By photographer Kim Matthäi Leland
I took my new Fujifilm X-Pro2 to a soccer/football game today to test how it would perform for action sports photography.
The short version: If you only occasionally shoot sports, the X-Pro2, might be good enough for you, but a dedicated sports shooter will probably still opt for a high end DSLR.
And here’s the longer version:
A typical setup for a dedicated soccer shooter is two Canon 1Dx bodies, one with a 400 mm f/2.8 lens and one with a 70-200 f/2.8. Since I only occasionally shoot sports (concerts and photojournalism are my main “things”), I can’t justify the 1Dx (or even two) or the 400 mm f/2.8. Instead I’ve been using a Canon 5D mark III for sports with an old Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 equipped with a 1.4 extender backed up by a Canon 6D with a 70-200. A lot cheaper than the aforementioned setup, but still good enough for my sports images to be published in both Danish and international media. See examples of my (shot with Canon DSLRs) sports images at www.leland.dk/en/sports.
During the last months I’ve gradually used Fujifilm cameras more and more, and my Canon DSLRs haven’t seen much use. Concerts, portraits, weddings, photojournalism etc. – all of that I feel I can do just as well, if not better, with Fuji mirrorless cameras. But I’ve kept my Canon 5DIII and the Sigma 120-300 for just one thing: Sports. I simply didn’t feel that the auto focus of the Fujifilm X-T1 – Fuji’s flag ship camera until a few days ago – was snappy enough for sports.
So I was very excited to see if the new Fujifilm X-Pro2 would perform better at action sports than the X-T1 – and perhaps perform well enough for me to sell off my remaining Canon DSLR gear.
Since I only just got the X-Pro2 a few days ago, I wouldn’t risk it on a professional soccer game. So I shot a youth game, where no customer was waiting for my images, should it not work out. These boys play on a full size soccer field, so the distances are the same as they would be at a professional soccer game. But I did move around a bit more than would be possible at a professional game.
I shot in Zone AF mode, most of the time with 5×5 AF points, in burst mode (continuous) with 8 images per second and in continuous AF mode. It was really nice with 8 images per second – that’s actually more than my Canon 5DIII (but, granted, not as much as a dedicated sports camera as e.g. the Canon 1Dx).
According to the specs, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is supposed to have a shorter shutter lag than the Canon 5DIII, but I still felt a longer “lag” than I’m used to from Canon. I guess then that the lag must adhere from the AF not locking as fast as I’m used to from DSLRs. It means that I had to be a little more apprehensive, but it didn’t ruin the shooting experience. The X-Pro2 auto focus is still not as good as that of a high end DSLR – we’re not quite there yet. But it’s quite a bit more snappier than the X-T1, and – to me – snappy enough.
For this soccer game, I used the 50-140 f/2.8 lens with the 1.4 extender. It was an overcast day, and most of the images were shot at 1/1250 sec., aperture f/5 (for a tad more sharpness than the maximum 4 that’s a result of the extender) and ISO 2000-2500.
If it had been an evening game, I would have gone to f/4, perhaps down to 1/800 shutter speed and then bumped up the ISO to whatever was necessary.
And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with the X-Pro2. I had hoped for just a few more “keepers” than with the X-T1, but it went even better than that: I got at least as many keepers as with my Canon gear!
I used the EVF – the OVF is of no use at these focal lengths. And the range finder form factor was quite nice – it made it possible to have the left eye free to keep an eye on the action. I used a monopod, but due to the reduced weight of my setup (compared to DLSR), it wasn’t really necessary.
The images are only slightly post produced – apart from cropping and straightening, I just added a lille contrast.
The X-Pro2’s resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixels (50 percent higher than the X-T1) gives better possibilities of cropping and still ending up with an acceptable resolution – very nice.
So is the X-Pro2 a game changer for mirrorless sports photography? For me it is. I’m sure that the guys sitting at the stadium every weekend still will stick to their Canon/Nikon DSLRs for a while. But for me – the occasional sports shooter – the X-Pro2 has minimized the DSLR vs. mirrorless gap enough.
All I need now is a fast (aperture-wise) long lens, and my remaining Canon gear will be sold. The rumoured 200mm f/2 would be perfect. With the 1.4 extender it will be a 420 mm f/2.8 (full frame equivalent, due to the 1.5 crop factor). And of course it has to be weather sealed, or it wouldn’t make sense.
And P.S.: One battery (NP-W126, same kind as the X-T1 uses) lasted a whole match – more than 800 exposures – with about 20 percent battery power left at the end of the match (yes, the X-Pro2 shows remaining battery power in percent – nice!).
Thanks for reading! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.