Indoor Sports and the E-M1

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by marcr1230, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. marcr1230

    marcr1230 Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 28, 2013
    Ok - last night I tried the E-M1 at an indoor high school track meet.

    My goals were to see in practice how the focusing was in different modes , the image quality at high ISO, and to assess the suitability of lenses
    for this purpose.

    in short here are my conclusions

    Autofocus in poor light with subjects moving quickly toward you - terrible results
    ISO - I was using 5000 to get high enough shutter speeds to stop action - noisy, but usable for web purposes
    Lenses - the 12-40/2.8 doesn't have the reach, or the focus speed, or a wide enough aperture to stop action - I ended up shooting most of the evening with the 75/1.8
    Lag - noticable, but can be dealt with by slightly anticipating your shot
    Lighting - the lighting was horrible, and interestingly at high speed sequences, I got different light casts on successive frames - either the camera is changing WB between frames or the lights flicker
    and cycle rapidly through slightly different color temp.

    All of these shots are using the 75/1.8 , usually at 2.0 and approx 1/1000 sec @ ISO 5000


    C-AF + TR: useless, the tracking loses its grip on the subject in a busy environment
    S-AF: doesn't focus fast enough to lock on a target approaching at speed. using this is Hi speed (8-10 frames/sec) , condemns you to a blurry sequence since it doesn't refocus after each shot
    C-AF: maybe better on sequences, but still can't grab the subject fast enough

    MF: most of my keepers where done old-style, pre-focus on a point, and wait for the runners to cross it.


    S-AF can't keep up - there were many examples - one blurry photo is enough:

    This one looks like the focus point is behind the runner - I tried many different settings and situations, basically AF has a hard time keeping up, whether
    you focus too early and lock in on the wrong target, or on the right target, just can't focus fast enough before the shutter is released:


    Next lap - manual focus:


    Manual Focus again:

    and again:


    No problem stopping the action in high jump (Manual Focus) - although the relative speeds are lower than a race on the track:


    Example of color balance flicker - first shot:


    and second:

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  2. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    I used to shoot a little bit of HS basketball and volleyball in gyms with terrible lighting. At the time I was shooting a Canon non-pro camera (xxD) and found it too had a hard time keeping focus on a fast moving object (or perhaps it was me). Anyway, I think this type of shooting is some of the most challenging, and if I was doing much of this anymore, I'd find a way to get my hands on a used 1D of the newest generation I could afford. But man they are a beast to carry around.

    Oh, and the lights cycling was the thing that got me to shoot RAW. Pretty frustrating. Auto WB was never reliable for me so I if I was shooting RAW plus Jpeg I would do a custom WB, but even that wasn't that great with the lights cycling. Indoor sports is also what motivated me to buy a Canon 85 1.8 as 2.8 often just wasn't fast enough.
  3. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Real Name:
    maybe try a 4/3 tele with the EM1's PDAF and C-AF.

    you could rent one for a couple days to try. or if MF ends up being the way to go, adapting a fast MF lens may work for you.

    I would definitely try using custom WB or even flash if they permit it.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    At those high shutter speeds, under Sodium lamps, the lights change colour as they cycle across the AC sine-wave much like fluorescent lighting...
    There's also often a lack of real colour in certain "bands" which can cause all sorts of havoc during exposure on any kind of sensor that reads out sequentially.

    Either 50Hz or 60Hz depending on where you live. Some of those lights have ballasts that slow down the cycle even more. It's nearly impossible to guarantee consistent colour under lights like that.

    I don't think the E-M1 is really geared up for high-speed photography where the subject is running to or from the camera. It's just not in the same league as a D series or 1-Series camera. But you don't really need a D or 1-Series for a lot of sports photography!
    I used to see all sorts of atypical cameras at acrobatics and sporting events. I specifically remember a whole bunch of Hassy 5XX guys running around doing the gymnastics photography in the late 80s and early 90s at various events I attended and they did fine. Although some of those huge Zeiss Sonnars and teles were by no means "fast operating" lenses!
  5. christofp

    christofp Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 21, 2012
    Last weekend I did some similar shots, indoors too.

    I used my 50-200SWD on the E-M1 to see how good it will work.

    I think I had better light, I used 110-200mm f3.1-f3.5, ISO2500 and 1/500s. White balance was tricky but after some Lightroom adjustments it was quite OK.

    I took some series of 100m races towards me as well as some long jumps towards me or from the side.

    I was very, very pleased by the AF performance at ISO2500. The first 3-4 frames of a run tend to go to the background but then AF keeps up and the other 37 frames were sharp. Only some frames were wrong when I lost the target (the focus went to the busy background). But all in all I had a 80% keeper rate, which impressed me quite alot :)

    In the German Olympus forum there was a good explanation: the PDAF pixels might have a readout speed of about 200 frames/second. Which is 1/200s exposure. My 1/500s ISO2500 light corresponds with 1/200s and ISO1000 for the AF pixels, which is 5x the noise ISO200 would show. I am happy the AF seems to be OK with this ...


    • Like Like x 2
  6. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 28, 2013
    I took my E-M1 out shooting a hockey game the other night. With continuous autofocus + tracking enabled, burst shots and focus release on the shutter I got fairly average results with the Panasonic 100-300 combo. A lot of the time, despite keeping shutter speed up and using the lens stabilisation instead of body, I got fairly average results in terms of critical focus and sharpness. Trying the same thing with the Oly 75 and my keeper rate went up much higher. I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the actual lens being used - the focus motor in the Pan 100-300 definitely was not designed for a quick game like ice hockey. In both cases (oly 75 and pan 100-300), I found that caf+tr mode was more a gimmick than providing much tangible benefit for ice hockey as the green tracking reticle continually jumped from target to target that was skating back and forth on the ice!
    I've tried also shooting a 5d mkiii at a hockey game previously and despite it's well regarded tracking system, it didn't work that much better! A close friend with a 1ds who shoots hockey games for a living over in Canada recently told me that he still shoots manual for his very reason. I think ultimately depending on the sport, no amount of AF gadgetry will ever replace good old fashioned zone focusing, or human predictive shooting - i.e. manually focusing at a point where you anticipate a player to go next and waiting for him/her to cross your frame.
    That being said, I took the E-M1 to a dog park and the continuous AF+tracking mode gave me great results with a dog running back and forth, the same taking pics of my cousins kids.
    I think the hardware is there to allow for good auto-focus tracking, but as Ming Thein said in his review, a judicious firmware update would probably improve things a lot further. I don't see the E-M1 fully matching a 5d's performance at least in this generation of camera body despite firmware updates. I'm open to being proven wrong though :)

    There was a thread in one of the forums here a while back where one of the guys was shooting his E-M1 with the Oly 50-200 SWD and getting fantastic results for motorsports - cars coming towards the camera and moving away from the camera - I think the trick was to set focus priority on the continuous AF in one of the buried sub menu's. I'll try and dig out the thread....
  7. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 28, 2013
    BTW on a totally aside - really great shot Christof. I'd love to see more of your shots from this event. You have me seriously, and I mean seriously, considering the Oly 50-200!!!
  8. marcr1230

    marcr1230 Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 28, 2013
    I think there definitely is a element of lens choice involved - each lens has its own hardware, internal focus motor, and the weight and throw of the components that must move to refocus. I'm hoping that the upcoming 40-150 hits the ball out of the park...
    in the meantime, I will try C-AF only next week, with the following adjustments over this past attempt

    on Menu -> setup (coggy things)
    there are a number of interesting focus related options
    submenu A
    Full Time AF - Camera is always trying to focus (even when shutter not halfway down)
    C-AF lock - change the sensitivity of C-AF to react to sudden subject movements
    submenu C
    Release Priority C (for C-AF) release shutter even when not in focus ( not sure why I want this - I have no problem getting out of focus shots)

    Release lag time - shorten the lag time when depressing shutter
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Mat - MirrorLessons

    Mat - MirrorLessons Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 10, 2013
    For the E-M1 AF to be effective in AF-C or tracking, I noticed that you need to select the smallest focus points. The first time I got bad results as well, then after I decreased the AF points size, it worked really well.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    C-AF, no tracking - tracking is pretty useless really
    Small AF points - less possibility of AF grabbing something in the background
    Large aperture lens - the more light is let in, the better the AF will be
    Practice like crazy - keeping that small AF point trained on target requires some skill

    Those 4 things should get you good results with the E-M1 for sports.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. fadingphoenix

    fadingphoenix Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 27, 2013
    Just on Saturday I was photographing an automobile race on the ice of Lake Michigan at night. They had the track lit, but light was very sparse. I was pleased with the E-M1's focusing, for the most part I used S-AF since I've never been to particularly great at managing C-AF for some reason and being as I hadn't tested that at all on the E-M1 yet didn't want to spend the night wrestling with it. In a bit of contrast to that very last sentence though I spent the night experimenting with how low I could take the shutter and maintain accurate panning on the vehicles, panning is something else I've never really had any experience with. Not to say there weren't any hiccups, focus wasn't quite where I wanted it sometimes, but most often that was probably my fault and not the cameras, and considering my level of inexperience and the demanding situation/settings I was under I was pretty pleased with both the camera and myself.

    First two pictures were taking with an Oly 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 and the last one with a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 which is a pretty slow and finicky focuser.

    123mm f/3.3 1/60 ISO 3200

    101mm f/4.0 1/15 ISO 1600

    150mm f/2.8 1/30 ISO 3200
    • Like Like x 3
  12. marcr1230

    marcr1230 Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 28, 2013
    How do I do this ?
    The only choices I see are to use fewer AF points, and the last choice is a single smaller target

  13. fadingphoenix

    fadingphoenix Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 27, 2013
    I believe that is what he meant. You should have a choice between 3x3, single point, and small point (not sure what olympus actually calls it). I've heard varying reports of what works "best" though, so I'm sure it depends largely on what kind of setting you're shooting and what works with your personal usage. For the night races I started out using 3x3, but the camera would occasionally focus on the snow bank around the track or on the wrong vehicle; I ended up switching to single point with better consistency. I have yet to use the small point at all, but I believe I've mostly heard it's better for fine tuning an autofocus area and less useful for action.
  14. marcr1230

    marcr1230 Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 28, 2013
    ok - I tried these settings and also the single and smallest focus spot. The lighting was a little better this time.
    I still found it kind of hit or miss - sometimes things in focus, sometimes not.
    some sequences with the focus spot right on the subject - and not in focus. others in focus. sometimes no focus spot shows up in EXIF data - maybe wasn't locked on - but was still in focus. Other times no focus point and obviously put of focus.
    I also found the small but noticeable lag in the EVF a bit of pain.
    As much as I want this to work - may need to wait for the next iteration

    I also took out the D800, which is no sports camera - I was much more comfortable and successful with the Nikon, with less attention paid to the focus settings

    Next time out with the E-M1, I will try the small and medium focus points (as opposed to the smallest)

    I should also note , I'm shooting with the 75/1.8 which is not necessarily a sports lens

    Sequence out of focus

    In Focus