Focus on one butterfly, get one free

I was focussing on the lower butterfly, expecting it to take flight. The upper butterfly flew into view, and almost into focus (it’s not quite sharp). It makes a striking image, though.

This was shot with the 70-200mm GM II at 200mm, f/4, 1/2000, ISO 2500 on the Sony A7R5.

You focussed on what?

I am still reviewing the new Sony A7R5 – after all, I bought less than 4 months ago! I’m starting to feel like I understand the new autofocus system, which is simultaneously the most complex autofocus I’ve ever used, and yet the easiest / most natural to use.

This particular situation impressed me. When I looked at the RAW, the foliage nearest to me was even brighter (I have lowered whites and highlights in the image above, and raised the shadows a bit). I might have been able to get an earlier Sony camera to duplicate this autofocus using a small Spot autofocus area, but the A7R5 was set to Zone. I’d expect an earlier Sony to to focus on a tree or the leaves near me in Zone. The A7R5 didn’t hesitate. It picked out the tiger deep in the shadows, and focused on the tiger eye beautifully (check out the second image below to see how accurate that autofocus was).

The other thing that impressed me was that this was shot at ISO 12800, 1/1250, f/4 at 200mm on the Sony 70-200 GM II. A great lens, a great camera, but ISO 12800? I did no noise reduction on this image, other than scaling the crop from 3600 wide to 2500. Click on the images below to see them larger.

Snow Leopard asleep

Snow leopards are one of the most beautiful of cats. This lady looks elegant, even asleep in a dappled autumn sunshine.

This image was shot using the Sony 70-200 GM II lens at 200mm on the Sony A7RV at f/4 1/2000 ISO 6400 (no noise reduction!). I cropped the image a little to get rid of a distraction. I was a bit surprised not to see noise in an image shot at ISO 6400, and I thought you might like to see the result.

Dingos in Daylight

The dingo was the only canid in Australia for millennia.

This image was shot using the Sony 135 GM lens on the Sony A7RV at f/4 1/2000 ISO 200, and cropped to a square for composition. I haven’t used this combination a lot, but I should. The sharpness of the lens and the sharpness of the autofocus are complementary.

Dragon without depth

Oops, I did it again! Yes, this is another of my “Don’t do as I did” posts.

I ventured out to the Melbourne Zoo with the A7RV camera and the 135 f/1.8 GM lens. The temperature was low 20s Celsius, but there weren’t many clouds around, so we got some nice bright light (and the hard shadows in this shot testify to that). Although the image looks monochrome, it’s colour – the stone and the dragon just aren’t colourful.

Click on the image below to see it larger.

This image was shot at f/4 1/2000 ISO 640, and cropped from 9504 x 6336 down to 5228×5228. You can see that the A7RV found the dragon’s eye and focused on it, but I made the mistake of thinking f/4 would give me sufficient depth of field. I’d leaned into the shot because the water dragon was posing so beautifully in the sunshine, and as you can see the dragon’s head is beautifully clear and sharp, but the body and tail are not.

When you are aiming to get the whole of an animal (or human!) in focus, remember that you can increase your depth of field by choosing a smaller aperture (like f/8), or stepping back and using a longer focal length (on a zoom), or cropping more (on a prime).

Of course, you do have another option: claiming that it was a deliberate artistic decision to emphasise the head and eyes (and modern eye AF will help make that a credible claim). I’ve chosen to describe this as a mistake, but you know what? I am not unhappy with this image. I just would have liked to see the rear leg and toes inside the depth of field, because the dragon has unusual rear toes.

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.

It wasn’t me!

This lemur looks guilty, but denying it.

This was shot on a Sony A1 with the Sony 135mm GM wide open at f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO 800. The shot is only slightly cropped, because I was not far from the lemur.

Disheveled Kookaburra

While I was wandering through the zoo I noticed a kookaburra sitting on top of a sign. This was a bird passing through, although he or she was not in a hurry to move, even though being harassed by a smaller bird (I think the smaller bird was protecting a nest, and was bothered by the presence of a kookaburra, because kookaburras are predators).

This was shot on a Sony A1 with the Sony 135mm GM wide open at f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO 125. The shot was cropped heavily, but is still sharp.

Sunbathing Simba

I mentioned on the shot of the tiger that it was a sunny day; here you can see blue sky and bright sun. The two bachelor lions at Melbourne Zoo are up on their high platform, several metres above the ground, enjoying the sunshine.

This was shot on a Sony A1 with the Sony 135mm GM wide open at f/1.8, 1/10000, ISO 100 – one of the advantages of using electronic shutter is the ability to reach 1/10000 to produce a better exposure with the lens wide open and ISO at 100; on a camera restricted to mechanical shutter we’d have to close down the aperture somewhat under these conditions.

Tired Tiger?

Indra the tiger is reclining on her bed of straw. The weather was surprisingly nice after a spate of heavy rain (and flooding). The forecast was for rain and heavy overcast. Instead we got a lot of blue sky and bright sun (not that you can see that here – her grotto is in shade), and it was warm enough to wear short sleeves.

This was shot on a Sony A1 with the Sony 135mm GM wide open at f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO 640. This is heavily cropped down to 4000×2400.

Lemur against the light

I visited the zoo at lunchtime, and caught this lemur sitting in the shadow, avoiding the harsh sunlight that we can see in the background. I like how much detail I captured in the shadow, and the separation of the lemur’s muzzle. The A1 managed to focus on the lemur’s eyes, despite the significant difference in brightness between the lemur and the background.

This image was shot with the Sony 200-600mm G lens at 312mm on a Sony A1, at f/6.3 1/2000 ISO 1250 (on auto ISO). The image is uncropped – thought you’d like to see the whole frame, including the lemur’s fingers.