Advice please: X-A1 with XC 50-230mm Lens for shooting Bodybuilding competition

Discussion in 'Coffee with Rico Pfirstinger, Fuji X-Pert' started by ktang, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Hi, Rico and other gurus. Could you please give your expert opinions on how best I can get good images with the Fujifilm X-A1 with the XC50-230mm zoom kit lens to be used at a bodybuilding competition?

    I am a newbie to mirrorless cameras, and I have been using those superzooms like the Canon SX30 in the past, for shooting my friends who are competing from the audience stand. I was hunting for another replacement and wanted to buy the Fujifilm HS50EXR as I theorised that the Phase Detection and manual zoom would really help with the tricky light situation better than the conventional contrast detection.

    Anyway, when I saw the X-A1 with dual lens (XC 16-50mm and XC 50-230mm) bundled deal for less than US$500, it was too good to pass, and I thought the 230mm at max zoom should be enough as long as I sit closer to the stage. In the past, my Canon struggled with noise at Auto ISO going up to 800, and the slow AF speed was often unable to lock on due to the bright overhead highlight lights and the oiled bodies of the competitor bouncing off too much light. Setting Face Detection on the Canon helped, but I often had to set it to ISO400 and also EV -2 to ensure that the pictures come out not overly overexposed and also have a good chance of focusing correctly.

    I wish to take much better pictures this time with the new X-A1 I bought a week ago. Kindly advise please how best I could do so, like what to look out for, what modes to use on the camera, and whether I should try manual zoom instead (I hope not, I still haven't used the camera for more than 10 shots yet), capture in JPEG or both RAW and JPEG, etc.

    I have a brand new 64MB SDXC 95Mbps card which be more than enough for 2 days of competition including videos of them free posing.

    Many thanks in advance for the expert advice!
     
  2. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    Indoor shooting with a slow lens is tricky. I'd always shoot with a fast lens under such conditions, so your XC zoom might not be the best choice. Plus, the X-A1 doesn't have an EVF, so camera shake is more of an issue as you have to hold it with your hands stretched out in front of you. This means faster shutter speeds and even higher ISO requitements. Both are problemtic in poor light with a slow lens.

    As for X- series shooting tipps: My X-E1 book pretty much also applies to the X-A1, so you might want to look at it.
     
  3. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    On the other hand...

    The XC zoom is the lens you have, and the X-A1 the body you have. so let's try to give you some advice based upon that. :rolleyes:

    In terms of settings, I'd go for aperture priority single AF. with spot focus and metering. I would "snipe" rather than "machine gun". Choose your times and timing carefully. You will have to use high ISO, but you do have OIS so make that work for you. Shoot wide open and try to keep to high shutter speeds, even with the OIS.

    The X-A1 is a very light camera, with no viewfinder so I would do all you can to try to hold it steady. this includes a beanbag or rest, and/or a grip to help you.

    Let us know how you get on!
     
  4. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    I would only spot meter in manual mode M, but since the X-A1 does not feature WYSIWYG in mode M (unlike most other X cameras), this method doesn't work as well as it should. So mode A would probably be preferable, but in AE modes such as A, spot metering is just too volatile. And it can't be coupled with the AF frame, that feature is currently reserved for X30 and X100T models. I am normally exposing using the live histogram and the live view, and I'd dial in DR400% manually in high-contrast situations that require me to shoot with at least ISO 800, anyway.

    In any case, you will probably have to use the "steering wheel" aka exp. comp. dial quite a lot, at least if this is the kind of event that changes the light all the time.
     
  5. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    There's always Lensrentals.
     
  6. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Thanks Rico for the advice. I'm quite sure the X-A1 will yield better results than my Canon SX30 so I'm keeping my fingers crossed the super bright lighting on stage helps this time rather than confuse the AF. The event is being staged indoors but in the atrium of a shopping mall so I'm hopeful the surrounding lighting is bright enough (but I don't think its from a skylight above).

    I'd try to set up a tripod and use it instead with the OIS (continuous + motion) on.

    I'm just tinkering with the M, AE and A modes now to get a feel and hopefully I can adapt on the fly.

    In any case if you have more insight please addon to my reply. If try to find a copy of your book. Cheers.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Thanks Lightmancer. I will try to mount it on the tripod the reseller here bundled with the camera (Yes! It was an no brainer buy).

    I was initially going to try the 3FPS continous shooting mode which as you describe "machine gun" mode with the hope that at least a few shots come out good (which didn't work on Canon but then it's not large sensor and not as fast as Fujifilm) but now I will try your sniper approach on a few early contestants before my friends compete. And see how it goes

    I'm sorry for my ignorance but what's the metering approach´╝č

    Hopefully I get a few decent shots and post here for comments and further advice.
     
  8. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Thanks again for the advice Rico.

    Btw I read somewhere about the in-camera JPEG or RAW processing. Can I use that as a tool to help in this case? Should I shoot RAW + JPEG or...?

    Kindly advice please.
     
  9. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    If the light is highly contrasty (boxers under spotlights) I'm advocating that you use spot metering. The "risk" would be that you "miss" a fast moving subject and end up focusing and exposing for the background. If lighting conditions are constant, you would actually be better to expose manually and take that variable out of the equation. I am a bit concerned about mention of a bundled tripod - for which I read "cheap" - use of a cheap tripod - or any tripod at all - you may find frustrating because it restricts your ability to follow the action, and a cheap "wobblepod" is worse than nothing at all. Better something like a monopod or even a "stringpod", which you could easily make yourself. If you are going to use any form of external support you should turn off OIS.

    As to jpg vs raw, shoot both, thereby giving yourself a choice in post processing. You have an effective raw converter built into your camera. Take a couple of sd cards, and a spare battery!
     
  10. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Thanks for the advice Lightmancer.
    I'd definitely bring a few SD cards and it came bundled with a second battery (I know!)

    Just a quick question: the guys pose on stage in various mandatory poses and unless their muscles are flexing, they are relatively still or at least they are holding the pose. Some may rotate a few degrees to the left or right to let all the judges have a good front view. But most will remain as still as possible for that few seconds. Other than that in free pose when they move around to music, I will take videos. So does that help or change what I should do?

    Btw may I ask why turn off OIS if a tripod is used? To save battery?

    Many thanks in advance again.
     
  11. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    Don't combine tripod and OIS. Bad idea! I don't think you'll need a tripod there. Maybe a monopod could be beneficial, though.
     
  12. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    Always use FINE+RAW. The built-in converter will be essential to correct exposure errors, white balance and contrast settings after the fact. You will probably also want to try different film simulations. With high ISO shots, black&white is also a good option.
     
  13. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Thanks, Rico for the advice. Noted on switching off the OIS with tripod, I just read that in cameras with Image Stablization, without shake (like mounted on a tripod), it actually overcompensates, or misbehaves, causing image quality issues.

    Competition is next weekend, so wish me luck!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Sample images from Bodybuilding Competition, X-A1 on tripod with XC 50-230mm Lens

    Hi, all. I finally got time to sort out the pictures this weekend after copying and distributing to my friends. First off, thanks for all the great advice.

    Here's some samples and hope to get more comments for improvement.

    15446318550_269a630727_b.

    15011763643_7a5740c804_b.

    15631919195_4c0e90cab5_b.

    15608217666_2efb9dfeb7_b.

    15445772248_16c74cf281_b.
     
  15. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    So, can someone please give advice how to make sure the images are shown in my previous post? I can't seem to find the right commands or HTML tags for it in the editor to link to the flickr URL and to make it show up.

    Anyway back to my experience, and again, thanks for all the great advice. So to the point: Loved my Fujifilm X-A1 and the superzoom kit lens! I think the images turned out way much better than the old prosumer Canon I had and definitely sharper than what I hoped. In fact, I saw many Nikons and Canons DSLR at the competition, and those huge superzoom lens at the competition, but I am very happy with mine.

    I put it on P Mode, and I set it to EV: -2/3 after some testing. At -1/3 it turned out a bit washed out but not over exposed, and I found for the bodybuilders with undercoat of dark paint, -2/3 seemed fine, versus -1 which although handled the reflections from the "uppercoat" of oil very well, made their skin look very dark toned. Unfortunately, the LED screen is not WYSIWYG, so I thought the colours on the backdrop screen would turn out wrong but later when I saw the images on my laptop, the colour representation by the Auto WB function was pretty accurate.

    So, the only "mistake" I think I made was to set the AUTO ISO settings to max ISO800. I was testing it the previous night before the competition and I remember on my old Canon ISO800 was often used for the Sports photography, so I set it to ISO800. Anyway, some of the pictures were taken were at ISO640 so I thought I didn't miss much. Anyway for future reference, i would set the max to ISO1600 for comparison.

    So, the suggestion to "Snipe" the pictures was good, but I realised that i needed to finetune the Focus point to the 2nd smallest box, and I positioned the focus box one notch higher so that it would be on the middle competitor's chest level.

    I used a tripod against the advice, because I had a shoulder ache all week, and when I mounted on the tripod, I realised that it didn't affect my initial test shots. I didn't know why, maybe because it was a cheap tripod, and my handling was a bit heavy (partly due to my shoulder pain?) so I noticed the Camera Shake caution came up a few times, so I continued to use the tripod. So, Sniping the pictures turned out great, and in the last 1 hour, I experimented with Continuous 3FPS shots (even though I clicked once, i captured 2 shots mostly at the same time, so maybe my fingers were a bit clumsy). It could explain why the images still turned out good with IOS and tripod (unless it could have been even better? I can't image sharper than that). When I really let loose and took a greedy machine-gun approach to capture with 3FPS for each pose, about a third turned up blurred for 1 or 2 competitors, so they were deleted, and some looked almost the same so (maybe someone will close their eyes but the body shots were still sharp), i deleted the rest of the third anyway. So, the only upside was really getting some shots that I may have rarely missed if I just sniped shot by shot. But it meant, I spent a lot of time on the laptop deleting 2/3 of the images I took on continuous shots.

    Finally, in the first few minutes I noticed many of the Nikon/Canon DSLR users with their superzooms had lens hoods on, so I just mimicked them and put it on the 50-230mm lens. I'm not sure if that really helped anything, but it seems that my initial test shots with EV:-1/3 and without hood seemed sharper (but the competitors were not heavily oiled and wearing bermudas which seemed to help the focus, but the colours were a bit washed out.). With the hood on, the colours turned out fine, but the fine detail on the athlete's muscle fibres/veins seemed slightly out of focus. But I suspect it is more due to the fact the oils on their bodies were really tricky for the AF. Even with OIS on, and the lens hood on quite a number of the shots you can see the tatoos just showing under their dark paint/oiled coating which I thought was very impressive for this camera.

    So, full points for the X-A1 for this novice and really so happy i don't have to carry the heavy gear around if it were full frame DSLRs. I can't wait to try with the XF superzoom lens, but that's gonna cost more than my X-A1 with dual lens so it have to wait a while... ;)

    Finally, I was seated about 10metres? off the stage. There was a judges table just below the stage, and then 2 rows of sofas for VIPs, and then I was seated at the 4th row of normal foldable chairs after the sofas. I noticed that the marking on the zoom lens didn't go past 100mm, so i guess the XF 18-135mm superzoom lens could still be very viable even if I couldn't get as close to where I was this time.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    I'm glad it worked! ISO 640 suggests very good indoor lighting conditions, meaning the CDAF had plenty of contrast to work with even with this rather slow zoom lens. You can go as far as ISO 6400 with this kind of camera. I really like the shot with the "selfy guy".
     
  17. ktang

    ktang FujiXspot Rookie

    10
    Oct 10, 2014
    Yes, he was quite a character. That was taken about halfway to the stage. ;-)

    Ok, I will crank it up to ISO6400 next time. Maybe next time they will be shot with a set of prime lens. :cool:

    P.S. I still can't display flickr images within the post. Did I do something wrong, or its just I can't see them on my laptop?
     
  18. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Nuremberg
    Rico Pfirstinger
    You have to use either BBcode or image URLs with IMG tags to embed Flickr images. I think there is an instruction (how-to) post somewhere in this forum, maybe a moderator can point you to it.
     
  19. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
  20. camprl1

    camprl1 New to FujiXspot

    1
    Nov 12, 2014
    Kingston, ON, Canada
    Robert Campbell
    Hello Rico,

    I'm confused by your reply. You said "the X-A1 does not feature WYSIWYG in mode M" and yet it seems to me that this is a feature that cannot be turned off in the X-A1, unlike other X cameras. If I use M mode and set a shutter speed and aperture to underexpose the image, the LCD display is very dark, when the shutter release is half-pressed. This is mostly an issue when using an external flash such that the shutter speed and aperture combination results in a black LCD at the moment when I'm trying to focus with a half-press of the shutter release.

    Cheers,
    Rob