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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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