A Trip to a Woods: Wildlife and Bird Photography With a Sony a9 Mirrorless Camera

July 29, 2017 - photo frame

Since a new Sony a9 announcement and successive release, it’s been earmarked as an honest aspirant to a sports and wildlife scene. As time went on we saw a lot of speak about it being framed in a context of sports photography, so we energetically wanted to take it out and see what it had to offer to a wildlife and bird photographers who were mostly removing left out of these discussions. Here’s a collection of my thoughts after streamer out into a woods with a Sony a9.

When we knew we wanted to write adult an essay about photographing wildlife with a a9, we motionless that we would stay loyal to a Sony FE complement and not use non-system lenses around mountain adapter. Since a just-released Sony FE 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 GM wasn’t accessible during a time, we went with a subsequent best choice in reachability: the Sony FE 70–200mm f/2.8 GM with a FE 2.0x teleconverter. Of course, Sony does make the FE 70–300mm 4.5–5.6 lens, though for a 24-megapixel full-frame camera, we felt there would be singular gathering intensity and knew I’d wish that additional 100mm. It incited out we was flattering mark on with my assessment; we never unequivocally strayed from a effective 400mm focal length and roughly always was wishing we had a tiny some-more on tip of it. Cropping in was roughly always still required for my images. Figuring in a 2.0x teleconverter’s two-stop detriment of light, my pack here was fundamentally a Sony a9 with a 400mm f/5.6 lens.

One “trick” we schooled early on from Sony Artisan Patrick Murphy-Racey when we initial got my hands on a a9 in Apr was to map a AE-L symbol to AF-On. With a proceed a physique is designed, a AE-L symbol happens to distortion directly above a towering ride reason on a backside, so a lot of times your ride is going to be some-more gentle in this mark rather than to a left where a earthy AF-On symbol is. If you’re personification a watchful diversion with wildlife and wish your reason to be as gentle as probable for as prolonged as possible, this is a proceed to go. Thankfully, all these buttons are customizable by a menu complement so it’s unequivocally no large deal. The Sony a9 has some-more than adequate buttons to customize in my opinion, so we indeed usually had these both mapped to AF-On. The default position of a AF-On symbol is good as good given your ride tip can be on a symbol while a prosaic of your ride can be hovering a joystick that controls a concentration point; it’s usually somewhat reduction healthy feeling in my hand.

One other discerning tip that we know other Sony users do is set a concentration reason buttons (the round, vacant buttons found on many Sony lenses) to AF-On as well. If we are a back-button focuser, this will concede we to some-more simply use a touchscreen focal indicate switching that is benefaction on a a9 and a6500. You would use a touchscreen with your right thumb, concentration reason symbol (now automatic to AF-On) on a lens with your left thumb, and right index for a shiver button.

Other settings we found useful were mapping a concentration mode and expostulate mode buttons to somewhere intensely handy, like C1 and C2. The new Sony Alpha cameras have some unequivocally absolute concentration modes that fit any conditions differently. Also banishment off 20 frames per second isn’t required 100 percent of a time, so carrying a proceed to go singular shot and behind in a expostulate modes is going to be a outrageous timesaver in post-processing. Turning off automobile display/EVF switching and mapping it to a symbol also helps my sanity. While you’re during it, spin down a viewfinder liughtness to –2 since what we see is unequivocally not what we get on this ultra-bright OLED EVF display.

The a9 camera has a lot of unequivocally useful technologies built in such as a blackout-free 120 fps viewfinder, wordless shutter, and 20 frames per second continual shooting, though with wildlife photography some-more than anything else I’ve shot so distant they come together in a ideal harmony. Photographing small, restive birds for example, we could be constantly examination them by a real-time EVF, even while shooting, since of 0 blackout; they were not going to rebound to a opposite tree bend and get mislaid between frames. The wordless shiver meant we could glow divided during any indicate though environment off their moody response in proceed consequence. At 20 frames per second on tip of it all, it amounted to what felt like dire record on a video camera though meaningful any support was going to be a high-resolution print still and we could collect a ideal micro-expression later.

I wish to double down on articulate about that wordless camera operation too. Imagine being in a forest, no camera gear, usually you. You hear a breeze pierce by a trees, rustling their leaves. You hear birds call behind and onward to one another. There’s a crackling sound in a stretch that piques your seductiveness and we consternation what kind of animal is there. You know, standard woodsy things that we outside people are so in adore with. Now supplement in aggressively regulating a a9, and theory what? Nothing changes. It’s like a camera is usually a arrange of prolongation of you, not a automatic device yelling for courtesy as it sprays off frames. For hours on a route we would hear zero though pristine nature, even while tough during work sharpened photos. It’s overtly one of a coolest practice I’ve had regulating a camera.

Now that I’ve determined I’m presumably a bulb or that it unequivocally is a strangely devout experience, what does a existence and formula of dropping scarcely $4,500 on a Sony a9 demeanour like? Here’s some change to my thoughts.

The autofocus is not god-tier perfect. It still can’t review your mind, and that becomes flattering apparent when there’s a good abyss of branches and leaves between we and your bushy subject, as good as a timberland backdrop beyond. Picking out what’s critical to concentration on is no opposite than other high-end cameras I’ve used. The biggest disproportion comes from a speed during that it acquires focus. So even when it’s not picking adult what we wish it to, a routine of merger is still blazing fast. Tree bend — no; Another tree bend — no; The bird on a distant divided tree bend — yes. This usually takes unequivocally brief taps of a AF-On symbol and is over before we unequivocally consider about it. On other cameras I’ve used a hunt is a same though concentration merger takes longer for any miss, adding adult in a end. In a few singular instances there was of march still a “F*k it, we’ll do it live” proceed and we switched to primer concentration around toggle switch on a lens.

The usually proceed this shot was going to work for me was in primer concentration mode.

However, if your theme has some genuine subdivision — oh boy. The lock-on AF of a a9 is lethal serious. It’s going to spike we shot after shot when sharpened birds in moody panning opposite a sky (bonus tip: panning is what Mode 2 on your Sony telephotos are for). As we can see in a method below, a tiny bird drifting during we can be a bit too most to ask for a a9’s lock-on AF and a presumably compromising 2.0x telephoto adapter.

Another thing to move adult is a ISO performance. The timberland is typically going to be heavily shaded, and with longer telephotos and adapters and what have you, your lowest orifice competence not unequivocally be all that low. Imagine sharpened a FE 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 GM with a 2.0x teleconverter; You got yourself an 800mm f/11 lens there, buddy. To get your shiver speed adult into a serviceable operation for those restive tiny birds you’re going to need some assistance from a ISO. The Sony a9 can ascend a ISO to 204,800. Is a picture peculiarity good during 204,800? Eh. Is it good after holding a IQ strike from a teleconverter? Ehhhh. I’ll contend that for me sharpened adult to ISO 6,400 was my sufferable range. It’s where we set my Auto-ISO extent on a a9. Beyond that, privately it was too most peculiarity detriment and I’d rather start losing bearing and boosting that slider in post-processing.

In summary, we consider that if you’re going all out in wildlife photography, such as introducing a use of a unstable blind in a woods, you’re going to be usually another tree in a timberland with a Sony a9. we can’t highlight adequate how weird and pacific it is to have so most firepower behind a totally wordless machine. There’s unequivocally no good subdivision here from normal birding with binoculars anymore. It’s not a ideal camera, we still have one ruin of a fun journey in front of us to see that happen, though it’s positively a best wildlife camera that Sony has ever made.

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