In it for the Money

Australian Open Badminton, Men's Singles Semi-Final
Sydney, 2012

My initial interest in the sport of badminton was motivated by Money. Elizabeth Money. Her dad was a minister of religion and his church ran a badminton club: every Saturday afternoon – just one court – so the chances of getting a game were fairly slim. But at the age of 13, the possibility of seeing Elizabeth leaping about in a short skirt was all the motivation I needed.

My interest in badminton grew from there and I played for my school. So did Elizabeth. Then my family moved to a different city and my new school didn’t have a club; so I started one; and as far as I know it’s still going.

When we migrated to Australia, badminton seemed not to be played at all except by children at barbeques and on the beach; with $2 racquets and plastic shuttlecocks; and it wasn’t until 14 years later, when I went to work at a university with a sizeable student population from badminton-playing countries, that I rediscovered it.

In the end, I met my wife through badminton, in a set of coincidences that required the collaboration of four different metropolitan universities to bring us together. But when our son was born, new priorities relegated the sport to the status of an occasional pastime.

I don’t play anymore. But I enjoyed watching the Australian Open, marvelling at the skill and athleticism of the elite players in the fastest of all racquet sports, reliving my own memories, modest though they were; and wondering if, these days, there is any Money in badminton.

Notes on my camera

I didn’t take my DSLR to the badminton competition because Australia has some absurd rules and restrictions on spectators  photographing sporting events and I wasn’t sure if I’d be admitted carrying a big camera with a telephoto lens. But I always carry a compact camera with me, just in case I happen on something worth recording.

These photographs were taken using my Canon G12. My first compact camera was a Ricoh GRD III but it has a fixed wide-angle lens and regardless of what Mr Capa says, it isn’t ideal for sports photography because you often cannot GET close to the action – burly security guards see to that.

At the badminton competition, I took these photographs from the stands, using indoor lighting (no flash, of course), with the ISO set to 1600, and the f-stop set at f5.6, speed 1/60th and I am pretty happy with the results.

Apart from the advantage (over the Ricoh) of having a (fairly modest) zoom, the viewer is plenty bright enough. But compared with the GRD III, there are some downsides. First of all, I find the manual focus on the Canon almost unusable. Maybe its just my clumsy fingers but the focusing ring is so close to other controls, I find myself often inadvertantly switching the flash on or the MF off instead of adjusting the focus. That’s really annoying.

The other downside, from my point of view in comparison with the GRD III, is the time lag on the shutter. With the GRD III (as with my Nikon D300s), the shutter releases the instant I press the button; but with the G12 there is a noticeable delay.  This is okay if I’m photographing buildings or mountains, but badminton is known as the fastest racquet sport of all and by the time the G12 gets round to taking the picture, the scene has completely changed. And unlike tennis where the ball travels a greater distance (from baseline to baseline), it is almost impossible to anticipate the next shot in badminton.

One day, I hope I will find the perfect camera. In the meantime, as the saying goes down here in Australia, it’s still a question of horses for courses.

Deftly done !!

Down but not out
Chen, Jin went on to win the Men's Singles title for China

Mixing it
Japan -v- Chinese Taipei




12 thoughts on “In it for the Money

  1. A wonderful, wonderful post that struck a chord with me since I, too, was a badminton player, but in my adult years. There was a very good badminton club in the city I lived before Victoria and I played twice a week. Alas, Victoria has no decent badminton facilities. Unlike you, I didn’t have enough initiative to start one!

    • Hi Mark, I even played badminton in Paris one time, at the Club Sporting de Paris (over near the Rodin museum as I recall). Thanks for the comment.

  2. Despite the shutter lag, some came out nicely Keith. And I really enjoyed the story of how you got in it for the Money. 🙂

  3. Have you checked in to the Panasonic compact system cameras like the DMC FG1 with interchangeable lenses? They are small and many like them for street photography. I am waiting to hear on an older and cheaper DMC FZ35, that while light is bigger, but comes with a powerful zoom. I find those cameras fascinating and would go wild if I had the means.

    • I did have a little Lumix a few years back but I gave it to my son when he went to the States. It worked well for close shots but lost a lot of definition when the lens was zoomed out. Also, it didn’t have full function controls and like the Canon G12, it had a shutter release lag. Here’s a photo of my son taken with it on a plane somewhere over the US (en route from DFW to LAX).
      On the brink of a void

  4. Keith, I think Om was talking about the new fangled compact system cameras that like DSLRs, have interchangeable lenses. Not sure if you knew if that was what she was referring to. They’re not as small as the G12 once you put a long lens on them. And you’d have to carry the various lenses with you, unlike the G12 that had the built in zoom. But supposedly they’re pretty cool. No shutter lag. Fast focusing. Good image quality, pretty much on a par with crop sensor DSLRs, despite the micro 4/3 sensor.

    • I checked out the DMC FG1 online in my favourite discount camera shop here and it is flagged as “no longer available” without giving a reason why. What I was really looking for when I bought the G12 was a pocket camera that I could carry easily on the off chance of stumbling across something worth photographing, without the constraint of a fixed wide-angle lens. If I could find a camera that combines the best of the Ricoh GRD III and the Canon G12 I would have exactly what I want (although the G12’s zoom could be a little longer, come to think of it). Maybe I’m just too hard to please 🙂

  5. Keith, learning about badminton was not what I was expecting when I stopped by to catch up with your latest posts, but it was certainly interesting and entertaining. I was also drawn by your comments on the GRD III which by chance I had been researching lately. I am intrigued by the idea of a small, well built camera with a fast prime lens for street shooting and low light. I have been playing around lately with another Ricoh, the less expensive CX3, with a fairly useful 10X zoom, but the lens is not very fast, shutter lag can be a problem, and there are no real manual controls. Sounds like the GRD III may be worth a try.

    • Hey there, Ricoh has a new model, the GRX, which boasts interchangeable units (read, lenses). It’s a lot more expensive than the GRD III and I haven’t actually seen handled one, but those who have seem to be impressed with it.

  6. I don’t think there is a perfect camera for all situations.
    I think for sports photography(which I have never done well even though I love sports) the most important thing is location.

    • I think you’re absolutely right about the importance of location in sports photography, Art. But without accreditation, at a seated event, sometimes one just has to make do; and a long lens and fast shutter sure helps.

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