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R Series Mirrorless and Flash Photography (AF ASSIST BEAM)

declan565
Apprentice

Im a professional Photographer, I shoot nightclubs and bar-type environments.
I want to upgrade to the canon Mirrorless Cameras but when looking at R3's and R6Mkii I learned that they do not work well with Canon Flashes. 600ex rt ii etc. I found out that the flashes do not fire the red AF Assist Beam (the red light from the front of the flash) To help with focusing.

I shoot in very dark environments and need the Autofocus to be on point and quick in pitch black. Never been an issue with my 5dmk iii or 1dxm ii.

But why do the new cameras not support such a basic feature? Is there plans to address this? I would very much like to upgrade all new cameras and lenses soon but I need my mirrorless and flash system to work. Seems like photographers who need this feature have been forgotten about.

19 REPLIES 19

deebatman316
Elite
Elite

The camera doesn't see the "IR" AF Assist Beam. If you use a Canon speedlite the speedlite should use "Intermittent Flashes"/ pre-fires for AF Assist. Even if the speedlite has a choice between IR and "Intermittent Flashes"/ Pre-fires. All of Canon's speedlites support "Intermittent Flashes"/ pre-fires on the R series bodies. The manual for all of the R series bodies says that the speedlite will fire an Intermittent AF Assist Beam. Meaning "Intermittent Flashes". But this is dependent on ambient lighting. The camera body chooses if the speedlite or the body lamp fires for AF Assist.

Screenshot_20230109-075830.png

Note highlighted area applies to all of Canon's EX or EL speedlites. Some speedlites don't have a Personal/ Custom for AF Assist Beam Projection/ Emission Method. This is from the Speedlite EL-1 manual but the highlighted area applies to all EX or EL speedlites.Note highlighted area applies to all of Canon's EX or EL speedlites. Some speedlites don't have a Personal/ Custom for AF Assist Beam Projection/ Emission Method. This is from the Speedlite EL-1 manual but the highlighted area applies to all EX or EL speedlites.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

MikeSowsun
Authority
Authority

It’s not just Canon. All Mirrorless camera systems have a problem with IR focus assist and there is no way it can be used going forward.

It is because they use the image sensor for focussing, and as with all digital cameras, they must use an IR filter on the image sensor. SLR cameras, both film and digital, do not have this handicap. The phase detection AF sensor can see IR light focus assist emitted by the flash. 

Since Mirrorless cameras can’t use the IR focus assist, it is automatically disabled on ALL Mirrorless cameras. Various manufacturers are using different methods to deal with this handicap. Canon has added annoying AF assist lights to their Mirrorless bodies, and they can also use the flash to emit even more annoying pulses of light (intermittent flash firing). Some flash units will have an LED assist light. When it comes to Nightclub photograph, all are poor substitutes for the good old IR focus assist. 

Mike Sowsun

Apparently the "IR" AF Assist Beam isn't actually IR. It's visible red light. Most mirrorless cameras cannot detect red light very well. This is what Canon support said. But Intermittent Flashes from the speedlite should still work depending on ambient lighting.

@MikeSowsun there are 3rd party manufacturers that make AF Assist Lights/ Beams that are red. They ARE compatible with mirrorless cameras. But when it comes to the R series the camera body chooses if an LED equipped speedlite such as the 320EX will fire its beam. Or if the body lamp will fire for AF Assist. So you can't force an LED equipped speedlite to fire its beam every time for AF Assist. The camera menu also must be set to LED AF Assist Only. Or else the 320EX will fire an Intermittent AF Assist Beam. Just like the 320EX would do on a DSLR camera.

You also cannot force a speedlite with an old IR AF Assist to fire an Intermittent AF Assist Beam. Every time the camera decides AF Assist is needed. The camera body decides if there is too little light or contrast before the speedlite fires an Intermittent AF Assist Beam. 

-Demetrius

Current Gear: 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

So, is there any other flash that would behave like the small 320EX? It cannot be the only one... Or it might? 

Thank you for all the details. 

The speedlite EL-5 also has an LED AF Assist Beam. But this speedlite uses a new multi function hot shoe so it can ONLY be used on certain cameras (not compatible with the R, RP, R5, R6 & R100 cameras, EOS M series or SLR/ DSLR cameras). The EL-5 also supports automatic brightness adjustment of the LED AF Assist Beam when paired with a compatible camera. When a compatible camera is used. The camera can adjust the brightness of the LED AF Assist depending on the ambient lighting. The R3, R7 & R10 DO NOT support this feature. The speedlite will project the LED AF Assist Beam AT FULL brightness ONLY regardless of the ambient lighting. If lighting is too low the speedlite will switch to Intermittent Flash Firing when used with the R3, R7 & R10 cameras. BUT NOTE depending on the ambient lighting an LED AF Assist Beam may be projected BY THE CAMERA instead of the speedlite depending on the ambient lighting. Note this is for ALL cameras with the new multi function hot shoe. Note even cameras that support Automatic brightness adjustment of the LED AF Assist Beam. Can fall back to Intermittent Flash Firing if the speedlite overheats. Or will decrease brightness of the LED AF Assist Beam. But an LED AF Assist Beam can be projected by the camera instead of the speedlite. 

Canon EL-5 AF Assist Beam Protocol .pngEL-5 AF Assist Beam Emission Method.pngEL-5 LED AF Assist Beam Brightness.png


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

EL-5 is fundamentally flawed, like EL-1 but unlike 320EX (!), in the regard of LED position.

Instead of LEDs being on the front of the flash body, where AF assist beam LEDs have always been, they are at the tip of the head, making them completely unusable, for me and I guess many professionals, as I never fire the flash directly at the subject...

I am astounded by such a flawed concept, it's very strange to realise that some small flash from the past is more usable today than top of the line "compatible" model. 

Again, thank you for the details. I have R6 II. 

The EL-1 DOES NOT have an LED AF Assist Beam. It has an LED modeling light though. The EL-1 uses Intermittent Flash Firing for AF Assist on R series cameras. Even with the speedlite in the bounce position. The LED AF Assist Beam will still bounce off a wall or ceiling. Just like a regular flash exposure would. Intermittent Flash Firing works the same way in the bounce position too. If it didn't bounce flash photography wouldn't work then. The way how Intermittent Flash Firing works is. The camera rapidly varies the voltage going to the speedlite. To control the brightness of the AF Assist pre-fire. All of Canon's speedlites support it on R series cameras. The camera can also override speedlites that have an option of IR and Intermittent Flash Firing. Even if the speedlite is set to IR. All this AF Assist Beam setting does is. If the speedlite has a color filter or flash diffuser attached. The camera body emits an LED AF Assist Beam instead of the speedlite. Since Intermittent Flash Firing is DISABLED when a color filter or flash diffuser is used. Since the flash guide number is reduced.


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

Here is the crop of your image, with blue color over the text I want to point out. 

It says that LED AF beam WILL be fired when head is at 0° position. 

Am I not understanding it right? Thanks. 

Screenshot_20231112_203501_Samsung Internet.jpg

Some people have reported that the LED AF Assist Beam has fired when not at 0 position. Now Intermittent Flash Firing works the same way too. My older EX speedlites will use Intermittent Flash Firing regardless if its direct or in bounce mode. I have used the EL-5 in direct flash with the R6 Mark II and the camera varied the LED AF Assist Beam brightness. It did switch to Intermittent Flash Firing when it overheated. I also tested it out on the R7 and the LED AF Assist was at Full Output ONLY. But once it got too dark it switched to Intermittent Flash Firing. There IS NO Custom or Personal Function to switch between LED & Intermittent Flash Firing for AF Assist. The camera chooses what type of beam will be emitted from the speedlite or the camera will emit the beam.


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D
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