Testing Out New Gear! / by Josh Trudell

(Warning – lens nerdery ahead).

I’ve been itching to get some new lenses (at least, new-to-me lenses) for quite a while. I’ve been making do with renting gear for photo trips – shout outs to BorrowLenses.com and LensRental.com – and using my Sony 18-250 (3.5-5.6) as a working/walk-around lens.

The upside to renting is getting your hands on some good high-end gear and getting a sense of what it can do. The downside is that eventually you have to return it.

I’ve been very happy with the 18-250, too – it’s tremendously flexible. With that zoom range, It’s the best tourist lens I can think of – you can go anywhere and shoot just about anything with one lens.

The newest piece of equipment - a 300mm f2.8, made by Sigma.

The newest piece of equipment - a 300mm f2.8, made by Sigma.

But as my shooting has progressed, I found myself thinking about how a lens with a wider fstop would benefit me in certain situations – particularly sports. (And after awhile, you get a little lens envy seeing everyone toting around what looks like a 500mm cannon.)

 I’ve been saving for some brand-name Sony glass to go with my A99, but after reading lots of reviews and doing some research, I found that Sigma’s lenses were generally as well regarded. (I don’t have a pilot in the CaNikon Wars – this laserbrain is happy with his Sony, the Y-wing of the camera market.)

Furthermore, eBay offered some tempting bargains. I’ve generally had good luck with eBay in the past. Making sure that my sellers were well-reviewed, I picked out three used Sigma lenses and bought them for less than half the price of a new 300mm f2.8 from Sony.

Interesting note – all three sellers were Japanese, from in and around Tokyo. All three lenses arrived in short order, and I’ve been working them out, testing them for flaws and issues.

So far, I’ve been very pleased. Yesterday, I took the big boy – a 300mm f2.8 - out to a local college baseball game to put it through its paces for the first time.

I’ve found that college sports – especially smaller colleges – are a great way to practice sports photography. You can get closer to the field than you almost ever can at a pro game.

I brought my tripod and set up in the first row of seats behind third base. I didn’t try and move around much – I just wanted to see what I could get from this position, with a good angle of the pitcher.

The first thing I realized was that I am out of practice photographing baseball – the game moved a step faster than I was ready for in the first inning or so. The lens is heavy, too, and swinging it back and forth on the tripod head took some getting used to.

But eventually I got in the flow, and caught a few plays around home plate and second. I was very pleased with the image results – shots at second and home were clear and sharp. I’m looking forward to getting out and shooting some more with it.

More pictures from the game can be seen here.