01 January 2021

Canon EOS 7D Mark II EOS iTR AF Testing

Canon EOS 7D Mark II EOS iTR AF Testing, Woodbridge Island

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Photography: Canon EOS 7D Mark II EOS iTR AF

As with all new Canon EOS Full Frame bodies - EOS 5D Mark IV / EOS 5DS(r) / EOS-1D X (II) - the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is equip with EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Auto Focus) enabling the camera for potentially focusing faster on moving subjects when in AI Servo mode shooting moving subjects.

This 
EOS iTR AF function is supported by the detection capability of the RGB+IR metering sensor, which is working seamlessly with EOS iTR AF for allowing continuous tracking in AI Servo shooting mode.

According to Canon, EOS iTR AF should be enabled when photographing either a moving person (for face tracking) or moving subjects with a strong colour. Colour and face tracking provides a faster, more accurate focusing system.


The EOS 7D Mark II user manual (Setting the AF and Drive Modes: page 128) states that the camera will take longer to focus when EOS iTR AF is enabled in AI Servo mode and that the camera's maximum frames per second (fps) shooting of 10 fps will be reduced to 9.5 fps.

EOS iTR AF is only supported in Zone, Larger Zone AF or the 65-Point automatic selection AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. The same Zones will be applicable in 
EOS iTR A-enabled the Full Frame EOS bodies (within the 61-Point AF systems).

Comparing face detection performance and AF against obstruction

Comparing face detection performance and AF against obstruction


Setting Up EOS iTR AF (On / Off)
EOS 7D Mark II Menu: AF Sub-Menu / Sub-Section 4: Auto AF pt sel:
 EOS iTR AF On / Off 

Objective: To determine any shooting / image property changes and / or enhancements with the EOS iTR AF function enabled during my birds in flight photography. I've been shooting with the EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens for about two years without EOS iTR AF enabled. Time and reason enough for judging any AF tracking differences and / or improvements.

Equipment (Birds In Flight Photography)

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera body
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
  • Lexar Professional 800x / 120MB/s 32GB CF Card
  • Sandisk Extreme Plus SDHC™ UHS-I Card 95MB/s 32 GB 

Exposure / Focus Settings

  • Manual Mode Settings / Lens AF On
  • Shutter speed: 1/5000s
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Focal length 400mm
  • Auto-ISO (ISO 640)
  • Continuous shooting mode (10 fps) / AI Servo
  • AI Servo / AF Mode Option (Wide Zone AF / Case 1)
  • Lens AF On / No IS / Handheld

Location / Conditions

I went out this morning (in excellent light and conditions) and spent about two hours shooting around Woodbridge Island, Cape Town - all the usual birds; geese, ducks, egrets and a few oystercatchers.

Birds in Flight
I'm adding two sets of 6 consecutive images here of two birds flying at pace, first an African Oystercather, which is at times difficult to track due to it black feathers (against the blue water) and then an Egyptian Goose flying towards me (tightly cropped in post-processing).

Initial AF Findings

I could sense no difference in any AF behaviour ito speed, locking on or tracking conditions irrespective of bird, speed and or background colour / textures.

The jury is still out how effective the EOS iTR AF function is for birds in flight. Of what I've experienced today I can honestly say that it made no real difference (when compared to similar shots with EOS iTR AF disabled). I will keep it enabled and to observe any changes over time ito different light conditions and perhaps smaller / bigger and different colour birds.


African Oystercatcher with EOS iTR AF (Click to enlarge / slide show)

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBirds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBirds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBirds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EOS Setup and Tips For Birds in Flight Photography

Egyptian Goose with EOS iTR AF (Click to enlarge / slide show)

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBirds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark IIBirds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Photography: Testing EOS iTR AF on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Birds in Flight Cape Town Canon EOS 7D Mark II Image Gallery

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

Using High-Speed Sync Flash in the Afternoon Sun

Using High-Speed Sync Flash at High Shutter Speed-  with Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
 Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
Overpowering the sun and wind with High-Speed Sync (HSS) Flash

Outside close-up and macro photography is generally done on an early windless morning with crisp light / or with some cloud cover for reducing harsh light and glare.

But, what do you do if you only have 14:00 in full afternoon sun and the wind is blowing? Suddenly a high shutter speed and using flash is more than a suitable solution.

I went out at 14:00 in the sun for deliberately capturing a yellow (and very bright) flower against (my own) close-up and macro photography principles.

In using a Speedlite (external flash unit) fitted in the camera flash hot shoe and applying the Speedlite's High-Sync Speed (HSS) setting I was able to overcome the maximum sync speed (highest shutter speed of a particular camera when using flash) of the camera I was using - 1/250s on the Canon EOS 70D - by setting the shutter speed to whatever I wanted higher than the 1/250s limitation.

Most entry-level DSLR's are capable of 1/4000s Shutter Speed and enthusiast / professional cameras up to 1/8000s.

Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash
Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash @ 1/8000s Shutter Speed with Speedlite flash

For this image I experimented (handheld) and went up to the maximum (almost unthinkable) shutter speed of 1/8000s of said camera - maybe a stop or two too high of what was actually required, but nevertheless, together with the flash, overpowered the sun and stopped the plucky wind from blurring the flower.

One of the applications of HSS is to be able to use wide apertures with faster shutter speeds for limiting the available ambient light (i.e. sunlight in this case). The faster the shutter speed the more the ambient light limitation. HSS is only available to use with either the camera's pop-up flash or with an external Speedlite flash.

In early morning close-up and macro photography (outside) I will use Aperture Priority Mode at whatever aperture is required (by me) and hardly be bothered with the shutter speed - and most often without flash.

Settings for this experimental image: Manual Mode @ ISO 400 / f/5.6 / 1/8000s with Canon EOS 70D / Speedlite 430EX III-RT with stofen-type plastic diffuser (flash head +- 35% tilted upwards from default position).

Lens used: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens

Speedlite Mode: E-TTL (with no exposure compensation)

Image is uncropped and slightly processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 9.

Using flash is therefore not only for adding light to low ambient light conditions, but also for limiting / overpowering strong sun light.

Butterfly in the afternoon at 1/180s Sync Speed

Taking advantage of good natural light

Birds in Flight Photography. Grey heron in early morning light... 

The heron was captured with an (almost) entry-level Canon EOS 700D and 1st generation EF 70-300mm lens at Woodbridge Island.

Taking advantage of good light
Grey Heron in Flight over the Milnerton Lagoon, Woodbridge Island

Its not always about having the fastest camera / (longest) lens combination, for me, at the time, the quality of light was the most important criteria. A fast shutter speed came in handy as well. This is a JPG image straight out of camera with minimal cropping (if any).

The image was captured on an typical African summer's morning, but still very early in the morning (less than an hour after sun rise). Seeing a grey heron so close was really unexpected, but with its relatively slow flight speed I had enough time to adjust the zoom for an almost full frame capture.

The small aperture used / and the fact that the bird was so close to the background did not provide for any background blur in the image, but at least the f/9.5 aperture provided for a relativity sharp subject.

Canon Camera / Lens / EXIF Data
  • Canon EOS 700D
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens
  • ISO 1600
  • Aperture f/9.5
  • Shutter Speed 1/2000s
  • Focal length: 190mm
  • Lens IS turned off

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