Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shooting the Ping Pong Tournament, Part 3 (with conclusions)

Ping Pong (a.k.a., Table Tennis) is a very difficult and frustrating sport to shoot!
  1. Poor lighting demands high ISO.  On my APS-C cameras (Canon 7D and Sony a6000), this ISO is quite noisy.  I watched a video from Tony Northrup this weekend that talks about the "conversions" among all the shooting parameters from one sensor size to another.  In particular, he shows that the noise at a specific ISO goes as the 2-dimensional sensor size.  So a 35-mm-sized sensor (a.k.a., "Full Frame") is about 1.6*1.6 (4.096) times less noisy than an APS-C sensor.  In other words, ISO 6400 on a Canon 5D (or 6D or 1Dx) is equivalent to ISO 1600 on the Canon 7D.  I *wish* I could have shot at ISO 1600!
  2. Autofocus is a bear. I think I covered that pretty well in the Sunday post.
  3. The Sony a6000 is a competent sports camera, with the right lens.
  4. My Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 from 1975 is a great lens!
  5. I love shooting indoor sports.  My current pair of APS-C cameras do a good job, but the high-ISO performance is not so great; that is, I would really like to have cleaner pictures at ISO 6400!
  6. The background at Vaughn sucks.  Blurring out the background better would have been nice.  That means either a faster/longer lens or a larger sensor.
Is it time for me to consider buying camera with a larger sensor?  (I hate using the term "Full Frame", but I guess I have to.)

(Pause.  Take a deep breath, Elliott.)

My two current APS-C cameras are:
  • Canon 7D (mark 1) - $1700, 8fps
  • Sony a6000 - $600, 10fps
If I wanted to shift to "full frame", the current cameras on the market are as follows:
  • The kings are:
    • Canon 1Dx - $6000, 11fps
    • Nikon D4s - $6500, 11fps
  • The others are:
    • Canon 5D Mark III - $3000, 6fps
    • Canon 6D - $1800, 4.5fps
    • Nikon D810 - $3000, 5fps
    • Nikon D750 - $2000, 6.5fps
    • Nikon D610 - $1500, 6fps
    • Sony A99 - $2000, 6fps
    • Leica M-P - $8000, 3fps
    • Sony a7 (any of them) - $1500-$2500, 1fps
Leicas and the Sony a7* cameras are not sports camera!  They would need better fps specs.  Also, Leica does not have any AF lenses.

For completeness, there are a couple of "outside the box" medium format alternatives:
  • Pentax 645Z - $9000, 3fps (sensor size is 44x33 mm, 50% bigger than "full frame")
  • Leica S - $25400, 3.5fps;  But it can do 24 fps of 4K video.  4K video is an 8MP (3840x2160 pixel) still image.  That would work!
  • Phase One 645DF+ - $20k?,  2fps

Conclusions/How to shoot ping pong

  • Shoot from an elevated position (8-12 feet above floor level) for most of the shots
  • Be cognizant of the background as you are shooting.  A guy in a red coat wandering by can ruin an otherwise good shot
  • The best shots (to my eye) have the ball in there.
  • Shots with one competitor facing the camera are good, but try to get a few with the back of the near competitor in there, too.
  • If the player is right-handed, you are probably best to shoot from the right side of the table.  If the other player is left handed, then you definitely want to be on the right side!
  • Crank up the ISO to get a fast shutter speed
  • Use the maximum (widest) aperture
  • On APS-C, focal lengths between 50 and 100mm seem to be best (75-150mm on full frame).  But try the longest focal length you have, too, to get very tight shots from nearby, and/or regular shots from far away.
  • Try manual focusing
  • Borrow a Canon 1Dx for best results :-)

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