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Thread: Focus speed - Looking for lens to shoot fast moving action.

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    Focus speed - Looking for lens to shoot fast moving action.

    I am trying to test my lens (18-250 Sigma) out using continuous focussing. But it just doesn't seem to have the speed I need to track the subject (RC cars and skateboarders/scooters).

    Please could you recommend what I need to be looking for in a lens that could track these kinds of fast moving objects.
    I know nothing about anything, only what I like.


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    You need a lens with ring USM (Canon case) or in Sigma case I think HSM focusing. Normal Micro motors that drive the focus are too slow to keep up with fast action. A faster lens, ie F 1.8 to F2.8 will also help so you can get the shutter speed up. Also some camera bodies are faster than others at locking and tracking focus.
    Do you have your camera focus settings set to single centre point and AI Servo so it can track the action? That will help for a start.
    Last edited by Old Skool; 23-01-2012 at 6:53am.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Agree with Russell. You are now seeing the limitations of a 'kit' lens, and the reason why professional sport photographers use 'faster' lenses like the 70-200 f2.8 or bigger. Expect to pay around $1000 minimum for a high quality lens for sport
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    Thanks guys. Part of my problem is the RC's are so small I am having to zoom in (to have the car fill the frame) thus reducing the depth of field and making focus so much more critical. I dont want to have to crop too much if I can avoid it.

    The lens I was using is a Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM Lens for Canon. I had it on center focus, but am unsure wether I had it set to AI Servo or not. It is on a 60D body.

    Would turning the image stabilisation on or off make a difference?

    Getting the shutter speed up isn't really an issue, its mainly focus that I am having trouble with.
    Last edited by mini696; 23-01-2012 at 8:05am.

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    What camera body you have can also play a part in this as well.
    Lloyd
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    Maybe "catch in focus" is an option - if your camera has it. Here the camera's focus is set to a certain distance and when the car gets to that point where it is in focus, the shutter releases automatically.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC] my flickr page

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    I have a Canon 60D.
    Last edited by mini696; 23-01-2012 at 8:41am.

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    I have a Canon 60D.

    I have never heard of "catch in focus" so I will do some research on that.

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    You should be aiming for a shutter speed of at least 1/800, prefer a lot more - up to 1/2000 to catch the action, so at that speed image stabilization is not required. Depending on how the IS works, that could maybe slow the lens down as well.

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    Thanks Old Skool. I don't look for the IS to do any work during these shoots. I was (as you suggested) wondering if having it turned on would slow the focus down.

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    A superzoom like your Sigma is not really designed for fast focussing, and you'll need to look at an L lens to do what you want.
    The faster the lens, generally means the faster the focussing too as the image is so much brighter for the focussing sensors to work with.
    You'll need to set your focussing to AI mode and not the One Shot mode to get follow focussing, but what you can do is to manually pre-focus on a spot, then wait for the car to hit that spot and then click the shutter.

    As Ricktas said, you'll need to spend at least $1,000 and more like $2,000 and up, to get a really good, fast focussing lens.

    I've also got a 60D, and it's a great camera, but it won't focus as fast as 7D will, as the 7D has a superior focussing system and dual processors so it is the pick of the Canon smaller sensor SLR's for fast focussing without spending lots more for a 1DsMkIII.

    Try and put a good, fast L lens on your camera, and you'll be amazed at how quickly they get focus in reasonable light. almost instantly.
    Good glass is never wasted, and as you get better and better cameras, the glass will always be good and will work even better with a better camera.
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    I'll disagree and say IS is essential despite the shutter speed. When shooting such small, fast moving things while zoomed to the max, the field of view is quite small and thus IS or VR will be a big help in stabilising the view through the viewfinder, especially if the camera/lens combo has any weight. The more zoom you use the more IS will help.

    I would suggest a 70-200/2.8 IS USM +1.4TC which would still give 280/4 at worst, which should be fast enough for focusing on these things with a good camera technique.

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    Ausphotography Regular J.davis's Avatar
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    I shoot model aircraft at distance and use a Sigma 70-200 HSM F2.8 and crop to suit - works well and I am shooting at futher distances than RC Cars.
    S/H Sigmas go relitivly cheap.
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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    I have the sigma 18-250 on my 7D and find it keeps the focus very well shooting in AI Servo, High & Low speed continuous mode and have sequences up to 16 shots fired in 2 seconds of cars going over jumps coming toward me, I always shoot with OS on, I also do a lot of go kart racing using this lens for slow shutter speed 80-90sec panning and have a good keeper rate, you can check out some of my shots here. Fast action motor sports takes a lot of practice so keep at it. Either the 70-200 F2.8 OS Sigma (cheaper) or the 70-200 F2.8L is Canon (the ultimate) would be a step up.
    Keith.

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    Thanks guys, I was playing around with the AI Servo mode last night and the focus was keeping up reasonably fast (faster that I can refocus using my finger). So I will try that next race meeting. I was using AI Focus, because thats what I was told (after a google search) to use.


    Keith, what it "High and Low speed continuous mode"?
    Last edited by mini696; 24-01-2012 at 8:03am.

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    mini, if you can get a chance try the Canon 70-200. It has lightning fast AF that'll just about tear your socks off!

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    I will give one a try in-store soon, even rent one for a day.

    Then again I could just sell some of my RC's to fund a new lens.

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    is it just me or have people have gotten lazy these days. why is the answer is always better and more expensive gear? photographers have been shooting action with gear that is nowhere near as good as the stuff we have today. they had good technique, not gadgets or bigger wallets.

    my advice is to work with what you have. firstly, learn everything you can about your camera's AF system. learn it's limitations, and all the configuration (what it does and when to use which).

    get closer so you don't have to zoom so much. as you zoom, your maximum apperture gets smaller and the focusing system has less light to work with.

    learn your subject and it's motion. predict where it will go and pre-focus in that area. rather than aiming for the RC car, put your AF point down low and find a high contrast surface that the car will pass over. focus on that, and work on timing your shutter release so that the car passes over your pre-focused zone at the right time.

    as you get better, learn to work with slower shutter speeds and work in panning technique. you are shooting high speed motion so the images should convey that. super high shutter speed will freeze action, and that creates one look that is easy to achieve in good light. but nothing impresses more than a well panned shot, with a sharp car, and blurry background. good panning technique will separate you from the rest, when the light starts to fade. here i would suggest IS is helpful.

    lastly, practice makes perfect.
    Thanks,
    Nam

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    I agree NAM, If I can practice and train myself to get great shots with "lesser" gear, imagine what I will be able to do in a few years when I can afford the good stuff.

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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    Mini the 7D has 2 continuous modes. High 8fps and Low 3 fps. The 60Donly has 1 @ 5.3 fps.
    Keith.
    Ps I also agree with the comments by Nam.
    Last edited by Speedway; 24-01-2012 at 9:18am.

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