EYE FOCUS SONY A1
NATURE WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
I would be lying if I said that Eye Tracking on the A1 surprised me.
I expected it to work well and had confidence in its practical use.
However, the truth is that it is not always 100% accurate, and if the lighting conditions do not allow the animal to have sufficient contrast in its eyes, there is a possibility that the camera may not detect it or may not focus precisely. Sometimes it appears in the viewfinder that the camera is holding onto the eyes, yet the resulting sharpness may be around 80-90%. This is not something terrifying that cannot be adjusted in post-production, but it is good to be aware that this system is not foolproof.
When focusing on movement, such as the flight of a bird or the running of a mammal, I have found it useful to turn off Eye Tracking completely and use dynamic tracking on a point or series of points. This works great, and the AF follows the subject throughout the time you are watching it through the viewfinder. It seems to me that the A1 has difficulty with eye tracking in fast-moving situations, and the subject is occasionally lost. Perhaps the camera is too focused on the eyes, and I have not found a setting where I can give less priority to eye focusing.
I have the ability to change the AF point on my camera with my thumb without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder or remove my finger from the shutter button.
Perhaps I might complain that the Sony A1 Eye Tracking feature doesn't have the same capabilities as the Nikon Z9. Nikon automatically distinguishes between bird and animal eyes, without requiring the photographer to switch anything during the shoot. Sony separates this into subcategories of bird/animal/human. It's a shame, but perhaps Sony knew that certain functions are better left to the photographer?... Or maybe they just weren't able to implement it as well as Nikon did, so they decided to abandon this option. I don't know how well it works with Nikon, but since I haven't heard any complaints about this system, I assume it works reliably for them.
I can even set preset shooting modes that I can quickly switch with just one finger. This way, I can easily switch between shooting a static object or a moving subject. I don't have to change any settings, but just by pressing one button, my camera is ready to capture the unexpected situation. You can learn more about this great feature in this video.
But now, I should return to the topic that this article is supposed to be about.
Eye Tracking sometimes has problems recognizing the eye in low-contrast situations and with more complicated scenes. Mostly when the subject is not sufficiently isolated, it can cause problems. A bird in a dense bush or tree, an animal in tall vegetation, etc. It depends mainly on how distinctive the eye is compared to the scene in the focus field. Sharp small reflections in the grass, on small twigs, etc. can confuse the system, and sometimes Eye Tracking struggles to find where to focus. I assume that the system mainly recognizes the small reflection in the eye, and secondarily the shape of the eye. It is guided by this, and anything similar in the scene can confuse it.
However, it is always possible to choose a smaller focus area and help the A1 find the eye. If I can isolate the subject in this way, the A1 usually has no problem finding the eye. Although not everything is automatic anymore. You have to set/adjust the area where the A1 will focus, but it is still a great helper that has helped me many times. I often shoot in challenging conditions, whether it is my position during the shoot or the environment in which I am trying to capture the animal. I prefer a low angle of view and often try to capture the animal through vegetation and other obstacles.