Help needed: Af settings on 5D Mark IV for surrounding birds in flight

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
Hi Guys!

I have purchased an 5D Mark IV (10-400mm L IS II and 500mm L IS II 4.0) and now trying to learn to use all the new features properly.
In the last days I tried to shoot a lot of birds that were flying in a swarm arround me (seagulls, ducks...) at an varying distance (2-50m). It was hard to get the AF working in this situation. I tried all AF cases using all AF settings (single point, large field, all AF points), but none was really working good.
The Af needs about one second to get stuck on the birds, but in most shots, the bird has passed.
Is there anything I can make better?

Thank you a lot
Daniela
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,696
1,655
daniela said:
Hi Guys!

I have purchased an 5D Mark IV (10-400mm L IS II and 500mm L IS II 4.0) and now trying to learn to use all the new features properly.
In the last days I tried to shoot a lot of birds that were flying in a swarm arround me (seagulls, ducks...) at an varying distance (2-50m). It was hard to get the AF working in this situation. I tried all AF cases using all AF settings (single point, large field, all AF points), but none was really working good.
The Af needs about one second to get stuck on the birds, but in most shots, the bird has passed.
Is there anything I can make better?

Thank you a lot
Daniela

Daniel, where did you get that 10-400mm L IS II lens? I'd like one too ;D

You probably have the bright sky behind the rapidly moving birds, and tracking and AI servo might not be possible. Try one shot, with focus preset to the general distance. Wait for a bird to fly into the viewfinder and shoot. AF should be almost instant, since it will only have to move the focus a hair.

If the bird is far enough away, then you may be able to track it, a gimbal head or other type that allows smooth and free movement is a big help, hand holding a long lens while tracking is a skill I do not have.
 

daniela

EOS RP
Aug 19, 2012
255
2
Tyrol, Austria
Mt Spokane Photography said:
daniela said:
Hi Guys!

I have purchased an 5D Mark IV (10-400mm L IS II and 500mm L IS II 4.0) and now trying to learn to use all the new features properly.
In the last days I tried to shoot a lot of birds that were flying in a swarm arround me (seagulls, ducks...) at an varying distance (2-50m). It was hard to get the AF working in this situation. I tried all AF cases using all AF settings (single point, large field, all AF points), but none was really working good.
The Af needs about one second to get stuck on the birds, but in most shots, the bird has passed.
Is there anything I can make better?

Thank you a lot
Daniela

Daniel, where did you get that 10-400mm L IS II lens? I'd like one too ;D

You probably have the bright sky behind the rapidly moving birds, and tracking and AI servo might not be possible. Try one shot, with focus preset to the general distance. Wait for a bird to fly into the viewfinder and shoot. AF should be almost instant, since it will only have to move the focus a hair.

If the bird is far enough away, then you may be able to track it, a gimbal head or other type that allows smooth and free movement is a big help, hand holding a long lens while tracking is a skill I do not have.

;D Sorry for the typo. I´d buy an 10-400mm L immediatly ;D

I´ll try one shot with an focus preset.
I have an Gitzo 3542 tripod with the Wimberly gimbal for some month now. But I have to train a lot, because following fast subjects that are in the near is a challenge for me. So handhelding the body and lens is my todays method.
The birds are like a swarm of about 50-100 gulls etc. around me
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,696
1,655
daniela said:
Mt Spokane Photography said:
daniela said:
Hi Guys!

I have purchased an 5D Mark IV (10-400mm L IS II and 500mm L IS II 4.0) and now trying to learn to use all the new features properly.
In the last days I tried to shoot a lot of birds that were flying in a swarm arround me (seagulls, ducks...) at an varying distance (2-50m). It was hard to get the AF working in this situation. I tried all AF cases using all AF settings (single point, large field, all AF points), but none was really working good.
The Af needs about one second to get stuck on the birds, but in most shots, the bird has passed.
Is there anything I can make better?

Thank you a lot
Daniela

Daniel, where did you get that 10-400mm L IS II lens? I'd like one too ;D

You probably have the bright sky behind the rapidly moving birds, and tracking and AI servo might not be possible. Try one shot, with focus preset to the general distance. Wait for a bird to fly into the viewfinder and shoot. AF should be almost instant, since it will only have to move the focus a hair.

If the bird is far enough away, then you may be able to track it, a gimbal head or other type that allows smooth and free movement is a big help, hand holding a long lens while tracking is a skill I do not have.

;D Sorry for the typo. I´d buy an 10-400mm L immediatly ;D

I´ll try one shot with an focus preset.
I have an Gitzo 3542 tripod with the Wimberly gimbal for some month now. But I have to train a lot, because following fast subjects that are in the near is a challenge for me. So handhelding the body and lens is my todays method.
The birds are like a swarm of about 50-100 gulls etc. around me

I doubt that I could catch them swarming and diving at close range. Around here, they tend to be seen at rest stops along the highway, and since we have a lot of wind, they are able to hover in the wind a few feet away looking you in the eye and wanting a handout. No skill at all is needed for those, a smart phone would be overkill.
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
8,683
11,692
Daniela
As you have done, don't use a tripod but hand hold for BIF. Your 100-400mm II is probably best as you have a wide field of view with it. I use the central 9 points and A1 servo. It's important to use a fast shutter speed. Many turn off IS but I usually leave it on. Try and track the bird - I use back button focus - and then fire way with the normal button. You can play around with the tracking sliders etc, but I am casual about those controls.
Alan
 

Aussie shooter

https://brettguyphotography.picfair.com/
Dec 6, 2016
1,072
1,539
brettguyphotography.picfair.com
Hi Daniela. I have a similar situation with noddy terns and have found that simply allowing the focus to lock on to a random bird up close is all but impossible. As Alan said I use back button focus to track and use 9AF points in the middle(on a 7dmk2 that is). I tend to prefocus at about 50m and try to pick a bird that is flying in my general direction, attain focus and track it until it is close enough to shoot. Don't expect to get a lot of keepers though. I am happy if a bit over half my shots are in focus and if half of those are acceptable composition wise
 

lion rock

EOS 5D Mark IV
Jan 1, 2013
1,920
37
Daniela,
I would consider gulls as one of the easier birds to shoot. They don't fly very fast and are not terrible shy, in fact, they are really attracted by food offered to them.
One thing I find that makes an easier shot is to shoot against a plain background, one that doesn't have contrasty background that the focusing system could selectively focus on. A grey sky, for example, is good. I lost a lot of shots to trees and brambles which the camera focus on.
Set your camera for back button focus, set for AI servo, use large f/number for shallow depth, and there is a camp who believes that says it is not necessary for lens stabilization when panning and high shutter speed. I think that I need all the help I can get, though.
Lastly, use continuous shoot while panning for the bird.
I have a number of shots I have of gulls. Attached are 2 here.
Two things: 1) I sailed on a ferry and at the stern, the gulls were following the wake in hope of catching fish stirred up by the screws. That was a superior shooting position, the birds were flying towards me in numbers. And,
2) Don't go near where they roost. They have a defense mechanism where they dive bomb you with sh*t. I was not welcomed for the rest of evening.
Cheers,
-r
 

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The case numbers have nothing to do with initial AF acquisition. Case numbers control tracking characteristics after you have achieved focus.

Focus is basic and only does one thing. When you half press the shutter or BBF the AF point/s you assigned look for contrast. When they see it the system focuses. We have no access to fine tuning contrast detection. If a bird is all white the system may take longer than speckled multi coloured bird.

One setting that may help is the 1st and 2nd priority settings. Factory is set to Equal. Many like to set that to focus but it will re-check AF acquisition multiple times and slow you down more. You could try Release for the 1st priority setting. It still focuses but drops the focus confirmation cycle before it lets you shoot. I was watching a Grant Atkinson video and he likes that setting.

Still the 1st and 2nd priority settings kick in after initial focus is achieved so it may help but that may not be the answer. A few things you can try. Pre focus your lens manually to about the same distance as your target so to does not have to travel that far. Make sure the focusing distance range switch is set correctly. Try IS Mode 3. In this mode IS is working but does not physically kick in until you press the shutter all the way. IS can interfere with AF and that is why Canon added it.

Start off with 4 point expansion AF. Try Case 2 and lower TS to -2. This will keep the bird in focus longer of your AF points go off it. It gives you a bit of time to get the points back on the bird before the system looks for something else to focus on.

For erratic birds I often use Case 6 and 65 point AF and even then it is tough. I set AF switching to +2 and TS to -2 in that Case number.

Don't feel bad because the best photographers have trouble nailing erratic birds. I can nail and track a steady smooth flying bird in any focus mode or any case number but when it comes to erratic birds it is a lot of work and frustration.
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,345
551
Hi Daniela - tracking moving subjects is a whole new learning curve and it is so easy to believe you have nailed focus, then you look at the picture in Canon's DPP and see the focus point is past the bird. Evenmore so if the gull is 50 metres away.
If the bird is against a uniform background (sand dunes, blue sky etc) then it becomes easier. If it is flying past a complex background (scrubland, trees) it is so easy for the AF to pick up the more contrasty background. Also, anything moving towards you makes it so much harder for the AF to keep with the change in distance (but it is easier to keep the AF point on the face). Start off with something moving parallel to you.

Experiment with grab shots as much as you want, but it is easier to practice if you see the bird from some distance, get the AF point on it and let the system track it for a second or two before firing the shutter (google 'Canon pump focus' for more explanation)

And practice, practice, practice...