October 22, 2014, 12:35:01 PM

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Messages - cervantes

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Possibly the most informative article I've had the pleasure to read on CR, very much appreciated.

I can see how your set up suggestions will/should help well in my Wildlife Photography, again, Thank You Cervantes.

Thank you very much for your kind words, I'm glad I could help.

When using a selected AF point and a registered AF point, my preference is to assign one to AF-ON and the other to the * button, so I can remove AF from the trigger button completely.

I wasn't aware that this was possible. Maybe this should be called the 'dual back button AF' technique from now on!  8)
Tried it on the weekend but returned to focusing by shutter button again since I'm used to that, but I'm sure this is going to be useful for some people, especially those who usually only use back button AF!

Thanks for your input!

Cervantes, I didn't know that this exactly was included in a recent 1-DX firmware update, so we 5D3 users can really hope that Canon does the same service to us. Would be great!

I use both options you listed - depending on the situation. When light is changing fast (and unpredictable) I prefer Tv, otherwise M with fixed ISO to compensate exposure. My EF 500/4.5 gets wide open a little bit soft depending on the object's distance (still on a decent sharpness level for such old glass), so I often prefer to close it to f=5.0...

Look much forward to your next posts, Cervantes, you do a really great job for us forum readers! I wish you many more such brilliant shots you've shown here as examples.

I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to try the EF 500/4.5 but I'm pretty sure that it is a great lens. It's particularly nice to see that such 'old' glass is still working nicely with modern cameras (apart from the lens drive when AF impossible problem you mentioned), it makes me confident that I'll be using my 500LII for many years to come.
I'd like to see some of your images if you can provide a link. Thank you for your input!

cervantes, you are The Man. I've been searching for a succinct explanation of the 5D3's celebrated AF system with regards to BIF ever since I purchased the body a little over a year ago. Even the Canon tutorials on youtube are far less valuable than your advice. Thank you very, very much. I'm sure this took a fair amount of your time and those of us here on the forum appreciate it.

Hi miah, thank you very much for your very kind words! I'm so glad that I was able to help some people out - my biggest fear while writing my aricle was that nobody would be interested in what I had to say.

Your specific advice for AF settings was excellent, but I'd also like to hear your take on some other settings. As I work my way into shooting BIF, alone and without benefit of workshops or books...

Congratulations then. In my experience, books and workshops usually focus on beginners since the market of people that are really serious about wildlife photography is so small. I am also 'on my own' and I like to make my own experiences and develop my own style. Practice, find new ways of acheiving your goals and be your own critical judge about your technique and your results and you won't be needing outside help.

..., I've concluded that keeping the shutter speed high enough and aperture wide enough can only be accomplished in Manual mode. Av invariably gives me an unacceptably slow shutter speed (motion blur) while Tv often fails to select an appropriate aperture. That means Auto ISO must jump in there to make sure my defined shutter speed and desired aperture results in a proper exposure.

I do not agree completely. While M will be the method of choice most of the time there are situations where Tv is better suited to the task. Take a look at the image I attached to this post. The picture was taken with these settings: 500mm, f4, 1/6400, ISO320

In this situation I was dealing with a backlit subject surrounded by a quite bright background due to the reflected sunlight of the water surface. The camera will try to set the exposure to achieve a brightness that corresponds an 18% grey value - to counteract it is desireable to compensate 2/3 to 1 stop to the right.

If you are shooting in M mode with auto ISO you simply have to accept the exposure chosen by the camera and hope that the seagull will not turn out too dark and will not show too much noise when lightened in post.

If you're trying to use M mode with manual ISO you have to change ISO value continuously since the brightness of the reflection is very high when you point the lens into the direction of the sun but rapidly decreases when you point just a few degrees away from it. This of course is not feasible since you can't adapt ISO value while following and focusing you subject in the frame.

The best possible solution in this situation in my opinion would be to use Tv with auto ISO with a very short shutter speed and dial in +1 exposure compensation. The camera will rightfully always open up the aperture before raising ISO so it is going to shoot wide open which is what I'd choose as aperture setting anyways. (If truth be told my 5D3/500LII combo tends to use f4.5 while still in the lower ISO regions - I don't really know why but due to the slightly thicker DOF which makes focusing easier I usually don't mind.) This is of course only desirable when you like your lens' wide open performance - with your 400 f5.6L you should be perfectly fine I guess.

Choosing M or Tv for action photography is always depending on the situation. As a rule of thumb I'd say:
  • If there is a big brightness difference between the subject and the background or the scene is particularly bright Tv is preferable since exposure compensation is more important than using an exact aperture value.
  • Otherwise M is preferable since you can directly choose the amount of motion blur and DOF.

As previously mentioned by yourself and others, we need Canon to give us a firmware update that allows Exposure Compensation when shooting in M mode and Auto ISO, especially with birds due to the overwhelming brightness of the sky. But given this handicap, would you still advise shooting M and using Auto ISO? And if so, what ISO limits do you like? If not, how else do you approach the speed/aperture/exposure/noise conundrum when it comes to shooting feathered rockets?

Yes this possibility would make action shooting a lot easier and all my aforementioned exposure techniques would be quite obsolete.
Regarding ISO limits I'm really strict. I get a bad feeling when I have to go above ISO1000 and usually avoid it. The reason for this is that my intention is always to create the best possible IQ - I'm not shooting for scientific purposes - I'm not trying to find out whether bird xyz is still breeding in the area of abc and desperately need a 'usable' shot to prove it. Either I can acheive a great quality shot or I get no shot. I prefer having one good image above 100 mediocre images anytime.

This however is only my attitude and should not mean that you shouldn't go above ISO1000. If you're not planning to print big everything up to ISO6400 is pretty good I suppose - it really depends on the IQ you would like to acheive.

I have my C3 parked with the following settings for BIF (in addition to making changes to my AF and AF-ON per your excellent instructions), please review and offer suggestions as this is the fast-dial place from which I start: Manual mode, 1/1000, f/5.6, Auto ISO, AWB, AI Servo, Evaluative metering, High-Speed shutter, 1000X 32GB CF only (SD card removed to improve buffer dump), RAW

I have found 1/1600 to be the longest desirable shutter speed for stopping action when birding. Normally I use 1/2000 or faster - whatever the light level allows. Otherwise I use the same settings you stated.

Note that I'm typically outfitted with a 5D3 body and a 400 f/5.6 L prime lens or sometimes my 70-300 L zoom, with or without a Kenko 1.4X teleconverter, on and off tripod. I'm saving for a 600mm, but alas, that may be a long wait...

Thanks again for offering your advice and for the helpful members who've chimed in with their 2 cents.

The 600 would definately be a total game changer for you and clearly the best choice for static subjects - for BIF however I like to believe the 500 is better because it is lighter and suitable for handheld use. Whatever super telephoto lens you prefer if photography is your passion I'd say go for it - the results will be worth it.

But there is an option to set ISO to auto in M mode. Did you mean you couldn't set ISO to one fix value (with fixed shutter time and f-stop) and then to "over exposed" for let say 1EV?

No, what I meant was that when you use auto ISO in M mode you can't set exposure compensation. Since we usually want to overexpose (ETTR) and then darken the image in post processing for better shadow noise performance, it would be nice if we could tell the camera to always use 2/3 or 1 stop higher ISO than it wants to but all within auto ISO mode.
If you set ISO to a fixed value you can deliberately choose a value that will produce a slightly overexposed shot but when conditions change - and they sometimes change just by pointing your camera in a slightly different direction - you always have to manually adapt. If you forget doing so you'll probably end up with a completely over- or underexposed shot.

There is no obvious reason that the camera doesn't allow exposure compensation in M mode with auto ISO. The 1Dx can do it since a couple of days and I hope Canon will add this very important feature also to the 5D3.

Thank you for your kind comments and recommendations. I did need to ETTR on the shot. Anyway, the 5D III AF is remarkable and I could not be happier with the purchase. This image was taken from the same sequence.
I will consider changing my online ID. You have a good point.

I like this shot even better than the first one. Interesting situation and perfectly exposed.

I don't understand what you're telling him here, about how the 'colorful' wing shows you that he didn't get the exposure quite right.

Yes, I would love to hear what you have to say about getting the exposure right.


What I meant was that if you look at the amount of color noise on the underside of the wing in FallsGuys first image it's clear that it was quite strongly lightened in post. As we know shadow noise performance of the 5D3 is not as good as we'd like it to be. ETTR is usually the way to go - but not easy when shooting action due to the fact that it is not possible to set exposure compensation in M mode.

This reminds me of one of the few weaknesses of my 5D3: spot and partial metering work much less reliable as on my 7D. This is an issue if one - like me -  prefers M mode + Auto ISO, because then one can't compensate exposure with the thumbwheel. So, in critical situations I have to switch to a selected ISO number to be able to get e.g. a bird in the sky correctly exposed, but then I lose the wonderful flexibility of Auto ISO, which is in particular great when shooting wildlife in quickly changing light conditions. If someone has a good tip for me, I'd appreciate sharing it :).

Manual exposure compensation + Auto ISO would be really a great new feature. This is one of my few wishes for a future firmware update (should be fixable with software).

Your post sums up the problem quite nicely. A firmware update for the 1Dx was recently released which enables it to use exposure compensation in M mode with auto ISO. I really hope that they will release a similar update for the 5D3!!!
Until then there are those (sub-optimal) ways to set exposure in action situations:
  • Use M with manual ISO to force overexposure and try to adapt to changing conditions manually - just like you described.
  • Use Tv with a fast shutter speed and exposure compensation which will force the camera to shoot wide open (if your lens' wide open performance is up to it of course).

Animal Kingdom / Re: A lesson I learned the last weekend
« on: February 12, 2014, 08:22:24 AM »

Did you do some post-processing? If yes, what?

Yes, I either post-process a shot or delete it.

All I did were minor corrections such as white balance, saturation, clarity, contrast, cropping (often necessary when using a fixed lens).
I was lucky since the late afternoon light was so gorgeous - no pp can create a similar atmosphere.

One exception is the duck in flight though. I wasn't really prepared for a fast moving subject so I used a shutter speed which was just a bit too slow for this situation and that resulted in a slightly blurred image. I tried to correct that via the Photoshop CC shake reduction filter.

Great Article. Thank you. I read it last week on Thursday and set  CF1 up with the multiple button zone af control. On Friday, I happened to be at a good place during a good time. I captured a sequence that included this shot thanks to your recommendations. I just received my 5D III through CLP last Tuesday.

Wow - somebody telling me that he was able to get a shot because of my recommendations is probably the biggest compliment I ever got! Thank you!

Perfectly focused image by the way - but the very 'colorful' wing shows me that you didn't get the exposure quite right. Maybe I should write another article titled 'How to correctly expose your action shots'.  ;)

@Cervantes: Did you ever try to shoot birds or any kind of sport with AF Expansion mode including 4 or 8 additional surrounding points? I never know which mode is better - Zone or AF Expansion. Can you tell why AF Expension mode would not be appropriate for birds or sports?

Otherwise, very good and informative article!

No, I never use AF Expansion mode for the following reasons:
  • AF expansion is basically single point AF where the camera uses the surrounding points only if the center point can't achieve AF (this is basically what East Wind Photography said).
  • AF expansion covers an area that is too small for my taste - In fact I would love it if I could select an AF mode that uses all 20 points on the left / right side of the frame. Or even better if I could define my own zones via a custom function!
  • When you move the expanded AF point the movement happens point by point (ten clicks from the leftmost AF point to the rightmost AF point) - thus very slowly. Zone immediately switches to the next zone (two clicks from the leftmost Zone to the rightmost Zone).
  • There is an option in the AF menu where you can turn all the modes off that you don't need. For my action setting C1 I turned off everything except Zone AF, 61pt AF and single point AF (which can't be turned off unfortunately - otherwise I would). It is much faster to select what you need when you don't have to scroll through everything.

Thus, if one is tracking a bird with AF Point Expansion in AI Servo mode, this would be quite similar to Zone AF. And try to have the main AF point near the eye, let's say.   Or not?

Probably true. But keeping in mind all the disadvantages above - why don't you simply use Zone AF which will get the job done for sure?

Thanks for the input by the way!

Great article, especially the undocumented features.  I need to try this but theoretically if you enable orientation linked af point you should also be able to set independent af-on settings for portrait or landscape mode...that is have two selectable zone af points in portrait mode and zone af and 61pt in landscape mode.

I tried and used orientation linked AF point but the thing is that sometimes you change AF mode setting (e.g. from Zone AF to 61pt AF) in landscape and these changes are then not in effect when you switch to portrait which becomes kind of frustrating and very complicated - so I stopped using it.

And you can further customize your use modes by recording your ideal BIF fast action settings to custom mode 3 at the end of the mode dial.  This will let you switch to this mode quickly without looking and will also save all of your customized settings....one may actually want to use different af and af-on settings for shooting a wedding or portraits or even bif with a different lens.

Yes, that's exactly what I do. C1 is my action mode. You also said to leave AF case 1-5 in their default state and use 6 for BIF settings - a good idea but not even necessary because when you save your settings to C1 and then overwrite AF case 2 while inside C1 mode, case 2 will only be overwritten in C1 mode and not in Av, Tv, M etc!

Thanks for your input!

Wow, thank you all for the positive response!

@DominoDude: I'm sure that there is some useful info for 7D users also. I would personally be interested if the 7D also supports my 2 zone back button / shutter button AF method. Let me please know when you find out!

@Rienzphotoz: I wrote the article over at dpreview because CR is kind of a pain when it comes to incorporating pictures with captions, a hierarchy for headlines etc. I think a link is the best solution.

Photography Technique / Re: Focusing
« on: February 06, 2014, 08:31:48 AM »

I published an article about Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action.
There is also quite a big section about back-button AF AND a quite different way to use it than most guys do.

You maybe want to check it out!



Photography Technique / Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« on: February 06, 2014, 01:18:02 AM »

a week ago I posted some of my pictures to the birds in flight thread and some people asked me how to configure the 5D3 AF to get these results. Since this is a complex topic I wasn't able to simply respond but I took the time to create an article at dpreview.com. If you own a 5D3 or 1Dx you maybe wanna take a look here:


If you own a different camera there will maybe also be some useful tips for you. I would be be delighted if you took a look and maybe even left a comment here or over at dpreview.

Have a nice day!

Dpreview did some weird thing to its article section but my original link seems still to be working. However I have recently launched my new website www.focrates.com and you can find an updated version of this article there under: http://www.focrates.com/articles/configuring_your_5d_mark_3_af_for_fast_action/configuring_your_5d_mark_3_af_for_fast_action.html

Hope to see you on my site!
Best Wishes!

Animal Kingdom / Re: BIRD IN FLIGHT ONLY -- share your BIF photos here
« on: January 27, 2014, 08:04:06 AM »
@TrabimanUK, candyman: Sure can - but this is gonna be a longer post. I also have to check on how I did it exactly on these shots that I posted.

I could probably create a new topic on how to configure the 5D3 for really fast action in a couple of days if some more people are interested.

Animal Kingdom / Re: BIRD IN FLIGHT ONLY -- share your BIF photos here
« on: January 27, 2014, 03:35:38 AM »
Thanks Viper28, candyman and CarlTN!

@candyman: Yes it is quite incredible what the 5D3 auto focus is capable of when correctly configured.

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