit rate of a sports camera, but the 5D would give you cleaner High-ISO shots right out of the camera at ISO 1600.

    These gyms or auditoriums you've shot in have flat-out sucky lighting. The lighting is shadowy, and not attractive, so you're going to have to get a decent "bright" exposure,somehow, either by jacking up the ISO, or using wider f/stops and a stabilized lens and shooting while the subjects are stationary, or shooting action sequences and trying to time it so that subjects are not moving...you will have some rejected shots with blurring if the speeds are too slow, but until you can get the shutter speeds high enough to freeze action, you'll have to work around the shutter speed limitations that go along with whatever your camera's top ISO value that's acceptable to you, IQ wise. I mean, it'd be great if you had a camera capable of ISO 12800 or ISO 25,600 with results you were happy with--your shutter speed problems would all be solved. That's the direction Nikon went with the D3 and D3s---sucky lighting in gymnasiums and auditoriums and arenas favors cameras with full-frame sensors and high-ISO performance that's on the cutting edge...the original 5D is reasonably close to that level of ISO performance, but only up to 3,200. The 5D shot in RAW does High-ISO pretty darned well, it really does, so that's one of my reasons for suggesting getting that camera, and going with the already superb 70-200/2.8 IS you already own, *especially* since,after I looked at your photos and framing choices, it was clear that 50mm on 1.6x=75mm Angle of View, and that was a bit wide, that naturally tells me that you could use the 70-125 range on FF quite a bit, to get frame-filling images. I've also had to shoot indoor events in sucky light using a 1.5x Nikon, and it just killed my 70-200, which was always too long.

    Last thing--going back to Big Mike's comments about cropping: one thing a guy can do is to shoot looser, with a shorter lens, like say a 50mm or an 85mm, and get a high shutter speed and a decent f/stop, and then crop in, accept a bit of IQ loss, but get the framing one ultimately wants. You just have to make sure that the shutter speed you get will not have too much subject blurring after the image has been zoomed in on and cropped. That's one way to approach this situation, and it's why really fast prime lenses like 1.4, 1.8 and f/2 are useful--they allow you to build some shutter speed when faced with sucky light and High ISO settings, so you can get a non-blurred shot. The really hard part about this type of indoor arena is that f/2.8 and the common ISOs of 1600 and 3200 is just a bit too low of a top ISO value to get the shutter speed to 1/400 to 1/640 that stopping a lot of fast motion requires, so you need to shift to a prime lens that offers f/2 or so to get those few "extra clicks" that will shift you from 1/160,which is not really quite fast enough, to 1/250 or 1/320 which are "good enough" to stop "most" motion, especially if you shoot the motion head-on to the camera, or keep the subject "small in the frame".

    What you are hitting is sort of the well-known wall that sports shooters and PJ's have been hitting since I was a kid....ISO 3200. You want great Image Quality pictures and stop-motion action, but unless you have good light, the shadows get noisy andhave poor shadow detail in them. So you have to start doing things like shooting at f/2 with your 135mm lens, or shooting at f/1.8 with your 85mm lens or your 50mm lens, and you start "cheating" a bit, and underexposing to build shutter speed, and recovering later in the darkroom or computer by "lifting" the slightly under-exposed image and living with sub-par image quality, especially in the shadow values.

    The actual lens f/stop maximum width of f/2.8 on most all zooms means this doggone "wall" at ISO 1600 or 3200 and shutter speeds that seemed to be stuck at 1/125 to 1/200 from the 1970's to the 2000's have only recently been addressed with the new uber-cameras that go to ISO 25,600 and 50,000 with pretty decent results, so that's sort of the only answer to this decades-long issue...there are some work-arounds.

    Setting my camera's light metering system so that it will Under-expose by 1.7 stops in the camera, with a very "Steep Uplifted Mid-tone Curve" loaded into the camera, and shooting in RAW+JPEG, I can get almost 2 extra stops of shutter speed or aperture for sports shooting. You can do the same thing at the computer also...the images will be dark and murky at first, but you *can* lift (brighten up) them in post, and people will go, "oh,hey, look at that!" and like Big Mike said, they will not see the noise too much, just the subjects. Best of luck this season on the dog shows!
     
  12. chammer

    chammer TPF Noob!

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    Thanks so much, Derrel, for the great post and best of luck wishes. So in other words what I need is a 1d4 and a 5d2 with a 70-200 on one and 24-70 on the other! Just kidding...sort of... :) Never thought about how long photographers have been struggling with something this old, and that there hasn't been a simple solution after so many years. I would have probably not done this at all if it weren't for digital, however. ;)

    I figured the mention of the fast primes would come out eventually, and it's something that has been in the back of my mind. I have been wanting the 85mm 1.8 (perhaps even Sigma's 85mm 1.4 if they get it right) as a low light portrait replacement to my 50 1.8 anyways. Perhaps it's something to look into picking up after I snag a 5D then? Shooting at 2.8 definitely seems like a tease at the moment by just getting you close enough, but not quite all the way.
     

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