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Action lens for horse photography

edited January 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum

I'm just starting out with a Nikon D3200, and my subject of interest is action photography with horses (show jumpers, dressage, etc). I'm trying to decide what my next lens purchase should be for these outdoor events. The lighting is not always consistent, so I need something that would be able to shoot in both low and high light settings. Trying to find the best lens that will deliver great/sharp images. Keep in mind, I cannot get physically close to my subjects, so the I will need a lens that works well in a stadium type atmosphere - like a soccer field.

Any thoughts? Any help would be appreciated!


  • edited January 2015
    You didn’t mention your budget, but I’ll list out the list of Nikkor lenses that are at least in my opinion priced relatively reasonably. The list goes from least to most expensive. There’s no real dud among this crowd; they’re all optically fine lenses. Just be aware of the max apertures and focal lengths.

    55-200mm f/4-5.6
    This is a budget telephoto lens. Unless you really value the small size and weight, I would skip this one. Just pay a tiny bit more to get the next lens on this list.

    55-300mm f/4.5-5.6
    Another budget telephoto lens. Pretty much the same as the one above but this goes to 300mm. Just slightly larger and more expensive than the one above, so definitely get this one if you’re on a tight budget. Be aware that you may struggle with this lens in low-light due to the small variable aperture.

    70-200mm f/4
    Prices start to bump up now (along with size and weight). The 70-200mm is a staple of every sports shooter. The constant f/4 helps keep exposure constant and while it’s not the largest of apertures; it’s often sufficient for stadium lights.

    300mm f/4
    This is a telephoto prime with fixed focal length and aperture. Not much else I can say. If you shoot these types of events all the time then consider this one. Otherwise, pass on it because the fixed focal length and size of this lens makes it very impractical for most other situations. If you use this, it’s worth it to use it with a monopod.

    70-200mm f/2.8
    Another 70-200mm lens but this one gets another stop of max aperture. A favorite and dream lens of anyone who shoots sports and events.

    Beyond these lenses in the Nikkor lineup, the prices start to skyrocket. You can also check out third-party glass by Sigma and Tamron.
  • edited January 2015
    I have the 55-300mm mentioned above, and it is nice and sharp. As @ohyeahar says, it can get a bit sluggish in low light owing to its relatively slow aperture. Its autofocus speed is fair, though, and in daylight it does pretty well, especially if you can prefocus in the vicinity of where you expect action to occur. It's at its worst going from very close to far, but if all your action is within a certain range, or if you prefocus in the general range before your horse appears, it will snap to your subject pretty quickly. It's decently sharp at 300mm and gets better as you come down towards 200mm, so I'd definitely recommend this over the 200mm if you can afford it. It also autofocuses a little better as it gets wider. From time to time this lens seems to be discounted, so keep an eye out.

    The faster lens will always have an advantage in focus accuracy and speed. If you can afford it and if the size is not a problem, it will almost certainly do a better job of catching your horses. If it focuses cleanly and gets sharp images you won't miss the extra 100 millimeters that much, since the D3200's pixel density allows a good bit of cropping if you need it.

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