Need Help Using EOS-R for Birding - Auto Focus and Metering

Mar 21, 2021
2
0
Hello,

I am a new user and this is my first post. I am looking for advice on settings and techniques for people using the EOS-R for birding. I have been having several problems with focusing including 1) obtaining focus and 2) keeping it. Depending on lighting conditions, my keeper rate can be 20% when the bird is moving (by keeper I mean percent of photos where the bird is in focus, ignoring composition). I am using the 100-400 Mark II either by itself or with a 1.4x III teleconverter.

Some of my problems are no doubt technique, but others are likely due to using the wrong settings.

In terms of exposure, I am shooting in manual mode with the lens wide open (F6.3 or F8 with 1.4x), shutter between 1/2000 and 1/4000, auto ISO, and spot metering. Many times my birds are severely underexposed when shooting against a bright sky, so I often set an exposure compensation of +1 or higher. Should I use a different metering method for BIF? Should I switch to fully manual and fix the ISO?

On an aside, what is the highest ISO I should use? I see a fair amount of noise starting at 3200. Maybe I should use Auto ISO, but set the upper limit at 1600 or 3200?

A few things happen with focusing. Sometimes the camera never obtains focus when pressing the * button. I was forced to use manual focus to get close then the * button would work. FYI, I have the * button set for metering and AF Start, and the lens is set to limit the focus range to 3 meters+. This problem got much better once I turned continuous focus search on.

Now I have two main challenges with AF. First is photographing large birds like Osprey in flight. The camera will achieve focus, then go out of focus, then have a hard time achieving focus again. Maybe I am using the * button incorrectly? Once I focus on the bird should I continue pressing *, or let go? I have Continuous AF off. Which AF method should I be using? 1 point, expand, expand around, or zone? The other challenge is focusing on a hovering humming bird. I almost wonder if I should go to manual focus in that scenario?

I would really appreciate it if some EOS-R birders would share all of their camera settings with me.

AF Operation: Servo is what I use, read a post suggesting using one shot
AF method: Typically use one point or expand, should I be using Zone?
Continuous AF - disabled or enabled?
Tracking Sensitivity: currently set -1
Accel/decel tracking: currently set +1
AF point autoswitching: usually set to 0, going to try using zone auto focus and set this to +2
Lens drive when AF impossible: currently turned on
Limit AF methods: which AF methods should I use?

Any other custom settings I should know about for birding?

I apologize for so many questions. THANK YOU for reading such a long post and for any insights!!
Chip
 

tron

EOS R5
CR Pro
Nov 8, 2011
4,984
1,344
I cannot help a lot since I have sold my R and I have never used it for birds. I consider using it for birds it would be a disaster since all my other cameras (DSLRs by the way) were much more suitable.

I can answer very few questions.

Do not worry for noise too much since programs like DXO (Deep prime noise reduction) make wonders in that aspect.

NO WAY one shot for birds. Servo is the way to go.

Regarding the methods people have different preferences. I use expand for static birds and I switch automatically with the pressing of a button to large area for BIF (with Canon and Nikon DSLRs). Others are faster than me and use the same method (one with expansion) for BIF.

Regarding the BBF (Back Button focusing) the * button in your case, you must press it all the time you if want the camera to try focusing. Personally I do not use it but maybe I am an exception in the birding photography world...

Your lens is excellent. Don't you have a decent Canon DSLR to use it with? (Again this is my opinion, again not the majority)

EOS R is not made with birding and action in mind.

Some other settings you mentioned do not have a night and day difference if you change them a little.

I am sorry I cannot help enough.
 
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mkamelg

EOS R
Feb 1, 2015
57
30
Poland
I recently took pictures of seagulls with the EOS R + RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM combination with the settings from this website https://mirrorlesscomparison.com/best/mirrorless-cameras-for-birds-in-flight/

The best Canon EOS R settings for birds in flight:​

  • Focus Area: Zone or Large Zone
  • Tracking Sensitivity: +2
  • Accel./decel. tracking: 0
  • AF point auto switching: +2
  • Drive Mode: Low Speed (3fps)

My other settings were:

AF Mode: Servo AF
Shooting mode: Shutter-Priority AE
Tv(Shutter Speed): 1/2000
Metering Mode: Evaluative Metering
Auto ISO Speed: ON

From over 300 photos taken, I decided to post on my Flickr profile 7. I don't think I can get any more out of this combination (camera + lens), but I can always be wrong. All photos were taken at infinity, which is where probably all the zooms with the RF mount have the greatest problems with shooting at the target.

From RAW to JPEG A6 size crop. Processed under DPP. I take photos of this type very rarely, so please be understanding.

 
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Noah

I'm New Here
Sep 17, 2019
15
38
U.K.
Hello,

I am a new user and this is my first post. I am looking for advice on settings and techniques for people using the EOS-R for birding. I have been having several problems with focusing including 1) obtaining focus and 2) keeping it. Depending on lighting conditions, my keeper rate can be 20% when the bird is moving (by keeper I mean percent of photos where the bird is in focus, ignoring composition). I am using the 100-400 Mark II either by itself or with a 1.4x III teleconverter.

Some of my problems are no doubt technique, but others are likely due to using the wrong settings.

In terms of exposure, I am shooting in manual mode with the lens wide open (F6.3 or F8 with 1.4x), shutter between 1/2000 and 1/4000, auto ISO, and spot metering. Many times my birds are severely underexposed when shooting against a bright sky, so I often set an exposure compensation of +1 or higher. Should I use a different metering method for BIF? Should I switch to fully manual and fix the ISO?

On an aside, what is the highest ISO I should use? I see a fair amount of noise starting at 3200. Maybe I should use Auto ISO, but set the upper limit at 1600 or 3200?

A few things happen with focusing. Sometimes the camera never obtains focus when pressing the * button. I was forced to use manual focus to get close then the * button would work. FYI, I have the * button set for metering and AF Start, and the lens is set to limit the focus range to 3 meters+. This problem got much better once I turned continuous focus search on.

Now I have two main challenges with AF. First is photographing large birds like Osprey in flight. The camera will achieve focus, then go out of focus, then have a hard time achieving focus again. Maybe I am using the * button incorrectly? Once I focus on the bird should I continue pressing *, or let go? I have Continuous AF off. Which AF method should I be using? 1 point, expand, expand around, or zone? The other challenge is focusing on a hovering humming bird. I almost wonder if I should go to manual focus in that scenario?

I would really appreciate it if some EOS-R birders would share all of their camera settings with me.

AF Operation: Servo is what I use, read a post suggesting using one shot
AF method: Typically use one point or expand, should I be using Zone?
Continuous AF - disabled or enabled?
Tracking Sensitivity: currently set -1
Accel/decel tracking: currently set +1
AF point autoswitching: usually set to 0, going to try using zone auto focus and set this to +2
Lens drive when AF impossible: currently turned on
Limit AF methods: which AF methods should I use?

Any other custom settings I should know about for birding?

I apologize for so many questions. THANK YOU for reading such a long post and for any insights!!
Chip

Hi and welcome to the forum. I'll try to help as an EOS R user for 2 years. The camera changed my photography for the better being mirrorless but I virtually stopped trying to get action shots due to the camera's shortcomings. I was told by 2 Canon reps that the EOS R was the wrong choice for any action photography when I asked for hands-on advice on settings etc. It's the most frustrating Canon camera I've owned in that respect especially coming from the 7DII. Everything you describe is my experience with this camera but I'll try to answer some of you questions.

Firstly, do you have the latest firmware installed? Although not perfect, it is a massive improvement and I found that photographing birds in flight became possible after installing the latest release although once the subject is lost in the viewfinder it's gone forever. This is partly down to the EVF. Zone AF is better at finding and keeping on the bird against the sky but not so good if there are trees etc. Not ideal but manually focussing to get onto the subject helps and then letting the AF do its thing. I'm using the same lens as yourself, with and without 1.4x. Same shutter speeds and same f/stops.

Back button is not usable for me as I have 4 fingers and one thumb on each hand. The people who beta tested the camera must've had long, tiny fingers and no thumbs.

So;
AF Operation: Servo is what I use, read a post suggesting using one shot - AI Servo and high speed continuous will improve your chances
AF method: Typically use one point or expand, should I be using Zone? Expand or Zone AF
Continuous AF - disabled or enabled? Disabled otherwise you'll only get 5 fps and it still doesn't hold focus
Tracking Sensitivity: currently set -1 - Trial and error I'm afraid. I didn't see much difference changing it and the 2 Canon reps I spoke to said the complete opposite to each other
Accel/decel tracking: currently set +1
AF point autoswitching: usually set to 0, going to try using zone auto focus and set this to +2
Lens drive when AF impossible: currently turned on - Same
Limit AF methods: which AF methods should I use? - Just uncheck the ones you don't use, keep Spot, Expand & Zone


Good luck, I hope that helps otherwise you may have to do what I did and buy an R5.
 
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AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
8,847
12,090
Use manual metering. I tend to guess the exposure using the sunny 16 rule and underexpose so not to clip highlights. Or, I jus choose manual exposure using the evf.
 
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Mar 21, 2021
2
0
Hi everyone - THANK YOU for the great comments. I was out of town for a few days and unable to respond. I made a few tweaks to some settings and switched to fully manual (utilizing the Sunny 16 rule) and the camera seemed to perform much better. I will be posting some photos later this evening and will have some follow-up questions.
 

SumanV

EOS M6 Mark II
Sep 25, 2016
53
18
@Noah Interesting settings. I thought for focus tracking on Canon EOS R/RP, facedetect is the only mode which works? Is this information correct?

Regards
Suman