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Thread: Together, Metabones, Sony & Canon Hit Grand Slam

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    Default Together, Metabones, Sony & Canon Hit Grand Slam

    Together, Metabones, Sony and Canon hit a grand slam. I put Metabones first because, without MB, Sony and Canon would never get together.

    Most have heard by now that Sony’s new α9 (aka a9 or ILCE-9), which has incredible performance with Sony’s native G-Master lenses. The autofocus can latch onto and track a subject forever, while the camera shoots an unheard of 20-frames per second.

    As a Canon bird and wildlife shooter, the AF is what first attracted me to the α9. I also like the smaller size than competing Canon DSLRs. The thought of an electronic viewfinder that previews the exposure value of the image while you’re aiming has enticed me for years. In-body image stabilization, which can be used in combination with in-lens stabilization just seems like icing on the cake.

    That’s all great and good, BUT Sony only has a handful of lenses designed for the α9 mount and system. The longest is a very sweet 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. OTOH, Canon has loads of super-telephoto lens, that sport and wildlife photographers cherish and willingly lug around, in order to get tight shots of ballplayers, birds, bees and bears. I couldn’t live without my 500mm f/4, which allows me to shoot at 500mm and 700mm and 1000mm, when I add my 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters into the mix.

    The α9 bug really bit hard and deep when I attended a puffin workshop led by wildlife photographer extraordinaire, Christopher Dodds. Chris is a long-time Canon shooter, in fact, he was a Northern Explorer of Light for Canon, which means that he puts on seminars and demonstrations for Canon, in exchange for most-favored treatment from them. Chris WAS SHOOTING AN α9, with that incredible 100-400mm Sony G-Master lens. What!

    As Frank Barron used to say, “Holy Crap!” Chris was shooting puffin flying 50-mph by cliffs, bushes, back-drops of contrasty shoreline, etc., etc. and getting an insane keeper rate. I’m pleased with my shots, with my Canon 5D MkIV and 5DS-R, but I earned every friggin’ one of them. I battled the autofocus as the birds moved from in the water, on the shore, against and bush and then against a cliff, in rapid succession. Others tried Chris’ rig and were having immediate success. I didn’t even try, thinking that if I didn’t experience it, then I wouldn’t be tempted to buy. Wrong!

    My last line of defense was that it probably wouldn’t work with my Canon EF lenses. I called one of my local Mike’s Camera stores to see if they had the α9 and an adapter that I could try with my 500mm lens. In fact, Shelly answered the phone and said that he had a personal Metabones adapter and the store sold some other brands. I took my lens to Mike’s for a tryout, with the α9.

    First, we tried the α9 with my 500mm lens and a Sigma adapter, which Mike’s sells. Fail! It didn’t even begin to work. Next, we tried Shelly’s personal Version IV Metabones EF-to-E adapter and it seemed to work. He moved around in the store and I tracked him easily. I went and ran an errand for an hour or so, thinking about the potential purchase and Shelly’s offer to let me borrow his personal Metabones adapter. I bit and left the store with my own α9 and Shelly’s adapter.

    That afternoon, I rushed out to Cherry Creek Reservoir to try out the rig. My very first series of shots was of a snowy egret doing a pirouette on some rocks, in shallow water. Every image was in sharp focus. Holy Crap! I moved to another place to shoot egrets, herons and gulls in calm water. My excitement totally died when a boat cruised by and I couldn’t get a single shot in focus. Then the AF started hunting in and out, never stopping at the in-focus position. I rebooted the system for 30-seconds and it worked for a minute or so and started hunting again. Fail number 2!

    I did some research and found that the firmware had just been updated in June, 2017. A call to Shelly confirmed that his Metabones firmware was out-of-date. I made a quick run back to the store fixed that.

    The next morning, I went shooting with a newbie friend at a sure-shot location where I knew that we’d see egrets and other birds. My friend was getting shots right and left, but I didn’t get a single keeper. The AF was too slow to acquire initial focus and it wouldn’t stay locked on. We moved to another location and I had similar problems. The AF system wasn’t as good as my Canon’s. In fact, it was quite a bit worse. Fail number 3.

    Luckily, on the day that I brought the α9 home, I’d ordered a Metabones Version V adapter. I had to wait a couple of days. The first evening that I used it I got good, but not great results. My settings were, Autofocus-Continuous (AF-C), Wide Autofocus Area (switching to Single-Point for tight spots) and Face Detection Enabled. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I moved Autofocus Sensitivity from level 3 to level 5.

    With the change in sensitivity, the AF system came alive. I could focus close, then move to a faraway target and it’d jump to the new target quickly. The thing that floored me was that I could set the AF to “Wide”, activating all 690+ AF points, acquire focus and the camera stayed locked on as the bird flew and moved around in the wonderful EVF. The subject could move out to the edge of the EVF and still be tack sharp. Holy Crap!

    I did one series of 33-images, with an egret flying around a crowd of other egrets. Only one images wasn’t tack sharp. (I look at the eye at 100% and 200% to judge sharpness). Here’s a shot from the tail-end of that burst:

    One Out Of 33 by David Stephens, on Flickr

    Here’s a shot from a series of 55-images, were only one was OOF:
    One Out Of 55 by David Stephens, on Flickr

    The available AF patterns were:

    · “Wide” which used all AF points
    · “Flexible Spot” which is single-point that can be steered with joy stick
    · “Center” which is fixed box in the center with 9-points
    · Missing, due to the adapter, are Flexible Spot – Expanded and Zone.
    ·
    I didn’t feel constrained.

    BTW, the system will even track a flying bird behind cattails and keep the eye in focus behind the cattails. I’ve done that several times and there are examples over on my Flickr Photostream.

    Yesterday, I shot for a couple of more hours, with the same setups. All stayed consistent. I have over 2,000-shots and about six-hours of shooting. Here’s my favorite shot from yesterday:

    I Am Here! by David Stephens, on Flickr

    BTW, battery life was fine, but I do plan to buy the optional Sony grip, hoping that it’ll help me get more leverage when handholding the big lenses. The small body put more strain on the gripping hand (right), because it’s too small for my hand. This is not an issue with smaller lenses, like a 100-400mm

    I just thought that I’d post my findings, since I’m not finding any reviews of the α9, from the perspective of a handheld, bird-in-flight shooter.

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    Thanks for sharing your findings Dave, looks like you had fun! To be honest, I wouldn't really call any of these a challenging BIF (hovering seagull, jumping egret and last one is walking) any camera made in the last 10 years with a bit of practice would get these kind of shots in focus. I remember 12 years ago I had no problem getting egrets or gulls with my 20D and the modest 400mm f/5.6 which you can buy today for a few hundred bucks.

    The AF system that uses the main image sensor (mirror-less cameras) has a really long way to get anywhere close to driving a 600mm lens and focus to deliver the type of images you see posted in the avian forum. The technical limitation is that the phase difference between the split images on the image sensor is very small and cannot detect the drive direction in extreme de-focus cases. Canon's own DPAF is one of the better if not the best of such systems but for BIF it is utterly useless.


    BTW the 1st image doesn't look sharp and they all look very noise, maybe it was because of processing and harsh light.
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    Quote Originally Posted by arash_hazeghi View Post
    Thanks for sharing your findings Dave, looks like you had fun! To be honest, I wouldn't really call any of these a challenging BIF (hovering seagull, jumping egret and last one is walking) any camera made in the last 10 years with a bit of practice would get these kind of shots in focus. I remember 12 years ago I had no problem getting egrets or gulls with my 20D and the modest 400mm f/5.6 which you can buy today for a few hundred bucks.

    The AF system that uses the main image sensor (mirror-less cameras) has a really long way to get anywhere close to driving a 600mm lens and focus to deliver the type of images you see posted in the avian forum. The technical limitation is that the phase difference between the split images on the image sensor is very small and cannot detect the drive direction in extreme de-focus cases. Canon's own DPAF is one of the better if not the best of such systems but for BIF it is utterly useless.


    BTW the 1st image doesn't look sharp and they all look very noise, maybe it was because of processing and harsh light.
    Of course, you're right, all I had was slow birds, so that's what I shot. Still, Canon wouldn't get 33 or 55 in a row, or a sharp eye on a bird passing behind cattails.

    The processing is quite different from Canon files and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to handle them.

    Chris Dodds is working on his review of the system using the native lenses. He's also ordered the Metabones MkV adapter, so we'll have another perspective, from professional bird and wildlife photographer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Stephens View Post
    Canon wouldn't get 33 or 55 in a row, or a sharp eye on a bird passing behind cattails. .
    my Canon's do



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    Here are some other, miscellaneous comments, not necessarily related to using long Canon lenses. Remember, this is all with the Metabones EF-to-E T Adapter MkV. Any other adapter might give totally different results.

    Works very well with these lense:

    • EF 14mm f/2.8L II (in-body image stabilization is a big plus here)
    • EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II
    • EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II
    • EF 1.4x TC-III
    • EF 2.0x TC-III (had to manually jog focus every so often, shooting at 1,000mm)


    Other pluses:


    • In-body stabilization can be used in conjunction with built-in lens stabilization.
    • WYSIWYG EVF (there's no excuse for forgetting to check your settings when shooting Manual)
    • If there's any latency in the EVF, I'm not seeing it.
    • Controls fall naturally for a Canon user (after only an hour, I didn't need to look at the back to change ISO, SS and Aperture)
    • Small body is nice with smaller lenses.
    • Battery life is very reasonable.
    • Quiet operation


    Minuses:

    • If buffer fills, the camera becomes a useless brick (You need to avoid at all cost. With Canon, you keep shooting, just at a much slower rate)
    • Small body is a disadvantage with a super-telephoto, requiring more grip force.
    • The JPEG files embedded in RAW files are extremely low resolution, making them worthless for culling fur and feather shots. You have to convert to JPEG< TIFF or DNG to get a use preview with decent resolution.




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    Behind cattails:In-focus Behind Cattails by David Stephens, on Flickr

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    A little more follow-up:

    I shot over 2,000 shots this weekend with the Sony a9, Metabones EF-to-E T-adapter MkV and my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, with and without my Canon EF 1.4x TC-III. Subjects included Painted Lady butterflies, egrets, heron and deer. I took loads of test shots of passing cars, bicyclists and runners.

    As my subjects changed, I changed the AF pattern from "Wide" (using all 693-AF points), to "Center" (using 9-AF points in the middle) and "Single-Point Adaptable", which allows you to steer a single point with the joystick.

    Shooting butterflies on a windy day, with both the butterflies and wildflowers moving in the wind, Wide couldn't decide what to focus on, so I quickly switched to Single-point, for dozens of in-focus shots as below:

    Painted Lady Butterfly by David Stephens, on Flickr

    I was shooting white-tail deer crossing the road, using Wide pattern. This doe allowed me to get close for a portrait and I left the pattern on Wide:

    Doe Eyes by David Stephens, on Flickr

    When using Wide and the with a subject that's not real contrasty, you have to move the AF grouping to the subject. I found myself able to "will" the points onto my subject. I didn't use the joy stick and I can't really explain how I do it. I see where the AF points are "dancing" in the EVF and move the aim enough to get them where I want them. I did this with the doe. Face detect and eye detect are on, but it does not detect animal faces. I know that it does detect human faces, because I shot runners and bikers and a square would lock onto their faces.

    Shooting a contrasty subject with Wide AF pattern is easy as pie. The system locks onto the nearest contrasty object and tends to stay locks, whether the subject is still or moving. The dancing AF pattern tends to go to the head, but can move from head to body, so I would "will" it to stay on the head, with subtle movements of the camera.

    Catch by David Stephens, on Flickr

    Tracking cars, bikers and runners with Wide AF pattern was also easy as pie. After initial lock-on, I would get an infinite number of in-focus shots as the subjects moved toward me from 8-mph to 35-mph. This was not at all challenging the system. I didn't keep any of those images to share, so you'll have to trust me.

    Occasional problems including missing focus by a long shot and requiring a second or so to regain focus, if ever. It's critical to prefocus. As clouds came and contrast dropped, there were times when prefocusing was hard, particularly with the 1.4x TC attached. I recycled the body once or twice, or cranked the manual focus ring to deal with this. This was only an occasional problem. If a bird is small in the EVF and you don't grab focus right off the bat, the hunting was generally not successful.

    Once in a while, I'd see AF dancing right on top of the subject, but later inspection would show them OOF. If I was taking a series, the whole series would be OOF. With Canon, you can start OOF, but keep battling and then end up with a shot or two in focus. I had no such luck with the Sony. It was either all or nothing.

    Bottom line is, I prefer my 100-400mm on the Sony body vs. the Canon 5D MkIV. There's learned art to using both.

    Full disclosure requires me to state that I'm going to order the Sony 100-400mm G Master lens and the Sony 1.4x TC. I'm Jonesing for the 20-fps and even quicker reflexes and reliability; HOWEVER, if I couldn't afford to do that, I'd be very happy with the Sony/Metabones/Canon combo.
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