EOS R6 and EOS R5 have amazing autofocus capability and I wanted to configure my EOS R6 autofocus controls to provide me with direct access. Here’s my custom buttons for EOS R6 / R5 AF.
When the cameras first came out I thought that I’d simply move my extensive custom settings from the EOS R over to my EOS R6. With the experience that come from using the camera for a few months, I’ve revised my setup to make the best of the capabilities and controls on these cameras.
EOS R5 / EOS R6 autofocus controls customisation
Since having the camera I’ve mostly photographed people, but I have also tried some back garden and local nature reserve wildlife too -something to do with a pandemic and three lockdowns.
The settings I’ve made work for both cameras and these are the buttons and controls that I’ve changed
- Joystick / multi-controller
- AF selection button
- Movie button
- AF-ON button
The joystick is back!
I’m so happy to see the return of the joystick / multi-controller on both cameras. It’s such an instinctive control to use to reposition your AF point. Like all my other EOS cameras with a joystick I have it configured for direct AF point selection. Don’t forget this also means that if you push the joystick in to the camera body, the AF point will return to the centre of the image.
Quite possibly this is the one control where I think Canon’s default setting over the years is always wrong. It’s also the one that gets the biggest “thank you for making my camera work better” on any workshop or 1-2-1 training session. You may also need to set the AF point location for landscapes, macro and still life photography.
If you are wondering why I’m still using the joystick with the marvellous face and eye-AF? The reality is that sometimes you will need to direct the camera where to focus, if there’s no obvious subject, or your composition of a person doesn’t include two eyes, nose and mouth.
C.Fn3 > Customise buttons > Multi-controllers > Direct AF point selection
With the return of the joystick I have no need for touch and drag AF on the camera. If I’m using the camera on a tripod I can move the AF point by touching on the screen or with the joystick, but for shooting with the viewfinder the joystick wins every time.
AF point button – toggle AF method
I was really happy with my EOS R setup using the movie button to switch AF method and I did the same with my EOS R6 autofocus controls initially. Now I’ve moved it again. EOS R5 / R6 have more buttons available to use for direct AF method selection, and I now use the AF point button. A simple press of the button toggles the AF method between the available AF methods, which are 1-point AF and face detection on my camera.
Conventionally the AF point button is the start of access to two AF settings, AF point position and AF method selection. You press the button to tell the camera you want to change some AF setting, then press the M-Fn to change AF method, or move the joystick to reposition the AF point. Given that I just explained how to set the joystick for direct AF point selection, I no longer need the AF point button to give me access to that feature.
When I found I could set AF point button to direct AF method selection it was natural to change the button function, and I find it natural to use when shooting. It would be amazing if Canon would retrospectively provide this ability to the EOS R & RP via firmware updates.
C.Fn3 > Customise buttons > AF point button > Direct AF method selection
I do have a question for Canon, why is this useful change not possible when the camera is shooting movies? An oversight surely.
AF4 > Limit AF methods
I have found the face and eye detection AF so good that I can hardly see a need for anything else on the EOS R5/R6, but when that time arises it’s been 1-point AF or very occasionally spot AF that is needed. I have therefore deactivated all the other AF methods on my camera apart from face detection and 1-point AF. I turn on spot AF only when needed.
Movie button – toggle Eye AF
My movie button is reconfigured to switch Eye AF on or off. It only works if the camera is set to face detection AF, and in the shoots I’ve done so far I hardly need to turn Eye AF off. However if the subject is really small in the frame you can turn it off for faster AF.
C.Fn3 > Customise buttons > Movie shooting button > Eye detection
AF-ON button – Eye detection AF
I’ve also reconfigured the AF-ON button to activate Eye AF. Whatever AF method I’m using, I can always get Eye AF focusing by using the typical back button, AF-ON.
C.Fn3 > Customise buttons > AF-ON button > Eye detection AF
What you might not have worked out is that I’m no longer using back button AF. I now realise that the terrible placement and shape of the EOS R AF-ON button was a Canon plan to wean me off back button AF 🙂
I had also used back button AF to avoid switching between servo and one-shot AF, press and hold for servo, press and release for one shot. However the new reality is that with EOS R5/R6 I can now use Servo AF all the time, and even recompose a portrait once the face has been detected.
Simpler setup for general photos
One of the many things I hear from photographers is how little they change their cameras from one shoot situation to the next. So many use aperture priority, 1-point or auto AF point selection and that is it. They simply select the aperture, focus and take the shot.
With the EOS R5 / R6 it is now much easier to have a camera that deals with many kinds of general photography. You can largely leave the camera in Servo AF since you can put the AF point where you want in the frame and focus with 1-point AF. The old way of focus – lock – recompose is indeed a thing of the past, you now have compose – focus, and that means your composition should improve too. Aperture priority with auto ISO and you are pretty good for most things.
That said, these are truly great cameras, I already rate my EOS R6 above my EOS 5D Mark IV for the photography I do.
Canon you can make these cameras even better
Hey Canon this is for you. After using the cameras for a while I’ve determined that me and other photographers would benefit from a couple of additional programmable features for EOS R5 / EOS R6 autofocus controls. What’s more I am convinced you can do this with firmware?
Here’s my request…
Switching between face detection with auto and user selected initial AF point
When I’m using face detection AF with or without Eye AF the camera is very good at finding the subject. However when it doesn’t I have found that switching to manually chosen initial AF point really helps it to focus when auto selection of the subject is failing. Backlight portraits where the subjects face is really dark are the usual one for me.
I also heard feedback from people shooting wildlife that they would like to choose where the camera starts looking for faces / eyes when the subject is amongst the trees or in long grass. Fortunately there is a feature in the AF settings to allow that, Initial Servo AF pt for face detection. I want to have the ability to switch between AUTO and a chosen point with a button, not a dive in the menu.
Whilst a similar function is available in several DSLR cameras I never had much change in my results as I rarely used all the AF points in the cameras. With the EOS R6 that’s changed.
Switching between people / animal subject detection with a button not only via the menu
I think there should be a way to switch between animal and human face detection.
My current workaround is to put both these settings on a My Menu screen, so I find them quickly. I would love to be able to put them on a button. Movie, depth of field preview, AF-ON, AE-lock, M-Fn or the light button on the R5 are all candidates.
Excellent article Brian, thanks. I am tempted to move to the EOS R5 or R6, from my 5D Mk 111. Why did you choose the EOS R6 (appreciate there is a slight cost differential) rather than the R5?
And why don’t Canon ask experts like you for your thoughts before they commit to configurations?
Thank you for the kind comment. I’d say that there is a significant expense gap between the R5 and R6, more than the camera cost alone. However for the work and photography I currently do the EOS R6 is a great match. You might want to take a look at the post I wrote a little earlier for more specifics: https://www.p4pictures.com/2021/01/moved-to-mirrorless-with-eos-r6/
I’m confident that Canon does take steps to seek feedback and input for future products from photographers. Final camera specification is invariably a combination of technological, marketing and cost considerations just like any product.
Most photographers if asked would like all the features they can imagine for half the price and before the technology is reliably developed. I can imagine gathering requests for an ideal lens, and who wouldn’t like a 10-1000mm f/1.8 lens with image stabiliser that weights 400 – 500g, is the size of a drinks can, costs £250 and has outstanding optical quality at all settings including life-size macro? 😉
Brian / p4pictures
Excellent article Brian!
As always you’ve made me think about the way I customise the buttons on my camera. One thing I have done, that you have not talked about, is I have customised the control ring on my RF lenses to select AF method and also limited the AF methods to FaceAF and 1 point AF. I will now update my Movie button to toggle EyeAF (at the moment I have that on one of the MyMenu pages.
Once again thanks for your tips/help.
Happy you liked it and found value in a few of the points. Interesting about the AF area with control ring. I’m not really using control ring as only had RF lenses since December 2020. Even with two different RF lenses I find it difficult to find the control ring by feel as it keeps moving location due to different placement on each lens. I think I tend to work by feel on the buttons and that suits me for consistent placement.
Brian / p4pictures
Initial Server AF Point for face detection.
I’m new, only got the camera yesterday, watching a video from this guy, he strongly advises not using auto, any thoughts on this. Just setting up my camera for first time, I realise people have different ideas and it may be because he mainly shots people, but just looking for advice, how do find auto behaves?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwMM4F3jzNY Starts at 30.50
I watched the section of video you referred to. I think he recorded it quite quick after the cameras launched, and as such what he says is not 100% accurate. The Initial Servo AF pt for face detection setting is only applied when using face detection AF method AND servo AF. In use, I find that the auto works very well, in fact I use it around 90% of the time for model shoots / portraits, and 80% or more for wildlife. If the camera finds multiple faces you can use the joystick to move to the alternate ones. As I wrote I think Canon should have allowed a custom button to select auto / selected AF point switching without going in to the menu.
I’d say my camera only gets used in manual focus and servo AF, I have stopped using one shot AF altogether – landscapes aren’t really my thing. Once the camera finds an eye it will track the eye around the frame as you recompose in servo AF.
Brian / p4pictures
Nice reading. Would you be kind enough to shed some light on the following AF button usage scenario?
1. Shutter set to AF+Metering start (default setting)
2. AF-ON set to start EyeAF tracking
3. AF mode set to 1-Point AF
4. AF set to Servo
So, here are the usage scenarios:
A) Press shutter button halfway. 1-Point AF engages and starts tracking. Pressing the shutter further takes the picture
B) Press AF-ON button. Eye-AF engages and starts tracking any eye it can find. Pressing the shutter to take the picture does NOT override the Eye-AF and the shot is taken with the eye in focus.
Does this makes sense? Can I still keep the shutter button set to activate AF AND use any back buttons to engage different AF modes? Will it focus as accurately or am I messing the camera up by pressing two buttons that activate AF in different ways?
Every article thus far was referring to back button AF and required the shutter to be decoupled from AF function, so I am confused this seems to be working on my R6.
Yes the scenario you describe does work, as the first button pressed takes priority. So if you press AF-ON first then the shutter button, your camera uses Eye-AF.
I did a simple test, after I configured my camera as per your setup.
I took two photos, 1st with the shutter button pressed only – EXIF info shown by Canon DPP shows 1-point AF.
Second shot taken by pressing AF-ON first then shutter button and EXIF data shows Face Detection + Tracking AF. EXIF data doesn’t show eye detection status even if manually chosen.
Brian / p4pictures
Cool, thanks for the reply.
It makes me wonder why no one else is talking about this and still only mention back button focus configurations! (also, a mention of button priority in the manual would be great, dear Canon…)
For me using this setup feels much more intuitive and easy.
You need to let the world know of this! So much information out there, repeating the same things over and over and something as simple as this gets buried. This could make things so much easier for people.
Let me clarify a little further. With your configuration if you half-press the shutter button initially to activate focus with 1-point AF, and subsequently press the AF-ON button while keeping your finger half-pressed on the shutter then the camera will still switch to Eye AF.
Additionally you can configure some buttons as switch to registered AF function, so I could use the AE-lock / * button to switch to Zone AF and even switch to different parameters for the AF case if required.
Why is no one talking about this – honestly a majority of people have enough trouble remembering to press AF-ON when they setup back button AF, so adding the extra layer of complexity is already pretty advanced.
Brian / p4pictures
Ok, so sounds like the back buttons override the shutter AF. Still, this way seems very straightforward to me. In fact, using the three back buttons and the shutter one could have 4(!) different AF setups ready to go.
I understand the complexity that would bring to the table and most likely hinder muscle memory, but still it is nice to have that option, if you wish to use it.
For me, it boils down to this. Focus as usual using shutter button using the selected AF mode. Looking for an eye? Hit the AF-ON button. Done.
Thanks again for the thorough explanation. I was worried the camera might go up in flames or something 🙂
REF. EOS R5: I chose to select a button to toggle through the AF Methods (Manual Pg. 18, 7th item down)
In AF Menu 4 “Limit AF Methods”, I have Face-+Tracking, Spot, and Zone checked, & 1-point selected by default, but when I toggle through the check- marked selections, via the method above, Face-+ tracking, does not appear as a choice, only Spot, 1-Point, and Zone?
Not sure why Face-+Tracking is bypassed?
Thank you very much for that Brian, my R5 now behaves almost exactly how I want it to. I’ve only had it for 4 weeks so I’m still learning.
Really enjoyed your post regarding setting up the EOS R6 and I have regularly read your informative posts as I subscribe to PhotoPlus.
I have just received my EOS R6 and I discovered multiple Youtube videos recommending button customisation set ups. After watching one of the stand out videos I configured my camera with back button focus (AF-ON),Eye Detection AF using the AE Lock * button, and my Exposure Lock was set up by half pressing the shutter button. However using this set up, I found that if I wanted to meter the scene (in either centre weighted or spot metering modes for example), lock the exposure by half pressing the shutter button, when you try to recompose by moving the focus single point – you can only move the focus single point across the screen by individual clicks on the joystick which is most frustrating. Yes you can depress the joystick which centres the single AF point but on the full frame screen you still need to make multiple clicks to position the AF point as required. I looked through the menu to see what changes you can do the joystick to see if I was overlooking something? However, when I return the AE lock * button back to default, now when I lock the exposure with the AE-lock * button, I am able to move the single focus point across the screen simply by directing the joystick without having to make multiple clicks.
So in a nutshell, I have copied your recommended settings and set up the AE lock as per design.
I think you can solve your toggling between animal and people eye AF by configuring the custom C1-C3 settings. I have my R6 configured with people EAF on C1 together with any other customisations I want. I have Animal EAF on C2, and finally as I short mostly motorcycles, I have C3 with vehicle detect and helmet detect setup there. Quick rotate of the dial and good to go.
Incidentally the helmet detect is incredible…it even works on my 6 year olds remote control motorbike riders helmet!