I’m starting to shoot sports again, modestly. Is mirrorless up to the task?

Lacrosse Players, Waiting - Austin, Texas

Lacrosse Players, Waiting – Austin, Texas

Over two years ago, I hung up my modest sports photography duties. I moved from the action oriented Canon 7D to a slower but higher quality Canon 6D. I was never a serious sports shooter. Just a dad capturing his sons playing on the weekend soccer league.

Since then, my boys have grown up and moved from soccer to tennis. I’ve also moved on. I don’t find tennis very interesting, photographically and it doesn’t take a sports camera to shoot it. Well, out of the blue, this has changed. My older son has fallen in love with lacrosse.

Not sure how serious he’s going to be, but I went to his first game today. For all the cameras I have, and I have a lot, I don’t have a really good sports setup. I could use my Canon 6D but its focusing system is not ideal. Plus my nice 70-200 F4 L zoom only reaches 200mm on a full frame camera — not very long for field sports.

My fastest camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It’s faster focusing than my Canon and shoots up to 10 frames per second. But I’m really lacking in the telephoto department. For most of my photography, I like to shoot at 50mm or wider. I have a choice between two unassuming kit lenses — the Olympus 40-150mm f4-5.6 or the Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6. I took the Panasonic.

What’s clear is a 400mm equivalent is really perfect for covering the entire field. The Panasonic 45-200mm worked well, size wise, on the E-M5 but optically, the results are underwhelming. The focus is soft and the bokeh is really harsh. I have dreams of Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro and a 1.4x teleconverter. Except, I wasn’t ready to drop $1750 on this combo.

I’m going to play more with the Panasonic and compare it against the Olympus zoom. It’s also going to be fun testing the E-M5 Mark II as an action camera. After shooting today, I already found the good and not so good. I love my mirrorless cameras for travel and street photography, but how about sports? I’m going to find out and let you know.

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13 thoughts on “I’m starting to shoot sports again, modestly. Is mirrorless up to the task?

    1. In my experience, the Olympus is a bit faster than the Fuji in focusing but that still may not be enough. There are other mirrorless cameras that are supposed to be faster focusing than the Olympus. Namely the Panasonic and Sony.

  1. As much as I love my EM5 MK II, it could never be a serious sports shooter given the way I work. It is only really reliable in S-AF mode. If you want the best that m43 can give you right now, you need to look at either the GH4 or the Olympus EM1 with firmware 3.0 or higher. Couple that with the 40-150/2.8 and your limitations are further reduced. You can also extend its range with the 1.4x teleconverter.

    My experience has shown me that m43 works great when the action is relatively predictable. For the majority of my work shooting sports, in still relying on my Nikon D300 /D700 kids with the 80-200mm f/2.8

    1. Thanks for your visit and comment, Andrew. I understand. With my quick tests, the S-AF does seem the most reliable. I’ll need to experiment more.

  2. Nothing wrong buying whatever you think you need for the task at hand! As a retired professional photographer if I were to shoot sports again I would buy a DSLR right away, unfortunately mirrorless camera’s just aren’t up to the job, although the Sony a6000 and their new a6300 are the fastest focusing mirrorless camera’s they can’t compete with the DSLR, the refresh rate of an EVF can’t keep up with watching the image live through a DSLR viewfinder, you won’t miss as many shots with a DSLR, I know. Watch any sports game on TV, Super Bowl was a good example, look what the pro’s are using, Nikon and Canon DSLR’s with 400, 500 or 600mm lenses, fast and expensive and the ability of the high end DSLR to follow focus hasn’t been matched in mirrorless camera’s. When you have to get the shot you need the right gear. I had some good news today, I ordered my Olympus Pen F on Jan.28 and it arrived today, Feb.10, the dealer didn’t think the would be in until March. Happy shooting Andy. BTW, lacrosse is a big sport where I live in British Columbia, the two hot spots in Canada for lacrosse are Ontario and BC. Two of the greatest US field lacrosse players of all time are Canadian’s, Paul and Gary Gait are from my hometown of Victoria BC. The Gait brothers played for Syracuse on full scholarships and are the only two lacrosse players every featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Gait Google them if this doesn’t work.

    1. I’m convinced that, as the processors get faster, mirrorless will out focus DSLRs, even viewed through the EVF. Moore’s Laws at play and the mirrorless keeps on getting better but for now I think DSLRs have the edge. But, it doesn’t matter. I use what I think is the best tool for a given price point and it doesn’t matter what the technology is or the brand for that matter.

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