Tuesday, August 18, 2020

More real-world testing of the Canon R5 and R6 cameras - Animal and people eye detection

As part of my ongoing real-world testing of the new Canon R5 and Canon R6 cameras, today's blog post is dedicated to the face and eye tracking feature of the cameras. Unless we are trying to shoot with a creative twist, the goal of a professional photographer is to get our subject's eyes in perfect focus every time. My goal was to push the cameras in extreme conditions and see how they fared. In order to show you the results, this blog includes a lot of sample images. 

I set out to test the tracking of both people and animals with both cameras. I purchased an adaptor so that I could mount my longer EF zoom lenses on the R cameras and started my search to find some subject matter to shoot. Since we are in the middle of this pandemic, my options for shooting team sports is almost zero, so I decided to drive to the coast to see if I could photograph surfers in the ocean.

As I approached the edge of the cliffs above the water, I saw seagulls flying in the area. I used my Canon 100-400mm lens switching between the Canon R5 and Canon R6, made sure the cameras were set to animal tracking and started to shoot.

The eye detection worked remarkably well. Even if I saw a bird flying at me at the last minute, I could quickly raise the camera and still get a nice sharp image. This is true even though the bird is not in the center of my frame. Normally, using my Canon 1DX Mark III or Canon 5D Mark IV, I would be in servo focus mode with the center point activated. This meant that I had to keep my lens right on the bird as it flew by, often yielding images that were out of focus. This was not the case in animal detection mode.

Here is a crop of the same image, showing you the detail of the bird.

It was impressive that the cameras could track the bird, even as it flew through some foliage in the foreground.

Here is another example of how well the camera tracked the seagull, even at the edge of my frame. This would never happen with my Canon DSLR cameras, because there are no focus points in this area of the sensor.

Using the Canon R5 and the same Canon 100-400mm lens, I switched to people tracking and followed some of the surfers in the water.

I locked focus on the woman in the middle of the group to see if the camera would hold focus on her, even with all the other possible subjects surrounding her. 




The tracking was dead on.







It was at this point, with the woman surrounded by other surfers and facing away from me, that I wondered if the camera would jump focus to one of the others. But that did not happen and the camera stayed locked on her.



I asked one of our family friends if he would be my model for an hour and he was nice enough to agree to be my subject for the next test scenario.

For the next test, I wanted to use the Canon R6 and Canon 50mm 1.2 RF lens and use the lens at its widest aperture. For those of you who have ever tried shooting a photo at f/1.2, you know that this wide aperture means that it is very hard to achieve focus on your subject. Any movement of the photographer or the subject means that the subject will be very much out of focus. Whenever I shoot at f/1.2, I expect my "take rate" to be a percentage of the overall photos taken. This is especially true when shooting a couple dancing at a wedding and, with this narrow depth of field, they are swaying in and out of focus. 

I locked focus on Ethan's eye and took a couple of test photos. They were tack sharp on his eye, but this was not the test I wanted. Once again, I locked focus on his eye and this time I asked him to move around.





The tracking worked even at the edges of the frame.









Ethan was moving much more than a typical subject (like a couple dancing in my earlier example), but the camera achieved incredible focus in almost every photo. This is amazing!




This last frame was the only one which was not tack sharp. So...is the eye detection perfect? No, but it is very accurate.  Definitely more so than I would be in this same situation.

This next example is one that I would never try if I were shooting a paid job. I asked Ethan to get on a swing and move at a high rate of speed to and from me, all with me shooting at crazy narrow apertf/1.2.


I locked focus one of his eyes and gave him the go-ahead to start swinging.




The focus held for the first grouping of shots...


...and then I lost focus for the next 3 images.




Soon after, the camera locked back in on Ethan's eye and tracked him once again.


Then I lost focus on him once again...


...only to have the camera lock back in. All of this was happened in a fraction of a second. Once again, the face and eye detection is not perfect, but I know that my "take rate" was significantly better than me using servo focus and trying to keep my focus locked point on Ethan's eye as he went back and forth on the swing.


When we were done, I wanted to capture a nice portrait of Ethan that I could send to him and his parents. I had him sit on a nearby ledge and took this photo of him. And then I had an idea. I wanted to know if a complete novice could capture a good portrait at f1.2 using the eye detection of the new camera. I handed the Canon R6 to Ethan and showed him how to use the back-button focus and asked him to take a photo of me. 

Ethan ended taking a bunch of photos me (with me moving around) and almost every one was in perfect focus.

I can guarantee you that this would not be the case without eye detection. With my other Canon cameras, we would have been lucky to have even one photo turn out!

So...what is my conclusion? The truth is I am totally hooked on both of the new cameras, especially because of the new face and eye detection. I used the Canon R5 on Friday to shoot portraits for a client. I relied on the eye detection for every shot, knowing that the camera would do a great job of getting my subject in focus and freeing me to worry about other things like the posing, exposure, foreground and background.  Whether it is a paying client or my dog running around in the backyard, I can definitely get used to this new technology!

I am in the process of testing high ISO shooting and the usability of the electronic viewfinder with both cameras. Stay tuned for those results in future blog posts.


UPDATE: Adobe JUST released the new Camera RAW which allows us to open RAW (CR3) files from the R5 and R6!!


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