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.
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.
Large Zone AF: Horizontal has been great for flying birds.
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.
Approaching a bird with a defined eye in clutter — switch to Animal Eye AF
Approaching a duck that’s about to take off — switch to Large Zone AF
Trying to photograph a small bird in the brush — switch to 1-point AF
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to the folks at Olympus, I get to test the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D E-M1X.
Both are called “micro four-third” sensor cameras. That means the sensor is 17.4 mm on the long side by 13.0 mm on the short side. Contrast this with a “full sensor camera” that has a sensor that is 35mm on the long side by 24mm on the short side. (Notice the sensor is the same size as a 35mm piece of film.)
The advantage of a “micro four-thirds” sensor is things appear closer.
The Canon Rebel T6i has a “cropped” sensor, or 22.3 mm by 14.9 mm, so the same object appears farther away.
The Canon 5D Mark IV is a “full frame” camera with a sensor 35mm x 24mm. Objects appear much farther away.
I took each photo above from the same place. Each camera had a 300mm lens with a 1.4x tele-extender. That means I was using a 420mm lens for each photo but the subject was more or less magnified based on the sensor size.
The Olympus “four-thirds” sensor would mean a bird would be larger in my photo. The “four-thirds” sensor would mean I might not have to crop as much since the subject would already be bigger in the photo.