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I have a Canon T7i. I was told either the canon 55-250 STM or the 70-300 IS II USM would be good to shoot high school wrestling. I am still confused,there’s a bit of a price difference. Which would be better and why?

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I am on the floor. I am really really new to this

Then I highly recommend taking a few days before the match to get to know your camera in low-light action environments. Most living rooms with the blinds closed and a moving subject (get a friend or child to help) should simulate the environment well enough for you to practice. If you can actually get access to the gym before the match, that's even better practice.

I highly recommend that you get comfy with your camera's autofocus system.

Learn how to switch autofocus points on the fly: Compose, focus, and shoot can be difficult to do during your first go at sports. If this proves too hard - then just use the center autofocus point and leave yourself room to crop a better composition after the shot.

Practice using AI Servo mode: Your subject will be moving, best get used to the mode that let's the autofocus keep moving as well.

Practice using Back-Button Focus: Google this topic and you'll find many videos and articles on the benefits of using this, how to use it, and how to set your camera for it. Be warned though, it takes some getting used to - this is not something to set right before shooting the match. Practice, practice, practice!

I was told either the canon 55-250 STM or the 70-300 IS II USM would be good to shoot high school wrestling

I disagree with whoever told you this. High School gyms are dim! Both of these lenses are f/4-5.6 lenses, which means that the maximum aperture is probably f/4.8 around the ~100mm mark (where you'll probably be shooting).

With dimly lit gyms, you need all the help you can get! I would advise any lens with a max aperture of f/2.8 or larger! These include:

  • The 70-200 f/2.8
  • The 135 f/2L
  • The 100 f/2
  • The 85 f/1.8

However, if you are not used to working with primes, then this event will be like trial by fire - not something I'd normally recommend. This leaves you with one option, really:

  • The 70-200 f/2.8

What you'll find is that this lens is highly regarded and is a staple in the sports photographer's kit. However, it's pricey. For this reason, I'd highly recommend that you rent it instead of buying it!


Side note: there's little point in sinking a lot of money into any gear when you are just starting out. There are so many lens options out there that is can be a very intimidating to spend your money and commit to one. So, rent them! Only after you've found that you really like the size, weight, focal range, aperture range, and image quality of the lens should you explore buying it!

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    Also I suggest adding the issue of inconsistent color and/or brightness due to AC mains flicker when shooting indoors (esp. high school gyms). Related Photo.SE questions: Do fluorescent lighting and shutter speed create a problem with color cast?, What causes these inconsistent dark bands in some of my photos from an indoor event?, – scottbb Oct 17 '18 at 21:04
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    @scottbb The Canon EOS Rebel T7i/750D has Canon's 'flicker reduction' option that times the shutter release at the peak of flickering lights' cycle. It works surprisingly well to eliminate color/brightness variations between frames. – Michael C Oct 17 '18 at 21:25
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    Don't forget third party lens options. The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, for example, compares very well to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II (and "III"). – Michael C Oct 17 '18 at 21:32
  • @MichaelClark re: T7i flicker reduction: that's really interesting. I remember reading your linked answer before, but I have forgotten about the flicker reduction point. – scottbb Oct 17 '18 at 21:44
  • Which of the 3 available versions of EF 70-200mm f/2.8L did you mean to recommend? Even the non-IS version costs 2.5x more than the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM. That's a lot of expense to gain one aperture stop considering that the T7i has sufficiently good low-light performance that you could make up the 1-stop difference with ISO. – Caleb Oct 18 '18 at 4:48
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Let's start with the specifics about the two lenses you mention, then move to the broader picture of shooting indoor sports (or outdoor sports under artificial lights at night).

I am still confused, there’s a bit of a price difference.

When shooting with an APS-C crop body, both of these lenses are very similar in terms of optical image quality at the same focal lengths and apertures. The 70-300mm obviously has a longer reach on the telephoto end, while the 55-250mm can zoom out wider.

The main difference that affects the price is that the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 is a "crop" lens that projects a smaller image circle that can only be used on APS-C crop body EOS camera. The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 projects an image circle that is large enough to cover a larger "full frame" sensor. The slightly longer focal length and larger image circle adds size, weight, and cost to the 70-300mm compared to the 55-250mm.

When using either lens on an APS-C body such as your EOS Rebel T7i/750D, the difference between EF-S and EF lenses only matters in terms of size, weight, and cost. If you only need to use the lens you're considering on an APS-C body, then the EF-S 55-250mm will do pretty much the same job cheaper than the EF 70-300 while also being quite a bit lighter.

Which would be better and why?

Neither. At maximum apertures of f/4 on the wide end to f/5.6 on the telephoto end both are too slow to freeze motion shooting sports in pretty much every single high school gym I've ever shot in.

Unless you are willing to only come away with non-blurry shots when both wrestlers are absolutely still, you need a wider aperture than f/4 at the wide end and f/5.6 at full telephoto to get anything you'd probably be happy with.

The types of lenses that are best for using inside gymnasiums with typical high school lighting are f/2.8 zoom lenses or even faster prime lenses (lenses with only a single focal length that do not zoom).

Depending on what distance(s) you are shooting from, the following types of lenses should do well:

  • 85mm f/1.8
  • 100mm f/2
  • 135mm f/2
  • 70-200mm f/2.8
  • 24-70mm f/2.8

If you can get close enough, even a 50mm f/1.8 or 17-50/55mm f/2.8 can be used on a crop body in a pinch. Both are fairly budget friendly options.

In addition to lenses from Canon, you might also consider similar third party lenses. For example, the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 compares very well to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L Is II (and new "III") for several hundred dollars less.

Related questions:

What Canon lens would be good for shooting high school/college sports?
Are there any cheap, fast lenses capable of highschool sports photography?
Upgrade path for indoor sports photography from 7D + Samyang 85mm f/1.4 MF lens

Beyond lens selection, here are a few other questions you might find helpful about shooting indoor or night sports under artificial lighting:

Lots of noise in my hockey pictures. What am I doing wrong?
Canon Camera Settings for Ice Hockey
Recommended shutter speed for action sports?
Why are my football action shots blurry?
Dealing with exposure time during sports photography
How to photograph low light indoor sport?
Lighting variances on sport mode
When should I upgrade my camera body? (the case study at the end of the accepted answer discusses Canon's 'flicker reduction' feature that your EOS Rebel T7i includes)
the best way to improve image sharpness on Canon 700D

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Since you state that you are "really really new to this", it's likely that even if you happened to pick the "right" lens, you don't necessarily know enough about the sport or your equipment to know what to do with it.

You should start by learning more about the sport and the limits of your current equipment. Get permission to photograph the wrestlers during practice sessions. You'll get to know the team, there will be less pressure to deliver "great" photos, and you'll likely get some shots you wouldn't expect to be able to get during a competition.

Feel free to experiment, and don't expect too much from the practice sessions. As you become familiar with the sport and the limits of your equipment, the upgrade path you should take will become clearer to you.

  • Since the OP does not mention any other existing lenses, perhaps it is safe to assume the only lens is an 18-55mm kit lens that came with the camera? Trying to shoot high school wrestling with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 might be enough to make many quit sports/action photography altogether. – Michael C Oct 17 '18 at 23:32
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Everyone might prefer something different. Only experience will tell. For example, I must have a zoom for sports, since I often zoom while focusing and taking pictures. I think that a 55-250 stm would be more useful, because you usually don't need 300mm of focal zoom for wrestling

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