Sony Alpha A6000 – World’s fastest AF?
Even quicker than most professional DSLRs, the phenomenal autofocus speed of the α6000 camera is powered by Sony’s advanced Hybrid AF system. The new model features a focal plane phase-detection AF sensor with an extremely wide autofocus coverage area – 179 focal points– that is teamed with high-precision contrast-detection AF. This potent combination allows the camera to accurately track and respond to a subject moving through nearly the entire frame, and to shoot at an eye-popping speed of up to 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus. It’s an unprecedented combination of speed and frame coverage in today’s market.”
I have camera only 2 days, and I didn’t have much time for testing: I did however brief preliminary test of that magic AF and I am – disappointed?
Not really, I never believed that marketing crap anyway 🙂
(My, myself and AF.
I don’t use AF often. In fact I use it very rarely. I am not shooting BIF, neither I shot sport or other situations where fast automatic tracking of desired subject is of a benefit. But from time to time I do shot some tennis, or trying to shot some wildlife. For that purpose I am using recently Canon 1Diii with fast AF lenses.)
First problem with World’s fastest AF camera that you might find is AF settings.
Canon released some useful publications of how should you set AF system for different situations.
Sony gives you electronic manual for a6000 that says virtually nothing (or very little) about AF functions and their interaction.
(e.g. To set Sony a6000 to track your subject, you have three options (neither will ring the bells to someone looking for “subject tracking” by the names)
AF lock-on – off
AF lock-on – on
AF lock-on – on (start w/shutter)
Logic would tell that difference between last two is only in the pre-focus. At on, it should pre-focus on different targets, so when you press shutter speed you should save some time before focus lock.
But if you actually follow behavior of tracking in both modes, it is quite different. While at AF lock-on, you can see multiple little focus squares, that are trying to stick with your subject, in the start w/shutter mode, you can see something like flexible spot with variable size and shape (green square that change its size). Important trick is that in lock-on mode you have to point camera so that your subject (that you want to keep tracking) is in the middle of the frame and than press “enter” button (middle part of the cursor control) to lock the focus. A square will appear and will try to track your subject being green when shutter button is half pressed and focus is acquired. But behavior of two modes stays somewhat different anyway, because AF lock-on stays regular square and same size, while AF lock-on start w/shutter adapt ithe focus area during tracking.
Finally, here is the link with user manual with much more information – http://download.sony-europe.com/pub/manuals/consumer/ILCE6000_HG_EN.pdf#page60
There is simple solution for you – switch the camera in the “Scene” mode, select “Sport” and you are ready to go.
There are however few serious limitations too – in this mode you can’t choose AF area. Selected AF area is Wide – and you should first be sure to lock focus on your subject and than hope that it will hold on before you manage to press the shutter. Also ISO is locked on Auto and you can’t change exposure settings.
In this mode, camera seems to prefer aperture f/4, push the ISO quite high and as a result – acquire very fast shutter speeds. 1/2000s seems to be its sweet spot.
Here are few 100% crops of the images out of 35 in sport/scene mode. Max and Lilly are not in the very speedy mood, so camera should have been easily tracking them (tracking Max in fact as I locked focus on his face in the first shot)…
And here is another situation, when I asked them to run toward me:
You can look at original size files by clicking – here
As you can see, tracking was not really successful. Camera also set a very fast shutter speed (1/2000s) that wasn’t necessary for this action, but I wasn’t able to change it. As a result, ISO was also unnecessary high and Sony JPEG engine didn’t really help, so overall result is – disappointing.Positive is, that you can select RAW or RAW/Jpeg and see if you can get better noise reduction with external application.
If you feel competent and experienced, as action shooter, you would certainly work in one of creative modes, and set all parameters to best meet your needs.
This is what I tried in my second AF test.
I selected S-mode (shutter priority) and set 1/250s, which is not quite enough, but I wanted to let some flexibility to increase DOF as much as possible with the anyway very slow lens SEL 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS.
I set Auto ISO, because in this mode, camera tends to keep ISO lower if possible.
As focus area, I decided to try flexible spot – large size, to try to keep Max face in frame. I was not looking for the critical eye focus, not with this lens and at this shutter speed anyway, so focus somewhere on the head would be ok. (There is large DOF remember?)
AF drive was set to C-AF, face detection to off, to let high speed drive to work on its best – 11f/s.
As I was testing AF and didn’t expect any real keepers, for once I selected only JPEG fine and – large 24M size.
I put the camera on tripod and asked Max to run toward it. That is one of the most challenging situation for the AF, and one that I was most curious to see results.
You can look at original size files by clicking here.
The high speed drive mode at 11 f/S is really impressive. I didn’t count how many frames that were in reality (it depends on the settings), but you can see that it was really fast and long burst before buffer was full. Click here:http://youtu.be/KJzmqIUlsT0
As you can see, camera was able to track Max for the first couple of frame, and than AF was lost and couldn’t hang with him. Camera tried hard, but didn’t succeed, being always somewhere close (not completely lost), but not quite there. As I said, 1/250s was not quite enough to freeze Max, but that shouldn’t affect AF – which you can see in most shots as being back or front focused (beside the motion blur).
Max is very fast. On top of that he doesn’t have contrast colors on him – no red or pink or what we used to see in promotional videos. It wasn’t easy situation for camera, but it was far better from many situations that potential buyer will face – theatrical performance, soccer players with unpredictable moving, kids running in the living room etc. There was plenty of light in the right direction.
I tried same AF settings with different focus area settings – wide focus and zone focus, but there were even less keepers. Wide area was complete disaster, while zone focus worked only when Max was close to camera. I even tried combination of zone focus and face detection without encouraging results.
Finally, there is another big question related to the camera with fastest focus in the world – what lens to put on it?
Maybe FE 70-200/4 and FE 24-70 f4, will focus faster than FE 55/1.8 and SEL 55/210 f/4.5-6.3, but both are rather slow lenses for sport and action, where even f/2.8 is sometimes on the edge. OSS in those situation, when fast shutter speed is needed won’t help.
So when Sony claims – A6000 can focus at 0.06s, let me ask – on what, with which lens, and at which FL?
I don’t want to blame this camera for AF yet, because it is still possible that I did something terribly wrong. I just wanted to send a fast message to those who are considering this camera because the world fastest AF – if you can, wait for more professional reviews, or try it for yourself. It won’t work magic out of the box, and you will need to spend quite some time trying to figure out, how to set it to get best results.
Update is posted – here.
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