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

Started Apr 27, 2014 | Discussions thread
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zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 30,322
Birds in Flight, A6000, Wetlands...AF-C (55-210, DH1758)

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'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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 zackiedawg's gear list:zackiedawg's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Sony E 16mm F2.8 Pancake Sony DT 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 Nokton +22 more
Sony a6000 Sony Alpha NEX-5N
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