Monday, April 2, 2012

5D Mark III - New focus modes, high speed shooting, and more high ISO shots

When I shoot events from the back of a temple or church, I will typically focus the camera manually, in order to guarantee that the focus point is exactly on the subjects eyes. So up until last Thursday, I really had not really tested the new focus system on the Canon 5D Mark III. But last week, my son asked me to shoot his roller hockey team as they scrimmaged with another local team. I figured that this would be a good chance to compare the focus system of the 5D Mark III to the 5D Mark II.

Before I get to the focus of the camera, I should tell you that I set the camera to ISO 4000 in order to achieve a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. I shot all of these images with the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS lens with it set to 2.8 for all the shots. This gave me shutter speeds between 1/500 sec. and 1/1000 sec depending on which area of the rink my subject was skating. (Note: this rink has very different lighting conditions across each rink, which makes it really interesting shooting there.)

These first photos show you how the combination of high ISO and fast lens lets me freeze the action, and without too much digital noise.

Now let's get back to the focus of the camera. When shooting sports, I usually keep the focus mode to AI Servo. And with the 5D Mark II, I would usually focus using only the center dot. This meant that I needed to keep that dot right on the player as I shot.

With the 5D Mark III, I started shooting the same way, using only the center dot. But then I decided to try the new AF Point Expansion, which effectively uses all the adjacent focus points (around the center dot) to expand the focus area but still give me control over the focal area. (See below)

I found that, using this focus mode on the 5D Mark III gave me a higher percentage shots that were in focus, compared to those taken with the older model.

Another improvement of the 5D Mark III is the speed of the camera. It was nice to be able to fire off 6 shots per second in continuous mode vs. 3 shots per second on the Mark II. This helped me get images that were at the peak of action. You might think that 6 photos per second is fast, but I am still anxious to get my hands on the upcoming Canon 1Dx to be able to double that speed and grab 12 photos per second. This will be key at the Summer Olympics where the speed of the world-class athletes takes things up a notch or two.

At six photos per second, I was able to follow the skater in for the shot and then burst images as he made his move...
...and scored (notice the puck under the goalie's right arm).

Same situation in these frames, where I was able to follow the action and grab shots at the peak of action. Typically, in hockey photos likes this, keying in on the goalie, if you can not see the puck, it is not an interesting shot.

Overall, I was happy to see that so many of my images were nicely in focus and captured the action. Another good test of the 5D Mark III. So far, so good.

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