Awesome Focus – 61-point AF – that’s what I needed
EOS 5D Mark III just passed one of the toughest tests for AF i’ve thrown at it. I shot a kick boxing match over the weekend. The conditions are a great torture test for any camera. Light levels were low, I was shooting with wide apertures to get a faster shutter speed but it was still ISO 4000 and more. Many of the pictures were taken with a 50mm lens at f/2 to f/2.8 ISO 4000 and 1/320s. As I was able to be positioned right on the ropes of the ring itself I only briefly tried the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM to find it was too long!
In all my years of using Canon’s DSLR cameras I have never been the greatest EOS 5D Mark I/II fan due to my view of it’s AF system. When the EOS 5D Mark III was unveiled with it’s 61-point AF system that seemed to have been plucked from the EOS -1D X, I thought that this was the time for me to give the EOS 5D III a chance … or more precisely give a photo dealer a pile of my own money. EOS 5D Mark III has the same AF sensor as the EOS-1D X. The EOS-1D X links an additional DIGIC 4 processor and 100,000 pixel RGB sensor for exposure and subject tracking to the AF system. In low light, with fast moving subjects and wide apertures would AI Servo AF on the EOS 5D Mark III come through with the goods?
With a great AF system comes responsibility
The responsibility to set it up correctly to get the best out of it in each situation. Fortunately there’s six standard Cases preset by Canon to optimise the AF for different kinds of subjects/motion. I did experiment with a couple of settings but the best for me for the kick boxing was Case 3 which Instantly focuses on subjects suddenly entering AF points. I found that using Expanded AF Area: Surround giving a block of 9-points was the most successful. The camera indicates that this Case 3 is for the start of cycle races and alpine skiing, i’ll add kick boxing to that.
AF point choice
It’s surprising that so many photographers shoot using only the centre AF point on their cameras. Sure you know exactly where the AF point is in the frame but often it tends to lead to boring composition. I chose to move the “block of 9″ AF points to the left or right of the centre and usually one row up too. This ensured that I was at least using a few of the five extra special AF points that run down the centre line of the AF sensor. Sometimes for composition I moved the “block” of AF points further to the left or right side too.
I was keen to keep the “centre” of my AF block out of the five line sensitive points that fit between the main centre block of 21 cross-type points and the side blocks of 10 cross-type points. Accordingly I used an AF configuration feature that allowed me only to select the cross-type AF points to ensure I only could choose the “best” AF points for the centre of my block of 9.
Kick boxing pictures
Here’s a few of the pictures I shot at the event, please remember this is full-on combat and the fighters in these pictures are highly trained, highly skilled people with the right safety equipment and backup. (ie. don’t try this at home). The ring was set up with a single light bank from one corner, and I took most of my shots from the opposite corner to the light. This means that the flying drops of sweat and the fighters were backlit, but also meant that even with a lens hood I sometimes got lens flare causing softness across the frame.
Many thanks to the event organiser Steve Cook from Pegasus Kick Boxing for asking us to photograph this. I look forward to the opportunity to shoot some more of these events in the future.
The complete set of pictures from the evening fights are now available to view and prints can be purchases.