Metering and Focus Area for a6600 tracking

Started Oct 15, 2020 | Discussions thread
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 34,472
A lot of it is to your own taste

Merlin5 wrote:

For tracking birds and animals in particular, which metering mode is best to select out of Highlight, Entire Screen Avg, Spot Large or Standard, Center, or Multi?

Metering is going to be what you find works best for you.  Some seem to like the finer spot metering, but I personally find it too touchy when shooting dark birds against light sky or vice versa, as just the tiniest stray of the spot meter off the subject can drastically change the metering.  Multi- or screen average can work for some, though you're likely going to have to pre-meter the scene based on the bird you'll be shooting against the background - if the background is full of greenery and trees, and you're shooting a white bird flying past, the bird is going to be horribly blown out...if shooting a dark bird against a bright blue sky, the bird will be badly underexposed.  So you'd have to dial in some EV correction in advance.  PERSONALLY, I've always preferred center metering - it's similar to the multi in weighing the entire frame, but it emphasizes what's at the center of the frame, which when shooting birds and animals, is usually the subject.  So it will compensate for light subject on dark, or vice versa, and require much less EV correction.

And which is the best focus area to choose out of Wide, Zone, Center, Flexible Spot Small Medium or Large, Expand Flexible Spot, or Tracking Expand Flexible Spot?

Again, personal.  Much of this will depend on a few factors:  How good are you at putting a single point on the subject?  If it's still, then flex spot is usually going to be the most can pinpoint focus just where you want.  Small flex spot can be a little too small sometimes.  If the subject's moving, it can be very difficult to keep a spot point on the subject, so often it's best to have separate setups for still and moving subjects.  Wide can work fine, or zone, if you want to rely on the Animal Eye AF, but with really cluttered scenes or focusing when the animal isn't looking at you, might mean the camera can't figure out what you want to focus on.

My own personal preferences is to use Flex Spot Focus, medium, for all still/non-moving subjects...whether a mammal in a field or a small bird in the trees.  It lets me thread the focus point through lots of clutter, and put the focus point just where I want.  When I'm shooting birds in flight, I switch to a whole different memory bank of settings, which include the Wide focus area, with tracking AF on.  That lets me concentrate on keeping the bird in the frame, the focus finds the nearest subject (the bird) and the tracking locks it and tracks it anywhere in the frame, with continuous focus keeping up with focusing as it approaches.

Also, is it best to have Spot Metering Point set to Focus Point Link or Center?

One more thing that's personal.  There are some who want to move the focus point anywhere in the frame that they intend to focus on - so they want the metering and/or focus point to move all over letting them compose and focus in place.  Others prefer to focus on center at all times, metering off the center point, and then lock and recompose.  Some of this will depend on whether you lock your exposure or not, and whether you're using AF-C or AF-S.

I'm an old traditionalist, so with still birds, I always use AF-S, and always use the Flex Spot focus, kept right on center.  I leave metering on center-weight, and I use the AE-lock button on toggle so I can at any point lock down the exposure independent of the shutter button.  Then I can lock focus (single AF won't change focus after lock), so I'm free to recompose the frame before I fire.  All of this happens in milliseconds once you're used to your method.  I've never been a fan of using AF-C when the subject isn't moving continuously, and I've never been a fan of back-button focus, so I like focus tied to the shutter.  I also like metering on the shutter, but with the AEL button to lock it whenever I want.  It's just worked for me for decades, so that's what I stick to!

Hope that helps.

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