Excuses for an Unsharp Flight Shot. Topaz Sharpen AI to the Rescue. And a possible bug in Sharpen AI V. 2.2.2 « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Excuses for an Unsharp Flight Shot. Topaz Sharpen AI to the Rescue. And a possible bug in Sharpen AI V. 2.2.2

What’s Up?

I spent a good many hours working on the RawDigger e-Guide yesterday and will do the same today.

It is Thursday 24 December and I will be headed down to the lake in a few to set up a road kill cafe for the vultures (and possibly for a Bald Eagle or two).

Wanted to Buy

I have a potential buyer for a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lens. If you have one that you are looking to sell, please get in touch via e-mail.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be very active. The 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 eleven months at the bottom of the page.

Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide Info

So far, 50 folks have sent PayPals for their copy of the Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide. And 27 who used my affiliate links to purchase their R5 have e-mailed for and received 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. Three 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, two of them back-tracked. One stubborn guy is still doing it his way — less efficiently. 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.

Here are the first three paragraphs of this e-Guide:

From the moment I learned about the new Canon mirrorless bodies, I read about using two or three back-buttons to focus using different AF methods. The word on the street said that the way to go for birds in flight was to use one button to acquire focus with Zone AF or with Large Zone: Horizontal AF and then switch to another button to activate Face Detection + Tracking AF and then use the shutter button to make an image. My immediate thought was, “This is insanity! There has got to be a better way.” In short, there is a far superior way to set up AF on your R5 or R6.

Remember that I got away from any form of back-button or rear focusing many years ago after finally realizing that it is always easier to do one thing (press the shutter button), than it is to do two things (press a back button and then press the shutter button).

The default method of switching AF Methods with the R5/R6 bodies is cumbersome at best. It involves first pressing the grid button (my name) on the upper right back of the camera and then pressing the hard-to-access M-Fn button to toggle through the AF Methods. This method is so bad that it will not be mentioned again in this guide.

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.

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.

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.

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop).

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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. 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.

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 23 December 2020 at Indian Lake Estates, FL. Working from my vehicle, 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 1000. Exposure determined using the in-camera histogram and confirmed as perfect by RawDigger: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 8:20am on sunny morning.

Large Zone: Horizontal/AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure and performed well (see the DPP 4 screen capture below). Click the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Black Vulture landing with wings swept back

The Situation

aka My Excuses

I had the driver’s side window raised about 4 inches. The SONY 600 GM/2X TC/a7r iv rig was resting firmly on the BLUBB. There was not much room to shoot out of the window handheld with the Canon rig. But when I spotted a Black Vulture angling toward the perch coming right down light angle, I grabbed the Canon 100-500 and did my best to get on the bird. I have already set the exposure for vultures. I fired off about six frames Two of the flight poses were decent; this one was best by far. But, because I had little room to work and I was in quite a hurry, I had not been able to pan smoothly with the subject. While I was thrilled that the Canon AF system acquired focus pretty much instantly, the image simply was not sharp. Jerking the lens will always produce some motion blur even at relatively fast shutters speeds like 1/2000 sec. Topaz AI to the rescue …

Image #1A: The DPP4 screen capture for the Black Vulture landing with wings swept back gear showing the active AF points.

DPP4 Screen Capture

Here, Large Zone: Horizontal AF plastered the side of the bird with AF points. With the bird angling ever so slightly towards me, the bird’s head is pretty much right on the same plane as the swept back wings; I would say that the AF system had performed reasonably well. I have been working hard to learn which is the best R5 AF Method for birds in flight, but I simply have not had many flight opportunities for the past few weeks … I would have expected similar results with SONY Zone or Wide. That said, SONY does not offer users the chance to review AF settings or the active AF points after the fact. As I have said here often, that is quite unfortunate as folks need that info to learn about their AF systems. Kudos to Canon for having the AF info readily available in DPP 4.

Click on the image to see the improved sharpness in the After image on our right.

Image #1B: Topaz Sharpen AI on the Black Vulture landing with wings swept back image

Topaz Sharpen AI

With this image being mega-exposed to the right (thanks to what I have been learning in RawDigger), I opted not to run Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto on the whole image (as I do with almost every photo that I process). Knowing right off the bat that I had not panned smoothly when creating this image, I knew that the problem was with motion blur. And I hoped that the Stabilize setting in Topaz Sharpen AI would do the trick. I was quite surprised when I hit the Auto button and it chose the Focus setting. The image did not look any sharper. When I switched (properly) to Stabilize, the image sharpened up quite nicely. And the Noise Suppression setting of 50 completely eliminated the small pixel noise in the sky. Once again Sharpen AI transformed an insta-delete into a useable, sharp-enough photo.

Is there a bug in Topaz Sharpen AI Version 2.2.2?

As this is the third straight time that Topaz Sharpen AI Version 2.2.2 running on macOS Catalina incorrectly chose Focus rather than Stabilize with an R5 image, I believe that there may very well be a problem with Topaz Sharpen AI Version 2.2.2. If you have encountered a similar problem after recently updating Topaz Sharpen AI, please leave a comment with specifics. I will be trying to get in touch with Topaz later today.


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

10 comments to Excuses for an Unsharp Flight Shot. Topaz Sharpen AI to the Rescue. And a possible bug in Sharpen AI V. 2.2.2

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Adam, Thanks as always. I am trying to download the latest R5 firmware update right now. I have simply had too many strange not-sharp flight images with the R5/100-500. If my life depended on making one sharp flight image right now I would go with he a9 ii.

    with love and enjoy the day. And a belated happy Chanukah 🙂


  • avatar Adam

    Yes, I notice that Topaz AI does that a fair amount. One way to circumvent that is to select the panel display where one can see the results of all sharpening actions. Hit update and then select the one which produces the best result. I find that the default for stabilize is almost always nearly 2x the setting I usually end up with.

  • avatar Kathy Kunce

    Seems like I can’t use the Topaz filters with Photoshop CS 3 – I know, I know. Any other program that would sharpen with my antiquated photoshop?

  • avatar Ryan Sanderson

    Did you have IS on with the R5? There have been lots of discussions about whether the IS may cause blurring of flight shots with higher shutter speeds.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, Ryan. That may be an issue. I am using Electronic Shutter for flight and notice that the bird seems to shimmy a bit in the viewfinder … I love the framing stability that IS 2 provides but I will try some without IS on and see how that works.

      with love, arite

      • avatar Ryan Sanderson

        I want to preface this as being strictly conjecture on my part and I have no proof of this, but it seems to fit my experience. When tracking a subject, it seems as if the IBIS tries to keep the subject in the exact same spot in the frame and shifts the sensor to do this. With traditional lens based IS only, it seemed that it served to counter any movement of the lens. When I’ve been on my kayak with my 600III and R5 and slowly drifting past the subject while photographing it, there is an odd occurrence in the EVF where everything stabilizes and as I’m moving past the subject (and I know I’m moving), everything just stays stable for at least a short while. And then when I let go of the focus button, the image quickly jumps and the subject jumps to where I’d expect it to be in the frame.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Thanks, Ryan. I thought that I had set that to On and that your comment would be the answer to my problems. But when I finally found the setting (you cannot have an IS lens attached to see it at Shooting (RED) 7), and it was set to Off …

          I had lots of unsharp fight shots yesterday, so it is back to square one for me …

          with love, a

          • avatar Adam

            Yes, I’ve heard sporadic reports of this with the R5 and predominantly with the 600 f/4 is iii or 100-500 EF. It may be that these are two of the more popular birding lenses so one would expect the complaints would be more frequent, or perhaps there is a problem.

            Most people have reported some difficulties similar to those described at faster shutter speeds (>1/2000). They’ve described it both with IS modes 1 & 2. Interestingly, Canon did release firmware updates for the 600 f/4 (1.1.3) and the body (1.2.0). An earlier FW update 1.1.1 addressed, “Fixes a phenomenon in which the IS capabilities may be degraded when performing continuous shooting in cases where the RF100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens is attached to the EOS R5 running firmware version 1.1.0.”

            I’ve been using a 500 f/4 is ii, a 100-400 w/wo TC’s without any difficulty though quite frankly the light in this area is pretty lousy and I’ve rarely exceeded 1/2500. My routine is to leave IS on and in mode 2 and I haven’t experienced any difficulties whether on a tripod or off. Try turning IS off and let us know if that improves things.

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