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a6000 : airshows & aviation photography

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All,

 

I'm into airshow and aviation photography and video. My Canon 30D is getting a little long in the tooth so I have a new a6000 as well as the PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS. I have a decent HD camcorder for video, but it uses an oddball format, so I'd like to retire it as well as keep my kit simpler. I will be renting the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS next week. I'm a little concerned that the best native lens is just 200mm. Before I go too far down the Sony path, I'm wondering I should keep my existing Sony combo for travel and general purpose only, or is there/will there be a path for getting a longer lens? Remember that a fast autofocus is key when dealing with aircraft in flight.

 

Thanks,

 

Mike

 

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200mm will be good.  Trying to keep the aircraft in the frame at anything longer will be difficult.  Plus on the A6000, the 200mm will 'look' like a 300mm.

 

The A6000 has pretty awesome AF. There is probably some sort of AF setting/mode to use for following a moving subject.  On the A99 it is AF-D, I don't have an A6000, but I'm sure there is an equivalent.

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There's definitely a lack of long telephoto lenses in E-mount, and there's no sign of that changing any time soon.

While the 24-240 is the longest the 70-200 is the best choice here (or 55-210mm for a far cheaper alternative).

 

 

Your other option, costing 1.5x the 70-200, is an LA-EA4 adaptor plus Sony 70-400mm f4-f5.6 A-mount.

This will provide standard DSLR-level AF, usable aperture (note adaptor takes 1/3rd of a stop) and absolutely ideal range.

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I forgot about the 55-210!  That is an excellent APS-C lens.  Well worth the cash, it is very cheap.  Not as fast as the 7-200/4 but its way cheaper and a tiny bit longer.

 

Like Apollwnios demonstrated above, 200mm is plenty for aircraft.  Most aircraft are larger than birds.

 

Excellent shots there Apollwnios!

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I read this 'old' topic with interest as I was about to go to a large airshow and wanted to glean the best info from the experts that would help me get the most out of my a6300 along with a recently purchased 55-210.

The day of the airshow has now come and gone, and whilst I have ended up with some fun images (a couple are attached) I had the following 'annoying' experiences:

  • the 55-210 often took 'too long' to autofocus (compared to my newer-designed 18-135mm).
  • having 'locked on' with the focus, and with 'continuous focus' enabled, the lens would suddenly decide to re-focus (so totally losing focus) and again take a longish time to focus.
  • switching to the AF/MF position on the camera (the alternative to AEL) I hoped to be able to manually focus (since most aircraft were at a similar distance) but I could not seem to get the forward lens ring to do any focusing and it seemed always to be over-ridden by the autofocus. I can see no switch on the lens to enable MF.
  • too frequently many aircraft were tantalizingly 'just too far away' at 210mm (which I take to be a true 210mm, as the lens is specifically designed for aps-c cameras). I found myself wanting to be at 300mm or even a little more. Yes, I can crop my images to pull in the subject but would still have liked more zoom mm's.
  • I'm was interested by member LeButler's post, above, suggesting the "LA-EA4 adaptor plus the Sony 70-400mm f4-5.6 A-mount" but see that the lens is currently $1,500 (GB£1000) plus adaptor which is out of my amateur league for an infrequently used lens
  • my other thought is to have my existing Sigma 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 converted from it's existing Canon mount to a Sony e-mount and I'm check the cost of having that done right now. It's a bit of a 'beast' weighing 595gms but it might be an acceptable solution - particularly since their 2nd hand values are pretty low at the moment. Once done I don't know if the autofocus will function with an a6300 - or whether I shall have to consider upgrading to an a6500 (with in-body stabilisation)... and if I pay that money, would I be better-off choosing an A-7ii?? (I'm just waiting for my Canon 70D body to sell on eBay)...

Questions, questions, questions.... Any suggestions from the expert members would be welcome.

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Edited by PeterMac
Most of the text was missing.... (I think)

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Not really an expert but I am considering the Sigma MC 11 adaptor and Sigma 100-400 contemporary lens, comes in at about

£850 for the two if you shop around. Not perfect but I can't afford 2,500 for the Sony E 100-400  HTH

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Thanks Gosman767, a very realistic alternative at an affordable price. The reviews for it are good. My only thoughts - pretty heavy at 1067(?)gms especially on my small a6300 and no tripod mount for the lens. Now, if I can get the e-mount fitted onto that lens - goodbye adaptor! Excellent thought, thanks. 

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Update on the idea of converting my Sigma 18-300 from a Canon to a Sony e-mount:-

  • they can not do this conversion as they do not make an 18-300mm with a Sony e-mount in their current lens range and thus there is no mount available.

Strange, I would have assumed that the mounts are universal i.e. one e-mount would fit all their lenses, same as one Canon mount would fit all their lenses - but no, presumably each mount is individual to each lens model. Pity!

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Guest Jaf-Photo

It's often better to skip the lock-on focus and just use AF-C and Wide focus area. That setting easily tracks a plane against the sky. Also disable face recognition as that slows down af.

Regarding the long lenses, this camera needs a lot of light onto the sensor to focus. The longer the lens and smaller the aperture, the slower and more unreliable the af will get. Introducing an adapter in the mix doesn't help.

There are better options, such as the 70-200/4, but it doesn't necessarily get you the performance you want.

Another alternative would be to get a camera with a separate af module. My old A77II was crazy good for flying birds and airplaines. It grabbed them instantly and clung to them like glued. Once a small bird flew very fast across the frame as I was shooting a portrait and the AF switched instantly and nailed it. They're cheap used and you could pair it with the 70-300 SSM II for great IQ and performance. Probably won't cost more than buying a long lens for the A6000.

 

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Many thanks Jaf-Photo - another helpful answer from you! I will put that advice to work for the next air show. Migrating from using Canon for years it emphasises that each manufacturer has his setting 'quirks' for optimum results. I had found plenty of guides and manuals for Canon but they seem thin on the ground for Sony, or at least my a6300.

Having sold the last of my Canon kit today (🎉🎉) I am intending to upgrade to the a6500 - mainly for the internal stabilisation - to allow me a much wider choice of lenses. I am running various comparisons with the (affordable) part of the A7 range but still am inclined to go for the a6500 as I am absolutely a hobby photographer (rather than making any income that way) and don't see an advantage of full-frame over the smaller body size of the a6500. Any thoughts about this would be most welcome. 

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Guest Jaf-Photo

Most of the time, people can't tell the difference between shots taken with FF and APS-C. Where you can see the difference is mostly in close-ups where FF will give you those beautiful focus transitions from pin sharp to really blurry.

One thing I have noticed with the A6300 is that sometimes AF-C will give you definite focus confirmation but the shot will be out of focus. I've also seen it in filmed test shots in reviews. My suspicion has always been that Sony prioritised speed over accuracy to be able to boast World's fastest af on launch. The A6000 is slower but more accurate in my experience.

Personally, I use the A6300 as a portability kit often with the 20/2.8 or 16-70. I have some misgivings about the af, optical quality and colour science but that is easily trumped by the convenience.

The best APS-C I've ever used is the A77II, though, and I'll end up getting a replacement for the one I sold. I thought A99II would obsolete it, but I miss the good old 77 terribly. Amazing colours and so much detail.

Edited by Jaf-Photo

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Really useful info Jaf-Photo. Clearly you are saying "try it" and "experience" which is what we all try to cram in the moment we have a new rig. I'm going to go the a6500 route because i have been able to get excellent visual results (?) with the a6300 when combined with my Development settings of Lightroom. I resist the FF rig sizes because of body/lens weights but want to embrace the lens stabilisation freedom of the in-body a6500.

Many thanks for your input!

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Guest Jaf-Photo

Yeah, do wait a couple of months to see if the A6700 is released, though. Either it's an alternative or you might get the A6500 cheaper.

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Guest Jaf-Photo

We all do it... but the A6700 is due and supposedly a redesign with the bigger battery, possibly a new sensor and whatnot.

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Update on my original July 8th post concerning the 'shortcomings' of my Sony 55-210mm lens on my a6500.

I have now tried just about every setting combination that helpful Guest Jaf-Photo and every other source that I could find suggested to sort out the 'focus dropping out and hunting' problems that I experienced with this lens at airshows. Regretfully - all to no avail....

I went to another large airshow yesterday and of the 200-odd images that I took i ended up keeping only 15! I think that some 25% of the shots were totally out of focus - where the focus had been 'locked on' (green confirmation) and then just dropped out and hunted to re-focus. Probably 25% were just missed shots because I couldn't get it to focus at that time, and so on.... Just a dreadful lens that is going extremely soon.

I still would like to get a suitable 'long zoom' for the a6500 and would like either the FF 24-240mm or better the FF 70-300mm but neither really suit my pocket for a lens that will be infrequently used. I think that waiting for Tamron or Sigma to come up with a suitable eMount zoom may be the best option...

For all that I now 'detest' on the 55-210mm, I must say the later 18-135mm and a6500 continue to be marvellous!

 

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When I could get it to focus and stay focused, it took good shots. The vignetting is mine, intentionally applied in LR to try to improve a disappointing day’s shooting. No shots were really good enough to warrant more effort... 😢 The lens did not vignette in itself. 

I’m now about to trial it’s replacement a Sony FE24-240mm FF lens. Looks mighty promising right now. 

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I'm coming in late in this thread, so please forgive me if I overlooked or am repeating something. On my 6500, there is a setting called "Priority set in AF-S" (and in AF-C, too). It is on page 5 of the 1st tab.
Available settings are AF, Release, and Balanced Emphasis. Playing with these settings may help with focusing onto fast-moving aircraft.
With the 6500 and the 55-210 lens, I have good focus-related experience with moving aircraft (at least as long as there is nothing else in the lens field, such as a fences, poles and the like). Having the sun behind the photographer sure helps. However, when the aircraft occupies too little sensor space, focusing is more difficult, especially if shooting against the sun.

But then again, the 6500 uses improved computing hardware compared to the 6300/6000, so my experience probably won't help much. It takes great airshow photos with the 70-300G, but even that combination does not have a 100% success rate.

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Raz, thank you for your reply and that is most interesting - particularly as I have also moved to the a6500. I will look at the settings that you suggest and try to understand the possible effect of each alternative. Many of the menu options are less than crystal clear in their wording!

I just gave up on the 55-210 lens as I became disenchanted due to the focus-losses, lack of IQ and lack of ‘reach’. I have just received a Sony FE 24-240mm (full frame) lens and am impressed with initial flexibility,  IQ and reach. Interestingly it is marked-down in reviews for being a little soft at the image edges on full frame but this is where it suits an aps-c camera so well! (I couldn’t quite afford your 70-300G but I expect that you have some astonishing results).

I have some moto-cross beach racing to try my new lens on next weekend and I will check your menu suggestion beforehand too!

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