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Autofocus lens for sports

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by mbbinvt, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. mbbinvt

    mbbinvt Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 28, 2012
    Hi all,
    I'm looking to use my EM-5 for sports photography so I don't have to bring my heavy Nikon kit with me to my son's games. Is there a native lens that is fast enough focusing and fairly lightweight? If I can find one, then I think the D7000 and the rest of my Nikon gears heads to eBay!
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
  2. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Can you give some estimation of what focal length you're looking for and what conditions (lighting) you're shooting in? Most of the telephotos focus quickly in S-AF mode. They vary widely in reach and light-gathering capabilities.
  3. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    X2 - also budget.
  4. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The only long lenses for m4/3 are the Panasonic 100-300mm and the Olympus 75-300mm. The Panasonic is a bit faster and from what I have read sharper. If 200mm is long enough Panasonic has the 45-200mm. I have found that on my E-PLs that the 45-200mm has trouble AF at the long end{151-200mm} in lower light situations.
    One of the biggest needs in m4/3 right now is a good tele!
  5. strang

    strang Mu-43 Veteran

    May 7, 2012
    What kind of sport and how close can you get to the field?
  6. CUB

    CUB Guest

    As with any m4/3 body, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is fundamentally unsuitable for sports photography. What you need is a camera body which offers excellent AF with moving subjects. At this time, no m4/3 body offers that because all are limited to contract detect AF which does not work at all well with moving subjects.

    Phase detect AF is what you need. All DSLRs offer phase detect AF. You should retain your Nikon gear until one becomes available.

    Alternatively, you might want to consider the Nikon 1 system whose camera bodies offer phase detect AF on the sensor. The performance of the AF system with moving subjects is excellent in good light. In poor light, the system switches to contrast detect AF which, as with all m4/3 bodies, does not work well with moving subjects.
  7. strang

    strang Mu-43 Veteran

    May 7, 2012
    It is true PDAF is just easier for sports. I wholesomely agree.

    You can probably find a Nikon D3100 and a 55-200 VR for around $600 new. Why don't you just try to find a lighter Nikon telephoto zoom?
  8. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    I think there are a lot of incomplete answers here.

    Saying the x - 300mm lenses are the only "long" lenses in m43 isn't really true. Most people would consider 300 - 400mm lenses on FF cameras to be "long," so the 45-200, 40-150, 45-150 and 45-175 should qualify on m4/3.

    Depending on the sport, even the 35-100 would qualify. I never shot anything longer than 200 for basketball, for example, and usually a lot shorter.

    As for CDAF bodies not being suitable for sports, once again, it depends. As long as the action is parallel to the camera, the demands on AF are fairly minimal. If you can shoot from the sidelines, and pan with the action, the OM-D, GH2 and G5 will do fine (as will, I'm sure, the new Pens). Same thing with motorsports. Baseball has a lot of action that doesn't involve the subject moving towards you. The batter at home plate, a pick-off at first, or a play at any base, for example.

    And you can't simply refer to "PDAF" as if every DSLR is created equal. Some cameras are much, much better, some not so much. A Canon 7D, or 1D, a Nikon D4, D700 or D7000, as examples, have very good predictive AF. Most entry level DSLRs, in reality, aren't that great. The D800 doesn't seem to be that good, nor are 5d bodies before the MkIII.

    The better PDAF bodies are certainly better (but hardly infallible) for tracking action and predictive AF, but that's not the only kind of action that exists.
    • Like Like x 3
  9. mbbinvt

    mbbinvt Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 28, 2012
    Thanks for all the replies so far. Sorry I didn't clarify my intended use. I want to use this lens for photographing soccer and maybe baseball. I'm thinking I would want at least 300mm (35mm equivalent) on the long end of any zoom. And since these are outdoor sports, the lens wouldn't have to be super fast. I probably would go for cheaper and lighter over an expensive fast lens. Does that help?
  10. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    In that case the longer kit zooms would fit the bill as a 300mm equivalent would be a 150mm on m4/3. I would say the best would be the Panasonic 45-200mm as it would give just a little bit more if needed and if you don't it is a tiny bit faster at 150mm. These are the reasons why I picked one up. It is however almost as big and heavy as a Nikkor 55-200mm.
  11. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    As mentioned above, the PDAF vs CDAF argument is not so cut and dry. While I can't argue with the AFC performance on m43, the AFS performance is so fast as to make it not matter. I'm quite certain if I can focus on jets at 600+ MPH, it can keep pace with your kid.

    The 45-200 is one of the better IS and faster focusing lenses currently, and is quite reasonably priced. It does tend to be a touch soft at the long end though.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    There are no long/fast lenses available for µ4/3 which are equal to the standard FF/APS-H/APS-C sports lenses. The most common dSLR lenses used for sports being 70-200 f/2.8, 200mm f/2.8, 300 f/2.8 and the big time, uber-expensive 400mm, 500mm and 600mm (used mainly by pros).

    I've shoot some youth soccer with the OM-D and found the Olympus significantly lacking in the CAF and EVF refresh rate departments. I ended up shooting in SAF mode and continuously pumping the focus button. My old FF's with PDAF will shoot rings around the OM-D as the Olympus CAF just does not work and this problem is multiplied by an EVF refresh rate which does not keep up with the FPS.

    Shooting action with an OM-D can be done to a reasonable level of satisfactory/acceptable images. But, it is a lot harder with less keepers than shooting with a dSLR.

    I shoot sports with the P100-300 and the P45-200. If you're careful, armed with good anticipation and timing, you'll get the first shot ... after than you're on your own.

    E-M5    ---    100mm    f/4.0    1/1500s    ISO 400

    OM-D w/ P100-300 @ 100mm, 1/1500, f/4, ISO 400

    E-M5    ---    223mm    f/5.1    1/2000s    ISO 400

    OM-D w/ P100-300 @ 223mm, 1/2000, f/5.1, ISO 400

    E-M5    ---    200mm    f/5.6    1/3000s    ISO 400

    OM-D w/ P45-200 @ 200mm, 1/2000, f/4.5, ISO 400

    E-M5    ---    100mm    f/5.6    1/2000s    ISO 400

    OM-D w/ P100-300 @ 100mm, 1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 400

    Good Luck and Good Shooting,

    PS- I now have the the O75mm which would be great for most sports, but you'll want two cameras when shooting with primes.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. North20

    North20 Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 18, 2012
    East of the Cascades, PNW
    ^^^ Those are really nice. #2 in particular stands out for me because of the joy and pride shining out of that smile of hers. Great shot :smile:
  14. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011

  15. Ropes4u

    Ropes4u Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 24, 2012
    Couldn't agree more, fantastic shot!
  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Thanks, but remember my point is while one can shoot action (and five year olds ain't all that much action) with the OM-D, a dSLR is nearly twice as good (at least for me, as I would have twice the keeper rate with less effort).

  17. CUB

    CUB Guest

    Only if you define "incomplete" as people not agreeing completely with your highly individual point of view.

    Sadly, you seem here to be trying to master both the techniques of 'incomplete answers' and 'damning with faint praise'. It might be better to try one at a time. :rolleyes: 

    Having shot sports for money from 1973 using manual focus, early AF systems with in-body motors and later with in-lens motors, I believe I am well suited to explain from experience how the various systems work and what their weaknesses are. I emphasise shooting for money and from experience because I didn't get paid for out of focus shots.

    Even the worst phase detect AF system will likely perform better than the very best contrast detect AF system when it comes to focus tracking and continuous AF.

    Contrast detect AF has its strengths, particularly its pinpoint accuracy that has not a trace of the front- or back-focusing issues that plague many modern DSLRs. The latest CDAF systems are also incredibly fast at focusing subjects that don't move. But moving subjects easily defeat CDAF. The problem is that the system doesn't know which way to go when a subject is OOF. By the time it chose "further" when it should have been "nearer" for an approaching subject, you have lost the opportunity to get a sharp shot.

    PDAF doesn't suffer from this because it always knows which way to go and, with the right CPUs in camera and lens, can track moving subjects accurately. You don't have a hope of doing this with CDAF. Suggesting that a photographer should confine themselves to shooting only those subjects that remain co-operatively at the same distance from the camera is risible.

    I strongly suggest you should read Gary Ayala's reply in this thread (posting #12). Why? Probably because Gary and I have both shot sport for money, when every out of focus shot hits your ability to pay your mortgage and feed, clothe and educate your kids. It is hardly surprising that we have drawn similar conclusions.
    • Like Like x 2
  18. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    It does matter and it matter a lot. A jet half a mile away at 600mph traveling in a straight line is fish in a barrel compared to a soccer player, running, stopping, cutting left, slowing down, speeding up at 10 yards away. What difference does it make if one captures a jet ... say now, or a fraction of a second latter (typically not much)? In sports photography a fraction of a second is the difference between having a great photo and meh.

    A non-working CAF in sports means you have to wait until the peak of action to get "The Shot". It is very easy to miss that "peak", which is why CAF and a high FPS is so important ... when a fraction of a second makes a significant difference between a keeper and meh, CAF and a high FPS become significant features. Combined, CAF and high FPS gives the shooter room to fudge, with CAF and high FPS, amidst all the meh is the shot you want.

    (Some dSLR images)
    Canon EOS 5D    ---    300mm    f/4.0    1/1000s    ISO 1600

    Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II    ---    300mm    f/5.0    1/1000s    ISO 800

    Canon EOS 5D    ---    200mm    f/2.8    1/750s    ISO 160

    Canon EOS 20D    ---    266mm    f/5.6    1/1500s    ISO 1600

    • Like Like x 2
  19. I use EM5 with 100-300mm. Often using a sunpak setup comprised of better beamer + sunpak TR-PAK modified for more capacity + 422D flash. I push the shutter past max xsync to about 1/320 or 1/400 and crop the top part of the frame. The flash is capable of keeping up with 7-9 fps depending on my charge. In my case, I find tracking AF and continuous AF insufficient. I usually leave it in S-AF and pump the focus. I use the touch screen to move move the focus point quickly from center of frame.

    * AF is definitely no where close to being as effective as my Canon 1DmarkII. I'm happy with the EM5 in most situations that I shoot. Sports photography is now the least of my interests (just shooting my son's soccer game). Acquiring focus is rather fast on the OMD EM5, the issue is tracking the subject.

    * Lack of fast telephoto native primes is also another problem.

    If sports is really your focus, I would recommend a traditional DSLR with fast telephotos rather than micro 4/3. I have no doubt that it will catch up.. but just not yet.
  20. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    You guys seem to be missing one key element out of the Original Post. The poster is looking to shoot his/her's (forgive me if I'm wrong, but I will use "he" for the rest of this post) "son's games". That means that it is probably being held in a gymnasium or field, not in a massive stadium or coliseum unless his son happens to be a professional athlete.

    Without seeing the exact layout of these games, just knowing the standard layout of most amateur level games of various sports, chances are that one of the best lens for the OP's purpose is most likely the m.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8. Yes, many sports photographers use the great 300mm f/2.8, maybe even a fast 400mm or 500mm... to shoot professional games in the setting of a large professional production. Those lenses are inappropriate for a gymnasium or a bunch of bleachers set up beside a field. Telling us "what professional sports photographers use" is completely dodging the question and answering nothing.

    If you can't easily shoot your son's game with a setup like the E-M5 and 75mm f/1.8 (or whatever is appropriate for the space you have), then there's something seriously wrong. I bet I could shoot it effortlessly with a lot less. No... looking back at the capabilities of the equipment we used to use... I know I can shoot it with a lot less. All Micro Four-Thirds system cameras have capabilities so far beyond what we imagined not long ago. Telling us that the OM-D is inappropriate because it uses CDAF and that's just not good enough to shoot sports is, well... caveman talk. And counter-productive to answering the OP's question of which AF lens will be best to mount on his E-M5 for this task.

    So back on topic here... To the OP: You say you want to bring your OM-D instead of your Nikon kit to shoot your kids games, and want to know which AF lens would be most appropriate? Give us more details on the setup of where you're shooting. Is it a gym, a field? What kind of game? What kind of lighting, or is it outdoors? Also... what type of shots would you prefer... full-body of the players? Wide view of a whole team and field? We need details before we can make a suggestion.

    I have found lenses in the range of an 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 or similar to be a really nice setup for many different types of amateur games, which is why I suggested the m.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 as the closest native match. Your mileage may vary.
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