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#88200
For those who are unaware of this model, it is a mirrorless P&S model with a 20 MP 1” sensor and a Zeiss lens yielding (in 35mm terms) a zoom range of 24mm – 600mm and only F2.4 to F4.0. I.e., it is a 600mm equivalent at F4.0. It also has a unique dual focusing system allowing for much faster focusing than normal P&S models. The lens does have a distance-limiting switch for autofocus.

The camera has many whizzy features. For example, it can utilize WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC communications. Sony has made available an App for both Apple and Android smartphones. If you DL and install this App, then establish communications with your camera, then the camera can grab GPS information and attach it to your images. This avoids having to place a GPS chip in the camera and sucking energy from the battery.

It also has a 2.5 Megapixel OLED for a viewfinder. More pixels than the much larger LCD on the back of the camera. That is, if you use the viewfinder you are not seeing a “real” image, but a video display adjusted for whatever settings you put on the camera (focus, exposure). To clarify, in Auto ISO mode, when the ISO increases, the viewfinder brightens in accordance to the signal magnification.

As it is mirrorless, the user can make exposures without any mirror noise. Basically silent. It can take images at up to 24 frames per second. It can also take HD video at slo-mo speeds of up to 960 fps and 4k video at normal frame rates. However, these high-end video features require a memory-card writing speed of at least 100 Megabits/second.

Many Birders use the Canon 100mm – 400mm “L” lens. Coupled with a Canon 7D II, this yields a magnification of 640mm. Thus the reach of this Sony is roughly equal to that of the aforementioned Canon setup, at a lower cost and less weight to carry.

Unfortunately Sony does not include the real manual with the camera, just a very skinny document. The real manual can be DLed and is about 600 pages in English only. I still must do more research on how to set up the focusing system to my liking. It is a PDF document and you can search out topics. There is no way I am going to print out 600 pages to have a hard copy.

My old eyes are not suitable for using the LCD screen on the back of the camera for shooting. I prefer using the OLED viewfinder which has a diopter control.

I first tested it under onerous conditions of very low light and semi-manual exposure. I set the shutter speed and the F-stop manually and left the ISO in automatic. This meant that to attain metered exposure, the camera adjusted the ISO. In my test, it hit its maximum ISO using this feature – 6400 – many times and some of the resulting photos were dark. Set manually, the ISO can go to 25000, but I suspect the images resulting may be more noise than subject.

The viewfinder has all four sides filled with icons and numbers. Very noisy and confusing to the user. However, it can be cleaned up as the camera has a menu for choosing a view on the LCD.

One of the first things I noticed is that the quiet shutter affects the photographer as well as the subject. That is, when I started the test, the top LCD said I had space for about 3,000 images and when I finished, I had space for about 1,200 images. So I took about 1,800 images, far more than I expected. And at 20 MB per image, lots of memory required for DLing. I only use RAW for this sort of photography.

Apparently when I held the shutter down, the camera ran amok at 24 fps without any obvious cues to me. Subsequently I have set it to take images at a modest 10 fps.

After taking about 1,800 images during my first test, the battery level showed it being about half full. However, after changing some camera settings – like only exposing at 10 fps and delaying auto shutoff from 2 minutes to 5 minutes, I found that the battery died during an outing. I may be able to conserve energy with some further adjustments, but I think that I need an extra battery to carry around. The third and fourth tests also resulted in battery depletion. My DSLR battery is around 1,800 ma., but the Sony’s is only 1,050 ma.

When I use my DSLR it indicates how many images I have taken during a session. I didn’t see this information on the Sony. I can also review and delete images easily with the DSLR. However, the Sony LCD only shows the first image in a sequence when reviewing (although I may later find instructions in the manual to alter this). Indeed, later I did solve this problem after my second test. That is, I have been able to make the Sony function in a manner very similar to that of my DSLR. I can review images on the LCD and delete ones I don’t like.

Intuitively I had thought that the Sony would work in a similar manner to that of the DSLR. It doesn’t. When I placed the viewfinder on my eye and pressed the shutter down halfway, it didn’t seem to focus, but later I noticed that it focused all by itself whenever I changed the zoom or subject. Later, though I discovered that when I turned on the Phase Detection method for focusing, the shutter did trigger the autofocus. The camera turns off the Phase Detection autofocus if you exceed F8.

The stabilization for this camera is supposed to be about 5-stops. Hence I should be able to shoot at very slow speeds, but I didn’t do so. I set the camera for 1/400th of a second and F5.6 for my initial test. Such image stabilization is not too useful for Bird Photography, as the blur issue is primarily caused by motion of the subjects, not motion initiated by the photographer. For my most recent use I set the shutter at 1/1,000th of a second and the F-stop at 5.6 and let the camera choose the ISO.

Under the onerous conditions of my first test, the camera did not focus as quickly or as successfully as my DSLR (with a F2.8 lens attached) in the same location. When it failed to focus it set the lens at either infinity or as close as possible - not certain which. When this occurred I was not able to get the camera to try again consistently. I suspect that this is mostly because of my ignorance. At wide angle, the Sony’s close-focusing distance is rated at 3 cm. However, I suspect some of my focusing problems occurred because I was too close to my subjects with a medium zoom, but I could not determine this while using the camera. The camera was initially set to power down after two minutes on non-use. I suspect that this may have been the source of some focusing problems. Later I discovered a glitch in my understanding of how the focusing works and after fixing it, the camera focuses reliably and quickly.

The lens has two control rings on it. It is possible to set these so that one can adjust focusing and one can adjust the zoom. I was vaguely aware of this and tried to use this to adjust the focus when autofocus failure occurred. It did work sometimes, but not on other occasions. Not certain why. I re-read the manual regarding this feature and suspect I can change the settings to improve my results.

My DSLR work flow is to shoot only in RAW, then offload the memory card to my PC where I use Canon’s DPP program to look at large thumbnails of the images and delete ones I find unsatisfactory. In Canon’s DPP it is possible to crop the images in RAW. I often crop some images, then convert these to 16-bit TIFFs. Afterwards I edit the TIFFs in Photoshop and when finished, I convert to JPEG, often a downsized JPEG (but keeping the TIFF at full size). As JPEGs are lossy, by converting to JPEG at the last step, then I minimize any image loss of information.

When I offloaded some of my Sony test photos to Sony’s equivalent program, I was able to delete ones I didn’t like, but cropping others was difficult. In the Canon program, I just click down on the mouse and drag cropping lines around my subject, but the Sony program wants you to enter pixel numbers. Not convenient. However, the Sony program does convert to 16-bit TIFF, so it is possible to do the cropping in Photoshop which has a tool almost identical to that of Canon.

The Sony RAW viewer does some automatic nasty noise reduction, whereas the Canon DPP only applies noise reduction upon request. Something else for me to investigate further. In my normal workflow I only apply noise reduction at the end of any Photoshop processing (using a Photoshop plug-in) and never to a RAW image, except for a modest in-camera setting upon exposure. For my Canon DSLR, I have found that it doesn’t require noise reduction up to about ISO 1250. Another reviewer claimed that the Sony RX-10 IV’s noise levels were low up to about ISO 800. However, I was often using it at ISO 6400.

I performed a second test at Burnaby Lake. Although I was outside, in some trails the light was still quite low and the auto ISO setting did again bump up to 6400. However, for these images I set the shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second. (The camera can expose at a minimum speed of 1/32,000th of a second.)

Focusing problems did seem less and generally occurred in dark areas. Perhaps I was expecting too much. That is, DSLR focusing sensors may just be better than those in the Sony. Although I did capture a nice sequence in the dim light of a Red-eyed Vireo and another of a Black-throated Gray Warbler, for some reason the camera refused to focus on a Yellow Warbler. Later I had an epiphany and fixed this problem too.

Although I set it up to focus on the center “spot”, this “spot” is clearly larger than is present in the Canon 7D II. I had problems focusing on distant Red-breasted Sapsuckers when the Sony kept focusing on the tree upon which the Sapsuckers were clinging. However, later I learned that the Sony allows the user to select a focus point and style (e.g., Spot). For a selection of Spot, it further allows the user to choose “Small, Medium or Large” for the size of the “Spot”.

I’m going to undertake one more test, but I think the Sony is a Winner, as long I don’t expect it to replace my Canon 7D II. I expect it to be useful in close areas where a big lens is awkward to use and carry. Also, when driving somewhere and I spot a raptor sitting on a post, I can use the Sony by opening the car window and not getting out of the vehicle (which usually causes the raptors to fly off). Thirdly, I suspect it might be useful during a Pelagic trip as it is much less difficult to balance oneself on a rocking boat and take photographs at the same time than when carrying my normal heavy gear.

So I have ordered a fast memory card (300 Mbps), a spare battery, an external battery charger and a Storm Jacket (necessary for Pelagics).

A few photos are shown below. Most were taken under conditions designed to stress the camera – and myself. Bad lighting. Obscured subjects. Some along the so-called Nature Trail (now a jungle trail). Some looking straight up, a difficult feat when I am carrying the DSLR setup with a large lens. You can check the camera settings on Flickr. Note that when the auto ISO goes to 6400, it likely wants to go higher, but this is the camera’s limit and the resulting images are a little dark. Noise seemed greater than with the Canon 7D II.

Red-eyed Vireo

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Black-throated Gray Warblers

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Orange-crowned Warbler

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Bullock's Oriole Youngster

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Warbling Vireo

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Western Tiger Swallowtail

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#88263
Some additional thoughts.

I am now happy with the focusing of this camera. Normally I read the manual of a new camera, but the real manual for this Sony is about 600 pages (in English only) and is only available online. Not with the camera. I don't intend to print off 600 pages and have only browsed sections in a PDF reader.

I learned, for example, that the spot focus can be set to 3 sizes. Helpful.

One remaining issue is with the viewing of the subjects. I cannot use the LCD screen on the back. My eyes are not suited anymore for focusing close on the screen and then far away to the subject. I only use the OLED viewfinder which has 2.5 million dots.

I see room for improvement in this area. Firstly, when looking at a Hummingbird this way, I noticed that its rapid motion was jerky. That is, the frame rate of the video image I am seeing in the viewfinder is too slow for rapidly moving subjects.

Secondly, the contrast is odd. Or perhaps it lacks colour depth and this lack impacts contrast. For example, I saw a YB Sapsucker fly into a shrub. Looking through the Sony's viewfinder, I could not discern the bird. However, with my DSLR, finding the bird was easy. This effect is most noticeable when looking towards bright lighting.

I am finding that I prefer the Sony for situations when I am uncertain that I will find anything interesting. About 50:50. Currently I have about 2,000 images on the memory cards of both the Sony and my DSLR.
#88270
Thanks for this very informative post!!! I shoot with a 100-400mk II and a 1.4 ex III. I get an equiv of almost 900 mm (896) on my Canon 800D (which has the same sensor as the 80D) and allows for 27 AF points at f8, although I shoot centre point or 9 point for BIF. I DO NOT LIKE the sound of the mirror .....and neither do the birds... It really frightens them... Big Boo.. but I am not ready for a mirrorless yet. I don't like the viewscreen on them.. I prefer the viewfinder on my Canon 800D (t7i).

However, all that being said, the camera plus lens is quite heavy and I can't afford a porter :lol:

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Female House Sparrow in Glorious Light

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Cabbage White
#88271
80D plus 100-400 is an excellent combo for bird photography. Silent shutter mode is as quiet as it gets.

The 7D II shutter is quieter in its silent mode, and also has a pretty high frame rate. But the sensor on the 80D is better.

As for viewfinders, the optical version is definitely much clearer. The only advantage of an EVF is seeing the exposure in real-time.

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