I shot my first football game in five years last night, Desert Mountain vs Notre Dame at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. I was never much of a sports photographer - it just doesn’t interest me. I don’t watch football on television and I barely know what team is in what place at any given time.
On top of that, my kit is not built around shooting sports. My cameras are the Canon 5D Mark II, a terrific camera with outstanding image quality but slow as molasses. The autofocus was state of the art in 1995 - images in the viewfinder don’t snap into focus, they sort of drift into focus. When pictures are in focus they’re tack sharp, but it may take awhile to get there.
Compounding the problem, the 5D Mark II maxes out a claimed 4 frames per second, but I think that when you’re shooting continuous autofocus at a night time sports assignment it’s more like 3 fps. The camera has a 12 picture buffer, after that it slows to about 1.5 fps until the buffer is cleared.
On Canon’s current state of the art sports camera, the 1D Mark IV, the autofocus is so fast it’s almost supernatural and the camera blasts through pictures at 10 fps. The 1D Mark IV has a 32 photo buffer, after which it slows to 4 fps. Still faster than the 5D Mark II.
So if a play lasts 10 seconds, I’m lucky to 20 frames. The photographer next to me using a 1D Mark IV will get three times as many, increasing hugely the probability of getting “the” photo.
I wouldn’t trade the 5D Mark II bodies for anything. For what I want in a camera, it’s easily the best camera out there right now. But as good as it is for what I do, it’s really not a sports camera. So I approach sports assignments with a fair amount of dread. So I was pleasantly surprised when my take from last night.