What lens would you choose to shoot a bicycle race?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by nublar, May 2, 2013.

  1. nublar

    nublar Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 22, 2013
    I plan on being roadside near the summit of a mountain that is part of a stage of the Amgen Tour of California. I have the lumix 20, 14, 14-42, and 45-150 lenses and a tripod and estimate the riders would be as close as a couple feet away from me.
  2. mzd

    mzd Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2010
    if the weather is really nice, then i'd say the 14-42, but bring the 20 along just in case.
    the action is quick and i think you would like some zoom flexibility since you probably won't have a lot of room to move around once you are in position. you will be close enough to maybe get some nice group shots of the riders approaching at 14mm and then hopefully get some individual shots of the riders in agony as they get closer at the 42mm range.
    i would feel too cramped with just the 45-150 and you won't get the close ups with just the 20.
    but, if it turns out the 14-42 just isn't fast enough and you are getting blurry shots, you can get some extra speed with the 20 and maybe crop for a close up.

    btw, i'm not really speaking from experience shooting bike races, just my best guesses.
  3. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I would actually probably do the opposite - shooting with the longer FLs as the riders are further away and then using the wide angles close up. Since no m43 camera does all that well with C-AF or AF tracking, especially with subjects moving toward the camera, you're probably going to want a little bit of DOF to play with to ensure in-focus shots. Two bodies would be a good plan here as well since you won't really have time to changes lenses. I've shot the Philadelphia International Championship a few times as well as local and professional Cyclocross events and its still amazing how fast these guys will go past you, even uphill. Be sure you're in a burst shooting mode or they'll be out of your frame before the camera is ready to take a second shot.

    What camera(s) will you be shooting with?
  4. nublar

    nublar Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 22, 2013
    Thanks for the replies guys. I'll be shooting with a G5 and will try to get some panning shots
  5. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    I would select a mid-to-long zoom (one that I don't have) like the Panny 45-150 or the Oly 40-150. That way you can get a modicum of "widish" close up and also get some in close and personal of riders even from the set-back sideline. I can't imagine much use of a real wide angle lens, but I would probably take one (12/2.0) along for the rare opportunity.
  6. marcsitkin

    marcsitkin Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 24, 2013
    Harwich, MA USA
    Marc Sitkin
    I'm not the most experienced cycling photographer, but here are two photos with EXIF info to help visualize. Note- These are from a DSLR, not 4/3 so allow for focal length.


    Camera modelCanon EOS 5D Mark II
    Focal length24 mm
    Max lens aperturef/4
    Exposure1/2000 at f/5.6
    FlashNot fired, compulsory mode
    Exposure bias0 EV
    Exposure modeAuto
    Exposure prog.Aperture priority
    ISO speedISO 400


    Camera modelCanon EOS 40D
    Focal length210 mm
    Max lens aperturef/5.2
    Exposure1/2000 at f/5
    FlashNot fired, compulsory mode
    Exposure bias+1/3 EV
    Exposure modeAuto
    Exposure prog.Shutter priority
    ISO speedISO 400
  7. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    ^the main thing here though is that the DSLR will C-AF in these situations a lot better than an m43 camera will. However, since the OP will be shooting with a G5 at least he will have current generation AF speed.
  8. rnagoda

    rnagoda Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 12, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    I actually had some good luck with my 20 and with the 100-300 in the low 100-range (so matching your 45-150 somewhat) at the world 'cross championships a few months ago. If you can rent or borrow a 100-300, I found the extra reach (usually ~200) was useful for grabbing approaching riders - I had an advantage though, in that this race is run on a circuit so after one lap I knew where the riders would be coming through again the next time around.

    I will say the AF performance on the GH2 and GX1 bodies I was using was pretty disappointing compared to my DSLR rig, and I missed way more shots than I'd like to have, so I'd practice with fast moving subjects some if I was you and get as used to the AF as you can prior to the event.
  9. alans

    alans Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 28, 2010
    Since TOC is more than a week or so away borrow or rent another body so that you'll have both wide and tele covered. It will likely be crowded at the summit plus you'll have those nuts in costumes running in front of you as well as the motos and the crowd moving in front of you. And then it's over as soon as the peloton rolls through. It helps to be prepared for more than what you might expect.

    I once shot from the back of one of the camera motorcycles and it was great, you hear the racers' conversations as well as them swearing at each other;)
  10. suntoryjim

    suntoryjim Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 6, 2013
    Personally, I would pre-focus the Pana 20 at the hyperfocal distance for F11 (8 feet), set the focus to manual, set the release to burst and just shoot away (keeping in mind that your near-limit will be about 4 feet).

    As always, test your setup multiple times in the field (or an approximation of) and confirm that you can reproduce the results you want.
  11. Gonewest

    Gonewest Mu-43 Regular

    May 3, 2013
    Cornwall, UK
    I have been lucky enough to take photos at both the Tour de France and Olympic time trial last year. A "standard" zoom was fine for both, and if you are the front of the crowd I can't imagine you'll need anything longer than 50mm unless you are looking down a long straight section. If the cyclists are in a bunch they be past you in a flash, so prefocus and shoot at high speed. And make sure no other spectators are going to step in front and ruin your moment (it's happened to me!) I tend to shoot jpegs to keep write-speed as high as possible. The earlier comments on dslrs working better for high speed sports are fair enough, although I've got ok shots using manual focus (on an old OM4!) and prefocused. Best of luck.
  12. Al.

    Al. Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    Hull, East Yorkshire, UK
    You will not need a tripod...
  13. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    A tripod is nice as a means to block off some space in front to prevent lookyloos from invading your space - no need to put a camera on it.

    Everyone hates me when I bring my 3 foot step ladder but it works for me! 6'4" + 18-24" step ladder puts me over almost every crowd. The perspective is not for everyones tastes.
  14. the_traveler

    the_traveler Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 12, 2011
    Columbia, MD
    Lew Lorton
    Have shot a lot of bicycle races (son in law is cat 1 and grandson is in juniors) and I always wished for longer faster lens to get more isolation of subject.
    If you are shooting cat 1 or pro races, these guys go by very, very fast; I've always had the most luck shooting criteriums by walking course and finding a corner with light behind you and where they will string out and get some spacing in the turns.
  15. Omega

    Omega Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 3, 2012
    Wow, I'll actually be at one of the events (in my hometown) this year again. Last year I found that up close, 50 and above was way too much, but from afar around 130mm or so was sort of the sweet spot depending on where you situated yourself.
  16. the_traveler

    the_traveler Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 12, 2011
    Columbia, MD
    Lew Lorton
    Many/most races, particularly criteriums, will have a course map on the race web page to help you plot where you want to be.
  17. nublar

    nublar Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 22, 2013
    Thanks all for the tips. I plan on being near the crest of a climb of one of the mountains in Idylwyld so I anticipate them to be going around 17-20 mph max. I'll try my best with the 20 and the 45-150 tele and will post any decent shots I get.