July 28, 2014, 10:15:27 PM

Author Topic: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action  (Read 12820 times)

miah

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2014, 03:25:22 PM »
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.

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, 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.

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?

ONE MORE QUESTION
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

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.


« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 03:26:58 PM by miah »
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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2014, 03:25:22 PM »

justaCanonuser

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #31 on: February 13, 2014, 04:13:46 PM »
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).

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.
5D3, 7D, film: Nikon FM-2, lots of lenses from 18 to 500mm

cervantes

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2014, 04:15:19 AM »
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.

ONE MORE QUESTION
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.

cervantes

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2014, 04:28:16 AM »
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!

apersson850

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2014, 05:49:52 AM »
As stated above, the 1DX can since firmware 2.0 do exposure compensation in M mode with auto ISO.
It can also set the longest allowed exposure time in Av or P mode with auto ISO anywhere from 1 s to 1/8000 s.

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. But I much more often shoot action on the ground, not in the air, so I have much more problems with obstructions fooling the AF system to focus on irrelevant things than you bird photographers run into, as long as your birds are in the sky. It's more like when they are flying around the bushes.
If you have one point to the left and one to the right, it makes good sense to use the AF-ON button for the left point and the * button for the right one.
The 7D supports this configuration too.

In many cases Tv works very well for action. Basically, you have two scenarios:
  • You want to freeze the action. This requires such a short exposure time that the aperture will usually become the largest available on the lens, and that's often what you select in M mode anyway.
  • You want to pan the action. This requires such a long exposure time that you frequently have to stop down anyway, but it doesn't really matter, since the whole point is that the background will be blurred by motion rather than lack of depth of field, and then the aperture actually used is less important.

Don't forget to take a look at what your camera offers when it comes to modifying AF setups on the fly, by just holding a specific button. The 7D can do some of this. The 1DX allows extensive modifications to the AF setup, either linked to a focus button like AF-ON, or by holding another button simultaneously.

climber

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2014, 01:35:00 PM »
I found quite usefull when switching between left and right AF Zone with AF-ON and shutter button also to have an option of using center zone. It's the same approach as cervantes described, I only add function in custom controls menu that pressing multi-contoller switches between right and center Zone (point). Thus, while pressing AF-ON button the left Zone is used, while pressing shutter butten the right or center Zone is used. Switching between those two is achieved with single press on multi-controller button. This approach works with using Zone AF, AF point expansion or single AF point.

miah

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2014, 03:46:03 PM »
apersson850 thanks for your input. On the Tv subject, I'll throw this point into our discussion. While I certainly agree that shutter speed is more important than aperture for BIF, Tv may ask for a wider aperture than your lens can deliver, resulting in inadequate exposure. Let's say you set Tv to 1/2000 and you're sure from previous experience that this is adequately fast to stop the subject. Tv asks the camera for its widest aperture, but f/5.6 just isn't good enough. You preview the resulting shots and they're all horribly underexposed because at that speed and that aperture the available light was just too low. Auto ISO gives the camera an out. It automatically pumps up the ISO (within your predetermined limits) if the first two factors are inadequate to deliver sufficient light.

Like cervantes said, at least Tv allows us to use Exposure Compensation, so sometimes it's a must, though we can continue asking Canon to provide this feature in future firmware. But I would argue that even when using Tv mode over M mode, at least in my limited experience, Auto ISO is the only automatic feature standing between me and a typically underexposed shot. Why underexposed? Because like cervantes I prefer a low ISO and typically set it too low for rapidly changing conditions when I do so manually.

Now, something else came to mind as I read over your advice for using the * button for right-zone focus instead of cervantes shutter button, and then climber chimed in with a way to quickly jump to the center zone. And perhaps this question is best answered by cervantes: apersson850's solution makes more sense to me--and I like climber's addition--because won't actuating the shutter to actually take a picture (after choosing to focus on the left or center zones using the AF-ON or multi-controller, respectively) ALWAYS jump focus back to the right zone? After all, the only way to trip the shutter is to squeeze past the half-way point on the shutter button, the same half-way point that asks the AF to use the right zone. Am I missing something here? If not, apersson850's idea to use the * button for the right zone and climber's suggestion to use the multi-controller for the center zone would allow us to use the shutter button for the one thing it's best at: snapping the photo.

I look forward to your comments!
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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2014, 03:46:03 PM »

KMD

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2014, 03:53:51 PM »
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.

Thanks for the reply, That's what I thought you meant.

For things like BIF I just shoot in manual mode with no auto ISO, so I don't have to worry about the background behind the bird. I setup one custom mode like that for full sunlight, and another custom mode for if a cloud passes over when a bird shows.

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2014, 04:24:04 PM »
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.
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climber

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2014, 04:48:41 PM »
My settings are all the same as one that Cervantes described in his article below "The easy ones". I add only this:

Custom Controls (C.Fn2:Disp./Operation) --> Multi-controller --> AF point direct selection
And then by pressing "info" button I choose --> Switch to center AF point

Now, by pressing AF-ON button the camera is focusing on the left side (where HP-home point is set). You shoot with full press on shutter button.

If you released AF-ON button, the focus (or Zone) point move either to the center or right position. Depends where it was before pressing on AF-ON button. Now, you can switch between center and right Zone (or point) just with one click on multi-controller by thumb. In both, center and right Zone you are focusing and then shoot with shutter button.

If want to go back to left Zone and start focusing there, just keep pressing AF-ON button, no matter where you were - in center or right Zone.

No big deal ;)

miah

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2014, 06:18:49 PM »
OK, climber, thanks. I think I have it set up right, now. I didn't realize that as you press and then continue to hold the AF-ON button down it's focusing overrides the ability of the shutter button to initiate focus; the shutter button only initiates metering and the shutter. Cool!
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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2014, 07:20:16 PM »
wow....lot's of good info here!!
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tapanit

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #42 on: February 15, 2014, 12:40:27 PM »
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!
Yes, the same method works with 7D as well. The other trick, switching between zone and all-points focusing does not, however, as far as I can tell.

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #42 on: February 15, 2014, 12:40:27 PM »

justaCanonuser

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #43 on: February 15, 2014, 02:35:36 PM »

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!

Currently I do not show much on the web (I should do more, my job eats lots of time). But here is a little selection of images I shot with my vintage EF 500/4.5 (made in 1995). Hope you enjoy it. Fortunately I am quite used to non-IS lenses so I am able to shoot it frequently hand-held. Such vintage glass works quite nicely with modern DSLRs, I enjoy in particular using it with my 5D3 (only 2x TC doesn't allow AF).

5D3, 7D, film: Nikon FM-2, lots of lenses from 18 to 500mm

justaCanonuser

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2014, 02:48:02 PM »
Cervantes: here a few more BIFs for you I shot with my old EF 500/4.5. Atlantic puffins are hard to catch, they are small, appear quite suddenly and dart with about 80 km/h. I am often really impressed how well my 5D3 manages to focus this lens - even its 1st generation USM drive isn't as fast as modern USM drives.   
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 02:51:38 PM by justaCanonuser »
5D3, 7D, film: Nikon FM-2, lots of lenses from 18 to 500mm

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Re: Configuring your 5D Mark III AF for fast action
« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2014, 02:48:02 PM »