A few things I discovered about the R3/R5 on my Africa Trip

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Wildlife Guy
Wildlife Guy Senior Member • Posts: 1,904
A few things I discovered about the R3/R5 on my Africa Trip

The R3 / R5 are fantastic cameras for photographing wildlife in Africa.  This was our 3rd trip to Africa and we spent 17 days visiting 2 countries, 4 camps with 26 total game drives.  With the exception of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, the trip exceeded our previous experience in both quantity of wildlife and unique experiences.  While the R3/R5 provided a great platform for capturing the experience, there were a few issues both technical and user headspace. Below are are few observations on the mirrorless camera for wildlife.  Remember, these are all personal observations and my opinion.

Here was the gear:

  • R3/R5
  • RF 24-105 f4 L IS
  • RF 70-200 f4 L IS (redundant but I like this lens, Used on helicopter and balloon)
  • RF 100-500 f4.5-7.1 L IS (used for 85-90% of the shots)
  • RF 16mm f2.8 for astro (never used because too tired, too cold, leopard and elephant were roaming several of the camps.  

I am going to state up front that the mirrorless provided far more advantages than negatives over a DLSR kit (1dx II / 5dIV).  The combination of eye AF / tracking were a huge factor in getting some of the shots and this capability was delivered in a smaller, lighter package.  Another advantage for me is the ability to magnify the viewfinder.  On my previous trips I was carrying 36lb of gear vs. 21lbs for my full R kit.  The gear was light enough I shot mostly handheld and didn't really need bean bags.  Dust was no worse an issue than on the DSLR kit.  I would never consider going back to DSLR.

Here are  the areas where I found challenges with mirrorless (R3/R5)

  1. Wake up time.  If you have fast action, you better keep the camera active or be half pressing the shutter button as you are bringing the camera to your eye.  As much as I love the R3, it was only slightly faster than the R5 in going from inactive to ready to shoot.  
  2. Battery Life. Battery life can be an issue if you have to keep the camera awake waiting to catch an interesting behavior.  If you are doing "normal" shooting without needing the camera on high alert you can probably get a full day of shooting.  I was carry 3 / R3 batters and went through 1- 2 batteries per day.  That may not sound like a lot, but we had drives that were non-stop shooting because of the behaviors (First drive: Wild Dogs took kill from Leopard, Hyena took kill from Wild Dogs, Wild Dogs took out after leopards, leopard and two cubs hanging out in tree, cheetah / cub on kill and then it was 10:30am and time to go back to camp for late breakfast/early lunch).
  3. Re-assigning buttons.  The R3/R5 offer a lot of flexibility in customizing the camera to your specific needs.  I have bad eyesight, so I mapped buttons to turn on/off Eye tracking and switch from One shot / Servo.   You can count some of this as a user problem so I am going to use my handicap and blame Canon for not accommodating my specific case.  Unless you are shooting a lot and have developed muscle memory to help you hit the proper button, I would suggest you change settings the old fashion way to avoid accidentally changing a setting.  I had two situation that cost me incredible shots opportunities.  The first was on a pack of wild dogs harassing  a group of wildebeest for fun.  I accidentally switched from Servo to One Shot and didn't notice the focus beep until the last few minute of chase.  The second issue occurred when I accidentally switched off eye tracking at a critical moment on a leopard.
  4. Eye AF / Tracking.  I need to do additional testing, but the camera seems to loose focus if it cannot detect the eye on a fast approaching subject.  I had the opportunity to test this twice with an elephant that did two mock chargers.  The elephant was approaching rapidly and I was zooming from 500mm - 114mm to keep the elephant in the frame (portrait mode).  Once the elephant had closed to the point you couldn't really see the eyes, I thought the AF  would switch to tracking mode and focus on that big gray head that was filling 35% of the frame (body was the rest).  Instead, AF tried to grab grass or trees around the animal.  It seems like if you have Servo, Tracking, and animal Eye AF enabled the camera struggles to maintain focus when it can't find the eye (need to look back at data to see what AF zone).  BTW - The OOF started long before the elephant would have reached MFD.      

Just a few observations.


 Wildlife Guy's gear list:Wildlife Guy's gear list
Canon EOS R5 Canon EOS R3 Canon Extender EF 1.4x III Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM Canon RF 24-105mm F4.0-7.1 IS STM +6 more
Canon EOS R5
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