Monday, 14 September 2020

User review for EOS R6 & More Migrants

My EOS 7D mark ii is at the end of its service, the built in flash failed to work long ago, body grip is falling apart...Despite the subpar auto focus and tracking ability, I have taken some pretty decent photos with it throughout the years, it had been a solid piece of field equipment. I have been waiting for Canon to develop a replacement for the 7D mark ii, but the rise of mirrorless cameras meant that never happened. To my delight, they finally announced the EOS R5 and later R6, which I was quite excited about, not only will I finally get to replace my camera without having to jump ships to Sony or Nikon (I wanted to keep all my EF lenses), but the new autofocus system and animal tracking capabilities sounded too good to be true. So, I made the plunge into mirrorless with the R6, partly because it is slightly cheaper than the R5, the dual SD card vs CF compact was a huge draw, plus I am not really a videographer, meaning I probably won't be using the 8K video very often.

Canon EOS R6

Comparing with the EOS 7D mark ii, the EOS R6 is clearly smaller, but not so small that it grips badly, it still feels pretty solid, which is important for wildlife photographers, as I rely on sturdy gears in rough conditions...The general setup feels very similar to other canon DSLR cameras, which I am glad they kept, as it makes the transition to this new camera very easy. When canon announced the new cameras will be fitted with R mounts I was slightly worried, but the EF-R Adapter Mount worked better than I expected, focusing speed feels native with no noticeable lag. The down side from switching from a cropped censor camera to a full frame camera is that I don't get the crop factor anymore, meaning all the birds that are tiny to begin with is now even smaller in the view finder...

Canon EOS 7D mark II & EOS R6

Canon EF-R Adapter Mount

I have been using the R6 for two weeks now, and it have showed great potential. I have been pairing it with my EF 500mm F/4 IS II lens, and this combination have been working fairly well for me. This is by no mean suppose to be a professional camera review, I am only commenting based on hands on experience with the camera. One of the key feature that captured the imagination of wildlife photographers world wide about the R5 & R6 is the new Animal Eye Detection system. I have tried it, and the animal eye tracking was able to pick up and lock onto the bird's eye on most occasion, the camera was able to keep the focus locked onto the eyes of this Hainan Blue Flycatcher without my need to constantly having to make sure the focus point is on the bird. The second shot here is of a Red-whiskered Bulbul, which had a few branches in front of the bird, the animal eye tracking system was able to pick up the bird's eye and lock on.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Red-whiskered Bulbul

With quicker moving subjects, such as this Mountain Tailorbird, Eye Detection AF was not able to lock onto the eyes initially, so I have set the default focusing to point AF, and set the * button to Eye Detection AF, once the subject is more or less in focus I immediately press the * button and the camera is usually able to lock onto the subject's eyes fairly quickly...Although on a few occasions the camera just doesn't recognise the eyes and decide to focus on a branch behind or in front of the subject instead, that is particularly the case if you are trying to photograph birds in the forest. So, while the Animal Eye AF is not perfect, it does helps on many occasions, just don't expect it to do all the work for you to begin with.

Mountain Tailorbird

One thing I find slightly irritating so far is that the R6 sometimes does not register smaller subjects, such as this Asian Brown Flycatcher perched in the open, it wasn't even that far away but the camera had a hard time locking on at first...Especially for flying birds at a greater distance, the camera sometimes just doesn't register the subject and doesn't want to lock on! One of the short comings of the R6 compare to the R5 is the resolution, with just 20 mega pixels it does not allow a lot of cropping to be done, compare to the R5 which boast a 45 mega pixels sensor, you can get  lot more details from further subjects.

Asian Brown Flycatcher - uncropped (the camera had slight trouble picking up the subject)

Asian Brown Flycatcher - cropped

However, the R6 shares the same sensor to the flagship 1D X Mark III, and I have been very impressed with the overall noise control. Most shots are very smooth and retained fine details easily at ISO1600, such as this photo of a Blue Whistling Thrush. I encountered this Lesser Shortwing at 6pm the other day, and cranked the ISO all the way up to ISO 20000, but the results were better than I expected, don't expect it to be a crisp image, but it was certainly usable. What impressed me the most was that the Animal Eye Detection even worked in such dark conditions, and was able to lock onto the Lesser Shortwing with relative ease behind all the branches!

Blue Whistling Thrush - shot at ISO 1600

Lesser Shortwing - shot at ISO 20000

The R6 works with both 1.4x and 2x extender, I used the version III with my EF 500mm and results had been fairly good. For example this female Siberian Stonechat that sat in the open for a good photo, the focusing was still pretty quick despite the lousy background, the camera locked on to the eye with no problem. An added bonus is the new IBIS (In Body Image Stabiliser), which is a huge plus for me as I shoot hand held most of the time, for example this shot of the juvenile Hainan Blue Flycatcher was shot at just 1/60th of a second @ 500mm, on normal circumstances the image would likely be blurred, but with the help of IBIS I was able to get a steady shot of this bird. Overall, I think it is a very all rounded camera, considering the features packed into this compact body, and at this price range, it is a good choice for existing canon users to upgrade their gear. Although if budget is not your concern, I would go for the EOS R5, which allows heavier cropping in post production.

Siberian Stonechat - with 2x extender

Haian Blue Flycatcher - shot at 1/60th of a second hand held

Back on the subject of migrants, Ho Man Tin have been productive lately, although I haven't been able to see all of the good migrants passing through, I was entertained by a few Arctic Warblers, an Asian Brown Flycatcher and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. Someone spotted yet another male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher but no luck for me, a few Siberian Blue Robins as well as Tiger Shrike is also present, hopefully will stay a little longer for me to catch up on...

Arctic Warbler

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - female

I visited Tai Lam one afternoon and had some decent birds, including a large bird wave with most of the resident species such as Yellow-cheeked Tit and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Both Amur and Japanese Paradise Flycatchers were also seen, both travelling with the bird wave. juvenile Paradise Flycatchers can be confusing in the field, but Amur are usually more rufous on the tail and head more glossy blue, while Japanese have darker mantle and tail and a matte black head.

Yellow-cheeked Tit - male

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Amur Paradise Flycatcher

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - juvenile

San Tin have been quite productive lately, with more waders feeding on half drained fish ponds, numerous Black-winged Stilts, a few Common Greenshanks, the usual Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpipers, and Green Sandpipers. A few Pin-tailed Snipes were also present along with Long-toed Stints. The best bird though was a very cooperative Ruddy Turnstone, which allowed close views.

Black-winged Stilt

Common Greenshank

Ruddy Turnstone

Oriental Reed Warblers are starting to arrive, along with at least one Manchurian Reed Warbler which was too quick for me to get a photo of. A few Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers were also present, I flushed one out and it perched just long enough for me to grab a record shot. Brown Shrike is also fairly common at this time of the year. There were surprisingly few marsh terns, with just a single White-winged Black Tern with one Whiskered Tern.

Oriental Reed Warbler

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler

Brown Shrike

White-winged Black Tern (left) & Whiskered Tern (right)

Other than birds, I was lucky to come across this beautiful Chinese Mountain Snake at Tai Lam, they are one of the most docile snake in Hong Kong, they never attempt to bite. I was able to get this one to calm down for a few photos before letting it continue on whatever it was doing, likely hunting for skinks along the forest trail.

Chinese Mountain Snake