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09-09-2016, 12:27 PM   #1
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K-1 for low-light sports

I've been very pleased with the AF.C performance on the K-1 and see a noticeable and significant improvement in noise performance over my K-3. If you shoot sports, I could use some input. I shot some high school football under sodium vapor lights. This one here is taken at ISO 12800 @ 1/640, f2.8. The one issue I have is of course the frame rate and buffer limit. Doing some loose testing, I determined that any ISO above 12800 (specifically at medium frame rate) only allows for 7 frames before the buffer fills up. If I drop to 10000, I can get 13 frames with 15 being the maximum at ISO 100. I guess I never realized just how much extra processing power the ISO setting required. Do you guys think I can get away with 1/400 at ISO 6400 for these lighting conditions or will there most likely be blur? I've only shot this type of event a few times and don't want to miss too many shots experimenting.

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09-09-2016, 12:43 PM   #2
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For sport in low light, I'd consider shooting JPEG 20Mpixels or less, manual white balance calibration, and high burst rate. In this way, downsizing acts a noise filtering and since smaller sized JPEG are significantly smaller than Raw,buffer depth isn't an issue at all.
09-09-2016, 01:09 PM   #3
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Wirh JPG L* you get a pretty much unlimited buffer, 70+ shots at 36 Mpx.
Turn off noise reduction, since its better to do in post.
Try it out somewhere first.
09-09-2016, 01:45 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricK3 Quote
Do you guys think I can get away with 1/400 at ISO 6400 for these lighting conditions or will there most likely be blur?
Absolutely. I've photographed a running back in action at 1/250 with a manual focus lens without motion blur. At f2.8, your DOF is relatively short and unless you are using a macro lens, you will have field curvature, so objects that appear to be the same distance from the camera, but away from the spot focused on will be out of focus. The natural tendency when shooting sports is to keep the moving subject in the centre of the frame and if your subject is moving fast enough to produce blur at 1/400 second, you will have to move your camera to keep that subject in the frame. As for blurry balls, no one cares if the stitching or lettering is sharp, but they do care if the jersey or faces aren't.

09-09-2016, 02:05 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by beholder3 Quote
Wirh JPG L* you get a pretty much unlimited buffer, 70+ shots at 36 Mpx.
Yes, I fully agree. I tried with lower resolution jpegs, and the K1 gets to the kind of level of a D500 or D5, in terms of how many shots can be accumulated in its buffer.
09-09-2016, 05:30 PM   #6
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Low-light photography is an interesting issue. I started photography shooting high school football in 1973, with an inexpensive Hanimex SLR and tri-x. Also tried my Dad's Nikon rangefinder; wish I had photos from either and can't remember which was better but got some good shots.

I'd like to see *single shots* from that K1, at maximum resolution, perhaps in black and white. What a thing of beauty I imagine! But maybe multiple frames are helpful?
09-09-2016, 08:10 PM   #7
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There could be blur at 1/400, especially in the feet or hands. Potentially in the face. Depends if it matters? Sometimes a little blur in extremities is cool...sometimes not what you want.
09-09-2016, 09:15 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by EricK3 Quote
I can get 13 frames with 15 being the maximum at ISO 100.
How long does it take for the buffer to clear? Using the full frame, I think you are limited to about 4 shots per second, so at ISO 10,000 you can shoot a 3 second burst, but even if you have enough light to shoot at ISO 100 you still don't gain a full second?

You won't have any problems staying under 3 seconds when someone tries to catch a pass, but it could pose a problem following a running play, or even following the quarterback from when s/he takes the snap to making the pass. At least you can tell when the quarterback is going to attempt a pass, so you don't have to press the shutter until the arm goes back to throw or a defensive player gets past the offensive line. For running plays you probably don't want to start taking pictures until s/he gets an open lane, so if you can follow the play in your viewfinder there are ways to work around the 3 second limit for a continuous burst. As long as the buffer clears within a second or two, you should be able to take pictures again if there is a turnover or a player breaks a tackle and gets to run again.

I'm thinking as I type, but the point I'm trying to make is that your strategy of shooting at ISO 6400 should be a good one. I really wouldn't sweat the shutter speed, if you focus on a single player and follow that player in the viewfinder, 1/250 second is fine. The key is to capture the key elements, the player with the ball, the player(s) attempting to tackle the player with the ball and the ball in positions where it is obvious what is happening. It is very difficult to time your shutter press with the right moment when a pass is about to caught or a player makes or breaks a tackle, so continuous shooting is essential.

As I said earlier, the only things that have to be sharp are the key player's jersey and helmet, other things like feet and balls being blurry is fine and those elements are just as likely to be blurry because they aren't in focus than because your shutter speed is too slow. In the days when professional sports photographers used film, they got all kinds of great shots at 1/250. The real tricky part is following the play in the viewfinder, if you can master that, your camera can look after the rest.

09-10-2016, 12:32 AM   #9
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Noise hinders compression algorithms, so it is less the ISO than the level of noise in the image. The more light you have, the cleaner the image the more will fit into your buffer.

Some goes with soft lenses, though: less detail, better compression.
09-10-2016, 07:59 PM   #10
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Hey all,

Thanks for all of the feedback. I wish I had time to digest and reply to it all at the moment. Quickly, I agree about JPEG although I seem to have to do a lot of White Balance adjusting for the Sodium Vapor lights; feel like I need RAW files to fix that. I haven't timed it but the buffer doesn't seem to completely clear for what seems like an eternity (something like 20 seconds). I'm nervous about blur but I'll definitely drop the shutter speed to 1/400 or maybe a bit lower. I wish my K-3 could focus like the K-1.
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