A short review of the Canon EOS M5 camera with some wildlife photography.
I bought myself one of the new Canon EOS M5 mirroless cameras to take with me on my next jaunt to South Australia in February/March this year. Cameras get more and more sophisticated and this one has taken quite some effort to learn. I can nearly take ordinary snaps now! One of the pleasant surprises about this new system is that works splendidly with Canon EF lenses via an adapter ring. My old Canon EOS M - the original version from about 4 years ago - took such lenses but response times were sluggish. Now, however, the lenses focus as quickly as on my 5D Mark III. Add to that the incredible 9 frames per second high speed shooting rate when on continuous shooting mode, and the EOS M5 starts to look a contender for serious wildlife photography. Checking on forums on the Web there seems to be some confusion over the best settings for focusing, tracking, and other parameters needed to obtain the best shots. Consequently, I took the camera down to my local Bramhall Park for a try out. I used my Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4 IS L series zoom lens - probably the best glass I have, and shot some Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata) going about their business. In my very first attempts a few days ago, I had switched on a noise reduction filter built into the firmware, but this was a mistake. Deal with noise later in post-processing, the Canon filter is far to heavy and destroys detail. After some experimentation, I decided these are the best settings for static and slow moving subjects:
AF Servo Mode - do not listen to siren voices telling you to use One-Shot mode - no focus response that way;
NO continuous focus - the Canon EF 70-200 mm lens goes wild trying focus on anything and everything, almost too responsive; once focus is established in Servo mode then the camera works well;
AF Method - smooth zone, not full tracking and certainly not one point;
Spot metering - the exposure must be for the subject and so a close single spot evaluation is needed;
Tv - 1/1000th second, to freeze movement as far as possible; if there is lots of light 1/1500the might be better;
Av - f/4 for most work as in the UK and in winter there is not enough light for smaller apertures;
ISO - let this float on AUTO unless you have lots of light; this is the one disappointment with the EOS M5, above ISO 800 noise becomes a problem and so low light work can be marred by noise;
Raw capture using Faithful mode as there will be post-processing, so just use basic settings;
Caution - with such a high continuous shooting frame rate, the number of captures quickly builds up - in this shoot I snapped 180 (not all of Mandarin ducks) and spent a long time whittling those down to about 40 for prime consideration; also try to keep burst shooting down to 3 or 4 at a time, then pause, check a capture on the screen, and re-burst if necessary;
Here are some results post-processed with Canon's DPP software then in Adobe Lightroom. Note also, that as yet free standing Lightroom and Adobe Elements do not support the Canon M5 Raw CR2 format. Thus, for post-processing, carry out the minimum useful work in Canon's DPP, then convert and save as a 16-bit TIFF file that can then be further processed in Lightroom.
This first shot is of a typical male Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) with its brightly coloured plumage and wing sails. Such ducks present quite a challenge photographically in that there is considerable detail to be accurately captured, such as the feather striations on the flanks, the variations in colour, and especially the "white" patch above the eye. Often this is inadvertently clipped out and appears an absolute white. But, there is detail in the feathers that can be brought out, as in this shot.
These next two shots need to be considered together. I spotted a pair of males and a female sailing along quite majestically in the company of a moorhen, left image. The trio of ducks then started to paddle around in a furious anti-clockwise circle, around and around. My camera exposure decided to go into over-drive during this activity and all those shots were blown beyond repair - a good reason never to take more than three or four shots in a burst before checking what is being captured. As I re-located the group and re-focused, an almighty ruckus broke out with one male attacking the other, right hand image. Of course, what was happening is obvious: two males, one female, mating season not that far away, one male deciding to muscle in on the female, the other male attacking the usurper with fury, and the female paddling off. If you look closely, the male on the left of the right hand image has a well developed white patch above the eye, typical for a mature male in breeding condition. The male on the right has a much more coloured area above the eye, suggesting an immature or sexually unready male. The outcome from this attack was that the younger male, the potential usurper, was forced to dive below the water and swim away, while the triumphant male paddled off looking for the female. She, however, had disappeared into the overhanging foliage, and was keeping her distance.
Like all ducks, Mandarins need to keep their feathers dry and dirt free, and after any sort of hard activity, they will stand up in the water and shake out their wings. This is seen in the next two shots.
The upper shot must have caught the wing movement just as it changed from up to down beat because there is almost no blur around the wing tips. Similarly, for the lower shot, one of four in a burst, the others of which showed significant wing tip blurring. Zoom in to see the details of the water droplets being cast off the wings. Note also the spot metering has evaluated the exposure for the white tummy feathers and the rest of the exposure is consequently quite dark. But, I think that works quite well for this sort of angelic pose.
I'm sorry that I did not capture a good image of the female Mandarins whose plumage is mainly a barred and mottled grey. They are as handsome as their males are, but in a less flamboyant way. Curiously, males who have mated can lose their coloured feathers and regrow them in tones resembling the females. As they come back to sexual readiness, so their plumage returns to the coloured variety.
In summary, the Canon EOS M5 equipped with a quality zoom lens is capable of good wildlife shots in large part because the lenses respond very well and very quickly to exposure and focus. The high continuous shooting rate allows for the chance of good captures. Whether the capabilities of the camera can extend to good bird-in-flight photography remain to be tested, but this will depend on tracking ability, a capability that is not in the same league as the much more powerful DSLRs such as the Canon 5D Mark III.
Many Thanks for looking.