Thanks for the feedback, everyone! The holiday rush has kept me from responding until now, but hopefully I can provide more helpful info:
Nogo wrote in post #17829422
You may try to use a wider focus area if the black jersey is causing problems.
I am not sure the path you are exploring is the solution to your problem. If you can give us more information it may help. What AI Servo Case are you using? Do you have any action shots with that setup under better lighting circumstances we can compare to these shots? It looks to me that your problem goes beyond just simple missed focus.
Since I'm on a 7D, I don't have the "Servo Cases" to choose from. My custom settings include:
Tracking Sensitivity: 1 click below normal (1 above "Slow")
Servo AF Tracking: Continuous AF Track priority
AF Area: Spot + Expansion (or Spot only)
AF-assist beam firing: Disable (Flash is not allowed in volleyball, so no AF-assist flashes)
I don't have any action shots under better lighting at the moment, since the previous gyms have had poor lighting -- I'll have to see if I can "create" some similar shots as a comparison.
psnl1 wrote in post #17829579
MacGrad...I struggle with your issues as well...especially when I'm in VERY tough lighting conditions (that are probably changing often because flickering lights)...with solid jersey colors. I have used both the 7Dii and have the pleasure of using a 1Dx...with Case 2 or Case 4...and find myself disappointed with some of my images because of softness. Although lighting conditions are difficult...I tend to think that the real problem is that I'm locking focus on the jersey and NOT the face. Because the lighting conditions requires me to shoot at 2.8 to get the shutter speed I want (1/1000 or 1/800)...and often shooting close to my subjects...the depth of field is VERY shallow...leaving little room for missing the mark on focus...specifically the player's face. I see that you are shooting at 2.2 which is even shallower than me.
Anybody have any thoughts about whether I'm reading my situation (and MacGrad's) correctly?
I've tried to use 1/800 / f2.2 in order to keep the shots "properly" exposed without going up to ISO12800... I know the DOF is thin, but I figured I'd still be within proper DOF to get the faces clear (especially on the second shot, which was dead center focus). I know 1/1000 would eliminate the last bit of motion blur on the ball, but I would expect that 1/800 would be fast enough to eliminate motion blur on most images.
Also, using the 100mm, I'm forced to shoot action on the far side of the court (at the net) or in the back row (positions 1 and 6)... I estimate I'm usually about 18-20ft minimum from the subject.
PhotosGuy wrote in post #17829764
Best of luck with that when you're shooting their action! They just move too fast, IMO.
Black shirts! What ever happened to "Girly" colors? ; D
My solution was to ask the coach to have them in the lighter gray/red jerseys for the first match, (just in case they lost & had to play in another building with even worse lighting.)
He didn't, & the # of images I had to delete were just too high. So after 4 years of shooting the team (for free) & giving the team & graduating seniors a poster, I just quit doing it.
I would LOVE for the girls to have a second jersey! However, since our girls only play about 1 tournament a month at this level, the coaches/organization only provides one jersey for the girls... and it just so happens it's the black one.
Zivnuska wrote in post #17829780
Are all of your pics at f/2.2 and ISO 6400 with this soft focus? If not, could you post one where the focus is ideal? If not, what percentage are keepers? Your dof under these conditions at 20 ft is just one foot but that should be enough to get a good focus. I'm trying to determine if you have a back focusing issue.
Let me check to see what other images I have from the last tournament, and I'll post them below.
JeffreyG wrote in post #17829824
Those are misses, both examples look to be just a little bit backfocused. I have a bunch of comments, so I think I'll bullet:
1) Volleyball has a higher miss rate than most sports. It's a combination of the erratic motion, the lateness of getting onto the subject (often), and the traffic / net obstructions.
2) Like all indoor sports, the AF system is already going to struggle with low light. Add in black jerseys and life is harder.
3) Also, note that center of mass can be a problem for all sports because players than lean while moving can put the face outside the DOF.
4) Speaking of DOF, the difference between f/2 and f/2.8 isn't much. In general you just have to hit focus and a miss at f/2 would probably still be a miss at f/2.8.
My suggestion would be to shift the AF point up higher and then try to track with the active AF point on the face. Faces offer good contrast for the AF system to see, and that's where you want the plane of focus anyway.
Track their legs when shooting back through the net, and be prepared for a huge miss rate on that because the net is just a pain.
I've been shooting for my daughter's team for a couple of years, so I definitely know better than to expect a high keeper rate. It just surprised me that, especially on the one shot where I'd expect a good result (shot #2), it still missed. As for shots through the net, I've tried to avoid this because of the focus issues I've read about with black jerseys and the netting...