Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)

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zackiedawg
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Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
8 months ago

Yesterday confirmed what I was hoping for the A6000 - that finally, I have an e-mount camera which is capable of actually tracking a moving bird, higher-speed subjects, in AF-C mode!  While I've long been a BIF shooter with NEX cameras, it's always required shooting in AF-S mode, and regularly cycling the focus between shots manually...and usually just going for a single BIF shot rather than a sequence, since tracking auto-focus was not possible.

And now, with the A6000, it is.  Actually, super-easy.  The biggest limitation compared to my DSLR is the lens - I simply have more reach with longer lenses available with my DSLR...but I found at least in my initial tests that the AF-C tracking performance was at least as good as most DSLR's I've shot - easy, reliable, locks on very quickly, can handle fast movement closing on your position, and cycles across the focus points throughout the screen if the bird strays off center, or you move around trying to track.  I'd say, other than lens availability giving DSLRs an advantage, the only other slight advantage at least for me with DSLRs is in panning along while firing bursts, which is getting better with each generation of EVF I try, but still not quite up to the completely lag-free performance of an OVF...I can follow moving targets easily enough in the EVF until they start making erratic directional changes and I'm in the middle of firing a 6fps burst - then it's a little bit of a learning curve and trial-and-error as you're always responding to directional changes a few milliseconds after they already occurred and you're playing catch up in the finder.  Again, this is only for the more extreme BIF shooting - small sparrows and swallows that dart and change directions instantly and unpredictably.

While I'd say my NEX-5N was about 1/3 the BIF experience of my DSLR, I'd put the A6000 at about 90%...it's truly that usable.  Note that BIF requires skill and experience - going outside with your A6000 to shoot BIFs when you've never done it before is still going to yield a lot of misses, just as it would with a DSLR...but for those who have been shooting BIF and have the experience with DSLRs, the A6000 is easy to pick right up and start BIF-ing immediately, and will give you hit rates nearly identical to a DSLR.

Here are some of yesterday's BIFs - all taken with A6000, 55-210mm lens, and DH1758 1.7x TC - for 535mm equivalent reach:

Great egret soaring towards me

Cattle egret approaching fast towards me

Still tracking him, still shooting - AF-C is keeping up

Very close, and still tracking him!

An osprey cruising by fairly close - cutting off the wing was my fault, not the camera's!

Here comes another fast-moving cattle egret

He changed direction as he was moving towards me - from nearly straight on, to turning right

Still turning, still closer, still tracking

Closest pass, as he turns away

Great egret flying low over the water

Such elegant flyers

The only bone-headed part - I blew some shots that didn't have the highest quality or best results - fair amount of motion blur and loss of fine detail on close inspection - but it was entirely my fault and not the camera's.  I programmed my memory banks the night before, in haste, and completely missed one detail.  I had been in Program Auto mode when I was setting all the settings, so when I saved the memory banks I thought I was in Shutter Priority - but I saved my BIF memory banks as P mode.  And I never even thought to look - I was so busy wanting to shoot and play and learn the camera, that I only realized when going through the photo that I had some with shutter speeds of 1/320, 1/400, etc - nowhere near enough to freeze some of the motion.  The worst was my purple martin shooting - I was actually nailing them in focus, and the AF-C mode was keeping up with them - I was thrilled!  Until I loaded the photo and found out my error!

Oh well - new camera = new learning curve.  I've already re-saved my memory banks to avoid that issue next weekend.

Comments, questions, critique welcomed as always.

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Justin
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AlDogDr
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Hi, thank you for posting these great photos. Can you share with us the specific settings you used?

Also, the teleconverter you used what brand is it?  Thanks again,

Al

www.flickr.com/photos/aldogdr

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Damovich
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Great llttle review

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Advent1sam
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Cool, can you post som slightly larger samples?

Note, I did some testing with the 1,7x on a m43 lens and it works very well, but I'd say its more like 1,4-1,5 rather than 1,7! I think you'll be lucky to be shooting at 500mm when fully extended and more like 480! but still very worthwhile.

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zackiedawg
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Al,
In reply to AlDogDr, 8 months ago

I noticed the question you asked on your own thread - and I had just been posting this one, so I figured you'd find it as part of your question about shooting BIF!

Settings-wise, I was using two different memory recall setting banks to shoot yesterday - one for still birds, and one for in-flight birds.  Being able to quickly switch which MR bank I was in was much easier than having to change over all the various individual settings.

For still birds, I had MR1 set up as follows:  AF-S, Flex spot focus - small, center-weighted metering, steady shot on, drive mode - continuous lo, auto Wb, auto ISO set to 100-3200, lock-on AF off, creative mode: Vivid, with contrast 0, saturation -1, sharpness 0, and DRO set to Auto.  My only changes as I shot were to adjust EV as needed.

For BIFs, I had MR2 set up as follows: AF-C, wide focus area, center-weighted metering, steady shot off, drive mode - continuous med (6fps), auto WB, auto ISO set to 100-1600, lock on AF off, all other settings the same as above.

I also had MR3 set up almost identically to MR2, but with lock-on AF set to shutter...just so I could experiment between those two modes.  I found I prefer to use lock-on AF with zone focus mode, set to center zone...with moving subjects against sky, wide + AF-C and no lock on seemed to work best.

My big mistake was having the memory banks all set up in P mode - in the future, I'll be using S priority on the BIF setting, so I can keep the shutter above 1/1000.

Many thanks for looking in, and happy to answer any questions I can!

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Justin
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zackiedawg
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Thank you Damovich! [nt]
In reply to Damovich, 8 months ago
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Justin
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RonFrank
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Nice Justin. The Osprey is beautiful and the Great Egret against the green backdrop is cool. Unfortunately the weather was likely not as cool as the shot. Lucky you have a pool. My cuz bought a home with a pool last year when she moved from Ft Pierce to Lauderdale. She loves her pool as well.

As for the camera it sounds like Sony finally solved the PDAF mirrorless focus issue. I've been waiting for your review for a while but other reviews have been promising even if they shoot stuff that is harder to judge. Folks on bikes are popular but the reviewer uses a 16-50/70mm lens which makes it difficult to judge.

Your review knocked it out of the park! Thanks for that. We all make bonehead shooting mistakes now and again, too bad the shutter speed dipped. No harm, as you shoot more than the average bear.  We all will learn from that mistake so thanks.

I have been following your progress. Thanks for keeping us in the loop on the A6000.

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jack scholl
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Justin,

Glad to see you are in the A6000 family . . . nice shots as always.  Sony has made a big step forward.  We were thinking about adding a A77II as the 2nd body . . . time will tell what is announced.  But another A6000 would not be all bad . . .

Have fun.

Jack

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Sphinx_man
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to jack scholl, 8 months ago

Thank you very much! Very informative and detailed as always.

Cheers

SG

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Bart Hickman
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

Looks awesome.  I may have to get me one of those extenders.  I wish Sony would officially make them again.

Bart

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dquangt
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don't tell the trolls
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

there's been some negative posts around here lately about the a6000's continuous af, but either they are trolls or its user error. your shots prove that. great work.

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Frag01
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Re: Al,
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

zackiedawg wrote:

I noticed the question you asked on your own thread - and I had just been posting this one, so I figured you'd find it as part of your question about shooting BIF!

Settings-wise, I was using two different memory recall setting banks to shoot yesterday - one for still birds, and one for in-flight birds. Being able to quickly switch which MR bank I was in was much easier than having to change over all the various individual settings.

For still birds, I had MR1 set up as follows: AF-S, Flex spot focus - small, center-weighted metering, steady shot on, drive mode - continuous lo, auto Wb, auto ISO set to 100-3200, lock-on AF off, creative mode: Vivid, with contrast 0, saturation -1, sharpness 0, and DRO set to Auto. My only changes as I shot were to adjust EV as needed.

For BIFs, I had MR2 set up as follows: AF-C, wide focus area, center-weighted metering, steady shot off, drive mode - continuous med (6fps), auto WB, auto ISO set to 100-1600, lock on AF off, all other settings the same as above.

I also had MR3 set up almost identically to MR2, but with lock-on AF set to shutter...just so I could experiment between those two modes. I found I prefer to use lock-on AF with zone focus mode, set to center zone...with moving subjects against sky, wide + AF-C and no lock on seemed to work best.

My big mistake was having the memory banks all set up in P mode - in the future, I'll be using S priority on the BIF setting, so I can keep the shutter above 1/1000.

Many thanks for looking in, and happy to answer any questions I can!

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Justin
galleries: www.pbase.com/zackiedawg

Outstanding shots. Out of curiosity I was wondering why you have steadyshot off for  BIF's?

Thanks,

frag

 Frag01's gear list:Frag01's gear list
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Joachim Wulfers
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Re: Al,
In reply to zackiedawg, 8 months ago

zackiedawg wrote:

I noticed the question you asked on your own thread - and I had just been posting this one, so I figured you'd find it as part of your question about shooting BIF!

Settings-wise, I was using two different memory recall setting banks to shoot yesterday - one for still birds, and one for in-flight birds. Being able to quickly switch which MR bank I was in was much easier than having to change over all the various individual settings.

For still birds, I had MR1 set up as follows: AF-S, Flex spot focus - small, center-weighted metering, steady shot on, drive mode - continuous lo, auto Wb, auto ISO set to 100-3200, lock-on AF off, creative mode: Vivid, with contrast 0, saturation -1, sharpness 0, and DRO set to Auto. My only changes as I shot were to adjust EV as needed.

For BIFs, I had MR2 set up as follows: AF-C, wide focus area, center-weighted metering, steady shot off, drive mode - continuous med (6fps), auto WB, auto ISO set to 100-1600, lock on AF off, all other settings the same as above.

I also had MR3 set up almost identically to MR2, but with lock-on AF set to shutter...just so I could experiment between those two modes. I found I prefer to use lock-on AF with zone focus mode, set to center zone...with moving subjects against sky, wide + AF-C and no lock on seemed to work best.

My big mistake was having the memory banks all set up in P mode - in the future, I'll be using S priority on the BIF setting, so I can keep the shutter above 1/1000.

Many thanks for looking in, and happy to answer any questions I can!

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Justin
galleries: www.pbase.com/zackiedawg

Hi Justin,

thanks for the great review and the photos. I tried to copy your stings into the memory banks, however, MR1 is set at A and MR2 and 3 are set in P. Have not been able to find a way to fill the memory banks and change the settings. Is there a Trick?

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Joachim

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Frag01
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Re: Al,
In reply to Joachim Wulfers, 8 months ago

Joachim Wulfers wrote:

Hi Justin,

thanks for the great review and the photos. I tried to copy your stings into the memory banks, however, MR1 is set at A and MR2 and 3 are set in P. Have not been able to find a way to fill the memory banks and change the settings. Is there a Trick?

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Joachim

Once you set the camera up the way you want, then hit Menu, Camera pg 7, Memory, select the bank you want the settings memorized to, then hit the center button and your settings will be set to that bank.

Frag

 Frag01's gear list:Frag01's gear list
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AlDogDr
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Re: Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)
In reply to AlDogDr, 8 months ago

Thank you, Justin. Your advise has been very helpful to me, as I am very new at using this type of camera.

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Joachim Wulfers
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Re: Al,
In reply to Frag01, 8 months ago

Frag01 wrote:

Joachim Wulfers wrote:

Hi Justin,

thanks for the great review and the photos. I tried to copy your stings into the memory banks, however, MR1 is set at A and MR2 and 3 are set in P. Have not been able to find a way to fill the memory banks and change the settings. Is there a Trick?

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Joachim

Once you set the camera up the way you want, then hit Menu, Camera pg 7, Memory, select the bank you want the settings memorized to, then hit the center button and your settings will be set to that bank.

Frag

Thanks Frag, I will try that.

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Joachim

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zackiedawg
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Re: Al,
In reply to Joachim Wulfers, 8 months ago

Exactly as mentioned.  You pretty much just set the camera, everything you want set up, including shooting mode (don't already be in MR...you set it up in P, A, S, M, etc...then go to the Memory setting in the menu page 7 and choose which bank to save it as.  That locks it in.  Go back to another mode, other settings, etc, and then back to the menu, memory, and save as another bank, and so on.

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zackiedawg
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Re: Al,
In reply to Frag01, 8 months ago

Thanks Frag.

The steady shot off is more an experiment than anything else.  In the past, with BIF, I never bothered to turn off SS, and never had a problem.  But I've known a few people who swore that they were introducing some blur with SS on and fast shutter speeds handheld, presumably because the camera was attempting to stabilize all the fast motion but the shutter speed was so high the effects couldn't apply properly...and I figured if tiny little SS blur could have any effect, it's most likely going to show up with a 24MP sensor.

So I'm actually trying it both ways, just to determine if I see any differences.  It's going to require another weekend of experiments, since I made the first mistake by not having the right mode set so some shutter speeds were too slow in the first place.

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Justin
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zackiedawg
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You're welcome [nt]
In reply to AlDogDr, 8 months ago
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Justin
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zackiedawg
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Sam,
In reply to Advent1sam, 8 months ago

I May be able to do some crops of larger sizes...I'll be busy this week at work and may not get on the home desktop for a few days though, which is where the originals are stored.

I'm not quite as useful for the super-pixel-peepers since I shoot predominantly in JPG, and these shots were my first experiments as to the settings to use...plus a few flubs on the shutter speeds as I mentioned, which cost me a few shots through no fault of the camera.

My typical preference with JPGs is to lower sharpness in camera, letting them be a little softer - because the one editing phase I do almost always is to crop, and often resize, for optimal printing.  This tends to work better when the shots are slightly softer out of camera, so I can apply my own sharpening after the fact, and do it selectively.  So as a caveat, remember that my 100% crops, especially with a 24MP sensor, will probably be on the softer side compared to some others who go for maximum crispness or sharpness out of camera, or those who present a processed RAW with all processing applied.

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Justin
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