Problems from focus, depth of field or high ISO?

DanP

EOS M50
Dec 8, 2014
40
8
#1
I just bought a 5DIV and took it out to test tracking ability. I'm attaching 3 images all taken with 100-400 II. I'm not sure whether my problems with lack of sharpness as well as muddiness in the wings are from poor focus, lack of sufficient depth of field, effects of high ISO or a combination of these. I've drawn in a red square where DPP indicated the focus point to be (pictures were taken in AI Servo with either single point focus or single point plus helpers). All pictures are OOC Jpegs (still have CS6 which won't open the raw files) with no adjustments (other than adding red squares and text in Photoshop and reducing the file size to meet this site's restrictions) or cropping. The camera was set to manual with auto ISO. I have not attempted to AFMA the lens to the body yet (have requested a calibration aid for Xmas). I'd appreciate any insights this forum's experienced birders can give me. Recommendations for camera setting for these types of shots would also be welcome. I live in the Vancouver area, so the sun remains fairly low for most of the day at this time of year.
_54A0924 with FP Red.jpg
_54A0944 with FP Red.jpg


_54A1174 with FP Red.jpg
 

Mt Spokane Photography

Spends Too Much Time on This Forum
Mar 25, 2011
14,918
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#8
Thanks to all for your comments. I will experiment with a larger range of Av settings and location of focus point, which will be the most difficult part. I also have difficulty in zooming while keeping the focus point on the birds, so need more practice with that. Fortunately there are lots of ducks where I go and they are reasonably large. I did manage to track a pigeon, but found the red winged blackbirds impossible.
Here is a female redwing blackbird as she dropped out of my crabapple tree toward the ground. I like the way my camera was precise enough to AF on the bird, even with branches in the way. It was near mfd in my front yard with my 100-400mmL. Its cropped quire a bit.

 

Don Haines

posting cat pictures on the internet since 1986
Jun 4, 2012
7,529
643
Canada
#10
It’s a (relatively) small, quickly moving object being shot with a long lens..... this is not a trivial task and takes lots of practice and experimentation.

I would try dropping to F8 and upping the shutter speed. Also, experiment with putting your IS into panning mode or even turning it off. Definitely AFMA the lens, I wouldn’t even think of taking it out into the field without calibrating the system.
 
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Likes: mikekeck
Aug 16, 2012
4,438
699
#2
If you haven't AFMAd the lens yet then you are making it difficult for us to comment. It's also difficult if you don't say if those shots are the full frame downsized or crops. If they are the whole frame, then the ducks are pretty close and the dof rather shallow and the images soft as well. I use the 100-400mm II wide open on the 5DIV and tend not to stop down, but try to avoid wings being stretched one side to the camera and the other side away if a bird is close. DPP will process your raw files. Why don't use it on raw and then clean up the jpeg in CS6?
 

DanP

EOS M50
Dec 8, 2014
40
8
#3
Thanks Alan. I'm not quite sure on your terminology regarding "full frame downsized or crops". The Jpeg image size was reduced in Photoshop to 3000X2000 as the full original Jpeg exceeded what this site allows. No cropping of the image was done. I've never used DPP to process an image, so I'll see if I can figure that out. I also bought an M5 in summer and CS6 won't open the raw files for that camera either, so it looks like I'll be heading to the Adobe subscription model.
 
Oct 26, 2013
1,083
301
#4
The heads in these photos seem to be in excellent focus to me. So, I would guess any areas that are not sharp are due to a too shallow DOF. Or possibly not a high enough shutter speed. (Don't shoot flying birds, so don't know). I know everyone has their own preferences, but I would consider these to be great shots. A very slight blurring of the wings gives the photos movement and life. Just my opinions, of course.
 

mikekeck

I'm New Here
Mar 14, 2018
21
61
Texas
#5
The photos look good to me. I don't claim to be a great bird-in-flight photographer (I try), but I personally would not stop down more than F 8.0 for this bird/camera/lens combo. At F 8, you don't have to worry about diffraction, the background should blur a little better (than F 11, which you used on the top two), and the ISO would give you less noise. I think that even a great camera/lens combo (which you have) is not going to give you incredible feather detail at this distance on a flying duck.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

Spends Too Much Time on This Forum
Mar 25, 2011
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#6
When using the surround points in FF, and close range, the camera will focus on the closest opject that one of those points covers. Then, at relatively close range you have less depth of field, so you probably have two things going on. Use f/8 or even f/11 for a close shot, focusing on the nearest part of the bird is not a bad thing. You can try spot AF, but remember, the AF area is larger than that red box you see, so even with spot, you must keep the box away from the wing because it sticks out so far.

I kinda like the photos and the shallow depth of field myself.
 
Likes: stevelee

DanP

EOS M50
Dec 8, 2014
40
8
#7
Thanks to all for your comments. I will experiment with a larger range of Av settings and location of focus point, which will be the most difficult part. I also have difficulty in zooming while keeping the focus point on the birds, so need more practice with that. Fortunately there are lots of ducks where I go and they are reasonably large. I did manage to track a pigeon, but found the red winged blackbirds impossible.
 
Aug 16, 2012
4,438
699
#9
I have to disagree with some of the comments above about sharpness being good because the ducks are very close and you have had to zoom out out to get them in frame - for the bottom one you are at 100mm only and the duck occupies 40% of the frame across the bottom. With images as large as these, the isos you are using won't cause any problems and the parts in focus should be tack sharp so you should see the tiny details of the feathers. The beak should be crisp.
The first thing to do is to do a rough check on sharpness and AFMA by comparing the images with those of static ducks at the same distance. If the IQ of the resting duck is not good then, play around with the AFMA to give sharper images. When the static images are satisfactory, up the speed to 1/3200s or faster for in flight. The subjects of ducks landing and taking off are not that demanding in terms of speed but the problem is that they are too close in these photos and are thus very demanding on depth of field. You could stop down to f/8, but no more, but try and focus on the eye and beak - as long as they are in focus then the wing tips are not that important.
It's not easy to get sharp images of BIF so practice is essential.
 
Likes: padam
Aug 1, 2017
191
105
#11
The wings move at their highest velocity at the tips so when the sharpness of the wings decreases with the position out on the wing it's usually a sign of too low a shutter speed. Personally I don't mind a bit of blur at the wing tips. It adds a sense of motion. Too high a shutter speed can take the life out of a bird photo. A bird's head moves the least in flight and those look pretty sharp to my eye to I don't think it's a focus problem. As others have said it a tricky thing photographing flying birds. Even under the best of circumstances there is a limited degree of sharpness obtainable relative to a static subject. I'd say you are making a good start. The key to BIF's are practice and volume. I get a lot of duds for every keeper.

edit: also important to keep in mind that when you are panning to track a bird that reduces the motion blur of anything that is moving at the speed of the pan. In this case the head and feet which appear to be sharp. The motion of flapping the wings however is not in the direction or at the same speed as the pan and may even be in the opposite direction making the motion blur that much worse. In other words panning doesn't help with flapping wings. Hope that makes sense. Try doubling the shutter speed and see how you make out.
 
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DanP

EOS M50
Dec 8, 2014
40
8
#13
Here is the frame before the first one posted above. The back wing, head and legs look to be pretty well in focus with the nearest wing tips very soft. I'm guessing I was about 30 ft away when I took the shot. DOFMaster calculator yields a DOF of 1.28ft in front of focus plane for these parameters, which looks about right from the picture. I will check the focus accuracy of the lens and try again, but as some have pointed out it may well be impossible to obtain sufficient depth of field to have the entire bird in focus while trying to keep the subject large in the frame (without cropping). I'm not against motion blur or soft wing tips; just trying to determine what was causing it.

Thanks to all for your comments and insights.

_54A0923 Red with FP.jpg
 
Aug 1, 2017
191
105
#14
I like the last one the best although I'd tighten up the crop towards the upper left corner. I'd be happy with that.
I don't see any obvious issues with focus. Classic wing blur from a low shutter speed. You would probably need a shutter speed of 3200+ to get sharp wings on a landing duck that's beating it's wings like that. If you look at the out of focus male in the background, although it's well outside the plane of focus the body is still sharper than the wings.
 
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Mt Spokane Photography

Spends Too Much Time on This Forum
Mar 25, 2011
14,918
321
#15
Here is the frame before the first one posted above. The back wing, head and legs look to be pretty well in focus with the nearest wing tips very soft. I'm guessing I was about 30 ft away when I took the shot. DOFMaster calculator yields a DOF of 1.28ft in front of focus plane for these parameters, which looks about right from the picture. I will check the focus accuracy of the lens and try again, but as some have pointed out it may well be impossible to obtain sufficient depth of field to have the entire bird in focus while trying to keep the subject large in the frame (without cropping). I'm not against motion blur or soft wing tips; just trying to determine what was causing it.

Thanks to all for your comments and insights.
If possible, compare a live view image using DPAF with the standard PDAF, that will show and differences in AF accuracy. The PDAF image should be considered as the best possible autofocus.

Use a stationary subject, tripod, and same distance as the birds. Select a subject that will lock focus, there are some DIY targets designed to make sure that the camera is focused on a known position with a slanted scale to one side where you can see errors.

Here is a link to a simple one that might work. You can make a larger one if necessary. They key is to make sure the camera focuses exactly where it should.

Focus chart

 

DanP

EOS M50
Dec 8, 2014
40
8
#16
Thanks Mt. Spokane.

I have requested a similar focusing rig for Xmas.

Does the 5DIV automatically use DPAF in live view or do I have to do something in the menu to activate it? I haven't had a chance to delve into the manual yet.