Podcast: Mirrorless System Advantages for Bird Photography


Has the Canon EOS R5 changed the conversation about using mirrorless cameras for bird and wildlife photography? This is the position of our guest, David Speiser, who, this summer, traded his Canon 1D X Mark III for the R system camera and lenses. But his colleague, fellow bird photographer and—for now—DSLR stalwart Grace Scalzo, is not quite ready to make that switch.

Today’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast focuses on the features of the Canon R5 and RF lenses that specifically benefit bird photographers. Speiser relates his decision to sell a treasure trove's worth of gear and reinvest in Canon’s mirrorless system. He notes the advanced eye focus, the customization features, in-body image stabilization, and new, sharp lenses as factors in his decision. Scalzo, however, is not ready to give up her rugged, fast, and ergonomically balanced DSLR with its broad selection of quality glass and an optical viewfinder. This is a fun-spirited and well-articulated debate between two shooters who really know their gear and their craft.

In addition to the DSLR vs. mirrorless smackdown, we discuss 600mm lenses, adapters, gimbal heads, tripods, sharpening software, and even some land management and wildlife ethics issues. Join us for this vastly informative conversation, ideal for Canon photographers and wildlife shooters considering their next purchase.

Also, please check out the Musea Gathering virtual photo conference, a wonderful two-day event on wedding and family photography.

Guests: Grace Scalzo and David Speiser

Photograph © David Speiser

Black-chinned Hummingbird. Canon 1D X Mark II with 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 1/3200 second at ISO 1600 © Grace Scalzo
Great Horned Owl. Canon 1D X Mark II with 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 1/125 second at ISO 1600 © Grace Scalzo
Summer Tanager with Bug. Canon 1D X Mark II with 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/640 second at ISO 1600 © Grace Scalzo
Gray Fox. Canon 1D X Mark II with 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens. 1/500 second at ISO 3200 © Grace Scalzo
Painted Lady on Thistle. Canon 1D X Mark II with 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/640 second at ISO 400 © Grace Scalzo
Common Cuckoo, 2020. Canon R5 with adapter and 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/4000 second at ISO 1600 © David Speiser
Barred Owl, NYC, 2020. Canon R5 with RF 100-500mm f/4.5 Lens. 300mm at 1/40 second, ISO 3200 © David Speiser
Western Tanager, NYC, 2020. Canon R5 with RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM Lens. 500mm at 1/320 second, ISO 2000 © David Speiser
Atlantic Puffin, 2020. Canon R5 with adapter and 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/2500 second at ISO 800 © David Speiser
Black Guillemot, 2020. Canon R5 with adapter and 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/2500 second at ISO 800 © David Speiser
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 2020. Canon R5 with adapter and 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and 2.0x teleconverter. 1/800 second at ISO 3200 © David Speiser

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves


Enjoyable and informative. I just took an R5 for a test run and was thrilled with the results. There's no question that the photographer has to be more careful shooting with such a high-resolution camera, but the possibilities for creating great images are there, no question. I managed to get a few. BTW, will reference this podcast in my bird and bird photography blog birdpartner.com, where I've just begun to review the R5. Keep up the good work!

Thank you David for the kind comment and good luck with that R5. If you 'd like to share your review on the B&H Photography Podcast Facebook group, I think our listeners would appreciate it.  Thanks again for listening.

Thank you for this podcast.  Just the information I was looking for.  Also it is great to see the sample photographs.  The birds in flight images in particular are really impressive.  Grace and David set a great standard to strive for and give good advice on how to improve.

Thanks for the comment Matthew. Yes, I agree the photographs are great and the back and forth between David and Grace was very informative. Thanks for listening.


I really wanted to listen to this but Davids audio was horrible. 

Thanks for the comment Kurt. Occasionally there are audio related issues due to connectivity while remote recording, which is how we continue to record all our shows.  Our audio standards are very high.  I hope you were able to get some information from the show nonetheless because our guests are experienced bird photographers. Thanks again


Hi Kurt, the audio fades in and out only a few times. I know it’s not ideal but I would stick with the podcast. There’s lots of great info. 

david, i respectfully beg to differ. it was not only a few times, it was a constant occurrence throughout the hour, whenever you had the mic (which was much of the time). i stuck with it as i'm very interested in grace's work, specifically, bird photography more generally (much of my area as well), and an abiding interest in moving to mirrorless this year. thus, i was very disappointed in your contributions dropping out every third word or so, continuingly through the podcast. just as an fyi, it seemed, from here, that you were rocking back and forth toward and away from the mic. i'm very sorry to have missed so much of your input.

Thank you for the comment JP and for listening to the show. Apologies from the podcast team for the audio on this episode.  This is a rare occurrence and hopefully did not distract too much from the information David shared. 

Interesting and informative.  Thank you.

Thanks for listening and the comment Stephen.

One thing I had hoped you would address is the issue of micro-focus adjustment.  I am currently shooting a 7DII and this adjustment is absolutely critical to getting sharp focus. Also, what you set up at 85 degrees in July doesn't work at all for shooting at -10 degrees in January (I live in Minnesota!).

Since this adjustment is included with DSLR's to mitigate the difference in the path length from the lens to the image sensor and the lens to the focus sensor, I assume that a mirrorless body has no need for it.  I see this as a tremendous advantage for mirrorless bodies.

Yes that is a very good point Steve and I would like to ask David if he has any thoughts on the subject and ask him to comment.  Thanks!

Thank you for listening. With mirrorless bodies microadjustment should not be necessary and is not a feature of the R5 as I understand it. The mirrorless system allows focusing to happen on the sensor where the image is actually captured.

‘This increases accuracy and is another main advantage of the focusing system of the R5. 

Its an excellent point that I should have mentioned during the podcast. I alluded to the increased hit rate but didn’t mention the technicals behind it. 

Enjoy your Eos R R5 R6 in all weather without worry of microadjustment. Shoot and enjoy.