Monday, March 8, 2010

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Autofocus Test

I have a renewed respect for sports photographers. It has been a while since I shot a sporting event, especially a soccer game, and realized there is a high level of skill and difficulty. Enter my daughter's first soccer game with one day of practice. Adorable yet a hair pulling affair for my photographic acquisition.

First and foremost the most difficult task of sports photography is keeping the focus point tracking the player's face in AI Servo mode. It was almost like an elementary game of keep the red dot on your opponent to win the prize.

Anticipating the player's movement is the second most difficult thing to predict. My directive was to get the player and the ball coming towards the camera's direction. Virtually impossible with soccer because the ball is going in every direction. One second the ball is headed your direction and then a quick turn to the left and right.
I felt a headache approaching from my frustration to get the perfect shots.

The third most difficult task is to compose your shot with the player and ball in the same frame while in motion and making sure the red focus point is on their face.
You could say this step is a combination of the first two hard things to accomplish when shooting sports. I have many more of my daughter's games to practice this task. I forgot to mention the added obstacle of obstacles. If you did not have anything more to worry about shooting soccer, the blurry object walks into your shot. Lo and behold, it is one of the many coaches following the game on the field. This could very well be the fourth step in my list, but I will proceed with my Auto Focus evaluation.

Life would be simple if everything moved laterally, but that is not the case. The instant the red focus point tracks off the face while composing the player,the ball and the surroundings everything goes blurry and I miss the shot. It is a constant battle with all of these elements fighting each other.

My feeble attempt at sports photography is overwhelmed by the AF system of the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV. I am no Rob Galbraith. Nor do I have the plethora of Big White Lenses at my disposal. All I used on the shoot were my Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 IS and EF 300mm f4 IS lenses. I enabled the surrounding focus points(C.Fn III-8-2)to maintain the broadest reach of the main focus point and have a higher keeper rate of in focus pictures. Call this a realistic and practical evaulation of the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV auto focus.

You can compare my AF results in my daughter's soccer gallery.

My daughter's youth soccer game is not the World Cup or the Summer Olympics, by no means. My sports photography will get only better with practice and determination. My daughter out in the soccer field having fun kicking the ball outweighs any "hair pulling" frustration I have with sports photography.
There will be a second round of AF tests during my daughter's second game next weekend and by then,I will have more practice. This AF evaluation will continue in my next post with even more AI Servo examples.


  1. I like your Blog, thanks for sharing.

    One suggestion, why not share larger images (make them clickable) so we can actually see the sharpness of the focus?

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Thanks for looking at my PhotoBlog!

    Check out my gallery soccer link and you will find all the same pictures in the blog. I put them in my SmugMug Gallery so one can enlarge the photos up to original size.

  3. Hey Chad, I quickly went through the pictures at SmugMug and randomly chose 10 of them and none of them were tack sharp. Too bad result for 1D IV + 70-200/2.8L IS :( Lets hope that practising will make it better.
    I have a different experience and I'm really enjoying shooting with 1D IV. One example: http://www.martinkozak.com/download/1DIV.jpg

    Keep practising!