Re: RF 100-500 - trouble with autofocus and birds
5 months ago

Jeffrey_L wrote:

I'm fairly new to the R6. I rented the RF 100-500mm zoom for a trip to the lake. I was trying to get some good wildlife & bird shots. I struggled with birds in flight, and I'm curious if I was doing something wrong. I was in an area with almost no cell service or internet options, so I couldn't research anything at the time.

Generally, any object that was not moving (or moving very slowly) was fine. With birds in flight, the lens was often hunting to capture focus. I rarely got a shot off, and when I did it was not sharp at all. Mostly, The lens kept hunting the focal range and never finding the target in flight.

I had autofocus set to image tracking and set to "animals" not "people". I tried different image tracking AF settings (auto, 2, and 3), but that did not help. I had Image Stabilization "on" for both the lens and camera, if that matters. I flipped the switch on the lens to limit the autofocus to 3m-infinity, but that did not help either.

I was in daylight, so there was plenty of light.

I have a couple days left with the lens, so I'll do a little "goose hunting" at the local park. To be honest, I can't stand geese - but at least I can practice a bit.


Can you post some samples of the "failures?"

#1 rule: I recommend turning all image stabilization OFF for BIFs. Instead set a fast shutter speed of 1/2500 - 1/3200. Once you get more adept at BIFs, then you can mess with IS mode 2 for some slow shutter effects.

Turn "Continuous AF" to OFF.

I like Servo AF Case 2 (modified to -2 "Tracking Sensitivity," and +2 "Accel/decel").

Set "Switching tracked subjects" to 0.

"Lens drive when AF impossible" set to ON.

Set the "Initial Servo AF pt" to AUTO. The camera will find your subject (eye/face/body) anywhere in the frame VERY quickly.

I like using the Electronic Shutter for BIFs (with Burst Mode) almost exclusively. You do give up a little IQ (12-bit RAWs vs 14-bit), but the view in the EVF is smoother that way. However for the smallest fastest birds, I'll use Mechanical Shutter (at H+). Yesterday I was shooting Tree Swallows in flight for an hour (until my arms got sore!). If you use eShutter on them, then you start to get rolling shutter effects and aliased wing edges. For larger "slower" birds (like you describe), then eShutter is awesome.

Track as perfectly as possible along the subject's flight path. Keep the subject in exactly the same place in the frame (don't let it wander around the frame!). Even at very high shutter speeds you can get motion blur when the subject moves around the frame (remember, AF only works in the Z Axis!).

Oh yeah, practice lots!

Uncropped full-size image. Click on "original size." EXIF is intact.

Try these suggestions (they work best for me so far). I shoot hundreds of BIFs every week. Best of luck!


Good judgment comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgment.