Sony A9 and Zebras

Zebras…seriously? I had no idea that wild animals are running around inside my newly acquired Sony A9, but yet there they are.

What is a Sony Zebra you might ask? Well it is how Sony handles showing highlight alerts within the viewfinder. And of course, it isn’t nearly as simple as one might imagine.

One of my favorite tools with my Canon 5D Mark IV is being able to review images with the highlight alert on (aka Blinkies) and I can see what areas have a loss of detail due to being overexposed. Granted, the image review is of the JPEG preview of the RAW image that I had captured, but I knew when to make exposure adjustments and when it would be retrievable in post processing.

This is important when capturing birds like Osprey and even more so adult Bald Eagles.

I had already mentioned the loss of detail that I’ve seen with the 200-600mm and when working with Bald Eagles getting detail on those tail feathers can challenge the best of photographers. The reason is that if you expose properly for the white tail, then detail on the wing span blend into the dark color. So it’s a fine balance on how to get the exposure right.

So here’s how it works. You turn the Zebras on within the Sony system and within the view finder you’ll see striped lines in the areas that are blown out. It can be quite distracting as it’s on all of the time. To confuse things, you are able to alter the Zebra (highlight) alert sensitivity and I learned that when shooting RAW images you can reduce the sensitivity to +107 or so and it won’t display as often.

Here is a good article that explains this option within the camera Menu system.

An additional option is to have the histogram displayed on both the view finder (Viewer) and the LCD display on the back when taking the picture. I don’t know about you, but having way too much information within the view finder is distracting to me. I’m busy paying attention to making sure the focus spot is on the bird, that the composition is how I would like it, and watching the light and wing pattern of the bird in flight. Who has time or the with-for-all to look at what the histogram is doing within the view finder when trying to keep track of a bird in flight?

Let’s then talk about one of my nit-picks. Remember I mentioned in the beginning that I like reviewing my image to see where the highlight alerts are? Well, when I review an image on the Sony, the highlight alert on playback isn’t an option. Or if there is, I sure haven’t figured it out yet.

Certainly this feature is a work in progress at this time and it may have to be a case of teaching an old dog new tricks. Using a histogram actively in the view finder for accurate exposure. Wish me luck!

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