Osprey in flight

This bird in flight was captured at Healesville Sanctuary, using the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II lens on a 1.4x teleconverter on a Sony A7RV. The lens was at f/8, and this was shot at 1/2000, ISO 800. I am still learning how to use the A7RV to photograph birds in flight – I wonder if the A1 has made my skills rusty? The A7RV’s new AF isn’t as fast as the A1, but given a little time, can be more accurate.

I cropped this image from the full 9504×6336 down to 6000×4000 (keeping 24 megapixels from the original 60). I’ll show you the full frame below. Click on the gallery to see the images larger.

Kangaroo goes “hmm”

This was taken at Healesville Sanctuary, using the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II lens wide open at 192mm on a Sony A7RV at 1/2000, ISO 800. I used the new Animal / Bird AF and I’m quite happy with the accuracy of the focus and the level of detail picked up. This image is slightly cropped.

This kangaroo seems to be thinking deep thoughts.

Focus on Flowers

The State Rose Garden is maintained by a group of hard-working volunteers.

I am working out the strengths and weaknesses of the new auto-focus on the Sony A7RV. It’s extraordinary when it recognises subjects, but what about when it doesn’t? I headed to the Rose Garden with two objectives: to try out Insect AF on bees, and to try the AF on flowers without bees – the list of subjects recognised by the A7RV does not include flowers. Perhaps Sony felt that flowers aren’t too difficult to photograph using old-fashioned techniques, or perhaps Sony’s monster AF training system had trouble locating the eyes on flowers?

These images were all shot with the A7RV set to Insect Subject Recognition (and mostly defaulting to a more normal auto-focus when it didn’t find an insect). The lens was the 70-200 f/2.8 GM II, set to f/8. ISO was on Auto, and shutter speed was mostly 1/2000. Most of the images have been cropped to around 5000 pixels wide (they vary from 2500 up to 6500 pixels wide).

Let’s start with the one flower that I found with a bee (click on the gallery to see the images larger):

I was wondering about the blur over the middle leg until I realised that the bee’s wings were buzzing because it was about to take off.

And now some bee-free flowers. Click on the gallery to see the images larger.

I think I may well leave subject recognition turned on most of the time, because it does not appear to impede auto focus on subjects which are not recognised. Would be worth turning it off if taking, for example, crowd photos that are not meant to be focussed on an individual.

Butterflies in focus

If you wanted to test insect eye auto-focus, represented in the A7RV’s menus by a butterfly, how could you resist visiting the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo? (Well, if you live thousands of kilometres from Melbourne, I guess you have an excellent excuse!)

Not all of these images were focussed on the butterfly’s eyes, but the AF picked up the butterflies in every case, putting a box around the butterfly, and in some cases refining that focus to the head of the butterfly.

These images were shot on the A7RV using the Sony 70-200 GM II, at f/4. I had the minimum shutter speed set to 1/2000, but only until the auto-ISO got up to 12800.

The first gallery is of butterflies perched, although some were still moving their wings. Click on the gallery to see the images larger.

And now something I was not expecting to work! I tried tracking a pair of butterflies in flight. That’s a lot harder than tracking birds in flight, because butterflies do not fly smoothly – they flap wings that are far larger than their bodies.

These images were all shot at f/4 1/2000 and ISO 5000 or 6400. I’ve cropped them to remove distractions (in one image down to 3500×3500). You can see that in some of the images one butterfly is more sharply in focus than the other; I was not running tracking, just AF-C with Subject Recognition set to Insect.

Click on the gallery to see the images larger.

An ibis coming in to land

I am trying out the auto-focus in the new Sony A7RV, and finding it very good. These two images were shot when I was walking through Melbourne Zoo, and happening to look up. There are a number of ibis nesting in the palm trees in the Zoo (they are not officially part of the Zoo, more interlopers!). To be honest, ibis don’t get a lot of respect in Melbourne because they have a reputation for collecting food from rubbish bins, earning themselves the name “bin chickens”.

I am showing two images, and the original frames from which they were taken. You may not be able to tell, but both images are focussed on the bird’s eye (black eye on a black head), made a little easier because the bird was slowing down to land in the palm tree.

These images were shot on the A7RV using the Sony 70-200 GM II, at ISO 100, f/4, 1/2500s. The detail images are 4500 x 3000 crops from the 9504 x 6336 original frames, so they are cropped by a little over half in width and height. Click on the gallery to see the images larger.

Cats’ eyes

To give you a bit more of a taste of the results from the new Sony A7RV I thought I’d start with one of my favourite subjects: cats. I no longer have a pet cat, so you have to settle for photographs of other cats, but they are pretty cats.

All of these were shot with the A7RV set to Animal / Bird subject recognition. Although I haven’t included any examples, I did try photographing an occasional bird in flight, and the camera showed no hesitation in switching subjects.


The servals at Werribee Zoo are shy, and we can only see them for a brief period once a day. They are not large cats, but they have long legs and use them to jump. All the shots below were taken with the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II lens, wide open at f/2.8. Some are shown full-size, others are cropped to show the level of detail in the images.

The top left image in the gallery was snapped as Nunki entered the area, and the new AF found her eye without being confused by the dark shadows over her eyes and the long grass between us (you can see the grass indistinctly in the foreground). I have shown shots of servals jumping before, but I couldn’t resist showing you some more.

Lions and tigers and a snow leopard, oh, my!

Now a selection of other images, some taken with the 70-200 GM II, and some with the 200-600 G. One thing they share is that every one of them was shot with the lens wide open.

The first image was taken with the 200-600 G + 2x teleconverter at 486mm (243mm on the lens), with the lens wide open at f/11. This image is not cropped.

A different day, and we see a lioness enjoying a cooling block of ice with meat frozen in it. This was shot using the 70-200 GM II at 182mm, wide open at f/2.8 (the difference in bokeh is obvious). The eye is razor sharp despite her being in deep shade, with a much brighter background. This is a 6000×4000 crop from the original 9504×6336.

The male tiger at Melbourne Zoo, taken with the 200-600mm G, this time without a teleconverter, wide open at f/6.3, at 360mm. This is a heavy crop from a landscape shot into a portrait image, but there’s plenty of detail visible. I should point out that this was taken in fairly heavy shadow (the Brightness Value in the EXIF data was 0.19, far lower than the other images), with the ISO racking up to 12800, and the shutter speed dropping to 1/125 – suggesting that maybe I was finally giving the new IBIS a little bit of work.

Staying with Melbourne Zoo, but now the female tiger, female snow leopard, and one of the bachelor lions, all shot with the 70-200mm GM II wide open at f/2.8 at 200mm. Only the snow leopard shot is cropped, because she was right up the back of her enclosure (you can see the pipe behind her which provides a cooling mist when it’s too hot for her).

To be honest, I could probably have taken these images with the A1 or the A7R4, but the A7R5 makes it easier with its superb animal recognition and eye AF.

Shooting through glass with the sun at a low angle in the sky

Kulinda the cheetah, prowling in the early sunshine. She helps me demonstrate one of the problems with shooting into morning sunshine through glass. No, she wasn’t being showered in rays of light by Hollywood SFX – that’s flare compounded by shooting through thick glass.

You can see where the sun was, and how low it was, by looking at her shadow.

This isn’t a great photo, but I thought it was a good example of the problems we can face when the sun is low in the sky and we’re forced to shoot through glass into it. At the same time, I was quite happy with how sharp the image came out, and I rather like rim lighting.

This image was shot at ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000 on the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II at 72mm.

Hippos playing follow-the-leader

Three hippos leave their night quarters, plunge into cold water, and head out for a spot of quiet grazing. Given that it’s before breakfast, two of them are not particularly interested in thinking about where they are going, so they just follow in single file. You can see the shine of their wet hides.

This image was shot at ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1000 on the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II at 200mm.