How Well Do You Know Your SONY Camera Bodies? The Publication of the Sony Camera User’s e-Guide and Videos « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

How Well Do You Know Your SONY Camera Bodies? The Publication of the Sony Camera User's e-Guide and Videos

What’s Up?

It feels really good to get this done. Most telling is that we have sold 58 pre-publication guides and have not received a single query from a confused purchaser or a single “this guide is over-priced!” e-mail. Patrick and I are quite proud of this e-Guide. New stuff that we continue to discover will be published here as Free-to-all SONY e-Guide Updates.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Wow, talk about a long time coming … The more Patrick and I worked on the guide, the more we learned. And that continues to this day.

It is hard to believe that we sent out an early draft of the guide for review in early December 2019 after we had been working on it for several months. We thought that it was pretty good at that point but Ellen Anon and her son Josh both commented to this effect: not so fast!. Both took us to task by asking lots of good questions and making dozens of excellent suggestions. They did that for several versions of the guide and for that we are very thankful.

At one point Josh wrote, Remember there are free resources competing with your guide; you need to ensure your paid guide is above and beyond these and worth the money!

Here are the links that he provided:

Sony Alpha Focus Masterclass by Mark Galer, (Sony Ambassador) here.

Sony a7R IV Tips & Tutorial by Tony Northrup here.

Sony a9 Bird In Flight/Wildlife Photography Setup and Usage Guide by Mark Smith here

Now, ask yourself why I would be sharing these free resources with you? Some of the advice is halfway decent, some of it is confusing, some of it just plain wrong, and some of it is beyond insane. Good luck trying to figure out which is which … Highlights (lowlights?) include using back-button focus (and release!) and suggested Zebra values that ensure that you will never get anything close to a good exposure. Regular readers here already know that there is never any need to use back-button focus with SONY. If you missed that, the guide clearly explains why.

Later on in the process, Josh sent me another link (one that I can no longer find). IAC, I followed it and found that the creator took you through and explained all the SONY menu items exactly as detailed in the Help Guide, but never once told you what settings he used and why he used them.

In our new guide, we explain virtually every SONY menu item in detail that might be useful in bird, nature, or wildlife photography. And then we explain your options and state clearly which setting we use in different situations and why we go that route. This invaluable advice is based on many hundreds of hours in the field photographing birds and other natural history subjects.

In short, the SONY e-Guide is incredible. While I am proud of all the previously published Camera User’s Guides, my feelings about the SONY guide go far beyond that. The stuff on using Zebras with ISO on the Rear Wheel to get the right exposure every time is all Patrick Sparkman. Without his technical brilliance, this guide would not be nearly as valuable as it is. And like my good friend Dr. Cliff Oliver, Patrick is a superb researcher — if he does not know something, he will find it online very quickly, check it out, and draw his own conclusions. Not only are the SONY menus complex, but they offer a zillion options, many of which are hidden in sub-menus and Custom Settings. Patrick figured many of those out, I discovered a few, and blog regular Craig Elson came up with some incredibly helpful little menu tricks, tricks that solved some thorny problems. Thanks also to the eagle-eyed Dane Johnson who spotted a zillion typos and type-setting errors.

The longer and harder we worked on the guide, the more I wanted to price it at $200.00. But I did not want anyone to faint. The cost of the SONY Guide is $100.00. Your purchase includes the e-Guide itself and one of the four camera-specific videos. Extra camera videos cost $25.00 each. In each video, Patrick and I take you through all the relevant menu items. We urge you to follow along with your camera in hand. Here is short and timely excerpt from the guide:

Before You Begin

With the a7r iv, the a9, and the a9 ii, the last page of My Menu allows you to turn Display From My Menu on and off as needed. It is best to keep this On so that whenever you hit the Menu button on the camera, the last-viewed My Menu page will display. When you are setting up a new camera or working on your settings while following along with this guide, you should turn Display From My Menu to Off so that you do not have to scroll through endless menu items to find what you are looking for. With My Menu Off, hitting the Menu button will return you to the last viewed Menu screen.

Once you have read this far, we urge that you watch the video for your SONY body with the camera in hand while following all the instructions before consulting the remainder of this guide.

SONY Image Galleries with Educational Captions: page 48

The e-Guide is 103 pages. The guide contains 13 sections:

The Introduction — This section contains a bit of the back-story on how the guide came to be.

Important Stuff — This section contains some important stuff 🙂

SONY Help Guides — Here you will find active links to the Help Guides for each camera body. Note: the Camera Manuals are pretty much useless.

Points of Emphasis — In this section, we reinforce and expand upon many of the important concepts that are covered in the video.

Additional Info — Here we cover tons of new stuff that we discovered in the 3 1/2 months after we created the four videos.

Clarifications In this section we detail nineteen fine points and sticky situations.

SONY Workflow In this very short section we outline our SONY workflow. No great shock there!

SONY Image Gallery with Educational Captions (77 images.) This collection of stunning images is meant to inspire, educate, and show folks what is possible with SONY gear. There is tons of AF info in the captions. And lots more.

SONY Zebras Coaching Gallery (14 images.) Here we explain exactly what we did with the Zebras to come up with a perfect exposure.

Tracking Flexible Spot Gallery 8 images.) The images here demonstrate the use of SONY’s most valuable AF Area Mode.

Thanks! Here we thank the many folks who helped us to improve the guide.

About the Authors Learn a bit about artie and Patrick.

The “If-the-World-Does-Not-End” BIRDS AS ART 2020/2021 IPT Schedule. Just in case …

SONY Zebras Coaching Gallery: page 89

So What Does the SONY Guide Cover?

Under Points of Emphasis

Note: items without comment are self-explanatory.

Using Zebras to Get the Right Exposure in Manual Mode Patrick’s technique allows you to make perfect or near-perfect exposures quickly and consistently.
Using Zebras to Get the Right Exposure in Manual Mode Illustrated Thanks to an amazingly cooperative crane, this item shows how Zebras are set in an actual shooting situation.
A Final Word on Zebras We explain the fine points of using Zebras in bright sun versus using Zebras in the shade.
Using Zebras to Get the Right Exposure in Shutter (or Aperture) Priority This technique is used by artie at times when creating pleasing blurs.
Mechanical vs Electronic Shutter It is important to know which to use with each camera …
Silent Shooting Silent Shooting is closely linked to Mechanical vs Electronic Shutter.
Slots 1 & 2
Auto Review Really valuable info here.
Focus Areas and Focus Area Limit Along with Zebras, the info here is the meat of the guide.
a7r iv vs. a9 ii Comparing these two great bodies.
My Menu Learning how and what to place on your My Menus helps folks operate their SONY bodies more efficiently.

SONY Image Galleries with Educational Captions: page 66

Additional Info

Enlarge Initial Position Explains how to see the area of sharpest focus in an image; it only works before the images are downloaded.
Telephoto Lens Focus Range Limiter Switch Explains how and why to set this important switch.
Initial Focus Acquisition Problems With Telephoto Lenses The tips here and in DMF below might be worth the price of the entire guide.
Pre-AF The jury is still out on this one but artie likes it.
Direct Manual Focus (DMF)
Camera Direct Manual Focus (DMF)
An Important AF Note for a9 ii Users Learn about a problematic dial on the a9 ii.
Optical Steady Shot (OSS)
Optical Steady Shot (OSS) on Telephoto Lenses
Diopter-adjustment Dial
Firmware Updates
Touch Operation
Naming Your Camera Bodies Can save you lots of hassles.
Saving/Loading Settings
Sensor Cleaning
Anti-dust Function New to the a9 ii only.
Reg. Custom Shoot Set
Function Menu Set & the Fn Button Learn to customize the screen that comes up after pushing the Fn button.
More on Face/Eye Priority in AF Super-important if you want to use the fabulous Tracking Flexible Spot (M).
The SONY Histogram Our comments here will likely surprise you.
Display Quality/a7 Series Bodies
Saving Settings to the Mode Dial
Compressed vs. Uncompressed
Image Review with the Control Wheel This was a “duh” moment for artie.
When to Turn Off Zebras. Super-important.
SONY US Repair Advice Also super-important.
Vertical Grip

Tracking Flexible Spot Gallery: page 96

Under Clarifications

Power Save Start Time
AEL Button
Using SONY with an Adapter
The Eye Sensor (Tiny Window Above the Viewfinder). Valuable stuff here …
The Mysterious Viewfinder Blackout Problem Dealing with SONY’s most annoying problem.
Assigning Finder/Monitor to a Custom Button
Another Possible Finder/Monitor Solution
Return to Center
Bright Monitoring A must for astrophotography.
e-Front Curtain Shutter
Manual Focus Toggle A fabulous tip for macro photographers (often combined with Focus Magnifier below).
The Top Wheels
If You Use Rear Button Focus
Focus Magnifier Fabulous tips for macro photographers (combined with Manual Focus Toggle above).
The Viewfinder Level
Changing the Focus and Drive Modes
AF Illuminator
AF Sensitivity
Focus Peaking
Shutter Priority for Video

SONY Image Galleries with Educational Captions: page 73

What They’ve Been Saying

From Fred Innamorato via e-mail

Hi Artie, I want to thank you for making the Sony e-Guide and videos available and for the work you put into the blog as well as for your books that teach us how to photograph birds and also for your camera User’s Guides. There is just no possible way I would have been able to get my Sony a9 ii camera settings so technically correct for doing birds in flight on my own without this guide. in my opinion, Sony should pay you for taking on the task of educating their customers. Sony has created an amazing camera but they fail to explain to their customers how to take full advantage of it. I appreciate that you know and have access to some very competent people with the technical backgrounds to assist you in your field experimentation to come up with the best and most practical and useful Menu Settings for bird photography. We all will benefit from your unique ability to pull this together. I am especially happy with your instructions on how to use the Zebra Settings for getting proper exposures. I really can’t thank you enough Artie for making my bird photography hobby so much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. My photography brings me great satisfaction. Sharing quality photographs with my family and friends has generated lots of interest in my hobby and why I do it. Life is good!

I highly recommend the purchase of your Sony e-Guide and Video(s). This information is just not available anywhere else. Even from Sony …

Fred Innamorato

Via e-Mail from Jerry Barrack

Hi Art,

I want to thank you again for your help with selling all of my Canon gear. Your advice on pricing was right-on as most items sold very quickly. As much as I loved my Canon equipment, the advances made by Sony with regard to autofocus made it a no-brainer for me to switch.

And thanks also for the SONY e-Guide, the Sony a9 video, and your Capture One Simplified video. After resisting using manual exposure for many, many years, I switched over to Patrick’s and your Zebras system with ISO on the rear wheel. I cannot believe how easy it is. It just shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks! My only complaint is that it now takes a lot longer to edit because nearly all of the images are properly exposed and in focus. The SONY focusing system along with the stuff I learned in the guide continues to amaze me. I just finished shooting Purple Martins and the percentage of sharp ones is unbelievable.

Thanks again for all your help. Stay safe and well.


Blog comment by IPT veteran Barry Barfield

I have been actively using the set up from artie’s Sony e-Guide now for about four weeks. With my a9 ii and the 200-600 rig is easy to get the right exposure 99% of the time. I could never have figured out the settings suggested on my own, so thank you artie and Patrick. If you have Sony A9, A9ii, or one of the A7r bodies covered – you should get this guide today. Barry, Australia

From Peter Noyes via e-mail

Artie, In March, I purchased your e-Guide and Camera Set Up Video for the SONY a-7r iv mirrorless camera body. Both were great saving me a lot of time allowing me to spend more time outside enjoying my camera. The guide is surely worth a lot more than the purchase price to me.


From Thomas Bourne via e-mail

Artie, You and Patrick have done an outstanding job. Even though I own the a7 ii with its limits, I can see how you think and work. The guide was quite helpful to me. At 79 – and in great health, I may have enough time left to get another camera. Stay healthy!


4 comments to How Well Do You Know Your SONY Camera Bodies? The Publication of the Sony Camera User’s e-Guide and Videos

  • Terry

    I really love your photos! I have tried to emulate your photos, using a Canon 7Dii but I have a major problem I must work off of a tripod and even then I still get camera shake. I have two Canon lenses; 70-200 f/2.8 verii and a 100-400f/4 verii are my main lenses. I would like to know would it be worth the money to buy a adapter to use the Canon glass on the Sony A7R iv? I have been waiting on Canon to come out with a camera close or better than the Sony, but I just don’t know? Thank you for your time.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Terry, Sorry to be tardy. With all due respect, unless there is something seriously wrong with your camera body (and that is very rare), it sounds like operator error … You should be able to make very sharp images with the gear you have. I would recommend against the use of an adapter for bird photography as AF suffers.

      My best advice would be to attend an IPT ASAP so that I can help you figure out what is going on …

      with love, artie

  • Hi Art,

    Just a quick notation – the link you attribute to Tony Northrup takes you to Mark Smith’s YouTube video.

    Sony a9 Bird In Flight/Wildlife Photography Setup and Usage Guide also by Tony Northrup here

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