How photographers used a robotic camera system, a Nikon Z9 and a 100-400mm lens to shoot the World Cup

robotic camera system

The 2022 FIFA World Cup just concluded in Qatar, with Argentina toppling defending champion France in a penalty kick shootout following 120-plus minutes of exciting soccer. Sports photographers from around the globe descended upon the Middle Eastern nation, including Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographers Ozan Kose and Glyn Kirk.

To help capture additional views of the on-field action, Kose and Kirk used Robotic Pod units from Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) with Nikon Z9 cameras and the new Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 VR S telephoto zoom lenses inside. Inside the pod are a pair of motors that control both the zoom and focus of the lenses, while software controls most every feature on the camera. The pan/tilt/roll gimbals the Robotic Pod units are mounted on are the PTA-1 Robotic Arms from MRMC, which are IP65-rated and can support up to 25kg (55lbs).

In addition to manual override using a third-party PlayStation video game controller, the system can automatically track specific players using up to ten various points of the human body as well as the ball itself using the sensors FIFA and Adidas put inside the match balls to help officials determine if the ball crossed the goal line or if a play was offside (players also had sensors in their kits).

These robotic systems from MRMC have been used in various sporting events over the years, with some being permanently installed at various sporting venues around the world. Back in 2020, Nikon Professional Services (NPS) installed five Nikon D5 Robotic Pods around the Boston Red Sox’s iconic Fenway Park stadium to capture the on-field action and since then, the systems have been used to capture shots photographers otherwise would not have been able to shoot from, either due to logistical or safety concerns.

Nearly every setting for the Z9 cameras can be controlled remotely using the accompanying iPadOS application.

If you’d like to learn more about sports photography with the Nikon Z9, you should check out our interview with sports photographer Mark Pain. In the interview, Pain talked about the Nikon system at large, the Nikon Z9, some of his favorite lenses, how the Z9 compares to Pain’s favorite DSLR cameras and much more.

While you may have missed your chance to photograph the 2022 World Cup, countless more sports are always on the horizon. Fortunately, while pros opt for expensive professional cameras, a good camera for sports and action doesn’t need to break the bank. Check out our new guide, ‘Best affordable cameras for sports and action in 2022,’ to learn more about your options.

Jeremy Gray
Source: Dpreview

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