Monday, February 6, 2017

Head To Head - Olympus EM1 Mark II Versus Nikon D500 Shooting Hockey

Hockey is arguably one of the hardest sports to photography because of the speed and unpredictability of the action.

I've always wanted to be able to photograph the Columbus Blue Jackets.  As luck would have it, Midwest Photo Exchange offered a photo workshop to shoot the Blue Jackets.

Before we get into the gear stuff, let me just take a minute to throw out some kudos to the following:

Midwest Photo crew Matt and Ken
Great hosts and supported the learning, being there to help with gear and shooting questions whenever someone needed it.  MPEX Website

Tim Neumann of Soft Light Studios
The main presenter and educator for this workshop.  He made sure that everyone was brought along on the journey.  We had some attendees that had very little photographic experience all the way through to professionals.  Tim was able to cover the basics of making the shooting experience a success for all involved.

Kyle Robertson, Columbus Dispatch Photographer
Kyle shared his expertise and experience shooting assignments and games at Nationwide Arena as well as other sporting events.  Kyle's Twitter Feed

Joshua, Columbus Blue Jackets Liason
Joshua was there for us throughout the event.  A great host, he also took us on an arena tour.

Gear For The Night
Nikon D500 / Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II / Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO / MC-14 TC

Now let's get down to it.  You know you want to know all about it.

I'll help you out so you don't need to read through a lot of "junk".  I could pine on and on about all kinds of technical stuff.

Bottom line - I preferred shooting with the Nikon D500 over the EM1 Mk II.  The Nikon/Tamron combo just focused faster, stayed on target (I can't find an out of focus shot that was not my fault or was through the safety net).  The higher ISO was cleaner on the D500.

The Olympus may be suffering because I am still learning it's newer features and auto focus methods.
Still more testing to determine that.  Might also have been the lower light conditions gave the AF some issues.

Pub Match Images With the EM1 Mark II

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 1600 @ 150mm

1/1000, f/3.2, ISO 1600 @ 150mm

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1600 @ 150mm

1/1000, f/3.2, ISO 6400 @ 150mm

1/500, f/2.8, ISO 2500 @ 150mm

Pub Match with Nikon D500

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 2000 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1600 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/4, ISO 2500 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1600 @ 175mm

Battery Life

Each camera took about 1000 images over the course of the day, shooting 2 full hockey games.  A pub match early in the day as well as the Blue Jackets v Devils game at the end of the day.

Nikon battery was at 57%
Olympus battery was at 46%

Not bad, considering older mirrorless cameras, I probably would have gone through 2 or 3 batteries.  This includes any image review I did on the LCD.


I've never been one that was concerned about camera weight.  To be honest, while I noticed that the Nikon/Tamron combo were larger and heavier, handling between the 2 never really was improved or hampered by the weight or lack there of in either.

When in use, both cameras were supported by a Black Rapid strap.

CBJ versus NJ Devils - Olympus EM1 Mark II
1/640, f/4, ISO 1600 @ 155mm(MC-14)

1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600 @ 150mm

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 1600 @ 150mm

1/800, f/2.8, ISO 1000 @ 150mm

1/800, f/4, ISO 2500 @ 210mm (MC-14)

1/800, f/4, ISO 2500 @ 210mm (MC-14)

Nikon D500
1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1250 @ 200mm

1/1250, f/3.5, ISO 1100 @ 165mm

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1000 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/3.5, ISO 1100 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 900 @ 200mm

1/1000, f/3.2, ISO 1250, @ 200mm

Shutter speeds for the night were between 1/500 and 1/1000 when shooting action, so the IBIS/VC was never really used.  There were some shots that were more portrait-like, so the shutter speeds went down some and we can see there that the Olympus EM1.2 IBIS works very well.

End of the day, there were times when I was wanting some longer reach on the D500, so I tried using the 1.3x crop within the D500.  It worked rather well, provided you remember to keep the subject within the box boundary within the viewfinder.  Even without the in camera crop, the full DX files were great to use and could be cropped into a lot without losing IQ.

The Olympus high fps modes seemed like they would be a great asset.  I used the 15fps mechanical as well as the 60fps e-shutter.  Had some decent success there.  Tried AF in both single point and 3x3 box.  Also decent results there.  While initial AF acquisition is much improved over the EM1.1, it still was not close to the D500.  There were some initial frames that were out of focus and at times some frames in the middle of the burst would be slightly out of focus.

Again, as I said when we started off, shooting hockey is probably one of the most difficult action sports to shoot.  It may just be that this was a little too much for the EM1.2.

The confidence was just not as high with the Olympus kit as it was with the Nikon.

Shooting Conditions
We were able to pretty much shoot where ever we wanted to during the pub match.  We had access to the camera deck next to the broadcast video cameras as well as down in the put to shoot through the special ports in the glass.

During the NHL game, we were up in a special suite that was a little bit further back and more toward one corner.  A little but further away than earlier in the day, but a great vantage point to shoot from.

Just as an added bonus, here are a few images I got during the arena tour.

These were taken with the Olympus EM1 mark II and Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6