Welcome to 2021, I truly hope for a a better world this year. However I still have a few photos to share from 2020… when being creative and making pictures was so important.

Today the last day I want to share something “completely different”. I really like to make photos with people and motorsports as my main subjects. However in the course of the work I do I need to do a range of other subjects too. Early in 2020 I visited Slimbridge Wetland Centre for a day photographing birds of various kinds. I had the EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS R and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender.

It was a typical damp, cold grey January day, but I persisted and even managed a few shots of geese flying in to the wetland areas with the EOS R. But ISO 12,800 to achieve 1/2000s and f/5.6 meant that it was a challenging day with not so many great results. I was pleased that I did manage one or two sharp shots with the EOS R, but it was much easier with the superior AF of the EOS 5D Mark IV. So here’s a shot with the EOS 5D Mark IV that is not a flying bird!

  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • 1/1250s, f/5.6, ISO 8000

Then Canon introduced the EOS R5 and EOS R6 and something changed. Mirrorless AF that would outperform my EOS 5D Mark IV. Not only speed of focus, but ability to find the subject in the frame when presented with complex scenes.

  • EOS R6
  • EF 135mm f/2L USM
  • 1/4000s, f/2.8, ISO 2500

I had setup the EOS R6 on a tripod in a garden to test out it’s abilities with more challenging subjects. It already seemed that people and their faces were too easy for it. With animal priority and eye AF active I let the camera find the subject where it happened to be in the frame. To make matters more challenging I shot at almost wide open on my EF 135mm f/2L USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses. Shutter speed was set to freeze movement and let the camera look after the exposure with auto ISO. I connected an extension cable to the RS60-E3 remote and headed inside to watch and wait to press the shutter.

I positioned the camera so that there was a good number of branches in the scene and hoped birds would land in amongst them. Also I wanted to see if the contrasty lines of the branch would fool the AF. This chaffinch landed on the top branch right at the top of the frame, far beyond the AF coverage of a DSLR. EOS R6 found bird’s head, eye, and then locked on for three consecutive shots as it moved along the branch. Some kind of magic AF was happening. Looking through the photos was a revelation, the camera had “witchcraft AF”.

  • EOS R6
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM @ 190mm
  • 1/4000s, f/2.8, ISO 800

I changed my camera position and changed lens. The new shot had three hanging bird see feeders, each a nice line of vertical contrast for the camera to enjoy. I headed back indoors to the remote release button. Once again the witchcraft AF was in full effect, locking on to this blue tit as it approached the feeders from behind them, and getting its eye sharp even when the front of the seed feeder is drifting out of focus. And all this happened before the bird landed on the feeder. It is also important to understand that this shot is a crop from the 20MP original image that has three hanging feeders across the frame. It was not luck, there’s a lot of sequences where birds eye has been found and accurately focused on anywhere in the frame.

I knew that it was definitely time to go mirrorless, and go all in.

Well that’s it, my final 12-days of Christmas picture. Despite a year where photoshoots and workshops have been so limited I have still survived and made photos that I’m happy with. If you’ve read the captions of the photos you’ll sense that I have moved on from February 2020 where I wrote that mirrorless EOS R had almost taken over my photography. The reality is that since the summer I’ve moved to a mirrorless first set of kit. EOS R6 is now my new main camera, the EOS R, EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS 200D have all gone from my camera bags, as have a few EF and all my EF-S lenses.