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View Full Version : Is mirrorless AF & tracking up to speed for sports?? Equal to Pro DSLR yet?



mugget
12-06-2019, 1:20pm
A bit of background - I used to have a 1DMkII and 100-400mm L, but got sick of the small viewfinder and viewfinder blacking out so I sold it and got a Leica M8 for general type walkabout photos, effectively giving up on sports photography.

Fast forward 7-8 years and I’m keen to get back into it!!

It seems like mirrorless has come a long, long way and I really like the idea of no blackout EVF and all the other EVF features like auto-adjusting brightness etc. But I wonder how it compares against the old 1DMkII AF & tracking performance? Does anyone know? Anyone here use mirrorless for sports, and what do you think about it? Any regrets?

Cheer for any info!

Filter
12-06-2019, 8:49pm
I have given local AFL a go with my Olly EM1ii. I found the EVF dificult to use while panning, the refresh rate is a big concern when taking shots. The subject appears jittery & at times I lose the subject out of the AF point. In burst I notice one or two shots hit the mark but have three misses. I was told that Olympus was trying to get into the AFL as a pro camera with the big boys but havn't seen any evidence of that. For these reasons I will stick to the 7Dii 100-400L combo.

Al.

Tannin
12-06-2019, 9:42pm
Sadly, it's not even close.

For action work, the $3300 EOS R - said to be amongst the best of all mirrorless cameras so far as AF performance goes - is somewhere around about the same standard as the cheap little 400D I owned briefly more than ten years ago, which is to say around about on a par with the poorest DSLR focus systems I've ever used. (400D, 5D II.)

The R has lovely fast, smooth AF ... when it works. But quite often it doesn't. And your ability to put the focus point exactly where you want it, theoretically unlimited and very precise, is in practice so slow and cumbersome as to rule it out for anything time-critical (such as sport or wildlife.

Also, the viewfinder lag makes action work into guesswork.

Save the mirrorless for landscapes, where the AF system works, in the main, quickly and accurately. For anything involving action, SLRs are vastly superior.

I like my EOS R a lot - but for birds and action, I would use my 1D IV, 7D II, or 5D IV first. Not sure about 5D II or EOS R, they are about equally badly suited to the task. If you are looking to replace a 1D II, and don't want to shell out on a new pro model, look at the superb 5D IV (frame rate the only drawback) or a 7D II.

mugget
13-06-2019, 6:58am
Cheers for the replies. I knew it sounded too good to be true - all those YouTube reviews I’ve seen make it seem like mirrorless is the greatest. I’m sure it will get there.

Does full frame AF not make any difference? Is the A7III or A9 not even come close to fulfilling the requirements?

Anyway I need to get my hands on some gear to see for myself, hopefully checking out Camera House tonight and will be able to demo some gear.

No problem if mirrorless isn’t up to it, honestly I would be happy enough with another 1DMkII, maybe even MkIII or MkIV as they’re relatively “cheap” now.

William Gordon
11-06-2020, 8:21pm
Edited per site rules to remove promotion.

Richard Hall
11-06-2020, 9:48pm
An old thread but it's just been dug up and I've noticed it. I don't have any sports shooting experience but do shoot birds (and birds in flight) and I'd imagine it's as demanding on an AF system as sports if not more so.


Sadly, it's not even close.

I could not have a more polar opposite opinion to this comment at all. I don't have vast experience with mirrorless but have been using the Sony A9 since September and its AF tracking system is leagues ahead of any DSLR I've used previously. It's ability to lock on and track a BiF throughout the whole frame is remarkable.

A brief rundown on how I have the body setup gives an idea of perhaps not just it's tracking ability but its versatility for my chosen field of photography.

#1 AF On on the back of the camera is mapped to behave just like normal BBF. It's set to a single, central spot focus point and is on continuous AF. I can aim for the eye of a bird and simply move around following the subject and it stays locked on that spot. Nothing special, just press the shutter to fire off some frames.. standard back button focus stuff.

#2 I have a second button mapped near the AF On button that acts as a second AF mode. This I have on continuous AF, central spot but this has tracking on. Wherever I aim that point, the moment I depress the button it locks on to that spot and will track that spot wherever it, or I move the camera. If I aim at the eye of a bird and keep the button depressed, if the bird moves the spot tracks the bird's eye as it moves around the frame (The A9 also has animal eye recognition and this does work with larger animals, birds not so much unless very close). It does this tracking incredibly quickly, it's stunning to observe the first time you use it! Alternatively, I lock on to the eye and I move the camera to recompose without it losing lock on the spot I've focussed on. This also works for subjects that are moving towards or away from you. You can of course change the focal point size or focal area, it'd be perfect for tracking moving sports subjects! Overall this mode I have set is similar to using BBF as in #1 to recompose but because it tracks (and it tracks blisteringly fast) it means if the bird moves forwards or backwards slightly or you yourself have moved (rocked back or forth a touch?) whilst recomposing the tracking prevents any loss of focus from that slight movement. It works well for birds on the water too, just lock on the eye and let the camera track it as it moves around, works great for BiF too but a larger focal area is a bit easier to gain that initial lock on!

#3 The central button on the rear dial I have mapped as a special "birds in flight" button. When I depress this it changes a whole bunch of parameters. It changes f/stop, ISO, shutter speed and focus points and tracking all suited to capture birds in flight. It's like having three camera bodies in one.

Oh, did I mentioned electronic shutter? No blackout whilst shooting? Completely silent too so no scaring off those timid little birds? Only couple of negatives I would mention having gone from DSLR to Mirrorless would be... battery life is less (the EVF naturally chews batteries quicker) and whilst seeing everything change in real time in the EVF and the effect it has on your image when changing exposure etc is awesome, it's just not as nice as looking through the lens. For me everything else is far superior.

The speed of focus and tracking is truly remarkable, perhaps Canon needs to play catchup with Sony with their mirrorless range in these regards, but as for AF performance the Sony A9 is stellar. Perhaps the new upcoming Canon bodies will match the Sony, hope so! To me they're all tools to get a job done and if one brand does it better than another I'd shift again should I ever want to upgrade down the track. For now though, the Sony range (using the 200-600mm and just picked up the 1.4x converter today actually) is a wonderful combination for wildlife.


The A9 is a rockstar for sports, if you can afford it.

It is a remarkable bit of kit, I picked mine up for $4200 last Sept... I was staggered to see they are now ranging anywhere from about $5699 to $6499!!!

Richard Hall
12-06-2020, 7:59am
I'm sorry, but why was William's post before mine deleted for "promotion"? He simply stated the Sony A9 is a fantastic bit of kit if you can afford it. The OP in the very thread above his asked "Is the A7III or A9 not even come close to fulfilling the requirements?" to which William's post seemed an appropriate reply.

Are we not allowed to post opinion anymore?

ricktas
12-06-2020, 11:04am
I'm sorry, but why was William's post before mine deleted for "promotion"? He simply stated the Sony A9 is a fantastic bit of kit if you can afford it. The OP in the very thread above his asked "Is the A7III or A9 not even come close to fulfilling the requirements?" to which William's post seemed an appropriate reply.

Are we not allowed to post opinion anymore?

it was removed as the poster does not meet the 50 posts rule regarding promotion of products or services. (site rule 3). Once he reaches 50 posts he will be able to say what he likes/dislikes about products.

The OP had met both the 30/50 rules when he posted, so thus it was allowed.

Tannin
12-06-2020, 11:11am
^ Only if you have less than a certain number of posts, Richard. It's just to prevent spammers joining up to push stuff. William will be able to post that as soon as he has ... er .. I think it's 20 posts.

On your focus comments, I'd make two observations.

1: Canon have updated the firmware of the EOS R significantly. It is now much better than it was. It is still inferior to a good SLR, particularly insofar as it still lacks both the ability to set an exact focus point ("point", not "small area") and a practicable mechanism for selecting it, but it's usable.

2: In my remarks, I laid overmuch emphasis on the AF issue, and not nearly enough on the viewfinder lag problem, which (certainly since the AF firmware updates) is far more serious. Whether that applies to other brands I cannot say.


Since this thread was last alive, it is notable that the two primary professional camera manufacturers have both introduced new models at the top of their ranges. In both cases, they went with SLRs.

Richard Hall
12-06-2020, 1:03pm
it was removed as the poster does not meet the 50 posts rule regarding promotion of products or services. (site rule 3). Once he reaches 50 posts he will be able to say what he likes/dislikes about products.

The OP had met both the 30/50 rules when he posted, so thus it was allowed.

Yes, having run F&P for 11 years I know all too well about spammers and the need for such rules to exist. However, I've already made my feelings known by PM to a moderator so have nothing further to add to this.

Toddyh
12-06-2020, 1:21pm
I use a Sony A7rii and this is the one thing lacking. It's a little slow and tracking is not great. I believe the A9 series is better and the updated A7r series is better too. Mirrorless are improving in this aspect from what I can tell. How long until they catch DLSR? Who knows, but my bet is not very.

Tannin
12-06-2020, 1:32pm
2: In my remarks, I laid overmuch emphasis on the AF issue, and not nearly enough on the viewfinder lag problem, which (certainly since the AF firmware updates) is far more serious.

Doh! I didn't mean to imply that the firmware updates to fix some of the AF problems had made the lag problem worse, simply that with the AF much improved now (though admittedly still not up to par), the viewfinder lag problem is now the more noticeable and annoying of the two.

- - - Updated - - -


Mirrorless are improving in this aspect from what I can tell. How long until they catch DLSR? Who knows, but my bet is not very.

If you mean focus tracking, sure. But if you mean viewfinder lag, the answer is never. Possibly EVFs will get so fast that we humans do not notice the difference, but it is impossible (I don't mean "difficult", I mean physically impossible) to make an EVF as fast as an all-optical system because the signal has to go further and be processed and transformed in various ways and there is no such thing as faster than light. Especially not when the light takes the shortest route and the electronics doesn't.

Toddyh
12-06-2020, 3:26pm
If you mean focus tracking, sure. But if you mean viewfinder lag, the answer is never. Possibly EVFs will get so fast that we humans do not notice the difference, but it is impossible (I don't mean "difficult", I mean physically impossible) to make an EVF as fast as an all-optical system because the signal has to go further and be processed and transformed in various ways and there is no such thing as faster than light. Especially not when the light takes the shortest route and the electronics doesn't.

I mean tracking and focusing on moving subjects. Auto-focus is slow, only uses a small area rather than point and doesn't track particularly well.

Doesn't worry me a lot because 99% of my photography is landscape. It would stop me recommending my camera to a sports or wildlife photographer though.

Tannin
12-06-2020, 3:54pm
Ahh, similar to the Canon EOS R then, Toddy. There seems to be no reason why mirrorless tracking and AF shouldn't be every bit as good as it is on SLRs, given a little more development time. I understand that the new Canon 1DX III has quite outstanding tracking and AF in live view mode (focusing off the main sensor, that is, even though it's an SLR). Presumably, there is no reason this same technology can't be employed in the next generation of mirrorless bodies. In fact, you'd be a fool to bet that it won't be.

While my mirrorless experience has made me quite certain that SLRs will remain the tool of choice for sport and wildlife until further notice, I'm not averse to the notion of using a mirrorless system for landscapes. (Well, I already do, that's what my EOS R does, but I mean use one out of choice, not because it's not much good for anything else.) There are certainly drawbacks to having to use an EVF, but as the technology matures I can see advantages emerging too. I think I'll skip the EOS R5 though. And truth be told, wildlife is my #1 and I really have no good reason to use anything other than a retired birding camera for my landscapes. But I do like new toys. :)

rexboggs5
16-08-2020, 5:03pm
I have recently purchased the Canon R5 and have been using it to photography flying birds. It tracks them very well and maintains the autofocus throughout. It also has human eye-detect and animal eye-detect and does a great job of finding the eye and then staying locked on to it.

I haven't used it in a sports setting yet, but I think it will do what you are asking. And up to 12 frames per second with the mechanical shutter and up to 20 frames per second with the electronic shutter. Note that the overheating issues apply to video only, not to still photos.