Carnage at Sea: A Photographic Memoir

Yesterday I showed off the results of my new camera vs. the old one on a few tests of lens quality. Today I’ve got the results of some of the focus tests.

Any camera can focus pretty well on a stationary object, but it’s a lot trickier to follow-focus a moving object. My old Lumix did pretty poorly on this score, but the new Sony allegedly does this very well. The handiest way I have of testing this is to go out and try to take burst mode shots of flying birds. And while I don’t like seagulls much, I’ll give them this: they aren’t lazy. They really fly around a lot, so it’s lucky they’ve taken up residence on our local lake. Yesterday morning I went out to track them in flight.

Overall, the Sony did very well under the circumstances—the “circumstances” being a photographer who has a hard time following birds around in the viewfinder and keeping them centered. Still, I did OK some of the time, and when I did the camera kept focus pretty well. For starters, here’s a Canada goose chasing another Canada goose:

I don’t know what that first one did, but the one in back sure seemed pissed. A few minutes later a little boy started tossing some bread into the water, and naturally everyone went nuts. Here’s one of the gulls on an attack path:

Oh yeah, that’s a gull who knows what he wants. A little later, a coot beat some gulls to a feast and they weren’t happy about it:

That poor little coot has a piece of bread as big as its head, but it needs to move fast if it wants to keep it. So did it? I don’t know. I was busy taking pictures and missed the end of this little maritime skirmish.

Eventually the bread was all gone, and so were the gulls:

Needless to say, I’m showing you the pictures that were in focus, not the ones that weren’t. Overall, though, an impressive number were in sharp focus—and even more will be when your humble photographer improves his tracking skills. That said, it appears that fast, accurate follow-focus is as good as advertised, and considerably better than I ever got with the Lumix. The Sony also has a very nice feature that allows you to define a shooting profile and then temporarily recall it at the push of a button. For shots like this, for example, I’d typically use burst mode, shutter priority, 1/1000th second shutter speed, and continuous focus. That’s a bunch of settings to change, but all I had to do was hold down a button, start shooting, and then release the button. Then I’m back to the settings I was using before. Very nice.

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