Shooting Running with Eye AF on the Sony A7RIII

One of the best features on the Sony A7RIII is the Eye AF, an autofocus mode that prioritizes the human eye. The camera’s focus tracks the subject’s eye, keeping the most important thing in the image sharp. I’d had my new camera for over two weeks and hadn’t figured out (or looked up) how to turn this feature on. I had flipped through the menu countless times and hadn’t seen it as an option. I thought that the reason it wasn’t working was I was using Canon lenses with the Sigma adapter, which was doing an alright job at auto focusing, but would regularly miss the eye as the focal point. I bought the Sony 85mm 1.8 to see if it would work with a native Sony lens, but still, no Eye AF. To Google I went. Sony had, for some reason, buried this amazing feature in the custom buttons menu – you have to assign it to one of the many customizable buttons.

Once I figured this out, I wanted to try it out. I got Israeli runner, Maor Tiyouri, to come out to a nearby trail to run, stop, go back, and run the same 100 feet for an hour. I tried out the Sony 85mm f/1.8 as well as the Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. I was blown away! The Eye AF tracked her movement, getting me far better results than what I’d had with the normal autofocus.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4, f/2.8, 1/800th & ISO 400

Sigma 35mm f/1.4, f/2.8, 1/800th & ISO 400

I would run alongside her, holding the camera out, bumping along, and even with all that movement the camera would recognize Maor’s eye and lock on. Shooting portraits were a breeze, I didn’t have to move the focal point to probably be about on her eye. The little green square danced around her eyes, chiming that it was focused the entire time. While running, of course, it missed some – I’m not mad, I just impressed with what it did get in focus.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4, f/2.8, 1/800th & ISO 400

Sigma 35mm f/1.4, f/2.8, 1/800th & ISO 400

Sigma 35mm f/1.4, f/2thoroughly & ISO 400

The sun dropped behind the mountains far earlier than I was expecting, cutting our photoshoot short. I was thouroughly happy with my new camera, but I wanted to test one lens that had performed pretty terribly on my first shoot, the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8. This lens refuses to focus in the least bit on my Sony A6300 with either the Metabones or Sigma adapters. My initial test with A7RIII and the Sigma adapter was less than inspiring, searching more than finding focus. I threw the big Canon lens on the small Sony body not expecting much better performance, but it found focus! The green square told me Maor’s eye was sharp. When she was standing for a portrait, only making small movements, it never searched once. I tried to test it with Continuous Focus, where it should track movement of the subject in any direction, with her running at me. With her a good distance away, at 200mm I could see her head to toe with a bit of room on each end, it tracked her for the first couple steps, then lost it completely as she drew closer. It’s not ideal, but it’s definitely more usable that I previously thought.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 125mm, f/2.8, 1/640th & ISO 400

Testing Out the Sony A7RIII

It almost never happens: You need a new camera and a new camera is announced that you’ve been waiting for. I had already purchased a Canon 5DMkIV, it was in the mail when I left for NYC Fotoworks – a networking event. Sony announced that A7RIII while I was at the event and found out they were previewing it the next day at Photo Plus Expo, which was taking place a few blocks away. I had my Sony A6300 with Sigma adapter for Canon Lenses, so I was able to test the autofocus with my 85mm f/1.8 on the A7rIII. I was initially very impressed, so I put in my pre-order 5 hours after they opened it for orders.

I finally received my camera November 28th. I was a bit busy and didn’t have a chance to really take it for a test drive until December 7th. Model and actress, Chelsea Bell, agreed to wonder around Denver with me on a cold day to put the new camera and autofocus to the test, especially using only my Canon lenses with the Sigma MC-11 adapter.

We met at a Home Depot, which is not really known for amazing lighting. I wanted to test the dynamic range, which is said to be 15 stops – the amount of data between absolute white and absolute black. The more the better (My Canon 5DMKIII is around 11 stops)!

My Canon lenses were not able to take full advantage of the A7RIII amazing autofocus system. It’s good, just not great. Overall, I give the experience a B+. Afterwards, I bought the Sony 85mm F/1.8 to see the difference. I will update with that later.

We moved outside, to the RiNo district in Denver.

The art on the buildings in RiNo is awesome!

I’ve done a couple more tests with camera and will be updating shortly. I’m excited for it’s potential, but mixing Canon lenses with it is a bit limiting. I’ll see if I fully move over to the Sony system. Oh, one HUGE improvement is the battery life. They upgraded to a battery that can compete with Canon.