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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk 
Thread started 15 Sep 2018 (Saturday) 07:09
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Autofocus Setting for Birds in Flight

 
setagate
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Sep 15, 2018 07:09 |  #1

I’m planning to take more photos of birds in flight with my Canon 7D Mark II and I’d appreciate some advice on what Autofocus area selection settings might be best to use. I have the camera set for AI Servo and high speed continuous.

The following Autofocus settings are available for the 7D Mark II:

Center spot
Expand AF Area - (5 spots, center + 1 additional spot on each side of center)
Expand AF Area: Surround - (9 spots with 8 surrounding the center spot)
Manual Select: Zone AF - (15 spots selected)
Manual Select: Large Zone AF - (25 spots selected)
Auto Selection: 65 point Autofocus – (all 65 points selected)

I used the center spot with some success for large birds, but with no luck on small birds. I saw an online article by Brian Worley in which he recommends Manual Select: Zone AF (15 spots). I would appreciate any suggestions from BIF shooters.

Bob


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setagate
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Sep 15, 2018 07:42 |  #2

I probably should have mentioned that I will be using a Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens for the birds in flight.


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clipper_from_oz
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Sep 15, 2018 09:28 |  #3

setagate wrote in post #18708371 (external link)
I’m planning to take more photos of birds in flight with my Canon 7D Mark II and I’d appreciate some advice on what Autofocus area selection settings might be best to use. I have the camera set for AI Servo and high speed continuous.

The following Autofocus settings are available for the 7D Mark II:

Center spot
Expand AF Area - (5 spots, center + 1 additional spot on each side of center)
Expand AF Area: Surround - (9 spots with 8 surrounding the center spot)
Manual Select: Zone AF - (15 spots selected)
Manual Select: Large Zone AF - (25 spots selected)
Auto Selection: 65 point Autofocus – (all 65 points selected)

I used the center spot with some success for large birds, but with no luck on small birds. I saw an online article by Brian Worley in which he recommends Manual Select: Zone AF (15 spots). I would appreciate any suggestions from BIF shooters.

Bob

It really depends on background. If there is mainly sky then use AIServo with large Zone AF. That way tracking will help you stay on the bird as the AF points will detect the closest thing between infinity and the camera and lock on it . And with sky only in scene apart from Bird this shouldnt be difficult for the tracking to achieve AF lock . If the background of the scene with the bird in flight your shooting has lots of distractive things like tree branches etc then change to single shot centre spot AF with 4 helper spots (helpers will only AF if centre has a problem). Reason to change is because more often not the AF tracking will get fooled by background clutter and AF lockon the bird then becomes either slow or it totally misses AF. The keeper rate in this scenario( Busy background) is low

If this happens( 2nd scenario of a bird in flight with a distractive background) then all you need to do is press the "AFON" backbutton and change from AIservo continuous to single shot centre focus pointx4 . And when BIF comes into range centre the spots on bird manually and track with AF point on bird if possible. Also ensure you have Hispeed single shot set so it can do HI speed AF shutter bursts as bird passes. The AF single shot backbutton AIServo overide ( AFON button) I think is default on the 7dM2 as is on my 5dsr however if it isnt its easy to map the single shot AF to the AFon/of backbutton in camera. BTW....many people will say single shot is for static subjects. Dont believe it :)....I had Canon senior tech tell me that under certain conditions continuous can present problems ( see below on atmospheric conditions) . When that happens they recommend going to single shot centre AF with 4 helper spots Hi speed burst mode.

Other considerations are disable IS or set to pan if you have it . In the 400 5.6 case not need to worry however on a telezoom like the 100-400 Mk2IS its better disabled . I get way better shots of BIF without it on. Also make sure you use 1/ 1200 sec or faster shutter speed. If its low light up the ISO if need be to get a faster shutter speed as way better to have a sharp noisy shot of a BIF than to have a non noisy but very soft BIF) You can fix noise easily in PP but very hard to impossible to make a very soft shot turn to sharp without it looking oversharpened and terrible. For many years I refused to go over iso800 because I hate noise however nowdays the way these sensors are you can quite easily go to iso 2000-3000 and as long as your not cropping to 100% it will look fine after a PP cleanup

My absolute minimum settings on an average light day for BIF with either my 400mm f2.8 MK2 or 100-400MK2IS are as follows

1. Have camera set to AIservo / manual 1. shutter 1 /1200 absolute minimum ( 1600 better as still could be softness at 1200) 2. aperture absolute max f5.6 3.ISO on auto. 4. If sky fairly bright then give exposure compensation of approx+1. ( compensate for any backlighting of bird) FYI +.5 - +1 stop exposure compensation is sometimes called shooting to the right "

Some of other considerations for hot days etc. 1. If shooting on extreme hot days try to use single shot AF with 4 helper AF points as haze/shimmer can affect the AIservoc continuous focus to behave like it has slight back or front focus issues due to af getting fooled by this atmospheric shimmer that appears on hot days even if the bird is in flight well above ground . Change to single shot on these days. Also try and shoot at coolest parts of day so AF wont be compromised by atmospheric impacts .

BTW....Below are a couple of samples of BIF I got with similar settings to what I have given you above ...Hope the infohelps .

Cheers


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chrisa
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Sep 15, 2018 10:10 |  #4

I found this helpful in general for setting up my 7D Mk II

https://youtu.be/pYFMV​nCDqig (external link)




  
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setagate
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Sep 16, 2018 09:47 as a reply to  @ chrisa's post |  #5

Thank you both. This information is very helpful!


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setagate
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Sep 19, 2018 15:29 as a reply to  @ setagate's post |  #6

I have another question. Since more autofocus points make it easier to keep the focus on or near a bird in flight, does this have a downside where the image is likely to be less sharp as more focus points are selected?

Obviously, if you use fewer focus points and miss the target the focus will be worse than if it was in focus with more points activated. But, if you are able to focus on a bird with one or five points, is the image likely be sharper than if more focus points were used?


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Sep 19, 2018 16:21 |  #7

setagate wrote in post #18711409 (external link)
I have another question. Since more autofocus points make it easier to keep the focus on or near a bird in flight, does this have a downside where the image is likely to be less sharp as more focus points are selected?

Obviously, if you use fewer focus points and miss the target the focus will be worse than if it was in focus with more points activated. But, if you are able to focus on a bird with one or five points, is the image likely be sharper than if more focus points were used?

You're really only focusing w/ one AF point, as focus is on a plane; there's no difference between "1 or 5 points". The bonus to more active points is that it is easier to get an active AF point on your subject and keep it there.

If your subject has an un-obscured or uninterrupted background (clear, blue sky for example), then the various zone AF modes can be great and make things a lot easier. However, if you have mountains, trees, branches and such, it's much better to do with your single point and expansion point options; that way, the camera can't choose a different subject than the one you're attempting to focus on.


- Eric S.: My Birds/Wildlife (external link) (7D MkII/5D IV, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5, Canon 24-105L f/4 IS, Canon 70-200L f/2.8 IS MkII, Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS I/II)
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CyberDyneSystems
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Sep 19, 2018 17:25 |  #8

Withe little dial thingy, I switch back and forht a lot between the different area settings.

My Default for birds is single AF point with surround expansion.
But I will often go up to smaller zones. The two really do behave differently.

On rare occasions I'll use the hole shooting match, but that's really unusual. Sort of a "hail mary" setting.


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setagate
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Sep 19, 2018 18:47 as a reply to  @ CyberDyneSystems's post |  #9

Great information! Thank you very much for your helpful information! Bob


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Sep 19, 2018 18:57 |  #10

Also, try to set up so that you can acquire and begin focusing on the bird a ways out from where you're going to attempting to actually capture; that way, you're already tracking them w/ your focus point by the time they get in "real" range and you're not just beginning your tracking/pan at that point.

Also, in the custom settings, make sure you've got your shutter priorities set to Focus vs Speed and adjust whichever AF case you're using to not lose focus as soon as the active point leaves your subject.


- Eric S.: My Birds/Wildlife (external link) (7D MkII/5D IV, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5, Canon 24-105L f/4 IS, Canon 70-200L f/2.8 IS MkII, Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS I/II)
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Sep 19, 2018 19:28 |  #11

So I have a similar question. Running dogs in my case, which I feel the above advice can also be applied too, no?

I recently was shooting a dog chasing a ball. Man did I miss badly! So googling I read that holding the back-button focus while shooting continuously would help keep the subject in focus. Is this technique also applicable to BiF?


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Sep 19, 2018 19:31 |  #12

gossamer88 wrote in post #18711560 (external link)
So I have a similar question. Running dogs in my case, which I feel the above advice can also be applied too, no?

I recently was shooting a dog chasing a ball. Man did I miss badly! So googling I read that holding the back-button focus while shooting continuously would help keep the subject in focus. Is this technique also applicable to BiF?

This technique is generally referred to as 'back button focus'; and yes, it's pretty much a mainstay of ANY action shooting. Proper results require that the back button be set to exclusively be the focus button, with AF removed from the shutter release button.


- Eric S.: My Birds/Wildlife (external link) (7D MkII/5D IV, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5, Canon 24-105L f/4 IS, Canon 70-200L f/2.8 IS MkII, Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS I/II)
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Post edited 5 months ago by clipper_from_oz. (3 edits in all)
     
Sep 20, 2018 04:34 |  #13

gossamer88 wrote in post #18711560 (external link)
So I have a similar question. Running dogs in my case, which I feel the above advice can also be applied too, no?

I recently was shooting a dog chasing a ball. Man did I miss badly! So googling I read that holding the back-button focus while shooting continuously would help keep the subject in focus. Is this technique also applicable to BiF?


Good luck with dogs....Ive never been successful with my dog no matter how hard I try. Im sure its the lack of contrast for the AF because my dog is all black and no matter what tracking I use its hit and miss. Over summer I was on holidays at beach and tried to nail my dog running through the shallows and I recon I wasted at least 5 hrs one of the days trying to get a damn keeper ...And whilst I got one semi ok shot wasnt anywhere near the keeper rate I get for BIF. So....if your going to persevere with it use same as for BIF......Good luck....I hope you do better than I did with dogs :)


BTW...I seem to remember that both the 7DMk2 and 5DSR have tracking that can also track by color. Ive never used it( tacking by color) but may be interesting to see how that goes with dogs.

Also here is a great link to get a handle on the various tracking settings for the 7dMk2 and 5DSR/5DMK4 etc . I regularly refer to it even after having been using it now for over 2 years .
https://www.youtube.co​m/watch?v=u466WL71J1E (external link)


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Autofocus Setting for Birds in Flight
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