Operator Error, a Great AF System — but …, a large Crop, and not too bad an image. And a variable aperture zoom lens tip! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Operator Error, a Great AF System -- but ..., a large Crop, and not too bad an image. And a variable aperture zoom lens tip!

What’s Up?

Saturday morning at DeSoto was totally different from Friday morning. When I left my hotel it was drizzly but quickly turned cloudy, then cloudy bright, then mostly sunny by 10am. Carl Page, who had signed up for the recently canceled San Diego IPT, who was attending a business meeting in Sarasota, joined me for a morning of instruction. He was like a kid in the proverbial candy store. In addition to the birds we had seen on Friday morning we added Red Knot and a pair of tame American Oystercatchers. As Joe Usewicz did on Friday morning, Carl learned a ton about bird photography in just three hours. Carl and I also got along great, and again I had a great time. Safely. With masks when close, social distancing, and wind. And sun 🙂 My SONY 600 stayed in the back of my SUV for the entire weekend as I continued to use and learn more about my Canon loaner rig.

Today is Sunday 13 December 2020. It is foggy at 7:15am but looks clear behind that … I will likely head down to the lake in a few minutes.

Charlie Pride

Country singer Charlie Pride died yesterday at age 86. I am sending love, strength, and energy to his family and friends. Pride was one of three African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry — the others are DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. While preparing this blog post, I listened to his greatest hits here on You Tube. My favorite is the little-known Streets of Baltimore (at the 34:09 mark). I hope that you got to kiss an angel this morning 🙂

From Wikipedia here:

When Pride was 14, his mother purchased his first guitar and he taught himself to play. Though he loved music, one of Pride’s lifelong dreams was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. In 1953, he signed a contract with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. During that season, an injury caused him to lose the “mustard” on his fastball, and he was sent to the Yankees’ Class D team in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Later that season, while in the Negro leagues with the Louisville Clippers, two players – Pride and Jesse Mitchell – were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus. “Jesse and I may have the distinction of being the only players in history to be traded for a used motor vehicle,” Pride mused in his 1994 autobiography.

R5 Bodies Available Right Now!

Steve Elkins at Bedfords Camera still has a handful of R5 bodies ready to ship second day air with the 3% discount for using the BIRDSASART code at checkout. Not to mention a free copy of the Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide. Scroll down to get in touch with Steve.

Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide Info

Yesterday, thirteen folks sent PayPals for their copy of the Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide. And twelve who used my affiliate links to purchase their R5 e-mailed for their free copy of the guide. If you e-mailed or sent a PayPal and did not receive your guide, please LMK immediately via e-mail.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Two folks wrote stating that they had a better way of setting up AF on their R5s. When I wrote back explaining why they were in error, they both back-tracked. Be sure to scroll down to read about my plans for a Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide. Understand that the info in the BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide is so important that I opted to publish the AF guide immediately as the R5/R6 User’s Guide will take at least a month to finish.

BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide

Twenty-one pages. 3,452 words. 28-DPP4 screen captures showing the R5’s vaunted AF system in action. Note: the AF system of the R5 is identical to the AF system of the R6.

You will learn:

1- The two most useful AF Methods for general bird photography and for birds in flight.

2- How to set up your R5/R6 AF Menus.

3- What boxes to check (and un-check) under Limit AF Methods.

4- How to change the AF Method quickly, easily, and efficiently. Note: the default way of doing this is clunky, cumbersome, and inefficient at best. One person replied that this tip alone was worth the price of admission.

5- The only setting that should be used for Initial Servo AF pt for Face Detection + Tracking.

I you are currently using multiple back buttons either for general bird photography or for birds in flight, what you learn in this guide will change your life. For the better.

The guide is free to all who have ordered an R5 or an R6 using my B&H affiliate link or from Steve Elkins/Bedfords using the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Please send your receipt to me via e-mail. It will take me a few days to a week to verify the B&H purchases. Bedfords folks should expect their free e-Guides fairly quickly.

To purchase your copy of the e-Guide, please send a PayPal for $25.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net and be sure to include the words R5/R6 AF Guide in your PayPal e-mail. If you would like to receive your copy before Monday, please shoot me a copy of your PayPal transaction via e-mail.

Everyone who gets the guide will receive a free update no later than the first week in January.

Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide

I am planning on doing a complete Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide. This will require a lot of research, a lot of time, and a lot of effort. I am hoping to have it complete by mid- to late January. As always, folks who use the BAA affiliate links to purchase their Canon gear will receive a substantial discount.

Understand that the info in the BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide is so important that I opted to publish the AF guide ASAP.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

Brand New Listing

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 G ED VR Super-telephoto Lens (with extras)

John Mosier is offering a Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 G ED VR lens in excellent plus to near-mint condition (with extras) for a very low $8596.95. The sale includes a LensCoat, the rear lens cap, the hood, the lens trunk, the original tough front lens cover, the lens strap, the original lens foot, the Wimberley Replacement Foot for Nikon 600mm f/4.0 AF-S, the product manual, and insured ground shipping via major courier to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact John via e-mail at john@fastforwardrentals.com or by phone at 1-337-739-0400 (Central time zone).

In all systems, the 600 f/4 lenses are the weapons of mass destruction when it comes to birds and wildlife. I loved my Nikon 600 both alone and with the 1.4X teleconverter. If you use Nikon gear and have been dreaming of moving up to the big leagues, do get in touch with John ASAP to save a very sweet $3,700.00; this lens sells new for $12,296.95. artie

Back in Stock

Three sold yesterday!

We now have fifteen of the hugely popular Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro tripod heads in stock. Click on the preceding link to learn more about this amazing head, the ballhead that thinks it’s a gimbal head and — thanks to the amazing counter-balanced spring mechanism — works great with any rig from the longest, heaviest super-telephoto lens to a camera-body-mounted wide angle. The latter is possible because of the bi-directional clamp; it is no longer necessary to travel with a gimbal head for long lens photography and a ballhead for scenic photography. And after just a moment’s adjustment, the double ball enables you to ensure that every image you take is on the level.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

126 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on 11 December 2020 at Fort DeSoto Park during a morning session with old and new friend Joe Usewicz. I used the handheld Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM lens (at 500mm) and the highly touted 45MP Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO 500. Exposure determined by experience and luck and confirmed as perfect by RawDigger: 1/2500 sec. at f/7.1 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 8:42am on sunny morning.

Face Detection + Tracking/AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Photo Mechanic screen capture for the small-in-the-frame immature LBH in flight image

Operator Error and More

I’ve said it here before and often; my birds in flight skills are somewhat lacking. Here, I was not able to match my panning rate with the speed of the bird in flight. The first four frames were clipped and in today’s featured image I barely got the bird into the frame. At first I thought, This one is too small-in-the-frame — delete it. Then I realized that I have zero flight shots of immature Little Blue Heron and that this it was a sharp 45MP R5 file, so I decided to take a crack at it.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1A: RawDigger screen capture for the small-in-the-frame immature LBH in flight image

RawDigger and Canon Raw Files

When I first started looking at the R5’s CR.3 files in RawDigger I realized that something was off. After several back and forth e-mails with Patrick Sparkman and Iliah Borg — the creator and the brains behind RawDigger, we got it figured out. In the pre-publication version e-mail, there is a brand-new chart that has been updated with the Canon Max G values. I will be working hard on finishing the guide this coming week and it will have lots more info on the Canon files that have a substantially high Black Level value baked into the raw files (as compared to both Nikon and SONY files).

After the ease and convenience of having Zebras live in the viewfinder with SONY, I am struggling a bit with getting perfect exposures with the R5. I have to rely on the less-than-ideal histogram in the viewfinder followed by a review of a time-wasting test image … In addition, having the histogram in the viewfinder can play havoc with your image designs.

Huge Advantage: SONY. But, the R5 has many amazing features and is the best Canon body ever by far (with the possible exception of the far heavier 3.17 pounds), far more expensive ($6499.00) EOS-1DX Mark III. The R5 tips the scales at 1.62 pounds and sells for $3899.00.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1B: DPP4 screen capture for the small-in-the-frame immature LBH in flight image

A Great AF System. But …

The Canon R5 (and the R6 as well) have admittedly great AF systems and Face Detection + Tracking is — when set up properly — quite amazing, even astonishing. But … A user who has strength, stamina, fast reflexes, excellent hand-eye coordination, and superb fine motor skills, will do far better than most. And folks in that category who practice, practice, and practice, will do even better. Yes, the system is great. Note the large focus square in red. That is an indication of a sort of “in-the-general-area” focusing. Note that the image is sharp on the eye I have no doubt that if I had done a better job of framing and panning with the subject, and had gotten the bird closer to the center of the frame, the system would have tracked with a smaller square box indicating that face detection had worked. And in an ideal world with a user more skilled than I, there would have been a tiny box right on the eye indicating that Eye Tracking had performed perfectly.

This image was created on 11 December 2020 at Fort DeSoto Park during a morning session with old and new friend Joe Usewicz. I used the handheld Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM lens (at 500mm) and the highly touted 45MP Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO 500. Exposure determined by experience and luck and confirmed as perfect by RawDigger: 1/2500 sec. at f/7.1 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 8:42am on sunny morning.

Face Detection + Tracking/AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1C: The optimized immature Little Blue Heron in flight image

The Image Optimization

The CR.3 file was quickly and easily converted in the latest version of Capture One. First I moved the bird away from the left frame-edge in small increments using techniques from APTATS I & II. Then I cropped away about 2/3rds of the original pixels (using Original Ratio. I used the Patch Tool and Content-Aware Fill to clean up the remains beach. I did a 65-pixel Gaussian blur on the whole image, added a Hide-all (or Inverse) Layer Mask, painted in the effect only on the sand, and — because the sand looked too smoothed, reduced the opacity to about 60%. Then I ran Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto on the whole image. With the image pretty much finished, I put it through Topaz Gigapixel AI at 2X to double the file size while improving the image quality of the large crop from the 45MP file.

The techniques mentioned above and tons more (with the exception of the Capture One RAW Conversions and the Topaz stuff) — along with all of my personalized Keyboard Shortcuts — are covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail.

I was quite happy with the master file. Would I say that the image quality is superb? No, but it is more than acceptable for a wide variety of electronic and web usages, for magazine publication, and for making small to medium-sized prints.

A Variable Aperture Zoom Lens Tip!

I use manual exposure mode 95+ percent of the time. Just as you should be doing. As I have begun using the Canon RF 100-500 lens, I remembered something that I learn long ago when using the Canon 100-400 II. Many zoom lenses feature variable apertures — that is, there is a wider aperture at the short and a narrower aperture at the long end. For example, the RF 100-500 opens up to f/4.5 at 100mm, and closes down to f/7.1 at 500mm. If you are photographing birds and working in manual mode, it is important to set the aperture as follows: start by going to a smaller aperture (larger f/number) than f/7.1 (like f/11), and then dialing it down to f/7.1. Now set the correct exposure by adjusting the shutter speed and the ISO. Now, if you zoom to a shorter focal length, the aperture will remain at f/7.1 and you will still have the correct exposure. If, however, you are working at 200mm and you have the aperture set to f/5.0, for example, and then zoom to 500mm, the lens will stop down to f/7.1, the image will be under-exposed by three clicks — one full stop.


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

28 comments to Operator Error, a Great AF System — but …, a large Crop, and not too bad an image. And a variable aperture zoom lens tip!

  • Geoff

    As to the zooming with variable aperture lenses….

    There is a setting on Canon cameras titled “Same Exposure for new Aperture”. This was first introduced with the 200-400/1.4EXT lens was released. If you turn this setting ON then when you zoom a variable aperture lens, flip in and out the 1.4TC on the 200-400 or when you change on or off a 1.4 or 2.0TC (leaving the camera ON), the camera will adjust your ISO or SS to match your previous exposure (you decide which variable in a sub-menu).

    This setting is found in the Orange Custom Functions Menu #2 (first item). It is on page 810 of the R5’s PDF Advanced User Guide.

  • Good morning Guru. Hope you’re doing fine.

    Your test and review of Canon mirrorless imaging equipment are very useful for the users of this brand. Thank you very much for those.

    Wondering, whether it would be possible on your part to test few EF super telephoto lenses via Canon adapters! Some of the old Canon users here are interested in mirrorless bodies. But they are hesitant whether the highly claimed full effectiveness of the EF lenses on Canon mirrorless cameras via the adapters of the same brand is real or little short! In brief, we don’t know yet practically whether the EF lenses work flawlessly on Canon MILCs via adapters!

    May I request you for this help?

    BTW, although I don’t need new equipment at this moment however, would feel honored if I could contribute small sums as per my ability to BAA. Kindly let me know.

    With thanks and best regards.


    • Adam

      It depends on the age of the super telephoto lenses you intend to use and I would direct you to this list of lenses which will afford you total sensor area af and speed. https://support.usa.canon.com/kb/index?page=content&id=ART177813#.X9bZil0F_sA.gmail. And, https://support.usa.canon.com/kb/index?page=content&id=ART177344#.X9bcdGAZZsQ.gmail. Lenses not on those lists will operate with slower fps and/or a reduced sensor af area.

      Compatible EF lenses work flawlessly with the adapters including the venerable 400 do is ii, 500 is ii, 600 is ii & iii, 100-400 is ii, etc. it’s one of the reasons I returned to Canon.

      • Thank you Adam. This has been a great help. All three of my telephoto lenses will work. Canon claims even all EF-S lenses will also work via EOS-M and EOS-R adapters. Hope that’s also possible.

        Now, I have one rather weird question! Sometimes I stack two extenders (2x+2x or 2x+1.4x) with my EF 300mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens in order to get a close shot of the moon or birds at a distance. Of course I have to focus manually then. However, my Dual-pixel AF body 70D does AF on live view with a touch on the screen and simultaneously takes the shot also when touch shutter is activated. Kindly note, Extender version III can be nicely attached to version II Extenders. But Extender version III does not mount on another version III Extender. So, I have to mix version II and III.

        Question is; am I going to get AF in EVF if I use the same combo via adapter on an EOS R6 or EOS M50 Mark II?

        Thank you in advance.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Sanjeed, Good stuff by Adam as always.

      All of the newer EF telephoto lenses will do great with the adapters; as Adam says, “flawlessly”. As I do not own any of those anymore I will not be doing any testing. But I will be posting some great R5 mages made by others with long glass and the adapters.

      You can always leave a (greatly appreciated) BAA Blog Thank You gift here.

      with love, artie

    • Joel Eade

      I have used the following EF lenses with the R5 and the RF to EF adapter. I have noticed absolutely no degradation in their normal performance in terms of focusing and image quality.

      – 600mm f/4L IS USM II alone, with the 1.4 TC II and also the 2.0 TC III (did not try stacking the extenders)

      -16-35mm f/2.8L III

      -24-70mm f/2.8 II

      -100-400mm II

      -70-200mm f/2.8L II

      All of these function with no issues that I can discern …. the full array of focus points are available and focusing is fast as well as accurate. I would not hesitate to recommend using the adapter with any of the lenses listed above.

  • Joe Usewicz

    Glad your Saturday turned out as good as our Friday at DeSoto. Learned tons. I mean tons. And had a great time. Still editing. 🙂


  • Sue Townshend

    Is there is a link to purchase the Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide?

  • Anthony Ardito

    Fantastic save Artie! The only problem with Topaz is everything’s a keeper now.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, Anthony. Not everything though :(. The R5 is so fast that my keeper rate has gone down from about 10% to under 3% because I take so many more images …

      with love, artie

      ps: Don’t forget SONY …

  • John H Edmondson

    What is max G?

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Max G is the magic number in RawDigger. If you exceed it, you will be over-exposed. Most folks under-expose everything. RawDigger can help you learn to mega-expose to the right without blowing the highlights.

      with love, artie

  • David J Policansky

    Artie: thanks for the baseball information on Charley Pride, who has long been a favorite of mine. I didn’t know of his baseball career. Glad he lost the mustard on his fastball. Question about the Canon AF. Is what you said about it, needing panning skills and practice to get the best out of it, also true of the Sony AF?

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW, David. I loved him too.

      I should have been more specific. Zone or Wide with SONY is more forgiving. Face detection + tracking requires additional skills with Canon. The jury is out on Zone or Zone: Horizontal with Canon …

      with love, artie

  • Joel Eade

    I’m still having difficulty understanding your explanation or maybe I am confused about how the variable aperture lens functions -:)

    To me, it seems if I dialed in proper exposure for an image at 200mm using f/5.0 then I zoomed to 500mm and the lens automatically goes to f/7.1 the resulting image @ 500mm will be under-exposed. (assuming no change in shutter speed, iso or ambient light).

  • Adam

    “I am struggling a bit with getting perfect exposures with the R5. I have to rely on the less-than-ideal histogram in the viewfinder followed by a review of a time-wasting test image”

    I over-exposed a really good osytercatcher with a clam image yesterday while creating a test shot …

    Perfect exposure is even more important with the R5 than the Sony as it is less forgiving with shadow recovery for under exposure compared to the a9(ii). See: https://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR_Shadow.htm#Canon%20EOS%20R5,Sony%20ILCE-9M2.

    Thanks for the links. I am not comfortable with the scientific end of photography but I think that I understand it. Don’t forget (see lots of threads on BPN) that I am the guy that believes black shadows should be black 🙂

    That’s been my experience and the lack of zebras for stills on the R5 is inexcusable IMHO.

    On that we agree but only 100%.

    Interestingly, I followed your workflow and wondered whether you observed a difference in whether you send the image to Denoise first or after you make other adjustments?

    I do not. Usually I do DeNoise as the first step but since I knew I was bringing the cropped, cleaned-up image to Gigapixel, I ran DeNoise after the crop and the clean-up. While I am not sure that that makes sense, the image looked fine.

    If working in PS, it shouldn’t matter because one can import the Topaz Denoise as a layer and preserve the RAW workflow, but in other RAW editors such as Capture One, One1 PR, etc. one has to convert the RAW file to a .pdf or .tiff before sending it to Denoise AI.

    I am not sure that I understand that (I always convert in C-1 and then do DeNoise on the converted TIFF), but I think that you meant .psd rather than .pdf. Or not.

    much love, artie

  • Joel Eade

    The R5 AF guide is very helpful … mine is now set up and ready, thank you!

    I think this is a typo:

    “If you accidentally set an aperture wider than f/7.1 (f/5.6, for example), and you zoom in, you will over-expose the image.”

    I think the image would be under exposed if when zooming in the aperture went from f/5.6 to f/7.1

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, Joel. I’ve read the short passage eleven times and I finally think that I see my error.

      I have re-crafted it above. Please LMK if the new version makes sense.

      with love, artie

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