View Full Version : Lightweight rugby (partly courtesy of Woofmix)

Bikie John
2nd September 2012, 02:01 PM
One of my regular photographic gigs is rugby. The season has just started, which is rather depressing seeing as we haven't had summer yet.

My normal kit at this time of year, when we have plenty of daylight, is the E-5 with 50-200mm lens and EC-14 1.4x converter. I got hold of an EM-5 a few months ago, and later bought Woofmix's Panasonic 100-300mm lens. I have been very pleased with the E-M5 and since it was reasonably bright yesterday and we were promised a dry afternoon, I took the opportunity to try it out in the hope that the E-M5 plus 100-300 would be a good lightweight kit for nice days.

Detail and samples follow, but to save you some reading time here are my main conclusions:

- image quality was good enough but not quite up to 50-200/EC-14 standards
- it is lovely and compact and lightweight
- handling was a bit tricky
- I found the electronic viewfinder very difficult to use

The last one was a major obstacle, and I fear it could represent pretty bad news considering that the likely future is for mirrorless cameras.

Spec-wise the two lens combos are almost equivalent. The 100-300 loses a bit at the short end (100mm, vs 70mm fir the 50-200/EC-14) but this doesn't matter much for field sports like rugby. It gains a little at the long end (300mm vs 280) but I hardly noticed it. Aperture at the short end is the same, f/4, but the 100-300 loses about half a stop at the long end - f/5.6 vs about f/4.9. Again, I don't think this is very significant.

Of course, the E-M5 combo is smaller and MUCH lighter, for which I was grateful puffing my unfit way up to the club on the pushbike. The Panny lens is not weathersealed. One thing that kept tripping me up is that the zoom ring on the Panny lens goes in the opposite direction to the Olys that I am used to. No problem when you have time to think about the shot, but tricky in the heat of battle.

It was reasonably bright so I was able to shoot at ISO 400 and get shutter speeds around 1/1000 - motion blur is not generally attractive in rugby shots.

Some examples. I was quite pleased with this one:


This is actually quite a hefty crop, here is the full frame, just downsized for the web:


so it was nice to have 16 megapix to play with. The lens was wide open and image quality is fine for newsprint and web even with this major crop. There is a little colour fringing on some shots and sharpness is not quite up to the 50-200/EC-14, but that is a very high standard to match.

This also illustrates a strange problem I was having - the camera kept pointing in the wrong direction, usually too far down so I kept cutting off heads. I've no idea why this happened, once I spotted it I tried hard to correct it and gradually got better.

In the second half we were attacking with the sun behind us, so I was shooting straight into the sun. Fortunately it is still quite high in the sky so I didn't have problems with flare, but I had to bring the shadows up quite a lot:


I think the extra DR of the E-M5 helped as this looks better than similar shots on the E-5.

But the real bugbear was the viewfinder. I've tried it for cricket, and it was OK, and for live music for which it works really well. But for rugby, even as slowly as our lower-league guys move aorund, it was very difficult to keep up with the game. It's always a bit of a crap-shoot when there are bodies flying all over the place and you don't know who you have got until afterwards, but it felt much harder with the EVF than with the optical veiwfinder of the E-5.

Of course, the technology is evolving. I thought the E-M5 viewfinder was pretty good until yesterday's experiment, now I see that it still has quite a way to go.

In conclusion, the viewfinder means that I won't choose to use it for this kind of subject unless size and weight are really high priorities. It's a lovely camera and does lots of other jobs really well so I'm very pleased to have it, but even when the PDAF problems are resolved I feel it falls short for this type of action photography.

Ciao ... John

2nd September 2012, 03:42 PM
John your second shot makes me realise that "Rugby is a game for men who like odd shaped balls" ... its all a bit too close contact eh :o

Bikie John
2nd September 2012, 04:40 PM
Chevvy - I believe the technical term is "bag-snatching".

Ciao ... John with eyes watering

2nd September 2012, 04:57 PM
Your main problem was the viewfinder. Did you try increasing the frame refresh rate? The high rate is said to reduce display lag. I have not tried it myself but I have seen various references to it as being helpful in shooting fast moving subjects.

Bikie John
2nd September 2012, 05:50 PM
Thanks Archie, I wasn't aware of that. I will dig in the manual for details - it could well help.

Ciao ... John

2nd September 2012, 05:53 PM
In fact I see no reason to keep it at a low refresh rate - unless someone knows otherwise?

Bikie John
2nd September 2012, 09:58 PM
Found refresh rate in the book and changed it. Will give it another go at the next game (in a couple of weeks) as long as the weather is kind.

Stephen - the book says "Display quality may drop under some types of
lighting, including fluorescent lamps" for the higher rate. So maybe it's one of those things that you need to tweak case by case.

Ciao ... John

3rd September 2012, 07:44 AM
I was wearing goggles at paintball yesterday whilst using the 100-300 too, I found the viewfinder easier to use despite wearing goggles, it was cloudy, drizzling, lots of trees so the light restricted me to 1/200th or there abouts....I am still swayed in favour of the EM5 over the E-3 I had before hand the size difference very handy!

Bikie John
3rd September 2012, 09:21 AM
Another factor may have been the brightness of the viewfinder image. It was pretty bright when the sun came out in the second half so my eyes will have adjusted for that. I think the rear panel display adjusts automagically for ambient light but it looks as if the EVF doesn't, so it looked a bit dark. I have cranked it up to the max now (goodness knows what that will do for battery life!) so we'll see what happens next time.

Any further tips gratefully received.

I also just noticed while browsing that the 100-300 vignettes quite a bit wide open at the long end. I don't really see this as a problem, most zooms do to some extent and it's easy to correct.

Ciao ... John

3rd September 2012, 11:45 AM
Fast enough to capture the paintball blur, the 100-300 locked on the person and not the branches in front....This was a problem with the 70-300 before...so im happy :)

Bikie John
3rd September 2012, 01:02 PM
Nice one! Not too sure I'd want to stand there.

Ciao ... John

3rd September 2012, 01:08 PM
Fast enough to capture the paintball blur, the 100-300 locked on the person and not the branches in front....This was a problem with the 70-300 before...so im happy :)

Just a small point, and not one to detract from the quality of the image, but the Exif seems to be saying that this was shot with the 12-50 lens? :)

3rd September 2012, 04:41 PM
Just a small point, and not one to detract from the quality of the image, but the Exif seems to be saying that this was shot with the 12-50 lens? :)

Thats odd was sure was using the 100-300 on that field, swapped later... but I stand corrected if that what the camera says...

now going to check the other images to seee what they say...