5D2 performance w/action shots

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by tamandra, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. I bought a new 5D2, and promptly had it stolen, and have been hoping to replace it very soon. In the meantime, I've borrowed a few for some sessions, which came out great. However, this weekend, I took one to the dog park, yesterday, before sunset, and today, which was overcast. I was greatly frustrated and disappointed with it's performance. I could not get a sharp shot of a dog moving to save my life! I love to capture expressions of dogs playing, and everything just was so out of focus, or soft. I use center focus point, and tried AI Servo and AI focus to no avail.

    I've been reading quite a bit of stuff on the web about autofocus problems on this camera. I know it's not for sports, but shouldn't it at least be able to get playing dogs? I want a FF camera, and more than a few folks are touting the Nikons for better performance in focusing. Even my old 40D did better, though it was a crapshoot. Is there something I can do to improve the performance in this situation? ...or do I need to go to the dark side? LOL
     
  2. The low-light moving-target AF on the 5D sucked big-time like a very sucky thing, and the 5DII uses exactly the same system.
     
  3. LOL Alec! Yeah, it doth suck like a sucky thing. So, whether to get rid of all things Canon, and switch, or just go for the 1DMK!V. Though it's already a lot of weight to be hauling around for me, say at the zoo and park with the smaller body, and those big white L lenses. I'm in a wheelchair, and it's exhausting with that much added weight!
     
  4. Yeah, not possible to do action photography at all with a 5D or a 5D2. Can't focus at all. Terrible cameras.
    Dan
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  5. 5D2 AF is not as bad as you may think but you need a good fast lens (F2.8 or better and ring USM) and you need to avoid AI focus. In AI servo use center plus assit points, in one shot I usually turn the assit points off and just use the center. As you noticed low light and low contrast moving targets are it's weak spot. You may want to consider the 7D for sports use, I shoot both the 7D and the 5DII and find the 7D is very close to the 1DIIN in performance. The 1.3x crop of the 1DIV is fine for sports but you will lose wide angle options as the 1D series needs full frame lenses - except for fisheyes 14mm (effective 17mm is the best you get)
     
  6. I use 1 series cameras (1Ds II and III) and also have both the 5D and the 5D MkII - so I have no dog in this fight particularly. There are of course AF speed differences and less hunting in low light situations with the 1 Series, but the idea that you can't take decent action or sports images with a 5D or 5D MkII is ridiculous. The AF system is not perfect (although light years ahead of a few years ago), but with a little work on technique - finding contrast, pre focusing, anticipation, use of the right AF point, avoiding lenses with max apertures below f2.8, etc. the results can be stunning. Many of the "AF problems" I have seen were in fact motion blur from inappropriate shutter speeds or technique problems (trying to focus on low contrast areas or stabbing the shutter button and not allowing the AF time, etc).
    The whole concept of using certain DSLR camera bodies exclusively for certain subjects ("use THIS for sports, THIS for landscapes, THIS for portraits, etc") seems massively oversimplified and lazy to me. A camera is a camera - sure one may have some slight inherent advantage over another in some areas - but nothing that a competent photographer can't compensate for or find a way around - especially with such capable cameras as these.
     
  7. I am also satisfied with the auto focus performance, when I miss its usually my fault not the camera.
     
  8. I totally believe in that it's not the equipment, it's the photographer. I know you can make yourself crazy looking up stuff on the web. I've heard the complaints about focusing on the 1DMK3 from some other dog photographers, though, too. And that they were switching.
    Thanks for these suggestions. I really haven't played with the camera long enough to make any pronouncements. Just frustrated that it seemed easy awhile back to get sharp images on the fly, and it's a challenge now. I'm going to sell the kit lens and get the trusty 24-70 2.8L back. But what about just having a bad copy? I reviewed today's images, and even some up close shots of some kids were not tack sharp.
    Here's an image that has contrast, and was taken at ISO 400 with f/4 1/1000. Maybe it's the distance that contributed to the softness?
     
  9. I totally believe in that it's not the equipment, it's the photographer. I know you can make yourself crazy looking up stuff on the web. I've heard the complaints about focusing on the 1DMK3 from some other dog photographers, though, too. And that they were switching.
    Thanks for these suggestions. I really haven't played with the camera long enough to make any pronouncements. Just frustrated that it seemed easy awhile back to get sharp images on the fly, and it's a challenge now. I'm going to sell the kit lens and get the trusty 24-70 2.8L back. But what about just having a bad copy? I reviewed today's images, and even some up close shots of some kids were not tack sharp.
    Here's an image that has contrast, and was taken at ISO 400 with f/4 1/1000. Maybe it's the distance that contributed to the softness?
     
  10. Tamandra, looking at the image of the two dogs playing may I suggest that you never actually had the dogs in focus to begin with, when you pressed the trigger. The area in front of the dogs seems sharper ...
     
  11. I've noticed several of those. But I had the center focus beam right on them. This is what's weirding me out. I have shots of my dog running towards me from the beach the other day, and I tried both several frames a second, then just trying to get focus and shooting off one. VERY blurry.
    The first one I bought was great for my first shoot, of a dog party on a hotel balcony. I remember the vast majority being keepers. Though most dogs weren't rushing around, they were definitely on the move. Maybe with the overcast day, the light was actually worse than I thought. But still, this camera is supposed to be great in low light. I'm not sure I have those assist focus points activated, so I'll fiddle some more tomorrow.
     
  12. Yeah, not possible to do action photography at all with a 5D or a 5D2. Can't focus at all. Terrible cameras.​
    I don't believe anyone actually said that.
    It's worth noting that G Dan Mitchell's great shots are all taken outdoors in good light.
    I have about 100k low-light photos with my 5D, many of which are fantastically sharp and in focus, completely saleable, and which blow away the customers who buy them. They're all taken indoors, of close fast moving sports, all lit by room-filling flash because the ambient is down to an EV of 3 or 4. I could even pick five (or 10, or 45, or 200, or 1000) and post them here to impress the crowd. It would be good eye-candy, but it wouldn't address the point the op was asking about. I have a great deal of experience of where the 5D focus works well, where it doesn't - and overall, for low-light sports, it sucks.
     
  13. Tamandra, looking at the image of the two dogs playing may I suggest that you never actually had the dogs in focus to begin with, when you pressed the trigger. The area in front of the dogs seems sharper ...​
    Which is, in my experience, the weak spot in the EOS af. Smooth motion is more easily tracked, but the AF often front-focuses when the subject motion is random.
     
  14. Its all bull. If it is very dark, and the dogs are black or brown, it would be hard to photograph with any camera.. trust me. Did you ever concider ISO? 5dm2 have a stunning ISO performance.. So stop vining. I Would die for camera like the 5dm2. Amazing camera. Generally all FX cameras perform very well. Anything else said is kind of nerdy.
     
  15. Its all bull. If it is very dark, and the dogs are black or brown, it would be hard to photograph with any camera.. trust me. Did you ever concider ISO? 5dm2 have a stunning ISO performance.. So stop vining. I Would die for camera like the 5dm2. Amazing camera. Generally all FX cameras perform very well. Anything else said is kind of nerdy.
     
  16. I had used extensively the 5D mkII for concert pictures in the worst light situations you can imagine (even forced to shot at ISO 25600) and the focus worked as a charm. For my "action shots" it is more than enough.
    00VPUa-206485584.jpg
     
  17. Nice one Dan.
    Alan
     
  18. I think your problem is mainly technique and you need to practice not buy new equipment. The simple fact is that the 5DII AF is better than that used by sports photographers 10 years ago - my 1NRS was Canon's pro sports body until the 1VHS came along. The simple fact is that my 5DII has better AF than the 1NRS. One thing you should do is carefully analyze your shots was the issue subject motion, camera motion or AF - you can use DPP to show the AF point(s) used. The other issue with dogs is that they are very hard to shoot when they play due to the random subject motion. What can happen is that you do not keep the AF point on the animal for long enough to give the camera a chance. The algorithm Canon has used for their AF tends to focus in front of the subject if it does not have a clear idea of subject motion. As I said earlier the 7D has better AF than the 5DII but even here you need to give the AF a chance. To John's point on different bodies I have gone from a single high end body approach ( I went through the F1, T90, 1, 1NRS, 1V, 1DIIN) to buying cheaper bodies as they become obsolete so fast. The 5DII / 7D makes a great pair - the 5DII is a better camera and can be used for all purposes but the 1.6 factor and the faster AF make the 7D a useful (and relatively cheap) complement. To shoot Ice hockey I used to carry a 300F2.8 on one body and the 70-200 f2.8 on another. The 1.6 crop and high resolution of the 7D allows me to shoot the whole rink with only one body/lens combination.
    With the 1Ds bodies you get the best of both worlds but they are heavy and very expensive.
     
  19. Even the best AF systems, regardless of manufacturer, may not perform at their peak under adverse conditions.
    "I've been reading quite a bit of stuff on the web about autofocus problems on this camera. I know it's not for sports " Many people who make these claims are those that do not own/regularly use/know how to use the camera.
    I too have used the MKII successfully in poorly lit venues where other cameras I have owned in the past have failed to achieve accurate AF.
    Using the right lens is also very important - a slow lens (aperture wise) may not give great AF performance under the conditions you describe where a fast lens will work well.
     
  20. leans how to use both focus buttons and use thumb for focus and first finger to take the photo. also depends on the lens and focus callibration.
     
  21. Your experience is why I traded in my 5D's (first model). I got the Canon 1D MKIII and 1DS MKIII bodies. The 5D (and essentially the 5D2 - same basic focus system) work fine on static subjects but when the action speeds up or gets real dark the focus gets sluggish and hunts. With the 1D cameras I've yet to have any hunting under virtually any condition within reason. I think the new 7D uses technology from the 1D focus system but it's not a full frame sensor however.
     
  22. That makes a lot of sense that random motion makes it hard on the camera. I do see some of the shots have the foreground sharper just ahead of the dog(s). I am baffled that it wasn't focusing on my dog running right towards me, though. My 40D was a crapshoot with that, but half the time it would get a few right.
    Being in a wheelchair, it's already really heavy to carry around this body with a 24-70, and either a 70-200 or 100-400 in my bag, a new Tenba messenger that I put around my body and chair and rest on my knee fronts. Good workout I guess heh. But it's something to think about getting a 7D, for both the dog park, and the zoo. I did play with one for a couple weeks a few months back, and liked it. Though with the cost of the 5D2 and that, it's just about the cost of the 1dMKIV. But again, that puppy isn't FF, either.
     
  23. "5D2 AF is not as bad as you may think but you need a good fast lens (F2.8 or better and ring USM) and you need to avoid AI focus."
    Funny. I was tempted to repost my photos... none of which was made with a "F2.8 or better" lens (some are with the 100-400 zoom) and several of which probably used AI focus.
    There are few absolutes about this stuff. Much of it is situational. In some cases I might prefocus. In others I might use a single AF point. Sometimes AI servo is useful.
    Dan
     
  24. "5D2 AF is not as bad as you may think but you need a good fast lens (F2.8 or better and ring USM) and you need to avoid AI focus."
    Funny. I was tempted to repost my photos... none of which was made with a "F2.8 or better" lens (some are with the 100-400 zoom) and several of which probably used AI focus.
    There are few absolutes about this stuff. Much of it is situational. In some cases I might prefocus. In others I might use a single AF point. Sometimes AI servo is useful.
    "It's worth noting that G Dan Mitchell's great shots are all taken outdoors in good light."
    Outdoors, yes. Good light, not for all of them. The Armstrong shot was done in fairly serious overcast - it had been raining - at high ISO with the 100-400. The pelican shots were done in foggy conditions. The egret was shot in less bad light, but it was overcast and late in the day. The Blue Angels were shot in good light, as was the wind surfer.
    These are the same sort of conditions the OP mentioned.
    OP wrote:
    I know it's not for sports, but shouldn't it at least be able to get playing dogs?
    Absolutely. I'm positive that playing dogs can't challenge the camera more than pelicans in flight or Blue Angles in flight and a 100-400mm zoom. :)
    All of that said, if I were shooting indoor active subjects in low light I would almost certainly use my primes. But the 5D2 still focuses well here - though clearly the 1-series bodies are designed to be even stronger in those very marginal and challenging situations.
    Dan
     
  25. Dan my experience with indoor ice hockey which tends to be poorly lit (we are talking F2.8, ISO 1600 - 3200 and 1/400 to 1/1000) shows a big difference between F2.8 lenses and F4 lenses on the 5DII. I have both the 70-200 F2.8 (non IS) and the 70-200 F4 IS and the AF difference between them in poor light is significant when using AI Servo. The F2.8 lens is much faster and produces a much higher percentage of keepers.
    For general use, using one shot and for outdoor sports in good light there is little to choose between them. The reason I have both is that I need to F2.8 for sports use (ski racing, ice hockey) but do not need IS due to the speed of the athletes. The 70-200 F4 IS is a great walk about lens being half the weight of the F2.8 lens. Thus for about $500 more than the 70-200 F2.8 IS I get the best of both worlds - an F2.8 zoom and a lightweight high quality zoom with IS.
    I don't know if you have tried shooting playing and running dogs but it is harder that you think (I discovered this when we bought a dog!). Athletes are going on a known and predictable trajectory so you can pre-focus or at least follow the action more easily. Dogs have the unfortunate habit of moving in a random manner at quite high speed. Since you really want a shot of them with their eyes looking at the camera and in focus this can be very challenging.
    I was not saying that you cannot get in-focus shots of action with a slower lens or in AI Focus - merely that it made it a lot more difficult. Indeed I took my first sports shots with a Canon F1 and a 300 F2.8 manual focus lens - indeed about once a year I will shoot ski race shots this way just to see if I can still do it. The problem with AI Focus for erratic targets is that the camera appears to take a long time deciding which algorithm to use.
     
  26. All of this convinces me that it was impossible to shoot sports with manual focus cameras. Clearly it could not be done...
     
  27. [​IMG]So maybe what's up is a bad batch, and this model was in it. I shot some bike riders, and even people walking this afternoon, and chose to enable the focus point. It showed right where I wanted it to be, and where the camera claimed to be focusing, and yet the person would be completely soft. Not sure it'll work, I put one on Flickr at 100% crop. This was 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. It's ok, but for this camera, and that speed, I would think it should be tack sharp. Some of the shots were obviously back focused. Despite where the focus point showed.
    I do seem to end up with bad copies of things. Just my luck. But it happens a lot with Canon, and it's irksome. I'm fairly good at action shots by now, even romping dogs. I have shots with my 40D with frisbee or dock diving dogs that are in focus. Gotta be this copy of the camera.[​IMG]
     
  28. Hi Tamandra
    Looks like you asked a real popular question. Believe it or not a lot of people tend to find it challenging to get a sharp photo when the lighting conditions are not ideal or the subject is in motion. Add to that that animals are like little children and the learning curve seems to get rapidly higher because of the unpredictability.
    From my experience I tend to adjust my technique based on the lens I am using at the time. The below sample shots were taking with the Canon EF 70-200 2.8 on my XSI.
    Before I start taking shots I tend to browse around the area I'm shooting. I look for:
    (1) Where the sun is and where is it headed.

    (2) Based on what I see interesting I look to see where I will get shade and how harsh it could get.
    I will then take a couple test shot with iso settings between 400 and 800 since I am expect to shoot people in motion. I don't tend to use auto iso settings because they can be so unpredictable. Keep in mind that I will also tend to over expose by half to one stop to help persevere detail in shady images.
    With all this in mind (just in case it has not been mentioned) I almost most never shoot with my lens wide open (e.g. F2.8). I often find the depth of field too shallow for my liking which results in a blurry image. So if I follow my rule then I tend to start at F4 with this lens.
    Finally I can't say enough about practice. Practice learning to track your target (in my case I was moving my camera to the motion of the trapeze the performer is jumping on). Or being able to judge based on where your shooting the correct f-stop to capture the detail you need. Also shooting more predictable targets in motion will be less frustrating and more rewarding when practicing (in my case either day time motor cross races or when I'm down town some of the cyclists.
    Best of Luck
    Randy
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  29. All of this convinces me that it was impossible to shoot sports with manual focus cameras. Clearly it could not be done...​
    Clearly AF is just a marketing gimmick and real photographers can take 2,000 razor sharp frames of 400 different sportsmen and sportswomen all at f/2.8 in one afternoon with nothing but a speed graphic and a pile of magnesium ribbon flash bulbs.
     
  30. The 5DMarkII is great for lowlight situations (very small noise levels) so it might entice you to take photos in such a darkness where the autofocus can not cope with the situation.
    However I should warn that 5DMarkII has, IMHO, a severe quality problem - my camera goes to repair for the second time in 10 months having gone out of whack all by itself (first time, the thumbwheel failed, and now the shutter releases from AF on button but not from the shutter release etc). I have used Canons for 6 years and start to get the feeling that new digitally fragile SLR bodies are rolled out at the expense of quality. I wonder how Nikon copes with this competitive situation...
     
  31. deleted double-post. sorry.
     
  32. The truth lies somewhere between the implications of these two posts. As usual, the most extreme positions are probably only valid for outlier situations.
    All of this convinces me that it was impossible to shoot sports with manual focus cameras. Clearly it could not be done...
    and
    Clearly AF is just a marketing gimmick and real photographers can take 2,000 razor sharp frames of 400 different sportsmen and sportswomen all at f/2.8 in one afternoon with nothing but a speed graphic and a pile of magnesium ribbon flash bulbs.
    It is the absolutist statements that get to me: "f/2.8 is always better than f/4," "primes are always better than zooms," "you can't shoot sports with a 5D/5D2," "You can't shoot street with a DSLR," "your first lens must be a 50mm prime," and on and on and on...
    :)
    A bottom line in this case is that the 5D2 is capable of doing what the OP is trying to do. There is either an issue with technique or camera settings... or this was a case of bad luck.
    Dan
     
  33. Having shot ski racing with both MF and AF I can tell you that AF makes it much easier and allows you to take different shots. With AI Servo you can take multiple shots of the skier as they traverse several gates. In the MF days you would pre-focus on the gate and then attempt to squeeze off a few shots - possibly manually adjusting the focus as you did so. With AF you can shhot a sequence of shots where with MF you only got a few. The one advantage of using MF was that in events like slalom you knew where you were focused - with AF it is possible for the AF system to lock on a gate not the skier if you are shooting from below the course.
    The OP's shots suggest that more practice is required - never mind the AF, the exposures are off. Try using the histogram and exposure compensation.
     
  34. Alec & G Dan... My comments were tongue in cheek (couldn't you see me smiling?). I do understand that AF offers some advantages, but good and practiced technique is even more important. All other things being equal, the hit rate with great AF that is well used is better than the hit rate with MF. But all things are never equal. Better gear is no substitute for skilled shooting... and less that ideal gear is no excuse for consistently bad shots.
     
  35. The OP's shots suggest that more practice is required - never mind the AF, the exposures are off. Try using the histogram and exposure compensation.​
    I do use both. I just find it odd that I've had little trouble with these types of shots with my first XT, then the 40D, but now 99% of them suck. I'm in AP mode, which I usually am. Today I went to the dog park again, at 2 pm, very bright. It did help, but still, it was back focusing, or just not getting good focus, even on dogs moving non-erratically. In fact, even on some normal standing still shots. Then went to the zoo, and was getting sharpness, but a lot of underexposures. Oddly, the images looked good on the LCD, and the histogram, but then in Lightroom, very underexposed. Weird.
    Also, I rented one of these a couple weeks back, and was shooting two black labs romping with a football, playing tug with it. Most of those were just fine.
     
  36. Maybe it would be worthwhile to do a set of careful, controlled tests to determine if the camera, lens, or camera/lens combo needs adjusting. Basically, put the camera on a tripod and point it at flat and contrasty surface, use a remote release and mirror lockup or live view. Make some exposures at various focal lengths and see if you get a sharp image or not. If not, try switching AF off and manually focusing a tiny bit closer and/or farther and see if things get better. If so, you may have a front/backfocus issue that needs adjustment.
    Dan
     
  37. For moving objects try: TV shutter priority, AI Servo and Spot metering. Center the action in the frame.
    I use the lowest ISO possible for the proper exposure. When I am panning fast action I usually use 1/125-1/400. (MotoGP, NHRA, IRL, etc.)
     
  38. So you are thinking of goin to the dark side. Now that is funny young Skywalker.
    Internet full of trolls and misinfo.
    This shots were taken with 5D AI servo and continous focus 1600 ISO f/7 200mm 2.8
    More proof that Canon 5D can shoot action.
    00VSel-208305684.jpg
     
  39. Nah, I came to my senses ; ) I am getting some great images (non moving lol), though sometimes the focus point shows exactly where I focused (eyes) and yet the sharp part is way off on wide open images. I was using a 50 1.2 for a session this weekend.
    So perhaps I need to balance out my quest for bokeh with having sharpness. A lot of the images that were consternating were wide open for that lens, at f4. I'll play around with settings more. I still do think there's something to the complaints. A lot of the dog photographers I'm on a forum with have 5Ds, and are going to keep those even when upgrading to the 5D2.
     
  40. A little update to this issue. I ended up getting a different 5D2 body. Definitely much better. Better focusing on non-moving, and sharper with moving. If I can get the center focus point where I want it with a dog running super fast! It's still a little tricky, but it shows it was the other body that was out of whack. Maybe a bad batch?
     

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