The EOS 5DS R is no good for photographing birds in flight! Or is it? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The EOS 5DS R is no good for photographing birds in flight! Or is it?

What’s Up?

Actually me, at 3am on Thursday. My 6:05am flight to Houston was a piece of cake. My flight to Orlando was delayed for an hour (maintenance) and then for another hour when Southwest realized that our new aircraft had too much fuel loaded. I was on the ground at MCO at about 3:30 and was met by my right hand man, Jim Litzenburg. With lots of rain, traffic, and shopping stops on the way home we did not make it to ILE until nearly 7pm.

The Bosque Site Guide

If you can’t make or afford a Bosque IPT, or if the holidays preclude your joining one, be sure to get yourself a copy of my Bosque Site Guide. All BAA Site Guides are designed so that with a bit of study you can show up at a great place and know exactly where to be at what time on what wind and in what lighting conditions. And on what wind. With a Site Guide on your laptop you will feel like a 22-year veteran on your first visit. Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT. If you plan on visiting Bosque it would be foolish to make the trip without having this guide in hand. Why spend money on gear and travel and then spend days stumbling around in the wrong spot? If you have visited previously, and are still unsure of where you should be at this time of day with that wind, this guide will prove invaluable to you as well. Even folks visiting Bosque for the tenth time will learn a ton as I share my secrets and hold nothing back….

In the next week or so, I will be working on a 2015 Bosque Current Conditions Guide; it will be send for free to all who have previously purchased the Bosque Site Guide and will also be available as a separate, stand-alone purchase.

Bosque Site Guide Kudos

By e-mail from Paul Shilling

After planning my first trip to Bosque earlier this year, I bought your excellent Bosque site guide. Read through it a couple of times. It is well worth the $50. It helped me get a good feel for the refuge before arriving. Many thanks. I was there last week for a morning and an afternoon. After disappointingly finding almost no birds before and just after sunrise at your suggested location, I enjoyed the cranes flying out at the spot you mention in the guide. Then I went straight to the farm fields in the north loop; they did not disappoint. Your guide led me to each of these spots. Without your guide would have had to guess at my next move. Best, Paul

Selling Your Used Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily.

After a month long lull, there have been more than a few sales while I was at Bosque:

Alan and Sara Levine sold several items.
Two Canon 500mm f/4L IS lenses (two) were sold by Pat & Stokes Fishburne for $3799 each in late November, 2015.
A Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Camera Body was sold by Alice Garland for $1350 in mid-November, 2015.
And the sale of Brent Bridges’s 600 II is pending.

New Listing

Canon 400mm f/5.6L Lens

David Bell is offering a used Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens in excellent condition for only $699, another lowest-ever BAA price. The sale includes both caps, the tough fabric case, the tripod collar, the original box, and insured ground shipping via UPS ground. Payment by money order, or by Paypal plus 3% = $719.97. Please contact David by e-mail or by phone at 416 671 8106. (Eastern time zone.)

I put my then beloved “toy lens” on the map more than 20 years ago by pioneering its use for photographing birds in flight. Wow, did I love that lens along with the Canon A2 camera body and Fuji Velvia pushed one stop to ISO 100! Though I sold mine a few years back it is still a great lens for flight for those who do not depend on IS and it makes a great starter lens as well. Put it on a tripod with the 1.4X III TC, a 7D II, and the Mongoose M3.6 and you will enjoy 896mm of effective reach. This lens is priced to sell quickly. artie


This image was created on the morning of Day 3 of the second 2015 Bosque IPT with the Induro tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 in Tv mode. Color temperature: AWB.

Center AF point//AI Servo Surround (should have been Expand…)/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure; the active AF point was on the crane’s back just in front of the rear wing, on the same plane as the bird’s face. This optimized image is a very small crop: 135.8 mbs out of the original 144mb size of the converted TIF file. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sandhill Crane in flight/wings up

The EOS 5DS R is no good for photographing birds in flight! Or is it?

I have seen more than a few items from the internet experts stating that the EOS 5DS R is not a good choice for photographing birds because of its relatively slow frame rate of 5 frames per second and because of its allegedly inferior frame rate. As you might expect, I beg to differ. In fact, the slower frame rate–and I know that this might seem strange to many folks–actually allows me to more easily keep a flying subject framed properly than when working with the 1D X and its blazing 12 frames per second. Just so you know: whatever the frame rate getting a perfect wings up (as here) or wings down pose is somewhat a matter of luck. Of course, the more sharp frames that you make when the bird is “in the zone,” the greater your chances of coming up with a pleasing flight pose.

What is “in the zone” for flight photography? In the zone means that the bird is flying towards you and towards the light and fills more than half the frame. When the bird’s tail or feet are the closest thing to you quit pushing the shutter button; you are not impressing anyone 🙂

Is every flight image sharp on the eye? Of course not. My percentage of very sharp on the eye images is pretty much the same as with the 1D X or the 7D II. When an image is not sharp I do not look at my gear, I look in the mirror….


This is an unsharpened 100% crop of the cranes’s head.

A 100% Crop

Again I am quite impressed by a 5DS R 100% crop. On the second Bosque IPT, Nikon shooter Warren Hatch was amazed by the feather detail about the face as compared to a similar image made with his 600mm lens. I am not sure what the grey fuzz on the forehead is but I cloned it out in the optimized image file. Any clues? Note that 1/800 sec. is a bit less then ideal for flight photography; many folks recommend at least 1/1600 sec.


This is a DPP 4 screen capture for today’s featured image.

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

One of the nice things about DPP 4 is that the current version supports 5DS R RAW files. Note the placement of the selected AF point that is illuminated in red. Note that I set the color temperature slider to K6000.

If you have any idea why the RGB numbers for the WHITEs on the neck show as R=252, G=226, B=144 please leave a comment.

The Image Optimization

After converting this image in DPP I brought it into Photoshop and did lots. First I applied a layer of NIK Color EFEX Pro White Neutralizer to the whole image; this turned the sickly cyan-blue sky to a perfect light blue. Then I applied a layer of my NIK 50/50 Detail Extractor/Tonal Contrast recipe to the bird only (after making the selection with the Quick Selection Tool) and reduced the opacity of the layer to 33%. Next I worked on the whites of the neck after selecting those in the same manner. I used Selective Color to take some BLACK out of the WHITEs and then reduced the RED saturation considerably. That left me with much cleaner looking WHITEs. Then I reduced the RED saturation for the whole image.

To eliminate the BLUE cast to the shadowed area of the far wing I selected that and then reduced the saturation of both the BLUEs and the CYANS.

Next came some Eye Doctor work. I painted a Quick Mask of the pupil and darkened it by pulling the curve down (Control M). Next I selected the whole face, bill, and neck with the Quick Selection Tool and applied a Contrast Mask (Unsharp Mask at 15/65/0). This sharpened up the face a bit and rendered the white neck a bit brighter.

Volia. Even outstanding RAW files can be improved in Photoshop.

Digital Basics

Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Everything that I did to optimize today’s image and tons more is covered in detail in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, setting up BreezeBrowser and Downloader Pro, dozens of great Photoshop tips, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, the basics of Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro, my killer image clean-up techniques, Digital Eye Doctor, creating time-saving actions, and lots more.


Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS I. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only. Please call Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-221-2372 to take advantage of this offer. I am pretty sure that we have extended that offer to the BAA Online Store as well… No time to check right now. 🙂


You can order your copy of “The Photographers’ Guide to Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0” (aka the DPP 4 Raw Conversion eGuide) by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris by clicking here.

The DPP 4 eGuide (PDF)

The Ideal Companion to the 7D Mark II User’s Guide

Learn how and why I and many other discerning photographers choose and use only DPP 4 to convert their Canon RAW files in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly. The latest version supports all of the newer Canon camera bodies and several older models as well including the EOS-7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV. DPP is fast and produces extremely accurate colors.

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18 comments to The EOS 5DS R is no good for photographing birds in flight! Or is it?

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    ps: just got home today. Went down to Borrego Springs to try to find some warmth after the furnace in the rv failed. I was taking stuff out of the rv when we saw 6 pair of Redtails working the area. Immediately went chasing. The quest continues. Love it. hope there is room for San Diego.

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    OK Artie, I’m in for San Diego, assuming there is a spot left. I will call Jim first thing Monday am to confirm. Just too close geographically to pass up, and especially considering the fun at Bosque, can’t pass it up. Hope the slot is open. Thanks again. Frank

  • Nice photo Artie.

    I just got a 5DS R (via your website) and I noticed the Exposure Indicator at the bottom of the viewfinder is very dark and almost impossible to see when shooting in bright light. Have you seen this or is it just my camera?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Doug, Glad that you liked the image; thanks. And many thanks for using my link. I encountered the dim viewfinder problem just once on a recent trip to Bosque. I tried but failed to find a menu item to fix the problem. After that, I never had the problem again…. I have no clue as to why.

      I can confirm that if you are working with the sun at your back and you point your lens at a shaded area the viewfinder display will dim.

      I did a search for 5DS R dim viewfinder problems and wound up on what I though was a relevant thread on DPreview. After I commented there I realized that it was an 8-year old thread dealing with the original 5D. Duh.

      Has anyone else encountered similar problems?

      best and later and love, artie

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Hey Doug et al,

        Got this on Monday 12/7 from Canon’s Chuck Westfall:

        The viewfinder data displays of 5D cameras have never been particularly bright, but the 5D Mark II had the dimmest display of all 5D series models. The 5D Mark III and 5DS/SR models are definitely brighter than the 5D Mark II, but still nowhere near as bright as a 1D series camera, for example. We have mentioned this to Canon Inc. in Japan several times over the years to request a change, but so far no dice. I’ll be happy to pass it along one more time. The viewfinder data displays of the 5D III, 5DS and 5DS R become slightly brighter when the cameras are used in bright light, but the difference is subtle.


        • Artie,
          Thanks for your note and for checking into this. I was considering returning it to B&H, but now I see that the replacement may not be any better. Otherwise as I learn about the camera, I think it is going to be a big improvement over my Mark III 1DS.



          • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

            You are welcome. The 5DS R files rock. Can’t wait till you do some bugs with it… later and love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Glad you made it home OK. Whenever fly from Albuquerque I am relieved if I get to my destination near schedule. Try eating at Pappadeaux in Concourse E at Houston next time if you have time! Lovely image. I am sure you can make great images with any camera and that the 5Dr can make spectacular images of birds.

  • avatar Steve Soderling

    Are you sure the ‘gray fuzz’ isn’t actual feather fuzz that looks gray because it’s in shadow?

  • avatar Matteo Bianchi

    I had the occasion to test the a 5dsr (a “sample” copy to be precise) during a session of sport photography organized by canon (in a local event), and the results were very good.

    Compared to the one of the 1d mark IV, the af system of the 5dsr (basically it is the same of the 5d mark III, but thanks to the new metering system the af modes in which multiple af points are active work much better, in my opinion) is superior in many ways, in particular with standard zooms and telephoto zooms. I guess that the 1d mark IV could have an advantage in drive speed with supertelephoto lenses, but I had to occasion to test such a combination, with the 5dsr.

    The main limitation that I found was neither the autofocus nor the continuous shooting speed of 5fps, but the fact that you need a very fast memory card to shoot moving subject. I was using a 600x cf card, and the camera needed a couple of seconds to show the picture on the screen, after a single shot (but it was a sample camera, as I said before).

    Another thing that I noticed is that the metering system of the 5dsr is very good, as well as the auto white balance: usually I manually set the kelvin temperature of white balance, by checking the result via live-view, but the 5dsr was quite accurate even in the automatic mode.

    Concerning your (very nice) picture, in my opinion the lack of sharpness in the 100% crop is due to the shutter speed, because of the high number of pixels. Probably the situation becomes more critical if you use panning technique at very slow shutter speed.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Mario. I agree on the 100% crop but feel that it is at least acceptably sharp.


  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Love the image Artie. Lots of PP but obviously paid off. When I first saw some of the images you created with the 5Ds, that night I had a fitful sleep dreaming about getting one. Really, I did not sleep well that night. Thanks!!!!!!! Just kidding. I guess the question I am fighting with is whether you are actually going to see the difference with this resolution on a 8X10 or 11X16 print. I suspect, once you get larger, 16X20, you will definitely start seeing the benefits. At least you would have the opportunity to keep everything together with the larger prints. Nevertheless, I keep itching the scratch that is making me consider getting this body. Thanks for sharing. Frank

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Frank. And thanks for joining us in Bosque and for sending those five excellent images for post-IPT critiquing. We do not make a lot of prints here so I would not be the best person to answer your question. But I love looking at the amazing detail. If you do get one, please remember to use my B&H affiliate link.

      later and love to you both, artie

      ps: just one spot left for the San Diego IPT.