Canon EOS 7d mark II AF settings for bird & wildlife photography

What are the best AF settings for bird & wildlife photography with the Canon EOS 7d mark II? The new AF system of the Canon 7d mark II is inherited from the Canon EOS 5d mark III and the Canon EOS 1DX. In other words, it is the best AF system available today! Bird & wildlife photography have specific AF setting needs and I am going to walk you through what I personally use 🙂

First off, I mostly shoot in AI servo mode with the AF point expansion points (8 surrounding points). That allows me to place the focus point where I want while having the surrounding points picking up focus when the central point loses my target.

Canon offers six pre-sets cases for you to choose from, and while they are quite alright on their own, I have my own special recipe:

AF settings - Canon 7d mark II

As you may see above, there are three dimensions one my play with when fine-tuning the Canon 7d mark II AF settings:

1. Tracking sensitivity => how fast the AF system reacts to a new object entering the scene. You want to have this one not being very reactive to new subjects entering the frame. Otherwise, a bird flying in between you and your target might trigger the AF to switch and you would lose focus on your target. So, -1 is my recommendation here.
2. Accel./decel. tracking => The higher setting is best as it will be more sensitive to subjects that stop and start quickly. Perfect example is a bird taking off in your direction, going very fast from stopped to flying speed.
3. AF pt auto switching => speed at which the AF system changes from one point to another when having AF point expansion activated. I put this one to 1 as I want to stay focused for quick lateral moves, but not to the max to avoid loosing focus on the head towards focus to the wing while panning with a flying subject. As nobody that I know of can pan at the exact speed of a fast flying subject, it is good to have the focus somewhat locked on the head. If it does not seem to lock where I want, I simply pump the rear button to re-acquire focus.

For full detail on the Canon EOS 7d mark II AF system, you may visit this Canon link: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2014/eos7dmk2_afGuidebook.shtml

Nothing is as good of a demonstration as a few action photographs!

Spoonbill in flight - Canon 7d mark ii AF settings

Spoonbill with breeding colors banking in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 500 | f/4 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

The Spoonbill photograph above is a nice illustration of high performing AF system. Once the AF system is locked on the subject you may maintain excellent tracking throughout the flight.

Spoonbill landing - Canon 7d mark ii AF settings

Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/4 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

This photograph was created with an overcast weather during one of my Florida Spoonbill tours. It is a very good illustration of an AF system that can keep focus with quickly accelerating or decelerating subjects. And this is why Accel. / Decel. setting is pushed to the maximum sensitivity at +2 🙂

Spoonbill landing - Canon EOS 7d mark II AF settings

Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

Another landing Spoonbill created during one of the Florida Spoonbill tours. This one came from the side and the quick, but not too abrupt change of focus point from the AF auto PT switching setting at +1 was useful here.

Used Gear for Sale

CANON EOS 5D MARK III => $1,650 in very good condition with battery grip (BG-E11 worth $260 new) included. As you would have noticed, I created some of my very best images with this body!!

CANON EF 300MM F/4 IS USM => $900 in excellent condition. I did a lot of my early bird photography with this undisputed best value for your money in the Canon pro lens lineup.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 6 open

May 5th-6th 2017 / limit 6 people – 5 open

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Canon EOS 7d mark II & Wildlife Photography – first impressions

At last! I was able to give a good try to the new Canon EOS 7d mark II. Based on my first impressions I can say without hesitation that the Canon EOS 7d mark II performs as well as the Canon EOS 5d mark III in many ways. My view is of course one of wildlife photography and the Canon EOS 7d mark II does not disappoint in high ISO and fast autofocus performances. Add to that a 10 frame per second speed and you have an almost 1dX at a much much cheaper price.

Willet foraging - Fort Desoto, Florida

Willet foraging – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/4 | 1/500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The Willet photograph above was created near sunrise time. Shooting at ISO 1600 then, I was very pleased with the level of noise, which is very similar to the Canon EOS 5d mark III and a LOT better than the prior version of the 7d. I did my best to create a pleasing back lit situation with beautiful early morning colors. When well controlled back lit exposed image can be very interesting.

Piping Plover scratching - Fort Desoto, Florida

Endangered Piping Plover scratching – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5300 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

I thoroughly enjoy the frame per second speed, which was my only issue with the Canon EOS 5d mark III. As a wildlife photographer I am always very eager to capture stunning animal behavior actions and having a fast 10 frames per second rate really helps freezing the ideal moment where the bird is not only doing something interesting but also displaying good head angle and so forth. The endangered Piping Plover above is a good illustration as shorebirds tend to have very fast action and it is not always that simple to capture the right moment. For instance, a bird scratching will often have its eye closed, so creating 10 to 20 frames is great to have a few frames with the eye open.

Sometimes, you see some of those birds with so many rings and colorful flags tied to their legs that you really cannot miss the banded ones. I am not sure I fully agree with the purpose of the bands on threatened species though…

Snowy Egret in flight - Florida photography tour

Snowy Egret in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5300 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

And last, a flight shot of a Snowy Egret. The AF performs very well, which is no surprise as it is the exact same one than the 1DX and the 5D mark III. Note that no other body is going to outperform the 1DX as the higher battery power of the 1DX will allow for acquiring AF faster no matter what (especially when coupling your lens with extenders).

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $7,900 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

A luxury African safari in the country where nature is the best preserved, at an extremely competitive price!
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $890 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

Only 3 spots left! This is the best spot in the state of Florida, at the right time of the year.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

3 for the price of 1 & the Canon 7d mark II

The highly anticipated Canon EOS 7d mark II is now available for pre-order!! Read below what my thoughts are on this new crop factor flagship. Make sure to place your order by clicking on your preferred provider link to the right (Adorama or B&H). It does not cost you anything and it helps keeping this blog lively 🙂

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with BG-E16

I loved the Canon EOS 7d with a high performance AF and 8 frames per second. However, I do prefer the Canon EOS 5d mark III mainly because of its even better autofocus system (the same as the Canon EOS 1dX!) and excellent high ISO/low noise performance. Things are about to change! The new Canon EOS 7d mark II is announced to perform as well as the Canon EOS 5d mark III thanks to the same AF system and equivalent high ISO quality. In other words, with 20.2 megapixels for the new 7d versus 22.3 megapixels for the 5d mark III, you will have the same image quality or very close, with an impressive 10 frames per second and the extra reach of a crop factor (1.6 times longer than a full frame). On top of that, the 7d mark II will be able to autofocus at f/8 with a 2x extender, allowing AF with the central point surround with a combo 600mm f/4 and 2x extender. We will now have a reach of 1920mm!!!!

On my side, I did not hesitate and placed a pre-order in order to be amongst the first ones to enjoy this new crop factor flagship in the Canon EOS camera body lineup.

Osprey with fish in its talents

Osprey with fish – Lakeland, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The photograph above is an Osprey flying away with an amazing prize! Look close (click on the image to see it bigger) and your eyes will widen as you count not 1, not 2, but 3 fish!! I was taking around a student who booked a private tour in the Lakeland area about three weeks ago. I know a peer that gives to a lake where one may witness Ospreys and even occasional Bald Eagles fishing nearby. We were in luck that afternoon, and within 30 min we created lots of great fishing action shots of Ospreys. If you pass by the Tampa Bay area do not hesitate to contact me to book a private tour as I will give you top notch instructions and take you to the best local spots!

Bald Eagle in flight - Lakeland, Florida

Bald Eagle in Flight – Lakeland, Florida
ISO 500 | f/6.3 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod and gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The photograph above is indeed a Bald Eagle in flight in the Lakeland area, Florida. This fellow was fishing a bit further away than the Osprey above and came out empty ended a couple of times. Still, it was a great pleasure creating a photograph of this beautiful creature! Pasco county, close to the Tampa Bay has the highest concentration of Bald Eagles in the state of Florida.

Used Gear for Sale!

Canon EOS 5d mark III with BG-E11 battery grip => Very good student Ejaz Khan is selling his Canon EOS 5d mark III with the BG-E11 battery grip for $2,500. This is an awesome deal, for a camera that has not been used much and Ejaz takes very good care of his equipment. Most of my images were created with this camera and I would not hesitate if I were in a buying position. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com if you are interested!

Canon 400mm f/5.6 => I am personally selling a Canon 400mm f/5.6 in prestine condition at $950. This is a great deal for the lens that I call the lowest budget for professional results!

Note that you are welcome to let me know about your used equipment for sale 🙂

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $7,900 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

This African safari is a very nice combination between the Okavango Delta, the big cats in the Chobe national park and a finish at the Victoria Falls. Keep in mind, Botswana’s trails are a lot less crowded with vehicles as it is in Kenya…
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $890 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

Only 4 spots left now! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to create photograph of Spoonbill with breeding feathers in flight.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven