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09-03-2015, 03:46 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Soccer photography with the K-3 II (and how to make the most of its AF system)

As I've mentioned a few times before, I do sports photography for the College of Staten Island Dolphins. I shot the opening women's soccer game of the season, NJCU Gothic Knights @ CSI Dolphins. This was also the first time I got a chance to genuinely test the K-3 II's autofocus performance. Needless to say, it's a significant improvement over the K-5, though it still wasn't entirely foolproof.

I was shooting alongside a professional photographer hired by NJCU who was using a pair of Canon EOS-1D Mark IVs, one with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and the other with an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM and Extender EF 1.4x. Even with a camera that does 10 fps, he told me that nine out of ten frames wind up bad. The extra frame rate just gives him extra chances to get a shot at the peak of the action.

I've been doing this as a volunteer for a while, and expect to be taking on paid freelance assignments for the college's athletics department beginning October. The pay isn't great, but it's a way for me to make some money on the side as a busy student.

All shots below are with the K-3 II and DA* 60-250mm lens, with some cropping in post.







—DragonLord


Last edited by bwDraco; 09-06-2015 at 06:11 PM.
09-03-2015, 04:58 PM   #2
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I've shot quite of few soccer games with the K-5 and 60-250mm D*, which is an amazingly sharp lens. Three comments: 1) The lens isn't a f/2.8, so the background isn't blurred enough to be Sports Illustrated quality. For general use shooting wide open, my photos are sharp like yours, far, far superior than what the other soccer moms or dads ever produced. 250mm is generally enough reach depending upon where you are shooting from. 2) I have the same autofocus issue with the K-5, and will upgrade sometime this year when I see how the new FF is priced. The K-3 and K-3ii keeps getting less expensive and at some point I'll pull the trigger on something. The FF will likely have a slower burst, so I'll have to make a decision on what purpose the camera will be most used. 3) After a while soccer photos become boring, at least to me. To add some excitement, I spent over a month only shooting when the ball is in the air. Expressions of the eyes following the ball, headers, etc. made for some memorable photos.
09-04-2015, 04:09 AM   #3
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Soccer Photos

Great shots - what are your AF settings?
09-04-2015, 05:03 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by coyotemitch Quote
Great shots - what are your AF settings?
Nice photos! I'm also curious about AF settings.

09-04-2015, 07:33 AM - 1 Like   #5
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AF.C, 25-point Expanded Area AF (SEL3 on the top plate LCD). AF.C first frame and continuous shooting action (custom settings 16 and 17) set to 2 (Auto). Hold AF Status (custom setting 18) set to 4 (High).


I put a lot of faith into the K-3 II's autofocus system, trusting it to be able to track reliably and in a predictive manner. I couldn't trust the K-5 to do the same. While the K-3 II still needs some work to match C&N (I had some issues with the camera dropping focus to the background), it's a vast improvement over the K-5. It is that simple.

—DragonLord

Last edited by bwDraco; 09-04-2015 at 08:21 AM.
09-05-2015, 12:17 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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More shots from today:





The AF tracking accuracy is excellent as long as the camera can maintain a lock on a target (which it does very well). Getting a lock in the first place, however, is a bit tricky, considering how unpredictably these student-athletes are moving. In any case, the autofocus system is much more reliable than what I've experienced on the K-5.

—DragonLord

Last edited by bwDraco; 09-05-2015 at 12:23 PM.
09-06-2015, 07:24 PM   #7
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Thanks for this. I suspect the speed of the lens focus mechanism is a bottleneck.
09-07-2015, 02:23 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by DragonLord Quote
I was shooting alongside a professional photographer hired by NJCU who was using a pair of Canon EOS-1D Mark IVs, one with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and the other with an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM and Extender EF 1.4x. Even with a camera that does 10 fps, he told me that nine out of ten frames wind up bad. The extra frame rate just gives him extra chances to get a shot at the peak of the action.


—DragonLord
Yeah Nikon/Canons reputation is driven by non- owners and consumer level bragging.

I've never met a pro who finds the AF of the camera perfect or even close

In fact when shooting in low mixed lighting at Pool side my k3 easily outperformed the 1ds mkiii and d3's I've found the pro's generally using.
But once the light levels came up the pro rigs put the k3 to bed mainly due I suspect to lens AF speed.

Having said that the difference isn't disastrous if I'm standing next to the pro in EV5+ I need to shoot first 5 lanes on first pass and next five on the next length, The pro shoots all 10 in one hit.

Under lower mixed light I would shoot in three passes and the pro 5 passes.

09-08-2015, 08:58 PM   #9
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Pentax absolutely needs more telephoto lenses, especially fast telephoto primes (1.4/85, 2/135, 2/200, 2.8/300, 2.8/400, 4/500, and 4/600). Hopefully, Ricoh will roll out new D FA* telephoto lenses in the next few years...

—DragonLord
09-09-2015, 03:30 AM   #10
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A 200 f2 would be awesome but not so convinced with the longer fast primes maybe 300 f2.8 would work but I find for my shooting 400 F5.6 is often to narrow DoF even at 10-25 Meters on aps-C

To give examples where a fast lens can't help

200 F2 DoF 20cm @ 10 meter
300 F2.8 DoF 12cm @ 10 meter
400 F5.6 DoF 13cm @ 10 Meter
500 F8 DoF 12 cm @ 10Meter
600 F11 DoF 12cm @ 10 Meter
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