Now that soccer season is over, here are some thoughts on the Fuji X-T1 and soccer.
Long story short: I’ve gone back to my Canon 7D only because:
- I am less tired at the end of the day
- It required less effort to follow the players through an optical viewfinder than through an EVF
- The images were good enough for family photos (but not as good as the X-T1 when the Fuji is spot on)
One of the reasons that I bought my X-T1 was that I was fed up with how my Canon 7D:
- would have inconsistent exposure and white balance between frames shot in high frame rate bursts
- and did not have as sharp an image as you would expect even with a Canon 70-200 f/4L IS lens.
Double-checking the ground (to see what should have been in focus) and doing my own through test showed what DxO has already been saying:
- that this was the best that I could expect from the Canon 7D
- and that, if I were to stay with Canon, moving to a full frame Canon was my only recourse.
- But a 6D didn’t have the focusing system for sports
- The 5D was too slow
- And the 1D was downright too expensive
So, here I am with Fuji’s flagship X-T1
For multiple soccer games, I used:
- High performance mode
- Pre-focus on
- Image display (image preview) off – essential for fast shooting
- Zone AF mode
- Average metering works better for soccer (yes, I could shoot full manual, but more on that later)
- Mostly continuous focus (before now, bursts of Single focus would work better for most of what I shoot on the 7D)
- Continuous high (frame rate) (reduced from 8fps to 5-3fps due to continuous focus)
- First off, I predicted that an always on virtual horizon would be helpful for reducing post-processing, but after shooting several games and not having to fix the horizon on many photos, I absolutely love it!
Electronic View Finder
- Unlike the air show, I was able to follow the soccer players through the EVF pretty easily, but this might have been due to me getting use to how the EVF works.
- But it’s still not the same as looking through an optical viewfinder which is seamless.
The EVF is quick while you are not shooting, but once you press down on the shutter release, you then get static frames (and this is with image preview off)
- Because of this, I prefer the optical viewfinder
Single Focus (+ High Frame Rate)
I really liked how you can take 4 shots in a single, easy, gentle click. When I use my 7D, it feels laborious to shoot even 3 shots. The difference in effort is hard to describe, but it is great.
Continuous Focus (+ High Frame Rate)
- Because I tend to shoot players confronting other players (instead of running up the field), I prefer to shoot in the fastest bursts possible so Single Focus in Continuous High is my favorite and the X-T1 delivers on that, but for these tests, I gave continuous focus a serious try.
- I found Continuous Focus to work well with a few out of focus frames (about 25% of the time). That sounds good at first (and is about as good as my 7D in continuous focus), but when you can see THE shot you like in a burst, and it is the only one out of focus, then it is AWFUL.
- Samples in future post
- Unlike my Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, moving the zoom ring on the Fuji consumer XC 50-230mm was very laborious.
- The zoom ring on the Canon L lens can be moved with a single finger which is really appreciated on a long shoot as the players move up and down the field a lot.
- Fuji’s pro-grade XF 55-200mm might be easier to turn, but I doubt it. My XF 18-55mm also has a tight zoom ring.
Tired right arm
- Something I didn’t expect was how sore my right arm got by mid game
- When I shoot kids soccer, I sit in a chair and have the camera on a monopod. This allows me to have a more eye-level with the players without kneeling.
- My arm does also get tired shooting a Canon 7D, but since the 7D can have a hand strap, this lightens the workload enough to alleviate both forearm and bicep/shoulder strain.
- The X-T1 cannot take a hand strap.
- More on this in a separate post.
- After 300-400 JPEG+RAW shots (that’s 300-400 JPEGs and 300-400 RAW) in an hour, my one battery showed 3 bars remaining (Warning! Will Robinson!) and showed 25% remaining in my Watson Duo Charger (at 15-20% the Fuji usually shows 2 red bars).
- DPreview reports CIPA battery life rated at 350.
- I have not had to switch batteries mid-game so far.
- The photos were comparable and often better than those from my Canon 7D.
- Fuji was more consistent in white balance and exposure than the Canons.
- The Canons almost always varied exposure between photos in 5fps and 8fps bursts (2nd frame was always darker) — it is maddening since I have to correct this in post to get good looking sequences
The surprising thing was how more forgiving the Fuji was for focus.
- At only a half a stop difference between the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS and the Fuji 50-230mm f/4-6.7 at maximum zoom, there shouldn’t be much of a difference, but so many more shots were usable on the Fuji (and I checked the grass to see if the shots had similar focus and they did).
- If I did not have a Canon 7D, I would be able to capture perfectly good kid’s soccer shots with the X-T1.
- I love the images that I get from the Fuji and it’s easy shutter release button.
- I love how post processing is really reduced thanks to the always on virtual horizon, consistent exposure and great white balance.
- but the lens handling is tiresome for a sports photographer during long games
- and the lag in the EVF is also tiring after a long game
In other words, for me the ideal sports camera would be Canon’s easy to use lens and body with Fuji’s guts inside (and an improved EVF).
More sample photos to be posted.