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Taking a realistic look at m43 for sports

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by misformonochrome, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    9
    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    Thanks for all the input so far on the other thread I started about switching to m43 from Canon and Sony APS-C. One of the refrains I hear regarding keeping at least one foot in the DSLR area is for sports photography. I do a fair amount of sports photography so I naturally use the 7D and a combination of the Canon 85/1.8 and Sigma 50-150/2.8 which I have gotten some excellent results from.

    But why I started this thread is that I'm not sure, when I sit down and enumerate the advantages, I see a clear reason to stick with the 7D. I know it's said that AF-C on the m43 bodies is not as good, which I take to mean the tracking isn't as accurate or that it fails to lock or otherwise loses track of a moving subject within the frame. This last season when our high school football team won their 3rd straight state championship, I took about 14,000 photos throughout the year. I used AF-C on the vast majority of them, though I did at times use AF-S. I still had missed shots from hunting focus and there were plenty of times when I wasn't keeping the little AF spot on the running back or quarterback and found the stands in the background in focus. So, clearly I'm missing shots with my 7D + Sigma + AF-C. Maybe not as many as with an m43 but I can't really test that.

    The best-seller I had this year was a photo I took for some reason in JPEG mode (I guess I wanted to save card space that day) so I don't have a RAW version of it. No other photo I took this year has received as much attention as this one. I turned it into B+W and added a little grit to it. Here it is:

    http://creative.jbrisbin.com/p707634409/e29e40a80

    I was positioned past the end zone and our boys were less than 20 yards away and coming directly toward me. I think I was zoomed back around 50-70mm. I cropped the image a little. Besides the burst mode, I can't see anything about this picture that tells me "APS-C on a DSLR is the only way to capture this shot". I honestly think I would have gotten this with an m43 camera. Yeah, I got other great shots this year I probably wouldn't have with something else, but I'm a little conflicted on how I feel about the images I got that actually made a difference and caused people to stop me in Wal-Mart and say "hey, I want a print of the one picture you took".

    I'm also thinking back to some of the other pictures I've taken of basketball games where I was using my Sony NEX and a manual-focus lens. With the Hexanon 40/1.8 I can use a high ISO and stop down to f4 or f5.6 and get a ton of DOF which means I only need to be zone-focused. I started by shooting basketball games on A-E1 + 50mm lens on T-MAX, after all. It was manual everything and I somehow managed to capture some pretty great action moments.

    I guess I'm just thinking out loud here, without any real experience to test this hypothesis with. I haven't read a review of anyone that does a lot of sports photography that's attempted it with m43 and said yay or nay. There seems to be scattered anecdotal evidence that it's possible, but nothing substantial or that says "I missed X number of shots with this m43 body/lens combo that I wouldn't have with my DSLR". I'm not going to be shooting any college or NFL football games any time soon and even if I did, I'd probably just go rent a decent setup. I likely won't really need my football setup again until August, so I've got some time to consider my options.

    Using a small camera setup, I guess I'd have to swallow my pride as well. I wouldn't compare very well to the other photogs down on the sidelines who come in sporting the Canon 400 which is a beast and makes all the rest of us look on in envy because we all know how much that lens costs at B&H! :smile:
     
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  2. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Eric
    If it were me and I was considering switching from my DSLR to m43 for sports, the only camera I'd seriously consider would be the E-M1. Even then I'd be very hesitant. AF tracking is the one area where I see m43 really lacking. However, sports can be shot with m43 - I shot the cyclocross world championships last year with an E-PL1, an E-P2 and MF lenses for example. That said I wish I would have brought my DSLR.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  3. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    With AF-C it's all about hit rates. With m4/3 at the moment, the hit rate will be lower. The E-M1 is apparently much better, it seems like it's at the level of older/consumer DSLRs. Burst itself is not necessarily a DSLR advantage - the E-M1 does 6.5 FPS with focus unlocked and 9 FPS with focus locked.
     
  4. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    956
    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Frank
    Having owned the 7D for years, it's definitely not a good camera for sports. It certainly has the configurability and the versatility to get it close, but its AF system just isn't close to the level of a 1-Series camera.

    You tend to get a lot of misses with the 7d. Really, though a 1 series camera is the only one I'd consider in the Canon family for sports. Going one step further and using that Sigma lens (which isn't generally well regarded) you've already stacked the odds for the E-M1 outperforming your Canon rig.

    That said, and knowing what I know about the 7D autofocus system for sports, it's entirely possible you'll be satisfied with the E-M1...

    Also, your sports photos are more artistic than what I generally see. Perhaps that can work in your favour. I certainly find the E-M1 seems to handle big changes in contrast, shadow alteration and other adjustments moreso than the 7D raw files. You can pull apart the E-M1 files more before they fall apart.

    If you can rent one and try it yourself you'll know fairly quickly.
     
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  5. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    There is a conundrum here. 90% of sports photographers who have tried µ4/3 and reported on it would have been using older model µ4/3 cameras, which are not as competent as the latest models. And the latest model µ4/3 cameras are pretty new, so any sports photographers trying them might still be forming their conclusions.

    Sports photography also involves a lot of technique, so an experienced sports photographer has good reason not to change what works. Not to mention that sports photography is sometimes a rough game,dashing along the sideline to best position while tripping over legs and guideropes, dirty and wet too at times, so heavy duty sports shooters (pro or not) need some pretty tough gear. And remote camera operation is a staple of sports shooting -- not that many cameras are able to handle it. A light duty sports shooter (with a light duty ego) has entirely different needs.

    Nevertheless, if you want to play the percentages, the safest bet is going to be a high performance DSLR, I reckon.
     
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  6. NWright

    NWright Mu-43 Regular

    193
    Jan 13, 2014
    Michigan
    As a full disclosure, this is my first post ever on the forums, but I have been a pretty devout follower of many threads for about half a year now. All I can hope to do is share my recent experience with my EM5 (45mm f1.8) as I have little experience with other gear outside of a Canon superzoom.

    That being said, I was fortunate enough to sit front row this past Tuesday at a Michigan State basketball game. As "small cameras" are allowed into the stadium, my setup arose no questions at the gate and I was able to shoot away to my hearts content (while simultaneously jumping around in the student section the whole game).

    I managed to snap (at least what I think) are some decent shots at the game.

    As this was my first sporting event experience ever, I was, admittedly learning on the fly. I mainly used S - AF in Manual and hovered at f2.0 with a shutter and ISO of 1600 (I think I would have had better results using C - AF and most likely just stick to shutter speed priority). I did have a good few photos that were focused just off and on the crowd in the background BUT my main reason for being at the game was not to photograph. Many of my shots were spur of the moment, pulled from my hip (again, I was jumping around the whole game in the student section). I was also not using any cross - hairs in my af detect (only the very middle, single square) and I would bet on the EM5 picking up on someone on the court before in the stands had I been using at least a few cross hairs.

    This seems like a lot of rambling, but I hope that you got at least a little info from my experience!

    Basically, given a few more outings to get some practice in, adjusting some settings and a little luck and I'd say I would get more keepers than not.



    Game2.


    Pull2.


    HighFive.
     
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  7. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    Reality

    Sports photography is much more about the photographer than the camera IMO. Besides m4/3 I've tried Nikon D9000 with tracking and continuous mode but I still prefer to shoot AF-S. I don't think you need tracking or even continuous focus to take good action/sports pictures. If you understand the game you can even focus manually and still get great shots (and lots of them).

    Here's an album of a VERY fast-paced indoor sports called floorball: http://scpiru.com/kuvagalleria/kuvagalleria_2013-2014a.html
    I shot them with E-PM2 + Oly 45mm in AF-S-mode and since the whole album may not be worth browsing here's a couple of samples:

    SCP-DUX-015.

    SCP-DUX-031.

    SCP-DUX-035.

    SCP-DUX-052.

    SCP-DUX-062.

    SCP-DUX-063.

    SCP-DUX-071.

    SCP-DUX-082.

    SCP-DUX-088.

    SCP-DUX-089.

    SCP-DUX-094.

    Could I have done better with a f.g. D9000? Nah, I wouldn't have but perhaps someone else would. And I believe the keepers-ratio was great this time and it even seems to increase noticeably each time I go out and shoot sports.
     
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  8. RamblinR

    RamblinR Mu-43 Top Veteran

    545
    Aug 16, 2012
    Sunshine Coast, Qld Australia
    Maria
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  9. rbelyell

    rbelyell Mu-43 Veteran

    356
    Sep 15, 2013
    Mountains of NY
    im gonna go a whole different way here, i like manual focus lenses for sports. yeah, maybe i'm crazy, but i find ive watched enough sports to be able to perform pretty accurate anticipatory prefocus, and use a small enough aperture to achieve the DOF i need to 'improve', or rather maximize,my focus zone. i also operate my camera in full manual mode, first setting the aperture and shutter speed i want, checking what iso that metering gives me, and making whatever adjustments are necessary to get the combo of these i want before firing my first shot. then i forget about settings, and more importantly so does the camera. i then can simply concentrate on prefocusing, burst shooting, and the cam is responsive as it can be as it has no decisions to make.
     
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  10. Matero

    Matero Mu-43 Veteran

    455
    Jun 22, 2013
    Finland
    When you understand what you're doing (= can 'read' the sport you are shooting, and can foresee when and where is something to shoot) this is the most effective way to get keepers, also IMHO.
     
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  11. rbelyell

    rbelyell Mu-43 Veteran

    356
    Sep 15, 2013
    Mountains of NY
    yes. and m4/3 is a perfect tool for this because it doubles a lens's FL, doubles that lens's 'effective' aperture for DOF purposes, but lets in twice as much light for the effective DOF. eg, a 135/2.8 becomes a 270/5.6 for DOF purposes, but remains a 2.8 for light gathering purposes, giving you the best of both worlds for sports situations. plus if you use olympus you get IBIS.
     
  12. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    662
    Jul 1, 2013
    I love threads like these. You get lots of folks coming out who just love their M43 systems and think they can conquer the world with them. Much like you can ride a bike from LA to NY, you can shoot sports with M43 all day long. However, as someone looking for the best tool for the job should look somewhere else besides M43.

    Anything with contrast based focusing isn't going to be able to keep up as well as phase detection. Phase detection tells the lens which way it needs to go. Contrast yo-yos the lens until it finds acceptable contrast.

    If you really need small and can deal with less than stellar high ISO results, the Nikon 1 system is amazingly fast, most professional reviews have found it as good or better than professional DSLR bodies when it comes to AFC+Tracking. I have a J1, and it blows my D7000 out of the water for focus accuracy, tracking lock and speed. It does really lack in quite a few other areas. I wish Nikon would quit playing games and build something for enthusiasts in a compact ILC body.

    That said, this stuff IS easy to test. Setup a tripod, have someone run at you or take pictures of cars heading towards you on a busy street.
     
  13. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Eric
    I often wondered about this. AF speed is one thing and from what I've seen the Nikon 1 system is indeed blazing fast. As far as focus accuracy goes, I wonder if its so 'accurate' because the DOF of the system is inherently greater due to the smaller sensor size and therefore AF doesn't need to be as accurate to achieve an acceptably in focus shot - there is simply more room for error.
     
  14. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Finland
    Teemu
    Best tool isn't always an option (e.g. pricewise). No one is saying that m4/3 is the best option there is but instead we're saying it is totally up for the job. One thing I don't get is people who seem to insist that the only way to shoot sports (or action) is AF-C or tracking... Why is that?

    BTW. I love my m4/3s and I know I can conquer the world with them. Why should I bother with something bigger and uncomfortable when m4/3 is enough? :biggrin:
     
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  15. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    410
    Apr 17, 2012
    The j1 I used for a bit didn't awe me with its af performance. I had heard the af was amazing but it felt slower then the E-M5, I realize the comparison is unfair but in s-af it felt competent but not amazing.
     
  16. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    662
    Jul 1, 2013
    Not in my experience, with the 18.5mm 1.8, the DOF is fairly shallow. I shot a lot in fields and playgrounds with textured surfaces so its easy to see where the camera focused. I also love that in the Nikon viewer it shows where the focus point was. I do think there is more room for error, but it just nails it.

    For me it's hard to ask a player to re-do that kick that scored the goal or the kid to do another jump off a slide, they always seem interested in doing something else, so getting the shot the first time is important. Again, a bicycle is totally up for riding coast to coast. Might even be a fun journey.
     
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  17. Matero

    Matero Mu-43 Veteran

    455
    Jun 22, 2013
    Finland
    I don't disagree, just tongue-in-cheek: in some of the best sport pictures, it's not so obvious that just this kick resulted the famous goal, or this run was the fastest of the day...
     
  18. rbelyell

    rbelyell Mu-43 Veteran

    356
    Sep 15, 2013
    Mountains of NY
    i hope claiming m4/3 for sports is like riding a bike from LA to NY, and then suggesting a V1 for the job was a joke, right? i can understand recommending a better camera or a better system. i dont understand recommending a worse one. thats like ditching your bike for a skateboard.

    moreover, as stated above in a earlier post, due to its natively superior DOF, light gathering ability, and industry leading IBIS, m4/3 is uniquely well suited to sports, once one abandons the misguided notion that action can only be photographed with AF lenses.
     
  19. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    410
    Apr 17, 2012
    It's also funny that when the comparison is made an E-M1 is up against a $6000 1dx.

    The C-Af+ TR is much improved after the first firmware update. Is the M4/3 system ideal for birding and sports photography? Depends on the person and their needs and budget.

    I have used both s-af and c-af+tr on the E-M1 for bif and it works for me. Could it be better, definitely. I think the AF performance can be improved significantly via firmware updates. The first update made a huge difference for me. With some better optics, which Olympus is working on, I think many people will be surprised with what the system becomes capable of.

    The advice to go try one out seems to be the best given. Try and rent and E-M1 or find someone who has one and see for yourself.

    Let us know what you decide to do. Good luck.
     
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  20. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    662
    Jul 1, 2013
    I simply said a One series is a good alternative if size matters. Perhaps you can share your V1 experience and say why it is bad for sports.