I'm ripping off ahsanford's question format... consider it praise rather than theft.
I thought I would start with a bit of history. I started off with a Canon XS and a 18-55 and I got a 75-300mm along with it. Without question, I was not happy with the 75-300, but I did learn a few things about shutter speed with shooting at a distance with a long zoom, not to mention having a relative understanding of bokeh at longer focal lengths.
I eventually upgraded to the 55-250, and I know I'm romanticizing how great it was, but it was a good little lens, especially at the price I paid for it.
I had a 70-200mm f/4L usm for a while and I didn't hate it... but I didn't think it was really that much better than the 55-250 (which I had sold quite a while before). I REALLY didn't like it in low light, but I guess that is expected. Outdoors it was good, but still never blown away like I had been with my primes (50mm f/1.8 and eventually f/1.4, 100mm f/2.8L IS macro, etc.)
So I waited a while and I got a 70-200mm f/2.8L USM... and I liked it more, but according to everyone here, it was a touch backfocused and my 60D as many of us know doesn't have AFMA... so I sold it because again... I wasn't blown away. But I did like that a whole heck of a lot more than the 70-200mm f/4L usm.
I would like a 135mm f/2L but it isn't an emergency to get one, but it contributes to my concern that if I get the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS mkii, then I will have too much money in the same focal range (a 100mm f/2.8L IS, a 135mm f/2L, and then the aforementioned 70-200mm).
So I was thinking... is there a good zoom option that has more reach, with reasonable low light capabilites (5.6+ need not apply)...
Auto focus is a must, and image quality is paramount. I find that if my lens doesn't have the capability of producing breathtaking photos, I just ignore it and work with my other lenses that are significantly more impressive.
I prefer canon. I think they tend to have better resale value and so if I don't like a lens, I can always sell it again and either not lose anything, or at least not lose much. I know Sigma makes a very good product depending on the specific lens, so I'm not averse to them... and they also tend to be a good deal cheaper for comparable specs... though maybe the image quality isn't quite as good... (70-200mm f/2.8 OS, I'm pointing the finger at you).
I'm going to be upgrading to a 5D mkiii in a few months and I know I'm going to miss the reach of the crop sensor (though I realize the bokeh is still the same, if not better, and when I crop into the image, the depth of colors will be greater and it will be sharper... so I'm complaining only about perception of a loss of length).
As you guys always ask when someone pipes up about lens selection, here are my shooting needs...
- I am an enthusiast, but I'd like to think I've exceeded the hobbiest moniker. I never been professional, though I think I get a little lucky here and there and come out with pro quality images. And I would like to do a little sports photography on the side, though I realize that is a dependent position and if the kids plays 4 minutes in a game and doesn't do anything... it was basically a huge waste of time.
- Currently happily using a 60d, but I'll be upgrading to a 5dmkiii. I plan on buying the lens after the mkiii, so f/4 for indoors might be manageable though not ideal as I'll kick up the iso.
- I don't do studio, but I will throw the camera up on a tripod and use my 430ex to get the shot I want. Yes, a lone 430ex.
- I used to be a snob about using on camera flash... and I still am, though I'll bounce light happily to get more light into the environment and I enjoy the challenge that brings. I actually created a homemade diffuser that I really thought did a very good job of lighting my subject while not causing them to cast much of a shadow. I was very pleased with that.
- I don't like vignetting... I'll add some in post in LR4, but if I can skip that step, I will.
- I like shooting wide open, or at the very least moving the aperture just a step away from wide open... so I'd prefer a lens that is really sharp nearly all wide open
- I am in really low light, handheld situations all the time. In the last year, I shot football games (3rd grade through 8th), I shot an indoor play my daughter was in in rather dark lighting, I shot indoor baskeball (4th graders), an outdoor track event (photographing people run is crazy boring), and then the normal hodge podge of fatherly duties, like a pumpkin festival, a girl scout fireside jamboree (so very dark and I couldn't get even a hint of AF using my 50mm f/1.4easter egg hunts, trick or treating, etc. My subjects generally are both moving at a full run, or not moving at all.
- High priority needs for this length: I'm a big strong guy, so if the lens weighs 10 lbs... it doesn't matter to me. I really like taking Candids. I shoot often in aperture priority and if it is a bright setting I'll throw iso into 100 and the let the camera adjust shutter speed.
- Medium priority needs for this length: Handheld Low-Light (Concerts), Street, Portraits
- Low priority needs for this length: Landscapes, Handheld low-light (Gymnasium Sports)
- Zero need for this length: Video (I'd shoot with my other lenses first), Macro (already have the 100mm f/2., Wildlife (I'll go out into the woods, but the only thing I saw the few time I went was a squirrel.
- I buy and sell gear at a small profit, and then I put that money into my gear... So I make around $2,000 a year doing so and it feeds my hobby. So after I get the 5dmkiii, I should have $1,000 and I'm willing to spend maybe $2000 on the lens... up to $3000 if there is a miracle lens that is a great value out there. I'll pay more for better gear at this stage.
- Weather sealing is important... and while I don't want to go out into the rain, I might get caught in the rain and I don't want to lament water spots affecting my image quality.
- I'll print things for my wall, but they tend to be no bigger than 11x16... But if I'm actually doing some sports photography, I really want my shots to be print capable. @ a fathead level, if it comes down to that.
What I'm considering...
I'm willing to consider a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS with a 1.4 or a 2.0 tele-converter. With AFMA on the 5kmkiii, I don't have to worry about front or back focused and I know it is a miracle lens... but I have been disappointed with it's smaller brothers... so I just don't want to go back to the well and not like what I'm seeing AGAIN.http://www.amazon.com/Sigma-70-200mm-2-8-Telephoto-Canon/dp/B003HC8V9A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364689577&sr=8-1&keywords=sigma+70-200+2.8
I'm also willing to consider the 70-200mm Sigma. I know it is not quite as good as the Canon, but for $600+ in savings... I might be willing to overlook it. Also... throw on a teleconverter.
It is presumed by many (and absolutely expected by myself) that the EF 50mm F/1.4 USM will finally get a modern refresh like the 24mm, 28mm and 35mm lengths. I own the new 28 and adore it. I hold it in the same regard as my L glass -- it's a joy to use.
I would consider a prime lens if I had two bodies, but switching when the players come closer doesn't seem practical... though I have done something similar when I was trying to compare image quality of a 70-200 to a 100mm. 100mm won.
The Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6L calls to me, but I'm not a big fan of variable apertures, but it does have more reach and it is a good price, but the difference between f/2.8 and f/5.6 means only two additional stops of iso, but that's what gives me reason for concern.
There's also the 100-400mm by canon, but ditto on the variable aperture, f/4.5 to 5.6L. Also, I don't like the the pump action lens. If I recall, it lets in way too much dust.
Sigma has a 120-400 and a 150-500 that sound really interesting, but their apertures are f/4.5-5.6 and f/5-6.3 respectively. I really don't think I would be able to use indoors, kicking up the iso will help, but I'm not sure it will be adequate.
If I were to go with a prime, I kinda like the 300mm f/4L. I don't have too much to say about it, because I really don't want to carry on 200mm prime, one 300mm prime, and one 400mm prime. Both are very well rated on Amazon, 4.5+ stars each, but it doesn't mean that it is right for me.
My mind is really not made up right now, so I'm willing to hear suggestions based on either personal experience or otherwise.