Canon autofocus help

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rhinonavy
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Canon autofocus help

Post by rhinonavy » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:58 pm

Greetings folks!

Looking for some help with autofocus on a canon SLR. I've had a canon EOS Rebel SL1 for a few years now and love it, it just seems like a lot of my aviation shots are coming up short... meaning out of focus. I've tried playing with the myriad of autofocus settings on my camera to no avail. I'm using an EF 75-300mm lens. Maybe it's just a combination of my eyes and bad photography skills :D , but I would appreciate any help if you can offer it! Below are a few of photos to show what I'm talking about.

I usually shoot with a medium size image so I don't have to carry many SD cards. If I shoot Raw will it help with cropping and zooming?

Just looking for some tips to take better, sharper photos! Thanks in advance.
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RyanS
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Post by RyanS » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:40 am

rhinonavy wrote: Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:58 pm Greetings folks!

Looking for some help with autofocus on a canon SLR. I've had a canon EOS Rebel SL1 for a few years now and love it, it just seems like a lot of my aviation shots are coming up short... meaning out of focus. I've tried playing with the myriad of autofocus settings on my camera to no avail. I'm using an EF 75-300mm lens. Maybe it's just a combination of my eyes and bad photography skills :D , but I would appreciate any help if you can offer it! Below are a few of photos to show what I'm talking about.

I usually shoot with a medium size image so I don't have to carry many SD cards. If I shoot Raw will it help with cropping and zooming?

Just looking for some tips to take better, sharper photos! Thanks in advance.
First, I ALWAYS suggest shooting RAW as long as you have a program that can edit it. The difference is pretty incredible if you get into editing a little more seriously, and editing is 80% of getting a really cool picture.

If you can't make RAW work, at least shoot fine, large, JPGs. Look at it this way - you'll never be able to take that exact same shot again, why would you want a smaller version of it than you can get? SD cards are pretty cheap and Christmas deals are coming soon. The higher resolution will also improve your sharpness when you downsize since you'll be starting with more pixels. It can mask a slightly out of focus or blurry subject.

For settings I suggest using AI Servo, back button focus, and either the center point or central zone. Servo mode means the lens is constantly twisting to adjust. Back button means you use the AF ON or * button on the back (depends on the body, I'm not familiar with the SL1) of the camera to control the focus instead of a half-pressed shutter button. It decouples the focusing and shooting so that you can do one without the other. The central zone (I use the box of 9, but it again depends on the body) assumes you'll have the subject in the center of the frame, almost always a safe bet with planes. It reduces the camera picking up on the sky at the edges and hunting back and forth. With this setup, you basically hold your thumb down on the back during the entire pass, then click off photos as you like.

There are more advanced settings in the menu, like tracking speed and priority. A fast tracking speed helps it adjust to a fast moving plane, but it also means if you miss the plane and it goes for the sky it will miss by a larger amount. Slow tracking means it might fall behind what it needs to do, but if it misses it will stay close to what it should be. I have been playing with this lately myself, and I think fast tracking works best.

You can also take a look at the priority settings, where you tell the camera if you'd rather it A) make sure it is focused before clicking a picture or B) click when you hit the button whether it is focused or not. If you pick focus you will have cases where you miss a cross or a puff of vapor because it refuses to click right away. If you pick release you will get some out of focus photos because it doesn't have a chance to adjust first. This is personal preference, and you can play with it to see what works best.

Ultimately, part of the problem might be the equipment. The entry-level gear just has less focus points to use and drives the focus slower than the more expensive stuff. Hopefully what I wrote above can help you get the most out of it though, because it should definitely be acceptable most of the time.

Personally, I struggled at the end of the summer because my main camera (7D w/ a 100-400 II) really began to miss on focusing. I can actually trace it to Oshkosh - my pictures from the week were all very good until I skimmed through some from the last day and noticed many more misses than I expected including some gimme situations. At each show after that the pattern continued until at the last show I swapped in my backup body (70D) and sure enough nailed far more shots. I don't know if the 7D is just getting worn out, if some dust got onto the focusing system, or what. I'll be buying a replacement this winter anyway.
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Ryan Sundheimer
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rhinonavy
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Post by rhinonavy » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:04 am

Thank you Ryan! That's great info to know. I'm going to try it out on some stuff around the airport here before I head to Nellis next month. I still get some great shots every now and then, but I want a higher percentage.

Concur on the gear. I know that can pose a problem, but I honestly don't have a good enough reason to go into the bank for high-level Canon. This set up works great for the one to two air shows I make it to a year, and I'm hoping to squeeze some better shots out of it.

Thanks again for taking time to respond!
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RyanS
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Post by RyanS » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:54 pm

rhinonavy wrote: Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:04 am Thank you Ryan! That's great info to know. I'm going to try it out on some stuff around the airport here before I head to Nellis next month. I still get some great shots every now and then, but I want a higher percentage.

Concur on the gear. I know that can pose a problem, but I honestly don't have a good enough reason to go into the bank for high-level Canon. This set up works great for the one to two air shows I make it to a year, and I'm hoping to squeeze some better shots out of it.

Thanks again for taking time to respond!
Yep, I don't blame you on the gear and it's better to maximize what you've got instead of tossing money after it. Happy to help, hope to see some results (or more questions) soon!
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Ryan Sundheimer
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Larry I
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Post by Larry I » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:47 pm

From what I've seen the SL 1 should be up to the task but the 75-300 Lens is a weak link to really sharp action photos. Also you haven't mentioned shooting method. Are you relying on sport mode, Auto, or Tv? You need a fast shutter speed for jets and it's best to pick it yourself rather than letting the camera choose it. Prop planes however need a slow shutter speed for prop blur but both need a smooth panning action as you track the plane while keeping the shutter button or back AF button on enough to keep the AF system awake. I for one prefer using the shutter button for the AF & am happy with that but some prefer a rear button. One trick that can help as you practice is to pick an AF spot & try your best to keep it on a specific part of the plane as you pan with it across the sky.
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