DSLR setups for the sports enthusiast
Is that a super telephoto lens in your hand, or are you just pleased to be taking sports photos?
By Sebastian Anthony on January 22, 2011
First, the bad news: Sports photography requires the best camera and the best lenses. Put simply, if you skimp or cut corners with sports photography gear, your photos will come out blurred and lacking detail. Sports photography needs the best gear, which is going to cost a lot of money—at least $2,000, and maybe as much as $7,000 if you're serious about it.
For sports photography, you are looking for two key features in a camera: a high frames per second (FPS) rate, and an incredibly high-quality image sensor. For the most part, sports photography isn't about carefully framing a photo and tentatively pressing the trigger; it's more about pointing in roughly the right direction and holding the trigger down to take lots of photos—then you pick the best one. A high-quality image sensor means there'll be a minimum of noise in the photos, and it will let you crop and rotate images without losing too much detail.
For the true enthusiast or professional, the only camera that fulfills both of these criteria is the Canon 1D Mark IV. At over $4,000, though, it's not cheap, so you may want to consider the Canon 7D instead—it's about half the price and still exceptionally good.
The right lens
If you thought the camera body was expensive, you may want to loosen your clothing and get a glass of water—a high-quality lens that does your DSLR justice will cost even more. You are looking for a super-telephoto lens with a focal length over 200mm, but if you're going to be taking photos of action that's really far away—the other end of a football field, for example—you should consider getting a 400mm or 500mm lens.
For all-around sports photography, the Canon 300mm f/2.8L is a great choice. If you want to shoot farther away, the 400mm f/2.8L is also excellent. If you want a little more flexibility or if you want to shoot close-up sports like tennis, the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L is fantastic.
As you've no doubt noticed, there's almost no limit to the amount you can spend on lenses—and in general, it really is worth spending as much money as possible on lenses. If you can't afford the lenses listed above, check out the cheaper Canon 300mm f/4.0L and 400mm f/5.6L lenses.
By now you've re-mortgaged your house to buy a camera and lens, and you're praying there's nothing else you need to buy—well, good news! All you need is a tripod or monopod and a few spare batteries.
Grab a decent Manfrotto tripod or monopod, and just make sure you add 1 or 2 extra batteries to your basket when you buy your DSLR camera body. Bear in mind, too, that if you're going to be doing a lot of running up and down the sidelines, a big and heavy tripod is probably not a wise choice!