Supporting Pro Photographers At The Rio Olympic Games

Canon CPS Depot

Despite the controversial cloud hanging over the latest iteration of the International Olympic Games, professional photographers have been prepping for the largest sporting event in the world for months. And just behind them is Canon’s Professional Services.

For the last few Olympic games, Canon has been setting up shop in the media centers of the games and providing technical and equipment support for professional sport photographers that use Canon equipment.

Rio is no different.

This year, Canon is bringing nearly 1,600 ultra-wide 24-700mm EF lenses and, at least, 200 1D X Mark IIs. That’s just the new top-of-the-line equipment. The support center that Canon has set up in Rio will feature almost every L lens that Canon makes, the original 1D X, 5D Mark IIIs and 7D Mark IIs.

Canon Rio Olympics
Lenses provided by Canon during the Rio Olympics

We sat down with Elizabeth Pratt, Canon’s Director of Professional Services, to talk about the challenges of supporting pro photographers during the Games and how her team of nearly 80 accomplishes that goal.

Set Up

“We’ve had a team on the ground here for at least two weeks,” Pratt said. “We ramped up about three weeks ago when we had a team here installing robotic [cameras] for AP and Reuters.”

Pratt’s team offers full service to any piece of equipment that a photographer brings them. The most common maintenance task they perform is cleaning lenses and checking over the camera bodies. But it goes beyond that.

“Sports photographers are notoriously hard on their equipment, and they’re traveling from all over. We have very durable equipment, but you never know.”

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A portion of Canon’s available equipment at the Rio Olympics.

For a standard major sporting event like the Super Bowl or Indy 500 in the United States, Canon provides the sensor cleaning service and other basic maintenance, but for the Olympics Pratt said that her team is stepping up.

They’re doing full lens calibration; Pratt mentioned seeing one of her techs completely break down a 70-200mm lens to the screws and individual glass plates.

Unlike singular events like the Super Bowl or a political convention, the Olympics take place in a variety of environments and locations in the host city, and in some cases in other cities entirely.

The CPS center is stationed at the main media center in Rio. When asked if technicians travel to the various sites for on-location support, Pratt said they unfortunately do not.

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Camera bodies from Canon for the Games.

“It’s challenging for the photographers,” she said. “They could be in Copacabana one day, Maracana Stadium the next. It’s challenging for the photographers to get back and forth. We decided [a] central location would be for the best.”


One of the cool things that Canon is doing is using robotic cameras in the swimming centers and indoor stadiums.

Through partnerships with agencies like AP, Reuters and the European Press Photo, Canon has integrated remote cameras into robotics that can be controlled by laptops from anywhere on the network.

From Getty Images
Photo by Justin Heiman, Getty Images

The robotics systems are designed with underwater housings that pair a 1D X Mark II  11-24mm lens, which Pratt says is a corrected wide-angle lens, meaning that it has very little distortion. The camera systems follows the action from the floor of the pool in the housing, and can be remotely controlled similar to above water robotic camera systems.

“No one has to get wet,” Pratt said. Except the swimmers, of course.

Rio Challenges

Every major event has its own challenges, and Rio is no exception.

Environmentally, Brazil is very tropical and known for having a humid climate. A day before the opening ceremonies, Pratt said that her team is keeping an eye out for mold and water issues, but so far, nothing yet.

The big concern in Rio, though, is security.

“[Rio’s] a lovely city, but we’ve gotten a lot of warnings about theft and concerning safety.”

There’s a ton of equipment in Rio, worth millions of dollars. As part of their preparation, Pratt’s team designed and arranged for a “very secure press center.” Pratt didn’t divulge details on their security but assured that everything is as secure as possible. In fact, she was more concerned about the logistics of packing and shipping so much equipment than the local security.

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