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Sony A1 Animal Eye AF: Tigger on the Prowl, Spring Green (UPDATED with reader comments)

This page looks at animal Eye AF of the Sony A1 using AF-C focusing in the outdoors, with Tigger on the prowl in the spring greenery using the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS.

Sony A1 Animal Eye AF: Tigger on the Prowl, Spring Green

Includes a wide selection of images both still and moving and assessment of the hit rate.

The Sony A1 produces gorgeous B&W conversions, so several monochrome conversions are included also.

CLICK TO VIEW: Super Telephoto Lenses for Sony Mirrorless

f5.6 @ 1/800 sec handheld EyeAF=Animal, ISO 2000; 2021-03-17 15:44:10
Sony A1 + Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS @ 400mm RAW: LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]
f5.6 @ 1/800 sec handheld EyeAF=Animal, ISO 2000; 2021-03-17 15:44:10
Sony A1 + Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS @ 400mm
RAW: LACA corrected, USM {6,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

Leo G writes:

First thanks for the Sony A1 review but especially for the tons of animal eye info! What a treat!

That is my most used feature. On the Sony A7R IV, I use the small, light Sony 35 for fast work. I keep shutter speed around 1000, not worrying about ISO since it's in range anyway. I also shoot at time of day to give me eye catch light but not directly into the eyes which would make the animals squint.

The high resolution makes my work a snap. I get the eyes in focus and I have plenty of air around the subject to crop a portrait or a full body shot from the same shooting position. This let's me concentrate on capturing the unique expression I need to anthropomorphise my subject for my accompanying stories.

Tigger ... magnificent cat! And I know his secret. His parents feed him well! I have his twin, Jack Sparrow. Also about 18 pounds.

I ordered an A1 through your link. When you let us know which lenses are up to the focus speed necessary I'll make sure I'm using the fastest 35 for my animals.

Thanks again for all the hard work on this review, and for the Tigger analysis.

DIGLLOYD: cats being cats, Tigger and Jack Sparrow are not likely to love each other. And while Tigger is a solid muscular cat, he is only 11 pounds.

I really appreciate people using my links on this to order gear, and please note that doing “notify me” at B&H gives me NO credit, even if you did use my link initially. Add to Cart is the trick.

The fastest-focusing 35mm lens for Sony is almost certainly going to be the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM. The fastest of all of 'em is likely the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM. Both are new and both have Sony’s best AF motors, but particularly the 50/1.2. Both should be easier to get by next month, but pre-order now.

Michael E writes:

I am blown away by the cat shots with the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

Would that work on a Nikon Z7 II with an E-mount adapter that allowed autofocus, in your opinion.

DIGLLOYD: I am dubious that the AF speed would be acceptable, but I don’t know for sure. But I can say that even native mount non-Sony lenses disappoint in focus speed and have too much hunting (e.g., Sigma FE 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art).

Moreover, accuracy and precision are critical, so only the latest/fastest/most precise AF motors will do for precision Eye AF. The 100-400 is actually an older lens, and I will be trying the new Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS soon, which should have faster and more precise AF motors.

It seems that Nikon still has no lens in the 100/200 - 400/600 range, which makes the Z system a non-starter for this type of photography for now. See my viewpoint on the Sony ecosystem.

John M writes:

Thanks for these. I do like photographing animals and could have used a really good eye autofocus on a safari a couple of years ago (used an Sony A9 and a Sony ARX10 IV with some success but inevitably missed some shots I would have liked to get).

Looking at your images and especially where Tigger is stationary, I clearly notice where the focus is sharp at 100%. Nonetheless, even in the “in focus” areas, the images appear somewhat soft for such high end equipment – unsharp or low in micro-contrast. Do you agree? Do you think it is because of the zoom lens?

DIGLLOYD: do not assess lens performance based on these shots for several reasons:

  • Already subtle diffraction at f/5.6. With the best lenses, this can be seen vs f/4.
  • The A1 missed focus by 1-3mm in many of the shots.
  • High ISO absolutely degrades fine detail all on its own, and chroma noise reduction was used for some shots and that definitely affects micro contrast. Plus, I did not sharpen aggressively due to the high ISO noise.
  • Handheld even at 1/800 second has some risk of motion blur in spite of optical image stabilization.
  • Peak sharpness zone is probably only 2-3mm thick at the reproduction ratio for most of the images, which makes it difficult to discern lens peformance as it slices through something. The DoF zone is too shallow for even a single eye in many of the shots, in terms of resolving to the sensor.

Still, there may be limits to what the lens can deliver compared to the Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS and Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS. I don’t have easy access to either lens to be sure. The Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM used on Tigger may decide the matter, but the DoF at f/1.8 at close range is good for about 1mm of peak sharpness!

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