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Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,009
Registered: ‎12-24-2013

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

[ Edited ]

You haven't made it clear if you have tried Single-point SPOT AF.

 

Single-point SPOT AF covers an even smaller area than the center AF point and will make it easier to isolate the subject form the surrounding foliage. 

 

Here is a detailed explanation of the difference between Single-point AF and Single-point SPOT AF: An inside look at Spot AF

 

  • Standard, Single-point AF provides coverage that extends BEYOND the borders of the AF point you see in the viewfinder
  • Spot AF actually covers an area virtually the same size as the primary, single AF point you see in the viewfinder… it definitely extends beyond the inner “box” you see when Spot AF is indicated on your focus screen

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Summary

While it’s not necessarily the go-to AF Area setting for every situation, Spot AF gives the experienced DSLR shooter a means to work even more carefully with his or her AF and place the sharpest focus even more precisely on the subject where it’s wanted. If you own a camera with this feature, it’s worth experimenting with and learning where it can be of benefit to you. Simply keeping in mind the actual area covered (see the graphics, above, in this article) goes a long way toward truly maximizing Spot AF’s potential. And, equally important, is awareness of where the other AF Area options display their benefits.

Mike Sowsun
80D, 5D Mk III
Forum Elite
Posts: 14,424
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

Keep in mind Single-point SPOT AF is not an option if you are in Auto mode.  You shouldn't be any way but just to be clear.

Av is the best choice.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
Occasional Contributor
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎07-10-2018

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

Thank you.  I did not know there is a difference betwen Single-point AF and Single-point SPOT AF.  I don't recall seeing thay fact anywhere before.

 

Also, I am astonished to see your blue and red rectangles.  I assumed single spot meant -- single spot.  Duh.  Evidently not.

 

 

Forum Elite
Posts: 14,424
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

"Evidently not."

 

No it does mean just a single more tiny single point.  You will not see anything additional in the viewfinder just a smaller square. The colored example just indicates coverage you can expect.

I would not use it as a first option.  Let's get the basic settings a good try first.  When things don't go as expected it's always best to start off at the beginning.   The walk before you run thingy.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,854
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

The 5D III (and IV, and 1D X, 1D X II, 7D II, etc.) are all very "technical" cameras.  They are very powerful... but they have loads of options that other cameras don't have. 

 

You really want to take the time to go through the manual and learn the features. 

 

Also, download and read Canon's 47 page PDF guide on the 5D III auto-focus system (this entire 47 page document is dedicated to JUST the focus system on your camera ... the number of pages alone should give you some idea that this camera has a LOT of options when it comes to focus.)

 

http://cpn.canon-europe.com/files/product/cameras/eos_5d_mark_iii/AF_guide_EOS5D_MarkIII_eng_January...

 

"Spot AF" is not the same as "Single Point AF".  Spot AF reduces the AF point to the smallest size possible to avoid possibility that another object will interfere with your subject and confuse focus.  But also... when you are in AI Servo mode, all the "case" settings (you'll read about those in the document) come into play.  You can tune the behavior of the camera as to whether it should ignore obstacles that momentarily block your subject ... or if should immediately snap the focus to that new subject.

 

A downside of "Spot AF" is that since the point is much smaller, it needs to be something wtih good contrast (to help the camera lock focus).  "Single Point AF" has a more generous area so that's more opportunity to find contrast to lock focus.  There's also "AF Point Expansion" that uses four additional AF points (above/below/left & right of your chosen AF ... these points "extend" the range of the single AF point.  There's also an AF Point Expansion that uses all 8 surrounding points (again... same behavior.  It wants to use the center but borrows the other points to "expand" the area in an effort to increase the area to search for good contrast.)  The risk is... as you expand the area it can search for good contrast... it might find good contrast on a tree branch or leaf and NOT on your subject.)

 

If you have a fast moving subject free of distracting obstacles, the camera can often work better (focus faster) if you give it a larger area.  Basically use more when you can.  When you realize there are competing obstacles... reduce the area so the camera HAS to use the tiny little spot you picked out to lock focus.

 

 

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
Occasional Contributor
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎07-10-2018

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

Thanks for all the replies.

 

A perched bird is basically an ellipse for the body, an ellipse for the head, and a rectangular shape for a tail.  There may be a branch interesecting one of these.  Nonetheless, I don't see why software can't be written to search for a bird near the center of the field of view.  I say this as a mathematician and computer programmer.

 

This would establish a "perched bird mode".  It's more complicated for a flying bird, but I've not had trouble photographing them.  Usually there is no competing foliage.

Forum Elite
Posts: 14,424
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

Remember camera sensors only see luminosity.  They can not distinguish a limb from a bird since it is just lighter or darker.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 4,986
Registered: ‎02-17-2016

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

That might work in live view, but through the view finder you only have at most 60 widely separated pixels.

 

And you might want a perched-bird focus mode, but I want a bee focus mode.

 

How many modes should canon add?

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 97
Registered: ‎01-30-2018

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

<<Select a fairly high ISO 800 to 1600.>>

 

ebiggs1.... Can you elaborate on this a little just for my own knowledge?  Does that ISO range somehow improve AF sensor capabilities?  

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 97
Registered: ‎01-30-2018

Re: Auto focus doesn't work on bird surrounded by foliage

[ Edited ]

 


@rfermat wrote:

Nonetheless, I don't see why software can't be written to search for a bird near the center of the field of view.  I say this as a mathematician and computer programmer.

 


 

Sorry if this is a bit of a diversion from topic... but I am in tech as well, so your comment caught my eye.  Google is doing quite a lot with its AI platform wrt photography.  In this [1] case, they worked on using AI to sift through "street view" images and basically work out which clips would make "good" photographs.  They've also been doing well in competitions against human photographers where people "vote" on images.  And here [2] is an example where they are doing more with short video clips that are determined worthy of capture with their AI.  I suspect that phones will be the faster adopters of AI technology for photography and professional-grade cameras will lag a bit due to the use cases being somewhat different.  

 

[1] https://petapixel.com/2017/07/14/google-uses-ai-create-professional-photos-street-view-shots/

[2] https://ai.googleblog.com/2018/05/automatic-photography-with-google-clips.html 

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