Friday, September 17, 2021

Finally - my real world review of the new Canon R3 camera!

The first time I got my hands on the Canon R3 (pre-production) camera was in the weeks before I headed out to Tokyo to photograph the Olympic Games. I was allowed to show a photo of me holding the camera, but I was not allowed to show any more images of the camera or say much more than what I posted. Yes, it was a tease, but I was bound by the NDA I signed with Canon.

Now the camera has been officially announced and I can talk freely. Normally I would have pre-written this blog and posted on the day of Canon's announcement, but I was flying back from spending a month in Africa and did not have a chance to do so. So...let me tell you about my experience with the Canon R3.

First impression

On that day back in early July, I was waiting anxiously for the FedEx box to arrive and could not wait to rip it open to see the R3 in person. The first thing I noticed was that the camera was noticeably smaller and lighter than the Canon 1DX MKIII. I even put it next to the 1DX to confirm my first thoughts. I was also happy to see that it used the same batteries as the Canon 1D series. 

Having used the Canon R5 and Canon R6 for some time, all the buttons and dials were in familiar places, so using the camera seemed easy. The one noticeable difference was the over-sized eye piece, which was made larger to support the new eye control. More on that later...

I played with the camera and took a bunch of test photos. I had a lot of questions about the setup, and had numerous calls with the technical people at Canon to fully understand the new features and to fine-tune the camera for what I wanted. My goal was to set up the camera for optimal shooting at the Olympics, with dual back-button focus and having the eye-control trained for my pupil. As it turned out, I ended up using a newer version of the Canon R3 in Tokyo and had to retrain that camera, but I made notes of everything I had changed at home, so it was easy to make those adjustments at the Olympics.

Real-world use at the Olympics

I went to Tokyo with two Canon R5 cameras, a bunch of lenses, lots of ProGrade Digital memory cards, and knew that I would be getting an R3 when I arrived at the Games. My original plan was to shoot with the Canon R5 cameras as my primary cameras, and use the Canon R3 as my "test camera" for those times when I was not contractually obligated to shoot for Team USA.  But that changed almost immediately! I started using the Canon R3 at the Opening Ceremony and never stopped. The Canon R5 cameras basically sat in my camera bags for most of the Olympics.

The Canon R3 is blazing fast, with the ability to capture up to 30 frames per second. This may not be needed by all photographers, but at the Olympics it was amazing. 

This fast frame rate allowed me to capture the peak of action much easier than in Olympics past.

I love that the Canon R3 is silent when shooting since it is a mirrorless camera, but I also really appreciated that Canon added a simulated shutter sound, that can be turned on and off. As a long-time DSLR shooter, I have grown accustomed to hearing my shutter speed. It was a welcome feature during these games.

I did not always use the fastest setting, as it was not needed for all photos. For this multi-exposure shot, I wanted a slightly slower burst rate, so that the images did not stack up on each other too closely.

But...when I needed to capture that key moment, the Canon R3 came through beautifully.

Johnny Hooper is known for his strength in the pool, and I captured this image of him rising high out of the water during the men's last game. Having a super fast frame rate allowed me to grab that one image at the top of his shot, with his body highest out of the water. That same fast frame rate also meant that I had a lot more images to go through after each game. I still remember the first time I shot a water polo game, downloaded the photos in the press room, and saw that I had bursted out 2600 images during the one hour game. Yikes! Being under such a tight deadline, this added a new wrinkle into my workflow, but the better images made up for the slight delay in culling speed. 

The most asked question "What is the resolution?"

The most asked question for the last two months was "Can you tell us how many megapixels the camera is?" And of course I could not. But as many of you saw, there were numerous photography sites that grabbed my photos, dissected them and determined that the camera is 24MP. Is that enough? For most of my photography, this is plenty of resolution.  USA Water Polo currently has large billboards in Southern California using one of my images from the Tokyo Olympics, and it was taken at 24MP. Heck, I remember using 4MP cameras in the past and having those images enlarged to 4' by 8' at trade shows. Do I wish for more megapixels in the Canon R3? Yeah, maybe a little more would be nice. But I really did not need more for what I was shooting and I was not cropping much. I can tell you that in Africa I was using two Canon R5 cameras and loved the ability to shoot small birds, crop in on the images, and still have good sized files to print.

Focus speed and eye-control

In the last couple of days, I have had many people ask me about the focus speed and eye-control of the Canon R3 and their overall effectiveness. I can tell you that the focus speed of the R3 was top-notch, giving me a very high percentage of "keepers" from each event. When shooting the fast action of the Olympics, it is a tall order to ask for all images to be tack sharp. This new camera did an amazing job of locking focus. 

I used eye-detection for some of the sports, but also chose to go "old school" and use a single point back-button focus for many of the events. There were many times when I would not be facing the athletes head on, or I had so many people in the frame that the camera did not know who to focus on. This is where the eye-control would be most welcome, and I had high hopes to use this at the Games. But I was using a pre-production camera and the eye-control did not seem fast enough at the time for this action. I should have tried it more, but since I was under pressure to get my photos every day, I chose to turn it off most of the time. With that said, I think that the eye-control will be awesome for my event photography, allowing me to lock focus on my chosen subjects for portraits, weddings, bar mitzvah or corporate events. 

My challenges with the Canon R3

Honestly, there are not many things to pick on with this new camera. But you know me, and you know that I am really demanding with my camera gear. The one thing that I did not like about the Canon R3 is that Canon chose to have one CFexpress card slot and one SD card slot. I always write RAW images to both cards when I am shooting (for redundancy), and since the SD card is so much slower than the CFexpress card, I have numerous times when I filled the camera buffer and missed some great shots. For the USA Water Polo women's gold medal game, I decided to pull the SD card and shoot to just the CFexpress card. I could not risk having buffer issues during this key game!

I should mention that I shot the entire Olympics in RAW+JPEG mode, since I could not easily open a Canon R3 RAW file and had to work with the JPEGs for the whole Games. I wanted to capture the RAW files, since I plan on re-editing the best photos from the RAW files in the weeks to come, once Adobe has added the R3 to Adobe Camera RAW. Shooting RAW+JPEG really slows things down, and I don't plan on shooting that way in the future. 

Overall impression of the camera

Not everyone needs a camera that performs at the level of the Canon R3, but for those of us who need to fire off 30 frames per second, need the super fast focus speeds, and want the very best, this camera is awesome. Ever since using the Canon R5 and Canon R6 for my photography, I knew that mirrorless was the way to go. The new Canon R3 brings all the power of the Canon 1D series to the mirrorless world, and that is a welcome addition to the Canon line-up. Canon may not like me saying this, but for anyone looking to purchase a Canon 1DX MKIII, I would recommend going with the Canon R3. I think that the R series is the future for Canon, with all the new lenses coming out for these new bodies, and the camera just performs better in so many respects.


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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Lions in Africa: Beautiful big cats caught in action with the Canon R5 camera

We are winding up our month long stay in Africa, with visits to Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and short stints in South Africa. We have seen so much during this time, including many sitings of lions. When we are on safari in Africa, we are always excited to come across these big cats. I wanted to share more images of these amazing animals from the plains of Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana. 

Quite often, we come across lions and they are doing what cats do most of the time, they are laying down sleeping. In this case, we are lucky to get a shot of them with their eyes open.

Other times, the big cats are laying underneath bushes and we can barely see them. I call this a "NASBIC" moment. NASBIC stands for "Not a shot, but it is cool". This is a good time to see the animals with our eyes, but not worth shooting images. The photo above was a rare time when this group of lions were out in the open, but this time they were on the road and actually blocking the bridge that we needed to cross. We waited for them to move on before crossing.

What we really want to see is the lions out in the open, in the low grass and with great sunlight on them. We saw this lioness as she got up to move and was looking right into the morning sunlight. We were photographing a couple of females and two males on a zebra kill. I will spare you the really graphic images of the kill (although they are pretty cool).

I waited for the same female to move in front of the kill and took this shot. It gives you a hint of the kill, but since the lioness is perfectly in focus and the kill is soft in the background, it tells a story with a little less of the gruesome impact.

This big male was eating for a long time, and then gave us this great look. I have mentioned this on previous blogs, but it is worth repeating that the lion is not being aggressive here, it is just yawning, but it makes for great photos.

This lioness was stalking in the tall grass when we found her. I got down low in the vehicle to try to get right into her eyes. We had cloud cover at the time which gave us non-directional light. I have been using two of the Canon R5 cameras and a combination of the Canon RF100-500mm lens and the older Canon 100-400mm lens. I also have the Canon RF24-105mm lens for wider shots. The eye tracking of the new Canon mirrorless cameras has been a total game changer this time around! I think 75% of the people on our photo tour are buying new cameras after borrowing the R5 cameras from Canon. 

This lioness looked directly at us and yawned. Another perfect photo opportunity.

We love capturing the interaction between the lions.

This large male was out for a stroll one morning, looked right into the morning light and posed for us.

It is not uncommon to see lions having sex in the wild. When there is a mating pair, they can repeat this every 5 minutes for hours. This can last for up to a week, and they do not eat when they are in this mode.

That same male, when finished with his business, gave us this.  So powerful!

This was another mating session captured in the camera. 

We all laughed at the end of the mating when the male lion went to lie down and then did this.

There is nothing I love more than photographing the young wildlife here in Africa. We have seen countless young elephant, cheetah, leopard, lions cubs and more. They are just too cute. It is hard to believe that these cute little cuddly cats grow up to be so dangerous.

We were along the Chobe River in Botswana when we saw this female lion head down to the rivers edge to catch a drink. She looked up for a brief moment (into the late afternoon sun) before heading off to meet with the rest of the pride.

This is the same lioness sparring with a male. I laughed when I saw the surprised look on the male's face.

It was the end of a long day in Botswana, and we had spent a long time with the same pride of lion. We were hoping to see the cubs come down to drink, but they never made an appearance. This one lioness did drink, so we got that shot in the last minutes of sunlight before heading back to the lodge. I have been making a conscious effort to shoot wider images this time around, showing more of the environment that they live in. I tend to photograph the animals really close up, which is awesome but sometimes fails to tell the whole story,

I have many more images to share with you. More to come...


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Photos of The Great Migration: Wildebeests, zebras, crocodiles and more!

I have taught photography on many safaris in Africa, and when we visit Tanzania this time of year, it is to photograph (amongst many other things) the Great Migration. This is an annual occurrence where millions of wildebeests (and a spattering of zebra) cross the Mara River in their migration to follow the rains for fresh grass and water.

As we drove around the Serengeti, we could see endless lines of wildebeests.

Early one morning we saw a bunch of these crazy looking animals on the horizon with great clouds in the background, and I taught the group how to use exposure compensation to take a proper silhouette shot.

Some people come to Tanzania and Kenya hoping to see a river crossing and end up never seeing one. We met a small group of people who had been in Kenya for eleven days and never got to see a crossing. We were lucky enough to see many when we were in Tanzania. This was a photo from our first sighting.

Our last crossing was just amazing, with wildebeests coming down from all angles. This event lasted for at least 20 minutes, with thousands of the animals making their way from one side of the river to the other.

Our vehicle was parked in the perfect location, as the wildebeests came up the bank right in front of us. 

This reminds me to tell you how we get into a good position to see the crossing. Here is how the craziness works:

There are 10 turns of the Mara River where the animals typically cross. Our guides are on their radios and hear that there is a large group of animals at a certain turn. We drive over to the turn and wait to see if any of the wildebeest will cross. This wait could be anywhere from 5 minutes to many hours. All vehicles have to stay away from the edge of the river until the animals start their crossing. Typically the vehicles are 150 yards back. As soon as the first 10 or 20 animals commence the crossing, it is a free for all! All the guides start their vehicle engines and drive as fast as they can across bumpy terrain to beat the others and get into the best position to see over the edge. Trust me, you need to be seat belted in and it still is not easy holding on to ourselves and our camera gear during this short drive. Then you hope you got a good spot and start shooting!

At one point I turned around and saw the mass of wildebeest that was behind us. I reminded everyone to turn around and get this shot showing the mass amount of animals who had crossed in front of us.

Towards the end of the crossing I decided to try and motion pan some of the wildebeests that were running in front of us. I quickly rolled my ISO to 100 and my aperture to f/22, giving me a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second. Then I followed the animals as they passed by, trying my best to keep one of them sharp. This was my best photo. I just wish I had tried this with all the mass of animals coming down on the other side of the river.

Some people might find these next images disturbing, so consider this my warning to you all.

Part of doing a safari in Africa is seeing the circle of life. The need for animals to prey on others as a food source is just part of life here. You might think that it would be difficult to watch live, but honestly it is not. One of the cool things to watch during a crossing is the crocodiles. This is their chance to get a meal.

We were watching many wildebeest as they made their way across the Mara when our guide notified us that there was a crocodile in the vicinity. Before I could even react, the crocodile pulled this young wildebeest under water. It was struggling to stay afloat when this second croc appeared and grabbed it by the head.

We watched as the two crocodiles worked together to take this poor thing under water.

It did not stand a chance...

At another crossing, we watched as another crocodile went for the kill...

...but it was unsuccessful and then looked to see if it could find another potential meal.

We watched as these two zebra crossed right next to the crocodile. But the croc did not strike, waiting for a smaller and easier target.

We saw this young zebra crossing behind the adults and saw the crocodile as it made it's move. It came out of the water and appeared to grab the front leg of the small zebra. The good news is that the young zebra got lucky and did get away, making the crossing unscathed.

It is something to see in person! And we will be back here next year to see it all again. If you are interested in joining us, reach out to me.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.