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Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II
  
 
AGeoJO
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II



Over a year ago, I posted this thread: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1453361/0, detailing a real life experience of shooting wildlife in Costa Rica using Sony A7r II and Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 Mark II. My general experience was very positive but the wildlife there was mostly semi-stationary and when in the air, it was mostly hovering near flowers, like hummingbirds. So, the setup didn't encounter much issues focusing.

More locally, the setup struggled to keep up with flying ospreys, owls and other fast flying birds in random flight pattern. I took the setup to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico last year and it worked decently. The sandhill cranes are fairly large and their flight pattern is more predictable, since it was mostly during landing and/or take off. Yet, the keeper rate was only decent. The closer the target flying towards you, the more the combo has to struggle.

Last summer, Sony introduced the A9 and GM 100-400mm lens. Sony loaned me that lens and after testing it for a week, I walked away very impressed. I ended up buying that lens and the A9 . That setup is great for what I needed it for. Most of the time, the lens, being only 400mm at long end, feels a little short. I do have a 1.4X TC and I used that combo a lot during the burrowing owl season between August-September. No problem in tracking the owls in flight and the keeper rate increased dramatically in that respect. In addition, being a FF format of 24MP, there is still plenty of room for cropping.

Yet, for semi stationary targets, similar to the situation in CR, I prefer my Canon long lens since, at f/2.8, it is faster, and its bokeh rendition is quite a bit smoother under the same condition compared to that of the zoom lens. So, that's when I started using that Canon lens on the A9. Needles to say, the AF of that camera is more responsive and actually, it is quite good when used in combo with Metabones. After getting more encouraged of using my Canon long lens on the A9, I took the setup to Bosque again just recently. So, this is more about the gear, setting and experience from that trip.

- Adapter: I used Metabones V and I used the green mode exclusively. The rear throat of the version V is larger and can adapt Sony FE tele converters. I had both and used FE 1.4X and FE 2X TCs in combination with the Canon 1.4X TC. Thatís the main reason for me to upgrade from the IV to the V.

- Sony A9 setting: Aperture priority (mostly wide open or one-stop down), auto ISO (with selectable minimum shutter speed depending on circumstances) and AF mode set to continuous. I used the back button to trigger the AF. I had the silent shutter on all the time. Other photographers might think that I wasnít taking pictures or just pointing my gear towards birds. The silent shutter makes you unaware on the number of images you actually take. I easily took double the typical number on this trip. This is my 6th or 7th trip to this location, BTW. Using an adapted lens, the maximum burst is limited to ďonlyĒ 10fps, which was more than sufficient. In a few cases, I set it to only 5fps, mainly to lower the total number of files generated. In a few cases, when the target was locked on but still far away, I didnít trigger the camera until it was more frame filling.

- Sony A9 AF mode: Previously, and more locally, I set the AF to Wide and let the camera choose the AF automatically. This method worked great if the surrounding area is fairly clean, especially the foreground since it picked up the closest, contrasty targets to the camera that have distinctive lines. But there, I noticed that what the AF system tended to pick up the foreground more while the main target was out-of-focus. I changed that to Selectable - Large and sometimes to just Center. As long as I could keep the main target within the ďframeĒ of the AF area, it worked just fine. It was reassuring and it was sweet to see the flickering AF lights were locked on your target during a sequence of shots. And the no-black out viewfinders for this purpose is just sweet. You can clearly see whatís going on. If you have just a single target, then Lock-On AF worked just fine, too, BTW.

- Camera support: Tripod was used 100% of the time.

- A few random tips/tricks: since target or targets were far away, I set the focusing distance on the lens to prevent the lens from focusing to the minimum focusing distance. This minimizes the hunting or at least the hunting time. I did pre-focus the lens. In other words, if you sets the distance to be close to your target, it will find and AF on the target faster. I didnít remember I had to do this using a Canon body but I remembered that it didnít find the focus right away, especially if the lighting conditions were less than ideal and the target less contrasty. Since I do not have any Canon body anymore, I cannot compare the responsiveness between the two here. The target may be in perfect focus but it may still blurry due to the movement. So, a high enough shutter speed is necessary to freeze the flight. Depending on the size of the birds in the viewfinder and speed of the flight, the bare minimum is 1/250sec, preferably 1/500sec. In general, the higher the shutter speed, the better. That's where a slow lens shows its weakness.


In summary:
The notion that a mirror less system would not be "good" enough for wildlife is being challenged, at least party. That was my conclusion using the A7r II and now even more so with the A9. The closeup images of flying birds during the last trip to Bosque were spotty and I did get more environmental images previously or had more luck with flying birds at a distance. I would say that this setup is perfectly suitable for my next trip to Costa Rica next February. In my previous trip to Costa Rica, I did some ďspray and prayĒ approach and now, I feel more confident with targeting and getting closer to the wildlife there. Knowing what your gear can do, you can push the ability of your gear to the limit, but adjust to the changing condition is the key.

That adapted lens focused swiftly and in 90% of the time, it was able to latch on the target as long as the target is within the AF frame. My confidence level has increased with the A9 setup. That much so that I would not hesitate to take it to Africa on safari or use it for strictly BIF purposes now. Thatís a pretty bold statement, huh ? Of course, you supplement that with the GM 100-400mm lens for tricky conditions and something to fall back on as a safeguard.

I can imagine that folks will be asking the following questions and here are just a brief answer to those:

1. Is this as good as the Canon 1Dx II with the same Canon lens? No, I would say it is close but not there yet. Not until Sony introduces a native long FE lens. Currently, the adapted lens setup is still lagging behind although both the new FW of the A9 and the latest Metabones FW are closing the gap.

2. How good is the AF performance of new A7r III compared to the A9? I donít know the answer to this. I broke down and bought the A7r III and I havenít tried the setup on that body. Frankly, I am not sure whether I would use that camera for wildlife, at least right now.

3. How is the Metabones V compared to the Sigma MC-11? I am not endorsing Metabones, just from my own experience, I prefer Metabones since I can use it only in the green mode that takes advantage of the PDAF of the A9. In addition, I can mount a Sony FE tele converter in the rear of the Metabones V to increase the effective focal length of any lens you mount in the front of the adapter.

Thank you for reading this long post and please feel free to ask any questions.

Joshua



© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/1000s    250 ISO    0.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/1000s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/1000s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/1000s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/1000s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    400mm    f/2.8    1/5000s    100 ISO    -1.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    400mm    f/2.8    1/5000s    100 ISO    -1.0 EV  





© AGeoJO 2017

  ILCE-9    EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens    784mm    f/5.6    1/250s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  




Dec 16, 2017 at 07:32 PM
jamato8
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


Wonderful images and excellent information, or, excellent images and wonderful information. Either way works. :^)


Dec 16, 2017 at 07:43 PM
Chuck Coyne
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


Joshua,

Thanks for the feedback on your experience with this setup. I agree that we need some native long glass from Sony and that will really close the gap on this type of fast action photography for mirrorless vs DSLR. Great pictures too!

Chuck



Dec 16, 2017 at 07:48 PM
k-h.a.w
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


Thanks Joshua for the great report.
A question concerning Teleconverters.
Which ones and which combinations on the Canon 400/2.8 have you used?

Thanks, Karl-Heinz.



Dec 16, 2017 at 07:56 PM
timgangloff
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


I've got the metabones IV coming as a rental to see how it works on my a9. One thing I hate about this site is that it often renders iamges softer than they really are, so judging focus accuracy and sharpness here is difficult and not everyone has the same expectations or tolerances. But, how do you rate the sharpness of the images compared to the 1dx2, which has been my primary body for some time now. I expect focus to be slower and I can tolerate that to some degree, but just don't want to compromise on sharpness.

I like the a9 and it's a great backup body, but until Sony has native long glass, it'll be a second body for sports. But, I also can't wait to see what the metabones can do for me and if it can deliver sharp images, I'll be very happy.



Dec 16, 2017 at 08:07 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


John, Chuck and K-H., thank you for the kind words and the encouragement.

K-H.,
I used Canon 1.4X Mark III TC and the combo of FE 1.4X a lot on the trip. From time to time, to get more reach, especially of the full moon, I used the Canon 1.4X and the FE 2X combo. BTW, both Canon and Sony FE TCs are equally superb, I would say. No testing on charts but judging by real life images. I do have the Canon 2X Mark III TC as well and I took it with on this trip but I didn't get to use it. As you remember, I combined both 2X TCs with the Canon 400mm to get 1600mm and it delivered the goods, considering the extreme focal length.



Dec 16, 2017 at 08:13 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


timgangloff wrote:
I've got the metabones IV coming as a rental to see how it works on my a9. One thing I hate about this site is that it often renders iamges softer than they really are, so judging focus accuracy and sharpness here is difficult and not everyone has the same expectations or tolerances. But, how do you rate the sharpness of the images compared to the 1dx2, which has been my primary body for some time now. I expect focus to be slower and I can tolerate that to some degree, but just don't want to compromise on sharpness.

I like
...Show more


Tim, I crop most images I posted here, at least to straighten out horizon and for better composition. The amount of cropping varies, of course. The A9, while AF-wise is superior to the A7r II, shows its limitation in that respect. Although the images are still plenty sharp, however, but it is a 24MP camera. Even if you don't crop, but if you enlarge images coming from the two cameras, you can tell the difference in sharpness. Please note that my experience so far is based on the two cameras I mentioned and not based on the new A7r III. If the AF performance of that camera is close to that of the A9, then maybe that's the body to get. I know the AF performance of the A7r III is better than that of the A7r II but is that good enough for wildlife? The jury is still out right now.


Edited on Dec 16, 2017 at 08:29 PM · View previous versions



Dec 16, 2017 at 08:22 PM
k-h.a.w
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


AGeoJO wrote:
John, Chuck and K-H., thank you for the kind words and the encouragement.

K-H.,
I used Canon 1.4X Mark III TC and the combo of FE 1.4X a lot on the trip. From time to time, to get more reach, especially of the full moon, I used the Canon 1.4X and the FE 2X combo. BTW, both Canon and Sony FE TCs are equally superb, I would say. No testing on charts but judging by real life images. I do have the Canon 2X Mark III TC as well and I took it with on this trip but I didn't get
...Show more

Many thanks Joshua for the info. Excellent to know.
Having a 400/2.8 lens opens up the option to use a total of 4x TCs combined and still have PDAF AF available on the Sony A9 at f/11. I am assuming AF still works, does it?

It certainly works with 2x TC on FE 100-400.

Thanks, K-H.



Dec 16, 2017 at 08:23 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


k-h.a.w wrote:
Many thanks Joshua for the info. Excellent to know.
Having a 400/2.8 lens opens up the option to use a total of 4x TCs combined and still have PDAF AF available on the Sony A9 at f/11. I am assuming AF still works, does it?

It certainly works with 2x TC on FE 100-400.

Thanks, K-H.


The the combo of 2X 2X TCs still get you AF, which is a big advantage over the A7RII and III. Yes, thatís something I forgot to mention in my original thread and in my reply to Tim. Thank you for reminding me.



Dec 16, 2017 at 08:33 PM
elizabeth77
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


timgangloff wrote:
I've got the metabones IV coming as a rental to see how it works on my a9. One thing I hate about this site is that it often renders iamges softer than they really are, so judging focus accuracy and sharpness here is difficult and not everyone has the same expectations or tolerances. But, how do you rate the sharpness of the images compared to the 1dx2, which has been my primary body for some time now. I expect focus to be slower and I can tolerate that to some degree, but just don't want to compromise on sharpness.

I like
...Show more

Do you not find the 70-200 or 100-400 GM with the a9 a primary setup for sports? I shoot arena sports primarily so 70-200 is as long as I need, once in a while a bit longer but more often shorter - but the a9 has been fantastic for me.



Dec 17, 2017 at 02:58 AM
 

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timgangloff
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II




Do you not find the 70-200 or 100-400 GM with the a9 a primary setup for sports? I shoot arena sports primarily so 70-200 is as long as I need, once in a while a bit longer but more often shorter - but the a9 has been fantastic for me.

For sports, I use the 24-70 2.8, the 70-200 2.8 IS II and the 400 2.8 and all are essential on the Canon side. I now have the Sony 24-70 2.8 GM and it works wonderfully, especially for basketball on the baseline where wide is nice. But I need a 70-200 and 400 for my shooting. Everything I've read here and elsewhere says the Sony 70-200 is just not quite as good as the Canon/Nikon version. I really don't want to compromise on quality of my images (hte idea of the Sony is to make better images, not worse), so will wait for Sony to release a newer version of the 70-200 and see what their 400 2.8 looks like later next summer. In the meantime, I'll see how good or bad the metabones adapters are. I don't mind missing a shot here and there, but I won't compromise on sharpness. If my 70-200 2.8 IS II is not sharp on the A9, I won't blame Sony, but I'll keep my 1dx2 as a primary sports body and the A9 will be a very good second body with the 24-70 permanently attached, at least until Sony releases a 400 2.8.

The 100-400 is a non-starter for sports as I need 2.8 for night / indoor sports as even at the large D1 school I shoot at where lighting is excellent, a variable aperture 5.6 on the long end just would not work. And for HS night sports or indoors it would be miserable. For example, at most of the county high schools around here, I'm at ISO 8000, 1/800 and 2.8.



Dec 17, 2017 at 03:22 AM
ytwong
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


This is essentially "Wildlife photography using Sony A9" instead of "E-mount system"


Dec 17, 2017 at 11:52 AM
k-h.a.w
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


ytwong wrote:
This is essentially "Wildlife photography using Sony A9" instead of "E-mount system"


The A9 can use PDAF up to f/11, the A7r.2/3 only up to f/8.
Beyond that CDAF is being used.

K-H.



Dec 17, 2017 at 12:51 PM
jimmy462
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


AGeoJO wrote:
>snip<

- Adapter: I used Metabones V and I used the green mode exclusively. The rear throat of the version V is larger and can adapt Sony FE tele converters. I had both and used FE 1.4X and FE 2X TCs in combination with the Canon 1.4X TC. Thatís the main reason for me to upgrade from the IV to the V.

>snip<

Thank you for reading this long post and please feel free to ask any questions.

Joshua


Hi Joshua,

And thanks for that in-depth reporting, it's greatly appreciated by this fellow using adapted glass on the Sony system! I do have a question...

If I'm understanding your TC setup here correctly, and that you're going from EF 400mm IS f/2.8L II > MB V > Sony TC > a9, it's appearing to these eyes that the air gap created by employing the MB V between the lens and TC is creating (what appears to me to be) an optical over-correction of the 400mm lens causing a nervous-looking (double-image) bokeh effect. It seems to me that placing the MB V before the Sony TC is basically identical to placing an extension tube between a lens and a TC, no? (And now you've got me curious to try that experiment and see how it affects IQ! )

Have you done a side-by-side comparison using Canon's own TCs optimized for this lens...e.g. 400 > TC > MB V > a9? If so, I would be curious if that bokeh, er, "cleaned up".

Again, many thanks for taking the time to bring all your results here!
Jimmy G



Dec 17, 2017 at 03:24 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


jimmy462 wrote:
Hi Joshua,

And thanks for that in-depth reporting, it's greatly appreciated by this fellow using adapted glass on the Sony system! I do have a question...

If I'm understanding your TC setup here correctly, and that you're going from EF 400mm IS f/2.8L II > MB V > Sony TC > a9, it's appearing to these eyes that the air gap created by employing the MB V between the lens and TC is creating (what appears to me to be) an optical over-correction of the 400mm lens causing a nervous-looking (double-image) bokeh effect. It seems to me that placing the MB V
...Show more


Hi Jimmy, thank you for your kind comment. The most frequent sequence I use to get 800mm effective focal length or 784mm to be exact, is as follows: Canon 400mm lens,> Canon 1.4X TC> Metabones V, Sony A9. I am attaching an image here that shows the sequence but the Sony FE 2X is replaced with the Sony FE 1.4X pictured above. Out of several combinations I have used, either using a Canon 2X only in the front of Metabones V or Sony FE 2X behind Metabones, or the combination of two 1.4X TCs as described above, I did not see any noticeable difference between them.

Hope this helps,
Joshua




© AGeoJO 2017




Dec 17, 2017 at 03:47 PM
arbitrage
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


Thanks Joshua for the informative and detailed post. Mirrorless will surely equal and then surpass DSLR AF for fast wildlife in the next couple years. Native FE super telephoto lenses may be enough to get us there without an A9II. I'm sure you are eyeing the upcoming Sony 400/2.8 FE....I hope they can keep the price in check for that one.


Dec 17, 2017 at 04:05 PM
k-h.a.w
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


AGeoJO wrote:
Hi Jimmy, thank you for your kind comment. The most frequent sequence I use to get 800mm effective focal length or 784mm to be exact, is as follows: Canon 400mm lens,> Canon 1.4X TC> Metabones V, Sony A9. I am attaching an image here that shows the sequence but the Sony FE 2X is replaced with the Sony FE 1.4X pictured above. Out of several combinations I have used, either using a Canon 2X only in the front of Metabones V or Sony FE 2X behind Metabones, or the combination of two 1.4X TCs as described above, I did not
...Show more


Thanks Joshua. Interesting that you can have a TC in front and behind the adapter.

I tried that with my Olympus MFT cameras, having a TC before ( √ ) and after (doesn't fit) the FT to MFT adapter. The MC-14 only works with a few select Olympus MFT lenses, but not after the FT to MFT adapter.

BUT IIRC correctly the MC-14 fits just fine behind a Leica to MFT adapter. I forgot whether it was Leica R or M.

K-H.



Dec 17, 2017 at 06:11 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


k-h.a.w wrote:
Thanks Joshua. Interesting that you can have a TC in front and behind the adapter.

I tried that with my Olympus MFT cameras, having a TC before ( √ ) and after (doesn't fit) the FT to MFT adapter. The MC-14 only works with a few select Olympus MFT lenses, but not after the FT to MFT adapter.

BUT IIRC correctly the MC-14 fits just fine behind a Leica to MFT adapter. I forgot whether it was Leica R or M.

K-H.


K-H.,
That's the main reason I bought the version V. Anything else is practically the same as version IV. Well, you also can tell what mode you are in by looking at the LED indicator and that helps some. But I am using the green mode about exclusively anyway. But who knows what a future FW will do for further improvement of the version V.

Joshua



Dec 17, 2017 at 06:46 PM
k-h.a.w
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


AGeoJO wrote:
K-H.,
That's the main reason I bought the version V. Anything else is practically the same as version IV. Well, you also can tell what mode you are in by looking at the LED indicator and that helps some. But I am using the green mode about exclusively anyway. But who knows what a future FW will do for further improvement of the version V.

Joshua



Thanks Joshua.
I am not familiar with the Metabones adapters, as I don't own any Canon lenses.
What do the various modes do? TIA.

K-H.



Dec 17, 2017 at 06:59 PM
Chuck Eklund
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Wildlife photography using Sony E-mount system - Part II


Thanks for the image, Joshua. It clarifies, for me, what you have been saying. Also your floor is very clean. Mine, not so much. I'll blame the dog.

Chuck



Dec 17, 2017 at 08:01 PM
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