You CAN Now Shoot Sports With Mirrorless

 Yonathan Kellerman

It used to be said that you can’t shoot sports with a mirrorless camera. However, photographer Yonathan Kellerman, is just one of many photographers for whom switching from a DSLR to a Sony A9 has changed the way he captures imagery.

“Sony has rewritten the photography rulebook.”

Yonathan Kellerman

© Yonathan Kellerman | Sony α9 + 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6| 1/40s @ f/6.3, ISO 100

Yonathan finds ‘movement is so impactful’ - whether the art work of a ballet dancer, the determination of a sprinter crossing the finish line or simply watching the astonishment on the faces of the crowd as a champion becomes victorious in their sporting battle. Sport provides a beautifully diverse playing field for a photographer but you need the right camera kit so you don’t miss ‘once in a lifetime’ moments. The Canadian-born photographer spent years using a DSLR; switching to a mirrorless camera wasn’t a simple decision.

"In the past if I had ever considered switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, the biggest hurdle had always been the autofocus performance, but the Sony α9 changes that.”

With 693 points across the sensor, AF tracking and a 20fps shooting rate, the α9 offers photographers the freedom to create their own images in a way that works for them.

Yonathan Kellerman

© Yonathan Kellerman | Sony α9 + 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6| 1/2500s @ f/5.6, ISO 1250

“There is one thing about using the α9’s autofocus that has actually changed the way I work. The α9’s AF points are on the entire frame of the image and they aren’t confined to the centre as they are on a DSLR. I can have my subject towards the edge of the frame and know that they will still be perfectly tracked in focus. As a result, I reframe less. I now have shots that are not cropped in post-production, which rarely ever happened before.”

The athlete can be at the edge of a frame allowing room, for example, for newspaper picture editors to place headlines above.

Yonathan Kellerman

© Yonathan Kellerman | Sony α9 + 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6| 1/1000s @ f/5.6, ISO 6400

To capture those defining moments, all photographers are reliant on their camera kit and Yonathan is no exception to the rule; the 24.2MP full-frame sensor of the α9 has to provide him with the image quality he needs, even when it is pushed towards its extremes.

Yonathan’s current love is photographing dance although it comes with its own set of challenges; largely the difficult lighting conditions.

“I basically live at ISO 6400. It just gives me room to manoeuvre on my other settings and that’s no issue for the α9. When you are shooting a ballet, some acts will be very bright but there is often one that will be extremely dark, which is meant to be dreamy. It is the toughest one to shoot. I’ll go up to ISO 12,800’”

Yonathan Kellerman

© Yonathan Kellerman | Sony α9 + 70-200mm f/2.8| 1/400s @ f/2.8, ISO 10000

With sport, you’d expect it to all be about the large telephoto lenses but as Yonathan highlights, that’s not always the case.

“When I am shooting dance I will also use my wider 16-35mm f/4 because when I work at the opera the set and decor is all part of the performance, so a wide-angle lens is an important addition. It’s the same when shooting sports - I will often use the wide angle when shooting athletes up close and wanting to get the stadium in shot. It is all part of the bigger picture.”

Yonathan Kellerman

© Yonathan Kellerman | Sony α9 + 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6| 1/800s @ f/5.6, ISO 2500

Another advantage is the silent shutter of the α9 means photographers can shoot in places where a DSLR would simply be too loud. Photographers can shoot at 20fps as a golfer takes a swing without fear.

“I’ll get closer to the action a little more because I know I won’t be heard or seen. I’m sure in the future they are going to have to start requiring photographers to show up with quieter cameras especially in tennis, as they do in golf.”

 Products featured in this article 
α9 full frame mirrorless camera with stacked CMOS sensor
FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS
SEL28F20 / SEL28F20FEC / SEL28F20UWC
FE 100-400mm G Master super-telephoto zoom lens