Warblers with Canon R5 Animal Eye Focus

I started pushing the AF: Eye Detection (Animal Eye Focus) feature on the Canon R5 and R6 cameras this spring. Warblers are fast moving little birds who love to feed in dense foliage. Could the Animal Eye Focus stay with a hyperactive warbler?

Magnolia warbler photographed with Canon R5 set to AF: Eye Detection
Flip through the back of my screen with me. This is a video showing each image I took and where the Canon R5 focused. Watch the red squares to see where the camera focused.

Notice in the above video that the camera focused on the bird most of the time. Things were great once it narrowed down to the eye.

Here’s another series of images. Remember, you’re looking at the back of my camera as I scroll through the images.

The Canon R5 focuses on the bird pretty well. It does very well when the bird turns its face to the camera. Notice that the camera did get confused by the foliage for an instant. Yet, it kept focus when the warbler went behind the leaves.

In this instance of the hooded warbler perched on a branch the Animal Eye Focus did a great job.

I’ve been impressed with the AF: Eye Detection on the Canon R5 and R6. The photographer has to keep the camera on the bird. That’s a skill that has to be developed. The camera does its job and we get the reward of outstanding images.

  • AF Screen 1
    • Select AF Method to Face Tracking
    • Select AF: Eye detection — Animal
  • On the back of the camera while shooting
    • Select AF: Eye detection
Prothonotary warbler you saw on the back of my camera in the video above.

Auto Focus Method Explained

The new mirrorless cameras give us so many options. I’m using the Canon R5 but the following will apply to Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and Fuji. The key is to experiment and learn from your mistakes and triumphs.

I used 1-point AF on my DSLR cameras most of the time. I’d move that one point around the screen with lightening speed — a skill I developed over many years of practice.

1-point AF has its place in our photography toolkit.

After working with the R5 for four months, I’ve found that the 1-point AF has its place.

Eye tracking is amazing. We’ve had this technology on cheap point-and-shoot cameras for years and even on cellphone cameras. The engineers at Canon have really hit a homerun with Animal Eye tracking. I hear Olympus has done well in this arena, too.

Use your Menu setting to tell the camera to look for human eyes or animals eyes, by the way. Canon puts this in the pink menus.

The Animal Eye AF will get confused, though. The camera kept trying to focus on the berries versus the bird.

Large Zone AF: Horizontal has been great for flying birds.

Large Zone AF helped me stay with this immature bald eagle as it lifted off out of the marsh.

I’ve worked with Canon R5 for several months under a variety of different situations. I’m changing Focus Methods now depending on the circumstances. My old skill at moving one focus point around on my DSLR has now morphed into changing my Focus Method.

  1. Approaching a bird with a defined eye in clutter — switch to Animal Eye AF
  2. Approaching a duck that’s about to take off — switch to Large Zone AF
  3. Trying to photograph a small bird in the brush — switch to 1-point AF
  4. Flying hawk overhead — switch to a small cluster

These focus options give us lots more tools in the toolbox. Take some time to practice and develop your skills.

Questions? Feel free to post below. Thanks for reading.