The “Three Large”

The AF-Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF, on my Nikon/Kodak 720x, an excellent combination for night sports.
The AF-Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF, on my Nikon/Kodak 720x, an excellent combination for night sports.

As I write this, football season is upon me, and I am going through my usual internal debate: should I shoot football with the 80-200mm f/2.8, or should I break out the 300mm f/2.8, which my photographer friends and I refer to as the “three large.” I am satisfied with the results I get with the 80-200mm, but the 300mm is, quite frankly, the cheese. The results I get with it are nothing short of phenomenal. It’s sharp wide open, has excellent bokeh, and on the football field allows me to get super tight into the action.

The question, then, is, “Why do I have this debate with myself?” Well, I have this to consider:

  1. This lens is my own, not the company’s. If it wears out or breaks, or if it is flattened by a tight end, my investment is lost.
  2. It is big and heavy, requiring a monopod.
  3. It’s not as versatile as the zoom, because it’s not a zoom.

On the other hand…

  1. The results are stupendous.
  2. I can work from a greater distance from the line of scrimmage.
  3. I get a better angle on average plays.
  4. I look like an absolute stud when I use it.

Back in the film days, 300mm was about the minimum focal length for football. 180mm or 200mm required you to be right on top of the action, and hope it came toward you, then hope you got out of the way before it found you. With the smaller sensor size of digital, you could fill up the frame of a football play with a 180mm or 80-200mm zoom from a safer 15-20 yards. The 300mm was all bonus, allowing you to shoot from 30 yards back, and fill the frame with action in the middle of the field.

I go around and around about this. The bottom line is that it is such a pleasure to shoot with this big hunk of glass, I’ll use it, at least if it’s not raining.

A nice, tight piece of action from last night's football game in Ada. I only broke out the 300mm after I felt certain the threat of rain had passed.
A nice, tight piece of action from last night's football game in Ada. I only broke out the 300mm after I felt certain the threat of rain had passed.
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