Why you need fast, quality glass and good focal lengths for sports and wildlife
A telephoto lens or telephoto zoom lens is needed to get closer to the action without actually moving physically closer. This is especially important for wildlife as you don’t want to disturb whatever it is that you are shooting.
For sports, it is not always so important.
Some of the most amazing sports photography I have seen were taken with a wide angle lens. For example, photographers set up their cameras at the base of a jump (at a horse race) or below the hurdles (at an athletics’ event) and fire the cameras remotely as the subject appears over the jump. Pocket Wizards and/or remote/wireless releases come in handy for that.
When choosing a telephoto or zoom telephoto lens, once again, get the best you can afford. Lenses that have a fixed aperture throughout the zoom range are the best, i.e. the aperture does not change as you zoom from 70mm to 200mm. The aperture of a cheaper lens will automatically close from f5.6 to f8 as you zoom…not good.
A wide aperture of around f2.8 coupled with the fixed aspect (i.e. the aperture does not change as you zoom) is the best you can get. It means you can shoot in lower light scenarios and still get great shots without worrying about the slower shutter speeds that a cheaper lens will give.
(I don’t own any cheap zooms to demonstrate this with so you will just have to take my word for it ; )
So, in general, 100mm all the way up to 2000mm (if you can afford it) is good.
Most sports and nature photographers use between 200mm and 600mm with a large aperture of F2.8 to allow for fast shutter speeds to freeze the action but beware, they are pricey!
In this next shot a long telephoto was used. Not only does it get you closer to the action but the wide aperture gives a nice blurred background and a fast shutter speed due to the amount of light coming in through the lens.
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