SONY a1 AF: Bird Eye Tracking Beyond Belief … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

SONY a1 AF: Bird Eye Tracking Beyond Belief ...

Your Call …

Which of today’s four featured images is your favorite? Why?

What’s Up?

I swam for the third straight day, did some shopping, and prepared a picnic basket for today, Saturday 7 August. I am aiming to break my record of 13 hours at Nickerson Beach. Again, I will be photographing with private In-the-Field client Anke Frohlich. We are hoping for more clouds than sun, especially with a southwest and forecast for this morning … Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day.

Remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks like me, who spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

This blog post took a bit less than an hour to prepare, and makes 222 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords, and is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And doing so always earns my great appreciation.

Click on the composite to view a larger version.

The Homer 2020 IPTs image

Homer Bald Eagles Winter 2022

The photography on this trip of a lifetime is beyond amazing. You can do the whole trip with either the Canon 100-500 or the SONY 200-600 along with any 70-200mm lens. Flight photography until you cannot raise your arms, creative set-ups, lots of snow we hope (earlier in the season is best for that), and lots of opportunities for point-blank head portraits and talon shots. All in a variety of spectacular settings. This is an expensive (but competitively priced) trip. If you are seriously interested in joining me for the world’s best Homer/Kachemak Bay Bald Eagle trip(s) — mid-FEB thru early MARCH 2022, please contact me immediately via e-mail for dates and details. I am looking for a roommate who will be doing all eleven days.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now close to zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free second-day air shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs (remember those?) 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.

This image was created on 5 August 2021 at Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on dry sand and working off the rear monitor, I used the splayed Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod topped by a Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted-Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 1250. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the Thumb Wheel: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 9:48am on a cloudy afternoon.

Tracking: Small Spot/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly.

Image #1: Black Skimmer ten-day old chick running

SONY a1 AF: Beyond Belief …

With practice, I am getting better at following moving subjects while working off the up-tilted rear monitor with my reading glasses on. When I know that I will be sitting in the same spot for a while — I have been doing a lot of that recently,

As Bird-Eye/Face Detection has gotten much better since the V1.10 firmware update that completely eliminated the EVF Blackout problems, it has become easier to trust the AF system when working off the tilted rear screen with the tripod almost at ground level.

AF performance for this eleven-frame sequence was science-fiction-like. It either nailed the chick’s eye or tracked the forehead even as the bird charged toward me. All eleven images were sharp on the eye. I had been working at ISO with a lower shutter speed when I remembered that I had lost lots of similar images to motion blur so I doubled the shutter speed and doubled the ISO. With excellent results. I remember making dozens of images like this with my Canon gear. All were sharp. On the bird’s feet …

Thursday’s Stats

For the day, I created 3359 images. After the first edit, I deleted 3190 of those. In other words, 94.9% were put in the trash. A large percentage of those I kept will follow on the second edit. I kept 143 image out of the 2287 from the cloudy morning session, a 6.25% keeper rate. With wind against sun in the afternoon, I kept only 26 out of 1010 image, a paltry 2 1/2% keeper ratio …

SONY and artie

Switching to SONY, first with the a9 and the a9 II, and then with the remarkable a1, has enabled me (and others, like Mike De Rosa as seen recently in the blog post here), to create images of birds in flight and in action that I could not have even dreamed of when using Canon for 33 years and then Nikon for more than two. Most of the time I am using one of two AF methods that together, cover about 99% of the commonly-encountered bird photography situations. At present, I am experimenting beyond those … Learn more by joining the group!

From Long-ago IPT veteran Keith Kennedy via e-mail

Absolutely great information. I am calling Jim in a few minutes to order a couple of Delkin 128GB UHS-II cards. Your timely email has saved me a ton of money! Many thanks

In the same vein, via e-mail from John LeClair

Well, e-mail #21 alone was worth the price of admission!

From Pamela Viale, after receiving artie’s a1 settings along with detailed instructions on how to copy them to her SONY a1 via e-mail

This e-mail group has been an incredible boon to me! Thank you so much!

From Joe Barranco via e-Mail

Thanks for your great ideas on the A1 set up. I have been getting MANY more keepers doing things your way!

From Barbara White via e-Mail

Wow, I just gotta say – I learn so much from the SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info group! My camera is on my desk, and I’m always picking it up and changing something that I’ve read about in the e-mails.

Thanks, Barbara

From Janet Horton via e-Mail

Hi Artie, Mystery solved. Yes, I was able to replicate what you did. I forgot that you have to set self-timer using the upper dial. I am used to that being a MENU selection.

Thanks much, Janet

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. With two folks joining yesterday, we are now up to an astounding 67 lucky and blessed photographers! Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. More recently, we have been in contact with folks at SONY sharing our thoughts, experiences, and frustrations with the EVF blackout problem.

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 PayPal sent to indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info Updates. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

8 comments to SONY a1 AF: Bird Eye Tracking Beyond Belief …

  • avatar Chris K.

    Very nice would you say the A1 is also better than the Z9 AF tracking? or the newer Canon Cameras like the R3? Thanks;)

  • avatar Nelson

    Reply to Andrew… Your referring to the birds eye overlay? It may appear stickier on the R5 but is in no way better than the A1 files…and the A1 auto focus tracking is faster, more accurate and produces far more keepers. Keep in mind simply placing an electronic overlay over a birds eye does not always translate to the photo (I’ve seen many R5 shots that are either slightly front or back focused on the eye, although the overlay showed otherwise). With Sony I often see perfectly focused birds eye even when the overlay was not present! Impressive!

  • avatar Andrew

    How is Sony’s eye-AF compares to Canon’s R5 ?
    I heard opinions that Canon’s is the best on the market.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Andrew, As one who has used both the R5 and the a1 I can say with utter conviction that the Bird Face/Eye Detection on the a1 is far better than on the R5. That said, the R5 is, to date, the best Canon body every for birds in flight as far as AF is concerned. In short, I agree with Nelson above.

      Two things remain true always:

      1: Good photographers will produce good images with whatever gear they have in their hands.

      2: Stronger (usually younger) folks with fast reflexes, superior hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills will be far better able to take advantage of any of the much improved AF thank older, weaker, slower folks …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Adam

    Lovely high key image and I’m glad that the firmware update has eliminated the issues. Hope all is well in NY.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>