Archive for July, 2021

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.

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