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A7RIV, 100-400 GM and the 26MP APS-C Crop Mode with The Blue Angels

SpecFoto

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Have had the 100-400GM f4.5-5.6 for about a year and a half and it is excellent. At first I used with my A7III, but upgraded to the A7RIII 6 months ago the and lens preformed beautifully with 42MP. Just a week ago I upgraded the A7RIII to the A7RIV and took the lens and new body out to shoot the Blue Angles last Saturday. The lens AF was great and very sharp, just as before. I used the APS-C crop mode in-camera on about 75% of the shots and it was very helpful, giving me the added reach I needed without the bulk of a bigger 200-600mm lens. While I have the 1.4x TC I did not feel the need to use it, as you lose a stop and the sharpness can suffer slightly with the TC. The in-body cropping ability without a stop loss was the reason I wanted the upgrade to the A7RIV, and after this event I am so happy I did.

But what really blew me away was how reliable the tracking is on the A7RIV. First time in using the RT tracking, I took about 2,000 photos, all with zone tracking, and less that 25 photos are out of focus where the jets were very close to me at full speed on 2 series of shots, where even 1/8000 of a sec produced motion blur. I have the AF-C set to Balanced Priority, #2 for AF Tracking Sensitivity, Lens IS was on to #2 Panning.

The 4 photos below are using the APS-C crop mode where I end up with a 26MP file. The first 2 are at 400mm x 1.5 or 600mm and they were really moving on these, close to 300MPH. I could not be happier with this lens, the new body and the results. The only negative to using the crop mode I have found is that there is added noise, especially in the shadows as 2 of these photos are. However Topaz DeNoise cleaned up the files beautifully. Other than DeNoise and the APS-C crop these are full size and processed in LR with the standard Jpeg export treatment and some shadow recovery on the 2 photos of the jets underbellies. BTW, these are the new 2020 F/A-18 Super Hornets and this show is their public debut.



.
_7R42117.jpg
ILCE-7RM4    FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS    400mm    f/5.6    1/8000s    ISO 1600



_7R41886.jpg
ILCE-7RM4    FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS    400mm    f/5.6    1/8000s    ISO 500



_7R41684.jpg
ILCE-7RM4    FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS    282mm    f/5.6    1/8000s    ISO 1000


Even though this landing jet is about 1,500 feet away, with the crop mode you are able to read the very small lettering with the pilots name on the jet, Cdr. Ben Walborn. (in full size file at 6,240 x 4160) The 100-400GM is a very sharp lens!
_7R42529-Edit.jpg
ILCE-7RM4    FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS    400mm    f/5.6    1/8000s    ISO 500
 
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SpecFoto

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Hmmm...I've got the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3. I wonder if could get in this ballpark with the A7rIV.
You would be giving up 150mm of reach at the long end (450 vs. 600mm), but I shot with a 300mm f4 lens in DX mode at 450mm on my Nikon D500 for quite a while and was happy with it at air shows. But do I like 600mm better, heck yes. :whistling:

The question in my mind is how will the AF on the Tamron work with the A7RIV and with the tracking? Some 3rd party lenses are not up to speed and my only experience with Tamron is with the 17-28mm f2.8. I was happy with its AF on my A7RIII but haven't put it to test yet on the A7RIV.
 
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SpecFoto

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GREAT shots!
Where was this air show?
This is at El Centro NAS, the winter training grounds for the Blue Angels. They are there from Jan to March each year to train 5 days a week for upcoming venues, as they can fly the area pretty safely without a lot of traffic interference. Saturday was the last day and the local air show, Sunday they flew back to Pensacola, FL to begin their air show season.

It isn't a big show, kind of a locals only event, just the Blue Angels with their new Super Hornets, a A10 Warthog and a older F/A-18 in standard grey. The winds were really high on Saturday, about 35MPH plus, and unfortunately the paratrooper drop from Fat Albert, the Blue Angels brightly painted C130 supply plane, got cancelled. I really wanted photos of that plane, but I will have to wait until next January.
 
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Richard Crowe

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I have traveled to El Centro twice (different years) to shoot the Blue Angels practicing. There was a farmers big pile of hay bales at the end of the runway and some folks climbed the bales for a better view. Since I am an old man, I shot from next to the hay bales. The planes took off right over our heads. Shot one year with a Canon 7D and 300mm f/4L lens (believe it or not - it was too long for some shots) and the next year, I shot using a Canon 7D2 with a 100-400mm Mark-ii lens...
Here are my images from those two years shooting...
https://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Airplanes/Blue-Angels/n-4kgqg9/i-L9FNTrb
I have shot at the Marine Corps Air Station, MCAS Miramar in San Diego several times and the planes (for safety reasons) were too far from the crowd to get really good images. Additionally, the direction of the light was not all that great...
https://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Airplanes/MIRAMAR-AIRSHOW-2007/i-2zjDnvJ
 
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SpecFoto

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I have traveled to El Centro twice (different years) to shoot the Blue Angels practicing. There was a farmers big pile of hay bales at the end of the runway and some folks climbed the bales for a better view. Since I am an old man, I shot from next to the hay bales. The planes took off right over our heads. Shot one year with a Canon 7D and 300mm f/4L lens (believe it or not - it was too long for some shots) and the next year, I shot using a Canon 7D2 with a 100-400mm Mark-ii lens...
Here are my images from those two years shooting...
https://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Airplanes/Blue-Angels/n-4kgqg9/i-L9FNTrb
I have shot at the Marine Corps Air Station, MCAS Miramar in San Diego several times and the planes (for safety reasons) were too far from the crowd to get really good images. Additionally, the direction of the light was not all that great...
https://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Airplanes/MIRAMAR-AIRSHOW-2007/i-2zjDnvJ

Yes, I prefer the normal practice days when the Blue Angels are in El Centro, as there are no restrictions placed on photographers outside the NAS. But this past Saturday was called a "air show" and for that reason they had all kinds of (unecessary) restrictions in place. We had to be 1,500 feet from the flight line where normally you can be right up against the fence line 100 feet away. When I got there the winds were 35MPH from the dead West so I thought they would be using the E-W runway, which the A-10 did. But when the Blue Angeles took off after the A-10, they used the NW to SE diagonal runway and I was then north of many of their flight lines and meant some photos were in the shadows. Near the end I moved to the SW and got better full sun results, but still, the A7RIV in the shadows did a good job, though there was noise in #2 & 3 photos in the OP. But thanks to Topaz DeNoise, the shadow photos with the noise turned out just great.
 
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Richard Crowe

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One of my favorite airshow venues was Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland in the late 1970's. This was a small air station and the exacting safety precautions had not yet been implemented. As a result, the viewer could get closer to the flight line than is possible at the air shows of the modern era. Unfortunately, none of my images from that era survive...
A very-very interesting air show takes place annually at the Chino Airport, California presented by the Planes of Fame Museum. If you have interest in legacy aircraft (especially from the World War Two Era) this is the place to visit.
https://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Airplanes/Planes-of-Fame/i-54Z8jZ3/A
The Canon 7D2 with the 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS ii lens is a perfect combination for this venue and I shot all of the above images with that combination...
The 2021 Fall Airshow will take place at the Chino, California Airport on Saturday and Sunday, October 30th and 31st... Hopefully, COVID-19 will allow this! Since I have totally transitioned to mirrorless gear, I plan to shoot the airshow with my Sony A6600 and the 70-350mm OSS lens and to possibly rent a Sony 200-600mm lens for my Sony A7iii. The very top seats of the viewing stand are great for shooting these wonderful old airplanes...
 
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davect01

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Wonderful shots. ☺️

Some people actually prefer APS-C Cameras for shots like these as you immediately get 1.5x (on the Sony) closer.
 

Richard Crowe

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Yes... IMO. the APSC format is great for "extending" the equivalent focal length of any lens. The 100-400mm on a 1.6x Canon body results in an equivalent "long side" of 640mm while the 70-350mm on a crop sensor Sony body equals a 525mm equivalent focal length.
I would expect that the 200-600mm les on a crop body would be awesome at an equivalent 900mm... I wonder about hand holding this lens.
I suppose that there would actually be no problem hand holding it when shooting Jet aircraft because you could crank up the shutter speed to as high as the light, f/stop of the lens and ISO will allow. I would expect that shooting at 1/4000 second would nullify any camera shake. However, shooting prop aircraft would be more difficult at an equivalent 900mm because of the slow shutter speeds necessary to record the prop as a blur rather than frozen.
Before I used that lens on either my A7iii or A6600 for anything important, I would test it out...
 

SpecFoto

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Wonderful shots. ☺️

Some people actually prefer APS-C Cameras for shots like these as you immediately get 1.5x (on the Sony) closer.

And some don't :whistling:

I looked at the Sony A6xxx lineup and the new A7C, even tried my friends A6400 for a day. Way too small with my 100-400 GM (or a 200-600G) without a grip and the lack of a bright viewfinder made it uncomfortable for me, you are just making it hard on yourself. While the body has a rear control dial I missed the front control dial for quickly adjusting both ss/or aperture, and I missed the joystick so I could quickly make AF point changes, that goes against 20 years of shooting with these controls. With me living in a desert area with bright sun, the lack of 1/8000 ss is also a deal breaker. Plus I will NEVER have a camera again without 2 cards slots, lost some very important photos this way once, never again. I can see why people want these smaller bodies with smaller slow zooms for travel setups, but no way for what I shoot. Every photographer has different needs and for me to even consider the Sony APS-C bodies, they need to add the buttons/dials, functions and performance that make it easy for me to shoot. YMMV :)

Had both the A7III and A7RIII and got to say the new A7RIV is the BEST Sony body I have used with regards to ergonomics and layout. Even with my 100-400 GM I do not feel the need for any added grip. The larger EVF at 5.76 Million dots is just great. The rear dial is moved up on a shelf, making it much easier to use, and along with the front dial I am all set shooting in manual or aperture priority where I need to use both dials for A and SS. The exposure control dial now has a lock, which was an issue for me. The AF On button is raised and I no longer confuse the Movie button for it, and the joystick is much easier to quickly move around than previous. I use back button focus (AF-On) and these last 2 are huge in my opinion. They even managed to squeeze and extra 6-8mm of space between the grip and lens mount, so now is is a lot easier to hit the lens release button for someone with larger hands like me. Overall a lot of little refinements vs. my 2 previous Sony bodies, and I am really happy with the A7RIV, even though I have had it for less than 2 weeks, it IS the body I was hoping for when I first bought into Sony 2-1/2 years ago.
 
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davect01

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And some don't :whistling:

I looked at the Sony A6xxx lineup and the new A7C, even tried my friends A6400 for a day. Way too small with my 100-400 GM (or a 200-600G) without a grip and the lack of a bright viewfinder made it uncomfortable for me, you are just making it hard on yourself. While the body has a rear control dial I missed the front control dial for quickly adjusting both ss/or aperture, and I missed the joystick so I could quickly make AF point changes, that goes against 20 years of shooting with these controls. With me living in a desert area with bright sun, the lack of 1/8000 ss is also a deal breaker. Plus I will NEVER have a camera again without 2 cards slots, lost some very important photos this way once, never again. I can see why people want these smaller bodies with smaller slow zooms for travel setups, but no way for what I shoot. Every photographer has different needs and for me to even consider the Sony APS-C bodies, they need to add the buttons/dials, functions and performance that make it easy for me to shoot. YMMV :)

Had both the A7III and A7RIII and got to say the new A7RIV is the BEST Sony body I have used with regards to ergonomics and layout. Even with my 100-400 GM I do not feel the need for any added grip. The larger EVF at 5.76 Million dots is just great. The rear dial is moved up on a shelf, making it much easier to use, and along with the front dial I am all set shooting in manual or aperture priority where I need to use both dials for A and SS. The exposure control dial now has a lock, which was an issue for me. The AF On button is raised and I no longer confuse the Movie button for it, and the joystick is much easier to quickly move around than previous. I use back button focus (AF-On) and these last 2 are huge in my opinion. They even managed to squeeze and extra 6-8mm of space between the grip and lens mount, so now is is a lot easier to hit the lens release button for someone with larger hands like me. Overall a lot of little refinements vs. my 2 previous Sony bodies, and I am really happy with the A7RIV, even though I have had it for less than 2 weeks, it IS the body I was hoping for when I first bought into Sony 2-1/2 years ago.
I actually prefer the smaller, cleaner A6xx line too the busy and a bit to big A7's.

As to shooting birds or planes or the like I would have at least a monopod which makes any weight imbalance a mute point
 

SpecFoto

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As to shooting birds or planes or the like I would have at least a monopod which makes any weight imbalance a mute point
Sorry, it is not a mute point, as for what I was shooting, very fast moving jets in sweeping arch that may also change in elevation, a tripod or even a monopod will restrict your movement and just not work. You need a balanced setup that you can comfortably hold and pan very quickly. I was with 2 aviation buff pro photographer's at his show, one a retired Lockheed Aviation company photographer and the other a former Navy pilot and photographer, who later became a Pratt & Whitney company photographer, and neither of them used a monopod either just for this reason. Sure at other times, but not here.
 
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Richard Crowe

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I am a retired Navy Master Chief Photographer's Mate with 32+ years service.

I have shot flying aircraft both hand held (usually stills) and using a tripod (mostly 16mm motion pictures). I am proficient in the use of a monopod but, I don't like using a monopod for shooting flying aircraft (or BIF for that matter).

However, when I shot aircraft or anything high in the sky with the camera tripod mounted, I preferred using a fluid head combined with a wedge mount. The wedge was positioned between the tripod head and the camera so that when the camera was pointed parallel to the surface (be that ocean or land) the tripod head was pointed down and when the tripod head was parallel to the surface, the camera was pointed up.

The size of the wedge and the angle of the wedge triangle was determined by the subject that I was shooting and the size of the camera or cameras I was using.

I was once on a project to shoot four Polaris missiles fired from a submerged nuclear sub. There were five of us photographers aboard a U.S. Navy surface ship. We each had two 16mm high speed Mitchell motion picture cameras with 400-foot magazines as well as a high speed 70mm Hulcher camera mounted to custom fabricated wedges the cameras and the wedge weighed at least a hundred pounds total. We used heavy duty 35mm Mitchell tripods and heavy duty fluid pan heads. The tripods were secured to the deck of the ship with heavy duty aircraft tie down chains and each tripod leg had a spot welded stop to prevent it from moving.

We photographed these missiles from moment that they broached the surface of the ocean until they were lost in the sky, If it wasn't for the wedges - it would have been very difficult to follow the missiles up into the sky...

Smaller wedges are sometimes available commercially... https://www.amazon.com/Multi-Angle-Levelling-P-MWP-Adjustable-Leveling/dp/B01H73LBU0 but, it would be exceptionally easy to fabricate a wedge from aluminum stock...

BTW: I still remember the trill I got from seeing these sleek missiles erupt from the surface of the ocean - one after another...
 

Thad E Ginathom

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I am a retired Navy Master Chief Photographer's Mate with 32+ years service.
... ... ...

BTW: I still remember the trill I got from seeing these sleek missiles erupt from the surface of the ocean - one after another...

Wow. Priceless experience, of which this post is a glimpse. Thank you. I love the bit about welding being involved in stopping tripods moving. You must have done stuff many of us don't even know about.

I hope you will write more about your career.
 

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