Nikon has partnered with the Boston Red Sox to install stadium-wide robotic cameras at Fenway Park, offering a unique way to continue photographic sports coverage in spite of the ongoing health crisis.
Throughout the stadium, Fenway has been outfitted with the fascinating Robotic Pod system. Produced by Nikon-owned company Mark Roberts Motion Control, at the heart of each of these Pods is a Nikon D5 DSLR – formerly Nikon's best camera for sports photography, until it was succeeded by the Nikon D6.
This remotely controlled camera system enables the photographer to capture still images, 1080p video and even generate GIFs for social media without having to worry about social distancing, or even having to reposition at all; as Nikon points out, "a photographer can cover an entire game without ever leaving the booth."
In addition to solving the obvious proximity problem that exists for sports photographers in the new COVID world, the Robotic Pod system also offers shooters privileged perspectives that weren't previously available, "affording new camera angles where photographers simply could not access before.
"The cameras are positioned on the roof of the press box, on the third and first baselines, overlooking center field and the bullpen, in addition to a low-angle immediately behind home plate. Because the Pods allow for 360-degree movements and zooming capabilities, the system allows for shots that just are not possible with a fixed remote camera."
In addition to the Nikon D5 at the core, each Pod is outfitted with a Nikon AF-S 80-400mm (though they can alternatively be equipped with 38-120mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm or 200-500mm optics). As you would expect of a system from a motion control specialist, "the photographer has full remote operation of zoom, focus, exposure and more, while the automated system can save pre-set capture points to easily repeat shots with precise consistency."
As the coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of abating, Robotic Pods (or systems like it) could become the norm for photographing sports in the coming year – for its part, Fenway Park is already considering the technology for all events at the stadium in 2021. And Nikon, understandably, is keen for others to follow.
“As the need for safety becomes a priority in venues nationwide," said Larry Rougas of Nikon Professional Services, "we can work together to change the game for teams and fans with the unprecedented value that remote and automated capture technologies can deliver”.
You can read more about the Robotic Pod system at the Mark Roberts Motion Control website.