Was It Worth The Time?

In my post last week, What To Expect On Your First Birding Trip, I included the suggestion to learn about your camera before leaving.  I gave an example of a guy I met in the Serengeti who accidentally wiped out all his images on his SIM card.  Ouch!  Well it got me thinking about some of the things I’ve been researching about my Canon R7.  Although I’ve had it almost a year and half I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do.  Of course, I’m never happy with the quality of my shots and believe that a better setup would help.  So I started to do more research.

Although I would prefer to read about how to set up my camera, I find that YouTube videos do a better job.  In most cases the speaker is well informed, shows the camera menu setup on the screen, and often has video or images demonstrating what the camera does as a result of setting a particular camera menu item.  As I watch these videos I have my camera in hand and a notepad nearby: I frequently stop the video, write down what I’m about to change on my camera, make the menu changes suggested, then try them by aiming the camera through the window at birds on our feeders.  Sometimes I like the change, other times I reverse the menu alteration.  Each time I do change a menu item I learn a little bit more about it; in some cases the videos have uncovered several different layers of menu options I wasn’t aware of.  To me, that’s an important take-away from this process – as I learn more about what the camera can do, the more likely I can incorporate those features into my bird photography setup.

I have six pages of notes from the videos I recently watched (probably a total of 3 hours run time, not including pauses) so I’m not going to share all that I’ve learned, but here are a couple of modifications I found useful:

  • I changed the Mfn (Multifunction) button so that when pushed it immediately changes the zone the Autofocus is searching (before I had to take my eye off of the viewfinder [and bird] and go into a menu system to make the same change).
  • I modified my back button focusing.  Both buttons are still on Single Point focus but one button searches for an animal (preferably a bird).  If it finds the bird I hit the other button which turns on Eye Detection, so the camera then focuses on the bird’s eye.  If it can’t find the eye I can go back to the first button and refocus on the bird and hit the shutter button (which does not change the focus) and I still get a pretty good shot.
  • I assigned a different button to magnify the image in the viewfinder to 5X or 10X.  When magnified I can get a much better look to see if the camera has attained focus on a bird farther away.
  • I found out that when I turn the lens from Autofocus to Manual (used when birds are obscured in a bush or there’s not enough light for the camera to attain autofocus) the area I am focused on turns red, so I know when I am focused on the bird (and not the bush behind it).  Moving the manual focus changes the layer it is focused on and displays everything in that layer in red.

I was surprised at how many videos are out there just for my camera.  I just Googled, “Canon R7 bird photography setup” and up came hundreds of videos.  I looked at a video from five different sources and I learned something from each one of them.

Was it worth the time?  I think it was.  So dig a little deeper into the inter-workings of your camera – invest some time with some experts who have learned your camera’s functions inside and out and know how to apply them to bird photography.  I’ll bet you end up with a camera that’s easier to use and takes better pictures.


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