Phase One basketball
By Andrew Paquette – See his website HERE!
Three years ago I bumped into an outdoor basketball competition in Rotterdam while testing my new Zeiss 15mm Distagon lens. After getting a lucky shot of the winning basket at the end of the day, one of the organizers invited me to shoot more games the following week in Den Haag. Since then, I’ve been shooting the Netherlands Streetball Masters tour every year. This year I attended games in Amsterdam, Breda, and Weert.
In previous years I had used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r for the shoots. The two cameras had a variety of lenses mounted on them, each of which produced at least one decent shot. The most consistent performer was the Zeiss Otus 55mm, used on the majority of keeper shots. The least consistent was the Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, possibly because the Streetball games take place on small half courts, making the 85mm usable only for shots of players at the farthest end of the play area or torso shots. This year, I planned to bring the D800 + 55mm Otus and an A7r with the Zeiss 135mm mounted on them. However, I had some new gear and wanted to give it a stress test. This year I used a Phase One DF+ with an IQ250 back. I had already used it to take some action photos of parkour athletes in Rotterdam, and thought it might work out for outdoor basketball, though I wouldn’t have any control of the players and there would be no do-overs, unlike the Parkour shoot.
One of the reasons I decided to invest in the Phase One system was the high flash sync speeds (up to 1/1600th of a second). To test that, I brought two ProFoto flash heads to the parkour park, hid them from the camera, then tried to get as much frozen mid-air action as possible. It took a couple of hours to coordinate the athletes so that they all were in the right part of the frame at the right time, but it did work. Other shots that did not require the coordination of all four athletes were much easier to manage.
Figure 1 Parkour at Ahoy! Rotterdam, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 28mm LS lens. ISO 200, F/7.1, 1/1600s and 2x ProFoto B1 500w/s flash heads
I was a bit worried about using the Phase One kit to shoot the Streetball event because the camera has a much lower framerate than the 35mm cameras (1.2 f/s compared to 4 f/s on D800 and A7r), but I wanted to know what the extra dynamic range of the medium format back would capture. This was related to something that bothered me on previous shoots in Holland where the sky is almost always white or grey due to cloud cover. This has a tendency to result in a lot of clipped highlights unless the camera is pointing below the horizon. In some landscape photos taken with the Phase One, this wasn’t an issue, thus presenting the possibility that the camera could deal with an irritating problem experienced on previous shoots.
Figure 2 Windmills, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 80mm LS lens. ISO 100, F/22, 1/320s
I was tempted to take the D800 and a Zeiss Otus 55mm with me as a backup but went without to keep the weight of the kit down. The lens I used the most was the Schneider Kreuznach 80mm leaf shutter lens, but I took a few images with the SK 28mm LS as well. All of the photos were processed in Capture One Pro. I brought one ProFoto B1 flash and a 2’ softbox. The flash was only sometimes useful because I couldn’t guarantee it was always pointing in the right direction as the players ran all over the court. This was expected, but it was still disappointing that the light was only useful if the players were within about two meters of it and on the right side of the court.
I prefer shooting the DF+ to the Nikon or Sony. There are several reasons for this. In no particular order, they are: the extra-large viewfinder, simple menu layout on the IQ250 back, iPad connectivity (the A7r can also do this), and ergonomic design. It is heavier and larger than the other two cameras, but easier to hold and use than the Nikon, even when both have heavy lenses mounted (the 2.2 pound Zeiss Otus on the Nikon and the 2.4 pound SK 28mm LS on the P1). With the D800 + Otus combination, my wrist would consistently start hurting after about three hours of carrying it. I have never experienced any wrist or hand pain when using the DF+, even during an eight-hour shoot day for one of the Streetball games.
Figure 3 Weert 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600
Figure 4 Weert 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600
Figure 5 Breda 1, SK LS 28mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1600
Figure 6 Breda 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/1600
Figure 7 Amsterdam 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5, 1/1600
Figure 8 Amsterdam 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600
Figure 9 Amsterdam 3, SK LS 80mm, ISO 100, f/5, 1/1600
Figure 10 Amsterdam 4, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600
Figure 11 Amsterdam 5, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/1600