It's been a few years since I've really had to shoot a big event, but next month, I do need some neat gear. Lensrentals.com (they are having a 10% discount if you order for the summer) has been a great site for getting things like sport telephotos
Shooting Canon (and Sony too) is something of a trick, but you can actually get a complete Canon setup for long range outdoor shooting which looks like:
- Canon 5DS R. 50MP and super fine detail. Many sports need speed, but the nice thing about outdoor sports like sailing is the light is good but the dinghies are far, far, far away.
- Canon 400MM F2.8L IS II. This is a monster $10K Lense that you can rent for $400 a week, which is a great way to try things and get some wonderful shots.
- Canon 600MM F4L IS II. This is another monster that is even longer and gives you in effect 20x zoom. Moreover, with 50MP and an effective 38MP resolution, you can zoom in and still get a great shot with effective 40x.
- Canon Teleconverter. Assuming that it is really bright, a 1.4x teleconverter will make your 600MM, an 800MM although you need lots of light. It's not a bad choice.
- Wemberly Sidekick. Assuming you already have a sturdy tripod (Gitzo!) and a great ballhead (Q20), then you need the Sidekick to convert it to a smooth gimbal. The 400MM also needs a 6 inch Arca-Swiss plate to mount it.
One of the nice things about this setup is that if you already have some Canon lenses you can shoot short as well. Also, if you want to see how well Sony A7R II does, then you can just get a Metabones converter. These things sometimes work well and sometimes don't, but then this let's you have a short range. body:
- Sony A7R II. The model III is about to be announced but this is still an incredible 40MP camera.
- Sony 85MM GM. This is the grand master 85MM for portraits. Can't wait to try this one.
- Sony 55MM F/1.8. This is a general purpose lense and super sharp.
- Metabones Canon EF to Sony E. This converts the big lenses above.
Finally, for really the best quality, the Nikon setup is in many ways even cooler because the 200M Lense is incredible:
- Nikon D810. 40MP that is at the state of the art still after quite a few years.
- Nikon 200MM F/2 Nikkor. I still dream about how good the shots are from this Lense. The 1.4 teleconverter is a great thing to add. You can even shoot this handheld on a dinghy.
- Nikon 400MM F/2.8. This is still an amazing Lense and goes to 600MM with the teleconverter.
So here are what I remember from previous reviews, then an update as lots has happened since 2015 for DxOMark:
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm F/2G. (Image Resources, DxOMark 44) With a Nikon D810, this thing was kind of a miracle. It was crystal clear with 33p-Mp effective resolution (against a 36Mp sensor according to DxOMark you get in effect 33 megapixel of resolution) and that made a real difference. Even with a 1.4x teleconverter. The main thing is that it isn't quite a long so was great for near shots. The main thing was the light transmission was just awesome.
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm F/2.8G (DxOMark 39) with an even better 33p-MP on the D800E. I haven't tried this, but it could be a very good choice particularly with a 1.4x teleconverter.
- Canon 400mm f2.8L IS II . (Image Resources, DxOMark 38, The Digital Picture) This was a monster of a lense and with a 2x teleconverter, it was a great tool to try to shoot at the Columbia River Gorge where you need to make things 2 miles away look up close and personal. DxOmark says that on a 5D2, it has a 14MP effective (compared with a 20MP sensor). I actually found the sample I had much less sharp than that. You can see the difference in quality by noting that a Canon 5DS (50MP sensor) gets only an effective 29MP with this Lense. Still it has an amazing DxOMark. And with a 1.4x teleconverter you have a 600mm Lense set.
- Canon 300mm F/2.8L IS II. (DxOMark 32) Even paired with a Canon 5DS R, I was surprised how much sharper the 200mm F/2G Nikkor seemed. DxOMark says this is 45MP sharp combination, but with 1.4x teleconverter it felt much softer.
- Canon 600mm F/4L IS. (Image Resources, DxOMark 32, The Digital Picture,). This sounds like a much lower score than the 400mm, but in fact this is all due to the transmission. It is a F/4 Lense, in fact, it is just as sharp as the 400mm, so perfect for shooting really, really long.
The very best resolution according to DxO is still the 200mm and 400mm lenses with the Nikon D810. These are still the best choices for resolution. Canon is just one step behind One interesting thing to try is the Sony A7R II which has a nice Metabones adapter, so you can use it with the Canon. Nikon is harder of course because of its autofocus design.
As a comparison, the older zoom lenses are much less sharp, for instance:
- Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM ($1600 list in 1998) is a 10 year old lense but with a Canon 5DS R (a 50MP sensor), it manages just 14MP effective, so you are losing ? of the bits. This is fundamental optics, as a Canon 5D Mark II with it's 21MP sensor resolves 11MP, so zoom's aren't great, but the older ones get way worse with today's high resolution sensors. The later mark II version is much better resolving 24MP on a 50MP sensor
- Canon 70-200 F/2.8L IS USM. ($2200 list in 2002, DxOMark 29) is another good example, it resolves 18MP from a 50MP Canon 5DS R, but with the Canon 5D Mark II, it resolves 14MP. The newer Mark II version of this lense is DxOMark 32, but resolves 33MP, so nearly 1.5x the resolution.
Then for ordinary shooting we have again quite a spread of lenses against different bodies. It's interesting to see 3 of the top 5 are with the Sony A7R II, so quite different compared with the super telephotos:
- Sigma 85mm mm (DxOMark 48) for Nikon. This art Lense is really the best in the world.
- Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar (DxOMark 48). On the Sony A7R II this gets you to 41MP.
- Carl Zeiss APO Sonnar T* 2/135 (DxOMark 48). This is another portrait Lense that is incredibly sharp on the Canon 5DS R.
- Sony FE 90mm. (DxOMark 47)
- Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 on Nikon D810 (DxOMark 46).
- Carl Zeiss Batis 25mm on Sony A7R II (DxOMark 46).