I am primarily an amateur photographer but I do take small jobs from time to time. I'm looking to upgrade my equipment but I'm not sure if I should be spending money on my body, glass, or both. I have two common issues that I'd like to improve.
I shoot a lot at ice rinks and find that even in servo mode I get a lot of shots that are slightly out of focus. I try to keep the AF target on face masks but many shots will come out focused an inch or two off (ears, hands, etc). I'm shooting F/1.8-F/2.8 to get action stopping shutter speeds so you can really tell when the focus is even a hair off. I don't know if this is a limitation of my camera, lens, or the human operator.
Most of my paid work is indoors shooting candids where a flash is inappropriate. I feel like I need to use a higher F-number to get more subject in focus but I usually can't do it without upping to ISO 3200 unless I'm using a flash. By the time I clean up the high ISO noise in Camera Raw I end up with an image lacking detail. So far this hasn't been a big problem because the photos are typically used in magazine prints only an inch or two wide but it's still driving me nuts.
Here is the equipment currently in my bag:
- Canon Rebel T2i
- Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II (no IS)
- Collecting dust, came with my old Rebel XTi.
- Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
- Purchased with my T2i. This is my workhorse lens but I'm disappointed with the soft images it produces at higher focal lengths. Stopping down makes the images acceptable but that's not always an option. My eyes want more contrast and color but considering how inexpensive this lens is I can't really complain.
- Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
- This was purchased with an older camera and doesn't get used much anymore. The images are too soft beyond 200mm and the AF seems sluggish.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
- I am extremely happy with the images I get from this lens. I use it indoors all the time and also paired with extension tubes for some macro work. Some of my best ice hockey images have been from this lens even though I didn't have sports in mind for this lens.
My initial plan was to upgrade to a 60D or 7D body but after doing some reading it occurred to me that I might invest in better glass first. I'm unsure of what will help improve focusing, image quality, high ISO shooting, etc. Maybe it's a new camera, new glass, photography lessons, or a little of everything?
I'm looking to keep my next round of purchases under $3,000 and am willing to trade in some of my used equipment to offset costs. Would anyone care to make a recommendation? I'm looking at the EOS 60D and 7D bodies. Not sure if the 7D is overkill for my needs. I'm also looking at the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens to be my new workhorse but I'm concerned that it may not be wide enough on an APS-C body and the lack of IS might be an issue. There's also the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM but I'm thinking it wouldn't be wise to spend all my budget on that lens right now (or maybe not?).
Thanks so much everyone for all of the insight. I think the first thing I'm going to do is look at the 7D body and EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens. If that lens is a step up from my 18-135 then that should keep me happy for a while. If the lens doesn't meet my expectations I think an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM might be a good alternative. Either way I can keep things under budget. I was trying to not buy another EF-S lens but I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not a professional!
Amateur hockey season won't start back up for a while so after this purchase I will sell off a few items and save up for the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. Based on the reviews this thing looks like the real deal and even though it's a bit pricey it should service me well for at least a decade even if I should move to a FF body. I may also go with a 100mm or 135mm prime at a fraction of the cost. I already shoot at the rink without a zoom lens, why start now, right??? Saving the $2500 will probably make the wife happier too. :)
What I Ended Up Doing
I ended up buying a Canon 7D and a 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. A huge upgrade indeed and I'm very happy with my purchase. I plan to invest in a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II in a couple years to complete my range of needs. I now have a mint condition T2i to sell. :) Thanks again everyone!