Canon R3 — Flying Birds

The Canon EOS-D1X was my workhorse camera for years. It focused fast, held focus, and never hesitated. That what I hoped from the new Canon R3.

So far, my hopes are reality.

I grabbed a couple of hours during sunny weather this weekend to photograph at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. My goal was to photograph ducks and raptors in flight at high shutter speeds.

Blue-winged teal in flight. Canon R3, 100-500mm RF lens, 1.4x extender, shutter speed 1/8000th
Blue-winged teal flying low along the cattails. The Canon R3 kept focus on the bird and didn’t get distracted by the cattails. (100-500mm RF lens, 1.4x extender, 1/8000th shutter)
Blue-winged teal in flight. Same equipment and settings as above.

Below is a series of a black-bellied whistling-duck that I tracked across the marsh. The camera is set on large zone autofocus versus a small cluster of focus points.

When the bird flew behind the reeds, the Canon R3 didn’t lose focus. The camera stayed locked on the bird and didn’t get distracted by the brush.

Red-tailed hawk under similar circumstances. Tree limbs come between the bird and me. The Canon R3 doesn’t get distracted by the limbs. It stays focused on the bird.

During my time in the field, I aimed the camera at any bird that flew nearby. I aimed the camera at hawks and vultures in the distance. Not once did it fail to acquire focus on the bird.

One or two times the camera lost focus during a burst but it reaquired focus by the next click of the shutter. I used to see this same thing with the EOS-D1x.

I missed a couple of birds but those were “operator error” versus the Canon R3. The R3 is living up to the hype and I’m a happy photographer!

Female blue-winged teal comes in for a landing.

Please feel free to post questions below. Would you like me to test something during my next outing with the Canon R3?

Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

17 thoughts on “Canon R3 — Flying Birds”

  1. Hi, Kathy, do you think the Nikon Z9 is comparable to the R3? Just curious. Wondering if it is time for me to go mirrorless.


    1. The Z9 is a big camera like the R3. You might check the Z7 series before jumping into the Z9. Put both in your hand and see which feels better. Price both, too. There’s a difference. But, yes it might be time to go mirrorless. No rush. You’ve got a great DSLR!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kathy – I assume you are using the new RF lens and I was wondering if you have tried an EF lens with an adaptor? I would be very interested in your assessment of how well a mirrorless body with an EF lens works vs an RF lens?


      2. I have never used the R cameras with the adapter so I don’t have any experience. A friend uses the adapter, though, and he said he’s not noticed any difference. Thanks for the post.


    1. Thanks for the question. The eye detect is set but I’m using the large area or large zone auto-focus. If the bird were stationary, the eye detect would find the eye. With these flying birds, there’s no time for that. The large zone is locking on.


  2. ‘This is one of many reasons I like you facebook pictures and comments. Thanks for making a lot of your readers happy.


  3. Mrs Clark:

    Have you seeen Whistling Wings Photograpy’s U-tube content? If you have please comment. I have enjoyed his work and instruction. Not that you need any instruction. Also, I am happy to see you were able to make it to Anahuac.


  4. Hi Kathy, I’m saving up for my pro camera purchase and I’m trying to decide between the Canon R5 and R3. I’m very interested in landscape and wildlife photography, as well as dog sports, portraits, and street shooting/model photography. Other sources suggest going with a 45 MP camera for landscape. Yet your 20 MP R3 wildlife photos are stunning. Do you think the R3 would be a good all-purpose pro camera? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Phil. The R3 has the fastest and most precise focus tracking. That’s necessary for birds and dog sports. Hands-down the R3 is the best. BUT, the R5 is still pretty darn good at both. The R5 has the big files so you can crop. Consider, too, the size of the cameras. The R3 is bigger and a bit heavier. The R5 is small and light. There are so many factors to look at with both cameras. The R5 is a great general all-around camera. The R3 is a speciality camera. I think you buy it for a reason. I hope that helps.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Kathy
    Considering The high Shutter speed you’re using your images are looking very noise free. Could you tell me what sort of ISO you are using and if using any noise reduction software. My R3 due tomorrow currently using R5..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Kathy,

    I’ve been debating between the R3 and R5 birding – 24mp vs 45mp. I’m pretty new to birding photography (around 8 months experience, on/off as I work and can’t always go out with the camera). I’m currently using a 7D II, having switched it from a 60D around 2.5 months ago. I’m finding the 7D II’s AF to be much better than my older 60D, but high ISO performance is truly horrid, really only usable up to ISO 800 and that’s with using NR AI. I do have older 1 series bodies (1n, 1D and 1D Mark IIn), and I prefer 1 series bodies with their integrated grips, hence being attracted to the R3.

    I’m really drawn to the R3 for a variety of reasons:

    1. slightly better AF performance over the R6/R6 II and R5.
    2. better high ISO performance than even the R6
    3. better DR performance than even the R6
    4. integrated grip
    5. Better weather sealing
    6. better LCD screen, and high res, high FPS EVF (my eyes usually absolutely hate EVFs – I’ve tested the R6 EVF and can handle that without too much complaints, the R3 is even better).
    7. battery performance
    8. the BSI stacked sensor tech and far reduced rolling shutter. There’s no use in having 20 or 30 fps if 3/4s of the shots are afected by rolling shutter.
    9. buffer.

    I have a 1st generation EF 500mm f4 IS L that I have recently acquired and I am hoping to use this for birding with whatever Canon mirrorless camera I decide on. I’d be looking to use my 500mm with my mark 1 1.4x TC (looking at a mark III TC which I believe has both better optical and AF performance). I cannot afford RF lenses.

    I’m like 95% considering the R3. The R6 II is a potential cheaper alternative, but the rolling shutter issues are a turn off for me. And the R5 has the same rolling shutter problems as the R6 II, but it’s saving grace is the 45mp resolution. Of course, the R5 loses out to the R6 II on both DR and high ISO noise performance.

    I’m not even considering the R7 – poor buffer and no battery grip are big turn offs for me, and it’s high ISO performance is considering worse than Canon’s full frame camera offerings.

    What are your thoughts? Any caveats on the R3 vs the R6 II/R5 that I have missed?




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