Rent A Lens For A Sporting Event

The reality is that a high quality lens, combined with a fast camera body, make an extraordinary difference when you’re shooting a sporting event. That’s why you see the pro sports photographers lugging around lenses the size of a fullback’s thigh. Those lenses (and the cameras attached to them) ain’t cheap.

But what do you do if you want to photograph a special sports event? What if you’ve got an opportunity to get down on the field for a pro ball game? Or, you want to get some high quality images from your son or daughter’s big game?

The answer is to rent a lens!

Renting a pro lens, camera body, and other expensive camera equipment suddenly levels the playing field for “weekend warrior” photographers.

Here’s my recommendation: rent one of the following lenses for a weekend and you won’t be dissapointed. You’ll come away with some shots that will make your mouth water. Friends and family will want prints. You’ll have a blast renting a big, fat, pro lens. You’ll be addicted. I guarantee it!

Nikon 300mm f/2.8 or Canon 300mm f/2.8

This lens is fixed at 300mm f/2.8. That’s nice and tight and you’ll be right up where the action is. The shallow depth of field coupled with 300mm means that you’re going to get the subject super sharp and the background nice and blurry – the way you want it. Also, don’t forget, if you don’t have one you’ll also need a monopod, or tripod to hold this monster. The massive lens mounts onto the monopod or tripod, not your camera body!

RENT NOW — Nikon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 or Canon 400mm f/2.8

This 400mm lens is also fixed at f/2.8. Get ready to submit some shots to Sports Illustrated. The shallow depth of field you’ll be able to achieve is crazy. And talk about being up tight and close. Your friends and neighbors will see the shots you produce and be throwing money at you to buy an image of their kid catching a fly ball in the outfield. You may even recoup your lens rental fee!

RENT NOW — Nikon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 or Canon 70-200 f/2.8

Consider the 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens if you’ll be closer to the action and need to zoom in and out. You’re still able to achieve f/2.8 all the way from 70 to 200mm so you’re all set with shooting in low light and that sweet shallow depth of field. The 70-200 is a professional photographer’s workhorse and would make an ideal second lens to carry on your backup camera (ha ha).

RENT NOW — Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 70-200 f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

The very nature of most sporting events means fast-moving action. And the excitement of the moment is often times focused on one or two players in close proximity. For you, as a photographer, this translates to the following:

Frames Per Second - You need to crank out as many frames per second (FPS) as possible. Make sure you’ve got your camera set to burst mode. If you’re going to be serious about this you’ll need a camera body that lets you pull off 8 FPS. You don’t want to miss that critical moment! Here, rent one of these pro bodies and you’ll be firing off more than 8 FPS. And you’ll get “the look” from people. They’ll be thinking, is s/he a pro??

RENT NOW — Nikon D3S from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 1D Mark IV from BorrowLenses

Depth of Field - A shallow depth of field will make your subject pop. Shooting a telephoto lens at a wide aperture (low F-stop) will allow you to keep the subject in tack sharp focus while blurring the background. A long telephoto lens, like a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 will do nicely.

Shutter Speed - While you’re bursting away at 8 FPS you’ll also want to be down to at least 1/1000 of  second to freeze the action. Anything less than 1/1000 of a second and there may be some motion blur.

ISO - The limited light of a gymnasium means you’ll have to turn up the ISO so that you can achieve that 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed you can select. Remember, you want to achieve at least 1/1000 of a second. If you’re inside a gym you’ll need to turn up that ISO.

The Sports Camera Settings

If you’re outside on a relatively sunny day set your ISO to 200. Get your big lens mounted on a monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re in Continuous Shooting (burst) mode. Shutter speed shouldn’t be a factor. Use Aperture Priority mode, select f/2.8, and go crazy.

If you’re inside, or dealing with limited light, set your ISO as necessary, up to 1600. Put the lens on the monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re on burst mode. Still set your aperture to f/2.8. Periodically check to make sure you’re achieving at least 1/1000 of a second.


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The 70-200mm Lens – A Workhorse

Any professional photographer will have a few lenses that are his/her “money makers” – lenses that are used frequently, for a variety of different shooting situations. The 70-200mm lens is one of them – one of the most popular professional lenses in the world. And if the pros rely on it, it may be worth checking out!

The 70-200mm is a great choice for:

Low light sporting events (perhaps an indoor volleyball game); indoor event.

Events (a concert at the park, a wedding, a parade); indoor events; challenging lighting; without flash.

Portraits – Because of the f/2.8 you can get a continuous shallow depth of field at any focal length, which softens the background and makes for a nice portrait. Read my blog post on depth of field if you want to know what that means.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8

How to get your hands on one

Rent one – This is by far and away the easiest, lowest-cost-of-entry method of playing around with this beautiful lens. You can rent one for the better part of the week for less than you would spend on a good dinner for 2 at your favorite local restaurant. So what are you waiting for? Get one for the weekend. You’ll end up with some photos that your friends and family will love.

If you’ve got a Canon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

If you’ve got a Nikon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Buy one – This is a natural, albeit dangerous next step, to renting one. After renting it, you’ll surely fall in love with this lens and beg, borrow, or steal to get one in your camera bag. But you’re going to faint when you see how much these buggers cost. Sigma and Tamron make a comparable 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, so they’re also a good choice, especially if you want to save more than 50%.

Click here to price one. And remember, these are relatively low prices from B&H.

Talk to your local photo store salesperson – Many professional photography stores that sell nice D-SLR cameras and lenses will also have a rental department. And many times they will discount the sale price of your lens by the amount you spent on the rental of the same type of lens. Ask nicely if they’re willing to do that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a win/win arrangement and makes you feel more comfy about the purchase. Also, you’ll be more likely to return to that same store and buy lots more stuff. But beware of the hidden costs of owning a D-SLR.


There’s no arguing that both the Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm and the Canon “L” series 70-200mm lenses are superb and perhaps unrivaled, except by maybe Tamron and Sigma. If you’ve got either a Canon or Nikon D-SLR do yourself a favor and at least rent the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Switch your camera tot aperture priority mode (A) and ensure you’ve got that aperature at f/2.8 most of the time, unless you need more depth of field for something.

Take it to sporting event where you can relatively close – like a volleyball or soccer game; take it to a family gathering where you know you’re going to be taking lots of pictures in challenging lighting situations. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll enjoy the results of what a high quality piece of glass can do for your images.

Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR IF-ED

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

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