Part two of my four part write-up on testing the Sony a77 DSLR in various sports setting that I typically shoot with my job. Please check out the previous post for details on the first test and a bit of an intro to this multi-part project: here
BMX – faster moving subjects, first tests with longer glass.
The week following my first test with skateboarding at Black Flys I met up with one of my BMX friends, Michael Rodriguez. We headed out early on a Saturday morning to Chino Hills BMX park where he was going to get some riding practice in that day with his cousin who also rides.
We arrived at 8a since it was going to be triple digit temperatures that day and finishing before it got that hot was the goal.
The 12fps speed of the shutter was great, again. But this is was when I first started to find a bit of frustration with the video viewfinder. Sony had told me that one of the biggest things to get used to for people was using a view finder that was a video screen since there is no mirror in their camera.
For those that aren’t familiar with how a SLR/DSLR works… the image you see in the viewfinder is a reflection off the mirror inside the camera of what is coming through the lens. The Sony system doesn’t have a mirror, so you’re looking at a small LCD screen that is showing you what is hitting the sensor.
Here’s a diagram I found online from “nobadphoto.com for a quick reference. The green line is the path of the light (the image). You can see where it reflected before it hits your eye. Well, Sony has illminated the mirror (item #2 in the diagram) so the image goes right to the sensor (#7). Does that make sense? I’m going to assume that it does so I don’t have to get too much more detailed since this writeup isn’t about how the system produces an image. haha.
One benefit of this is that there is an option to see the exposure of the image in the viewfinder – a preview of how the shot will actually look. Although I could see this being much less useful in dark settings. And it proved to be a bit frustrating when I photographed racing a week later – that’s in the next blog update.
The viewfinder also was constantly running a leveler on the screen while shooting. This was something I (surprisingly) was able to ignore while I shot but used a few times when I was framing a shot and noticed, “huh, I’m not level”
For the majority of the BMX shooting I was doing I shot with the 24-70/2.8. The lens itself was sharp, felt comfortable to use, and was smaller in size compared to my Canon lens. I also had much less OOF shots with a smaller lighter lens than with the telephotos this particular test because it’s much easier to move a smaller lens quickly and track people/subjects.
But shooting in a sport/servo tracking mode I still felt like the focus was a bit slower than I’d like and dropped focus to the background more often than I hoped. BUT the park we were shooting at was made up of bowls that Michael was riding in and out of, so there are plenty of things that were coming in/out of the shot as I was shooting. I also don’t know how well my DX would have exactly handled it since I didn’t have it that weekend to try.
After looking through the photos and thinking about why this may have occurred I realized that I was being a little loose on my shooting. What I mean by this is I’ve become very used to a wider “spill” area around the focus point that the Canon 1D systems allow for in their 61-pt auto-focus system. So, if a person/object drops out of your focus point for a second or two (depending on your sensitivity settings) the camera will not lose focus on the subject, nor will it quickly focus on the selected point again – which is now likely the background of the image.
So, while going through images I realized this is what was happening with my images. It’s not that the camera was doing something wrong, it’s that I was relying on a system that wasn’t part of this camera. However, I know that when I shoot with my Canon 5D2 I’m very aware I don’t have this option with that system either and need to remain locked on my subject at all times.
This was something I was more aware of during my next test and OOF shots proved much less of an issue because of it
Overall thoughts for BMX – Works well enough. The speed of 12fps (of course) is great. I will accept fault for some of the focus system issues – and I realized after I didn’t try out the subject lock feature. This would have possibly helped improve many of the shots, as a rider in a cement bowl is a higher contrast compared to something like a car on a track. Below are a ton of different photos of Michael, his cousin Victor, and a couple young kids throwing some tricks on their scooters, too
Click the break for photos!
One of the main things I wanted to do was a series photo like this of Michael. I had shot one a couple years ago with my 5D2. This one was much more difficult only because of the very busy background. Michael did a few different jumps throwing a couple different tricks. This series happened to be the sharpest and easier of the sets for me to photoshop together.
Once again the color and contrast of the images was great. It was a hot and sunny morning, even at 8am. No clouds in the sky either, so I actually had to make sure the camera wasn’t going to under expose anything either since it was so bright.
But as you can see everything came out great. Shooting RAW meant I can easily go back in and brighten these a touch more. Normally I might go in which a brush and brighten Michael a bit, but since I’m sharing so many images I didn’t wanted to instead show you versions closer to how they came out of camera. Most of these have been exposed an additional 0.2 or 0.3 in RAW, just a bit, which a very slight vignette added to bring out a bit more of the blue sky.
Victor throwing a few tricks while I was talking to Michael and he was taking a break.
Decided to break out the 300/2.8 just for fun.
Framing the 300 was a lot harder because the BMX part is pretty small. Plus with the cropped sensor I was shooting and effecting 450/2.8… ridiculous reach for BMX photos
Here’s a perfect example of what I mentioned earlier. If I remained centered (I almost always use center-locked focus points) the images remained sharp and I didn’t lose focus tracking in Continuous mode. However on others when I got a little lazy in my tracking/panning is when it dropped to the background instead.
This little kids were crazy. I’m not even that old and I can already think back of “I remember when I was little fearless… and by fearless maybe I mean naive… but what does it matter, Mom and Dad had excellent health insurance. We were covered!” hahaha
These guys are like 12 years old…
Come on! A front flip?! Really… damnnn. haha
Next up: Testing with Off Racing at Glen Helen for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.