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.