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Shooting sports with a rangefinder
Old 08-26-2019   #1
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Shooting sports with a rangefinder

Last week, I was able to shoot a sports team training indoors. I have to say that trying to shoot them with a rangefinder was not fun. Because I usually shoot wide open or close to it, trying to focus on fast moving bodies was difficult. I tried stopping down, but ran into ISO limitations with my M9, especially when trying to freeze action. The best I could do was f2.8 at 1/500 shutter speed, and limiting the ISO so I could push the images in post.

I did get some keepers, but the experience was frustrating and left me wanting a blazing autofocus camera like a Sony A9 or Canon 1DX II. My GH4 shot a fair few images with my Voigtlander lenses on high speed burst, but these images lack that special sauce that I get with the M9, or even the Ricoh GXR-M.

So how do you guys do it? Are there any helpful ideas for shooting sports with a rangefinder? I know it's not optimal, but it's the best I've got for now.
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Old 08-26-2019   #2
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I have shot lots of motion indoors, ballet, dance, weddings, sports and rodeos.
My film speed was max. 400 ISO.
My fastest lens was 50mm Collapsible-Summicron on an M3, no meter..
Pick a moment when the motion at peak!
So sad there was no possibility of full aperture Noctilux, where everything out of focus,
no ISO going into 500,000, no auto focus doing misfocussing..
I am now a clod with my Medium Format, yet it was Main Studio machine..
Photography requires discipline not fancy, esoteric high priced equipment.
Learn from your mistakes and do it again..

Last edited by leicapixie : 08-26-2019 at 05:04. Reason: spelling
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Old 08-26-2019   #3
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I did some skate park action with my Mamiya 7 80 f/4, not a problem.
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Old 08-26-2019   #4
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I'd like to see some pictures. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
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Old 08-26-2019   #5
Larry Cloetta
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Horses for courses. There’s a reason why pros at the Olympics are all using DSLRs. Autofocus, the capability to freeze motion and also achieve subject isolation, and the ability to use extremely long telephotos, these all live in the SLR province.
It’s possible to use a rangefinder for closeup candids of sweaty people in team jerseys, but that’s not what people usually mean when they say “sports photography”. It’s also possible to get excellent results for one specific type of action shot with a rangefinder, shots where you prefocus on an area where you know action will occur and just wait for the action to get there, then snap the shutter, areas like the finish line, or the crossbar at the pole vault pit. But, in general, rangefinders are the wrong tool for the job. Sports and BIF (birds in flight) photography want a different camera type, and lenses.
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Old 08-26-2019   #6
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Back in the "only film" days, I shot high-school football on Friday night with a Rolleiflex & electronic flash. I was happy with one usable shot per roll. Sometimes, if it wasn't for cheerleaders, I got nothing, but it all worked out, and the newspaper was printed regardless.
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Old 08-26-2019   #7
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Successful action photography with a RF is certainly possible. It is even possible using film.

It is just much more difficult compared to cameras and lenses action photography pros use for this job. It requires a lot of practice and accepting certain fundamental limitations.

For instance, taking a burst of a dozen images with AF working between each shutter actuation greatly increases the odds of success (making an interesting photograph).

Don't listen to anyone who claims AF is unreliable for action work. An ancient D300 with a decent AF lens can deliver an impressive in-focus success rate. Of course, one has to know how to choose AF menu parameters that optimize action photography performance. It would be easy to fail spectacularly if one didn't invest the time to understand how the AF system works.

Current sensor technologies with very high signal-to-noise ratios also make action photography easier. Action photography with a M10 will be much easier compared to using a M8.

JPEG quality is so high it is common for people to make a living by wirelessly delivering JPEGs in real time during sporting events. Those sports photographs are published on line before the game is over.

Larry Cloetta makes an excellent point about using a RF for candid close ups. I have used a RF to get candids of fans reactions. However a DSLR would also get that job done. There's a reason sports photographers carry several bodies during a gig.
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Old 08-26-2019   #8
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pictures, please. thank you.
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Old 08-26-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Out to Lunch View Post
I'd like to see some pictures. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.



Mamiya 7 80/4 - TriX




Mamiya 7 80/4 - Ilford Pan F 50 +


Mamiya 7 80/4 - TriX
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Old 08-26-2019   #10
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Where there is a will, there is a way:

https://petapixel.com/2017/05/13/pho...5-view-camera/
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Old 08-26-2019   #11
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Shooting indoors is the limiting factor it sounds like for your situation if you wanted to use a RFer. If you were outside at a track meet you can access more events and prefocus on where the action will happen and snap away. I did this back when my kids where in MS and HS and occasionally I took along a RFer for the fun of it. I used a Nikkor LTM 135mm lens and Leica M3. But I also had a Nikon D200/300/700/D1h/D2h?D2hs over the years and usually used the 80-200 AFS lens. That was a primary setup for most of the years they did sports. For many photographers shooting erratic moving targets is difficult enough with a (d)slr and fast AFing lens.
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Old 08-26-2019   #12
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A number of years ago I was teaching a class in sports photography. I had a number of students who were complaining that they couldn't get good shots because they didn't have the latest and greatest DSLR with high speed autofocus and f2.8 lenses. So I picked up an Argus C3 "Brick" off of eBay for $20 and went out and shot a high school basketball game.


Argus C3 w/Tri-X


Argus C3 w/Tri-X


Argus C3 w/Tri-X

While the images won't win any awards, they showed the students that you don't need the latest and greatest to cover sports.

Best,
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Old 08-26-2019   #13
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I've shot basketball with the M9 and a 50. Works well. Picking the peak of the action is accurate with RF.

Here's one with MF: slow kit. 80mm lens.

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Old 08-26-2019   #14
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You can do it in some instances. As has been pointed out, it works best for sports where you can predetermine where the action will occur - under the basketball net, on the sideline close to the soccer or hockey goal, on a curve, at the handoff for relays, or the finish line for track. Trying to do football with a rangefinder is problematic and if you're getting the players close enough to use a 50 or a 35, you're putting yourself and your camera at serious risk. I, too, have shot sports with a Rollei, also with a Koni-Omega and my first 35 SLR, a Konica TC. Would I go back to that? No, I would not. It can be done with manual focus film SLRs, autofocus film or digital, but if the results matter more than the system, I would not use a rangefinder. [And I do shoot much of my personal work with film rangefinders].
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Old 08-26-2019   #15
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I have to agree the issue is more indoors vs outdoors and what aspects do you look for in a great photo.

Huss, thanks for sharing the link, makes me think more and more about the next step in my photographic journey.

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Old 08-26-2019   #16
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you can have the slowest camera in the world and still take great photos. its not about the camera or the lens or indoor v outdoor, it's all about working out with the gear you have and your skills. All the rest are excuses.



https://petapixel.com/2013/02/08/dav...2012-olympics/



https://www.davidburnett.com/gallery...2F+Olympics#/0
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Old 08-26-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanskDynamit View Post
you can have the slowest camera in the world and still take great photos. its not about the camera or the lens or indoor v outdoor, it's all about working out with the gear you have and your skills. All the rest are excuses.

https://petapixel.com/2013/02/08/dav...2012-olympics/

https://www.davidburnett.com/gallery...2F+Olympics#/0
I have to disagree about all the rest are excuses. I would submit that it's about what type of picture you are looking for and its qualities. I would present a challenge to you to shoot in the locker room with the long lens that the photographer next to David Burnett is using.

Over the years in IT there's a saying about a three-legged stool. One leg represents Fast (duration). The next Low Costs (total cost of ownership).
The last represents High Quality (accuracy). You can only have two. There's a bit of the same in photography. My guess is that Tim pushed his Tri-X (1600 perhaps) because of the grain. If he used PlusX, I think his results would not be the same. They might be better, they might be worse, it's subjective.

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Old 08-26-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillBingham2 View Post
I have to disagree about all the rest are excuses. I would submit that it's about what type of picture you are looking for and it's qualities. I would present a challenge to you to shoot in the locker room with the long lens that the photographer next to David Burnett is using.
thats ok, we dont have to agree at all.
There are no action sports in the locker and the fact that you have to twist my example to fit your statement shows that you agree with me.



Problem is, when we accept that its not about the gear, photography forums die.
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Old 08-26-2019   #19
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Sorry to barge in on this conversation, but it is about the gear. You cannot get a good closeup of the quarterback handing the ball off with a 21mm Elmarit. First of all, they won't let you get close enough. Second, if they did, neither you nor the camera would fare well. True, you can get a sports photo with an Argus - shown above - or a box Brownie, but if you are sent to the event to get publishable photos of specific action, the gear does, indeed, matter.
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Old 08-26-2019   #20
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Some impressive results but I am not convinced.
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Old 08-26-2019   #21
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Have shot high school sports with everything from an Agfa Super Isolette to my Leica MA. Daylight or nighttime, indoors or outdoors. You miss some and you get some.

If I were a pro I would use what the pros do. I'm not so I use what I want.

This one was done using the M-A and a Leica Tele Elmarit 90/2.8 using Delta 3200 as I was off the floor by a few rows.

I do have to say though, I am going to have to bust out the Crown Graphic and use it for a few shots as well. Looks like fun.

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Old 08-26-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanskDynamit View Post
thats ok, we dont have to agree at all.
There are no action sports in the locker and the fact that you have to twist my example to fit your statement shows that you agree with me.



Problem is, when we accept that its not about the gear, photography forums die.
Sports (along with wildlife photography) is one of those things where it is all about the gear.

Sure you can get a good shot at an amateur event when you pre-focus at a spot with a standard lens on a rangefinder.
However you're going to struggle if you try that at a professional game where the action is fluid and you're some distance away from the athletes
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Old 08-26-2019   #23
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Re: choosing a rangefinder to be your weapon of choice for sports photography

As someone cautioned me years ago in another context, “Sure you can occasionally be successful doing it that way, but who in the hell wants to be successful occasionally.”
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Old 08-26-2019   #24
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Yes I shot action for years using Rf`s (horses).
It can be done but I didn`t find it fun and it restricted the type of shot that you could reasonably achieve.
You`re restricted to pre focussing on jumps but miss the rest of the action .
With a good AF you get the whole story.
As Larry says you can be occasionally successful but who wants that.
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Old 08-26-2019   #25
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I used to do classic motorsport, but found the RF focal lengths too limiting. It really does depend on the shot you are after, but to me either long or macro is SLR territory. Your mileage may well vary.
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How You Do It
Old 08-26-2019   #26
Dektol Dan
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How You Do It

For nearly a century there were no zoom lenses or auto focus.
How was it done?

First rule: focus 1/3 in 2/3 out for depth of field.
Focus on a spot on the ground where the action is anticipated.
Lead the action with the viewfinder.
If you are lucky enough to have M or later Leica, view through the view finder with your right eye but with both eyes open to watch the action progress. Look for the planned focus point. When the subject(s) cross that point release the shutter.
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Old 08-26-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post
For nearly a century there were no zoom lenses or auto focus.
How was it done?

First rule: focus 1/3 in 2/3 out for depth of field.
Focus on a spot on the ground where the action is anticipated.
Lead the action with the viewfinder.
If you are lucky enough to have M or later Leica, view through the view finder with your right eye but with both eyes open to watch the action progress. Look for the planned focus point. When the subject(s) cross that point release the shutter.

Yep I use to do most of that especially focussing on a spot on the ground where I anticipated the action to be .

That all becomes less effective though when things start to move fast and frankly redundant when you can nail the action with a good AF system especially one with eye focus tracking.
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Old 08-26-2019   #28
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Quote:
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Y......As Larry says you can be occasionally successful but who wants that.
I know a few people who are still waiting for their occasion.

B2 (;->
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Old 08-26-2019   #29
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M9 will give clean 2500 ISO as long as exposure meter is in the middle.
It is old misconception about high iso, not only with Leica.
I will post velodrome pictures with M-E later.
With RF as with any prime you need to be in exact distance from action.
If you are in correct position, not so much of the dof is needed.
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Old 08-26-2019   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
A number of years ago I was teaching a class in sports photography. I had a number of students who were complaining that they couldn't get good shots because they didn't have the latest and greatest DSLR with high speed autofocus and f2.8 lenses. So I picked up an Argus C3 "Brick" off of eBay for $20 and went out and shot a high school basketball game.


Argus C3 w/Tri-X

While the images won't win any awards, they showed the students that you don't need the latest and greatest to cover sports.

Best,
-Tim
With all respect, the only thing those examples demonstrate to me is that you really shouldn't cover a basketball game with an Argus. Unless by 'get the shot', you mean 'get a visible image'...
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Old 08-26-2019   #31
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shot a rodeo, with and without flash with 2.8 lens and 200 iso film
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Old 08-26-2019   #32
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Shooting sports with a rangefinder is a bit like teaching a fish to ride a bicycle ... success will be limited!
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Old 08-26-2019   #33
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Shot this with a Leica iiig, Summicron 50, and Provia 100, because it was the camera I happened to have with me. Sat on the rail and waited. I like the shot, but rangefinders are not the way to go for "sports photography". Too limiting. Then again, if you are just at the venue to mainly watch the event, and not document it, and only have a rf with you, why not? It's fun trying to overcome limitations.

PS. And, the vf isn't "squinty".
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Old 08-26-2019   #34
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Hmm...


I thought everyone shot sports with a rangefinder!


BTW - Nice shot Larry.
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Old 08-26-2019   #35
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1/2000, f5.6 ISO2500.
M-E with me .

Film bw effect added in Nick's collection application.
I screwed WB on this spot.

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Old 08-26-2019   #36
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the last two pics are great!
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Old 08-26-2019   #37
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i found that two factors help an RF camera get good action shots. A bright, contrasty RF patch certainly helps, but also the throw of the focusing helicoid makes a big difference. A steep, short throw can make a big difference in one's ability to catch the right focus moment. I had some luck, even with football, using the 135 Nikkor with an SP back in the day. But it has a short, fast focus throw. It helped.
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Old 08-26-2019   #38
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Thank you to everyone for your experiences, suggestions and images. The images of the hurdler and the velodrome are stunning. They also emphasize that you must be safely close to the action, and be able to manage exposure appropriately. Even the Argus basketball image shows this.

The sport was boxing, and I was ringside. I could get on the ring apron if I wanted, and I was able to stand as close to the action as the ring permitted. The 50mm seemed adequate, but the chaotic nature of the action meant that focusing was a crapshoot. I could anticipate high points or actions based on what I knew of the fighters, but focusing accurately was difficult. The M9 has a 3fps burst mode, which was very helpful, although not optimal.

I'll keep doing this when I can because it's fun, and the images aren't mission critical at this stage. When they are, I'll probably have to rent or buy something more appropriate. Shooting sports with a rangefinder is like driving a truck with your willy. It's a fun challenge, but do you really want to do it?
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Old 08-26-2019   #39
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Not sure what lenses you have at your disposal, but perhaps use as wide a focal length as possible, to give yourself more depth of field to work with?
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Old 08-26-2019   #40
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Quote:
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The sport was boxing, and I was ringside.
I feel like boxing (particularly if you can get close) is one sport where an RF could shine, particularly with a wide-angle.
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