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Canon 5D Mk II for Nighttime Sports?!?!? YUUUUUPP!!!

Every so often I’ll get a crazy-ass idea that usually starts off with a “what if…” in my head and ends up being a big mistake. Big mistakes are usually associated with wasting time and/or money for me. You would think that I would learn, and in all earnest, I tell myself each and every time that I will listen to conventional thought and not buck the system. Then what do I do the very next day??? You guessed it, folks, I get right back on the horse of crazyassness and come up with a new idea. An idea so smart, my head would explode if I even began to know what I was talking about. Not only did I just quote Peter Griffin from Family Guy, but I made up the best word ever!!! Crazyassness!!! Go and tell all your friends…

So what was my crazy-ass thought, you ask? That’s a great looking question!! I was standing at the counter of my favorite camera equipment rental store realizing that I had left my camera body at home knowing that I was going to a game and would have to look at possibly renting a body AND a lens. I guessed if I had to get a body, I’d at least try out something new that I had heard or read about to test its effectiveness for nighttime sports shooting. Of course the full-framed Canon 5D Mark II that only shoots 3.9 fps would be at the very bottom of the list, right? No way, folks!! That’s called bucking the system and as my boy Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants says, “That’s what’s up!!” I rented the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 300mm f/4.0 and a Canon 2X extender. This lens and extender combo is the same that I featured in yesterday’s post, since this was the previous evening. So, everyone already knows how enamored I am with the lens, and I will keep all the commentary on this post relative to the Canon 5D Mark II.

This model camera body has been a best seller for Canon (if you can afford the $2,000 + price tag) and a more economical option when compared to the 1DS full frame series. The 5D Mk II features a small, crop sensor style body while packing a HUGE full sensor frame capable of capturing 21 MP images in stunning color and clarity. The 5D recently received another update and Canon released the Mk III, which has helped the pricing of the Mk II come off a little to just about the $2,000.00 mark. It has also been a favorite of film makers of all type for its high quality recording capabilities. I had never shot with the 5D Mark II prior to this, so I really have nowhere to establish a comparison, but nevertheless, I was completely floored at how responsive it was to my needs.

To go into a little more detail of the rigors I was trying to place on this combination, let me tell you about my decision-making process. Since the body was in stock, I was tempted to rent it as soon as I was offered it. I resisted, but quickly came up with this experiment to convince myself of testing it out. I had heard that the 5D Mk II had superior high ISO capabilities, with it being rated at ISO 6400 before going into the menu to unlock the higher ISO settings that would take it into the stratosphere of noise-dom. After the decision of the body was made, then I had to decide on the lens combo. My gals working the counter offered both a 300mm f/2.8 or a f/4.0, and the price difference was negligible. I would go for the f/2.8, right? Wrong again, my friend!! After thinking through what my experiment would be testing, I asked for the 300mm f/4.0 and was given a look of “man, you are crazy!!!” Then I asked for the 2X extender knowing that it would take the lens to an effective aperture rating of f/8.0. Then I was given the “you are certifiable” look. Yuuup, I totally agree.

I quickly unpacked the gear when I got to my seat, which by the way, wasn’t spectacular at all, unlike the seat I had the following day that was featured in yesterday’s posting. I believe we were sitting in Section 311 row 2 in the third deck reserve, but still within the limits of the infield down the first base line. At first inspection, the 5D Mk II seemed almost like a toy camera when compared to my 1D Mk II n. Being a small crop sensor style body, there is a lot of plastic parts and the body lacks any type of weather sealing apparent unlike my 1D that is a magnesium alloy case with all sorts of bells and whistles that makes it weigh 300 lbs. (I’m exaggerating here just a bit)

Regardless of the weight, the camera performed well and that’s all I cared about. I did note to always handle the camera and lens combo by the lens and not hold the entire weight of the setup on the body of the camera and place unnecessary strain on the lens mount. Another thing to note is that only the 1D series is capable of retaining auto-focus capabilities at a maximum aperture of f/8.0, so I would be SOL shooting without auto-focus for the evening when using the extender. But, again, this was another condition I accepted in the challenge to try to put the 5D Mk II to the test of failing miserably with nighttime sports at high ISO.

To make a long story short, the camera did a great job and I would definitely recommend it to someone considering a full frame to also take occasional sports shots. Did I come home with a large number of images? Nope, the camera only shoots 3.9 fps, so you would have to shoot a REAL long time compared to a body that shoots 8.5 fps or greater. Did I at least have a good number of usable images? Hell no!! So, why would I recommend it? Simply because every obstacle that I placed in front of the 5D Mk II was set up purposefully for it to fail, yet it didn’t. The images aren’t great, but I have included a few below to show you what it came out with. These images were put through Photoshop CS5 to auto-correct the Tone, Contrast and Color. Beyond that, a little noise reduction and sharpening was performed with the Nik Software add-ons (which I absolutely LOVE). However, no extensive work was done on any of these and only auto-functions were used to allow the program logarithms to do their thing.

If you consider that I purposefully picked up a Canon 300 f/4.0, then placed a 2X extender to make it an effective maximum aperture of f/8.0, then bumped the ISO all the way up to between ISO 5000 and ISO 6400 for the entire evening while shooting at no less than 1/1000th of a second, you’d agree that the results are completely acceptable for those limitations set by me. If I actually wanted usable images, I would have found myself a seat a LOT closer to the field, would have rented the 300mm f/2.8 with a 1.4X extender to have a maximum aperture of f/4.0 and would have gone to town regardless of the 3.9 fps that the 5D  Mk II will give you. I must say that compared to my 1D Mk II that shoots at 8.5 fps, this camera definitely left me wanting more in the speed arena.

Keeping in mind that regardless of all the technological advances that today’s camera equipment gives us, there was a point in time when all the sports photographer had in their arsenal was being lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right time, and had the know how to wait for the precise moment to capture the action as it was happening knowing that they wouldn’t get a second shot to set up another shot until days after it was all over, we should feel priviledged we even have the option to shoot at almost 4 fps in continous burst mode. So, with the 5D Mk II, I got 3.9 fps, big whoop… You can make it work if that’s all you have and still come up with good action shots.

If your main focus in your photographic endeavors is to shoot sports, I would NOT recommend for you to sink $2000 in the 5D Mk II. There are plenty of other options in that price range, both new and pre-owned, that would satisfy your need for speed. However, if you are needing of a full frame camera (such as a portrait or landscape photographer would), and occasionally would like to take your awesome 5D Mk II to the ballpark, I’m telling you that you’re good!!

Thanks for coming by and I’ll be talking to you again tomorrow. Have a great night everyone!!!

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One response to “Canon 5D Mk II for Nighttime Sports?!?!? YUUUUUPP!!!

  1. Nice blog, I like that what you write. Regards

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