01 March 2023

Canon Camera System Change - From DSLR to Mirrorless

From Canon DSLR EOS to Mirrorless EOS R

Cape Sparrow in Flight: Canon Camera System Change - From DSLR to Mirrorless


A Question on Camera System Change - and my personal / professional response as photographer and Canon EOS & photography trainer.

After testing the Canon EOS R6 I was asked by one of my long-time Facebook followers if I would change my EOS System (from DSLR to Mirrorless) for predominantly Birds in Flight photography - this question made me think and this was my unedited response: 

"Thanks for the question, mate. I wont change my system yet, purely for the fact that the EOS 7D Mark II / Ef 400mm f/5.6L lens fulfils most of my in-flight work at this stage (around my 'office / Woodbridge island'- with no real body shortcomings. I have other cameras for my other work. Landscape (EOS 6D) and a few other crops.

Changing / investing into the R System, for me, will probably happen over time. I do believe the R System is more mature now - for fast action et al. I like the mechanical shutter and the AF. I may want to add some more L glass to my bag. 

At this stage it will not be cost-effective to even start buying into the R System. I'm quite content with my bag full of EOS DSLRs and EF (L) glass - as it was quite an investment over time to fill the bag up to cover bodies / glass for my enthusiast / pro / teaching requirements. But you ask a very important question many photographers will think about as the R System is reaching maturity and becomes more fast-action competitive.

I'm keen to see what a possible R7 will bring - this maybe a start to purchase into the R system - with an RF adapter I will be able to use all current EF class. I do personally and professionally believe in the R System and am sure photographers buying into the EOS R5 and R6 will be happy. 

At the moment in my photo work I am searching for good light and the birds - still very happy with what is currently in my hands doing the chasing and creating. Thank you for providing an opportunity to do some quick self-checking here wrt my own strategic / asset objectives.

For me lately its what is in front of me - how do I create a better image in current environment? I don't really travel much for my photography - and am fortunate to do most of my own shooting here on my doorstep. So don't need lighter gear for instance. New kit may take my mind away for creating for a while, while I'm learning and fiddling with a new body. 

My birding setup is an example - I never think about settings really - just ensure I'm setup before a shoot, switch off the LCD and that's it. Don't look at camera, don't think camera, only chase the light and the birds (and angles for better backgrounds ) I don't mind doing new kit testing - it gives me as sense of the hardware evolution - am grateful that Canon can provide me with new kit - more so for my clients / students - to understand how it could also add value in their journeys."

Differences Between a DSLR and Mirrorless Camera
What is the Difference Between a DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras?

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Thank you Roger Jones - you made me think and my (almost) instantaneous response to you at the time was the embedded affirmation that chasing light and birds is of higher priority than the camera in my hands.

Images: Cape sparrow / Yellow-billed duck - with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/6.6L USM lens at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Birds in Flight Gallery

Yellow-Billed Duck in Flight: Canon Camera System Change - From DSLR to Mirrorless
Yellow-Billed Duck in Flight - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography

Starting out with an Introduction to Canon Birds in Flight Photography

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography
Starting out with Canon Birds in Flight Photography

Introduction to Canon Birds in Flight Photography
Many photographers, when they first getting interested in Birds in Flight / Action Photography, are of opinion that they require professional grade gear, or at least the latest and / or greatest DSLR / Lens combination that they can afford.

With more than 10 years of personal experience in the capturing of Birds in Flight and the training and development of new photographers in the capturing of Birds in Flight I have seen quite a number of substantial improvements via the photographer's ability without any significant change in body and / or lens combinations.

The more advanced Canon APS-C or Full Frame bodies (paired with i.e. a 300mm or 400mm prime lens) will provide for an excellent basis to start from, but from personal experience I have seen / consulted many new photographers with professional grade equipment coming to my Birds in Flight Photography Private Training / Workshops with the total honesty (and frustration) of not being successful in this exciting action genre. 

Also read: Setup and Tips for Birds in Flight Photography

What I tell many Cape Town photographers staring out with Birds in Flight Photography is that they may just have a possible body / lens combination in their bags without spending any money on new gear.

'Gear Acquisition Syndrome'
Birds in Flight Photography gear acquisition (as referred to tongue-in-cheek globally as GAS - 'Gear Acquisition Syndrome') can very quickly spiral out of control for new photographers putting gear first and not considering a more complete range of requirements / skills development for getting started. I generally recommend Birds in Flight photography delegates / beginners not to make any changes to current gear for at least three to six months (to focus on skills development first).

Birds in Flight Photography Learning and Training Opportunities Cape Town
For Birds in Flight Photography training and shooting opportunities please Contact me

Capturing Birds in Flight is a combination of the following requirements:

DSLR Bodies: FPS / AF / Shutter Speed
Any DSLR capable of shooting between 4 and 14 frames per second (fps) in continuous shooting mode are suitable for Birds in Flight. I.e the Canon EOS 600D / 700D's at 5 fps will get the job done. Even entry-level DSLR bodies with a limited 9-Point Autofocus (AF) system is responsive enough for tracking fast flying birds. 

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography
Shutter Speed: 1/3200s - Canon 400mm prime Lens

Understanding and application of shutter speed is a critical requirement in my view. About all DSLR's will offer shutter speeds of a maximum of 1/4000s up to 1/8000s (in some higher-end bodies) of which all is suitable for freezing the wings of most birds.

I generally use 1/3200s to 1/4000s shutter speeds for the majority of my Birds in Flight photography.

Popular Lenses for Birds in Flight Photography
After training many new Birds in Flight photographers at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town the following Canon, Sigma and Tamron lenses are the most popular for Canon APS-C and Full Frame bodies:
  • Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM prime lens
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM prime lens
  • Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM prime lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS (II) USM lenses
  • Sigma 150-500 / 600mm lenses
  • Tamron 150-600mm lenses

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town
With Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM prime Lens

Lenses: Minimum Focal Length and Apertures
Telephoto zoom kit lenses in the minimum focal length range of +- 250mm are just about suitable as an entry lens choice for starting out at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town - as some areas will allow for very close access to low flying birds.

The 55-250mm or the 70-300mm variable-aperture f/4-5.6 tele-zoom lenses can't really be compared with the optical quality of a prime lens of 300mm or 400mm lens (with apertures of f/4 or f5/6), but under sufficient light you will be surprised of what is achievable - even at f/8 (the 'sweet spot' for image quality / sharpness of many 70-300mm lenses). 

Image one:  King Gull captured using an entry-level DSLR (EOS 700D) and the kit variable aperture zoom lens (Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.5.6 IS II Lens)

Image two:  Grey Heron captured using an entry-level Canon DSLR (EOS 700D) and a consumer variable aperture lens (Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens).

Image three:  Reed Cormorant captured using a mid-range enthusiast Canon DSLR (EOS 70D) and the very cost-effective 400mm telephoto lens (Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens)

Image four:  Swift Tern captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 7D Mark II) and the very cost-effective 400mm telephoto lens (Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens)

Image five:  Pied Kingfisher captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 6D) and sharp and fast Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens)

Image six:  Swift Tern captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 6D) and professional-grade prime super-telephoto Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens)

The biggest success criteria of the three images below are not the gear, but the most applicable exposure settings, quality of the light and the fact that I was quite close to the bird with an anticipation / understanding of the subjects's behaviour / flying pattern(s).

Birds in Flight Photography: Skills / Techniques
With learning any new photography genre there is a learning curve. Only many hours in the field will ensure the understanding and mastering of the most suitable camera body / AF / lens settings and the best exposure modes for action photography (ito best results for depth of filed, subject sharpness and overall satisfaction rate of the photographer).

It can take anything from six months or longer for getting a thorough understanding of the camera / lens settings, exposure settings and to learn the different bird birds ito their flying and general behaviour patterns. The objective should not be to master this as quick as possible, but to take time to learn, have fun and spend time with like-minded photographers.

Personal Dedication: Commitment / Motivation
I've seen many of my Birds in Flight Photography delegates increasing their Birds in Flight capturing skills over time well past the original workshop and practical shoots. Some then go on to purchase new and more advanced bodies and lenses, but most just keep on working their skills lens (by shooting as often as they can, asking as many questions as possible and not be afraid to experiment with camera / lens and exposure setting.

Two Cost-Effective Canon Birds in Flight Lens Options - Go Here>>

Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography King Gull: Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens
King Gull: Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II zoom Lens

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography Grey Heron Vernon Chalmers Photography Copyright
Grey Heron: Canon EOS 700D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM zoom Lens

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography - Pied Kingfisher: Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens
Pied Kingfisher: Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM prime Lens


Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town - Swift Tern: Canon EOS 6D / EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Swift Tern: Canon EOS 6D / EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM prime Lens

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town
Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

All 9 Birds in Flight images were captured around the Milnerton Lagoon / Woodbridge Island, Cape Town in mostly early morning and sunny conditions.

Canon Photography Training Milnerton Intaka Island | Kirstenbosch | Woodbridge Island Cape Town

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Small Bird Photography : Olive Thrush at Kirstenbosch © Vernon Chalmers

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Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

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Olive Thrush at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Canon EOS 70D / EF 100 - 400mm f/4-5.6L USM lens

Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM  Lens (With EF 25 II Extension Tune)
Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM  Lens (With EF 25 II Extension Tune)

Canon Photography Training Milnerton Woodbridge Island | Kirstenbosch Cape Town

How to Excel at Canon Birds in Flight Photography

 Canon Birds in Flight Photography : Environmental Conditions and Exposure / AF Settings

Canon Birds in Flight Photography : Environmental Conditions and Exposure / AF Setting
Yellow-Billed Duck in Flight : Woodbridge Island, Cape Town

A listing with description(s) of more than 10 variables (and environmental conditions) on my photography website that I am mindful of in the application of successful birds in flight photography (excluding camera / lens settings and AF decisions).

These are mostly (my own) environmental decisions applied with pre-configured camera / lens settings trusted to deliver the best exposure in the available light.

Environmental Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Environmental Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography

Herewith a brief overview and default birds in flight camera / lens settings I have used over the past 10 years - with said environmental conditions / decisions becoming more important than specific camera / lens in hand.

Setup and Tips For Birds in Flight Photography
Setup and Tips For Birds in Flight Photography

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Photography Training Assessment and Review

Metacognitive Assessment and Review Opinion: Photography Training and Development

Metacognitive Assessment and Review Opinion: Photography Training and Development
Vernon Chalmers Photography Workshop Practical Cape Town : Photo Credit: Steve Williams
Over the past 10 years I have spent many hours with hundreds of enthusiast photographers in their pursuit to learn more about camera settings, exposure, composition, light, post-processing and other (awareness) challenges in their image making expectations and / or results.

During the next couple of months I will be pursuing a non-empirical, but with close correlation, a qualitative (non-supervised) research article, assessing [the] various ways of how the contemporary enthusiast photographer appears to prioritise, plan and process learning objectives, cognitive flow and creative / perceptual influences in applying his / her craft.

I am fascinated by the proposition in attaining an objective, but deeper understanding of how the developing enthusiast photographer measures personal achievement and value visual satisfaction (and perceived success) in the art and science of photography.

I've had an engaging career in the training and development of tertiary students / adult learners across a wide range of subjects. Most of my training, development and research assessments were for various academic institutions - predominantly in the faculties of Humanities, Social and Management Sciences (up to various post-graduate levels). More here >>

The photography training assessment and review project will therefore also be inclusive of a fundamental pedagogic assessment orientation with emphasis on creating assumptions (rather than the development of a hypothesis) of the adult learner's challenges in improving cognition, behaviour, skills and creative ability.

For more than a year I’ve mulled over these fundamental questions and finally arrived at a stage to prepare an informal research abstract for exploring the many different image making expectations, learning challenges and creative application processes that is important to the individual enthusiast photographer for maintaining personal interest, self-development and visual perspective in whatever genre and / or subject choice(s).

Disclaimer: The research opinion title, formal abstract and rationale may vary from the above articulation and interpretation of my original research interest / questions.

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