Monday, May 20, 2019

Greatest Subject Tracking (except...)

So here I was photographing a track meet at a local college.  And I brought the new Sony A6400 which is said to track subjects as well as the A9 with Firmware v5 (yet costs thousands less!).

I wrote up my findings and submitted a whole string of sample sequences for the latest issue of Cameracraft magazine.  One of the sequences had the camera successfully track a pole vaulter even though the athlete was partially obscured for a few shots (some samples from that sequence appear above).  This prompted David Kilpatrick, the magazine's editor, to proclaim, "[T]he sequence is very impressive as I’m not sure any camera I use now (A6500, A7RIII, Olympus) would hold focus on the subject in these circumstances."

But, I found a problem.  Which I'll relate to you in a bit.

In the Pipeline

Did I mention that the ebook for the Sony A6400 is out?

So, too, is the supplement for the Sony A9 Firmware V5.
So, too, is the supplement for the A7R III for Firmware v3.

Next in line is the supplement for the A7 III v3, and the e-reader versions of the A6400 book.

All of the supplements are automatically distributed for free to those who bought the ebooks from my website or those who registered their purchases outside of my website with me.

The Next Seminar

The Las Vegas seminar has come and gone, as did the classic Cadillac show, which because of harsh light was a great commercial for shooting RAW and pulling back the highlights and bringing out the shadows.

Straight-out-of-camera JPG

Processed RAW file

Straight-out-of-camera JPG

Processed RAW file

The Las Vegas Seminar Attendees
Because I'm busy with other projects I'm only doing one other seminar this year, in Copenhagen September 14-15th.  Haven't had time to create a signup page yet but if  you're interested in attending email me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com and I'll send you additional information.

Seminars coming in 2020 are Kiawah Island, South Carolina in April and St. Louis, Missouri in May.  Why these two locations?  Photo clubs have reached out to me to take me up on their offer to speak to their club for FREE.  Have your photo club email me for more details.  And please email me if you'd like to be on the notification list for any of these events.

The One Flaw I found

Getting back to the track meet...

Very early in the day I started noticing that the tracking would go well until suddenly it didn't.

This shouldn't have happened since the subject was very clear and obscured and even a lesser camera should have had no trouble following it.  I had to take my finger off the shutter release button and re-press it again and all was good.  This happened twice before I gave myself a time-out to figure out what was going on.

Playing back the images in "full data mode", I saw the problem right away: I was zooming out during a continuous shooting sequence, and the camera had a hard time handling that.  Even though I was using a parfocal lens (the Sony 70-200 f/4 G OSS, whose focusing distance doesn't change as you zoom in or out).

Once I stopped trying to zoom during continuous shooting sequences, the rest of the day's action came out flawlessly.  Magazines are limited in the examples they can show you; however you can see many more successful athletic sequences at this Google Photos gallery:  (Remember, the first two sequences contain the flaws; the rest are great.)

Next Time

This is a short blog post because I'm traveling this month - Boston, Pennsylvania, New York, and Nova Scotia.  I'll have some interesting stories to tell very soon.

Next time: Shooting BTS photos on a time-travel pirate movie with actor Malcolm McDowell, in lighting conditions you would think would be ideal for a camera. :-)

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. How do I download the update to the A7iii ebook?

  2. Nova Scotia? When will you be here?

  3. Only for a few days and there may not be enough time to socialize. Please email me for more info.

  4. Gary, "parfocal", not parafocal, as written above; a typo, I know. Correct and delete this comment is fine, and keep up the great work.

  5. As always, well done. Thank you for your insights.

  6. Hi Gary, I know you're on the road so don't expect you'll answer right away if at all. Sony put out firmware updates last week for several cameras including the A99M2. There was no specific information about what the update did. On DPreview there is speculation the update only pertains to wireless flash. When you have the time and if so inclined can you investigate? Also, can you provide specific instructions for how to setup the A99M2 for back button (joystick button or custom button or whatever) focus that will allow tracking to work? Lastly, when did Sony change the method for updating firmware? Used to be all you had to do was put the update on a card and pop in the camera and go to the version setting in the menu. With this A99M2 update v1.01 I had to connect the camera to my computer to do the update.

    1. The speculation I saw was that it was related to ibis, because it wasn't issued to cameras that didn't have it. Anyway I can't test it because my A99 II is 3000 miles away.

    2. Not sure what IBIS other than a bird!? Anyway Shame that Sony have not addressed the 99M2/77M2 tracking (with a firmware upgrade) which from what I gather compared with A7 A9 cameras could use some enhancement to catch up with the technology.

    3. I certainly wish they would. I have both cameras. Tracking is terrible. I assumed others were too.

  7. How about a tracking test of the RX10iv?

    1. Is pretty gosh darned good as well. But I doubt it would have been able to track the pole vaulter as she ran behind closer objects like the a6400 did in the top example.


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