Because it’s been raining and cold for weeks here I took the Sony A7 III with the Sigma MC-11 Adapter and the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS for Canon to a “butterfly conservatory” to get in some macro shooting.
This was a fairly challenging environment for the auto focus because the light level was low. What I found was that the autofocus works but it is far from fast and because it is a macro lens it can get lost in the focus wind up if the light level is low or the subject contrast is low. Several times I switched the lens to manual to reset it after it lost its mind. But as I said it was a fairly challenging lighting situation. My take on this is that the 180 mm Macro is an acceptable autofocus lens on the MC-11 but far from state of the art. The lens itself takes excellent macro and other photos. I am seriously thinking of getting it either in the Canon mount or possibly the amount for use with the LA-EA3. I’ll have to rent that mount version soon to check it out and see if it’s any better.
By the way, the turkey vulture wasn’t at the butterfly place. It was in a tree pretty far from my spot on a road side. It’s a pretty extreme crop so the autofocus was working well when the lens was used as a telephoto lens.
Shooting with extremely long lenses like the 150-600mm Sigma requires higher shutter speed and to compensate for this, higher ISO levels are required. This gave me a chance of seeing the result of using 6,400 and 10,000 (and higher) ISO sensitivities. And I will tell you I am extremely impressed. I have a hummingbird picture at 6,400 that is perfectly fine. I’m sure if I subjected it to very close scrutiny and blew it up to 200% I’d find issues. And that would be crazy. My point is this camera has really excellent 6,400 ISO results. The next test is to take some photos at that sensitivity in a low light indoor environment. If it passes that test then this is the camera I was looking for when I was looking for a successor for the Sony A-850 in 2011. The A850 was a great camera. It had a best in class 24 megapixel sensor and shot beautiful 100 ISO photos. Even 200, 400 and even kinda sorta 800 ISO photos were also very good. but try to take photos in a restaurant at 100 or even 800 ISO. You’ll have motion blur and worse. So I used to take 3,200 and 6,400 ISO shots that looked like a Monet painting with color noise swirling around everything. I tried to convince myself that I liked the result but it was pathetic. Now here I am a mere seven years later and all’s right with the world. Well, that’s assuming the indoor tests go as hoped. That also assumes the low light autofocus is as advertised. Stay tuned. Results will follow soon.
Last Thursday I received the following equipment from LensRentals.com:
Adapter – Sigma MC-11 Canon EF to Sony E, serial 51758012
Bag – Lowepro Lens Case 11 x 26cm, serial S810466
Case – Sigma LS-137K , serial S814943
Filter – Sigma 105mm Protector, serial S645658
Filter – Sigma 86mm Protector, serial S641204
Hood – Sigma LH1164-01, serial S498651
Hood – Sigma LH927-01, serial S412678
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM A1 S for Canon, serial 51367833
Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS for Canon, serial 13268931
Tripod Foot – Sigma 150-600mm S, serial S872113
Tripod Ring – Sigma 150-600mm S , serial S872109
Tripod Ring – Sigma TS-21, serial S454931
I mentioned in an earlier post that I watched a video that the TheCameraStore guys did that tested Metabones and Sigma (MC-11) adapters for Canon mount lenses onto Sony e-mount cameras. In the video they said that on Canon brand lenses the Metabones adapter was better than the MC-11 and had pretty good autofocus. But they also said that on Sigma brand lenses (of Art, Sport and Contemporary series) in Canon mount the autofocus was virtually identical to native Sony lens autofocus. Now that really got me thinking. Sony lacks really long glass and a 200mm macro lens. Sigma has a 150-600 that is pretty sharp and a 180mm f\2.8 macro that is also reputed to be good. The 150-600 is part of the Sports series and therefore one of the lenses that the MC-11 is tuned for. The MC-11 isn’t programmed for the 180mm macro so that was a question mark. I decided to rent them and the MC-11 and test them out.
Between work responsibilities and bad weather I’ve only had a chance to do a little testing but I have confirmed that the MC-11 does give the 150-600 truly excellent autofocus very similar to a native lens on the A7 III. And the 180 macro does not have that native autofocus programming with the MC-11. The display registers an array of rough squares for the focus points. This looks like the older autofocus from the version II A7 cameras. So I can confirm the accuracy of the description of the MC-11’s ability on the Sports series. The 180mm macro autofocus is definitely at a lesser level than with the specified series lenses.
But I still am interested in the 180 macro as the best choice for the A7 III camera. So I’ve been trying it out for some bird photos including hummingbirds. So far I like the results. Next I’ll try some butterflies if they show up in the next week or so.
Where I work there is a formal, company sponsored photo club. They have a budget and they have funded events where they go together to an arboretum or a museum and talk about equipment and techniques. They have a charter and code of conduct. They include everyone and value everyone’s contribution. They give out tee shirts at the end of the year.
I don’t belong to that club. Life’s too short. I get together with about four or five guys who work there at lunch time. We’ll go to a park or walk down the street or try to find a building that’s interesting. We also occasionally take over a conference room during the lunch hour and throw our personal off hours photo results up on the big screen that usually features power point presentations of diversity training or unconscious bias hectoring or whatever else Big Brother needs us to absorb that week.
And some of these guys are pretty good. It’s spring, and from a photographic point of view there’s finally a reason to live. Normally we would already have gone out on a lunch time jaunt to see the dogwoods and weeping cherry trees in bloom. But this year several of these guys have been shanghaied into a shift change to work on a big engineering project. All of that ends on Friday, May 11th. To celebrate my brethren’s release from bondage I’ve scheduled an outing for the next Wednesday to a park that we hope will feature birds and bees and flowers and trees. Maybe even a few butterflies. And to make it interesting for me I’ve reserved a few lenses from a rental company for two weeks starting May 11th. I’ve rented the Sigma MC-11 EF to E mount adapter and the Sigma EF mount version of their 150 – 600 Sports zoom and their 180mm f\2.8 macro lens. I watched a video that the The Camera Store guys made testing out the MC-11 with Sigma EF mount lenses on one of the modern (A9 or third generation A7 cameras) Sony full-frames. They rated the autofocus performance almost exactly as good as Sony native glass. Now there is a catch. It’s only warranted to be that good with certain lenses. The Art and Sports series are covered. So the 150-600 is in that group. The 180 macro is not. I spoke to the rental company and they didn’t know one way or the other. But they did say I should try it. Of course I’m the one paying for the privilege but I figured it was worth a shot. So in about two weeks I’ll have something to say about the A7 III, the MC-11 and birds in flight. Sony has never allowed me to even try such a photographic feat but here we are, a brave new world. And with any any luck the 180 macro will prove to be good for butterfly shots. Currently my only long macro is the Minolta 200mm f\4. But it’s screw drive and if I want autofocus I have to use LA-EA4 with its “translucent mirror.” For me that’s something of a compromise. If the 180mm and the MC-11 combination turns out to have pretty good autofocus I will most probably buy those two items and retire the 200 mm to static macro and short telephoto opportunities with the LA-EA3.
So this is just me salivating in anticipation of the opportunity coming up in a couple of weeks. To say that I’m impatient would be the greatest example of understatement since Jack Swigert said “Houston we have a problem.” So stay tuned. If you’re a Sony shooter these tests will give you information on options that aren’t currently available in the native Sony e-mount ecosystem. And, even if they were, the cost would be prohibitive even to someone with my gear obsessed psyche.
I’ve had the camera for about a week. I went out today to get some first impressions. The first thing I notice is the difference between the A7S and the A7 III is the autofocus. It’s night and day. I used center point AF. Whatever I pointed at was instantaneously in perfect focus. No hunting, no off-focus just dead on crystal clear. Now granted, this is in bright day light. But if you’ve ever shot the A7S you know that even under these conditions the photo had a more than even chance of being at least slightly out of focus. I took it as standard operating procedure that magnified manual focus was absolutely necessary for guaranteed perfect focus. Of course, think of what that means for a moving subject. It meant you couldn’t get the shot. So, the A7 III is a revelation.
The next thing I noticed was how convenient it was to have the viewfinder stay in magnified mode after autofocusing a view. Now I can make sure that if the scene is ultra-crowded with competing focus targets that the right one was selected. Or if something has moved I can re-focus without having to re-engage the magnify steps. This is especially nice for macro work or distant objects.
The next thing was an item I noticed while inspecting the images on the computer. The 24-mp files are amazingly croppable. This contrasts with the 12-mp A7S files. I’ve attached an extreme crop of a flower. The focus was excellent and the crop has tons of detail.
And finally, looking at the images on the computer they seem to have a very nice look to them. Of course, the A7S produced nice files too but these look very rich.
These are just my first thoughts. Later on I’ll review the various functions on the camera and how they work or don’t work for my shooting needs. But right now I have to say that except for extreme low light or star photography I can’t imagine using the A7S instead of the A7 III.
Camera Girl signed for the camera today. Tonight, I’ll set it up and see what I have to do to get a Capture 1 upgrade for that camera. I think I’ll take some pictures of my grandson playing soccer tomorrow morning, to test out the autofocus. If I can’t get the Capture 1 update I’ll have to go with jpegs. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I’ll know if this camera is the end of a long road of Sony waiting.
Today I was watching a video on photography by Tony Northrup
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za2AeCujDZk&feature=youtu.be) . Basically, it’s one of those “Here are my predictions for 2018” videos. Tony goes through Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax and Fuji. He has a variety of predictions and comments. Some interesting, some obvious, some debatable. What I found significant was a couple of statements he made about Canon and Nikon. Apparently both Canon and Nikon are expected to produce full frame mirrorless models in 2018. And in addition, Tony noted that last year Sony passed Nikon to become the second largest producer of full frame cameras and that the way things are going Sony will pass Canon in 2018 to become the largest.
And that is actually sort of amazing. Tony Northrup is a former mirrorless skeptic. Up until the second generation of the A7 system he doubted that a full-frame mirrorless camera would ever have the autofocus ability to compete against the professional grade Nikon and Canon models. But in just three years Sony has gone from a novelty camera manufacturer to where they are now. Now, having been the victim of years of Sony dithering I can state categorically that their success has nothing to do with superior implementation of their products. Anyone who has had to deal with the Sony camera menus knows that’s simply not the case. So, what it must be, is that the time of the DSLR is past and the advantages of the mirrorless camera are now so obvious that even Sony can’t help but succeed.
So, if it’s to be mirrorless cameras going forward, who will be left standing when the dust settles? Will Canon and Nikon pivot and reinvent themselves as mirrorless camera companies? Will Sony parlay their electronic and video expertise to dominate market? Or will one of the other mirrorless companies like Fuji or the micro four thirds manufacturers take advantage of their smaller form factor to pull ahead?
Who knows? Certainly not me. But at least I feel like I’ve won the first part of the bet I took when I stuck with Sony when they went from DSLR to mirrorless. Now all they have to do is get out of their own way and give their customers the cameras and lenses they want to buy. This year they came out with two amazing cameras, the A9 and the A7R III. Both cameras are essentially ground breaking. The A9 is the first mirrorless camera that could easily be used by either a professional sports shooter or a wedding photographer and perform as well as if not in some ways better than the Canon and Nikon equivalents. The A7R III is a versatile high megapixel camera that can perform at the level of Nikon and Canon enthusiast cameras for everything from landscape to portrait to occasion shooting while providing the very best picture quality available. What remains for them is to finish off the line up with updates of their high ISO stills / video camera (the A7S III) and the basic A7 III plain vanilla version. Once the larger battery, better autofocus and joystick control of the A9 is introduced into these updates, Sony will have provided mirrorless shooters with the tools they’ve been waiting for. And it will become difficult for Canon and Nikon to convince the market that mirrorless cameras haven’t already matched DSLR performance and in some ways surpassed it. When I tested out the A9 last summer and saw what it’s like to shoot continuously with absolutely no blackout between frames I knew that mirrorless was the future. And when I saw how good the autofocus on that camera was I no longer doubted that Sony might be a part of that future.
So, the great mirrorless game is afoot. Who will take an early lead and who will be left at the gate? Predicting these kinds of things is almost impossible. But I’ll string along with Sony for the foreseeable future. They’ve chosen wisely and are now fighting on their own electronics turf instead of on the DSLR field. I like their chances. But I have to say that after following along with these guys for all these years I have a sort of fatalism about how clueless they can be about avoiding obvious problems. Please Sony, don’t screw it up.
Only a seriously unserious photographer would spend 350 bucks to rent a camera like the A9 for a week and then use it as frivolously and haphazardly as I just did with it. My only defense is that I only wanted to establish one thing. I wanted to know whether the autofocus was great, good or as miserable as on my A7S. It’s not a good defense. Enough reports are out there to show that it’s much, much better than the A7S. In fact there is plenty of testimony for it being better than any of the A7 cameras and for it being at least comparable to high end Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
Well, call me Doubting Thomas. I needed to see it with my own eyes and experience it with my own hands.
Okay, big surprise, it’s really very, very good. Put the camera on center point focus and point it at anything inside or outside and it focuses instantaneously and flawlessly. Beyond that I did some tests with tracking and eye-focus of moving targets and it was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect or flawless but that could be attributed to my lack of understanding of which setting should be used when and my lack of technique for shooting sports or occasion subjects.
At this point you can see that there will be no big surprises or important information coming out of this post (unless you are a doubter like me and for some reason trust me more than the reputable reporters who’ve already sung the A9’s praises). What this is is a personal opinion about why the A9 is an important camera for Sony shooters.
As anyone who has been following my photography posts knows I have been a somewhat patient long-suffering Sony camera user. As an owner of the last full frame DSLR from Sony (the praiseworthy A-850) I have been waiting and suffering through the long chain of mirrorless cameras that Sony produced. From the NEX-5N up to and including the A7R II I have been disappointed by the incompetent autofocus and mediocre shooting experience of these cameras compared to a basic DSLR like the A-850.
Those days are over.
The A9 is a better camera than the A-850 in every way.
And here’s my take on why this is important. I don’t have to abandon Sony. I can keep my lense and buy into their overpriced stuff and at least I won’t have to sell it all in a fire sale and go over to Canon or Nikon. The features that the A9 has are remarkable. No black out shooting, excellent indoor and outdoor autofocus, low light capability, silent shutter, very short exposure time, you name it, it’s got it.
The only downside, $4,500 price tag. I am not that nuts. You see I’m a hobbyist. I don’t shoot weddings and I don’t work for CBS sports. I do not actually need 20 frames per second. Nor do I want to pay for it.
What I do want is that fantastic autofocus and the no blackout shooting experience. Well actually, I’d also like to get that bigger battery too. Unfortunately, it’s starting to get closer to most of the camera. Damn. Well anyway, I want an A7 III with all the goodies of the A9 but without the mortgage. Three grand? Sure. Thirty five hundred? Ahhhh, I dono. So come on Sony make it a Merry Christmas. After all I have been patient.