BIRDER'S JOURNAL
April 12, 2016

SUBJECT: Bluebird Nesting Time and Sony A6300 Musings

It's Eastern Bluebird nesting time again here in Minnesota and as usual our nesting pair are at it again. In early March I attached a new front face to the bluebird house as the entrance hole had been widened over the winter.

Here are some in-flight images taken of the female as she brought in nesting material:

Sony A7RII, ISO 1600, 1/5000 sec, Canon 600mm f/4 II lens with Metabones Ultra IV adapter

 

Sony A7RII, ISO 1600, 1/5000 sec, Canon 600mm f/4 II lens with Metabones Ultra IV adapter

 

Sony A7RII, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, Canon 600mm f/4 II lens + 1.x TC with Metabones Ultra IV adapter

 

Sony A6300, ISO 1600, 1/4000 sec, Sigma (C)150-600mm @ 150mm lens with Metabones Ultra IV adapter. Notice the difference in the bokeh? (Bokeh is a word for background blur.) Shooting at a lower focal length with a higher f-stop doesn't produce as nice of a bokeh as the Canon 600mm. Not a huge deal, but it does make the image look different. Instead of a nice creamy background, you can start to make out the trees in the background which can be distracting. The more you can isolate your subject from the background, the more pleasing to the eye the image becomes.

 

Sony A6300, ISO 1600, 1/4000 sec, Sigma (C)150-600mm @ 150mm lens with Metabones Ultra IV adapter. Nest building is hard work—time for a drink!

 

Final Comments on the Sony A6300

After much deliberation I decided to return the Sony A6300. All and all for the price, it is a fantastic bird photography camera. In most cases, even with adapted Canon lenses you will get your shot. But, it's not perfect. The following are a couple of lists I comprised featuring it's good points and bad:

The Good

  • Exceptionally priced - great value
  • Fast frames-per-second: 8fps with no-delay viewfinder, 10fps with slight delay in viewfinder.
  • High resolution with manageable noise
  • Extremely light-weight
  • 4k video (Wow! Very good 4k quality even in low-light.)
  • Autofocus is very good with native lenses, autofocus is acceptable with Canon lenses with Metabones adapter.
  • Coupled with the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens, this makes for a nice light-weight birding combo.

The Bad

  • SD card slot in battery compartment. Really Sony? This makes changing the memory cards a PITA.
  • Buffer light on the bottom of the camera where no one can see it.
  • Small battery = short battery life. Always have a couple extra batteries on-hand.
  • Ergonomics are not so good. The camera is too small in my opinion and needs more programmable buttons.
  • No built-in image stabilization. A lot of Sony lenses do not have image stabilization and without having it built-in to the camera is unfortunate.
  • Frame grabs from 4k video will not work. Due to compression artifacts, you cannot pull images out of a video without distortion. It may work okay slow-moving subjects, but not fast moving subjects like a bird-in-flight.
  • Autofocus is very good with native lenses, autofocus is acceptable with Canon lenses with Metabones adapter.
  • Long record times in 4k do overheat the camera. I tested this indoors at room temperature and after 28 minutes, the camera shut down due to overheating. This led me to wonder how the camera would operate outdoors in 90-degree (F) heat.
  • Maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 sec. (I really do use speeds higher than this to freeze wings-in-motion on smaller birds.)
  • Sony service. Sony needs to really ramp-up their quality of service if they plan to compete with the "Big Boys".

Sony continues to come out with very innovative cameras. They have come a long way in a short time with their cameras and oh how I wish Canon would be as innovative as Sony. In my opinion, I believe Canon is reluctant to add features to their lower-end cameras in order not to erode sales from their higher-end cameras. In doing so however, their cameras no longer compete with innovative cameras from others such as Sony and Panosonic. And now Sony along with third party vendors have figured out how to use Canon lenses with their camera bodies.

When will Canon start incorporating 4k into their cameras? At this stage of the game, I seriously doubt I will buy another camera without 4k video capabilities. I find that while shooting still images is my primary goal, I can't do without 4k video. I have waited a long, long time for Canon to release a DSLR with 4k capabilities other than the 1DC which was a $10,000 camera in its time.

There is hope however...

Canon now is about to release the 1DX Mark II which takes true 4k footage at up to 60 fps. Not only that, but each frame is an individual jpeg image. Videographer's scoff at using motion jpeg because of its old, bloated video compression but it allows you to easily extract images out of the video and make them into prints.

More on this in the coming weeks...

—Alan Stankevitz

 

 
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