Lately I’ve been changing the way I take macro shots of active insects like bumble bees. Previously I have used magnification and single AF. This works well for slow insects. But not as well for fast moving butterflies and bees. So talking to someone who does a lot macro he recommended continuous autofocus. So I tried it. One problem is that magnified view doesn’t work during continuous AF. But what I did find was that the keeper rate did improve greatly for fast movers like bumble bees.
And that got me thinking. A-mount lenses also don’t have magnified view in AF modes. So it occurred to me that these lenses would also become more accurate in continuous AF macro shots. So I tried out the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens and it worked quite well on larger insects like bumble bees and dragon flies. Then I tried it on really tiny flies and this was haphazard. For these I found throwing it into manual focus and using magnified view was the only way to get really tiny critters in perfect focus.
And that is limiting with live creatures in the outside environment where every puff of breeze ruins the focus. So this leads me to think that the 200 macro will be limited to larger insects. The Sony e-mount 90mm macro will be much better for the really tiny things. And for slower insects I’ll use magnified view and single AF. For faster bugs I’ll go with continuous AF and spray and pray I get the perfect shot.
I took the camera out yesterday and played around with the 200mm macro. The A7R IVA has a very nice viewfinder but what I doscovered was that A-mount lenses on the LA-EA5 are not considered eligible lenses to use a feature called “AF in Focus Mag.” This feature allows you to autofocus while in a magnified view and it is a fantastic feature for doing macro work. Not having this feature with the 200mm macro is a sore disappointment. I didn’t anticipate this exclusion. Damn you Sony! But that being said, I am going to see if I can use animal eye AF to compensate for this.
With respect to general performance the autofocus speed is acceptable. And in the short time I’ve tested it, the accuracy of the focus seems quite good. The A7R IVA camera is relatively close to my A7 III in action and function so there aren’t too many things to get used to. Today, if the weather holds out, I want to try a running dog focus tracking experiment. Harry (or Larold as he’s been nicknamed by my oldest grandson) is our younger pointer and he is incredibly fast. I’m going to try and track him as he sprints across the front lawn. I think I read that tracking doesn’t work with Animal EYE AF. This seems strane so I’ll try it both ways, animal and human eye AF. But even if the tracking is just on his head I think it will be an interesting experiment.
I also want to try out eye AF on insects and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds will especially benefit from the tracking function. Losing focus on a hummingbird with a macro lens and its very long focus windup usually means a costly time delay in getting the set up again. And believe it or not I’ve never used tracking on hummingbirds before with my normal lenses and camera even though they are available. When you’re set in your ways you can miss a lot of useful opportunities. I’ve been reminded of that recently but this one really got me thinking. I have to go over the A7 III’s capabilities and see what else I’m missing out on.
Stay tuned. Much work to do.
As noted earlier I had a touch of cabin fever so I decided to try my first outdoor focus stack. What this means is that I have to drag along a laptop computer and a tethering line in addition to the camera and tripod. All of this is easy enough. What isn’t easy is telling the wind to stop blowing for the requisite two or three minutes of exposure time. And in fact, this picture is cropped as tightly as it is because some leaves were blowing around in the debris pile. Looking at it now I also note that the left side shoot is a little over exposed. So let us say as art it’s slightly underwhelming. But as an experiment in field macrophotography technique it will be “required reading at the Academy.”