The Canon R3 and roller derby. The review that did not happen.
Sunday December 19th, 2021
This was going to be a review of the Canon R3 being used for roller derby. Timing was perfect. One of the first and only roller derby scrimmages in my neck of the woods, the province of Ontario in Canada, since the pandemic started was going to happen yesterday. Perfect cause I had use of an R3. Well that got cancelled due to rising infection rates. So I got access to a hockey game this morning. Hockey was the closest thing to derby I could find. Just before going to bed so I can get up stupid early to make the game it too got cancelled. Not to be deterred I met up with @selportfolio at the snow covered David Crombie Park so she could run around and dodge being captured by the R3.
Click on the slideshow will stop it and give you a link to have a closer look at the images. The images were slightly backlit and taken about hour before sunset.
Here we start at 80 feet out and she runs past the minimum focusing distance hence the last few shots are out of focus. Set to aperture priority f2.8. Shutter kept pressed full time until buffer full.
Let’s start with a baseline. I have never shot with a mirrorless camera before. I am very tall with larger hands and my camera holding technique is poor compared Sean Murphy’s of the world. I shoot derby with a 1DX2 with a version 2 of the Canon 70—200 2.8 lens. This is the same lens that I am testing the R3 with using a Canon adapter. Stabilizer off. Most shots at f2.8.
I value the following in a camera when I shoot. Short shutter lag, high FPS/sync speed and solid autofocus. Exposure I usually set it and forget it.
What I wanted to tell you about was the difference between the mechanical and electronic shutter with non-dedicated strobe, eye control, autofocus, and general impression. In no particular order.
Let us start off with the initial impression.
24 megapixels. That is a major disappointment. While I think 40-50 is too high I was hoping more for around 30. It would make the camera a bit more of an all rounder for me and help with my incessant need to crop. That said, I have not tested how well files upsize. For reference, I judge stuff at book distance…not by some formula that involves using the diagonal blah blah blah. So I am usually disappointed by the software upsizing.
Charge the battery and put it in camera. Nothing happens. Is this thing DOA or did I forget how to charge the batteries? Worked after I pulled a battery from the 1DX2.
Ergonomics. Sucks. I just do not like it but probably could get used to it. You did read the part about my hands. While lighter than the 1DX2 it also feels oddly off balance but hangs horizontally when using the lens collar. This might get fixed if a RF lens was used.
New camera, new cards to buy. Add at least a $500 expense to the camera. I know nothing about how cards are made so I do not understand why they could not carry over from the 1DX2. While on the topic of cards the CF-B’s do not seem to play nice with Capture One (ver 22), takes awhile for the initial preview whereas the SD card from the same camera was nearly instant. I will guess that battery life will be longer than the 1DX2 but this guess is from using the camera once under hard use.
Here the camera lost focus towards the edge but recovered. (My hands were frozen at this point which may have messed up the smart controller.) Some images show camera shake and are not out of focus. Set to aperture priority f2.8. Shutter kept pressed full time until buffer full.
Who makes up Canon’s camera menu? You need a manual just to figure out where everything has been haphazardly added. Not sure if I am a fan of the viewfinder…I guess if I shot video the flexibility might be more appreciated. In general the viewfinder/viewscreen is too busy when shooting but apparently you can trim it down.
Not going to tell you about the flash sync with non-dedicated strobe. I could not pull that off in the time I had.
Blazing! You touch that shutter button and you machine gun off four or five shots. There is no finessing this thing with your finger like the 1DX2. You can limit how many shots get fired when you press the shutter button. It defeats the purpose of having something quick and responsive. Yes, I want a high FPS rate but I do not want to fill a card every half hour either with needless photos. When I click the shutter I want it to go, not wait for me to lose any more hair which seems to fall out at a hair a second. One second is a long time in roller derby. It is 1/10th of a second longer than an apex jump.
Dec 21 2021 - last two sentences edited to be more clear.
Eye control. I have a lighter coloured blood-shot eyes. There is a warning that eye control does not work as well with light eyes. I tried it at home on static things. Not impressive even after repeated calibrations. I tried calibrating in the field but when your eyes open up like a faucet doling out free water in the desert when in cold weather it is impossible to calibrate. (That is ugly wording but I will leave it.)
Autofocus is next world when compared to the 1DX2. In static tests in my home once the autofocus is locked on it sticks even if you shake the camera. So that gave me an idea…I talk about it a bit further down.
My field test could have been better if I had used two people to see if the second person could distract the focus lock. Nonetheless in the field the autofocus was pretty impressive. Once locked on it stayed locked on about 95% of the time. It was more reliable the closer the subject got. Tried with and without the target wearing glasses and worked equally well. I think I saw some hints that the AF Servo might struggle a bit in subjects coming straight at you. Needs more trial.
Have it set up to back focus with the AF-ON button and using the Smart Controller to pick the desired focus spot in lieu of eye control. The R3 locks on to the eyes, when set to eye priority, so well on its own that using that Smart Controller just seems to confuse things. Setting a fixed focus point for horizontal and vertical might be a faster way to lock on. Also, when your hands are frozen the Smart Controller is a lot harder to use. Hard to say anything definitive without some more trials.
I brutalized the autofocus. Some passerby probably has a TikTok video of me spastically shaking the camera as I am trying to photograph @selportfolio moving around erratically. It amazingly stay locked on for the most part. There is clearly some camera shake as the shutter speed was under 1/200th second for the tests. If you have a need for a quick draw set up or getting jostled around in a crowd this ability is highly desirable.
Correction Dec 21 2021 - Shutter speed mentioned in above paragraph ranged around the 1/200th sec to 1/400th sec area.
Here I challenged Toronto's Shaky Lady. Check out the background. The shutter is kept pressed the whole time. Shutter speed was in the 1/400th sec range at f2.8.
No info to share on file quality. Not even sure if I would be the best person to comment on it. Given the lower file size it is something to consider carefully.
So is it worth its $9000 plus price tag, that is with taxes in using Monopoly coloured money, that it costs? Might be easier to answer if the camera lost the eye control and added some density to the files...so I will cop out and not answer. I am sure that after some user refinement that the autofocus alone will make it worth it. Almost there as is. Of course that is if there are no surprises after I get it set up with strobes…though I will not have that opportunity this round.
Keywords: canon, r3, roller derby
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