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  1. #1
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    Best Lens for Photographing Mountain Biking

    In an attempt to justify purchasing another lens, I graphed the focal lengths of the 'keeper' photos from a mtb race on Sunday. Photos are here: HRRT Easter Race 2012 Photo Gallery by j_harvey at pbase.com

    With no leaves on the trees and lots of sun, it was bright enough to use my 24-120mm 'slow' lens as opposed to using my 'fast' primes. The 24-120 is too slow when the trees are fully leafed out. I used my 20mm for a while before I switched to the zoom. I think the results might justify the purchase of a fast zoom, say 17-55mm f2.8? Here are the results:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Best Lens for Photographing Mountain Biking-graph-shots-per-focal-length.jpg  


  2. #2
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    Sure, buy that boat anchor 17-55. Who says a camera you take with you on the trails should be lightweight? Heavier is always better, right?

    Or are you talking about just shooting bike races?

    Me, I shoot in the 17-55 range, my go-to lens is either a Sigma 18-50 or my Tamron 17-50, on my D5100. Total weight of around 1000 grams.
    A blind man searches in a dark room for a black hat that isn't there. Dashiell Hammett

  3. #3
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    You might get different numbers if you could go wider, like 12-24, just a thought. Whatever rationale it takes is good though...
    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  4. #4
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    I'm still not sold on the 17-55 or I would have bought that instead of my 20mm. I love to dream. The weight and cost are major detractors. It was a fun exercise to plot the focal lengths. I have a 15-30mm 'slow' lens and did the same exercise. That's how I ended up choosing a 20mm prime (as opposed to 24 or 30mm). The 20 is a great light-weight lens for when I'm riding, hiking, or skiing.

    If anyone in the west (where there aren't as many trees) has done this kind of analysis, I'd love to see how it differs from shooting in the woods.

  5. #5
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    have been having a lot of fun recently with a f/2.8 10mm fisheye lens

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ITMexposures.com View Post
    have been having a lot of fun recently with a f/2.8 10mm fisheye lens
    "Fun" is one way of describing the usage of this fisheye. I had one, I used it exclusively for 360 panos. I did take it out to shoot fall colors once. It was "fun" but I've since sold it.

    Here's my recommendation: a Sigma 18-50 f/2.8-4.5, the most underrated lens I've ever owned. Just $200 new.
    A blind man searches in a dark room for a black hat that isn't there. Dashiell Hammett

  7. #7
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    Did you think about using a flash to fill in their faces, or maybe it's too distracting for them?

    one way to interpret the information, lower rate keepers may indicate where you are missing equipment. i don't know what your % keeper rate was. Looking at your pictures, which ones do you like best. I personally more frontal face shots vs shots of people's sides. From the front I can see where are don't have enough reach in your lens = too much boarder. If it were me, I would be looking at 70-200mm f2.8, and I think most in a photography forums would agree with as this lens for the best basic sports lens for outdoors

    for which 70-200, I would so some more research in the photo forums, maybe duplicate this post over in a popular one.. You need something that has quick focus as your dof will be a lot narrower. I don't think you don't need IS if you use a monopod . sigmas can be had for under a 1k.

    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 II EX DG APO Macro HSM AF Lens for Canon EOS for $749 + FS from Newegg sold by 47th St - Slickdeals.net

    not sure if this will link, but here's example bike photos using the sigma lens
    Flickr: Search Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 EX

  8. #8
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    As an owner of a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 II EX DG APO HSM AF lens, I've been very happy with it. It's the heaviest lens I've ever shot though, so do keep that in mind. EXIF data on your gallery site advises you shoot Nikon DX so...with the weight of your acceptable shots down in the 20's the first lens I would recommend is the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8. I would purchase that right after I win the lottery though, it's not cheap.

    Maybe pursuing the 12-24 as "bsieb" advised earlier would be the next logical step though?

  9. #9
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    Bob13Bob - those are some nice photos.

    I have used a fill flash on occasion and it would have helped here, but I didn't figure out a way to keep the camera handy and semi-protected with a flash on it. I'm prone to tripping and falling when running through the woods to get to the next location before the leaders get there. This happens at least once every race. My 24-120 and my flash diffuser got damaged in a fall at an earlier race (they are still usable). I'm going to get a pouch for my flash so I can keep it handy on my lens belt and that might solve the problem.

  10. #10
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    I pack an 18-200 on my Canon T1i. Sure it's not the most pixel-peeping perfect lens and the purists will roll their eyes, but:

    -- I never miss a shot because I have the wrong lens on at the time
    -- I never have to panic-swap a lens
    -- I never have to open my camera and sensor up to the dusty nightmare of a trail
    -- I don't have to carry the extra weight or use specialty packs to carry additional lenses

    My philosophy is that I'd rather make a great shot than miss a perfect one. I can back out to 18mm for a great wide-angle landscape context shot or a big perspective closeup or zoom to 200mm and catch something from further away across an adjacent ridge-line (or get another kind of landscape-context shot).

    I also use a Nissin Di866 MkII flash - lots of power (GN of 198ft) and the ability to use high-speed-sync and shoot at fast shutter speeds.

    Camera and flash fit nicely in my mid-size Camelbak.

  11. #11
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    Since getting a Tamron 17-50 F2.8, its become my primary lens. I still prefer to shoot from far with a 70-200 IS F2.8 when I want to create bokeh. I always keep a prime 50 F1.8 on standby if I'm in shady areas. The sharpness of the Tamron rivals some of my primes and its worth every penny ($500).

    My experience with Sigma has been hit-or-miss (not consistent) or you get lucky and get a good one.

    (In case it wasn't obvious, I shoot Canon)

    ps. After viewing some of your pictures I noticed a few that were clipped (blown out). You may consider investing in a RadioPopper!!

  12. #12
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    When you say "slow" in reference to the leafed trees, why not increase the ISO to compensate or flash?

  13. #13
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    By increasing the ISO you open yourself to more visual elements and noise. You should always shoot at the lowest possible ISO for the scenario and then adjust everything else accordingly.

    Unfortunately, with something like this and shaded cover you either need to spend good money on a fast lens that will reach the focal lengths you want, have off camera lighting to help things out or have a secondary body that has your "other" range in there.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregnash View Post
    By increasing the ISO you open yourself to more visual elements and noise. You should always shoot at the lowest possible ISO for the scenario and then adjust everything else accordingly.
    While it's true you want to work with the lowest ISO to avoid noise, most modern cameras do quite well at 800-1600 ISO. If you are concerned about noise, you can also clean it up in PS using either the native noise reduction or even something like Noise Ninja.

    In the scenario you describe, your lowest ISO with the aperture and shutter speed you need could easily be higher than 200 (or whatever is the native ISO for your body). And if I don't push ISO, then you don't get shutter speeds consistent with the subject you're shooting.

    As far as adjustment goes, I would not sacrifice shutter speed or aperture for ISO in your scenario. If you were shooting a cross country race, you'd need a high shutter speed (or great panning technique). To get that, ISO and aperture are the two things you have to adjust to make that happen.

    I don't believe faster glass is the only answer for this problem. Ultimately, there is a cost trade-off too. Fast glass ain't cheap

  15. #15
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    dont be afraid to crank the iso to get ddaster shutter speeds.
    get closer and use the faster prime

  16. #16
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    Sometimes it gets so dark that I have to shoot a fast lens, even if I bump the ISO. Here is an example: Schenectady Central Park 3-Hour Race 7-3-11 Photo Gallery by j_harvey at pbase.com.

    It was mid-day but raining and I avoided the areas with heavy leaf cover where it would have been even darker. I shot at ISO 1000 to 1250 and probably should have shot at ISO 1600. I was shooting my 50mm around f1.6. Speeds were between 1/125 and 1/320 - I may have done better to go a little slower step down the aperture a bit. I ditched the flash because it bounced off the rain. I would have done better to have an off-camera flash.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by miatagal96 View Post
    I would have done better to have an off-camera flash.
    This is what I mentioned in post #11.

    If you really enjoy taking photos, then you are wasting your time using a flash without a radiopopper. It really takes it to another level!

    Home - RadioPopper

  18. #18
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    my Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 stays on my 50D for months at a time. it's a great lens in just about every situation. i'm actually trying to sell both the body and lens right now though. with the kind of pics i've been shooting lately i find myself grabbing for a cheap point and shoot much more often than my DSLR. getting into biking has helped to push me a little farther away from the DSLR too since bringing it along requires a bit of dedication and some planning rather than just "grab it and go" as is the case with the P&S.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaveOn View Post
    If you really enjoy taking photos, then you are wasting your time using a flash without a radiopopper. It really takes it to another level!
    Radio triggers really enable you to do a lot more with lighting. Whether it's RP's or Pocket Wizards or even a wired off camera flash, it really helps to get the flash off the camera.

  20. #20
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    I have 50D and i use only 18-55 II for bike shots... It is not the best piece of lens, but i thing something like 17-55 or 15-85 would by gr8 choice...

  21. #21
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    Geting good action shots is not that difficult if you have the right body lens combo. I shoot sports at night with all kinds of lighting obstacles as well as shadow issues such as trail shots with trees all around. The combo I use most is my Nikon D300 and 70-200 2.8" Nikkor lens. Shooting at 1600 iso and being able to keep my shutter speed above 500 will produce an excellent shot and noise is not an issue. If you can shoot RAW instead of Jpeg that will help a lot as well. In Lightroom or CS5 (Photoshop) bringing out the shadows is very easy. I also use prime lenses at Basketball games such as 50mm 1.4 but in a lot of gyms the lighting is awful and tracking the action is not always a slam dunk. Even though they are a very fast lens the autofocus speed and the depth of field being 1.4 - 2.0 creates very little room for error.

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