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BobLester

A7Riii, 200-600, BIF Issues

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Hi, 

I’m new to this forum and looking for help.

 

I’m not able to get fast moving birds in focus with this combination. I’ve tried lots of different combinations of tracking, OSS modes, focus areas, etc.. It’s not very light here so I’m having to shoot at very high ISOs but it’s practice. I’m still new at trying to pan and keep the bird in the frame. But out of hundreds of burst shots I would think that at least a few would show promise. But I can tell that these aren’t sharp without even cropping. I realize this is high ISO (it’s dark here in the PNW) but this image should be sharper. 1/3200, 6.3, ISO 12800. This is one of my better examples. Birds not this close and flying faster are really bad. I’ve tried all the setting combinations I could find that were recommended. Pretty sure this one is zone af, AF-C, and mode 2 on the lens. I was prefocused on it when it took off. 

I can’t find a lot of info on this camera lens combination. What I can find in one post is contradicted in another. 

Anyone shooting this combination have any suggestions? Or is this just not a good camera for any kind of fast bird?

 

Thanks in advance. 

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You could likely drop the shutter speed in half, 1/1600 should still freeze the action and cut your ISO in half. Are you shooting RAW or JPG ? I would recommend shooting both and then comparing the two, Sony does a good job in cleaning up jpg’s and this will give you some idea of how sharp the images can be.
Use the RAW image to make your edits and do some noise reduction and sharpness tweaking.

 

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On 12/24/2019 at 10:23 PM, BobLester said:

What I can find in one post is contradicted in another. 

Bob,

BIF photography is considered the benchmark for both equipment and photographer for a variety of reasons. Let me explain:

First, you're dealing with wild animals, which behave unpredictably plus are typically far away. To counter the latter, you will use a long reach tele lens like your 600 mm. Which exposes you to the risk of motion blur from your shaky hands, even if that animal was sitting still, which it is not. To counter that, you will want to use a short exposure time like you're doing. The rule of thumb is, to go for (the reciprocal of) four times your focal length. @600mm, this would be 1/2400 or shorter. So you're doing that part right, IMO.

Second, some (most) birds are "fast moving" mid-air, flapping their wings more or less wildly. (I don't see any motion blur at the wing-tips of your sample foot, though). So you'll want to add some panning on top of issue 1. I'm not sure, how well deliberate panning, in-body and/or in-lens stabilization will work together, though. Hold that thought.

Third, there is the light. You're combining short exposure with a fairly small (6.3) aperture, which amounts to very little light hitting the sensor. Which cranks up the ISO and gives you visible noise.

Now comes the focus: at this little light, at this time of the year, in PNW, (which, btw, has the same latitude as Paris!) there will be little contrast, too. So contrast AF will not work for you. And PDAF is likely limited due to the fairly small aperture. So it's all pretty much impossible to achieve automatically, if you think about it.

Cranking up the frame rate will likely only increase the rate of bad shots. UNLESS the bird is flying towards you or away from you. In which case it would eventually have to cross through the correct focal plane.

What you can do:

To establish a benchmark of what your equipment can do in terms of focus is, to start out with a still of a sitting bird. I would turn off all automatics like in.body and in-lens image stabilization, auto-focus and even use a tripod for this. Use a reasonably long exposure, manual focus, focus magnification and focus peaking at the lowest sensitivity level. If you really want to squeeze out the sharpest possible photo you ever took, you might even want to tether to a tablet computer to check for ultimate sharpness on that large screen.

Then gradually turn off those little helpers and try to maintain that level of sharpness. By the time you have turned off everything and AF-C back on, it should be spring or summer, and things would be much easier then, on all fronts.

Please do keep us posted.

 

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I really appreciate the helpful suggestions.

My question is pretty specific about the camera lens combination. I shoot with people who use Nikon D500s and their hit rates in the same light and same settings are so much more successful than mine they are suggesting I send the equipment in for repair. I’m resisting that because my still bird images are sharp and extremely detailed and I gave gotten sharp BIFs though mostly in bright sun.
 

I see lots of examples of A9s and this lens but few with the A7R3. 
 

I know there are a lot if variables and I’m pushing the camera to extremes but If I could get a camera that works better and, in the case of the D500, maybe cheaper, I’d like to know now. 
 

Thanks.

 

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Bob,

sorry I can't comment on your specific equipment combination at all. What I'm giving is merely a general advice based on "applied physics". I wouldn't consider myself an experienced photographer at all.

I have an a9 myself, and an sel100400gm. The body is considered to be "very fast", and the lens is of "GM" quality. Yet, I'm struggling with the very same issues you're experiencing.

I know it is quite tempting to blame things on some kind of "faulty" equipment, and I feel this temptation all the time, too.

I would really like to hear from someone, who has a track record of successful BIF shots, like @Alejandro Espeche, @edobg or @Ziggy, for instance, on how they did it and what to lookout for.

Regarding your question as to cameras which perform better at low light:

again, and on a very general note: each body has a "profile" of its capabilities and limitations. It's good to hear, that in bright sunlight conditions, BIF is performing very well for you. When pushing things to extremes, maybe one has to finally accept, that your body/lens combination is for bright light conditions only. If low-light is your benchmark, maybe a 2nd body like an A7 would be a welcome addition to your equipment?

 

Edited by Chrissie
typo

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Quote

The rule of thumb is, to go for (the reciprocal of) four times your focal length. @600mm, this would be 1/2400 or shorter. So you're doing that part right, IMO.

Does this rule of thumb apply with SteadyShot ? The 200-600 should be set to the third option for steadyshot when hand-holding the lens. I still think the shutter could be slower and that will lower the ISO. There is a lot of noise on the image, I don’t know if this is from the RAW file or jpg, or if any noise-reduction was done on the image.

Was tracking enabled?

Edited by LiveShots

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52 minutes ago, LiveShots said:

I still think the shutter could be slower and that will lower the ISO

LiveShots, you're definitely correct in that doubling the shutter opening time (like: in going from 1/2500 to 1/1250) will half the ISO, ceteris paribus. There's no doubt about that.

But: the TO is trying to do BIF. That's why there are limits as to how low the shutter speed is allowed to go, before encountering motion blur from either hand-shake or fast moving target.

You always have to compromise.

And, btw, the TO was not complaining about noise, but a high share of out-of-focus pics. That's a whole different story.

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Chrissie, I did a little of what you recommended, turning off as many of the helpers as possible and when possible using DMF to focus and got much better results. A couple of days ago the sun came out and I had much better luck. I don’t think the A7Riii and 200-600 is as good as I thought it would be for fast birds. I am very new at this but I can see in a burst of shots that it catches focus and then loses it. I’m trying different combinations of tracking and focus lock but I’m finding that the best thing to do is use flexible spot and keep it on the target which works great on big birds like herons. For ducks or smaller birds I have had some luck with AF-C and wide and just held down the shutter while trying to keep the bird in the view finder. 

Liveshots, I have trouble with motion blur on any movement if the SS is less than 1/1000. With BIF even 1/2500 can show motion blur. 

Thanks for your comments. It would be nice if an A7riii user would comment.

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Bob, thanks for the update. It's good to hear, that your body-lens combination IS capable of delivering sharp images with manual focus, as well as when using AF in bright light conditions. So this boils down to poor AF performance in low light conditions. You'll find a good discussion at dpreview about A7riii and using OSS mode 2 (or turning OSS off entirely), when panning big birds in flight (plane spotting).

You're also probably aware, that higher resolution sensors like in the a7riii or a7riv are less forgiving than lower resolution sensors, when it comes to being in focus or not.

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Bob, in case you're still following this thread: here they're discussing the exact equipment and it's properties/shortcomings as you have. Also in context of BIF, among others.

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Thanks Chrissie. I’m seeing similar posts in other forums, soft or unfocussed images with this combination. I am not seeing such threads about other cameras with this lens. The person I bought the camera from got decent BIF results with the 100-400. I see fantastic images with my combination. But I’m struggling. 

I’m going to try an A9. I’ll post back here with my results. 

 

Thanks. 

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Update..I got an A9 and there is quite a difference. In flight focus is spot on and there is no motion blur. I’m sure it’s most likely a combination of settings and technique on my part as well as the hight megapixel sensor being less forgiving of movement. My A7Riii is more than capable of capturing sharp images. But I’m sticking with the A9/200-600 combination. I’d like to keep both but one has to go. 

Thanks for the helpful comments. 

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On 12/27/2019 at 12:55 PM, Chrissie said:

Bob,

sorry I can't comment on your specific equipment combination at all. What I'm giving is merely a general advice based on "applied physics". I wouldn't consider myself an experienced photographer at all.

I have an a9 myself, and an sel100400gm. The body is considered to be "very fast", and the lens is of "GM" quality. Yet, I'm struggling with the very same issues you're experiencing.

I know it is quite tempting to blame things on some kind of "faulty" equipment, and I feel this temptation all the time, too.

I would really like to hear from someone, who has a track record of successful BIF shots, like @Alejandro Espeche, @edobg or @Ziggy, for instance, on how they did it and what to lookout for.

Regarding your question as to cameras which perform better at low light:

again, and on a very general note: each body has a "profile" of its capabilities and limitations. It's good to hear, that in bright sunlight conditions, BIF is performing very well for you. When pushing things to extremes, maybe one has to finally accept, that your body/lens combination is for bright light conditions only. If low-light is your benchmark, maybe a 2nd body like an A7 would be a welcome addition to your equipment?

 

Hello Chrissie

I'm sorry for my late reply, I don't enter the forum much. I come from the world Nikon and Canon for nature, always with prime lenses. It is the first time I use a zoom for photography.

My experience with Nikon was very good with the duplex D800 + 300 f4 still with teleconverter (always talking about BIF) and absolutely disastrous with the D810. When I sold all my Nikon equipment, I switched to Sony but in nature I bought the 7D Mark II with the 400 f5.6. It gave me a very good result.

When I left the A7R3 I bought it, at first I used the 400 canon with a beautiful adapter (Metabones V) for birds perched but impossible for BIF.

The thing changed with the FE 100-400, I can focus BIF of birds that fly between trees, those that just take off, to track the ones that I already hooked flying, even with very low contrast. Always use AF-C with focus by zones (the second in the list) always at the center. Never shot less than 1/1600 because fast. The OSS is always on but I guess it will get better when it's off, I don't know and I'm not going to find out.

For me the secret of the BIF is to always focus one step before, keeping the bird in the back of the direction where one moves.

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10 hours ago, Alejandro Espeche said:

The thing changed with the FE 100-400, I can focus BIF of birds that fly between trees, those that just take off, to track the ones that I already hooked flying, even with very low contrast. Always use AF-C with focus by zones (the second in the list) always at the center

For me the secret of the BIF is to always focus one step before, keeping the bird in the back of the direction where one moves.

Alejandro,

thanks a lot for your very detailed description. The technique you're describing in your last sentence is actually "leading" a moving target, like you'd do when shooting. That does make quite some sense. But: how does that go along with the "always at the center" part of your preceding sentence?

Wondering,

Chris

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1 hour ago, Alejandro Espeche said:

taking advantage of the best of the lens

Great visualisation! I get the idea and will report back on how this works out for me  8-)

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On 2/1/2020 at 2:59 PM, Alejandro Espeche said:

 

@Alejandro Espeche:

Coming back to this little gem:  8-)

I've been thinking about the "try to keep bird back in the EVF" part:

I perfectly understand, why to use the center of the lens for best in-focus results. But doesn't keeping the bird back in the EVF entail the risk of cutting the tail of the bird off, like shown in your illustration?

To me this sounds like you're factoring in a little delay between the "finger press" on the shutter button and the actual shot being taken, allowing the bird to have fully entered the frame by the time the camera finally takes the shot.

Which brings me to the Priority Set in AF/C setting. I have this set to "AF", instead of "immediate" response, because I'm aiming for best sharpness, even if this would go along with a tiny delay between button press and shot taken. Is my thinking correct this far?

Finally, my most recent result of my efforts, which mainly benefitted from me and my camera for the first time ever having been ready to shoot _before_  the bird arrived ...   8-)

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4 hours ago, Chrissie said:

I perfectly understand, why to use the center of the lens for best in-focus results. But doesn't keeping the bird back in the EVF entail the risk of cutting the tail of the bird off, like shown in your illustration?

The focus on the central zone is always faster. When I give the order to shoot the brain-camera duo there is always a delay, I could not say how much corresponds to each one, but without a doubt the bird advanced a little in that period of time.

To lose a part of the bird it has to be too close or too big or I had it too far to the right of the evf, it almost never happens to me. Possibly in an environment with birds calmer or accustomed to human presence this is a problem.

Excellent shot by the way.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Alejandro Espeche said:

Excellent shot by the way.

Thanks for the praise - makes me blush ...

Birds coming too close haven't been a problem for me yet, quite to the contrary. And since I own an a9, having 24MP "only", I'm used to fully zoom in in order to have enough pixels covered, in case I want/need to crop.

In this particular instance, I was "thinking like an eagle a Red Kite", looking out of the window and figuring this would be a perfect time to go out hunting, if I was a Red Kite. Which was why I was out on my south-facing, hillside-overlooking patio, literally waiting for this bird to arrive, before it actually did. Kind of predictable, if you set the "now" threshold low enough ... 😉

And so I got this nice shot where the bird in its approach looks straight at you, at almost the same elevation.

My takeaway is: be fully prepared, before the situation for a shot arrives.

 

Edited by Chrissie

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