Michigan Football with X-T3, 100-400 and 50-140 + 1.4x TC

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S. Miller Contributing Member • Posts: 956
Michigan Football with X-T3, 100-400 and 50-140 + 1.4x TC
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WARNING - VERY LONG POST: I've seen very little written about using Fuji cameras for large field sports (soccer and football) so I wrote this to help others that may be asking the same questions I've had.

TL;DR

Fuji has closed almost all of the gap with the Nikon D500 for shooting sports (and I assume BIF), though I really wish there was an affordable fast tele glass option. As Hugh Brownstone would say, hold that thought. If you just want to see some football shots taken with the X-T3 in low light, scroll to the bottom.

Background:

Two years ago, I shot the Michigan - Rutgers football game at Rutgers in NJ. As a Michigan alum, die hard Wolverine fan and long time soccer shooter, I was in heaven even though there was a torrential downpour throughout the first half of the game. At the time, I had a D500 for sports which I thought was so good, it almost like I felt I was cheating. Anyway, that game and the resulting photos can be found in this thread if you're interested in a comparison between the two systems and experiences.

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4066071

Last Saturday:

I was offered the same opportunity by Unique Photo in Fairfield, NJ (great camera store!) to shoot the Michigan - Rutgers football game and I naturally jumped at it. I had dabbled with Fuji for a while but jumped into the deep end a year ago with a used X-T2 and various lenses.

When the X-T3 came out, I tested it with a 50-140 (w and w/out a 2x TC) and found that the improvement in accurate tracking AF was significant and brought the Fuji pretty darn close to the Nikon D500. So much so that I sold the rest of my Nikon gear and bought the 100-400. Of course, the lens I really needed for this game was the 200/2 + 1.4x TC but there's no way I can justify that kind of cash on a lens (hopefully, they'll be in rental fleets soon).

Shooting Experience and Settings

First, it was FREEZING AND WINDY. I had layers, hand/foot warmers, and camera gloves so I was in pretty good shape. My only gripe with the X-T3 (and I'm not alone) is that Fuji really needs to increase the size of the back button focus, both on the body and especially on the grip. Anyway, the overall shooting experience was fantastic. For reference, here are the settings I used:

  • Two X-T3's: I had the 100-400 on mine and rented another X-T3 paired with my 50-140/2.8 + 1.4x TC and my 16-55/2.8 (on the 2nd body, I mostly used the 50-140 except for a couple of goal line stands for wider shots). All action shots were shot wide open, which unfortunately on the 100-400 was only at f/5.6 on the long end.
  • RAW + Fine JPG
  • Aperture: wide open
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000 at the start of the game (3:45 pm, or an hour before sunset), dropping to 1/1000 - 1/1200 (and a handful at 1/800 before I decided to live with higher noise instead of introducing motion blur).
  • ISO: Auto ISO, which meant early game shots were around 2000 with late game shots as high as 10000
  • FPS: CH at 11 fps using MS (I didn't try ES, though at a high school soccer game a couple weeks prior, I found no rolling shutter impact)
  • AF-C: Custom Setting 5: Tracking Sensitivity = 3, Speed Tracking Sensitivity = 2, Zone Area Switching = Auto
  • Zone focus: 3x3 grid, typically in the center (left/right) and one up (top/bottom)
  • Sports Finder Mode: Off (I wanted max file size)
  • Back button focus set to Focus On, with the shutter release thereby triggering the shutter

Results:

Even though I was shooting at the smallest zone focus grid (3x3), I was worried that in crowded shots, the AF point wouldn't necessarily lock in on the ball carrier. Overall, I have to say I was very pleased. Additionally, the X-T3 was usually quick to lock in on a wide receiver as I panned the camera from the line of scrimmage to where the receiver was.

This is anything but scientific but if I had to guess, I'd say the AF system locked on correctly about 85% of the time. Maybe 5% of the shots were totally off, though I attribute that to me setting the "release/focus" priority to release when I shoot in AF-C since I want to make sure the camera fires the shutter when I press the shutter release, rather than having it wait for a confirmed focus. Another 5% of missed AF was in situations where, e.g., I took a shot of the quarterback throwing the football, then quickly swung around to get the receiver catching the ball but there wasn't enough time in between. The other 5% were just good old fashioned misses. For reference, I'd say that I used to get about 10% of shots out of focus with the D500.

You guys can judge image quality between the D500 shots from two years ago and the X-T3 from Saturday night. For my money, I think there basically the same, but I'm not a pixel peeper. I'm much more concerned about getting the action in the shot. Push comes to shove, I'd say that maybe the X-T3 is a little cleaner in the higher ISO photos, but there are a ton of factors that could influence it (how much of a crop you're seeing, lens used, light).

Anyway, with that incredibly long lead in, if you're still here, I've posted seven of my favorite shots from last week's game. Feel free to ask any questions about setup, etc.

C&C:

I'd love to hear your thoughts. That said, let me say the following:

  • While I've shot a ton of high school soccer games over the past 15 years, this is only my second football game I've ever shot.
  • I was incredibly jealous of the pro photogs on the sidelines shooting FF with 400 f/2.8 lenses and could see the incredibly clean images and subject isolation they were able to achieve when I looked at the images on their LCD. That's an impossible task with this setup. Someone on the thread two years ago criticized me for not being able to produce those kind of images. Guilty. That's one of the rare instances where I believe gear matters.
  • On the other hand, I'd love to hear ANY C&C with regard to what I could have done differently with the Fuji kit I was using as that will be very helpful for me in the future.
  • One self-criticism I can point out is that while some of the images have the eyes of the ball carrier, others don't. I don't think it makes the ones without the eyes bad photos, but they would be much better if I was in a different position so I could have gotten their eyes.

One last thing, I used LR for processing the RAW files. The white balance for the last three images looks off to me but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to fix it. Suggestions?

Thanks for looking.

Steve

P.S. This is longer than one of The Greg's posts. Sorry!!!

And finally, the images...

Comment & critique:
Please provide me constructive critique and criticism.
Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm X-T3 Nikon D500
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