I know I usually write about classic lenses and old school gear but this time round I figured I would let you know how my two most modern cameras do with tracking moving subjects and keeping them in focus with the latest gear. There is technically a classic or near vintage angle to this story, after all Canon and Nikon both have AF lenses dating back to the 1980s!

I wrote up the Canon EOS-M6 Mk II last month and you all know I have an EOS R5 as well. I have been shooting pictures of my lovely dog Mindy lately and decided to discuss how well the AF works tracking her as she tends to move about in a rather fidgety manner.

The M6 Mk II does a great job tracking moving subjects. It does offer eye detect and tracking but only for human eyes. Occasionally it will pick up my dog’s eye(s) but tends not to track them well. It does lock on to her head pretty well even as she runs towards the camera. If you have an older M6 Mk II you may need to get a firmware update to unlock the eye detect tracking, I can’t remember whether or not the M6 Mk II shipped from day one with the feature active. I had about a 70% hit rate with about 40% spot on. The M6 also managed to keep the shooting speeds up pretty high although I only used the 14fps once to test it.

The R5 is a more powerful and sophisticated camera, four times as expensive so it ought to be, right? It has eye detect focus that can identify animals including dogs, cats, birds and other species… even humans 😉 The R5 locks on to human eyes extremely well, especially if you set it to ‘favor’ humans. When shooting animals you can set it to ‘favor’ animal eyes as well. The subject can turn away and then turn back and the camera effortlessly switches between head tracking and eye tracking. For Sony users the modern a7R-IV, a9-II, and a1 also offer this feature and in fact were ahead of Canon with this tech by a year or two. Most reviewers seem to feel Canon and Sony are now at parity as far as focus tracking is concerned. Nikon is a tad behind on this with tracking that is a little less consistent. The R5 hit almost every time. I had roughly 90% hit rate with 70-80% spot on even at fast drive speeds. I did not use the electronic shutter and push to 20 fps, but it held its own at mechanical 12fps. Generally I shoot a little slower for the people and dog shots. For hummingbirds and flying insects the faster speeds are nice.

My great friend Graham and co-owner of the PhotoFair likes to shoot with manual focus lenses, in particular vintage Leica and Zeiss. I do too, but for spastic dogs… I’ll bring out the modern gear 🙂 He gets some brilliant images of his many pets using classic techniques of finding a point of focus and waiting for the dog to come into range. Just before begin shooting and until past. Motor drive speed is important with that technique. These new cameras including his Sony a7R-IV and my EOS R5 are undeniably amazing at tracking fast moving subjects with amazing precision.

I had the EOS R before I bought the R5 and the R seemed to work about the same as the M6 Mk II but only after the firmware update for eye control was released a year or so after the camera came out. I presume the RP is similar as well. Sony updated the firmware on a7R-III and a7-III as well as several other models to bring them into the eye tracking universe. The older cameras will not work as well as the newer models due mostly to the more powerful and faster processing of the latest designs.

If you are thinking about buying one of these cameras either the latest Sony models or Canon models the eye tracking and tracking in general works extremely well.

Below are a few photos using the tracking system in both the EOS M6 Mk II, EOS R, and EOS R5:

Mindy trots towards camera, EOS R5 with EF 70-300 L IS animal eye detect
Mindy briefly stops, EOS R5 with EF 70-300 L IS animal eye detect

I had six shots taken in sequence here at the slowest drive speed (3fps?) as Mindy trotted right up to the camera at a modest speed. The R5 nailed the focus on the eyes every time. The last frame where she came to a stop I had to zoom back a bit. The shots had a variety of framing issues, but all were sharp.

Bumblebee taken with EOS M6 Mk II with EF 100/2.8 L Macro IS using the tracking it is cropped in about 15-20%
Bumblebee in flight to next flower. EOS M6 Mk II with 100/2.8 L IS Macro Cropped in about 15-20%

These shots of the bees had a lesser hit rate, but these little bastards were buzzing all over and I was trying to follow them, my fault more than camera. In flight shot seems to be a little off. Thought it was camera shake but lens has IS and shutter speed was 1/2000th so that one was a slight miss but still salvageable.

third shot ( first two awkward looking partial yawns) of sequence R5 with 100/2.8 L IS Macro animal eye detect
fifth shot (fourth shot was awkward half yawn) R5 100/2.8 L Macro animal eye detect
sixth shot R5 100/2.8 L macro animal eye detect

The cat was not moving but the yawn in the middle of the sequence tested the tracking and it immediately snapped back to the eyes after the yawn. I deliberately blew out the background highlights as the background was distracting.

Hummingbird approaches feeder EOS R with 70-300 L
Hummingbird about to land EOS R with 70-300 L
Hummingbird feeds EOS R with 70-300 L
Hummingbird thinking about another sip EOS R with 70-300 L

The hummingbird sequence hit nearly every time with only a couple misses out of dozens and dozens of shots. Most of the shots I didn’t use were more about the position of the bird. These shots need a little more post work, but that EOS R did well tracking a fast moving subject. The R5 is notably better at tracking but the reasonably priced EOS R which is HALF the cost does well too.

I wrote a few months back that 2021 might mark the end of the EOS M camera line. Canon appears to be all in on the new RF mount cameras and this is understandable as the system is proving to be world class. But I also made a case for why the M series is still viable. Check that out here. The M system is small and compact and the EF-M mount is 30% smaller allowing for much more compact lenses and bodies.

Since I believe Canon is not going to release a Mark II version of the M5, I decided to buy the M6 Mark II. So far I am very impressed. I am a bit annoyed about having to return to an EVF that is attached to the hot shoe rather than built in. But the camera makes up for that with a clearly superior build quality to the predecessor models M5 and M6, and much improved performance with a superior sensor and updated processor.

I bought an EOS R5 in 2020 and I love the camera. It has been nothing short of stupendous. But it is a full sized camera with full sized lenses that make the camera less than ideal for compact carry. This is why I intend to keep the EOS M system in some capacity indefinitely. The M6 Mark II is a very versatile camera offing fast and accurate AF with Canon’s eye tracking ability and shooting speeds of 14 fps with AF.

Another aspect to the system I like is the Metabones Speed Booster. This allows me to mount an EF lens to my EF-M camera and realize a one stop speed boost. I have written about this technology quite a bit including this post here. With the Metabones this M6 Mark II serves as a backup camera to my R5 because I use mostly EF lenses anyway on that body. The Metabones eliminates most of the crop factor which means I can use this camera as a backup to my R5!

I am mostly using this camera for travel and as a camera for “fun” when I am out shooting snapshots. My iPhone 12 Pro takes pretty good photos but the M6 Mark II is much better particularly when telephoto shots are needed. I am still a long ways away from ceding to my phone any serious photography efforts.

The 32mp sensor seems to have better dynamic range than the previous 24mp sensor and that is likely due to new technology and processing power. This camera is excellent and the fact that Canon sells it for $900 new is amazing. Of course you have to pay an extra $200 for the EVF and I would recommend that wholeheartedly.

When comparing the M6 mark II to the R5 in size, I can barely fit the R5 with one small lens in the same bag I get the M6 Mark II and 5 lenses in! There is no comparison in size between the two systems. The R5 is ten times the camera but it is not convenient for travel and other activities where a heavy bag is intrusive to the experience. It is here where my old M5 and now this M6 Mark II thrive.

For those of you that use Sony, much of what I love about the M6 Mark II can be replicated by using one of Sony’s a6000 series cameras. Notably the a6400 or a6600 models. The latter offers IBIS which is not offered in any Canon M series camera. Sony also has the advantage of sharing lens mounts between the two systems a6000 series and the full frame a7 series.

My M6 Mark II system includes the following APS-C lenses:

  • Samyang UMC Fish-Eye 8mm f/2.8 II (manual focus)
  • Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
  • Sigma EF-S 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 OS HSM (with Canon EF-EF-M adapter)
  • Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (pancake)
  • Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM
  • KamLan EF-M 50mm f/1.1 (manual focus)
  • Metabones EF-EF-M speed booster 0.71x

The first five are part of my “travel kit” that all fits tidy in a camera bag barely big enough to hold 3 soda cans. One of the fun things to do with this small camera is portraits using an older LTM or M mount rangefinder lens. There are dozens of cool adapters allowing you to mount vintage glass on most mirrorless cameras including the EOS M series. I get great results shooting my old school Leica glass on this camera.

Below are some shots I did today with the camera just goofing around. All the images were made with the Canon EF-M 32/1.4 except the picture of my dog was done with the vintage Leica Summarit 50/1.5 in LTM mount on an adapter. This M6 Mark II is a solid camera and it works pretty well for video too, I have a couple of PhotoFair videos up on YouTube done with this camera.

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