Canon’s top end autofocus system – hard to beat at the airshow


I recently had the pleasure of shooting another airshow, Thunder Over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, NJ. I’ve photographed the airshow a few times now, and have been trying to get something other than sharp shots of fast planes and jets in flight, against an open sky.  So, this year, I positioned myself with some obstacles, mainly palm trees, in my line of sight, and tried capturing the planes and jets framed by, or in the frame with the aircraft.

I was shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens. I set the AF mode to AI Servo, the drive to high speed continuous and tweaked the AF setup to a slightly modified “tennis man” setting which keeps focus on the subject, trying to ignore obstacles that enter the frame.

I’ll let this great article at explain a lot more about those modes and settings, but the photos I was able to capture with a solid panning technique were stunning. I keep hearing a lot about people switching to some mirrorless system, or wanting Canon and Nikon for that matter, to produce one, but for now, I will stick with mirrored Canon, especially for this sort of shooting.  Will mirrorless get there – probably, but the AF systems just don’t seem to be there yet.  Do you have an image from a mirrorless that will prove me wrong?  Let me know in the comments.

Here are a few examples of what I was after:

USAF Thunderbirds passing through the palms

Bird's eye view

Those are some different birds in the trees!