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Choosing A Sports Lens

Lesson 53 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

Choosing A Sports Lens

Lesson 53 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

53. Choosing A Sports Lens


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Canon Lens Basics


Focal Length: Angle of View


Focal Length: Normal Lenses


Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses


Focal Length: Telephoto Lens


Focal Length Rule of Thumb


Field of View


Aperture Basics


Aperture: Maximum Aperture


Aperture: Equivalent Focal Length


Aperture: Depth of Field


Aperture: Maximum Sharpness


Aperture: Starburst Effect


Aperture: Flare


Aperture: Hyperfocal Distance


Camera Mount System


Canon Lens Compatibility


Canon Lens Design


Canon Lens Composition


Canon Lens Shape


Canon Lens Coating


Canon Lens Focusing


Lens Autofocus


Canon Lens Image Stabilization


Canon L Lenses


Image Quality


Canon Zoom Lenses: Standard


Canon Super Zooms


Canon Wide Zooms


Canon Telephoto Zooms


Prime Lens: Normal Lenses


Prime Lens: Moderate Wide


Prime Lens: Wide Angle


Prime Lens: Ultra-Wide


Prime Lens: Short Telephoto


Prime Lens: Medium Telephoto


Prime Lens: Super Telephoto


3rd Party Lenses Overview


3rd Party Prime Lenses


3rd Party Zoom Lenses


Lens Accessories: Filters


Lens Accessories: Lens Hoods


Lens Accessories: Tripod Mount


Lens Accessories: Extension Tubes


Lens Accessories: Extenders


Macro Lens: Reproduction Ratio


Macro Lens: Technique and Choices


Fisheye: Technique and Choices


Tilt Shift: Techniques and Choices


Make a Lens System Choice


Choosing A Portrait Lens


Choosing A Sports Lens


Choosing A Landscape Lens


Best Lenses for You


Lens Maintenance


Buying and Selling Lens


What is John Greengo's Favorite Lens?


Lesson Info

Choosing A Sports Lens

so sport lenses. This goes into a kind of a special category. This is one of the most expensive types of photography you can get into because the cost of these lenses and before we even talk about the lenses, I want to talk about subject zone. All right, this is a concept that I don't know I kind of invented. I guess I haven't seen other people talk about it, but it's the area your subject needs to be within in order to be photographed, where does your subject need to be because you think you think about sports photography? You're usually standing on the sidelines, and they usually don't let you on the field to shoot photos. You usually got to stay out, out, out of the way, and you got to shoot people. And if they go way over there, they're too far away. But if they stand right here, they're too close. And so there's kind of a zone that they need to be in. And the concept that I'm gonna be teaching you is that big lenses have big subject areas, and this is why imagine a runway. Maybe i...

t's the long jump or something. like that and you're at the end of this runway and you're gonna have somebody coming down this runway and you want to get lots of photographs of this person as they come towards you. There's a variety of lenses that you can use that's gonna affect the subject zone size. So maybe it's the end of the marathon and you've got a runner coming in and you want to get pictures of a runner at the end of the race and you have the choice of a 24 510, 100 millimeter lands. Which lands should you choose? Because you can choose any one of them because they're eventually going to get right up close to you looking through your viewfinder. You're looking down this runway. They're coming straight towards you. When do you want to shoot pictures and with what lands? Well, you want to try to fill the frame as much as you can, so it probably be wise to shoot vertical. That way you can fill the frame with your subject as much as possible, and you would ideally like to get a picture that your subject is head to toe filling the frame. But rather than just shooting one picture there, you want to shoot a whole series of pictures as they are approaching. Don't bother taking pictures when they're the size of a small ant in the distance that's going to be too small. It's not gonna be usable information, and I suggest start shooting when your subject is about half the size of the entire frame. Anything smaller than that, they're going to be so small you're gonna have to make too large an enlargement and it's gonna be too low and quality. And so once it's about half filling the frame, that is the back of his own now as they come towards you and then he end up filling the frame that is going to be the front of the zone. And so that's the zone that they need to be within for you to photograph them now, to be honest with you. Once they come in front of the the Zone, I'm going to still shoot pictures because then I can nice get nice tight head shots. But if we are trying to get a full body picture, they have to be within this limited area now with a 50 millimeter lower. Excuse me, A 24 millimeter lands. They have to be really close to fill the frame, being half the distance. They're not that much further back. Because of the angle of view. That 24 millimeter lens has changes up a little bit with a 50 millimeter lands or excuse me 100. They're further away from you for their full frame shot. But when they start their even further back when you go all the way up to a 400 millimeter lands, they're obviously going to be much further away from you. But the back of the zone is going to be much, much further away. So what this means, as you are standing at the finish line of the marathon, is that if you want to shoot with the 24 millimeter lands, the runner is going to need to be somewhere between 1.25 meters and 2. meters, which is this little tiny zone in yellow. You don't have much time to get that shot. I've doubled these numbers. See this 24 50 pretty close to doubling the size of the zone has now doubled in size because we've doubled the focal length, and so we go up to 100 now the subject is a little bit further away, and we have more opportunity in order to shoot that photograph. And so this subject zone is doubling because our focal links are doubling as well. And so, with our final 400 millimeter lands, we're gonna have a lot of opportunity to shoot those photos. But they're gonna be of the subject a little bit further away. So if we want to throw a little math at this, our runner runner A is at 25 kilometers per hour. That means they're covering one meter every 10. seconds. How many pictures will you be able to take with your camera? All right, so in the in the zone, how long is the subject in the zone there? Only in that zone. So you have a 0.18 seconds in order to get the photo with the 24 millimeter lands for someone shooting with the 400 millimeter lens, they have 2. seconds to get the shop. Okay, let's suppose that you have a camera at 10 frames per second, We get a picture every 0.1 of a second. We can now calculate how fast your camera can fire while our subject is in their zone that you have the opportunity of getting their photograph with the 24. It's one shot that you get at it with the 200 you get 14 with a 400 you get 28 shots. All right, so how does this look out in the field? All right, so you're gonna go out to the big field, you're gonna use the 24 millimeter lands and you can photograph people that come right up next to you, and that's it. 150 millimeter lands reaches out to an arch around you a little bit larger, and every one of these simply doubles in size over the previous one because we've doubled the focal length. And so this is one of the reasons why having a longer focal length lens is helpful beyond the fact that they might limit us. I'm just thinking, in this situation where subject can get close to you or further away from you 400 millimeter lens, we can capture a big swath of the field. So what is a soccer or football photographer used? They might use something like a 500 capture a big swath of the field and then maybe have a second camera with 72 200 for situations when players come fairly close to you. So I wanted to show what this looks like in the real world. And so we got our soccer players out here photographed with 24 millimeter lands. Now, in this series of photos, what I'm trying to do is keep our player in blue about the same size, and I want to keep our player in white about the same size. But I'm going to use a different lenses and they're going to move back. And so, obviously, with the 24 millimeter lands, these guys are right close to me, and they're very close to each other. When I use a 50 millimeter lands, they're the same size relative. I'm keeping in the same size relative in the frame, and you can see that they are still pretty darn close to each other. All right, so let's go out to the 100 millimeter lands same size in the frame, but they're getting to be a little bit further apart because I'm using that longer lens and we're getting that compression effect that we've talked about earlier in the class. Now, with the 200 millimeter lands, I could focus on either one of these players and have enough pixels and information that I could get a good shark picture of either one of them. But they're covering a much larger area than they were with some of those shorter lenses. And so a lot of sports photographers really like working in the 400 millimeter range because now these players are fairly far apart. 800 millimeters. These guys are very far apart. The compression effect makes them look like they're pretty close together. And so that compression effect really helps us out in sports photography, because now, as our runners air coming through, we can get shot after shot after shot after shot. And they're not changing that much in the size of the frame because we're using a very long telephoto lens. We can then go take those frames and pick that one frame that is the best. And that's one of the advantages that sports photographers have working with their long lenses is they're gonna shoot 2030 40 pictures while their subject is in that subject zone, and they're gonna picked out with one best. And you're there with your 50 millimeter lands. You get two shots hoping that one of those two is a good one. That's an unfair fight with the professional because they have so many more opportunities in which to get the shot. And so when I'm shooting, I prefer to be shooting with a longer lens because I get more time in which to get the shot. And so when I talk about the subject zone, that's the area your subject needs to be within. Where do they need to be, where the markings on the field that you're gonna be photographing them, the bigger the lens, the bigger that subject area. So, having that in mind thinking about what lenses we would want to shoot sports with, the thing that's going to be first in most critical is absolutely that focal length. How long the lenses 203 104 100. The next thing is going to be that maximum aperture, and these are the lenses that were often shooting at maximum aperture all the time. Talk to US professional sports photographer. Ask him what aperture they use and how often do they use it. Their answer is likely to be F 2.8 95% of the time because they need to let in a lot of light in order to get a fast shutter speed and stop the action. How fast is that lens Focus. What type of focusing motors is it? How fast is they're focusing on their camera with that lens. They're gonna want great sharpness because sometimes if the players a little bit further away, they need to blow that subject up. And they need a really sharp lands so that it can make enlargements. Most all sports photographs are cropped. Very rarely do they get a perfect shot right in frame and so sharpness that you can in crop it, enlarge the size and weight of the lens I talked about some of the larger canon lenses have undergone a weight loss, and they're quite a bit less in weight, which makes shooting a long event. You're gonna go to Motor Motor sports event that takes 12 hours in length. That's a lot of time to be lugging lenses around and having a lighter weight lens makes the day go by much easier. Image stabilization. That doesn't help out on the action photography, but there's a lot of other uses of these large lenses where image stabilization is a nice feature in the newer lenses have the stabilization and they have several stops of it, which is a very nice feature, tohave and then, of course, the price, which in general is going to be quite high for the very nice lenses. So for different types of sports, it depends on your access to the sport. How close can you be? For instance, if you're shooting beach volleyball and you're thinking, Well, I want to try to shoot beach volleyball with an 800 millimeter lands, you better hope you're shooting at an event that has no fans because with an 800 millimeter lens, you're gonna need to be 50 yards away and you're gonna behind be behind where the stands are. There's many events that you are forced into shooting a particular focal length lens. You've probably seen old boxing matches that had photographers who were had their cameras right on the canvas, shooting the boxers right there in front of them. They're gonna be shooting with 35 millimeter lenses because they're so close. They can't shoot with a telephoto in that case, and so it's gonna be determined by the rules of the sport, the stadium and the arena that you were at. So let's look at some examples. Generally, it's gonna be starting around 200 millimeters, although there's reasons for shots at all different focal links. And so 200 millimeter lens is a nice basic place to start if you could get reasonably good access to your subjects or if your subjects are a little bit further away. But there are larger type subjects. Favorite of photographers is the 300 it's not so much that the 300 is the Perfect Focal Inc. But it's where you can get a lens that is an F 2.8 aperture that is easily handheld, that you can move and get yourself into different positions. So, for instance, here I was laying down belly down on the track or just off the track so I could get to get the camera very low and having a lens that I could relatively move around very easily helped me get that shot 300 to 8. You can notice the soft background with shallow depth of field. The 2.8 aperture was critical because this was night racing at the velodrome. And so my I s o is up very high and I am needing that 2.8 aperture so love using that 302.8 cause look at how soft it makes that background 300 to 8 does a really good job. I showed you a photograph earlier. Very similar to this at a 200 millimeter. But that was with an F four. So if you're Kate, in case you're wondering how much difference is there between the 203 100 in F four and F 28 lens. So we have gone 100 millimeters longer and we've lowered the aperture by one and look at how much it's changed that out of focus background. So there is a big difference between the autofocus area, and if you said I really want this, this is going to cost you about $ to get that extra focal length and that extra shallow depth of field for those big field sports. The 400 is nice because you can get a 402.8. It exists. It's a lot of money, and that's what a lot of the football soccer photographers air using. If you're shooting a little bit bigger event in a car, you could be a little bit further away with that 400. Also, a 600 would work really well in these situations. A swell. So 600 millimeter lenses really need big open fields getting away from your subjects. In this case, I love shooting with the 600 because you get so much time. I should a lot across country, obviously, and you'll see the runner and you can start shooting and shooting, take a little break, have some snack. Keep shooting there in that subject zone for so long, you get so many opportunities of getting nice little moments within that little for timeframe. Some sports really require very long lenses because they're very far away from where you can shoot out in the water, just can't get any closer than that. And sometimes I want to shoot with a really long lens, even though I don't need to to get that compression effect in order to get this. I'm about 1/4 mile away from these runners with an 800 millimeter lens, and that's to get that compression to show all those runners all stacked up on each other so you can get sports shots from all different focal ings. But it's usually going to be dead dictated by the arena that you're working in. So you want to be a pro and you want to shoot sports. It depends on what sport you're shooting as to what lenses you're going to need. But somewhere between the 200 F to 400 to 8 300 to 8 and the 600 F four, and you might want to buy two or three of these just so that you have your bases covered with different needs. I know the Seahawk photographer in town. He usually shoots with the 400 to a, but then he'll have an assistant with the 600 possibly a 300 as long with having a 72 200 along with him as well. All right, so we're in the $18,000 price range. That's a bit much for a lot of people. How about a mid level? Maybe your kids air in high school sports? Probably the best thing you can do is a 72 200. This is a very expensive lens, but 2000 bucks or plus, but that's mid level when it comes to the sporting world. And that would be a very useful lens in a lot of situations, to hundreds, a little bit short for a lot of sports. But if you can get close to your subjects, it can work out pretty well. They do have the non I s model, which would be a very good choice for people who want to save a bit of money, cause that's about half the price. As the image stabilized model and in the sports aspect alone, the stabilization is not doing you any good or very little good. The 7200 F four is a very practical lightweight lands for subjects that you're a little bit closer. Maybe indoor sports, maybe like wrestling or swimming or gymnastics with 1 35 F two is one of those rare cases where you can get down to an F two lens, the 200 to 8. It's gonna be like these guys up here, but smaller and lighter in size. And then if you're working out in the bigger field like a soccer lands, football from the 300 F four is gonna be one of the more affordable ways to get out a fairly long reach with a reasonable aperture. And the problem here is is that in many cases you're wanting a longer folk away. But as you get into the longer focal links, the apertures get slower and slower. And so there's a balance between. Well, should I get a 200 to 200 to eight or a 304? And it depends on what is most practical for what you plan to shoot most of the time. All right, so what about in the basic price range? What are we gonna have in here? You're gonna have your standard consumer 72 300 type zoom lenses, and these aren't great. They are acceptable there decent. They don't have this fast to focusing. They don't have us faster aperture, and so it's very challenging to get good photos with them. But you can if you learn your equipment and practice with them. The 72 200 F four is probably the best buy that you could get because it's the non stabilized model. It's an L lens for well under $1000. The 200 to 8, for some reason, is a very affordable lens. And if is enough to reach your subject, you do get that professional F 2.8 aperture on there, which allows you to shoot under fairly low light conditions. And so it depends on your budget. It depends on what you're shooting, but these air different lenses that could all work very well, depending on what your requirements are.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

What's in the Frame? HD
What's in the Frame? LOW
Field of View HD
Field of View LOW
Lens Keynote Parts 1-4
Lens Keynote Parts 5-8
Canon® Lens Data

Ratings and Reviews


I so appreciate what a good teacher John is. I wish I would have known this much about lenses when I first started out buying my lenses. It was hard finding information about lenses. I didn't want to spend money on a lens I wouldn't use. The better understanding we have about our gear the better photographers we will be. I have never seen a class like this. Invaluable...yes I bought the class! I am really impressed with the high quality photography classes available on Creative Live!


This was a great class not just about the lenses that Canon offers but also how each lens works. As usual, John's slides are alway informative and entertaining. There is a phrase: John has a slide for that! I am not even a Canon user and found this class to have great information for the use of each specific lens. Great work John! Thank you Creative Live for another great class!

Tami Miller

Have loved the other John Greengo classes I've watched & purchased - and this is another winner! Having been a high school/college science teacher, it is refreshing to take a course with someone who not only is extremely experienced, seems to be a computer having stored so much knowledge, but is equally concerned about making the information truly understandable to different levels. And he shares the information using every tool he can: slides, video, interactive presentations, and great quizzes. I learned so much about my Canon lenses - and lenses in general with their many components. I am excited about testing each of mine to see what macro ratio they handle, and especially appreciated the tutorial on testing each for their specific quirk that affects super sharpness. This class is great whether you own Canon lenses or not. Thanks John Greengo!

Student Work