The Need for Speed in Sports Photography

The Need for Speed in Sports Photography

Before I became a photographer for a professional hockey team I would sometimes wonder why sports photographers were so uptight over how many shots a camera could burst out in a second. Is there really that much difference between say 6 to 12 frames per second? 6 frames a second is a lot, wouldn't you think? Well, that is the limit of my Canon 5D Mark III that I use for game coverage of the Texas Stars and when it comes to capturing key moments in the heat of intense action, I find myself longing for more. A heck of a lot can happen in a second of a hockey play.

The best action shots of a hockey play have the puck in the frame. Slap shots can send a puck flying up to 100mph. Getting shots of that puck in flight can be tricky. A sweet shot of a puck entering a goalie's glove is really tough. There are times when I miss key elements in a play because my camera "only" shoots at 6 frames per second. The shots above illustrate how much happens in less than a second in a battle for puck possession, a hard mid-ice hit, and a shot on goal with a save.  

Canon is releasing the 7D Mark II soon and I've got my eye on it as a possible replacement for my current body. At 10 frames per second I'd get a substantial speed boost and the crop sensor would give some welcome additional reach into my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens' field of view. Fujifilm is releasing a new lens that will be the equivalent to my Canon glass and I'm curious as to whether that would make my X-T1 a viable option on the ice.  At 8fps the frame rate is only modestly better than my Canon body and I am skeptical of the autofocus performance against the Canon. That said, my Canon misses that autofocus a lot more than it seems like a camera of its price point should. I'm hoping to get a demo copy of Fujifilm's new lens upon release to do a true apples to apples comparison.

Interesting developments are happening in camera hardware these days. I'm anxious to see how the new gear will test out later this year. One thing is sure in my my mind. If you're covering a fast paced game like pro hockey, the need for speed is real.