Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sony A6000 and A5100 Autofocus Guide


The Sony A6000 is an upper-level enthusiast's camera wrapped in a mid-level consumer body. There is a lot of extended capability to tap in to, but the potential is somewhat hampered by a user interface that doesn't always separate the casual aspects of the camera from the more advanced enthusiast-oriented functions. This is quite apparent in the way that the camera's autofocus system operates; it's extremely capable but the menu system does not give you an indication as to which methods are best with which situations. In cooking terms, the user design shared by the A6000 and A5100 has many ingredients but is lacking recipes on how to put them together. It also does not help that the owner's manuals are a bit on the short side for cameras with such a deep menu systems. Even with minimal user experience these cameras can be quite capable, but a little bit of understanding will go a long way towards getting the most out of their sophisticated autofocus systems.

The following is not so much a comprehensive instruction manual on how to use the A6000 focus system so much as it is a guide to the different behavioural roles of the camera. Rather than focus on menu items, the following is more about how those different functions fit together in the big picture. The A6000 setup has a high degree of granularity; most of the functions are self-explanatory but some functions require more than a simple description in order to understand their nuance. The menu structure works best if you think of the settings in terms of broad function groups

  • Ambient Settings: e.g. pre-focus, focus detection, lock-on
  • Drive mode (how to deal with subject movement)
  • Area Mode (levels of precision)

Proficient use of the A6000 comes with how this settings are combined. There is a lot of room for creative construction in how you use the AF system; in many ways, it is like setting up a race car for different road courses.

Note for users of the A5100: The same principles apply as for the A6000, except that you must enter the menu (Camera Settings>3rd Screen) to change the focus area and drive mode. As well, navigation incorporates the touch screen instead of using the jog dial. Even though the A5100 is designed primarily as a point-and-shoot camera, in some ways, its touch-screen capability make it easier to focus than the A6000. However, getting to this functionality isn't as quick because of the reduced number of physical buttons. With enough setup time, both cameras can perform at roughly the same level of autofocus performance, the difference is that it is easier for the experienced user to set the A6000 into the desired AF mode.

Pre-Focus


Pre-AF is a feature where the camera will focus on whatever it finds to be in front of it even before the shutter button is half-pressed. This increases the subjective speed of the autofocus system, but it also increases battery drain. The camera is not actually focusing faster, it's just that a portion of the AF time occurs in the interval when the camera is held up for shooting but before the photographer is ready to shoot. In situations where the subject distance is changing rapidly, pre-AF is less helpful.

Face Detection


Like many point-and-shoot type cameras, the A6000 has the ability to automatically detect human faces and lock focus on them. Sony takes it a step further by adding smile detection and the capability to register faces. Unless you are planning on using the camera in completely automatic mode, or plan to hand the camera to a person not familiar with photography, it is highly recommended that you turn off face detection. The problem is that it actually works too well...yes, you read that right. The A6000's AF system tends to prioritize face detection ahead of whatever AF area mode that you are in. This makes the behaviour of the system somewhat unpredictable  if you are trying to shoot deliberately... you might want to pick a particular focus point that isn't a face, but the camera won't let you.

However, if you only intend to sue the camera in automatic mode, face detection is not a bad proposition for photographing people. Smile detection will automatically trigger the shutter when the camera sees a face smiling; it works better than it has any right to. Face registration is a memory bank with 8 slots for commonly photographed people. Once a face has been registered the camera will be able to lock focus quicker when that person is in the scene. Admittedly, face detection is  for those who aren't serious about photography, but it is nonetheless a beneficial feature. Overall, letting the camera automatically focus on faces will produce more accurate results than using the focus-and-recompose method.

Lock-on




Lock-on is not a clearly implemented feature, nor is it consistently applied across the E-Mount and FE-mount cameras. It's function is easy to understand: when activated, the camera will attempt to maintain focus on a subject that moves laterally across the frame. The problem with lock-on is that it is poorly explained in the manual, and that its implementation varies depending on which focus mode that you are in. These are the three settings:

  • Off
  • On
  • On with shutter

This is the how the menu looks like on-screen:



    "Off" is easy enough to understand. "On-with shutter" means that the lock-on function is always activated when the shutter button is half-pressed. The problem is with the intermediary option "On".

    • In Wide or Center Spot focusing modes, pressing the center button once brings up the  lock screen. Pressing the center button again activates lock on.
    • In Zone or Flexible Spot focusing modes, pressing the center button lets you choose whether to turn the lock-on feature on or off. If you choose "On" you must activate the feature by pressing the center button. Otherwise, the control is the same as in wide or center spot modes.

    Lock-on is designed to look for either the closest or the most contrasty subjects. It is important to keep this in mind when you are focusing on subjects that run obliquely towards the cameras, as the camera may lock-on to a portion of the subject that you don't intend to focus on. Lock-on is active when the focus indicator switches from the the standard focus box (or sparkly-dots in AF-C mode) to a rectangular double outline of the subject.
     

    The difference between how subject tracking in lock-on works is from AF-C is subtle. AF-C in Zone and Wide Area modes works fairly similar to how side-to-side tracking works in enthusiast level DSLRs (such as 3D-Tracking mode in Nikons). With the Sony in pure AF-C mode, if you lose the subject because it passes behind an object or if you are panning too fast, focus won't be accurately re-acquired. Lock-on uses some element of color/shape recognition, so if focus lock is momentarily lost the camera has a chance to re-recognize the subject.

    If you are using the A5100, provided that you aren't in a fully automatic mode, lock-on is activated by the touch screen when in you in one of the PASM modes, as the center physical button is reserved for changing the exposure mode. Basically, lock-on is touch-to-focus; when it is active you will see the subject outlined and tracked. While this is happening, a separate touch icon will appear that turns off lock-on when you touch it.

    Lock-on is useful in situations where you have a slow moving subject that is large relative to the picture area. If you pair it with the spot-focusing modes you can focus-and-recompose without creating the focus shift error that would otherwise normally happen. However, it does have two downsides. The first is that the camera needs to use extra computational power to perform the shape recognition function that drives the lock-on features. This makes it a slow method for quick moving subjects. Lock-on isn't fast enough for sports or things like pet dogs. The second problem with lock-on is that it isn't precise when you are focusing on large subjects that run in oblique directions relative to the camera. With objects that oriented diagonally relative to the camera, lock-on will outline the whole object regardless of the difference between the near and far. In these situations this will make placing the point of focus exactly where you want it impossible; the end results will be the camera's best guess, not your exact intentions.

    AF Drive Modes


    The autofocus drive modes can be easily brought up in the main Fn button on the back of the camera. It is also the default function of the C1 button on the right side of the shutter button. The drive modes are:

    • AF-S (Single shot)
    • AF-A (Automatic)
    • AF-C (Continuous)
    • DMF (Direct Manual Focus)
    • MF (Full Manual Focus)


    AF-S (Single shot)



    AF-S limits the autofocus action to a one-time focus acquisition. This mode is for non-moving subjects where you don't want the camera to accidentally re-focus on an unintended target, e.g., landscapes, architecture, adults, etc. AF-S will also consume less battery power, though not by a significant amount.

    AF-A (Automatic)


    AF-A is a hybrid mode that is primarily single-shot like AF-S mode, but will switch to continuous (AF-C) if it detects that the subject is moving. Almost all modern cameras have a setting like this, and in almost every case it is a mode that is best left unused. The problem with AF-A is that it makes the camera's behaviour unpredictable; you, as the photographer, are handing over an element of control over to the camera. The issue with modes like this is that you don't have an immediate grasp of the threshold that will trigger the switch between single-shot and continuous action.

    AF-C (Continuous)


    AF-C is the continuous tracking mode. It will also track motion side-to-side if you are in Wide or Zone focus modes. In Center or Spot modes, the camera will only continuously track the subject so long as the AF target box is held over the subject. The exception is if "Lock-on with shutter press" is active, in which case the camera will use the somewhat slower lock-on method to continuously track the subject. AF-C has obvious uses with sports and fast moving objects, but it is also immeasurably useful for children who only give the appearance of being able to sit still.

    AF-C is the mode that you will want to use when you are using the shutter burst modes. The A6000 is capable of 11 fps but fast burst rates are useless unless the focus is placed accurately. It makes little sense to use a shutter burst with AF-S, as most situations don't require multiple shots of a non-moving object. However, when the subject is in motion it is a challenge for the camera to maintain focus lock. AF-S is a poor choice in these situations as the point of focus will fall behind the moving subject. When AF-C is activated, the camera will maintain focus with the moving subject and to some extent try to predict the velocity and trajectory after the shutter is released. In practice the A6000 in AF-C with shutter burst modes tracks objects as accurately as a mid-level DSLR, meaning that it is very good for everyday situations, but it isn't infallible. With all cameras, tracking subjects isn't a matter of yes/no, but a case of how high the keeper rate can be. Entry level cameras have poor keeper rates for moving subjects, meaning that only a few frames out of many attempts will be adequately in focus. Conversely, professional cameras allow for a higher, but still not perfect percentage of on-target shots. It's just that the pros only publish the ones that work and not the shots that they missed.

    DMF (Direct Manual Focus)


    DMF works like how the AF-S or USM autofocus motors work in Nikon and Canon cameras. DMF is a bit of a misnomer, as it isn't a manual focus mode so much as it is an autofocus mode with manual override. In DMF mode a half-press of the shutter works in the same way as AF-S mode; it's a single-shot focus mode. The difference is that the focus lock can be manually overridden so long as half-press is maintained.  This mode works well if you have to do multiple instances of critical/close focusing in one session, but truth be told, it is not a mode that will be used often.

    MF (Full Manual Focus) 


    'MF mode is the pure manual mode. If you also turn on focus peaking, manual focusing is not particularly hard to do, but there is one caveat. Sony's interpretation of focus peaking can be a bit on the "loose" side for some people, meaning that it tends to indicate a wider zone of acceptable focus than what some people would like. This makes for user-friendly operation, but if you aren't careful, it can mean that manual focusing  with focus peaking might not be as precise as you think it would be.

    Focus Area


    Sensitivity and specificity are terms that describe how a an autofocus system can be tuned; the more sensitive a system is, the less specific it becomes. Put simply, sensitivity is the ability to detect if something is present; specificity is the ability to reject a false positive. In photographic terms, an autofocus system is sensitive if it can achieve focus lock, but it is specific if locks onto an object that the photographer intends to photograph. The trade-off between the two comes down to a simple matter of how wide of an area the autofocus system is examining. The wider the focus area, the more sensitive the AF becomes; at least something will be in focus. As you narrow down the area, the system becomes more specific to what you intend it to do, but it might take longer to achieve focus lock if the subject is small, moving or of low contrast.

    The A6000's focus area menu is next to the drive mode option when you press the Fn button on the back of the camera. It is divided into the following modes:

    • Wide
    • Zone
    • Center
    • Flexible Spot

    As you move down the list, the area options grow smaller in size and move operate in a less sensitive but more specific manner.

    Wide Zone


    Wide Zone: After shutter half-press


    Of the AF area settings, Wide is the least precise. Wide area mode basically allows the camera to focus anywhere in the frame that it thinks the subject is. If you will, this is the "mind reader" mode, because this is basically what you are asking the camera to do. Wide area is generally not useful for precision photography, as you have no idea where the camera will lock and the menu interface gives no indication as to its intentions. However, the A6000 will tend to look for the subject in the center of the frame and will lock onto things that are contrasty and generally closer to the camera. It's not completely unpredictable, but there are better choices.

    One the A5100, Wide-Zone mode also has a touch-to-shoot function, which manually overrides the behavior of the focus area mode. If you just go by the physical shutter button, you will get the same semi-accurate guessing that the A6000 does, but the A5100 will  also display a touch-to-shoot icon in the upper right of the LCD display. The touch-to-shoot function won't be active until you press this icon, An orange bar will appear in the icon when you tap it, indicating that touch-focus is armed. To turn off touch-focus, tap the icon again and the orange bar will disappear. When touch-focus is armed, the camera will focus and fire the shutter when you tap on any other part of the LCD screen. This function is available in Zone and Center area modes on the A5100.
     

    Zone Mode


    Zone Area

    Zone area mode is more restricted than wide.In zone mode, you choose the general area for the camera to look for a focus lock, and the camera will automatically chose a point within that zoom upon half-press. Like Wide area, using Zone in conjunction with AF-C will have the camera display a set of shimmering green dots instead of a target box as it tracks a moving subject.

    Zone Area with AF-C

    Provided that the focus lock is on your intended subject, the shimmering focus pattern lock will stay with the subject as it moves. The smaller dots that you see during AF-C mode are the individual phase detection zones spread across the image frame. As the subject moves, the AF detection is handed off from one detector to the next. The problem is that there is no clear indication as to what the camera is going to lock onto when you half-press the shutter button; the best description of the system is that it tends to pick up objects that are near the centre and close to you.

    A good real-life example is if you focus on signage; if you are facing square to the lettering on the sign, the AF-C sparkle-dots will focus on the text. However, if you are facing obliquely to the sign, the camera will actually try to lock on the edge of the sign instead of the letters, as that is the closest detailed structure that the AF system sees.

    Center Mode


    Center mode is the least exciting, as it places a single target box in the center of the frame for you to aim at the subject. This is not a good mode to use for quality photography. If you only use it as is, then that means that your subject is always dead center in the frame, which makes for boring and sometimes awkward composition. Ther is also the temptation to focus-and-recompose in center area mode. In AF-S mode this will lead to focus errors as the camera will lock focus at one distance, but the distance of the subject to the camera will shift slightly depending on how far the frame is re-composed.
     
    In AF-C mode with Lock-on, center mode becomes much more interesting as the camera will track the subject during re-composition, meaning that accurate focus is preserved. (As an aside, this is how the medium format Hasselblad H-series cameras work with their TrueFocus system. Hasselblad cameras only have one AF point, but you allow for accurately focused re-composition, they have an internal motion detector, similar to the ones used in cell phones. The end result is operationally the same as the A6000 with AF-C and Lock-On.)

    Flexible Spot




    Flexible Spot focus is the mode that most seasoned photographers will want to use. It works in the same way that basic AF-point selection works in a DSLR; there is a single point of focus and you manually position it across the image frame. When the camera is in flexible spot mode, the center button activates the AF position meter. The size of the spot can be changed from large to medium and small; for the most accurate results, it is best to use the smallest spot setting that can be consistently placed over your target. Spot focusing will not track an object side-to-side across the frame unless Lock-On is activated.

    On the A5100, touch-to-shoot is not available on either of the two available flexible spot modes. If you are in flexible-spot mode, touching the screen moves the focus indicator but will not fire the shutter. The lock-on activation indicator will be present in the upper right of the LCD display instead.

    Putting it all Together


    In setting up the camera, the thought process flow is as such:

    1. Choose which ambient conditions you are want or are willing to live with. 
    2. Identify if the subject is moving or not moving and choose the drive mode accordingly
    3. Match the area mode that is most appropriate to the drive mode.

    The third is the key to getting a usable setup.  As an example, it makes little sense to use Flexible Spot mode for precision if you are going to pair it with AF-A. The most important thing to remember is that even though there are many ways to setup the autofocus system, you will likely gravitate towards only one or two to suit your shooting needs. That's the key to understanding a system with a large degree of flexibility; first understand how various functions work, then decide which ones work best for you.




    With thanks to Broadway Camera

    77 comments:

    1. Superb guide, thank you. What would you advise for getting focus on the eyes in portraits? Face detect or flexible spot?

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      1. Spot. The problem with face detect is that it's automatic, and subject to what the programmer's think would work best as a general-purpose compromise. For the most part, it works quite well... the face is in focus, but the question then become: which part of the face is most in focus? If you've got time, it's always worth it to use spot focusing, especially if you are going to be shooting with a wide-open aperture and the depth of field is narrow.

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      2. The A6000 also has a very handy eye-focus feature, particularly useful for portraits. Works excellent once you get the hang of it http://bit.ly/1EKWDnK

        Best,

        Dan

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    2. Hi,
      My problem with the A6000 is that the autofocus does not work when I half press the shutter button. It only works when the centre button of the dial is pressed. How do I change this? Jim

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      1. I think you're "AF w/shutter" setting might be "off." (Second menu bank, 3rd tab, last option). Did you also remap focus to the centre button as well? (2nd menu bank, 6th tab, 2nd item for "Custom Key Settings")

        If all else fails, do a settings reset and the camera will default to AF on half-shutter press.

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    3. Finally a good and clear explanation about Focus Modes, Focus Area, Lock-On setting and the combination of them. Excellent
      Thanks

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    4. Thank you:-)) I have been using Canon DSLR foir couple of years and just bought Sony A6000. Since it arrived, I have been trying hard to transfer my DSLR AF skills with this one and have failed badly so far. On Canon, I use back AEL button for AF and shutter for exposure, in AI Focus mode, and frequent recomposing. Your article clarifies the concepts and will help me settle on a comparable set up on A6000. Perhaps: AF-C with Lock-ON, and fFexible Spot will work, I believe. Any comments ?
      Piyush

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    5. Thank you:-)) I have been using Canon DSLR foir couple of years and just bought Sony A6000. Since it arrived, I have been trying hard to transfer my DSLR AF skills with this one and have failed badly so far. On Canon, I use back AEL button for AF and shutter for exposure, in AI Focus mode, and frequent recomposing. Your article clarifies the concepts and will help me settle on a comparable set up on A6000. Perhaps: AF-C with Lock-ON, and fFexible Spot will work, I believe. Any comments ?
      Piyush

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      1. That's a good setup. In fact it's probably superior to using an older Canon, as the AF tracking doesn't go side-to-side in the way that Lock-On does with the Sony's. In other words, with the setup that you are using, you can use focus/re-compose without producing the focus-shift error that you would with an older DSLR. As mentioned in the article, be careful with Lock-On, though, as it does tend to "lock on" to the entire target, which might not be as precise as you may want it.

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    6. Thanks! Will check out this setting during my model photoshoot Saturday, and, may be, report back to you.

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    7. Thanks for a great article. It clarifies many things for me, but I can use some more help with focus/re-compose (i.e. assign AF-ON to AEL, and turn off focus on shutter).

      "In AF-C mode with Lock-on, center mode becomes much more interesting as the camera will track the subject during re-composition, meaning that accurate focus is preserved."

      With this setup, consider this situation. I press and release AF-ON on a face with center mode to lock focus, then recompose so that the face is off center to the left. With AF-C and Lock-on, prior to releasing the shutter, will the (locked?) focus track the face if it moves? Or do I need to keep pressing AF-ON to track the focus on the face?

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      1. Lock-on With Shutter (1st menu bank, 5th option) only works with the shutter button, and is only active if you maintain 1/2-press. Lock-On doesn't activate from the centre button in any of the modes, as far as i can tell.

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      2. So Lock-On won't work for focus/re-compose? I must have misunderstood your response to piyush.

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      3. Preface: I'm more familiar with the A6000. Lock can be used for focus-recompose if "Lock on with Shutter" is activated, but it only activates with the shutter-button as far as I know, If you use the back button, the camera will still focus, but the lock-on tracking features does not activate.

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      4. That's too bad. I was hoping that Lock-ON would work for the back button focus setup (AEL assigned AF-ON).

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    8. That's a great guide! Thank you!!
      However, I am still confused about what settings I should use for photographing my constantly moving kids, or maintaining focus while they are going up and down in a swing.
      Obviously, AF-C should be selected, as well as continuous shooting.
      1. Regarding the area mode, I am trying to decide whether to use 'center' mode or 'wide' mode or any other mode. I guess it will be more harder for me to use flexible spot or 'zone' in real time, as they constantly move.
      2. Also, will I get better result with the AF lock-on option turned on or off, for example for the case of photographing the kids in a swing?
      Your help will be much appreciated!! :-)

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      1. Lock-On is too slow for kids on a swing. Lock-On works by recognizing patterns and colours; this is different from the phase detection function which measures depth.

        1.) The key to AF area modes is that the more erractic the motion, the wider the area you should use. The camera will capture *something* in focus, but it might not be what you want. However, sometimes this is all you can do. (Hint: the secret to professional sports photography is to not publish your misses...). For the swing, Zone area should work... but the key is that it will work better if the motion of the swing is towards you, and probably less reliable if you are off to the side.

        2.) Lock on is not an action feature. It works with slow moving adults, but fast moving kids aren't going to be as successful

        Also, bear in mind that you need to watch your shutter speed; if its moving quickly you have to keep the speeds up for a crisp image.

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      2. Thank you very much for your quick and helpful reply!
        Just another clarification regarding the focus area -

        Assuming a moving kid, NOT in a swing,
        AF-C, lock-on turned OFF, high shutter speed and continuous shooting

        1) What would be your recommendation regarding the focus area mode?
        Would you recommend to choose 'wide' area and hope for good,
        or rather choose 'center' and aim the center to cover the kid's face or eye, hoping that the AF-C will be able to keep it in focus despite the movement?

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      3. It depends on how much lateral motion there is. The AF points only actually sense depth information (side to side is from the camera's brains), so the key is that if you can't keep the AF point steady over the subject (single), then go wider (zone); if it is really erratic, then wide as a last resort.

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      4. Just to make sure I got it right - you imply that using 'center' is useless if the object moves off the center during the time since I pressed the shutter till it's released - the camera will restrict its focus tracking to the center, is that correct? So, it sounds like it doesn't make any sense to choose the combination of AF-C and 'center', or is there a situation when it is useful?

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      5. Correct. Center point is really meant for people who want to focus/recompose. AF-C will only track depth information under the AF point. So yes, it isn't a useful combination.

        What's missing in the Sony is an AF point area expansion that you have with the DSLRs, that's the missing piece and is why the Sony system feels "incomplete" On a DSLR, you're default mode is like Spot Focus on the A6000... you can move the point around.. but you can also expand the size of the focus point as you move it around manually on the Canons and Nikons. This is much more preferable than relying on the A6000's zone and Wide systems... which automatically pick a point without user input.

        I've found that Zone and AF-C are adequate for tracking moviung subjects; the A6000 seems reasonably predictable about picking points of focus that are strong in contrast and near the center of the frame. It takes practice, but you get the hang of what the camera is trying to do.

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      6. Sorry, realized I should have been more clear about DSLR/vs the A6000. Of course you can change the spot focus size on the A6000, it's just that DSLR's can group multiple points together for a bigger effective spot.

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    9. Thank you so much for your help!!! Good luck! :-)

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    10. I recently bought the Sony a6000 (after shooting for years with a Nikon D7000 -- going lighter now). I've been reading a great deal about the a6000 on line and watching videos, and I want to say that your article here about Auto Focus on the a6000 is THE best thing I've read or seen on this subject. It is substantive, clear, and very, very helpful, particularly as to what Lock On AF is and when to use it.

      One question: what would you say are the best settings for birds in flight? AF-C for sure, but it sounds like like Lock On AF would be too slow. What do you think? Same question for which focus area mode to use. It sounds like Wide might be the only way to go; it's hard to see how I could keep a flexible focus box over a flying bird. Obviously, I will be experimenting with the settings, but I'd very much appreciate your thoughts. And thanks again for such a fine article.

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    11. Unfortunately, you'll be giving up the excellent 3D-tracking mode of the D7000 when you go to the Sony, or AF-C/9-point which is what a lot of birders seem to prefer. AS mentioned in one of the above comments, the A6000 is missing a "grouped AF-point mode" for precisely this sort of thing. I would go with Zone/AF-C, no lock on. Zone (and Wide) are actually predictable in that they seem to focus on the first big contrasty thing that is closest to the center; with AF-C turned on, the phase-detection takes over.

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    12. Thanks for a detailed write up, I have a question regarding the image quality of the Kit lens, Are you able to get a sharp image with 1650 kit lens at 10 feet? I am trying to get a sharp eye focus on a person who is at 10 feet away from the camera i.e a full shot. I am holding the camera in landscape mode. I tried several times but the eyes are not as sharp as I would like it to be, do you have a comment on this?

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      1. There are many, many reasons for why this might be. But to give you perspective, even with a professional DSLR, the only way to truly ensure that the eyes are in sharp focus is to use manual focus. For your camera, at 10 feet away, the size of the person's eye relative to the focus spot is small, so the camera is not just calculating focus off of the eye, but also a part fo the surrounding face.

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      2. Many thanks for your reply, I tried manual focus but the eyes never peak at 16mm focal length using this SELP1650 kit lens, I have a Sony a5100, my issue is only with a 16mm focal length as I want to take a full shot. The face is exposed with 1800 Lux of light (just calculated from the EV values, didn't use a light meter). I would like to know whether this is a handicap of this lens, as DXOmark has given the 1650 kit lens a very poor resolution score. I wanted to make sure whether it is my ignorance or the lens fault before spending more money on some other lens. I got a Yongnuo 50mm 1.8f with a EF to E mount adapter for $60 from Aliexpress. That is producing much sharper pictures but I am stuck with f1.8 on it as it doesn't have a manual aperture control.

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      3. In all honesty, the 16/50 isn't that sharp of a lens. It's "good enough" for snapsots, but it's not going to be as sharp as a prime lens like your 50mm.

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      4. Many thanks, do you have any opinion about the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f 2.0 which seem to have an e-mount or generally the quality of Samyang/Rokinon

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      5. A friend of mine has the Rokinon. Its cheap and fun; not as good as the best lenses, but not as expensive either. Totally usable, but you might want to sharpen up a bit in post.

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    13. I don't see my previous question published, so my apologies if this is a duplicated question.

      I tend to use flexible spot with AF-C without lock-on. Using these settings, if I move the focus point while simultaneously half-pressing the shutter once will there be a focus shift (assuming that I don't half-press the shutter again after moving the focus point)? In this scenario, does it matter if lock-on is enabled or disabled?

      Thanks.

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      1. The key to your question is "AF-C"... in this mode the camera will continuously try to lock focus no matgter where the focus spot is so long as the AF is engaged (in this case by the shutter half-press)

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    14. Excellent and very informative guide. Thank you.

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    15. You forgot to mention "AF Track Duration". I did not know what it was at the beginning and put it from normal to long and wondered why the camera focussed on everything but the subject. If you set this to "long" it will focus on the nearest subject, even if it is a single leaf/grass in the foreground. Setting it to "normal" gave better results. The Guide by Mark Galer, Sony Ambassador Australia, talks about this.

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    16. Hi, on my a6000 center wheel pressed down, I get Background Defocus option that goes from blurry to crisp when turning the wheel up or down. How do I save that so it stays at the same crisp position. Every time I check, it goes down to blurry... really annoying to adjust it every time.

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      1. Are you in the intelligent auto mode? If that is so, there is a reason why it is... to get the crisp background the cameras will clsoe down the aperture of the lens, but that means that it will have to raise ISO and impact the image quality noise-wise. Seems like the system defaults to open-aperture to keep the image noise low.

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      2. In what mode can I set that and keep the same as crisp ?

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    17. This has been covered in the comments-

      "What's missing in the Sony is an AF point area expansion that you have with the DSLRs".

      Coming from a Nikon D300 to Sony a6000 I am trying to find the best solution. Mostly shooting sports - track, soccer, football, basketball.. Of course all that do well with the AF point area expansion. My typical setting on Nikon- AF-C, with 9Point expansion using center focus. I would lock focus then fire away as subject moves.

      What is best way to implement on the a6000? I was thinking Large Spot, AF-C then just having to keep the spot on the subject. i know not ideal but afraid Zone will pick wrong subject therefore lose start of sequence.

      Please advise as I really want to use this camera and not go back to DSLR!

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      1. IMHO, the lack of point expansion is what's keepnig the Sony system from going from "good" to "great". I would say yes, Large Spot with AF-C comes closest.

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      2. Here is another quirk on the Spot Focus. With Nikon, you can look through he view finder as you are shooting and with the thumb pad adjust the focus point location. With the Sony you actually have to enter that mode and choose spot then move ever time....

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    18. Even if they removed some of the spots on "Zone" That would even suffice.

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    19. How does the focus work if you chose Center + Lock on? Would you be able to choose the subject and the lock on would follow within just the center frame??? I know it doesn't make since but not sure how this would work.

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      1. Lock-On will pick whatever the camera sees as being physically closest to you, within the center of the frame-ish. Then it will identify what that thing is attached to and try to follow it. I'm not a fan of it, as it's slow (it's using pattern/color recognition) and it tends to give unpredictable results with things that are oriented obliquely to you. Lock-on is great for focus-recomposing still subjects, though.

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      2. Any shortcuts for the thumb pad issue that doesn't allow you to move focus point on spot while shooting? Something other than having to enter that mode then move>shoot>enter mode move>shoot.

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      3. I think you can program (or is default) the center button so that when you hit it you automatically get to 4-way control of the focus point on spot.. but don't quote me on that at the moment.

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      4. Yes you can it is "Standard" in custom settings. I had changed it due to Gary Fong's advices on Center being Focus Lock... While not ideal this will be a big help, thanks!!! Hopefully version 2 will have point expansion although not sure why it couldn't be a firmware update???

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    20. Thank you,Your article is well written and clear.I am coming from Nikonville and this new myriad of settings is quite puzzling.Best Alan New Mexico TSA

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      1. It's like switching languages.... first it's about learning what word in another language replaces the word that you know in English, then you realize that it's about thinking in a different paradigm. The Nikon control scheme is about controlling "actions", whereas the Sony is a bit more like setting in motion "concepts".

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    21. Great article and fantastic guide for any A6000 owners (or potential owners). I found it very helpful for both new and seasoned photographers.

      I also living in the Greater Vancouver region. I was wondering if you can recommend some reliable local resources where I can obtain some basic photography knowledge and practical skills.

      Much appreciated.

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      1. Langara runs some pretty good photography courses. There are a number of photo groups around town that go on photo walks together as well, but they are spread out. Our local independents (Broadway, Kerrisdale, Lens and Shutter etc.) are staffed with some pretty knowledgeable people, so they are always a good resource to get connected.

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    22. I wanted to follow up on my previous post regarding comparing Nikon's 3D tracking to Sony's Lock on Focus. I have found a solution that has worked remarkably well so far. Instead of using Lock On with Center Button and Wide Area Focus, I set it to Lock On with Shutter and still using Spot Focus. I have noticed that it will track a bit outside of the actual focus area when moving and this allows you to control what the camera is locking on vs using wide area which is useless when many objects in frame. So far so good!!!

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      1. Interesting happening and I hope someone can answer. The above description I gave seems to not be working anymore???? With these setting Spot focus still chooses the focus area but with Lock On - on with shutter it now covers the whole screen after focus locked. Previously it would only stay within the focus square???

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    23. I have turned "AF w/shutter" off and moved the "AF on" function to the Center Button. This allows me to maintain "Eye AF" (assigned to the "AEL" button) when using an off camera remote shutter release. I am wondering if this will effect the "AF-C" functionality any now that the AF is no longer activated by the shutter? In other words, if I am in AF-C mode and trying to keep focus on a moving subject, will the camera keep continuous auto focus even if I have not activated it with the shutter button or in some other way?

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      1. You will have to hold down the center button, the button that you mapped focus to, that is, hold for as long as you need to focus rather than press-one as in AF-S mode.

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    24. Is it possible to link spot metering (exposure) with the focus spot?
      For example, if I use flexible focus spot and spot metering, is it possible to make sure that the metering will be based on the focus spot rather than the center spot? (on Sony A6000...)
      Your help will be much appreciated :-)

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      1. I'm not sure this is in the menu. One round about way to do it is use the AEL button set to exposure lock.

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      2. So, I understand that you are not using the spot metering, but rather the multi metering?

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      3. Well, locking the exposure value works whichever mode you are in, it doesn't have anything to do with the exposure mode per say. If you are in spot you can meter first, lock the exposure and then re-compose for focus is what I'm saying. (Apologies, I don't have access to a camera at the moment for a better answer.)

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    25. Hi, Thanks for the info. I've had focus and color problems with my a5100 from the beginning. I'm using it mainly for product photography, so it's causing me a lot of problems. I can't find any talk of color problems online. Have you experienced/heard of anything like that?

      As for focus, can you suggest a good set-up that will optimize my chances of keeping the whole item in focus?

      I hope you're still getting these comments.

      Thanks!

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      1. It's hard to know what colour problems you are having without knowing what your setup is (light sources, etc). As for focus, , this is a matter of aperture and depth of field. You need to use a smaller aperture for more depth of field, but if you are doing extreme closeup, investing in focus-stacking software may help.

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      2. Thanks for the quick reply. The camera is not accurately representing colors - especially reds, purples, and greens. I've tried multiple light sources and settings. It tends to make reds orange and will lighten a moderately dark green to almost lime. In other words, it is very noticeable.

        I understand photography basics. I have also tried multiple settings with the camera and it seems ridiculously hard to just get the camera to take a picture of a product where everything is in focus. I'm not doing anything fancy - and usually I'm not even doing any extreme close-up shots.

        Maybe I just got a lemon..?

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      3. We need a baseline here. Light source (speedlight, halogen, LED), lens used, object size and focal length will help sort this out. Colour settings (you'll have to use RAW and post to correct of course.)

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    26. Hi,
      Great article. I have had a go at focus tracking. I can't seem to get the small snow like focus squares at all, only the large box while tracking. I have set it up every way I can think of, what do you think I am doing wrong.
      Thank you in advance
      Steve.

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    27. Thanks in advance!
      In general for photograph runners... Which will be your a6000 set up?

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    28. Assuming some like a 10k or marathon, I think I would prefer AF-C, movable spot, large area. You need AF-C to keep the system tracking, but the automated Wide/Zone modes might not be specific enough if you are trying to catch a one runner out of many in a group.

      If you are looking to have one runner solo fill up the frame then zone/wide would probably work, especially with the side-to-side tracking in AF-C mode.

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    29. I'm having trouble with my a5100, whenever I try to take a macro picture or anything close up, the camera gives a crisp background and a blurry center. Even if I have touch focus on and an in macro mode, the item in the center is still extremely blurry even if I touch focus it to that area. Almost as if it is not focusing at all

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      1. Which lens are you using? Every lens has a minimum focus distance. If you are too close, the point that you are focusing on will be past the minimum, whereas the background which is further away will look sharp if it fall past the mini distance. If you are using the 16-50mm kit lens that comes with the A5100, the min distance is 25cm (measured from the point of focus to the circular hash mark on the top of the camera)... Or said another way, the closest you can bring the camera in and still have focus is roughly 10 inches in front of the lens.

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      2. Thank you so much! Yes I am using the kit lens, that makes me sad. I'll have to change between lens than or use my other camera for closer macros

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      3. Don't despair! You have options.

        The only macro right now is either the 30mm or the 90mm FE, which is insanely expensive. You can look at something like extension tubes or close-up lenses. Have a look at the Hoya 49mm Close-up kit, it should fit your kit lens. Basically it's a set of filters that lets you focus closer to your subject, and it's fairly affordable. However, for quality work, you will want a true macro, as you need a longer focal length to allow for proper illumination of your subject.

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    30. Kindly consider writing an article about the sony A6300....
      thanks

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      1. Unfortunately article writing is in a bit of an indefinite hiatus at the moment as you can see. I can tell you that it is very capable, A6000 on steroids is you will,the body is more rugged the focus is better and the video is better. For most causal shooters the A6000 is a better value and the end result in picture quality isn't that big of a difference. The focus on the A6300 is noticeably better, but its held back by Sony's control scheme. For twice the money you get maybe..30%?...extra benefit. That's true of all cameras so its a personal choice if you want to go up a step, but if you are doing video the 4K is an instant no-brainer.

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    31. Hi, A6000 when I rotate from horizontal to vertical position, pictures come out with the bars on the sides of the pic. Any way to avoid that via settings ? How to take vertical pictures with A6000 to get best results ?

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      1. Is this when you are previewing on the LCD? If I were to guess it is because the file aspect ratio is set to 16:9. You shouldn't see these when you download to the computer.

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