A77 II - First Adventure
This is going to have more camera geek stuff than usual; if you aren't interested in all the technical talk, you can just look at the pretty photos.
As I have told you, the borrowed Sony A700 finally died and I had the new Sony A77 II on pre-order. It arrived last week with the kit lens, a 16-50mm. I also ordered a Sony 70-400mm G2 of my own. Plus a 64GB memory card. The new camera is a 24mp and can shoot 12fps. It also is supposed to do a better job with higher ISOs, something I am keenly interested in. I don't like nature shots in bright light because of the shadows; I much prefer overcast days. And those conditions need ISOs of at least 1000, and sometimes more.
First trip out with all the new toys: naturally to Brazos Bend State Park. I did not shoot that many photos, I was still pushing buttons to figure out what it would do. It has an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and I was busy getting the stoopy Level Indicator turned OFF, the histogram turned ON and fine tuning the display. And looking for things. And experimenting with the different focus modes. But, the entire set up, camera and new telephoto weigh slightly less than the old A700 and borrowed 70-400mm - and every ounce counts when you are hiking around all day.
It was hot, sticky and buggy. I got stung by a wicked green caterpillar. There were not a lot of birds out and when we did see birds they were in the deep shade or harsh sunlight.
I did revisit our growing Yellow-crowned Night Herons. The three chicks have reached the teen stage and one is even venturing out on the surrounding limbs. I suspect they will be off on their own next time I check the nest.
The new Autofocus is superb. If you take any photos at all, you know your camera often searches for the focus and then often picks something in the front or back of your target. This is shot at f/5.6 and the foreground branches and the bird are in focus. There is also a Focus Limiter feature I read about when I got home. You can set the maximum and minimum focus points and the camera will ignore any object outside of the range. I want to experiment with that.
The day was cloudy and then it wasn't. I was constantly changing my settings but at least they stayed set. The new camera has 79 autofocus detection points, including 15 cross points within most frequently-used central area of the sensor. I was experimenting with the Focus Area settings. You can lock on the Center Point, but you can also move that locked point up, down or to either side. This is going to be real handy to lock focus on the bird's head in the upper part of the frame and not worry about clipping his feet off.
Plus, Expand Flexible Spot will use the focus points adjacent to the single selected point as second priority area to achieve focus. In other words, if the danged bird moves after you lock focus, it will attempt to track the bird and keep it in focus. I want to try that one on Birds in Flight.
So I am concentrating hard on my new camera and settings and wishing they put water in the thermos at the Observation Tower during the week and wondering if I was going to get an allergic reaction from the caterpillar sting .... and....
This guy was on the side of the trail, in the grass when I first saw him. Nothing out of the ordinary; they lay around sleeping like that all the time. But, this one had his eyes open and was alert. I was just about to pass him by walking on the opposite shoulder, when he raised up and started across the trail. He was less than 15ft from me; I had to back off my telephoto to get this much in the frame. No time to change the settings, I was just firing off shots as I backed up. He slithered under the vegetation in 40-acre lake, no doubt to get cool.
It was a bit disconcerting. But, it sure shows the in-camera stabilization works!
These were processed with the Sony provided Image Data Converter. Not as robust, mostly annoying and highly frustrating, but workable. I am shooting RAW + Jpeg for the time being. And not able do the post-processing I would like to do.
Note: Adobe Camera Raw updated its software for the new camera while I was proofing this adventure. Whew.
I think I am going to like my new camera. The documentation is sparse; there are lots of complaints on the camera forums that big corporations don't want to spend the resources on good technical writing.
Of course there are some personal YouTube videos, but those were dismissed by the forum posters as not "proper documentation". I am using them, but I have to take notes on the steps used and they never seem to cover the exact issue I am trying resolve. There are a few PDFs available and I have one of the best ones on my iPad so I can refer to it when away from home. I was a bit surprised how many users wanted to print the docs.
So, I have lots of new things to learn with this camera. And I will get out with that 50mm lens soon and do some non-bird things, I promise.