Now we see through a glass, darkly...
- Apr 5, 2016
There's no '1' in [AI Servo AF]. It's a capital letter 'i', as in "Artificial Intelligence."It's the incessant blathering from those blinkering their eyes from what other makes are doing that is really painful.
Canon sells exceptionally high quality and reliable cameras and lenses, which is much of its appeal. But, Canon tends to rely on inertia, brand loyalty, prior customer investment and lack of owner awareness of the improvements elsewhere to be slow to update outdated equipment. It's not that their existing kit doesn't give outstanding results in the right hands, it's that you can do more with improvements that other manufacturers have brought in. Here’s my take as a mad keen bird photographer shooting with a 5DIV, 5DSR, 400mm DO II, 100-400mm II, having worked my way through a 7DII, 7D and 5DIII.
First of all is AF. Canon’s AF is the fastest to lock on, but it is way behind the Nikon D500 and D850 when it comes to tracking against backgrounds, and even further behind the Sony A9 and dare I say it the RX10 IV. (Yes, mirrorless is now up there for AF). Nikon’s algorithms detect the movement of a subject and lock on to that and not the baackground. Sony’s are able to recognize objects and pick them out from the background. The keeper rate is also lower for canon because in A1 servo there is a stuttering around the best focus and so I, and I presume some others, take more shots than necessary to choose the best. A couple of weeks with the RX10 IV has shown me what the Sony A9 AF can do in a bridge camera with tracking and static shots.
For the 7DII, there is also IQ. The 5DSR with the same size pixels beats it clearly (for static shots, the 5DSR with Canon glass is still up there with the very best).
Secondly, there is glass. There is no doubt that Canon big whites are the gold standard. But, there is the pricing. The 100-400mm II is, in my opinion, the best mid-range telephoto with very good sharpness and outstanding AF. But, its price in the UK fluctuates between £2200 and £1600 according to Canon’s deals. The 400mm DO II was for many years £7000, but it is now on offer at £5,500. Canon is selling the antiquated 400/5.6L 300/4L, close to 20 years old, at premium prices. Meanwhile, Nikon has adopted the Canon DO technology and brought out the diminutive 300/4 PF and now the 500/5.6 PF at £3,600, which is smaller and lighter than the 400mm DO II.
There is no doubt that some professional and enthusiast bird photographers are changing to Nikon (and Sony). It can’t be dismissed as Forum chatter. Will I join them? Not for the time being as my 5DSR and lenses serve me well. But, I shall probably add Nikon and Sony gear if Canon delays much longer on the 7DIII and 5DSR II, and if I was starting from scratch for bird photography, the Nikon would look superior when reading all the reviews.