5D mk3 best settings for in flight shots

Started Apr 21, 2014 | Discussions thread
TimR32225 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,405
Here's what I do...

richard54 wrote:

Hi i have just bought a canon 400 5.6 lens to go with my 5D mk3 i want to do birds and planes in flight could any one help with best settings focus, drive, metering etc thanks

Since the 5D3 has essentially the same autofocus system as the 1DX, I'll share what I typically do.

I always shoot manual exposure for birds in flight because that way the metering is not thrown off by changing backgrounds or by light or dark parts of the particular bird you are focused on. I prefer to use 5 AF points (single point plus the 4 surrounding points above, below, left and right of it. AI Servo usually case 2.

Try to keep your shutter speed above 1/2000 (the more the better). Sometimes you can get away with less but you'd hate to think you finally got the killer shot you wanted, only to find that it has motion blur. I typically try to get 1/2500 or more, but that could be difficult with an f5.6 lens unless you are in good light. In the example below I got away fairly well with 1/1000 in dim light.

I've used different methods with metering but have finally settled on evaluative because it seems to vary less and be more predictable than the other modes. There are other situations where this would be the wrong approach, but it seems to be the best for me for BIF.  Some people will try to suggest spot-metering, but this is a waste of effort because it's very difficult to keep the focus sensor trained on the moving bird without slipping off as it flies.  As soon as that happens, your exposures would be trashed.  Why make it difficult on yourself?  Note also that if you shoot manual exposure mode, the metering mode is less important.

I cannot overstress the importance of shooting manual exposure mode for birds in flight. As an example, the eagle photo below was one frame of a 37 shot burst. I watched the bird before it flew for quite some time and the metering went from about +1 to +2 before the bird finally flew. Had I been shooting Av or Tv, I would have likely had exposures all over the place. (been there; done that).

But in this case using manual exposure mode, the exposures were spot-on. In Av mode the sky has too much influence on the exposure because it takes up probably 90% of it.  Anytime you accidentally move the focus sensor off the bird and onto the sky as you track it, your exposure would be trashed. I hardly ever shoot bursts longer than 4 or 5 frames, but this was a rare exception.

This was shot in Homer, Alaska in a light falling drizzle, in waning evening light.  If you care to, you can see a few more frames from this sequence in the blog post linked below.

Good luck.



1DX and 500L f4 IS lens; 1/1000 @f4, iso 1600

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