Canon EOS R7 vs. R5 and R3

I had a chance this morning to test the Canon EOS R7 against the R5 and R3. All cameras were set to roughly the same menu settings. Each was used in shutter priority (TV), shutter 1250, ISO Auto, and F/11. Each had the same 100-500mm RF lens with a 1.4x converter.

My subject stayed the same as well. Lucky for me, a fledgling eastern bluebird stayed on the same branch during my test.

All images were taken while I was seated in the same chair at the same angle. The sky was partly cloudy with lighting remaining generally the same during the test.

Notice that the bird photographed with the R7 is larger in the frame. The Canon EOS R7 has a cropped sensor so the subject will appear bigger with a telephoto lens. Hence, the reason a lot of bird photographers like photographing with a crop sensor camera.

Here’s the images larger:

Eastern bluebird fledgling with the Canon R7. The bird is larger in the frame due to the cropped sensor.
Eastern bluebird photographed with the Canon R5. Same bird from same vantage-point but notice that I zoomed back a tiny bit by mistake.
Eastern bluebird photographed with the Canon R3.

I was impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R7. The camera was set to Flexible Zone 1, Subject, and Eye Detect. The Canon R7 never failed to acquire focus on the small bird. (Watch for my post on camera set-up.)

I’ll compare ISO in a future post but here’s a look at the Canon R7 image enlarged to 100%.

The same photo from above enlarged to 100% photographed using ISO 6400.

Posts coming up will show my set-up for the R7, file size, ISO, and night photography. Stay tuned!

First impression with the Canon R7 shows that this is going to be a great camera for bird photography.

Canon R3 — Hummingbird Photography

Rufous hummingbird with a damaged beak.

Continuing my test of the Canon R3, I turned to small birds in flight. There are two rufous hummingbirds in my yard so I figured they would be a good test.

FYI — below is an analysis of 516 pictures taken over 4-minutes with the camera on electronic shutter. The hummingbird left and I had more than enough photos to analyze.

There were bees around the feeder. In only one instance did the auto focus leave the bird and hook on to a bee.

The Whole Area Auto Focus left the hummer and locked on the feeder for five frames out of the 516.

Analysis of minute one: I captured 129 images during the first minute of shooting using the electronic shutter. Two or three images were out of focus when the hummer buzzed backwards but the rest were in tight focus. 1/3200th shutter speed with auto ISO. ISO was usually in the 5000 range.

Rufous hummingbird photographed with the Canon R3, Auto ISO, 1/3200th shutter, and whole area auto focus.
Image above cropped to 100%

Analysis of minute two: I captured 141 images with the electronic shutter. Shutter speed is 1/6400th with auto ISO in the 8000 range.

The autofocus lost the hummer for four frames as the bird hovered. Then the auto focus reaquired the hummer and locked on. The hummer was in motion as it flew in and out to feed at the feeder.

The hummer took a drink of sugar water from the feeder and then hovered to swallow for 21 frames. There’s tight focus on 16 of the hovering frames. The camera got a bit confused as it changed focus to the feeder and then back to the hummer.

In this instance, the R3 lost focus on the hummer when the bird was mostly obscured by the feeder. Focus locked back on the bird when the hummer moved more of its body toward the camera.

During this same minute, the hummer drank from the feeder again and the R3 never lost focus on the bird. There are 16 frames where the hummer is behind the feeder and the R3 is locked on the hummer. The hummer hovers for 11 frames with no loss of focus.

A GIF of some of the 141 images mentioned above.

Three to four frames per wing flap, if you’re curious.

An example where the Canon R3 auto focus attached to the wing and not the body of the hummingbird.

When birds are in flight, my Canon R5 and R6 would auto focus on bird-wing-bird-wing-bird-wing. I didn’t see the R3 get distracted by the wing more than once or twice in 141 frames.

What Happened During Minutes Three and Four? More of the same. Sharp, tight focus on a hummingbird in flight. I am so impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R3.

Rufous hummingbird photographed with the Canon R3, 1/6400th shutter, ISO 8000, Canon 100-500mm RF lens.
The second Rufous Hummingbird in my yard during this test. Photographed at 1/3200th shutter and ISO 25,600. Almost full frame. Slight crop to balance the frame.

Questions or comment? Please feel free to post below. Thanks for reading.

Canon R3 — Flying Birds in Low Light

Someone recently asked me to test the Canon R3 in low light. Little did I know I’d find myself in overcast, dreary, drizzly, windy, and cold conditions all weekend. What a test!

All of the following photos were taken with the Canon R3 in Case 2 Auto Focus, High-Speed burst, and Whole Area Auto Focus. The camera is still set-up as it came out of the box otherwise.

Camera Settings: Shutter Priority, 1/6400th second, ISO Auto, f10, over-exposed by +1 because it was so overcast. (The exposure compensation was based on a test shot using the histogram and the exposure simulation in the viewfinder.)

All photos have been processed in Adobe Camera Raw. Settings: Texture +20, Vibrance +20, Saturation +20, Shadows +35-40, Noise Reduction 16. No other hocus-pocus or magic.

Merlin in Flight From a Boat

This is a screen capture of 18 frames I got of a merlin flying across the bow of a boat. The boat is in motion, I’m moving, and the merlin is flying, of course.
First image in the series at 100% crop. Process details above.
16th image in the series. at 100% crop

Notice that the R3 acquired focus on the merlin in flight and then held the focus until the bird was out of my sight. That’s exactly what I expect of a camera at this level. No hesitating and no delay.

All of the above are are ISO 16,000 with Adobe Camera Raw’s Noise Reduction at 16.

Northern Shoveler’s in Flight

Back on land but in the same weather conditions. Cold, overcast, drizzly, and windy. I wasn’t dressed for the weather so only stayed at this location for 10 minutes. Ducks were taking flight in front of me and flying to the right. I took 219 photos in that 10 minutes. Same settings and processing as above.

Screen capture of some of the images that follow unprocessed.

I realized at this point that the Canon R3 was going to acquire focus and not let go even on these flying ducks. For the next 10-minutes, I photographed any duck that flew by. Reminder that I am pivoting to the right on each duck that flies by.

ISO 8000 on this series. I captured 22 frames of this female as she flew by.

Female northern shoveler in flight. ISO 4000 and cropped to 100%
Northern shoveler coming right at me. The Canon R3 with the 100-500mm RF lens acquired focus.
Northern shoveler male in flight with ISO 5000.
Above is a tricky situation for some cameras. Single bird flying in front of a busy background. Another camera might focus on the background since the large zone auto focus is set.
The Canon R3 found the northern shoveler.
The image above enlarged to 100%.

I am totally impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R3. The camera never lost focus on a flying bird. I shot for a total of three hours on this day and never was I disappointed in the performance of the Canon R3.

For users of the Canon EOS 1-D x — The R3 is equal to and better. Canon has given us an amazing camera.

Questions or comments? What me to test something else on the R3? Post below.

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.

Canon R5 Mirrorless — Autofocus on Hummingbirds

I headed out with the Canon R5 in hand attached to the new 100-500mm lens and 1.4x extender. This would be my first time to try action photography with the R5 and first outing for the 100-500mm.

Ruby-throated hummingbird; photographed with the Canon R5 and 100-500mm lens

I decided to work with hummingbirds. These little gems are a challenge for any action photographer. Right now, we’re in the middle of hummingbird migration on the Upper Texas Coast so I knew there would be plenty of subject.

Kleb Woods Nature Park in Tomball, Texas, has 15+ hummingbird feeders this time of year and usually attracts lots of hummers. I wasn’t disappointed. From 12:30 to 2:30 pm on a warm Saturday afternoon I shot 1326 photos. After basic editing in Adobe, I had 494 keepers. I was super happy with 110 of my photos. Not bad for two hours of work.

Overall, I was very pleased with the R5 and 100-500mm lens.

In one feeding series, I shot 49 images as a ruby-throated hummingbird flew in and out to the feeder. The ruby-throat flew in, took a drink from the feeder, hovered, took another drink, hovered, took a drink, hovered , drank, hovered, drank, hovered, drank. Six sips of nectar with hovering in-between. I kept 39 photos out of that session. 39 out of 49, or 80%, is not a bad success rate with hummingbirds.

In another series, I took 90 photos as a hummer visited the feeder. That group had 23 shots that were worth keeping because they were sharp and in focus. That 25.5% or a quarter keepers.

Within about an hour, I figured out settings with the new camera and got into the groove of photographing hummingbirds in flight. I’ve photographed hummingbirds like this hundreds of times, but this was the first time I let the camera take the lead.

I set the R5’s auto-focus and then I let it do the work.

I found the greatest success with (1) Servo, (2) Subject to Detect: Animals, (3) Servo AF 2, (4) Large Zone Horizontal AF. Yes, this last one is a big change for me. (I’ve always been a single-point autofocus person.)

An hour into the shoot, I fired off 22 shots of a male ruby-throated hummingbird during one feeding session. That series lasted less than a minute and I threw away two. Keeper ratio 22 out of 24.

An auto-focus system should be able to do a pretty good job when there are only two objects in a frame: feeder and hummingbird. What happens when the hummingbird is at a bush with foliage in every direction?

I stepped over to a hamelia bush to continue testing the Canon R5’s autofocus capabilities. When a hummingbird flew down to a flower, I took 36 shots and kept 6. That’s only 16% keepers but several of those were tossed in the trash because the bird had its back to the camera.

When a hummer came in to feed on the hamelia and there was a clean background, my keeper rate was 100%. The Canon R5 kept the bird in focus the entire time it visited the flower — and I kept the camera on the bird.

What happened when there were several items in the frame?

In one series of photos, I had a feeder with three hummers hovering around the feeder. The Canon R5 kept focus on the hummer in the center of the frame. It’s autofocus system didn’t get distracted by the hummer on the right edge of the frame or the one on the left.

Through the viewfinder of the R5, we see tiny blue dots flashing on the subject to let us know that the camera’s found the subject and is in focus. These dots are similar to the red dots we see on the Canon 5D Mark IV or the D1X. Nice confirmations to let us know the camera is doing its job.

Check back for my review of the R5’s ISO.

Great Costa Rican Adventure

My husband and I have been taking birding/photography groups to Costa Rica since 2004. We’ve used Strabo Tours for each of these as well as a local Costa Rican tour company and our local guide, Willy Alfaro. The same operators and guides for every trip. We change the locations and time of year, and that changes the birds. Each trip is the same but each is different.

Our March 2020 trip was to the northern reaches of Costa Rica. We began in Liberia in the state of Guanacaste and ended in San Jose in the center of the country.

Our first lodge was in the hills of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano. The habitat was officially dry forest but the grounds were lush and filled with birds. Temps were in the 80s but we were plagued by misty rain. This gave us amazing rainbows but made photography a challenge.

Birds on the grounds included crested guan, white-throated magpie-jay, black-headed trogon, Garter trogon, keel-billed toucan, and turquoise-browed motmot. Those were the big, colorful birds. We didn’t overlook social flycatcher, summer tanager, western tanager, and other small but important birds.

We spent two nights at this location, then packed and drove past the Miravalles Volcano to the Rio Celeste. A stop along the way at Celeste Mountain Lodge gave us a chance to eat lunch and photograph birds at the feeders. Yellow-throated euphonia, scarlet-rumped tanagers, palm tanagers, and others gave the group new birds.

Our lodging in this area put the group in an unexpectedly luxurious eco-lodge. My room had a private outdoor terrace, a private outdoor shower on the other end, an indoor shower big enough for a football team, luxurious bathroom, and amazingly comfortable beds.

Bird feeders on the grounds attracted buff-throated saltator, Montezuma oropendola, and others. Overhead, we photographed swallow-tailed kites during a morning walk. After a nice mid-morning hike, we got to photograph the turquoise-colored Rio Celeste.

After two night, we packed-up and drove to the Arenal volcano area. Along the way we stopped at Danaus Nature Center to photograph two-toed sloth, white-nosed coati, boat-billed heron, and other things. The group was not ready to leave but our hotel for the night held lots of photo opportunities.

Arenal Volcano in the La Fortuna region of Costa Rica.

We maximized our time in the Arenal area but packed again to drive to Maquenque Eco-lodge near the Nicaraguan border.

Maquenque is a destination that nearly overwhelmed the group. Feeders near the dining room attracted many birds we’d already photographed but then there were new birds. Brown-headed parrot was the star and a lifer for me. All three honeycreepers — red-legged, green, and sparkling — came into the feeders frequently. Amazon kingfisher, great egret, purple gallinule and northern jacana frequented the property’s marshy pond.

After two nights, the tour headed a bit south to the Sarapiqui area. This is a favorite location for bird photography and our main stop was Dave & Dave’s Nature Park. Dave and Dave (father and son) have built a location where birds land on natural perches to feed on native fruits. The photo opportunities are amazing.

Two visits to Dave & Dave’s gave us a chance to photograph different perching birds plus several hummingbirds. The group was exhausted but still managed to eat amazing TexMex food before heading across the mountains to San Jose.

We gave the group one last stop while driving through the mountains. A small roadside coffee shop has a balcony overlooking a lush tropical valley. Feeders attracted mountain birds including Emerald toucanet, black guan, and a little Tennessee warbler. Hummingbirds feeders let us photograph green hermit, coppery-headed emerald, and violet saberwing.

As we cruised into San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica, the group was happy but a bit anxious. Corona Virus was in the news back in the United States. We’d experienced great bird and wonderful lodges. Our memories will always be enhanced thanks to the 500 or so pictures we took each day.

We’ll do this route again in March 2021. Details are on the Strabo Photo Tour website.

Nature Photography Event

NANPA is the North American Nature Photography Association. It’s a leading organization for nature photographers. NANPA events should not be missed.

I’ll be leading the birds track at NANPA’s Nature Photography Celebration in Asheville, NC, April 19-21.

Join me and my colleagues in bird photography, night photography, landscapes, flowers, fine art, and conservation for an unprecedented amount of field time with other photographers as well as classroom sessions and opportunities to share images. 

My friends save $75 on registration with the FriendOfKathy promo code. More info: nanpa.org/celebration

Northern parula might be a migrant we find during the NANPA Celebration in Asheville, North Carolina.

Bird Photography: Flash & No Flash

It always amazes me how much impact the flash can have on photos of birds in the forest.

Palm tanager; with a flash Costa Rica; Sarapiqui
Palm tanager; with no flash; Costa Rica; Sarapiqui

Both were photographed with the following settings: Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/400 sec shutter speed, ISO 800, Canon 580 flash, 100-400mm lens.

The flash is set to TTL and high-speed.

Tanager & Other Birds — Ecuador Photo Tours

Tanagers are one of my favorite families of birds in the tropics.  They are colorful, rather large, somewhat slow, and plentiful.  The Ecuador birding field guide lists about 66 species with tanager in their name.  We didn’t photograph that many during our Strabo Photo Tour Collections trip in March but we got a lot.

 

Black-capped tanager; Tangara heinei; Ecuador; Mindo Valley
Black-capped tanager — Mindo Valley, Ecuador

Blue-capped tanager KAC9857
Blue-capped tanager in the Mindo Valley.  This was a new bird for me.

Blue-capped tanager KAC9864
Blue-capped tanager

Blue-winged mountain-tanager KAC9997
Blue-winged mountain-tanager

Golden tanager; Tangara arthus; Ecuador; San Tadeo; Mindo Valley
Golden tanager — Mindo Valley, Ecuador

Flame-faced tanager; Tangara parzudakii; Ecuador; San Tadeo; Mindo Valley
Flame-faced tanager — Mindo Valley. What a great name!

White-lined tanager KAC9389
White-lined tanager — See the white line?

We found a nice variety of birds along the way.  These are all from the Mindo Valley of Ecuador on the western slope of the Andes Mountains.

Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Buarremon brunneinucha,
Chestnut-capped brush-finch

Crimson-rumped toucanet KAC9716
Crimson-rumped toucanet

Crimson-rumped toucanet KAC9740
Crimson-rumped toucanet — here you can see the rump

Dusky Chlorospingus KAC0091
Dusky Chlorospingus — Love that name!

rufous-collared sparrow KAC0035
Rufous-collared sparrow — so common but so pretty.

Swainson's thrush KAC9427
Swainson’s thrush on wintering grounds.  It will be arriving in my area of Texas in mid-April on its way to breeding grounds in the north.

 

Here are a couple more hummingbirds from the last day of the trip.  The birds in Ecuador are amazing.

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My 2018-2019 photo tour schedule is on the Strabo Photo Tours site or on my website.

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