A9 AF settings for shooting swimming?

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Greg Scace Forum Member • Posts: 50
A9 AF settings for shooting swimming?

I'm used to my A9 rarely missing a beat when I shoot sports, but I was thrown for a loop shooting my first outdoor swim meet using my A9 last weekend (coming from Canon).  Many images were misfocused and the camera seemed to get easily confused by things (spray) entering the focus area, with the AF attempting to lock onto them rather than the main subject within the focus area.  This is the second time I've run into this sort of thing as I had trouble earlier in the year autofocusing on birds hunkered down in a snowstorm.  Lens used was 100-400 GM with 1.4X TC.

I've included two photos.  The breast stroker shows the capability of the camera / lens / AF system to acquire autofocus when tracking a subject (head) that rises out of the water for a short time, then goes back underwater.  In breastroke, not much spray is produced.  In freestyle, however, The face is rotated to breathe, but is often bathed in spray - more so if competitors are nearby as in this shot.  In this case the AF system could not lock onto the face reliably, as you can see.

AF settings were:

priority set in AF-C  - balanced emphasis

Focus Area set to Flexible Spot, medium, which seemed best of the three flexible spot size options.   Sony's A9 focus setting guide recommendations for swimming are to use expanded flexible spot as a first choice, with flexible spot second.  I didn't and will have to try it.

AF track sensitivity - I varied this all over the map.  Sony's A9 focus setting guide recommends to use either setting 1 or 2 for tracking sensitivity.  I found these settings slow for acquiring AF lock when a face came into view.  High sensitivity aided in locking onto the subject if there was little spray, such as in breastroke and butterfly.  Perhaps revisiting low sensitivity values with expanded flexible spot will help.

I also ended up disabling lens IS, thinking that while I was panning subjects, the motion of spray might confuse the IS system.  I dunno if that's the case, but i was struggling for something. It seemed to help.

Recommendations would be awesome.  Thanks in advance.

-Greg

Breast stroke - little spray and easy AF lock

Lots of spray here - poor AF lock

Sony a9
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