Limitations of mirrorless with sports photography...

Started 11 months ago | Discussions thread
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Chris Tofalos
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Limitations of mirrorless with sports photography...
11 months ago

I've been a professional photographer for 30 years this year. I got into the profession because I could handle action photography reasonably well and managed to win a couple of important sports photography competitions early on, which boosted my career. I do far less sports work now. Working for newspapers isn't what it used to be and, at my age, I'd fed up of being rained on or frozen stiff - or both.

At the start of this year I made a momentous decision, at least for my work, and changed over from Canon DSLRs to CSC cameras. I had been using both systems for a while and, given that my football coverage is very limited these days, decided to go the whole hog. I've currently got 3 Lumix bodies (2 x G5; 1 x GX1) and a good range of lenses, including the two fast zooms, whose arrival were the catalyst for the change.

I've no real regrets about my decision. Low light work like stage photography is as easy as it was with the Canons and the weight saving an enormous help to my long suffering back. I do still do the occasional football match, which is usually some sort of amateur cup game for the national Jewish Chronicle (who I've freelanced for for over 20 years). After a few months of doing this with G5s I've come to the conclusion mirrorless has a long way to go as far as sports photography is concerned.

Here are some photos from a game I shot today along with two taken a couple of years ago with a Canon 7D:

I suppose in some respects it is a bit unfair to compare results from amateur games against those invloving professionals; the latter are far more committed/talented and the results usually (but not always) better.

However, I can't get anywhere near the same results with my CSCs. The reason is mainly to do with the viewfinder. Firstly, there's a slight delay when you put the camera to your eye. Then, what you see lacks the clarity of an optical vewfinder; it's like you've made a couple of clicks off the ideal setting with the dioptre correction. That delay along with lack of sharpness has caused me to use the camera in a completely different way and I don't seem to have time to flip the camera vertically to catch the sort of action shown in the professional matches above.

The AF also works in an odd way (Note: all my cameras for the past 15 years or so have been set-up to back-button focus. That is, shutter AF is disabled). I used to hold in the back AF button on the 7D once I'd locked onto a player and fire away knowing the camera would track the moving subject. The G5s can't do that. You simply can't hold in the AF button and take a shot; the camera won't fire. You have to reply on one press of the button to lock on to the subject and that's proving to be a hit and miss affair. And you can't seem to then track a subject and fire away.

As I said, there's no problems with things like stage photography but for fast, erratically moving subjects mirrorless has a long way to go. The result is I've sort of lost my confidence with mirrorless for sports and no longer take the chances I used to (like zooming in really tight on a couple of players, which maximised quality and increased background blur).

If I wanted to make my living shooting football I would simply have to have those Canons back (the 7D was the best sports photography camera I've used in 30 years)...

Chris

Canon EOS 7D Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5
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