Heerman’s Gull Five Ways: The Amazing and Versatile Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Learn Why it Kills the Canon 100-400 II and the Nikon 80-400 VR. And SONY is Garbage! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Heerman's Gull Five Ways: The Amazing and Versatile Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Learn Why it Kills the Canon 100-400 II and the Nikon 80-400 VR. And SONY is Garbage!

What’s Up?

My flight home on Thursday was a breeze. I love Southwest’s Orlando/San Diego nonstops! Thanks as always to Jim Litzenberg for the airport pickup. We were home at 7:30pm. Friday was spent creating this blog post and catching up on e-mails and business. I ordered my Sony gear and should have it some time next week.

The comments, questions, and replies on the last few SONY blogs posts have been excellent, revealing, and packed with solid information. If you are at all interested in the SONY gear, you might wish to re-visit. As always, if you decide to purchase the SONY rig that I am unequivocally recommending based on what you have read here on the blog, please consider using my B&H links or getting in touch with Steve Elkins at Bedford Camera.

Your Favorite?

As you scroll down to view and learn from the images as many folks do, please do consider these questions and leave a comment: which of the five featured images is your favorite? Why did you make your choice? The blog is designed to be interactive; the more folks who participate the more everyone learns. Including me.

IPT Updates

Unsolicited via e-mail from multiple IPT veteran Donna Bourdon

Thank you Artie for another amazing trip! The setting and the access to such spectacular wildlife was more than we could have hoped for. And you, yourself are remarkable. I am always touched by your selflessness in sharing your professional talent and knowledge. Not many working pros would be willing to share their intellectual property as you do. And the group experience was such fun. It was good to make new friends and enjoy food, fun and fellowship together! I hope to meet up with everyone again soon for another “over the top” adventure. with love, Donna

Unsolicited via e-mail from IPT veteran Eugen Dolan

Arthur, Thank you very much for your overwhelming infectious enthusiasm that helped get me up on some mornings. Also, your ability to express yourself- and explain in great detail why you like or may not like an image – was very helpful in allowing me to better analyze my images. Eugen

I have room for two folks on the spoonbill boat and still need three or four folks for the Galapagos trip. If you would like to explore the possibilities, please get in touch via e-mail; no reasonable offer will be refused.

  • The 2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT — FEB 16 thru 19, 2019: $2599.00. Limit: 5 photographers/Openings: 2.
  • The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins, Gannets, & Red Kites IPT. Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 10 photographers/Openings: 9. This trip needs four to run. Co-leader: Peter Kes.
  • The GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 23 to August 6, 2019 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $14,499. Limit: 12 photographers/Openings: 4.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. Most recently the price of used Canon 600mm f/L IS II lenses have been dropping like a rock with the introduction of the 600 III. You can always see the current listings by clicking here or on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Recent Sales

John Wright sold a Canon 500mm f/4 IS USM and a Canon EF Extender 1.4X II, both in very good plus condition for $3399.00 in mid-January.
IPT veteran Mark Overgaard sold hisCanon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens in near-mint condition for $1,299.00 in mid-January.
John M Wright sold his Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens in excellent to near-mint condition for the BAA record-low price of $6,950.00, his Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens in near-mint condition for the BAA record-low price of 1,299.00, a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L lens in excellent condition for the BAA record-low price of $599.00, his Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS lens in near-mint condition for the BAA record-low price of $499.00,
and a Canon Extender (teleconverter) EF 2X III in near-mint condition for $265.00, all within days of their being listed.
Ramona Boone sold her Canon 600mm IS II in like-new condition for $7,699.00 (was $8,699.00) while I was in the Falklands
Brooke Miller sold her Canon 5D Mark IV for $2,249.00, her Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and Extender EF 2X III for $299.00 each, her Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens in near-mint condition for $599.00, and her Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM in excellent plus condition for $7398.00.

New Listing

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 G VRII N-ED Lens

Errol Bellon is offering a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 G VRII N-ED Lens lens in new condition for a very fair $1296.95. The sale includes the front & rear lens caps, the lens hood, a Kirk lens plate foot LF-44, the soft lens pouch, and insured ground shipping via United Parcel Service. The lens will not ship until your check has cleared.

Please contact Errol via e-mail or by phone at 216-272-9031 (Eastern time zone).

I owned and used the Canon version of this incredibly versatile lens for birds and wildlife and landscapes and Urbex for many years with both teleconverters. It was great indoors for events like granddaughter Maya’s dance recitals. And Anita North used the Nikon version of this lens often with the TC-E14 to make a slew of great bird photographs in San Diego. This is not the latest version; a copy of the newer version sells for $2,796.95. You can save an amazing $1500.00 by grabbing Errol’s lens ASAP. artie

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Bedford’s Special

Purchase a NIKKOR 180-400 super-telephoto zoom lens and choose either a GITZO GT2542LS SYSTEMATIC TRIPOD (a $930 value) or the WIMBERLEY GIMBAL/WH-200 w/ custom plate (a $694 value) at no charge when you purchase the 180-400!

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on January 30, day 5 with the SONY gear. I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens (at 194mm) and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 400: 1/5000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. The exposure was determined using the Zebra feature. AWB at 9:53am on a sunny day.

Image #1: Heerman’s Gull kiting, baited with whole wheat bread

The Amazing and Versatile Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens

A quick glance at the images featured in this blog post will give you a good idea of the versatility of the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Fast, accurate AF with both TCs covering an unprecedented 93% of the image area. And the close focus matches that of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

I had been doing the gulls and Royal Terns in flight with the 1.4X TC in place and had been more than happy with the results. But on the last day I tried flight photography in that same situation with the lens alone and was totally blown away by both the lighting fast speed of initial focusing acquisition, the lightning fast frame rate, the seamless and accurate tracking, and the sharpness of the resulting images.

This image was also created on January 30, day 5 with the SONY gear. I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter (at 752mm) and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 400: 1/800 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode. Again, the exposure was determined using the Zebra feature. AWB at 9:27am on a sunny day.

Image #2: Heerman’s Gull, near-field guide portrait

With the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter!

With image #2 (and with #3 below), I used the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter. AF performance with the 2X TC — the A9 focuses to f/11! — is fast and accurate and thus totally amazing. Imagine walking around with a 200-800mm zoom lens that offers great AF over 93% of the frame and weighs only five pounds. Though I have done great with the SONY 100-400/1.4X TC/A9 for flight photography, the jury, however, is still out on flight photography with the SONY 100-400/2X TC/A9 combination.

Important Note: while I could have gotten closer and switched to the 100-400/1.4X TC/A9 combination the reach of the SONY 100-400/2X TC/A9 combo allowed me to stay well back, to get the pacific background that I wanted, and to work with a narrower angle of view.

This image was also created on January 30, day 5 with the SONY gear. Again I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter (at 740mm) and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 400: 1/640 sec. at f/16 in Manual mode. Again, the exposure was determined using the Zebra feature. AWB at 9:31am on a sunny day.

Image #3: Heerman’s Gull, tight head portrait

What About Image Quality and Sharpness with the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter?

In a word, excellent. See the 100% crop below.

Image #3A: An Unsharpened 100% crop of Heerman’s Gull, tight head portrait

The Unsharpened 100% Crop of Image #3

Again, as with the incoming Brandt’s 100% crop, this looks more than fine to me and the optimized TIFF file takes my breath away.

SONY is Garbage!

I just found an e-mail from good friend BPN Avian moderator Arash Hazeghi in the Apple Mail Bulk mail folder. He wrote, and I quote:

Ha Ha! Sony is Garbage.

I have always respected Arash’s incredible technical knowledge and in addition, I’ve been amazed by his skill at hand holding 600mm f/4 lenses for photographing birds in flight. I replied asking him for clarification and inquiring as to whether he had ever use an A9. More on his thoughts soon.

I wanted to let folks know that there are two sides to every story. Patrick Sparkman and I humbly disagree.

This image was also created on January 30, day 5 with the SONY gear. Again I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens (at 192mm) and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 400: 1/5000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. The exposure was determined using the Zebra feature. AWB at 9:53am on a sunny day.

Image #4: Bird-scape: Heerman’s Gull on seaweed-covered rock

Going Wide

Intermediate telephoto zoom lenses give you the ability to go wide and to create smaller in the frame images of birds that feature lots of habitat. Creating this image with a long super-telephoto lens would have been pretty much impossible unless I moved back to Arizona … I like this one for a variety of reasons including the diagonal placement of the rock, the green of the seaweed, and the breaking wave that frames the bird. In the original The Art of Bird Photography I wrote something to this effect: add green whenever possible.

This image was created on January 28, 2019, day 3 with the SONY gear. I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter (at 218mm), and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 400: 1/1250 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:21am on a clear day.

Image #5: Heerman’s Gull poop

Close Focus with the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Why publish an image of bird poop? To illustrate the great close focusing ability of the SONY 100-400. The minimum focusing distance of the SONY lens (.98 meters or 3.2 feet) matches the MFD of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. While standing erect you can focus on your own toes (if you are tall enough …) The close focusing allows you to use your 100-400 as a quasi-macro lens. It is the feature that I missed the most when I switched from Canon to Nikon.

Why the SONY 100-400 (with the A9) kills the Canon 100-400 II and the Nikon 80-400 VR

The SONY 100-400 as compared to the Canon 100-400 II

Obviously the focal length range and the MFD are a tie, but with the SONY 100-400 you have fast, accurate AF across 93% of the frame with the 2X TC.

The SONY 100-400 as compared to the Nikon 8-400 VR

Here the focal length range advantage is with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm but that is trumped by the huge close focusing advantage of the SONY lens, .98 meters (3.2 feet) as as compared to 1.75 meters (5.7 feet), the AF at f/11 with the 2X TC advantage, and the huge AF performance advantage with the SONY FE 1.4x teleconverter. In other words, game over, no contest.

From left to to right clockwise back to the center: Brown Pelican, Roseate Spoonbill downstroke, Brown Pelican sunrise silhouette, Double-crested Cormorant pre-dawn blur, Roseate Spoonbill flapping after bath, Brown Pelican taking flight, Roseate Spoonbill taking flight, Reddish Egret white morph breeding plumage in flight, and Reddish Egret dark morph breeding plumage in flight.

All images on this card were created by me on the Hooptie Deux at Alafia Banks on the February 2018 trip.

You can click on each card to enjoy a larger version.

2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT — FEB 16 thru 19, 2019: $2599.00. Limit: 5 photographers/Openings: 1.

3 1/2 days on the boat including four morning photo sessions and three afternoon sessions via customized pontoon boat.

Price per day Reduced from the 2018 rates! Please e-mail for details on IPT veteran and couples’ discounts. Pro-rated options may be available …

We will be leaving the dock very early for the morning sessions (weather permitting) in hopes of photographing the pre-dawn American Crow and White Ibis blast-offs. All sessions are planned for the Alafia Banks Roseate Spoonbill Rookery. We might consider other options in the unlikely event of horrific weather. There will be lots of opportunities for flight photography of several species including and especially Roseate Spoonbill. Also likely for flight photography are nesting Brown Pelican, both morphs of Reddish Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, White and Glossy Ibises, and Double Crested Cormorant. We should have some good chances with birds carrying nesting material. This IPT includes all boat and guide fees, in the field instruction, chest waders (feel free to bring your own of course to assure a perfect fit), and three working lunches on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. For the most part we will be standing in mid-calf to knee high water behind our tripods. We help you get in and out of the boat with your gear. This is likely not the best trip for folks with mobility or balance problems. Note however that some folks opt to stay on the boat to photograph. They usually have lots of chances for flight photography of spoonbills and other species but are almost always pretty far away from the spoonbills that land.

All images on this card were created by me on the Hooptie Deux at Alafia Banks

The Timing and Tides are Perfect!

I recently saw a similar trip advertised two months too late for breeding plumage spoonbills … The 2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT represents an incredible opportunity to photograph Florida’s most wanted species. I do hope that you can join us. There will be a meet and greet at 7:00pm sharp on the evening of Friday February 15, 2019. All of the images on the card were made on the Hooptie Duex during the last two weeks of February, prime time for the spoonies in mega-breeding plumage. Many folks have written expressing interest so please do not tarry.

Please e-mail to hold your spot. Then you may either secure your spot by calling Jim or Jennifer at the office at 863-692-0906 and leaving the $500 deposit on credit card or sending your check for payment in full to us as follows with the check made out to:

BIRDS AS ART and sent here via US mail:

PO BOX 7245
Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855

If you call to leave your deposit you will be asked to mail your check for the balance asap.


Images courtesy of our guide; copyright 2017 Captain James Shadle (aka Froggie). All of the images here were created at Alafia Banks. Card creation and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

Everybody Loves Spoonbills!

Roseate Spoonbill is one of if not the most sought after avian photographic subjects in Florida. They are generally hard to find and somewhat difficult to approach. They are relatively easy to find at Alafia Banks—heck, you can’t miss seeing them, but even there they can on some days be somewhat difficult to approach. On some days we may be able to get ridiculously close to them. The huge incentive to get out to Alafia Banks in mid-February is the chance to photograph this species at the height of its spectacular breeding plumage…. with long telephoto lenses. A 500 or 600 with a 1.4X TC is perfect for this trip.

Mornings to Alafia Banks for spoonbills and Brown Pelicans (with lots of flight photography often with the birds likely carrying nesting material), Double-crested Cormorants, ibises (both Glossy and White) in breeding plumage. Some of the White Ibises may be sporting their spectacular, distended, red, naked (un-feathered) throat pouches—typically larger in the females. In addition we may get to photograph egrets including Great and Reddish, both in full breeding plumage, shorebirds, and more. There will be lots of flight photography opportunities. Afternoon trips will most likely be back to Alafia Banks for the spoonbills with an option to visit a more sheltered inland rookery location for a variety of nesting birds. In the event of horrific weather artie will either take the group to Fort DeSoto or will conduct an extensive image review/Photoshop session. This IPT includes lunches on the full days with small group image sharing and review and some over-the-shoulder Photoshop instruction.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack.


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

29 comments to Heerman’s Gull Five Ways: The Amazing and Versatile Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Learn Why it Kills the Canon 100-400 II and the Nikon 80-400 VR. And SONY is Garbage!

  • Hey Arite,

    thanks for mentioning me in this post, you forgot to include all of my response though (see below)

    Yes I believe Sony products are garbage. and yes I have shot with A9, A7, A7r. I even own a Sony Camera, a $1000 pocket camera (RX100 MKIV). Unfortunately in less than a year the extending lens got stock during power down and the company refused to fix it. it is a paperweight now. I have a $5K Sony TV that also became a paperweight in 2 years. It’s now in the garage waiting to be recycled.

    As for the images you posted here, they do represent any challenge for camera’s AF. An almost static subject against a blue sky BG is something that a skilled photographer can even manually focus on and get tack sharp files. In other words it doesn’t even tickle the camera. You need to find something a bit more challenging, like a burrowing owl flying against gold, peregrine stooping at you against a varied BG, or something of that caliber to test the AF. But with that short Sony zoom lens I might be very difficult…

    The mirroless cameras aren’t new. They have been around for many years now and I have tried quite a few starting with Fuji XT1 in 2014. Mirrorless cameras do not have a separate AF sensor, the use the main image sensor for AF. Therefore the AF coverage is almost 100% and works well when a slow and large subject is hovering against a plain background like the seagull. But when the subject in initially far from the focus plain and is against a varied background the camera cannot discern which way to go and will not be able to lock on anything.

    These cameras also do not have predictive focus tracking, which means when shooting fast birds such as cooper’s hawk coming at you, the camera cannot account for the movement of the bird from the time you press the shutter to the time the sensor records the image (shutter lag about 100 msec), as a result image will be slightly to moderately soft.

    As such the mirror less Sony is useless for those who like to make images like the ones I make. If you want mirror-less, Sony is not the best choice IMO as it is FF and not any smaller / lighter than a Canon/Nikon system. It doesn’t have much of a resale value either.

    The 100% RAW crops you send me, the ones posted here are not tack sharp to my liking, but as you know I have very high standard when it comes to sharpness. I view my images on a large 4K 32″ monitor at 100%. I could easily get images like this with my Canon 20D and 400 f/5.6 back in 2005 and the RAW files were sharper than this. Honestly you should have paid me a visit if you had any problems nailing a shot like this with your Canon stuff. When I switched to Nikon it wasn’t because I couldn’t get a gull flight shot with it 🙂

    I hope you enjoy your new gear, and look forward to see what you decide to switch to after using Sony for a bit and find its limitations.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Arash,

      Your “These cameras also do not have predictive focus tracking” statement boggles my mind. See the previous day’s incoming Brandt’s Cormorant images. SONY’s AF performance blew away my Nikon stuff in the exact same situation.

      Yes, in a perfect world it would be great if I were half as talented photographically, one-quarter as smart, and as discerning as you when it comes to sharpness.

      Imagine if I had been using a large external monitor instead of a laptop for the past 30 years. I would likely have 45 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year- and Nature’s Best-honored images instead of the fifteen that I have. I’m sorry, how many do you have?

      And I have always loved elitism: “As such the mirror less Sony is useless for those who like to make images like the ones I make.”

      Lastly, whether you like it or not, the resale value of both Canon and Nikon gear has been dropping like a rock for the past year and continues to do so every day.

      with love, artie

    • avatar Anthony Ardito

      Just out of curiosity, why did you switch to Nikon?

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Old story. See last year’s blog posts. Nikon AF is far superior to Canon AF for birds in flight for me. with love, artie


    Hi Artie ,thanks for answering.Would you please provide information on how you use af on your sony as you were used to with the other bodies.Memories of many of your photoes fill my mind and nearly all were canon created(film or digital). mood over sharpness,by far.Feeling over science.Both desirable . But who ever reached that lofty goal? A few did in very few occasions depending mostly on the subject.

    Thanks. jce.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Again JCE,

      You are most welcome. When I try to create artistic sharp images I have always wanted to make them as sharp as possible … And methinks that I succeeded pretty well at that.

      As far as the AF info, exposure, and menu settings, Patrick Sparkman and I are working on and developing the best strategies; some of it them be revolutionary … We will sharing all of that info in an e-Guide. If pre-publication demand is great we might offer the stuff we are working on a subscription basis that will include purchase of the guide when it is complete.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Paul

    While you are experimenting with new gear, how about the
    Panasonic S1/S1R, Olympus E-M1X or the Leica systems.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I have no specific experience with any of those. My understanding that when it comes to AF performance that all of the other mirrorless bodies are tied for last place. Great for travel but not for birds in flight.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Phil

    The A9 appears to be great camera for outdoor BIF etc work with its stellar AF speed and tracking, etc.

    There are some anecdotal problem performance reports including less than great low-light AF acquisition, mechanical shutter has low frame rate & is laggy, body has poor ergonomics, and the body is overpriced relative to value with a cost over 3X that of an Fuji X-T3.

    Use what works for you – if the A9 provides what you want/need go with it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      It is working just fine for me including in low light situations 🙂

      It might be priced high because it is the best camera in the world for sports and birds in flight … Or not.

      with love, artie


    Is it the gear or the photographer? You’ve baked the answer in the cake.Kidding? Yeah but not that much.Following your blog carefully speaks for
    the high consideration you deserve .


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Both sort of. A great photographer can make good images with some pretty crummy gear but a crummy photographer will make crummy images even with the best gear in the world.

      with love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: All the images are great but I like the tight head shot the most. Are you sure you aren’t attributing advantages to the Sony 1-4 lens that you should be attributing to the (beyond remarkable) camera? Isn’t the 93% AF coverage with the 2x TC a feature of the camera, which AF at f/11? Also, since micro adjusting of the AF is not needed with mirrorless, isn’t any improved sharpness of the Sony over the Canon and Nikon lenses due to that?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      David, I did write, “With the SONY A9 …” so I was giving the camera credit where due. Neither the Canon nor the Nikon lenses will focus to f/11 ever. And with the Nikon stuff AF performance at f/8 with the f/5.6 lenses at at f/5.6 with the f/4 lenses is pathetic …

      For your last question, the answer is “no” if your gear is properly micro-adjusted. And the sharp images are a result of superior AF tracking …

      with love, artie

      • avatar David Policansky

        Artie: Thanks much. Allow me to respectfully push back. The Canon and Nikon LENSES focus at f/11 but Canon and Nikon BODIES won’t. And the “superior AF tracking” also, it seems to me, is largely a function of the body, no? The Canon 1-4 responds brilliantly to the camera in focusing incredibly fast and accurately (as does the older 400 f/5.6L), but if you put it on an old body with poor AF, well, that’s what you get. In any case, image #1, the gull kiting, is really superb. I continue to be intrigued by your evaluation of the Sony gear and look forward learning more.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Hi David,

          Lenses don’t focus so I guess that we both might be wrong … And please trust me on this, using any Canon body on the 100-400 II and comparing it to the SONY A9/100-400 OSS is like being in the Dark Ages as far as the speed of initial focusing acquisition, AF tracking accuracy, sharp results, and viewfinder brightness. Not to mention how great Canon is at getting the feet sharp when a bird is flying right at you.

          If you tried the SONY combo on a flying bird your jaw would drop …

          with love, artie

          ps: don’t forget that for me AF performance with the Nikon stuff killed AF performance with my Canon gear. And he same goes for Arash Hazeghi, David Salem, and Isaac Grant among many others.

          • avatar David Policansky

            Artie: I totally trust you that you’re getting way better AF performance with your Sony combo than you did with your Nikon combo, which was way better than your Canon combo. And yes, I know about Arash and David and Isaac and the Browns and others. I am eager to try the Sony combo. I was only suggesting that the main difference was probably in the Sony body. Lenses DO have focusing capability, but I don’t really understand how it combines with the camera’s focus. I do know, for example, that the new Canon 1-4 focuses much better than the old 1-4 in my hands on the same camera body.

            All good. With love, artie

  • avatar Ca Tran

    I switched to Nikon last year after almost 40 years with Canon, mainly for slight better tracking and autofocus for bird in flight. Then three months ago, I got Sony a9 + FE 400mm f2.8 gm. This combo set is short in range but a dream come true for wildlife photos!!!!

    I must say though, somehow Sony as a whole doesn’t seem /feel solidly built as compare to Nikon. Maybe because too much plastic?!! Although the monitor stopped working (no display) when shooting extended time in extreme cold weather, my Sony combo set survived recent cold weather trip in Virginia without any serious problem.

  • avatar Steve

    It seems to me that I can see the reflection of the photographer in the closeup photo of the eye!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      With that dark eye it is hard to tell but that happens often in close-up bird photography.

      with love, artie

  • avatar James Saxon

    Image #1 is my favorite because I know how hard it is to get a flight shot that is sharp. Image #4 is a close second due to the colors, composition and the ease my eye moves through. I have been following your Sony experience closely to see your opinion. I have a Nikon d850, that I got from Bedford’s using your link, and a d500. Recently I have been playing around with an Olympus OM-D E1 Mark II for travel due to its size and my back. I like the Olympus for travel but my Nikons are my wildlife and bird preference for speed, AF and mainly because I am more familiar with the menus. I have some friends that are Sony users and told me the number of frames per battery charge is not as good as other mirrorless cameras, then they said Sony is improving in that area. In my mind mirrorless and computational photography is the future and now is an exciting time.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks a stack for using the BAA links James. I had no problems at all with battery life in sunny San Diego. I made anywhere from 800-1600 images during each morning or afternoon session, far more on average than with my Nikon gear (due to the crazy-fast frame rate) and exhausted only one battery and that was right before the end of the session. No battery grip.

      I agree as to the future being now.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Byron PRINZMETAL

    I re-read the dpr of the A9 after some of your comments. They said it is configured by Sony to be a sports camera meaning great af while not being the best at say IQ and so you found. I guess it is hard to be perfect at everything. For me anyway, for bif and sports photography I rather capture sharp at the peak of action than perfect iq, but each to ones own. For landscape for me anyway, while it would be both. But, if an image is not sharp unless I purposely don’t want it sharp I dump it.
    Dpr is also showing some examples of some of Sony’s lower end af improvements that make af tracking much easier with just in camera software changes. If that turns out to be really absolutely true??? then this will open up photography for fast moving objects for a lot more people…maybe for those who want to take this type of images.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Brian.

      The A9 IQ is quite good; I am sure that it is better than most photographers 🙂 I do not think that there is any such thing as “perfect” IQ … As far as the AF system right now without the upgrades for birds in flight, I am flabbergasted by the speed of initial focusing acquisition, the accuracy of the tracking Af, and the sharpness of the resulting images …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Tony Z

    Hi Artie
    Image 3 is my favorite followed very closely by #1. I guess I like the composition the best for those 2. And the sharpness of the eye crop is incredible.
    I do have a question: for images 2 and 3, why did you go to a smaller aperture than available? I understand that f/11 is wide open with the 2x TC, so just want to learn why you didn’t choose f/13.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Tony, Thanks for commenting 🙂 Did you get my critique of your Falklands IPT images?

      I like them all, even the poop. I agree on the sharpness (and fine feather detail) on the tight crop is pretty good.

      For Image #2 f/11 or f/13 would have been just fine as I was far enough from the bird so that d-o-f was not an issue.

      For Image #3 I stopped down one stop to f/16 because I felt that I needed extra d-o-f since I was relatively close to the subject. Remember, the closer you are to MFD the smaller the d-o-f … Patrick Sparkman cautioned that I might get some diffraction at f/16 but I do not know what diffraction looks like with a telephoto lens as I have never seen it (except possibly when photographing blasting highlights silhouette situations …) And I saw no evidence of any problems with IQ with this image.

      with love and see you soon on the DeSoto IPT.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Joe Randle

    “the proof of the pudding” great job Artie…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Joe. I’ll be the first to admit that A9 IQ is not quite as good as IQ with the D850 or the 5DIV. But it is pretty darned good and the AF performance is amazing. I followed up with Arash on his comments and will be sharing that conversation with y’all here soon.

      with love, artie