Need Advice on Lighter Alternative for Sports Photos

imnxcguyimnxcguy Big grinsRegistered Users Posts: 20 Big grins
edited March 21, 2016 in Cameras
I've been with Smugmug for many years, promoting my sports photography (mostly XC skiing, running, cycling). Website is www.macbethgraphics.smugmug.com. I'm trying to simplify my camera needs in order to be lighter, smaller, quicker. It's possible what I'm looking for doesn't exist, or is too much of a compromise. But I figured I should try, so help me out here. I'm not super techy, but take lots of pics.

I shoot mostly with decent light (unless it's snowing like crazy). I often shoot wide open for blurred background effect bokeh, so that ability is a priority for me. I love my Canon 7D (it's about 6 years old), using a Canon 28-105 lens and my Canon 70-200 L 4.0. Subjects are usually moving fast.

Except....I want to have a lighter smaller alternative (I often xc ski or bike for miles to get the shots I want), AND I'd love not having to switch lenses multiple times during a race. The 7D is a beast with those two lenses.

I need a camera that has high enough quality and speed to get these shots. Fast Auto-Focus is a must. I don't care a whole lot about megapixels, as I often don't even shoot my 7D at the highest setting. All of the new cameras mp would be more than adequate.

I'm not sure whether a new mirrorless systems -- such as a Sony a6000 -- will be what I want, as I'm not sure whether the lenses available are going to be much of a weight/size savings if I want one lens to do it all. If I'm trying to use just one lens, does it make sense to go mirrorless? Plus there's battery life....

I'm wondering whether a Compact Super-Zoom such as a Panasonic FZ1000 will give me the quality I'm looking for, but it has more of the size and weight and long zoom that I'm interested in. I'm just trying to find some alternative that will achieve my goals without giving up TOO much in terms of 1) image quality, 2) fast, precise auto-focus and 3) reasonably good bokeh. Video is unimportant.

I realize there's not much out there that will compare to a 7D/Canon L lens in quality, but can I even get close enough to satisfy my needs? Or is that a pipe dream?

Thanks for any advice, all you experts!

Mark

Comments

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,304 moderator
    edited March 16, 2016
    For sports/action I'm still a fan of conventional dSLRs and their Phase Detect autofocus, especially those with large numbers of Cross-Type Phase Detect (CT-PD) autofocus modules. There is nothing like the Canon 1D/1Ds/1D-X series bodies and Nikon single-digit (D3, D4 and D5) series AF modules, coupled with the massive processing power in those bodies (some of which is channeled towards AF guidance).

    I have both a Sony a6000 and a Canon 7D (original) and I vastly prefer the 7D for any session from sports and action through active children. While the latest mirrorless bodies do have very large AF counts, that's because they have Phase Detect AF capabilities built into the imager, but I don't see any mirrorless bodies capable of acting as more than line-type phase detect. This means that they AF well as long as the subject matter contains something of high-contrast at right-angles to the AF line.

    Cross-type (XT) Phase Detect will AF with either vertical or horizontal detail, and dual-cross-type will generally do well with most any detail in the subject, no matter the orientation.

    Conventional dSLRs also allow an optical view of the subject and scene, while all mirrorless bodies must use an electronic viewfinder and a delay in the view. The Sony a6300 does appear to have a refresh rate of 120 fps, that still means a minor delay in following the action. While a mirrorless body lacks the reflex mirror, and the mirror flip time does add to a delay in responsiveness, most shooters (that I've talked to) are more capable of adapting to the mirror delay than to the refresh delay.

    When the ambient light is reduced, as in an indoor sporting event or night event, the dedicated Phase Detect AF of a dSLR appears to have a distinct advantage over a mirrorless imager based Phase Detect. I don't really understand why this is except that dSLR AF technology is much older and possibly more refined as a result. A dedicated f2.8 high-precision center AF point (in many of the enthusiast/prosumer and professional bodies) coupled with a greater availability of fast optics may be the real answer why dSLRs are more generally capable to AF in very low light than mirrorless.

    Larger image sensors (FF and APS-C) are still a major reason to own dSLRs and the larger mirrorless bodies, but the fast-aperture telephoto lenses (and large aperture telephoto zooms) are more prevalent for dSLRs, and the professional versions of those lenses (large apertures and fast AF motors) are going to be much of a system's weight.

    In summary, the Sony a6300 is the sport/action mirrorless APS-C body I would shoot for if I had to, but coupled with a sport telephoto optic I don't think you'll save much weight, and a conventional dSLR AF module still beats it in lower and low light shooting (IMO). It's not that you won't get anything usable from the mirrorless bodies, just that I still believe a dSLR with cross-type AF or (better yet) dual-cross-type AF modules will yield a larger crop of in-focus images overall.

    Another couple of years and mirrorless will likely exceed dSLR AF in every respect.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAAdministrators Posts: 11,650 moderator
    edited March 16, 2016
    Excellent analysis, Ziggy. thumb.gif
  • imnxcguyimnxcguy Big grins Registered Users Posts: 20 Big grins
    edited March 17, 2016
    Thanks, Ziggy, for the in depth analysis. Not being very techie, I probably understood about 50% (I still don't even know if my 7D is "APS" or "FF"), but I get the idea that you're not very happy with the AF on a mirrorless (or, by inference, a bridge camera like the FX1000) compared to something like the 7D.

    And the second part of my desire to simplify is to try to find one lens (again, whether it's SLR, M-less, or Bridge) to shoot with that will eliminate my need to switch lenses on the fly in the field. Looking around, it doesn't seem like there's much out there for a Canon body that will work for this. One lens I found, though, is interesting -- the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1029393-REG/tamron_28_300mm_f_3_5_6_3_di_vc.html
    I know it's not "L" quality, but does anyone think highly enough of this lens to guess if it will work for me? There's also the Canon 28-300L, but the size (and price) of that one kind of defeats the purpose I'm shooting for.

    Thanks!
    Mark
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,304 moderator
    edited March 17, 2016
    imnxcguy wrote: »
    ... And the second part of my desire to simplify is to try to find one lens (again, whether it's SLR, M-less, or Bridge) to shoot with that will eliminate my need to switch lenses on the fly in the field. Looking around, it doesn't seem like there's much out there for a Canon body that will work for this. One lens I found, though, is interesting -- the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1029393-REG/tamron_28_300mm_f_3_5_6_3_di_vc.html
    I know it's not "L" quality, but does anyone think highly enough of this lens to guess if it will work for me? ...

    A primary function for a sports lens and body is rapid and accurate autofocus. While the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical IF has a decent zoom range, the AF has a reputation of being slow, too slow for sports action.

    Please read the reviews at:

    https://www.imaging-resource.com/lenses/tamron/28-300mm-f3.5-6.3-xr-di-vc-ld-aspherical-if-macro-af/review/

    Comments such as,
    "Auto Focus a bit slow at times",
    "Terrible autofocus mechanism - hunts and often will not focus",
    "Unable to focus on moving objects above 150mm ... If you are thinking of sports photography avoid this lens and buy something more capable.",
    "very slow autofocus, F6.3 at long end",

    ... are pretty telling.

    The Canon 7D is an APS-C/Crop 1.6x sensor body, BTW.

    Getting back to the "all-in-one lens for sports", yes, the Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM is used for some daytime sports, but I cannot recommend it for indoor and night sports because of the slower apertures. It might (probably) be fine for daylight XC skiing, running and cycling. Yes, it is also very heavy and very expensive. Renting might be an option for important events.

    If you are otherwise happy with the performance of your existing 7D and Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM plus Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0L USM lenses might I suggest that maybe you could consider a different method to carry the kit.

    A camera backpack might be in order, for instance, or perhaps a different backpack if you have one and the current model isn't serving you well. I rather like the Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW because of its single strap design, which places the side opening for camera/lens extraction quickly available, and the full waist belt takes most of the weight off the shoulder, while keeping the bag well controlled. The current model is the SlingShot 302 AW and seems to keep the most valuable features.

    However, the Slingshot 3xx AW series seems a bit overkill for your needs. It is a bit too large for what you have and probably too bulky. (Sorry, I'm not familiar with many other bags to make a better recommendation.)


    The Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is an all-in-one lens which appears to have pretty good AF speed, but (especially) at the long end this lens appears to suffer from image softness and strong chromatic aberration. It would be best to test a copy prior to purchase, to see if it's a good match for your needs.

    Update: I see that Sigma has a newer extreme zoom for APS-C bodies, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM C. It appears to perform much better at the long end than the Sigma 18-250mm previously mentioned. Not much information about AF speed and accuracy.

    Check out this comparison:

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=490&Camera=474&Sample=0&FLI=7&API=1&LensComp=971&CameraComp=736&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=6&APIComp=1
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,593 moderator
    edited March 17, 2016
    My answer is going to be much less on the technology side of the equation - Ziggy has already dealt with those issues.

    I want to know how satisfied you are with the AF of the 7D. I used a 7D a lot from the day it was introduced, until the 7DMkii and the 70D were introduced. But does the 7D offer everything you desire except for the weight. One can get a lighter body, but much of the weight you carry is in the lenses too.

    A 7DMKII weighs 910 grams with battery and card, and a 70D weighs only 755 grams. I have shot a number of birds in flight handheld with a 70D so it is a reasonable able camera if the light is not too dim. A 70D and a 70-200 F4 IS L is a very sharp, light fast handling system.

    As an alternative to the 7D, 7D MKII,, or 70D or even 80D, the m4/3s system really will reduce your carrying weight since, not only is the body smaller, but the lenses are much smaller as well. And there are very good fast zooms available in the m4/3s systems. A Panasonic 35-100 f2.8 Lumix G VZ lens weighs only 1.37 pounds. The Panasonic DMC-GX7 weighs only 1.07 pounds and also has a file size of 20.3 MegaPixels. The body and lens of the DMC-GX7 and the 35-200 f2.8 zoom ( a 70-300mm FF equivalent ) weighs just a touch more than your 7D without a lens.

    I have used 7D MK II, 70D, and a DMC-GX7 for wildlife shooting a fair bit over the last few years, and choose them on the basis of weight versus AF speed versus images size desired. At standard image sizes of 8x10, I doubt most folks would have any idea which camera made which image. There is no doubt, the 7D MK II is the best at AF, dramatically better than my 7D ever was. The 70D is not quite that fast but certainly seems similar to my 7D in capability but the files are much cleaner, and it offers very good Live View with finger pointing focus on the LV screen.

    The Panasonic DMC-GX7 is the smallest, and lightest, and probably the slowest focusing, but still, I have images of wildlife shot with it. I must point out, that the GX7 is used using the LCD screen for imaging, I find the viewfinder on the GX7 to be almost useless. And in bright sunlight, the LCD screen can be pretty challenging too. But for images of runners and skiers is using the LCD screen a deal breaker or is it even helpful at times? I don't know, but you will have to find out.

    I do own the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical IF Ziggy mentioned. I like it for a travel zoom, it seems pretty sharp, and with Lightroom these days, chromatic aberration is a thing of the past. I do agree that it is better between 16->150mm. It is not quite as sharp at 300mm, but 300mm of a crop body camera is a 35mm equivalent of 1.6x300 -> 480mm and that can be blurry when handheld if one is not careful to use good long lens technique. And it is only f 6.3 at the iong end. I do not have complaints about it like the ones Ziggy quoted above, but I think of it as a travel zoom, not as an equal of fast L glass. It is much smaller and lighter than fast L glass, and much, much cheaper. I do like it and use it a fair bit, but I do not anticipate using it like a 300mm f2.8 IS L for background bokeh.

    I frequently find myself carry a 70D and the Tamron 16-300, or a Canon 18-200 zoom as an all day carry. It is light enough and fast enough for most of what I shoot - but I am not shooting high speed sports either.

    Everyone keeps looking for bodies and glass to replace full frame DSLRs and their large, heavy, expensive, fast long glass. But we're all still looking I think.

    I have images shot with 7D, 7DMk II, 70D and DMC-GX7 in many of my galleries on Smugmug. I define folks to tell me which are which without losing at the exif data.

    The new 80D looks promising but I have not shot with one yet.

    I usually shoot with a 1Dx ( I think of it as two bricks of weight ) , so I think of the 7D as a light weight body.

    The easiest way to get a lighter kit, is to use m4/3 lenses - they are significantly smaller and lighter, and yet can be very high quality indeed.

    So, do you need an optical viewfinder?? I think that is the real question that only you can answer.

    Once you know the answer to that, then you know where to go next.

    Borrow someones DMC-GX7 or the newer, better, faster, but larger, DMC-GX8 and see if it will meet your needs for AF and use in the sunlight.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,304 moderator
    edited March 18, 2016
    Taking another look at the Sony RX10 II as a daylight sports camera:

    Pro Photographer Shoots Sports Sequence With a Sony RX10 II

    I don't think it is a perfect and general solution, but in good light it seems to have a number of desirable qualities.

    http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/digital-cameras/bridge-cameras/1404105/sony-rx10-ii-review/page/0/1
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • imnxcguyimnxcguy Big grins Registered Users Posts: 20 Big grins
    edited March 18, 2016
    In terms of a quick reply for both Pathfinder and Ziggy...

    Yes, an optical viewfinder is a must for me. I'm not sold on EVF (mainly because I've never used it in the field, just in a store), but I know first hand that there's no way I can shoot what I do with just an LCD.

    I'm still back to wondering whether the Panasonic FX1000 might be an option for me, since one of my main goals is to not have to be switching lenses in the field. And the review on DPReview had this to say:
    When it comes to stills, for most people, the FZ1000 will still be a better choice than the RX10 II. While the two camera both have very good image quality, we found the FZ1000 hangs on to detail better than the RX10 II at high ISOs. On top of that the Panasonic can continuously focus and even subject track with a reasonably high hit rate, something the RX10 II cannot do. This makes it a much better choice for anyone who wants the ability to shoot moving subjects. The FZ1000 also has a greater zoom range than the RX10 II, at a significantly lower price-point.

    On the other hand, putting specifications aside, there is no denying that the RX10 II has a much sturdier and more-refined build-quality to the FZ1000, and the difference in IQ across the common range of their lenses is very small.

    The Panasonic has a much longer zoom, and they seem to think that the focus is actually better. The biggest drawback I can see for the FZ1000 compared to the RX10II is that the RX maintains a 2.8 lens throughout, whereas the 1000 doesn't. Again, I shoot almost primarily in daylight, so low light capability is not a huge priority. And, although it's not a deal-breaker, the Sony is almost twice as much $$ as the Panasonic.
  • jonh68jonh68 Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,711 Major grins
    edited March 18, 2016
    From a non techie point of view, mirrorless is not there yet but close. I have a fuji x-t1 and use a 50-200. It gets the job done for outdoor field sports for fun but I wouldn't use it for sports if I made my living at it. For casual use its a fun combo. Supposedly the 50-140 2.8 is faster, as well as the new 100-400. I have read blogs of fuji photographers using these professionally for sports.

    The EVF takes some getting used to but it isn't a problem. I have grown to like it, especially the exposure preview. Makes exposure very easy, and I have liked seeing the photo taken immediately after while looking through the evf.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,304 moderator
    edited March 19, 2016
    imnxcguy wrote: »
    In terms of a quick reply for both Pathfinder and Ziggy...

    Yes, an optical viewfinder is a must for me. I'm not sold on EVF (mainly because I've never used it in the field, just in a store), but I know first hand that there's no way I can shoot what I do with just an LCD.

    I'm still back to wondering whether the Panasonic FX1000 might be an option for me, since one of my main goals is to not have to be switching lenses in the field. And the review on DPReview had this to say:
    When it comes to stills, for most people, the FZ1000 will still be a better choice than the RX10 II. While the two camera both have very good image quality, we found the FZ1000 hangs on to detail better than the RX10 II at high ISOs. On top of that the Panasonic can continuously focus and even subject track with a reasonably high hit rate, something the RX10 II cannot do. This makes it a much better choice for anyone who wants the ability to shoot moving subjects. The FZ1000 also has a greater zoom range than the RX10 II, at a significantly lower price-point.

    On the other hand, putting specifications aside, there is no denying that the RX10 II has a much sturdier and more-refined build-quality to the FZ1000, and the difference in IQ across the common range of their lenses is very small.

    The Panasonic has a much longer zoom, and they seem to think that the focus is actually better. The biggest drawback I can see for the FZ1000 compared to the RX10II is that the RX maintains a 2.8 lens throughout, whereas the 1000 doesn't. Again, I shoot almost primarily in daylight, so low light capability is not a huge priority. And, although it's not a deal-breaker, the Sony is almost twice as much $$ as the Panasonic.

    Yes, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 is another uber bridge camera, and for a travel camera it has a great deal of merit. The lack of weather seals is going to be a challenge for some of your XC skiing, running and cycling events.

    For around $600USD I suppose that you could justify trying one for your purposes. Not much to lose and reasonable gain for the money.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • davevdavev Getting older by the day Registered Users Posts: 3,116 Major grins
    edited March 21, 2016
    Although it's not out yet, and the cost is $1000, you may want to wait and look at this camera.
    I think I read that it's coming out at the end of June.

    Nikon DL 24-500

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6fMIwp3h2g
    dave.

    Basking in the shadows of yesterday's triumphs'.
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