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Registered: ‎11-28-2015
Accepted Solution

5D Mark iii

I'm a new 5D Mark iii owner.   I'm wanting to get some good shots of my nephew playing basketball.  Any suggestions on preferred setting to get clear shots.  Thanks!

Honored Contributor
Posts: 5,558
Registered: ‎06-25-2014

Re: 5D Mark iii

When a user of a professional camera asks such a newbie question, it's hard to know what to say.


The main difference you'll probably notice between your 5D3 and the Powershot P&S you've probably been using is that you can shoot at ISO settings up to 2000 without introducing significant noise. So for (indoor) basketball, set the ISO to 2000; set the wheel on the top left of the camera to "P" (pushing the little button in the middle of the wheel allows it to turn); set the switch on the lens to "AF"; and have at it. Good luck!


You have a very fine camera; you'll find that it's worth the time and trouble to learn to use it well. But it will take you a long time to pry the information out of us that you can get by reading the manual and taking one or more courses at your local Community College.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
New Contributor
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎11-28-2015

Re: 5D Mark iii

[ Edited ]

I'm not a total newbie.  I'm used to shooting with a rebel 3Ti and have had very good luck with it.  I've read the 5D Mark iii manual through completely but can't say I've had alot of practice time.  I will learn to use it.  I understand how it works.   I'm just wondering if someone else that might shoot with it might have some suggestions on which of the 6 Al Servo AF settings might have worked well for them when shooting sports.  It is a fine camera.  Thank you!




Forum Elite
Posts: 14,122
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: 5D Mark iii

Where you stand or sit is as much, or more important, to shooting good photos at sports than what camera you have.  What lens do you have?  That is also more important than what camera you have.  Is it a well lighted gym?

I have to know these before I can recommend any settings.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,973
Registered: ‎02-26-2015

Re: 5D Mark iii

@lucky wrote:

I'm a new 5D Mark iii owner.   I'm wanting to get some good shots of my nephew playing basketball.  Any suggestions on preferred setting to get clear shots.  Thanks!

Tv mode set to 1/800, with Auto ISO


Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,854
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: 5D Mark iii

Here's a write-up of how to get your camera into a mode where it's optimized for basketball.  But BEFORE you go shoot a game... practice getting all these settings dialed-in and go do some test shooting to make sure you're comfortable with how it all works.  If you're learning at the game you might have more missed-shots simply because you're not yet used to how the camera works when shooting sports.


Owning an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II will certainly help (if you don't have one of these already, put it on your wish-list.  Everyone either owns this lens... or wants this lens.  It doesn't even matter if you shoot sports -- it's the goto lens used by a lot of portrait and wedding photographers and it's also the preferred lens for indoor sports such as basketball.)  I have the original (version I) of this lens and it's the lens that lives on my camera all the time.


You probably want to use AF mode Case 6 (that's Canon's recommended autofocus tracking mode for basketball -- although they also suggest case 4).  


Since you specifically want to track your nephew and not shoot just any player, you might want to de-tune the "Tracking sensitivity" -- this features determines how much the camera will prefer to stick with one subject vs. switch and start tracking a different subject.  The case 6 default has tracking sensitivity right in the middle at the "0" mark.    If you want the camera to stick with your subject and not be so eager to jump to a new subject then you might want to de-tune this down to -1.   To do that:

  1. Press MENU
  2. Navigate to the AF page 1 (out of 5 possible pages of AF settings in the menu system)
  3. Use the rear-dial to highlight case 6 (the last case on the list) and press the SET button to select it.
  4. Press the RATE button to enable custom tuning.
  5. Use the rear-dial to highlight "Tracking Sensitivity" (top choice - it may be highlighted by default since it is the top choice) and press SET to select it.
  6. Use the rear-dial and turn it counter-clockwise one click to "-1" (to favor staying "locked on" over "responsive" -- responsive would cause it to jumpt to a new subject more readily.)  Press SET to lock in that change.
  7. Press MENU repeatedly to back out of the menu system.

Next enable "AI Servo" mode -- the default is "One Shot" focus mode.  In One Shot mode the camera will activate focus when you half-press the shutter button... but once it achieves focus on a subject, the focus system will turn off and wait for you to take the shot.  Unfortunately in sports your subjects are constantly moving... so if you take that shot the camera will be focused on the spot where the player USED TO BE and not where they are now.  


When you use "AI Servo" mode, the camera will continuously track focus even as the player moves.  


Press the "AF-Drive" button on the top of the camera.

Use the front-dial to select "AI Servo" mode.

Use the rear-dial to select "High Speed Continuous" shooting (it looks like a stack of 3 rectangles with an "H" next to it.)


Next put the camera in the correct AF point selection mode.


Press the AF point selection button.  This is the button in the extreme upper-right corner on the back.  The icon looks like a rectangle with a cross-shape pattern of dots in it (these are meant to look like focus points.)  

While the AF point selection menu is displayed on the back of the camera, press the M-Fn button (next to the shutter button on the front-top of the camera) and this will cause it to cycle through all the available AF point selection modes.  "Auto Selection:61 pt AF" mode (which means the camera can use ANY point it wants.


One caveat... if for some reason you can't pick this mode... there is a menu which allows you to enable/disable modes.  If there's a mode you think you'd never use (some photographers just switch between two favorite modes all the time) you can disable the ones you don't use.  If you've done that, then the mode you'll need to use could be disabled and you'll have to reenable that mode.)


NOW you're ready to shoot... but there are two more caveats that you need to know.


#1 -- when you use "AI Servo" focus mode, the camera also uses a behavior called "Release Priority".  Normally your camera is in the "One Shot" mode which uses "Focus Priority" and that means the camera will not take a shot until it can confirm a focus lock.  But in "Release Priority" behavior the camera WILL TAKE the shot AS SOON as you press the shutter button (shutter reelease) all the way down... and it will do this WHETHER OR NOT IT WAS FOCUSED!!!  So you need to make sure the camera locked focus and is tracking your intended subject before you fully press the button or you'll just get a lot of blurry shots.


#2 -- while camera CAN use any of the 61 AF points in this mode... you'll notice that when you put the camera viewfinder to your eye and half-press the shutter button that you do see ONE of the AF points (black square).  This is the point where the camera presumes it will START tracking your subject.  But since you've got an auto-tracking case enabled, it will "follow" your subject around as they move.  If you lose the subject, you'll have to put that starting point back on your subject to re-acquire focus on them.    BTW, you can pick any starting point you want.  As you look through the viewfinder, put your thumb on the 8-way navigator (the tiny joystick controlled by your thumb just above the rear-dial) and you'll notice you can rock it up, down, left, right, etc. and the black square will go anywhere you want (well... any of the 61 AF points.)


Don't be afraid to crank the ISO ... the 5D III can take it.  I think nothing of shooting at ISO 3200 and even ISO 6400 ... while it will have some noise at ISO 6400, it is EASILY dealt with in post processing because it'll be rather moderate noise.


Since you want to freeeze action (you don't want to see motion blur on your subjects) you'll want to keep the shutter speed high.  


Generally 1/500th sec is fast enough to freeze most subjects, but you might see *some* motion blur at that speed... sneaking it up a bit higher will be helpful (e.g. 1/800th or even 1/1000th).  


I would second the recommendation to shoot using Tv mode and set the shutter speed to 1/800th and use Auto ISO.   But... check the menu system for Red Camera page 2 (red camera tab... page 2 of 4 possible pages).  There's an "ISO speed settings" option on that menu.  Please select this and verify the "Auto ISO range".  I think this will be set to "100-12800" by default and that's fine.  But it's possible to decrease it... photographers who don't ever want to shoot at any ISO above some point (e.g. suppose you never want to let Auto ISO pick a setting above 1600) could set it to a low value that's not high enough for your indoor basketball lighting.   Just make sure the camera is allowed to crank up the ISO when it needs to. 


Adobe Lightroom has a very good noise-reduction option (which is strange because the noise-reduction built into Photoshop is a miserable failure.  When using full-blown Photoshop I rely on a noise-reduction plug-in called "Noiseware Pro" by Imagenomic.) 


Lastly... there is an option called "back button focus" that a lot of sports photographers like.  It was practially a necessity before Canon started producing cameras with their new iTR system (that's the intelligent tracking system to follow subjects.).  The problem with old cameras was that in order to take a shot (full press of the shutter button) you had to half-press the shutter button and THAT triggered focus.  So if you're following an athlete and another person gets in the way, the focus system will normally switch focus to that distracting subject and not the intended subject.    So they released a feature called back-button focus which assigns focus to a back button (by default it's the AF-ON button on a 5D III but it can be re-assigned.)  This allows to take focus off the shutter button (half-pressing the shutter will "meter" but will not focus.  A full-press will still take the shot, but to focus the camera you press the AF-ON button.)  This allows you to keep an eye out for distractions and take your thumb off the AF-ON button (so the camera stops updating focus) until the distraction gets out of the frame and then you can continue focusing on your subject again.    You CAN enable that feautre if you want (it is off by default.)  It drives some people nuts ... but some people who stick with it and get used to it would never shoot sports any other way.



Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
New Contributor
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎11-28-2015

Re: 5D Mark iii

[ Edited ]

Thank you TCampbell for the time you spent on that in depth write up.  I understand everything and sincerely appreciate the tips you shared.  You understood my question.   I will use the AF mode Case 6 (instead of  4) first.  That makes more sense to me.  The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II is my next purchse.  A friend is going to let me use his for now.  Thank you again for your help.


Judy Brockman

New Contributor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎12-16-2016

Re: 5D Mark iii

TCampbell, thank you so much for this detailed explanation, its been a great help. I really appreciate your time and energy to share this message with us!
New Contributor
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎09-20-2019

Re: 5D Mark iii

Wow!  So snarky!  I actually ended up here because I'm suddenly having trouble focusing on high school basketball games and now the camera is autofocusing on every point except for my main subject. I've been photographing games for many years and usually able to focus, but I seem to be having trouble suddenly. I have been bumping up my ISO in dark gyms to 3200 to even 5000 which creates a lot of noise.  I have to keep my aperture pretty wide at 2.8 on my 70-200mm lens.  I even switched to my 85mm which is too short, but so that I could change the f-stop to 1.8 and bring my ISO down becuase 5000 is way noisy and ugly. I keep going into the AF menu and choosing different settings, most recently case #4 for fast action that accelerates and decelerates quickly.  I have been switching back and forth between AI servo and one shot for focus.  It doesn't seem to work. I know it's not the lenses becuase I'm using multiple and they are sharp on some subjects, just not my intended. When I'm doing portraits, I typically use the AF-ON but I'm not sure it's working for the fast action so I'm also trying the main shutter button to focus. The canon manual isn't very helpful.  I've been doing photography for years and it's acrtually going to be hard to find a class that teaches how to use the 5 AF menus on the 5Dm3.  Anyway, if anyone has a video on how-to adjust the intricacies of the AF menus to capture basketball games, please let me know!  Thanks.


New Contributor
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎09-20-2019

Re: 5D Mark iii

[ Edited ]

Thank you T Campbell for providing this detailed info.  Very kind of you.  I'm prtnting it out and going to give this a try at my next game.  I think changing the case, the sensitivity and adjusting the AF selection will probably help.  I hope to find this thread again and report on what the next round of photos looks like.





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