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TPF Noob!
Aug 10, 2013
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Canton, MI
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I need new equiptment. I will be shooting my sons football games and I will be allowed on the sidelines. I currently have a Canon Rebel XS and a 75-300 mm f/4-5.6. I have about $1500 to spend and am happy to buy used equipment. I was thinking about a used 50D and a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
If I were you, I will get the 70-200mm lens first.
I have to say I am jealous over that 70-200mm! I'm not much help, as I don't know anything about Canon, but whatever you choose, enjoy your new purchases!
Unless you're shooting from the sidelines, even 300 mm is going to be a bit short.
You can crop post process to compensate, but cropping means discarding pixels (reduced resolution).
But, you have budget constraints.

So consider that a lens that has a max aperture of f/5.6 at it's longest focal length lets in 2 stops less light than a zoom lens that has a max aperture of f/2.8.
Upgrading your camera so it gains 2 stops of usable ISO performance is the same as getting a f/2.8 max aperture lens over a f/5.6 max aperture lens.

If you can upgrade both the camera and the lens by 2 stops each, you gain 4 stops of light gathering potential.
Unfortunately, upgrading from your XS to a 50D does not include any gain in ISO performance. In fact you lose a small bit of ISO performance.
DxOMark - Compare cameras side by side

If the football games are at night, you need a camera that has better ISO performance AND a lens that can open to a wider aperture.
Both allow a faster shutter speed for stopping motion.

For football action you'll want a shutter speed no slower than 1/500. If you are good at anticipating the action and can release the shutter at the peak of action you might get away with 1/250.

Shooting action sports, particularly night or indoor action sports, requires some of the most expensive DSLR camera gear available because of the lighting.

I recommend you get a used or refurbished Nikon D90 ($350 to $450)
Nikon D90 12.3MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)
and a used or refurbished ($600 - $750)
Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom Nikkor Lens

As far as Canon gear in the same price range as the Nikon D90 is the Canon T3i, but the T3i has less usable ISO performance than the D90 but better ISO performance than the 50D.
DxOMark - Compare cameras side by side

Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Sensor DIGIC 4 Image Processor Full-HD Movie Mode Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch Clear View Vari-Angle LCD (Body Only)
and a used or refurbished ($825 - $1200)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

Canon also makes a 70-200 f/4. The IS version is about $850 used, the non-IS version used/refurbished is $550 to $700.
If you have small hands, I could recommend the Canon SL1, paired with the 70-300 f/4-5.6 (non L). A friend of mine shoots with that kit with good results. If you want to try keeping it inexpensive, while I'm hesitant to buy a body used, lenses are another story. I'll buy them used all day long, provided they're still in good shape. I'd check Ebay, Adorama, and B&H Photo for used lenses.
I need new equiptment. I will be shooting my sons football games and I will be allowed on the sidelines. I currently have a Canon Rebel XS and a 75-300 mm f/4-5.6. I have about $1500 to spend and am happy to buy used equipment. I was thinking about a used 50D and a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Darn. That's not going to enough for the obvious choice... a Canon 1D X and a EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

Watch this video:

A 70-200mm lens will require you to do some running up and down the sidelines but that's probably unavoidable unless you can come up with a lot more money to spend.

A body with a higher ISO performance will also do wonders. Your Rebel XS caps out at ISO 1600 and even at that speed it will have a lot of image noise. A 7D can go up to ISO 6400 (it has an "extended" mode that lets it go to 12,800 but you definitely wouldn't like those results... there's a ton of image noise in any camera when you're at or near max ISO). You'd probably want to keep it at around ISO 3200 or less. A "fast" lens combined with a "fast" ISO speed will give you fast shutter speeds. The downside to this is that a 7D body is about $1500 but that particular body is fairly well optimized for sports & action photography.

The 60D's replacement... the 70D has been announced. It's not technically shipping yet (not until this fall) but it's listing for about $1200 (body only). It has the SAME focusing system as the 7D. It's 1 frame per second slower... shooting at 7fps instead of 8. It has the new hybrid AF system on the sensor that's getting a lot of attention (only used when shooting in "live view" mode.) It's ISO performance is better than the 7D... it's goes to ISO 12,800 (without yet going into "extended" range.) That means images taken at ISO 6400 will probably still look decent ALTHOUGH we haven't seen any reviews yet so that's pure speculation.

A 60D would be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper. Since the 70D was announced, the price on the 60D has dropped like a rock. It'll have nearly identical sensor performance to the 7D, but it's frame-rate for continuous shooting isn't as fast and it only has a 9 point AF system (the 7D has a 19 point AF system) although on the 60D all 9 points are "cross type" - which is a huge upgrade over the the Rebel bodies.) The 60D is now selling for $599 (that's NEW... not used nor refurbished. This camera debuted at $1200 ... then came down slowly and stuck at around $900 until they announced the 70D and now you can get it for $600.)

You're going to want decent glass.

That means if you're really restricted to $1500, I'd get a 60D and save the rest for glass. Otherwise most of your budget is eaten up in the price of a camera body leaving you very little for glass and you probably wont be happy with the lenses you can afford within your budget. Frankly, the sweet 70-200 f/2.8L IS II is well over $2k just for the lens alone. You'll need to look at a 3rd party -- but even the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 is about $1250.

I own the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS (original... not the "II") but that was about $1900 new when I bought mine many years ago. These things aren't cheap. I have never tried any of the 3rd party 70-200's.

Get some recommendations from people who've actually used them OR rent a few different lenses that you might actually consider buying... that way you can see how well they work before you lay down the cash (and hopeflly avoid buyer's remorse.)
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KmH said:
SNIP>>>Unless you're shooting from the sidelines, even 300 mm is going to be a bit short.

I do not believe that statement is entirely accurate, at all. PLENTY of high school football action comes very CLOSE to the sidelines. MANY running plays that come outside the hashmarks and toward "your" sideline are going to be easily captured with a 50mm normal lens, especially on a 1.6x camera body!!! Heck, the standard second camera is a 24-70, or a fast-aperture wide-angle prime worn around the neck, and a longer lens on a monopod.

PLENTY of good football shots have been made with SHORT lenses, most-especially from the sidelines, and the corners of the field, and the back line on touchdown and extra-point and 2-pt conversion tries and short field goals. Normally, just stay 5,6 yards in front of the line of scrimmage on each play, and shoot what you CAN. When running plays come toward your sideline, or receivers come toward your sidelines, no way a 300mm is needed...it is in fact the wrong lens. When the offense gets to within 35 yards of the goal-line, move down to the back end of the endzone and wait for passes and TD's. Get into a spot, and be ready! When the ball is inside the 35 yard line, a 300mm is a hindrance, not a help, unless the shooter is a dead-on expert level shooter.

A 70-200 on a 1.6x body is going to be about all of the lens weight and mass that an average, inexperienced "football mom" wants to handle...I highly,highly doubt you could handle a 7-pound 300 + camera, nor a 15 pound 400/2.,8 + camera.

Again...it's a matter of shooting what action you CAN get. MOST h.s. fields, and I have been to literally dozens of different fields and stadiums, have lights that absolutely SUCK, especially at the endzones. Again, this is a new shooter, shooting H.S. ball, on a hs lighted field, NOT NCAA or NFL lights!!! Two different things, totally.

Based on 3+ decades of photography, I think a beginning h.s. football mom with sideline access would PROBABLY have as good a results with an 85mm f/1.8 prime as with a 300...BETTER, actually...it takes a few years to learn how to instantly locate action with a narrow-field telephoto...just FINDING the subject is a learned skill...the Canon EF 85/1.8 is cheap and VERY fast-focusing, very light, and easy to work with. It's better to get a SHARP shot from a bit farther away, and then crop-in, than to get an OOF half-body with no football. For goal-line offense, think 35mm f/2 from the back line. When that running back busts thru the line from 18 feet away...you WANT a short lens on the camera!

This is not a Sports-Illustrated scenario, shot under NCAA- or NFL-caliber lights...think utter crap lights, with end-zones as much as 3 stops darker than mid-field...you'll be well-served by a FAST 85/1.8 or 135 f-2 L lens, and cropping into shots that are shot at FAST speeds, like 1/500 at f/2, IF you are lucky, at ISO 3,200.
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