Canon R5 Mirrorless — Autofocus with Fast Birds

I finally got a chance to sit on the beach and play with the Canon R5’s autofocus. At heart, I’m a bird photographer. How would this new camera function on fast moving birds? My DSLR is a Canon 1Dx. I hoped the new mirrorless had autofocus equal to or better than that camera.

Another shot from the series of the reddish egret fishing. The autofocus is set to stay on the eye of the bird. ISO 3200, 1/8000 shutter speed, f/10, spot meter, 100-500mm lens, 1.4x extender.

Can the autofocus on the Canon R5 separate one bird flying from a flock of birds? I took 14 frames of this black skimmer flying into a group of birds roosting on the beach. Below you can see the first seven frames plus bloopers.

The R5 fires 14 frames a second so the above is only 1/2-second of shooting. What happens next?

Settings on the above: Aperture Priority, ISO 640, Shutter speed 2000, f/10, spot meter, Servo, Large Zone AF Horizontal, AF-2, 100-500mm lens at 500mm with 1.4x teleconverter.

On small birds like this semipalmated plover, the R5’s autofocus was spot on.
Flying osprey and the R5’s autofocus was right on target.
Quick and tiny sanderling was no match for the Canon R5’s autofocus. Got the shot!

Conclusion — the Canon R5’s autofocus system is equal to – if not better – than the Canon D1x’s system.

What’s been your experience with the R5? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next up — Canon R5’s focus stacking.

Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

3 thoughts on “Canon R5 Mirrorless — Autofocus with Fast Birds”

  1. Hi, nice seeing you on the trail yesterday at Skillern Tract. I have the R6, same focus system as R5. Been using Face+tracking for wildlife and spot for other things. I don’t understand how the wide area mode interacts with the bird tracking. You say you are using the wide area mode, is that at the same time as eye tracing? I’m not even sure what question to ask, can you explain? I had great success yesterday with the eye detect autofocus at Shovelers Pond, I never had so many keepers with previous cameras. Love the R6.


  2. I like birds. I’ve always wanted to find birds and photograph them. But it is challenging to capture birds because they fly very fast. Canon R5 Mirrorless’s features are fascinating. I will consider buying one.


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