Show Your Favorite Image Captured With Your 70-400mm G / G2

Started Mar 2, 2014 | Discussions thread
William Curtindale
OP William Curtindale Veteran Member • Posts: 7,878
Tom Tame - Here's A Lot: BIF W/70-400mm G / G2

Tom Tame wrote:

I was following William's thread where he listed proposed settings he was going to use on his forthcoming trip from which he has returned. I did not keep a copy of that list as I was hoping William might update it with amendments following his experience. If he didn't update it, I'd appreciate advice as to how I may locate his proposed settings.

I'm 78 and use an A99 with the silver 70 - 400 G lens still prepared to accept advice.

OK, in the end what worked best for me:

I set my camera to AF-S with Spot. I usually focus on a sitting bird and then toggle to Manual Focus and wait until it took to flight, then fire away.

Subsequently I found that using DMF automates some of this for me. DMF basically works the same as AF-S but instantly switches to Manual Focus after the target is acquired (also switches on Focus Peaking). If I partially press the shutter again DMF refocuses again. This is the way I will be setting my camera for BIF in the future. I still use "Spot" with DMF.

I also totally turn off the EVF "Preview". After a shoot I don't want an image popping up in my EVF because that might cause me to miss my next shot.

All my efforts in trying Object Tracking were not as successful as I had hoped (tried but did not use).

One of the suggestions provide for BIF was to use WAF with AF-D when shooting a BIF in a clear sky. Yes, I tried this and it would nail it on the BIF as long as other objects didn't get into the scene.

Below is the summary input from forum members (paraphrased). The below does not necessarily represent my shooting technique.

  1. AF-D with Object Tracking acts as a form of Spot Focus, as focus is locked on the object that was in the center spot-- but focus will adjust as necessary if the object moves, or if my re-composition changes the focus.
  2. AF-D is useful for tracking a subject when there's a chance unwanted subjects cross the tracking path. The advantage of AF-D is that it normally keeps the main subject's track while AF-C would jumps at once to the unwanted subject. My feeling when shooting sports and other action is that AF-C is faster and more positive to lock focus.
  3. My understanding is that AF-D's ability to "track objects" with 112 additional fine focus points is an independent feature, separate and apart from the annoying floaty box employed by the Object Tracking feature.
  4. I have great success using AF-D, Center Spot and Shutter Priority for sports; but make one modification for BIF using Zone (center group), instead of Spot, to more easily track smaller objects. I keep Object Tracking off (this is the floating square) as it interferes with high speed burst shooting and decreases my keeper rate.
  5. BIF, I have my best success rates using Spot and AF-C. AF-D has many more out of focus and lost shots .... I have no idea why because it looks like it should be better while shooting but when opening the images up I am usually disappointed in the AF-D's results.
  6. A99 Handbook, AF-D (Depth Map Assist Continuous AF): In addition to the Continuous AF function, the camera continues to focus on a subject using the assist area...The AF assist function works after the camera focuses on a subject using the 19 AF areas.
  7. With the 70-400, AF-D clearly helps when tracking a moving object (i.e. BIF).
  8. AF-D keeps AF from moving away from the focus first achieved by the regular AF points, even when the regular points no longer have a good target. But it will hand AF control back to the regular AF points if you start tracking on a different subject.
  9. Object Tracking tracks shape, AF-D tracks distance.
  10. Object Tracking will not track quite as far off center, and is less able to handle very rapid or erratic movement.

Additional Generic Info. About My BIF Photo Technique (contained on my web site)

I Manually Set ISO, Shutter and Aperture. Focus is set to auto / spot. I shoot BIF handheld, RAW and usually ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/1250 sec., auto / spot focus and rapid firing of multiple frames.

Helpful Hint: I like to shoot BIF with the light and wind on my back. That way the light will be shinning on the bird for a front lit shot and the birds generally like to takeoff into the wind so they would be coming toward you for a nice front shot.

Helpful Hint, Exposure: I use my camera's TTL meter to evaluate the conditions and then set my exposure manually and have this done before a bird takes to flight (may include a test exposure). On a bright day with the sun directly over head it will be hard to obtain a good exposure with detail on the underside of the bird (if exposing for the birds underside the blue sky will usually be over exposed and show up as white and that’s better than a dark bird). Early morning or late in the day will usually help give better exposures for showing detail on the underside of the birds. Shooting on a dull or overcast day will also help give a more uniform exposure. Also, shooting birds low over water will sometimes pick up reflections from the water to light the underside of the birds.

ISO / Shutter / Aperture: I usually have my ISO set to between 400 and 800 (extremely bright or low light may require up or down settings). I like to shoot BIF at 1/1250 sec. and never shoot below 1/1000 sec. while faster shutter speeds would never be a problem. For my lens I like to shoot BIF between f/6.3 and f/7.1. In low light conditions I will open up to f/5.6 if required. I usually don’t care to shoot above f/11 so I drop my ISO or increase my shutter speed.

Helpful Hint, Focus: For most of my BIF images I start with the birds in a static location (nest, water, branch, etc.). While the bird remains still I prepare for the BIF shot by aiming and focusing on the bird and holding my camera steady until they take to flight (this requires concentration / patients and can be a long period of time while getting tired but I am ready with a sharp focus). Once the bird takes to flight, I get a dozen shots before they are out of focus (I do use spot focus and the camera / lens will refocus as conditions change). A fast focus lens and camera are highly desirable but the above techniques help a lot. My lens has a focus limit switch which I set so the lens will not search through the full focus range before acquiring the target (dramatically reduces time to get a sharp focus on the target). Also practice for smooth panning helps a lot. I shoot all my BIF shots handheld because a tripod restricts my freedom of movement and also adds to equipment to lug around.

Recent BIF shots (small birds):

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A99, A900, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass
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