200-600 with A7r4 is made for birders.
November 22, 2019
I bought an A7r4 and this lens a month ago, waited until yesterday for the lens, as it is quite popular. and there is a waiting list. This is my first Sony full frame, and I have spent the interval learning the system and setting the camera up. (I also got a Zeiss Batis 18mm, amazing lens)
I would not classify this kit as lightweight, but it is substantially lighter than anything else similar capability.
Image quality is simply awesome, in FF or crop mode. I suspect most birders will use the crop mode more than the FF mode, particularly for small and/or distant birds.The lens becomes a 300-900 in APS-C mode (Called super 35mm here). First order of business is to assign this to a custom button.
Cropability of the images is also eye-popping. Resolution is reach, and this oozes resolution.
Image stabilization is amazing, I can't hold this rig all that steady, and yet it is tack sharp at relatively low shutter speeds. I haven't started playing with the three modes on the lens yet.
So far I am using silent shooting for everything but BIF. Works great, but there is a risk of shutter roll with the tracking focus, hence regular shuttering for BIF. I am using hi-speed shooting mode (10fps, but am thinking about slowing it down except for BIF.)
Auto Focus is also highly capable. As a start, I am using DMF with center mode for perched birds, or birds in clutter (often the same). Also have a set up with C-AF and Expand Flex spot. For BIF I am using C-AF with wide focus area, so far in limited action grabs right onto the bird Rear focus button is your friend; use it, and disable the shutter release focus. I also have an Olympus ee-1 red-dot sight for BIF, where has this been all my life?? Makes tracking BIF so much easier. (Note to Sony, build something like this into the view screen, make it assignable to a custom button, or just make it standard above 200-300 mm or so.)
As for the infamous menu system, it is really a reflection of the extremely customizable nature of the camera. You aren't really going to use most of it, but you need to know what it all does. It is fairly easy to assign the settings you actually need in the field to the custom buttons, dials, fn menu and the "my menu" slot in the top menu row. I also recommend backing settings up to both the in-camera card(s) and to another (old) card that you carry in your bag. And copy them to your computer as well. And as you set the camera up, keep a chart on what you did, and keep that on your phone. (Note to Sony: you should have an option in the camera to offload something like this as a PDF)
(Additional note to Sony: you should provide an option to make ANY setting a favorite from the setting itself. The process of going to the "my menu" section and using an add function is not only cumbersome, but impeded by the fact that the add function uses a different numbering system than the actual menu tree).
Couple of random notes about the lens: The tripod foot is not Arca-compatible, you might want to get a third-party one. Look for one that will allow it to mount to the tripod without removing any carrying strap attachment. (Note to Sony: ????!!?). I got a set of camo lens-coats, the lens is pretty white to point at birds. Also, you should buy some lens caps with built in leashes. You can attach the leash to the tag on the lens coat section that covers the hood, using a couple of small cable ties. (be sure that said tag points toward the ground with when locked into place). The leash will reach the lens with the hood in either position, and keeps the cap always at hand.
Couple of random notes about the camera.
The FF files are very large, a reason to use the crop mode if you are going to crop the photos at least the much anyway.
I am recording compressed RAW plus JPEG, given the size of the RAW files, having the JPEGS speeds up workflow considerably. Best advice seems to be that unimpressed RAW is only better for night shooting and astrophotography. Setting can be put into one of the easy to reach places if you want to switch it, for birding it seems superfluous.
High capacity UHS-2 cards are NOT an option, unless you like watching your buffer write.
The ergonomics of the camera are really excellent (I am average size, wear a mens large glove). It feels great in the hand, and the buttons are well-placed and easy to ID by touch.
So, basically happy with it so far, will post some more when I have used it awhile.... Read More