Phil Zivnuska | Tennis with the X

Tennis with the X

July 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Most of my blog posts are directed to the new to intermediate level sports shooter.  Today, however,  I'm writing about the top of the Canon line 1DX and a feature unique to that pro level camera.


When I shoot an event, I like to try different things to attempt to improve my images.  It might involve a new angle or tweaking my settings to trade SS for ISO or aperture.   I'm always trying something to work the images.  Recently, a tennis tournament was held at my favorite tennis venue.  Access and backgrounds at Goddard, Kansas are the best for tennis in this area.  It was a perfect opportunity to try a new technique--new to me at least.


Last fall, there was a ladies high school tournament at that site.  When shooting from the end of the court across the net to the other end, I had the 400mm f/2.8L IS II and was trying to capture the player when hitting either the forehand or backhand.  The problem was in choosing where to select the focus point.  If the forehand placed the player on camera right and the ball and racquet on the left then the backhand was the reverse and the situation was the opposite for left handers.  There wasn't enough time to move focus points between strokes so I tried something else.  I tried a few shots with the 61 point auto selection AF mode plus iTR (face recognition) AF so I could stay focused on the athlete regardless of which side of the court he/she moved toward.  It seemed to work but I needed to test it further.


With this springs mens tournament at Goddard, I decided to shoot the whole tournament with the full 61 point auto selection with iTR and just see how well it worked out.  


It was great!


Goddard has wonderful backgrounds that become a soft buttery blue blur when shooting with the 400 at a large aperture (f/2.8 to f/3.5).  When the player has a solid colored uniform, it makes it easy for the camera to use color to help track the skin tones against the solid colors.  Additionally, the face recognition technology has an excellent opportunity to perform.  The photographer simply initializes the focus on the player's face and the X will track that face as long as it stays within the focus area.  The camera displays which of the 61 points are being used so you can easily see if the camera is locked on the appropriate spot.  The day of this tournament was marked by winds from 25 to 35mph and I had my hands full keeping a steady aim.  Whenever I messed up my aiming, the displayed focus points clearly and immediately showed that fact and I was able to re-acquire the proper target.  Unlike yours truly, the 1DX was flawless.  I was stunned to see that not only was the player in focus but the face recognition technology kept the eyes sharp.  Every time.  Wow.  Let me be clear, I make plenty of mistakes but the X did not.  It was remarkable.


 photo ZIVN6094-Edit-2.jpg




 photo ZIVN6061-Edit.jpg




 photo ZIVN5965-Edit.jpg



It also worked with the 70-200mm

 photo ZIVN5552-3.jpg




Keep in mind that at 30 feet, the 400mm will have a depth of field of about 4 inches.  On these shots, I'm able to count the young man's eyelashes in each shot.  Originally, I was skeptical of this technology but now I'm a believer--for tennis anyway.


Rudy Winston of Canon recommended giving this a try (on one of his training videos) and I'm glad he did.  Try it!



Phil Zivnuska






Philip S. Zivnuska

January February March April May June July August (1) September (2) October (1) November (3) December (2)
January February March April May June July (1) August (3) September (4) October (5) November (4) December (1)
January (2) February (2) March (1) April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December