SPORTS & ACTION

Fast and furious: shooting streetball with the Canon EOS R5

Photographer and filmmaker Raisa Abal reveals how the Canon EOS R5's high-speed features enabled her to capture the non-stop energy of this popular urban sport.
A man wearing a sleeveless black top and matching bandana spins a basketball casually on the middle finger of his right hand.

The pictured streetball shoot was not only photographer Raisa Abal's first experience of the sport, but also her first time working with the mirrorless Canon EOS R5. The camera delivered a knockout combination of high speed, high resolution and cutting-edge video specs. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 200mm, 1/800 sec, f/3.5 and ISO400.

Barcelona-based photographer and filmmaker Raisa Abal has built up a large following for her high-energy images of skateboarders, many of which she showcases in Dolores, a female skateboarding magazine which she helped to co-found. Her subjects are often frozen in mid-air performing complex tricks, while the scenes themselves appear cool, casual and bursting with life.

Although Raisa is no stranger to documenting dynamic sports in an urban setting, she had never shot a game of streetball before. To capture this fast-paced sport for the first time, she turned to the equally speedy Canon EOS R5, a member of the EOS R System family, discovering how the technical innovations in this mirrorless camera increased her ability to keep up with the action and stay in the zone without worrying about her kit.

Streetball is open to players from all walks of life and played on outdoor courts, with a looser, less formal structure than basketball. It's a game where skilled moves and style are more important than hard and fast rules and therefore a difficult subject to photograph even for a pro. "In skateboarding, you have subjects under control, and every trick attempt has a rhythm or tune," explains Raisa. "But with the game of streetball, I didn't know what was going to happen next. I had to move very fast and after seeing several plays, try to guess what was going to take place."

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Raisa found she was aided in her task by the Canon EOS R5's 20fps maximum burst shooting speed and accurate AI-powered face-tracking, which gave her a dependable hit rate and plenty of sharp results. Instead of thinking about the technical aspects of shooting, she could concentrate on capturing the dynamics of the players and the flow of the game.

A female photographer leans over slightly to take a picture of a streetball player on a hard court as they are about to bounce the ball.

Raisa wasn't used to photographing streetball, so before the shoot she watched online videos and looked at photos for inspiration. Along with the intelligent AF tracking of the Canon EOS R5 – and also found in the EOS R6 – this helped her to anticipate the moves of the players, so during the game she could focus on being in the moment.

Getting up to speed

It can take time to transition to a new camera, but Raisa was able to use the EOS R5 quickly and confidently, thanks to its ergonomic handling and intuitive controls. "It was a little like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) that I am used to, but the smaller size made it comfortable to hold all day," she says.

Prior to the shoot, Raisa underestimated the ability of the EOS R5's electronic viewfinder (EVF) to keep up with play, but was impressed with how it handled. "I had never used a mirrorless camera before, but I've tried friends' and always felt that I couldn't completely trust what I was seeing through the viewfinder because it's digital. There's often a delay, which feels like I'm not seeing real life. But this was so quick. I was amazed!"

The Canon EOS R5 builds on the cutting-edge specs of the Canon EOS R, and its enhanced EVF has a 120fps refresh rate – compared to the still-impressive 60fps on the EOS R – as well as a resolution of 5.76 million dots for a stunning amount of detail.

"Streetball players are very fast and tall, so when they got close to the basket they jumped really high," continues Raisa. "I was following the game directly through the viewfinder and found it faithful to reality."

A woman crouches down to take a photograph of a group of men jumping up at a streetball hoop.

Raisa shot images from the sidelines as well as among the players, so that she could capture a variety of different compositions. "The location was incredible. For me, it was almost like a colosseum," she says.

A young man sits balanced on an orange ball on the floor of a sports court, his legs drawn up towards him. Around him you can see several other players, blurred as they move.

Raisa usually relies on a fisheye lens in her everyday work with skateboarders, but during the streetball game the RF 24-70mm zoom helped her to capture incredible frame-filling action portraits. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/8 sec, f/4 and ISO200.

Fast, flexible performance

Not one to stand on the sidelines for too long, Raisa soon hit the court to capture some unique perspectives and angles. "I wanted to take pictures from in amongst the players to try to capture their movements, but it was hard as the game is very quick and I often got caught between them."

Raisa was often incredibly close to her subjects, but she was still able to recompose her frames easily using the flexible Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM, an RF 'Trinity' lens that offers maximum quality as well as a fast maximum aperture that excels in low light. "The 24-70mm is one of my favourite lenses, as it focuses very well and is bright. Due to its range, it is very versatile as well," says Raisa. "I like being able to use the wide-angle and also to have a little zoom in case the situation changes."

The EOS R5, along with all of Canon's EOS R System cameras, features Canon's innovative RF mount, and this gave Raisa access to a wide choice of professional RF lenses, including the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM. "It was really easy to change lenses throughout the game."

Hands hold the back of a Canon EOS R5 camera, looking at an image on the viewscreen of a man jumping up at a hoop with a ball in both hands.

The Canon EOS R5 is the first EOS model to have built-in 5GHz Wi-Fi, and this fast connection gave Raisa the option to link to a smartphone to browse, review and transfer her images in real-time via the Canon Camera Connect app.

A young man is poised, legs apart, on a sports court, orange basketball in one hand. Several more players can be seen around him.

Canon's advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF II technology, introduced in 2020 in the EOS R5 and EOS R6, enabled the camera to recognise and track the players as they moved around the court for images with impressive sharpness and clarity. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/2500 sec, f/4.5 and ISO500.

Responsive in the moment

One of the key technical features that distinguishes the Canon EOS R5 from Raisa's usual Canon EOS 5D Mark II is its ability to shoot 45MP photos at up to 20 frames per second using the camera's full-frame CMOS sensor. For a fast-paced sport like streetball, this burst speed was invaluable for capturing the big plays, and moves that might otherwise have been missed.

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Referring to the rapid continuous shooting rate on the EOS R5, Raisa says, "When I fired the first burst, I thought 'Wow, this is going to be fun!' For me, the most important thing to document was speed and strength; something that expressed the power of the players."

The EOS R5's deep-learning AI has revolutionised autofocus for photographers who shoot erratic targets. During the game, Raisa relied on the Face/Eye detection mode to recognise and track the players at speed, and this kept them in razor-sharp focus even when they were turning away from her to follow the ball. "Imagine chasing a subject that's very fast, while running, and this subject also runs and jumps. I chose face tracking because the players sometimes moved their heads very quickly. It was just spectacular."

This exceptionally fast AF performance (0.05 sec), along with 5,940 AF points that cover almost the entire frame, meant that Raisa could remain fully in the moment creatively, while feeling confident that the focus of the EOS R5 would deliver killer slam-dunk shots.

A woman crouches down to take a photograph of two men jumping up at a streetball hoop. The court is dark and lit by dim floodlights.

The Canon EOS R5 has a class-leading focusing speed of 0.05 sec, which is functional in light levels as low as -6 EV. During the streetball shoot, the light level fluctuated throughout play, but the camera's autofocus didn't struggle to lock onto targets.

Smoother transitions and shake-free shots

The EOS R5 has been designed to be the ultimate hybrid stills and video camera, offering modern content creators the ability to shoot up to 8K 30p 12-bit RAW and 4K 120p video footage using the camera's full-frame sensor.

During the game of streetball, Raisa was able to switch between the two mediums seamlessly thanks to the EOS R5's customisable buttons. "In two clicks you are ready to record," she says. "On the EOS R5, the record button is at the top, so you can easily hold the camera with your thumb on the shutter release to record and stop, while you can see what you are recording with the screen reclined. This was more comfortable than usual, and super stable while holding the camera in your hand."

To aid handheld shooting further and ensure critically sharp results, Raisa could rely on the EOS R5's 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system, which provides up to 8-stops of protection against camera shake when used with compatible lenses. This was a game-changer, as the weather was dull, but Raisa didn't have to compromise on image quality by raising the ISO too high. "The day was very grey and we had spotlights simulating sunlight, so the light was quite low. In Manual Exposure mode, I put my ISO at no more than 200."

At one point the conditions turned from grey to rainy, but the EOS R5's weather resistant magnesium body meant that play – and the shoot – could go on. "The camera body and lenses, as always with Canon equipment, were spectacular and super solid," concludes Raisa.

Skrevet av Lauren Scott


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