Not what I thought it would be

I thought I was smart… but I wasn’t. I tried out the Canon EOS 90D. What was I hoping for? Why do I return it?

I still have no high-resolution camera. My primary interest in having one is shooting portraits. My good old Canon EOS 5D Mark iii is ok, but I thought having something better would make my customers happier. However, as I’m trying to make profits with my photography, I wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money. I don’t think I’ll gather extra customers from buying a better camera. It would just be a cost to me.

So I was looking for a reasonably cheap camera with high resolution. This led me to the new 90D. It has 32.5 MP. This is 46 percent more resolution than what I have. Hang on, you may think: the 90D just has an APSC sensor. My 5Dii is full format. It should have a better image quality. However, when I do portrait shootings, I shoot at low ISO. So all the disadvantages of small sensor are unimportant.

Then, an online store offered the camera with huge discount. I thought it’s now or never. I ordered it.

Bad View-Finder Autofocus

Then the testing: I used my EF 70-200 F2.8 lens. The first thing I discovered was a back focus problem. No 1DX quality, it’s ok for the price, I thought. So I fixed the back focus problem. Then the disappointment: Only about each 5th picture was tack sharp, the others more or less soft. This is simply not acceptable. Even my 5 year old 7D Mark ii performs much better.

To be fair, the problem disappeared when I used Live View instead of the viewfinder. However, I do sports portraits! Did you ever shoot action with a viewfinder? I cannot imagine doing this.

The 90D might be a great camera otherwise. However, dear Canon, what is the point of bringing a 32.5 MP camera to the market that shoots soft pictures? I’m sorry to write this. The camera will go back to the store after the weekend.

Atletica Helvetica

It’s official. On November 16, my first sports book will appear. Joint with my agency athletix.ch I will issue a book on the Swiss athletics season 2019. During the past months we were busy putting the content together. At the moment, we are ready for the print run.

The purpose of the book is to allow any fan to look back at and re-live the 2019 season. An ever-lasting dream of humans is to preserve emotions. Social media have no memory. Books have. This is why we decided to produce a book. We will produce 144 pages. The book will contain articles that have been written by professional journalists.

A special feature about Switzerland is that we have four official languages. Three of them will enter the book. Articles about athletes from the German speaking part will be in German, articles about athletes from the Italian speaking part in Italian and articles about athletes from the French speaking part in French.

We will re-visit all the major events of the season, starting with the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow and ending with the World Championships in Doha. Readers will enjoy looking back at the six Swiss gold medals at the Junior Europeans in Sweden, the Gold medal for Lea Sprunger at the Indoor Europeans, and, of course, Mujinga Kambundji’s historic sprint medal at the Worlds in Doha.

Online purchases are possible under http://atletica-helvetica.ch.

On copyright and upload filters

This might be my most controversial blog entry ever. Maybe you are one of the readers that will tell me that I have no idea of the modern internet. Let me start with a real case. Last year in Bellinzona I shot this press picture of the Swiss sprinter Mujinga Kambundji.

Mujinga Kambundji at Gala dei Castelli 2018 Bellinzona  July-18, 2018

Mujinga Kambundji at Gala dei Castelli 2018 Bellinzona July-18, 2018

I uploaded this picture to my agency, and one of our main clients, the Swiss Athletics Federation, used it for this article. The picture has never been sold to any other client. Recently, I met my picture again, namely, here:

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 18.42.26

A YouTuber, called Nuffin’ Long Athletics, used it as cover photo for a video about Mujinga. I have no doubt that the video itself is a completely legal production. However, the use of the cover picture is illegal. It is my picture. I have never been contacted. Neither has my agency.

This is theft.

Today, the EU parliament passed a reform of the copyright legislation. This reform has been extremely controversial. Some of the main opponents were: Google (the owner of YouTube), a political party called the ‘Pirates’, many bloggers, YouTubers, etc.

The name of the political party is their program. Piracy is almost as old as the internet. Once, it almost destroyed the music industry. Since then, things have changed. Old players disappeard and were replaced by new players. One of the most important ones is

… YouTube.

To see this, go back to the case of my stolen picture. My interest would have been to sell to Nuffin’ Long Athletics. The reason? If I can’t cover my expenses, I have to stop my activities, sell my equipment, and do something else. Ask any artist, photographer, video producer, text author. They all have the same problem. Once the intellectual property is accessible, there is nothing that prevents pirates from copying it. This happens on each day, a million times. No wonder so many creative people change their jobs.

Who profits from piracy? To answer this, click on the video. YouTube starts with an advertising video and earns money (sometimes the YouTuber profits with a tiny amount, but Nuffin’ Long Athletics is too small; they get nothing). So the winner from the piracy is

… YouTube.

In theory, the law is on my side. However, will Nuffin’ Long Athletics respond to an invoice? Most likely not. Can I sue them? In theory, yes. Can I pay all the necessary legal fees from a damage payment? Obviously not. The economic value of an online picture is far too low. Can I sue Youtube? No. I have no contractual relationship with YouTube.

Let us come back to the EU copyright directive. The very controversial Article 13 (Article 17 in the revised version) states that that anyone sharing copyrighted content must get permission from rights owners (or at least have made the best possible effort to get permission). In particular it forces all online platforms like YouTube to police and prevent the uploading of copyrighted content, or make people seek the correct licenses to post that content. In plain words, YouTube will be held responsible.

What a game changer.

Obviously, YouTube doesn’t like this. Why? It’s expensive to improve their upload filters. Moreover, taking away illegal content from YouTube reduces revenue. Bloggers, YouTubers, and users of online platforms don’t like it either. Why? Users get less illegal content for free. They don’t care. And producers like Nuffin’ Long Athletics have to make sure they have proper licenses. This requires effort and costs money.

Now it’s your turn.

  • Feel free to explain why the EU is censoring Nuffin’ Long Athletics.  
  • Feel free to explain why the freedom of speech on the internet has died.

But please, answer these two questions and relate to my case. I’m not interested in Bla Bla on other things.

 

On photo gear 2019

Leichtathletik Weltklasse Zuerich, 2018

Another nerdy blog entry… which camera should I/you buy?

While home cycling in our basement, I watched a few YouTube videos. Each year the same: it’s the end of the year, everybody has time, and the YouTube family thinks about market trends.

Orientierungslauf Florian Schneider Lobhorn Bern 2018 July-29, 2018

I’ll be straight. (If you want to have a full hour of entertainment on this question go elsewhere.) Buy ANY modern camera of the serious manufacturers, like Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Sony (in alphabetical order), and this camera will be excellent. Period.

It follows that if you buy a completely new system, the best thing is to go to a shop. Hold several models in your hands, and do some test shots of different subjects (if they let you). If you find the handling intuitive and the price is OK, buy the camera. If you have to guess how to find the right buttons, buy another one.

Niederhorn    July-11, 2018

If you have special needs, there is a little more to say. For instance, I shoot something like 3’000 frames on one single event. I need fast cameras with fast writing and reading capabilities. The autofocus must be excellent too. There are two manufacturers that provide this: Canon and Nikon. The full frame versions are the 1DXii for Canon and the D5 for Nikon (the predecessors will be excellent too). The corresponding APSC versions are the 7Dii by Canon and the D500 by Nikon. By construction the APSCs have poorer low light capabilities, but for outdoor sports my 7Dii is absolutely sufficient.

The only reason I shoot Canon, not Nikon, is that I bought a Canon some 10 years ago. Hence, I am stuck to the system. Would I be happier with Nikon? I don’t know, but I guess not. From what I know about Sony (I have friends with Sony) the reading and writing capabilities are inferior to Canon and Nikon. I have no information about Fuji, as I have never seen a colleague with Fuji in an arena.

UCI Cyclo-Cross Weltcup Bern  2018

What are the future trends?

  • Mobile phones will take over the market for snapshots and even landscape. The electronic capabilities of these cameras are incredible. Their main disadvantage is the missing tele lens. Nevertheless, all classic manufacturers will have big, big problems. Not risky to predict that some of them will die. If you have no special needs (like wildlife or sports), but just want a camera for your family photos: invest some 1’000 or more stones and buy a high end smartphone.
  • For the rest of the market, mirrorless cameras will replace DSLRs, but this will take some time. Manufacturers need that time to build the new lenses. The new standard will be F2 zoom lenses that will replace the current F2.8 zoom lenses. A lot of negative things have been said about Canon, but notice that Canon is the only manufacturer so far that has a completely new F2 zoom lens.

 

2018: check

It’s the quiet time of the year. Time to look back. Enjoy some of my best pictures

Sm’Aesch smashes VC Oudegem

I visited the re-match between Sm’Aesch-Pfeffingen (SUI) and VC Oudegem (BEL). The Belgian club had won the first match 3-1, but even before the start you could sense that everyone at the Sm’Aesch crew was determined to win. After a concentrated play and a brilliant 3-0, the match entered the Golden Set. Oudegem started strong, but as Sm’Aesch gathered a small lead, the Belgians lost confidence and Sm’Aesch took a sweet victory. Sm’Aesch played without their regular setter, Taylor Tashima, who suffers from a concussion. The 16 year-old Annalea Maeder replaced her well and became the secret hero of the match.

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#SCFBMG

After a short break I was back to Freiburg. The guests were Borussia Mönchengladbach, second in the league. Freiburg won 3-1. They deserved the victory because of their good defense in the second half. I didn’t get as much out of the game as I was hoping, because I speculated to see attack after attack by Gladbach. However, Freiburg didn’t give Gladbach many opportunities. Thus, I waited at the wrong goal. As a sports photographer you sometimes win, and you sometimes lose.

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It clicked

How I became a sports photographer

One day it clicked. And I don’t mean my camera. 

30 international photographers gathered at the media briefing. The announcement was: “Three photographers will have exclusive access to the track: Keystone, AFP and Ulf Schiller”. What was going on here? Let me tell step by step.

UCI Hour Record Attempt Sep 18, 2014

For long, I loved shooting sports. My friends, hobby athletes, were my usual victims. However, professional sport has always been my love. So I took a camera to the stands and shot pictures from there. There weren’t many reactions. “Yes I saw this in TV too”, was a typical one.

I desperately needed change. Thus, I started talking to event organizers. I wanted to get close to the athletes and shoot something unusual.

The Tissotvelodrome Grenchen accepted me. So I started shooting track cycling races. A niche sport. Maybe that’s why I made myself a name so quickly. After a few races, every elite track cyclist in Switzerland knew my name.

20140918-_J2B8564

Then, a big day was ahead… Jens Voigt, the extremely popular German cycling star, 17-times Tour de France participant, Yellow Jersey holder, permanent attacker in the peloton (quote: «Shut up legs and do what I tell you») planned to retire from professional cycling after a final attack on the official “UCI Hour Record”. Eurosport would broadcast live. The worldwide press would be there. Social media was buzzing. The Tissotvelodrome, my childs’ room, had turned into an arena of world sports. My guts were aching. I wanted to be part of the game.

I used my old trick, and asked the organizer directly. So I wrote an email to Jens’ team, Trek Factory Racing. I introduced myself as photographer of the Tissotvelodrome, asked if I could work for them, and included some of my pictures as reference. The answer was quick and polite. A rejection.

So I submitted an accreditation through the official way. Being one of very many, was the least thing I was hoping for.

20140918-_J2B8730

On the race day, Peter (CEO of the Tissotvelodrome) asked me to contact Trek Factory Racing’s media officer. “Is your offer still valid?”, he asked. I was more than surprised: Yes, sure, was the answer. “Good, we saw your pictures in the Tissotvelodrome. You have talent, you know what you are doing. Please deliver the pictures one hour after the race.”

Bang! I didn’t expect that! I came straight from work. That was the only reason I had my laptop with me. What a luck on an evening that I had already written off from a photographic point of view. 

When I came home late at night, my wife was waiting. She hugged me. She had seen me on the TV. And, more importantly, she showed me my pictures. They were all over the Internet! From Australia to California. I had water in my eyes. I didn’t sleep that night. 

It clicked! 

This was what I wanted! During that sleepless night, I decided to become a sports photographer.

20140918-_J2B8760

Not mirrorless

So I have a new camera, a dinosaur: another Canon 1 DX mark ii.

In the days of the mirrorless hype (“the camera revolution has started”) when Canon, Nikon, and Fuji introduced a generation of new mirrorless cameras, my photo friends and I decided to buy… good-old DSLRs.

Why? The reason is simple.

  • First: for our needs, there aren’t lenses for mirrorless cameras out there. Those lenses that have been introduced are not convincing (the only exception being Canon’s new F2.0 zoom lens – this one might be a game changer in the future).
  • Second: modern DSLR’s are 100% reliable. Brilliant autofocus, 14 frames per second, my old one has 376’000 shutter releases and is still working perfectly).
  • Third: Why do we need more of everything? 20 Megapixels are all we need, I recently even delivered even a 5x5m poster. The video capabilities are really good, and the weight… come on, We’re neither 7 nor 80: the weight is negligible compared to that of the tele lenses.

I unboxed the camera yesterday. Enjoy some first test shots.

I am convinced, the future will be mirrorless. But meanwhile the new DXiis will do the better job!

Sigma screwed me up

Back to Bundesliga. This blog is about my frustration with my latest football coverage.

For those who follow my blog for photography reasons: maybe you remember that I bought a new tele lens earlier this year, the Sigma 120-300 F 2.8 S. It had been introduced in a video by Stephan Wiesner and we were quite enthusiastic about the first results.

After a few months it is time for a report on its long-run performance. I’ll be short: the lens has a massive problem: the autofocus! Depending on what you want to do, the performance ranges between “good” and “absolutely not reliable”.

  • The lens performed really well on the first day when the video was made: why? Because I only did two sorts of shots that work with this lens. First, shots when things are not hectic. Second action shots where the distance is predictable. A good example for the latter are the volleyball scenes from the head-on position that appear in Stephan’s video. Below are examples of such shots.
  • However, the lens is absolutely not reliable, if the subject is running towards you, or the exact spot of the action is not predictable. The first is typical for head-on positions in athletics (a 100m sprinter is too fast for the lens) and the latter for football matches (where one intelligent pass requires immediate re-focusing to some completely new spot).  I cannot include these pictures, because I delete them immediately: believe me, I deleted many! Also: be grateful to my parents who educated me well. I won’t use strong words here. I was tempted to use them, though, when I missed important shots.
  • As an aside, the lens also has strong vignetting. This is not bad per se. Some of the pictures have a “cool” look. However, Lightroom is not able to correct this if you want to.  So this is worth mentioning.