Problems with AF on birds @ R5

wyotex43n

EOS M6 Mark II
Jan 24, 2016
58
39
Yes. There are two ways you can do it to improve things. One is by having the dual back button focus set up and the other is to go to the AF menu. Sub menu 5. And set the initial servo AF point for tracking to the centre and NOT on auto. It is not fool proof but it means the camera is only looking in the very centre of the frame for something to lock onto after which it will track it all around the frame. You just have to put the bird in the centre portion and then start the AF
Thanks, I gave it a try yesterday but most of the birds I was shooting were to far for conclusive results. But I do think this will help.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aussie shooter

wyotex43n

EOS M6 Mark II
Jan 24, 2016
58
39
Agreed with Jenzzel and Aussie. Set the initial servo point to something other than auto and have a second button program to something other than animal eye AF.

In my experience, the Animal Eye AF is very very good, but not magical. First, it needs the subject (eye) to be large enough for it to truly distinguish. With COVID, I am mostly shooting small birds and I am finding with the R5 and 500 f/4 II that within 30 ft (~10 m) it is very consistent and accurate, out to about 50 ft (~15 m) it is very hit and miss and even when it "hits" in terms of the blue box on eye, but the actual accuracy is inconsistent. Beyond 50 ft/15 m. It really is not useful and I switch to a different AF mode.

Larger animals are likely a different story. But, based on my experience, I wonder if size of the target in the frame is part of the issue that people are having. Even within 30 ft, I do find that it occasionally grabs the background, but then I use the single point AF to get it back on target and once back on target the eye AF is very good once again.
I agree with size of the subject in the frame. Also the contrast with any background.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DavidJoarnt@gmail.

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
7,617
7,957
Today, I was comparing photoing small birds on my feeder with the 400mm DO II with and without the 1.4xTC on the R5. At 560mm and f/5.6, the lens did have some problems being stuck on the background. But at f/4 and 400mm, there were no problems. I'll do some more tests tomorrow to check whether it was the aperture or field of view using the 100-500mm at 400 vs 500mm.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aussie shooter

YuengLinger

Godzilla needs boxing lessons.
CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
3,447
1,847
USA
Thanks to all who have posted from experience here! Today I finally got to go out alone--without the kids--to start learning how to use the R5 + 100-500mm, and, as the only birds were tiny ones (mostly prairie warblers) hopping on bare branches with lots of twigs, I immediately started running into the problem of needing to fine tune AF with the focus ring. Because of the posts here, I did NOT have to figure out why I didn't have full time MF while in Servo AF! That would have been frustrating while burning through my precious amount of time without distractions.

My solution, as I've never been able to get the hang of back-button-focus, was to just briefly switch from Servo to One-shot. But in fact, sometimes I was doing better with just One-shot because the birds were stationary long enough to fire off a few bursts.
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
7,617
7,957
Thanks to all who have posted from experience here! Today I finally got to go out alone--without the kids--to start learning how to use the R5 + 100-500mm, and, as the only birds were tiny ones (mostly prairie warblers) hopping on bare branches with lots of twigs, I immediately started running into the problem of needing to fine tune AF with the focus ring. Because of the posts here, I did NOT have to figure out why I didn't have full time MF while in Servo AF! That would have been frustrating while burning through my precious amount of time without distractions.

My solution, as I've never been able to get the hang of back-button-focus, was to just briefly switch from Servo to One-shot. But in fact, sometimes I was doing better with just One-shot because the birds were stationary long enough to fire off a few bursts.
Practice BBF, it's a skill worth having. I have two back buttons set up, one does eyeAF the other centre point AF, and I find it very useful.
 

jdavis37

1DX2, R5, 500F4 L Mk II
Feb 19, 2012
37
0
NC
This thread has aged a bit, but today I experienced what i THINK the original poster was talking about. And, I saw it with both the 500F4 IS MkII lens and the 70-200 F4L IS Mk II lens.

I got an R5 for Christmas and have been shooting with a 1DX2 since 2016. The R5 was bought to replace the 5DMark III I have had as a backup/second body, with landscapes in mind as well as birds and other critters. My early impressions were the R5 might well replace my 1DX2 as my primary body. I took the time to set up the AF as others had suggested, using the dual back focus methods. Most of my shooting had been done indoors and I did not see any issues until today.

Focus at longer distances up to infinity. Camera focuses quickly. No issues.

Once focused to a significant distance and then aimed at a near object ( say 12 feet), the camera often will not attempt to focus. When I had the 500F4 mounted, I would have to manually focus the lens until I was close to being in focus. At that point, the camera's single AF point focus would work. But once the camera focused to something behind the target, it would just sit.

I connected my 1DX2 to the 500F4 and focus was instant.

This is somewhat concerning. I like the camera overall, but am finding this issue to be significant. as I approach infinity distance for focus there are no issues. Returning from infinity to say 13 to 15 feet, the camera often struggles, resulting in missed photos. Thx
 

XL+

EOS M6 Mark II
CR Pro
Sep 15, 2016
88
30
recently: The Tyrol, Austria
Practice BBF, it's a skill worth having. I have two back buttons set up, one does eyeAF the other centre point AF, and I find it very useful.
Mr. Alan, please could you post your settings?
I am still having severe problems with the AF like posted on page one. No troubleshooting procedure or software update is on the way. Service companies do actually acctept no repair orders as of Covid-19-company-closure. I actually depend on tips, to solve the frustrating AF performance drop.
Thank you a lot.
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
7,617
7,957
Mr. Alan, please could you post your settings?
I am still having severe problems with the AF like posted on page one. No troubleshooting procedure or software update is on the way. Service companies do actually acctept no repair orders as of Covid-19-company-closure. I actually depend on tips, to solve the frustrating AF performance drop.
Thank you a lot.
The problem you have of the camera not focussing on a bird in front of a background but focussing on the background is real and affects all mirrorless cameras from Sony and the other makes as well. What you are doing of focussing on the ground in front and then on the bird is what I sometimes have to do. For much of the time, I can get it to work by switching between single point and all-points focussing. DSLRs do not have this problem as they are programmed to focus on the nearest object. Unfortunately, because of covid I haven't been able to shoot kingfishers etc. My R5 does find miraculously well small birds far away on the grass etc and often a small bird in a tree and focus on its head or eye. It also is brilliant at finding birds in flight. All in all, I get more keepers than I do with my DSLRs. But, I am retaining a Canon 5DSR and Nikon D850 if I find I can't photo kingfishers etc.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aussie shooter

Grant Atkinson

EOS 90D
Jan 6, 2014
189
24
Hi XL+ and Alan , I am a bit late to this thread and I am using the R6, not the R5, but I am experiencing the same challenges you are with certain scenes and autofocus. I have only EF telephoto lenses. I used the Canon adaptor on them with the R6. To make it easier for other users to visualize, I can say that my adapted R6 will struggle or fail to take several seconds to focus on any small to medium-small subject if that subject is positioned in a tree with or without leaves, or on a rock, if there is a dark or vegetated background behind the subject. If I remain in the same position but lower myself and this causes the background to become sky, the camera will focus on that same subject. It is not an intermittent thing. I can make it happen anytime I recreate those parameters. It occurs with my EF 500 L f4 IS ii the most. It also occurs with my adapted EF 100-400 IS ii but not as strongly. It happens most at 400mm and doesn't happen at all at 100mm even if I move closer to the subject. So users who are using shorter focal lengths might not experience it at all. I can get it to focus by aiming at a bright part of the scene nearby or turning the focus ring manually until it comes into focus, and at that point I can switch to eye focus or just keep my single point on the eye, but it has already caused me to miss many shots because many small subjects don't pose for long. Using the R6 with adaptor and 1.4xiii and EF 500f4 L IS ii in a closed canopy forest was so frustrating that I gave up on it for that location. The 5DMk4 and even the 90D Single AF point in the centre where much more reliable and faster to lock onto a bird amongst the leaves. With birds in the sky, the R6 does very well better than my Canon dslr bodies, and the subject tracking is very good for birds in flight.

Seems if I use the R6 in open situations with not much vegetation or other background behind my subject, then this failure or very slow focus doesn't really happen. When I photograph large subjects it also doesnt happen. Seems it doesn't happen if people are your subjects either. It doesn't happen to me when using my RF 24-105f4 or my adapted EF 16-35 L f4 IS, only my longer focal length lenses.
Once I get to use an RF telephoto lens on my R6 I might then get an idea if it handles the scenes that challenge my EF IS ii lenses with adaptors any better. Alan F thanks for your feedback in this post too.
Cheers
Grant
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
7,617
7,957
Hi XL+ and Alan , I am a bit late to this thread and I am using the R6, not the R5, but I am experiencing the same challenges you are with certain scenes and autofocus. I have only EF telephoto lenses. I used the Canon adaptor on them with the R6. To make it easier for other users to visualize, I can say that my adapted R6 will struggle or fail to take several seconds to focus on any small to medium-small subject if that subject is positioned in a tree with or without leaves, or on a rock, if there is a dark or vegetated background behind the subject. If I remain in the same position but lower myself and this causes the background to become sky, the camera will focus on that same subject. It is not an intermittent thing. I can make it happen anytime I recreate those parameters. It occurs with my EF 500 L f4 IS ii the most. It also occurs with my adapted EF 100-400 IS ii but not as strongly. It happens most at 400mm and doesn't happen at all at 100mm even if I move closer to the subject. So users who are using shorter focal lengths might not experience it at all. I can get it to focus by aiming at a bright part of the scene nearby or turning the focus ring manually until it comes into focus, and at that point I can switch to eye focus or just keep my single point on the eye, but it has already caused me to miss many shots because many small subjects don't pose for long. Using the R6 with adaptor and 1.4xiii and EF 500f4 L IS ii in a closed canopy forest was so frustrating that I gave up on it for that location. The 5DMk4 and even the 90D Single AF point in the centre where much more reliable and faster to lock onto a bird amongst the leaves. With birds in the sky, the R6 does very well better than my Canon dslr bodies, and the subject tracking is very good for birds in flight.

Seems if I use the R6 in open situations with not much vegetation or other background behind my subject, then this failure or very slow focus doesn't really happen. When I photograph large subjects it also doesnt happen. Seems it doesn't happen if people are your subjects either. It doesn't happen to me when using my RF 24-105f4 or my adapted EF 16-35 L f4 IS, only my longer focal length lenses.
Once I get to use an RF telephoto lens on my R6 I might then get an idea if it handles the scenes that challenge my EF IS ii lenses with adaptors any better. Alan F thanks for your feedback in this post too.
Cheers
Grant
Good to see you back Grant
In actuality, I am not finding it much of a problem with the R5 and the two lenses I use the most, the adapted 400mm DO II and the 100-500mm, including with extenders.
 

shire_guy

I'm New Here
Apr 29, 2020
11
14
Sydney AUST
Using the R6 with adaptor and 1.4xiii and EF 500f4 L IS ii in a closed canopy forest was so frustrating that I gave up on it for that location. The 5DMk4 and even the 90D Single AF point in the centre where much more reliable and faster to lock onto a bird amongst the leaves. With birds in the sky, the R6 does very well better than my Canon dslr bodies, and the subject tracking is very good for birds in flight.

Seems if I use the R6 in open situations with not much vegetation or other background behind my subject, then this failure or very slow focus doesn't really happen.

Grant's post really rang a bell for me. Earlier this week I experienced focus issues pretty much described in his post. I was using a R5 with an adapted EF 300mm 2.8 II with 2 x TC in a dark area, with an enclosed canopy and leaf litter, chasing a small bird. I found I could not focus at all quite a few times while a friend with a Nikon ZII with an adapted 500mm f5.6 Nikon lens was getting shots. At one stage the AF just seemed to go into a slow loop. I ended up removing the TC and I thought the AF was a little better. In the same environment my 5D4 would get focus albeit with some manual assistance. In lighter areas, even slightly backlit, or out in the open the AF on the R5 is amazing so I found the above very puzzling.
 
Feb 7, 2021
1
0
I've had the same problem with the r5. Simply put, when I point the camera directly at a motionless small bird with a busy--but distant--background (e.g., leaves) using a single focus point, the r5 often focuses on the background instead of the bird. I have considerable experience photographing birds, mostly with a 500mm lens and a 1.4X teleconverter. I have tried every possible setting/configuration on the r5 and the problem still occurs when the bird is small relative to the background. This occurs sufficiently often under conditions where the 7d2 has NO problem focusing on the bird, that the r5 is not usable for small birds unless the background is featureless (e.g., sky). The r5 is great for bigger birds--especially those in flight, for which it truly excels.

Today I did a very simple test with a tree limb that diminishes in diameter but has other limbs and leaves behind it. With the 7d I can move progressively down the limb focusing over and over as the limb gets smaller and smaller, and the 7d2 never loses focus. In contrast, the limb becomes too small for the r5 and the r5 jumps to focusing on the background--even though the single focus point is still centered on the limb.

Here are the specific r5 settings I have found that work best for small birds, but still fail:

AF operation: SERVO AF
AF method: AF[o]
Subject to detect: Animals
Eye detection: Disable (I assigned this to the "AF-on" button and press when appropriate)
Tracking sensitivity: -2
Accel/decel: -2
Initial Servo AF pt for (face, box): [o]

Sad that I spent so much $ on a camera that does not work for my main application.:(
 

SteveC

R5
CR Pro
Sep 3, 2019
2,043
1,899
I've had the same problem with the r5. Simply put, when I point the camera directly at a motionless small bird with a busy--but distant--background (e.g., leaves) using a single focus point, the r5 often focuses on the background instead of the bird. I have considerable experience photographing birds, mostly with a 500mm lens and a 1.4X teleconverter. I have tried every possible setting/configuration on the r5 and the problem still occurs when the bird is small relative to the background. This occurs sufficiently often under conditions where the 7d2 has NO problem focusing on the bird, that the r5 is not usable for small birds unless the background is featureless (e.g., sky). The r5 is great for bigger birds--especially those in flight, for which it truly excels.

Today I did a very simple test with a tree limb that diminishes in diameter but has other limbs and leaves behind it. With the 7d I can move progressively down the limb focusing over and over as the limb gets smaller and smaller, and the 7d2 never loses focus. In contrast, the limb becomes too small for the r5 and the r5 jumps to focusing on the background--even though the single focus point is still centered on the limb.

Here are the specific r5 settings I have found that work best for small birds, but still fail:

AF operation: SERVO AF
AF method: AF[o]
Subject to detect: Animals
Eye detection: Disable (I assigned this to the "AF-on" button and press when appropriate)
Tracking sensitivity: -2
Accel/decel: -2
Initial Servo AF pt for (face, box): [o]

Sad that I spent so much $ on a camera that does not work for my main application.:(

The good news is, that should be firmware fixable.

The bad news is, you gotta convince Canon it's broken.
 

BadBird

7D Mk II --> R5
Feb 5, 2021
7
5
I have to concur with bhacker's comparison of the R5 to the 7D2 for small birds in trees or shrubbery. The 7D2 with 100-400 II + 1.4 TC remains the most effective system I have found for snagging shots of warblers (or parts of a warbler) high in trees, especially after the leaves come out. I was never able to get any of the 5D4s I had to do the same - they would focus on the bird in the viewfinder, but then take a picture of the leaves behind the bird instead (and yes, I had fought through hours of AF microadjustment with the 5D4s - the main reason I decided to switch to mirrorless).

Clearly the AF software in the R5 is directly descended from that of the 5D4, with similar shortcomings. I am using the R5 almost exclusively with either the RF 100-500 or the RF 800 f/11. The best settings for the R5 that I have found so far (and far from perfect) are:

AF operation: Servo AF
AF method: Spot AF
Subject to detect: Animals
Eye detection: Disable
Case: 1
Tracking sensitivity: -1
Accel/decel: -1
Initial Servo AF pt for (face, box): Spot AF
AF-ON button: Metering and AF Start (I can finally use back button focus since they moved the AF-ON button to the left; it sits above a nasty hump on the 7D/5D, that was moved to the right on the R5 body). On the R5, that hump actually helps you find the AE Lock button by touch. Arthritic thumb joints are the worst!

Face + Tracking is ONLY active when I press the AE Lock <*> button, programmed to Eye Detection AF
...and I only select this when I have bird in focus with Spot AF, and it is on a bird feeder or the ground or on a stationary perch (and NOT a dark eyed Junco)
...OR a flying bird suddenly presents itself (think Marsh Hawk), because Face + Tracking Eye Detection AF is terrific unless there is a cluttered background

AF Point selection is used to quickly switch from Servo AF to One-Shot AF (and back) to enable manual focusing with Focus Guide, Peaking, and Magnification

If someone has found a setting or combination of settings that work better for bird photography, PLEASE contribute them to the discussion. I for one am still missing too many shots with the R5, compared to the 7D2, except for birds in flight. Picture quality (when focused) is dramatically better from the R5, which reliably gets usable shots at ISO 12800 in the shadows of trees.

I have to add that reading this forum, even before my R5 was delivered to me, has been extremely helpful. Thank you to all of the participants!
 
  • Like
Reactions: SteveC

Grant Atkinson

EOS 90D
Jan 6, 2014
189
24
Further to the posts here by Badbird, Bhacker and some others above, and relating to my own use of long focal length EF (in my case IS ii models- the EF 500L f4 IS ii with and without EF 1.4xiii extender and EF 100-400 IS ii ) with the Canon adaptor and the challenges I am having when trying to get focus of a bird or similar subject against a background, I added some screenshots for illustration.
R6 with EF 500IS ii and 1.4x ext.jpg


R6 with EF 500 IS ii and 1.4xiii ext.jpg
R6 EF 500IS ii and 1.4x .jpg


Anytime I used the R6 with adaptor on my long lens to try take pictures of sunbirds on flowering aloe plants, I would struggle with getting focus on the bird. I even tried to then aim the focus point or points, at the aloe flower just to get ballpark focus happening but the camera in my hands failed or else took several seconds to get focused on the flower. I tried with all the focus point options, including Spot. I tried turning the camera vertically but it did not make a difference. The bottom image above shows where I managed to get focus on the flower ends using a cluster of AF points, but even this took what felt like a second or two. I posted the images above just to illustrate that in my hands, I am finding it difficult to get focus on these subjects in what I consider very usable light, and with the kind of backgrounds that I like. So it is very puzzling. It is the first time that I have owned a Canon camera that could do some things very well, like photographing birds in the sky and yet, in my hands, is flawed for taking pictures like this. I struggled equally with bright birds or dark ones. For camera settings I made sure that "Lens Drive When AF Impossible" was switched ON in AF menu AF4. I also tried switching to One shot instead of Servo but found no improvement. I do wonder if it is something that might be improved by firmware or perhaps it is just what happens when using IS ii super telephotos with an adaptor.

I also referred to the user guide (for the R6) and found this information regarding AF
R6 manual.jpg


Seems the difficulties I am having might be listed fourth from the end of the list: "Performing AF when the subject is very far out of focus."
I also checked the Canon owners manuals for the 5D Mk4 and 7D Mk 2, and in their lists of possible AF problems, they do not have this one about a 'very far out of focus subject.' So it is new in the R5/R6 manual.
Maybe Canon already do know about it?
On a personal level, it does make me a bit less excited about using my R6, especially as I frequently take wildlife pictures of subjects on the ground, in the sky and amongst vegetation, on the same outing. In so many other ways I do really like the camera and what it can do.
Sorry I was not able to come up with any helpful information for other users in this thread who have the difficulty.
Cheers
Grant
 
Last edited:
  • Sad
Reactions: shire_guy

BadBird

7D Mk II --> R5
Feb 5, 2021
7
5
Today my R5 was firing while supposedly locked on small birds (busy birds - Kinglet and Pine Warbler), but the bird was actually out of focus underneath the locked focus point (as indicated by Lightroom plugin) while the background was in focus. This is the typical problem I am seeing with the R5 and 100-500 using spot AF primary and animal eye AF only intermittently. In the first example, the camera thinks it was locked on the Kinglet, but all three shots taken were out of focus.
Typical R5 shot with busy background - 3 shots, bird blurred in all of them.png
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grant Atkinson

BadBird

7D Mk II --> R5
Feb 5, 2021
7
5
The next two show the initial spot AF locked but out of focus versus background, and four shots later the bird is finally in focus under the locked focal point. The exposure and AF point position changed slightly from the first three shots to the fourth, so there is a good chance I tripped the shutter a second time. I was using back button spot AF. So you can lock the AF point on the bird and fire away, but it hasn't always achieved a correct focus on that point.
Another R5 shot where focus was locked on bird but out of focus.png
Four shots later the R5 finally finds the focus.png
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grant Atkinson

knoxone

learning and having fun doing it
Feb 16, 2014
35
1
Columbus, Ohio
I'm having issues as well. I am using the R5 with the 600 f4 vII. It can be great at times, but it often seems to be lagging in focus. Subjects, birds flying towards me always seem to be out of focus, usually focusing a bit behind the subject. The focus system seems to want to jump off the subject and latch onto something else. I have had the focus hunting issue as well. The camera seems awesome at times but supper frustrating at others!!! I will post examples once i get to my computer this evening.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grant Atkinson

SteveC

R5
CR Pro
Sep 3, 2019
2,043
1,899
I'm having issues as well. I am using the R5 with the 600 f4 vII. It can be great at times, but it often seems to be lagging in focus. Subjects, birds flying towards me always seem to be out of focus, usually focusing a bit behind the subject. The focus system seems to want to jump off the subject and latch onto something else. I have had the focus hunting issue as well. The camera seems awesome at times but supper frustrating at others!!! I will post examples once i get to my computer this evening.

Come to think of it, I was having trouble, with animal eye focus set, taking a picture of a kitten resting on someone's shoulder. I wanted both the face and the kitten, with focus on the kitten. It kept focusing on the person. I finally just had to go to point AF mode.

Not an option with birds in flight, I know, but it does indicate to me something's not quite "there" yet with the animal eye focus.