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03-23-2009, 09:34 PM   #1
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Pentax for sports

I had a mountain bike event to shoot last weekend. I thought i'd share my experience here since it was a little different.

The Setup:
I shoot mountain biking for print magazine, online content, and private sale to the athletes. My normal strategy is to get to the race 2 hours early and walk up and down the course during training taking as many interesting shots as I can for the mag's. Once the race starts I find and interesting feature - park my ass - and take pics of 400 people as the ride past. Generally I shoot my Canon 1DmkIII with either the 15mm fisheye or the 70-200/2.8 using on-camera flash for fill. I shoot at f2.8 to give the subject as much separation from the background as possible. I used to do these with my K10 but I had to shoot at F5.6-F7.1 to gain enough DOF to keep consistent in-focus shots.

The Day:
It was dumping down rain in the morning. When I left Canada 10 months ago for southern California I left my umbrellas behind. So when I got close to the venue I picked up an umbrella. I saw the forecast for rain so I came up with a new strategy. I brought the K20 and the 1D to the race - and this time I brought a tripod. The rain and wind were really driving through all of the training time so I didn't get much good stuff for the mags this week.

The Race:
My strategy was to park myself under an umbrella with the camera tripod mounted and shoot a nice looking corner that would have the riders looking good as they leaned through. This tripod setup allowed my to use the catch-in-focus feature found on the K20D. I setup my framing and my focus, adjusted my camera settings (F3.5; 1/1000 with the 50-135 lens) and waited to push the button. As the riders approached the corner I would (while hiding under my umbrella) push the shutter button. As soon as the riders passed through the focus point the camera (and flash) would fire. Out of about 500 shots like this I got about 480 keepers.

But for some of the online content that I provide for I wanted to really make sure I got my pictures of the winning pro riders (only about 30 riders there were Pro). So for those riders I put down my umbrella, I stood just in front of the Pentax on the tripod (but not in the way). I held down the trigger for the Pentax with my left hand and held the Canon in my right hand blasting the riders at 10fps. Its a good thing I only had to hold the Canon steady for a few seconds at a time because the body, lens and flash together weigh about 6lb's but I got my shots - from both camera's at the same time.

Both bodies have something to offer that the other cannot do. The right tool for the job is what you need in this industry and I thought it was pretty cool to use the cameras like this.

The pics - nothing special or earth shattering - just some "sportraits" for the athletes. FYI the framing isn't spot on with all of these but I fix them up on an As-Need basis:





03-23-2009, 09:43 PM   #2
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What a cool way of using catch-in focus

Thanks for sharing!
03-23-2009, 11:53 PM   #3
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My Pentax K10D + Sigma 100-300mm f/4 does admirably at all types of sports...I use it alongside my Canon 1Ds MKIIN with the 400mm f/2.8L Is and the image quality matches that pixel for pixel....though the 400mm can take a 2X teleconverter and remain eminently usable.

you images reflect my experience with canon cameras, the colours are flat, sharpness is high bit it's hard to get the kind of "bite" images from Pentax cameras can achieve....also the bokeh effects that pentax lenses produce are unique....and the sigma 100-300mm f/4 is a superb performer...I seem to recall someone saying " it's the best lens canon never made"

Iso100 1/125s @ 250mm f/7.1 + and this lens's AF mechanism is quick enough to be reliably used in constant AF's THAT quick.

Last edited by Digitalis; 05-08-2009 at 12:31 AM.
03-24-2009, 06:41 AM   #4
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kunik: are those straight out of the cam shots? The Canon images look more exposed (the white helmets look like they have blown highlights), and they look like they had sharpening done to them while the Pentax ones weren't?
And did you run the Canon in AF-C? I'm always amazed by how well the 1D's focus system works :-)

03-24-2009, 07:30 AM   #5
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the images were taken straight out of the camera taken in jpg. At these events I have to turn around 500-1000 images in about 3 hours so I don't bother with RAW. Also light conditions were changing extremely quickly so I shot the Pentax in TAV mode and the Canon in AV - so the images exposed slightly differently. Finally- I left the Canon framed wide on that corner so I would be able to (with only one hand) follow the rider to get a series.

For all these reasons I don't think its entirely fair to compare the images in a lot of ways although I generally agree with what Digitalis has said. The Canon 70-200 is unbelievably sharp but still somehow unremarkable in most other regards.

The Canon was shot at 10fps in continous focus mode (at F2.8). The AF on that camera is fairly amazing. There are some days when I shoot that camera that it is so good I don't even bother looking at all the images before I post them.

03-24-2009, 07:45 AM   #6
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This just shows me that your skill can make any camera work just fine!
03-24-2009, 11:58 AM   #7
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Nice stuff, as an avid MTB'er I really enjoy some nice bike shots. I haven't had a chance to take my new DSLR out for a bike shoot.

Now where are the Yetis;-)
03-24-2009, 12:20 PM   #8
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Awesome set of shots! Isn't there a way to setup CIF on the older bodies while using manual lenses? I remember a tutorial but for the life of me I don't know where I saw it

03-25-2009, 12:31 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Awesome set of shots! Isn't there a way to setup CIF on the older bodies while using manual lenses? I remember a tutorial but for the life of me I don't know where I saw it
I never tried it when I had my k10 but if it was going to work you would put the camera in AF-S mode --- then set your focus --- then press the shutter. If CIF is going to work the shutter should not release until the subject is in focus. I don't imagine there could be any other "tricks" since there are not any special contacts on those old lenses.

The only change with the k20 from what I understand is that it allows this procedure on lenses with quick shift on the lens (both FA and DA lenses).
03-25-2009, 07:05 AM   #10
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I've done that on my K100D and for some reason it is releasing the shutter even when it is out of focus. I remember doing this before with my A50 f/2 lens and now I'm using a completely manual 28 f/2 lens but I can't get it to work. Will CIF only work with A lenses?
03-25-2009, 07:12 AM   #11
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Nevermind... I just figured out what changed. In order for CIF to work AF needs to be enabled. Between the last time i tried CIF and today I had de-coupled AF from the shutter button. So my shutter would engage even if my subject is out of focus. So now I hold down the "OK" button while depressing the shutter button and throw the focus the shutter engages once AF confirms lock.

So to sum up, if doing CIF with manual lenses on the older bodies while using a remote trigger you will need to couple AF to the shutter button.

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