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Sony A77 camera/70-400mm G lens combo

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Old Friday 15th June 2012, 05:23   #1
digiscope09
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Sony A77 camera/70-400mm G lens combo

Been using this combo for some months now and have taken countless bird photos. I find the A77 extremely sharp in excellent light and where there are no impinging objects, but the combo falls away in less than ideal light and gets very noisy.

One issue I have found is that when trying to take shots of birds in thickets, undergrowth where leaves and twigs can be a problem to autofocus, switching to manual and using peaking does not seem to totally overcome the focus issues as even in spot focus mode, the central focus area seems to be too broad/large i.e. the peaking highlight captures both the object and some surrounding areas detracting from the central image sharpness. My Swarovski 80mmHD scope and Canon S95 combo have no such problems in these situations capturing consistently sharp images however shutter speed is an issue and partly the reason, I thought I would give the Sony combo a go.

I also find that the camera has problems with backlighting and there is a marked difference between what is shown in the viewfinder and what the actual taken image shows - usually very overexposed. I have lost many sharp shots through this problem.

The fast burst speed is very good for BIF and I have had a lot of fun with the combo however I am finding it to be a bit too inconsistent in IQ for me and lacking a bit of focal distance even with the APS-C sensor 400mm lens.

I use the combo both handheld and on a tripod with remote.

Currently considering a Kowa lens/850mm combo.

I have found DP Review to be a good point of reference for advice on the Sony A77 for those interested but bear in mind there are some people out there who get a bit precious about "their" brand.

finno
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Old Friday 15th June 2012, 11:56   #2
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I'm in the market for an A77 to replace my rather ageing A700 (Sony took its time to come up with something in the same bracket), so I'm rather interested in your experience. I've read a lot about the A77.

Do you take raw or jpg? I think most people agree that the jpg engine on the A77 isn't the best. I am a bit surprised that you're reporting over-exposure. I haven't yet read anybody else complaining about the light metering/exposure aspects with that camera (and the lens is certainly highly regarded in the Sony community).

One of the advantages/disadvantages of the electronic viewfinder is that it won't show what's there in the same way an optical one would do. If there's little light then the EVF can produce a brighter image, whereas with an OVF what you have is what you see. This seems to be one of those issues which divides users - some think the new technology is brilliant, others find it unacceptable for their use.

As far as the focussing issues go, it's usually easier for a camera to focus on a twig than it is on a bird (because the twig often produces clearer lines). I haven't worked with focus peaking myself, but am a bit concerned to hear your report since what I've read made it sound very good. However, as far as depth of field and so sharpness goes you can only compare different set-ups at the same f-stop and get meaningful results. With long lenses the depth of field is very shallow, which is great for producing an out of focus background, but not so good if you the subject isn't at just the right range. Have you tried the micro-focus adjust available with the A77?

I'm not entirely sure what your post is aiming for - is it a report, or are you asking whether there might be something else you should be doing, so I'm not sure whether my response is what you were looking for. But thanks for providing some more information on this camera/lens combo.

Andrea
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Old Friday 15th June 2012, 23:17   #3
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Sony A77 camera/70-400mm G lens combo

Andrea

Just sharing my experience with the combo for others to consider, that's all.

I go bird "shooting" with a friend who has a much more expensive Canon set up and does not have such problems as I have mentioned. I know its unfair to compare apples with oranges but one cant help it when your standing side by side and she is firing off shots without effort while my combo is struggling to focus on the target. We all read lots of reviews but most times the reviewer does not say under what conditions they actually operate, so my opinion is that this combo is not the best for trying to take small birds in less than ideal light or where twigs and other objects are an issue. I am wasting far more shots with this set up in comparison with my Swarov/Canon S95 digiscope unit in the less than ideal light/bush situations.

finno

PS: watch this space as there might be a bargain going soon!
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Old Saturday 16th June 2012, 11:05   #4
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Thanks for clarifying, finno.

Andrea
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Old Wednesday 27th June 2012, 20:26   #5
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Good to hear real-life experience, for better and for worse, on any camera. You present it in a factual way based on yur experience, which is better than those who like to draw conclusions about the model or brand from one person's experience.

I shopped between the A77 & A580, and because I do a lot of bird shooting including birds in flight quite frequently, I was still a little gunshy on relying on an EVF full time...I was worried about the tracking during burst shooting on panning with a moving target, as well as worries about reduced battery life and buffer size, though those were lesser concerns. In the end, I decided on the A580 and have had no regrets - it has been positively masterful in the types of scenarios you mention - especially focusing in low light and through difficult clutter when using spot meter to pick out a bird through myriad leaves and branches. In fact, I'm more heartened at my decision after hearing your concern in this area with the A77 - as you mention, there may be great or poor reviews but it's hard to tell if those photographers are shooting under the same conditions or trying for the same types of shots as you - it sounds as if you are shooting very similar type shots. I shoot frequently with a few other A77 shooters, who love their cameras - one uses a Tamron 200-500 and the other a 70-400mm - both seem to do fine with birds in flight and for most bird shooting, though I can't say I've ever shot with them through heavy brush or overgrowth, or seen how well their focus works to pick out a bird through heavy clutter. This has been one area that is very important to me, and my previous A550 did very well in this regard - moving to the A580 was a good evolutionary move in gaining a better sensor and some faster responses or better controls, but without losing the characteristics which made the A550 so good for me.

I've since picked up a NEX-5N with the EVF attached as a second lightweight body, and though I MUCH prefer shooting with the EVF to using the LCD, and can even use it for birds in flight or action, it does take more work, more skill, and just more effort overall to get such shots with the EVF - as you mentioned, the limited dynamic range of the EVF makes detecting highlights and shadows outside the range very difficult, not to mention sometimes seeing details in high-contrast scenes that are no problem with the OVF cameras, so it's more a framing and focus aid for me.

BTW, I typically use the Minolta 300mm F4 APO lens with a matched 1.4x TC, or a Tamron 200-500mm, on my A580. I haven't extensively tried the 70-400mm, but it seems to be a solid, sharp lens...I'd consider it if I needed another telephoto in this range.
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Old Wednesday 27th June 2012, 21:09   #6
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Zackiedawg

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zackiedawg View Post
Good to hear real-life experience, for better and for worse, on any camera. You present it in a factual way based on yur experience, which is better than those who like to draw conclusions about the model or brand from one person's experience.

I shopped between the A77 & A580, and because I do a lot of bird shooting including birds in flight quite frequently, I was still a little gunshy on relying on an EVF full time...I was worried about the tracking during burst shooting on panning with a moving target, as well as worries about reduced battery life and buffer size, though those were lesser concerns. In the end, I decided on the A580 and have had no regrets - it has been positively masterful in the types of scenarios you mention - especially focusing in low light and through difficult clutter when using spot meter to pick out a bird through myriad leaves and branches. In fact, I'm more heartened at my decision after hearing your concern in this area with the A77 - as you mention, there may be great or poor reviews but it's hard to tell if those photographers are shooting under the same conditions or trying for the same types of shots as you - it sounds as if you are shooting very similar type shots. I shoot frequently with a few other A77 shooters, who love their cameras - one uses a Tamron 200-500 and the other a 70-400mm - both seem to do fine with birds in flight and for most bird shooting, though I can't say I've ever shot with them through heavy brush or overgrowth, or seen how well their focus works to pick out a bird through heavy clutter. This has been one area that is very important to me, and my previous A550 did very well in this regard - moving to the A580 was a good evolutionary move in gaining a better sensor and some faster responses or better controls, but without losing the characteristics which made the A550 so good for me.

I've since picked up a NEX-5N with the EVF attached as a second lightweight body, and though I MUCH prefer shooting with the EVF to using the LCD, and can even use it for birds in flight or action, it does take more work, more skill, and just more effort overall to get such shots with the EVF - as you mentioned, the limited dynamic range of the EVF makes detecting highlights and shadows outside the range very difficult, not to mention sometimes seeing details in high-contrast scenes that are no problem with the OVF cameras, so it's more a framing and focus aid for me.

BTW, I typically use the Minolta 300mm F4 APO lens with a matched 1.4x TC, or a Tamron 200-500mm, on my A580. I haven't extensively tried the 70-400mm, but it seems to be a solid, sharp lens...I'd consider it if I needed another telephoto in this range.
Thanks Justin.

Nice to have someone on the same page. Never thought about the A580 and will check it out. I have just purchased the Kowa lens scope Manual 500 f5.6 and going to try my A77 on it. I did do a lot of digiscoping and miss it because of the extra distance and looking for a bit of a hybrid arrangement although going back to manual focussing will be a bit strange for a while. However I will still have the flexibility of carrying my 70-400 lens in the back pack but am hoping for BIF I can get away with something a little lighter. My main problem here is that no-one stocks Sony and I am 2000 ckicks away from a serious camera shop.

Cheers


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Old Friday 29th June 2012, 09:49   #7
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I have an a65, I only shoot Jpegs and against all all advice I see here and elsewhere I tend to set it to lightly underexpose shots, this seems to deliver what I want in the way of images. I did start off with an electronic viewfinder on a slr by buying an a33 at the end of 2010, I do sometimes also use a Nikon D90 and a few other dslrs, I don't now really perceive much difference in use between the D90 and the Sony SLTs other than the Sonys have more information on the evf.
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Old Friday 29th June 2012, 22:05   #8
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Underexposure

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Originally Posted by speckled wood View Post
I have an a65, I only shoot Jpegs and against all all advice I see here and elsewhere I tend to set it to lightly underexpose shots, this seems to deliver what I want in the way of images. I did start off with an electronic viewfinder on a slr by buying an a33 at the end of 2010, I do sometimes also use a Nikon D90 and a few other dslrs, I don't now really perceive much difference in use between the D90 and the Sony SLTs other than the Sonys have more information on the evf.
I agree with the underexposure bit. Much nicer detail.

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Old Sunday 1st July 2012, 09:57   #9
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One other thing I like with the a65 is the built in GPS, I have found it to be very accurate, and it usually kicks in within a few seconds and is not too heavy on the batteries even when the camera is switched on for long periods.
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Old Friday 21st September 2012, 08:58   #10
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I now have an A77, but haven't used it extensively yet. I'm combining it with the 70-300G for the moment, but I must admit I covet the 70-400G (but not its added weight).

I took it to Spain with me a couple of weeks ago on a trip mainly for raptor watching. I now have a better idea what finno is talking about above. All shorts were taken hand-held. First impressions:

- It focuses very quickly (coming from a Sony A700) and the megapixel count means that one can crop fairly aggressively and still get good detail.

- Flight shots I'd have missed because of hunting autofocus (even with the focus delimiter used) with the A700 I can now get.

- I agree that it really wants good light. I need more experience to work out how serious the noise I see in other conditions on a 1:1 view affects the photo after post-processing.

- The electronic viewfinder will take more getting used to. We spent a bit of time in a forested area and found crested tits and firecrests, but all I could see in the viewfinder were black leaves and a white sky. I took some shots, and some of them are good enough for records shots, but in others the camera focused on the wrong thing. I had no way of confirming what the camera was focussing on - I couldn't see the birds! This all happened within five minutes with small flocks passing through, so there wasn't any chance to try and fix it (by dialing up brightness more, for examples) on the spot. The birds were moving around way too much to try for manual focus, although I'm sorry to hear finno's experience that peaking isn't good enough to get you what you want.

- The metering is odd. I definitely need more experience to work out what exposure compensation I need to apply - something I didn't have to worry about too much with the A700. In the condition above I ended up with pictures of white sky and black trees (almost as bad as the viewfinder was showing it), so the birds (which were among the leaves) were badly under-exposed, and when I brought up the exposure in Lightroom there was a lot of noise. (I shoot raw, but still, the results of those particular photos were worse than I expected.)

- Even taking raptors against an overcast (grey) sky I ended up with a dark grey sky and a black bird. Again, I needed to bring exposure up a lot in Lightroom. Again, on the few occasions birds came low enough to be worth having a shot at there was no time to try to adjust anything.

- The autofocus has problems with moving birds against a background other than sky. We were photographing lesser kestrels that had converged over a field that seemed to be brimming with food for them when a Montagu's harrier came through. From the angle we were at we had to shoot it against a background of fields, plus a road further away. The autofocus ended up picking the crash barrier and the signs on the road, although the raptor was considerably closer (but not always in the centre of the viewfinder since it was moving too rapidly for that). Somebody else with a point-and-shoot didn't have these problems and ended up with some sharp images where I got none.

- When shooting birds in good light everything was fine. Exposure, noise, detail - certainly a noticeable upgrade there from my A700. You can see some pictures in my gallery.

- Before going on holiday I took it out locally a few times to at least get some familiarity with it and ended up shooting insects a lot (because birds had either migrated away or were moulting and not very visible). Some of the detail on those shots is quite breath-taking. You can blow up a bumblebee to maybe 100 times its true size and still get sharp detail. Ironically, although some of those pictures were also taken on a drizzly day with grey skies, I had no exposure issues. (These are all taken with aperture priority, whereas I'd set it to shutter priority while in Spain to deal with the mostly rapid movement.)

Verdict: I'm really happy about some aspects of my new camera (speed of auto-focus, speed of shutter, possibility to take 8 shots per seconds, level of detail on good shots). I'm currently a bit surprised by some of the behaviour I witnessed. The aim obviously is to see whether there are different ways of operating the camera that give me better results in those situations.

Like finno I hope this info will be useful to somebody!

Andrea
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Old Saturday 22nd September 2012, 08:19   #11
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Sony A77/400 lens combo

Quote:
Originally Posted by kitefarrago View Post
I now have an A77, but haven't used it extensively yet. I'm combining it with the 70-300G for the moment, but I must admit I covet the 70-400G (but not its added weight).

I took it to Spain with me a couple of weeks ago on a trip mainly for raptor watching. I now have a better idea what finno is talking about above. All shorts were taken hand-held. First impressions:

- It focuses very quickly (coming from a Sony A700) and the megapixel count means that one can crop fairly aggressively and still get good detail.

- Flight shots I'd have missed because of hunting autofocus (even with the focus delimiter used) with the A700 I can now get.

- I agree that it really wants good light. I need more experience to work out how serious the noise I see in other conditions on a 1:1 view affects the photo after post-processing.

- The electronic viewfinder will take more getting used to. We spent a bit of time in a forested area and found crested tits and firecrests, but all I could see in the viewfinder were black leaves and a white sky. I took some shots, and some of them are good enough for records shots, but in others the camera focused on the wrong thing. I had no way of confirming what the camera was focussing on - I couldn't see the birds! This all happened within five minutes with small flocks passing through, so there wasn't any chance to try and fix it (by dialing up brightness more, for examples) on the spot. The birds were moving around way too much to try for manual focus, although I'm sorry to hear finno's experience that peaking isn't good enough to get you what you want.

- The metering is odd. I definitely need more experience to work out what exposure compensation I need to apply - something I didn't have to worry about too much with the A700. In the condition above I ended up with pictures of white sky and black trees (almost as bad as the viewfinder was showing it), so the birds (which were among the leaves) were badly under-exposed, and when I brought up the exposure in Lightroom there was a lot of noise. (I shoot raw, but still, the results of those particular photos were worse than I expected.)

- Even taking raptors against an overcast (grey) sky I ended up with a dark grey sky and a black bird. Again, I needed to bring exposure up a lot in Lightroom. Again, on the few occasions birds came low enough to be worth having a shot at there was no time to try to adjust anything.

- The autofocus has problems with moving birds against a background other than sky. We were photographing lesser kestrels that had converged over a field that seemed to be brimming with food for them when a Montagu's harrier came through. From the angle we were at we had to shoot it against a background of fields, plus a road further away. The autofocus ended up picking the crash barrier and the signs on the road, although the raptor was considerably closer (but not always in the centre of the viewfinder since it was moving too rapidly for that). Somebody else with a point-and-shoot didn't have these problems and ended up with some sharp images where I got none.

- When shooting birds in good light everything was fine. Exposure, noise, detail - certainly a noticeable upgrade there from my A700. You can see some pictures in my gallery.

- Before going on holiday I took it out locally a few times to at least get some familiarity with it and ended up shooting insects a lot (because birds had either migrated away or were moulting and not very visible). Some of the detail on those shots is quite breath-taking. You can blow up a bumblebee to maybe 100 times its true size and still get sharp detail. Ironically, although some of those pictures were also taken on a drizzly day with grey skies, I had no exposure issues. (These are all taken with aperture priority, whereas I'd set it to shutter priority while in Spain to deal with the mostly rapid movement.)

Verdict: I'm really happy about some aspects of my new camera (speed of auto-focus, speed of shutter, possibility to take 8 shots per seconds, level of detail on good shots). I'm currently a bit surprised by some of the behaviour I witnessed. The aim obviously is to see whether there are different ways of operating the camera that give me better results in those situations.

Like finno I hope this info will be useful to somebody!

Andrea
Good luck with it Andrea.

I am currently on holiday in USA and I gave up the Sony A77/400 combo due to frustration with the auto focus. Shipped the combo home, walked into B&H Photo in NY and bought the Nikon D7000/500 f4 VR lens. Yes, I will be broke for the next ten years but am I having some fun. No more auto focus problems, the Nikon lens is deadly. Just got to practise a bit more to sort out the shutter movement shake with the D7000 and it will be great.

I now have, in addition to the 70/400 lens, a macro lens and 16-50 lens for sale for the A77when I get home in December, if you or anyone else is interested.

finno
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Old Saturday 22nd September 2012, 11:47   #12
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Quote:
I am currently on holiday in USA and I gave up the Sony A77/400 combo due to frustration with the auto focus. Shipped the combo home, walked into B&H Photo in NY and bought the Nikon D7000/500 f4 VR lens. Yes, I will be broke for the next ten years but am I having some fun. No more auto focus problems, the Nikon lens is deadly. Just got to practise a bit more to sort out the shutter movement shake with the D7000 and it will be great.

I now have, in addition to the 70/400 lens, a macro lens and 16-50 lens for sale for the A77when I get home in December, if you or anyone else is interested.
Sorry to hear you ultimately gave up on the A77. I've been with Minolta/Sony since my first slr when I was sixteen a very long time ago, and I must admit there's a certain amount of sentimental attachment. I do, however, also have a lot of kit for the A mount. Pity you're in Australia when it comes to selling lenses.

I do hope the D7000 lives up to your expectations.

Andrea
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Old Monday 24th September 2012, 23:58   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finno View Post
Good luck with it Andrea.

I am currently on holiday in USA and I gave up the Sony A77/400 combo due to frustration with the auto focus. Shipped the combo home, walked into B&H Photo in NY and bought the Nikon D7000/500 f4 VR lens. Yes, I will be broke for the next ten years but am I having some fun. No more auto focus problems, the Nikon lens is deadly. Just got to practise a bit more to sort out the shutter movement shake with the D7000 and it will be great.

I now have, in addition to the 70/400 lens, a macro lens and 16-50 lens for sale for the A77when I get home in December, if you or anyone else is interested.

finno
finno,
Well done on your purchase. It's hard to walk into B and H and not buy something.
Neil.
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