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Is there anything better than Nikon D500 for passerines in flight? (1 Viewer)

Winterdune

Well-known member
Hi all,

My favourite sort of bird photography is photographing small flyover passerines during vismig sessions. I love my D500 with 300pf lens and 1.4 converter - its autofocus capabilities for this sort of thing are phenomenal!

But the camera has developed a fault so before I get it repaired I thought I'd ask the question in the title. I have heard good things about the new Olympus cameras, for instance. So can any of the new breed of mirrorless cameras beat the Nikon?

Many thanks
Sean
 
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Zackiedawg

Well-known member
I don't know if I'd say that any one camera can beat any other - you'd really have to eliminate all other variables and have the same person shoot the same birds in the same light with all the different cameras to truly know for sure. The D500 was among the very best DSLRs for tracking focus even among newer cameras. Are there others that can also track focus very well on small, fast birds? Yes. Note that sometimes it takes a little experience and adjustment for someone coming from DSLRs to mirrorless, due to differences with an EVF vs OVF and in exposures displayed through the finder. Not that one is necessarily better than the other, just different.

Among the mirrorless cameras that have been well reviewed for tracking focus ability, and noted by various bird photographers who used them...the Sony A9 and A9II seem to be the best rated and best reviewed overall, considered among the very best tracking focus cameras ever. The Canon R5 has been getting accolades lately. The Olympus E-M1X is very well reviewed for the M4:3 world...with the E-M1 Mk III possibly receiving some of the focusing ability of the bigger body. In APS-C world, the Sony A6600 and A6400 both have among the best tracking focus systems and rank very well; the Fuji X-T4 has been fairly well reviewed as well for BIF work. Those would be some to consider.

I shoot a lot of BIF with a Sony A6600, and an A6300 before it - and both have been very good with tracking focus on grackles, swallows, and other small BIFs. I generally use it paired with a Sony 100-400mm lens, and sometimes with a Sony 200-600mm lens...both lenses are fast and perform very well for BIF work.
 

GeorgeMac

Sutherland
Dunno about Olympus, aren't they selling off their camera business because of operating losses? I don't keep up any longer, but I did here that somewhere.
 

Winterdune

Well-known member
I shoot a lot of BIF with a Sony A6600, and an A6300 before it - and both have been very good with tracking focus on grackles, swallows, and other small BIFs. I generally use it paired with a Sony 100-400mm lens, and sometimes with a Sony 200-600mm lens...both lenses are fast and perform very well for BIF work.
Thanks for that Zackiedawg; very interesting. Does the evf blackout at all when tracking birds in flight and burst shooting? Can you track swallows against complicated backgrounds?
Sean
 

Zackiedawg

Well-known member
The viewfinder EVF has a mode called 'live view' when shooting at 6fps or 8fps...it's very slightly different in feel from an OVF but similar - rather than having the shutter blacking out the view while it trips up and down, the EVF displays a current or live view in between blackout frames - so the effect is for me quite close to shooting with an OVF. This is different than what's typically called 'slideshow' effect, whereby the EVF displays the last photo taken in succession, so you get the EVF a little bit behind the action. This was for me a very big improvement when it debuted on the A6300 compared to the previous bodies, which were slideshow. Much easier to stay with an erratic, small bird moving all about while firing bursts. If I switch to the 11fps mode, it comes off looking almost like continuous video stream in the finder, but it is in fact doing a fast replay of each previous frame at 11fps, so though it looks smoother, it's always a bit behind the action in the slideshow style and harder to stay with a fast or erratic bird...so I tend to stick to the 8fps mode with the live view EVF mode.

As this year was a bit limited for opportunities, with almost all parks and wetlands closed for at least some big part of the year with Covid restrictions, I didn't get as many opportunities yet with the A6600 as I only just got it in mid-December 2019...so far, it's done very well for birds against busy backgrounds with lots of branches, leaves, etc - I've gotten a few opportunities with smaller birds like kingfishers, grackles, doves, and one or two swallows with busy backgrounds and the tracking does very well at sticking with them, and no issues following them with the EVF while firing. I had 3+ years with the A6300 before it, and it also did very well even with non-sky backdrops - it didn't have a usable 'tracking' mode like the A6600, but continuous focus was pretty good at sticking to the closest subject and not getting distracted easily, and it had the same 8fps live-view EVF mode...I had shot purple martins, barn and tree swallows, etc in flight and found the system to work very well for me, where previous mirrorless cameras with the older slideshow-type EVFs were definitely more challenging trying to keep the bird in the frame.
 

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