Sony A9 Active Tracking

1/2000 sec, f/7.1, ISO 320, Daylight WB

The big claim to fame with the Sony A9 and the newly introduced 200-600mm lens is its great ability to track a moving subject. Perfect for bird photography and now with a lightweight lens that has the reach that the big boys have offer clarity and affordability for wildlife photographers.

I wanted to take the new kit out for a spin and left for Ocean City at way before o-dark-thirty to get there before sunrise. Starting with some landscape photography with my Canon kit, I set my baby aside and picked up the Sony A9 to give it a go.

What better to first try with than on little warblers. Luckily there were countless Yellow rump warblers foraging on the seaside and a few were quite cooperative and posed beautifully for me. I gotta say…I absolutely LOVE the bokeh that this lens offers, and evidently other lenses have an odd color cast that friends have mentioned to me. However with the 200-600mm they have addressed that issue.

1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 500. Daylight WB

The clarity of this image was so impressive that I actually removed sharpening and clarity in Lightroom that I have set in my default import preset.

I continued on and arrived to Ocean City Inlet and it was my lucky day as a good sized flock of Royal terns were on the beach and were quite cooperative. The sun was mostly behind my back with a southerly wind so the birds faced me and also flew towards me. It was brilliant and perfect to practice my bird in flight photography and to see how the active tracking worked with the Sony A9.

First, let me share the video I watched to understand the settings to use. I adapted most of the custom settings he has suggested, but didn’t put all of them on my camera. Each custom setting, of course, is suited to the individual user.

The first user error challenge I dealt with is when fully zoomed out at 600mm I had either difficulty getting the bird in the frame or not keeping the bird in the frame once I had it. Zooming out and then back in again helped me get more fluid, but my panning and scanning technique needs some more practice.

But with the Active Tracking system of the Sony, even if the bird ended up on the edge of the frame, focus was retained. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve cussed as I watched my Canon gear lose focus from my selected center focus points when the bird moved away from the center. Or if something was in the background that caught the Canon’s attention more.

It was infrequent when that happened with the Sony.

1/2000 sec, f/7.1, ISO 320

It also does a brilliant job in keeping focus on the subject you’ve chosen, even if he decides to land in the middle of all of his friends.

Yeah..when you see that sort of thing happen with the autofocus, it’s no wonder so many people are becoming Sony converts.

For the battery life, was able to capture over 1,000 images today and still had battery juice left. Remember I selected to have the LCD screen turned off and have a custom button set to turn it on when I want to review images. A bit cumbersome that requires two clicks but worth it.

I chose to use the Low continuous shooting instead of High continuous shooting to reduce the number of images I brought home. Also, for now I only have a 1000X SD HC II memory card which has a slower record rate than the Sony version which is over 2000X.

The lower record rate memory card seemed to work just fine for my purposes but it’s on my Santa list for a pair of upgraded ones.

For ergonomics, the weight of the Sony A9 and 200-600mm is quite similar to the Canon 5D Mark IV with an L bracket installed paired with the 100-400mm lens. The barrel of the Sony 200-600mm is wider than the Canon 100-400mm lens and my hand felt the difference after hand holding it for over an hour.

There is no question that I’m going to have more successful birds in flight images with this new kit and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m looking forward to taking it up to Conowingo Dam and see how we fare with the Bald Eagles. Wish us luck!

8 replies »

  1. Today’s post was very uplifting compared to yesterday! Everyday gets better. Mark has lots of good tips, but it was too much to start with. So I backed down to get a comfort zone with my likes….expand later. You meant business to zip on down to OC! Take care and have fun!

    Sent from my iPad, Best Regards, Jim Tetlow


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