Using the Sony 200-600mm Lens for Bird Photography

It took Sony a long time to get around to adding actual wildlife photography lenses to their E mount system, but boy did they make it worth the wait.

In this video from The Camera Store TV, Dave Paul sets out inside a bird sanctuary armed with the Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens paired with the a9 II camera body. He offers some tips on how to set up the camera and use the lens in order to make waking up at the crack of dawn to photograph birds worth the trouble. Unlike smaller lenses that many will be familiar with, the 200-600mm offers a few more switches and buttons on the barrel that might be intimidating at first. With the camera set and the birds in position, Paul offers some more advice on wildlife photography in general.

It’s been one year since I purchased my own 200-600mm, and while it’s not the perfect lens, it is probably one of the best lenses available for wildlife when all factors are weighed in. Two months ago I published my long-term review which you can find here on Fstoppers.

What are your thoughts on this lens? Let us know in the comments below.

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17 Comments

Joel Hazel's picture

Overall, I really like this lens. I pair it with the A7RIV and with the resolution, plus reach ... it’s a pretty sweet little combo. My one knock, is birds in flight. I can’t seem to get consistent results and more often than not, my frames are slightly out of focus. Enough that I consider them unusable. Is it technique? AF settings? Bad copy of the lens? Something else? I dunno but this past weekend I had a bald eagle fly across in front of me at about 200-250ft and I kept him centered in Frame the entire time and didn’t get a single usable frame. Super frustrating.

Greg Silver's picture

Not sure what shutter speed you're using but you might have to bump that up. I shoot with at around 2000th of a second or sometimes higher with descent results. I also use AF wide, don't bother with eye AF and use back button AF.

Joel Hazel's picture

Yep. Check check and check. Still get fuzzy frames.

Bruce Hargrave's picture

Hey Joel - there are some 'known issues' about the A7Riv paired with the 200-600mm lens. Not everyone has these issues, but those who do discuss it at length on various Sony forums. (See https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1651505/0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEuQjatZFz4)

I own the A7Riv, the A9 and the 200-600mm. I rarely use the 200-600mm on the A7Riv, not because of the issues (I have yet to see them!), but because I am usually shooting at high ISOs (I'm in the UK) and a high megapixel camera is not ideal for this. (I bought the A7Riv for studio work, portraits and wildlife photography in sunnier climes!).

The A9 and the 200-600mm is my gear of choice for BIF (birds in flight).

Joel Hazel's picture

Washington here so fist bump to the worlds only two temperate rain forests and cloudy weather.. ; ) If I could justify to the wife for a third body, I’d jump on the A9II in a heartbeat. Hopefully Sony kicks out a firmware upgrade that’ll help resolve (or at least reduces) the issues with the RIV. I love the setup for the resolution and ability to crop, just BIF ... tears.

Fristen Lasten's picture

Didn't someone mention turning off IS in a different post? Ryan?

Joel Hazel's picture

Yeah, I just watched/read that and tried it over the weekend but I didn’t notice a dramatic improvement in my keeper rate.

Fristen Lasten's picture

The only other thing I heard of was heat shimmer. Would that be an issue for you?

Joel Hazel's picture

Possible on the Bald Eagle from this last weekend for sure. Others, I don’t think that would have factored in at all.

James Bennett's picture

For what it's worth, I rented this lens and used it on an a7iii. While the a7iii is no a9 or a9ii, I expected a lot more in focus images of BIF. A lot of very near misses just slightly out of focus at high shutter speeds. I did get some of my best images even of dragonflies though, and several BIF images I am happy with, but I was left thinking something was off with the lens. To be fair I'm new to BIF but even still, I've been shooting for years and my gut was telling me something wasn't quite right.

Joel Hazel's picture

Yeah. Hopefully it’s something that can be addressed via firmware. Then again, they might not to push more people towards the A9.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Try adjusting the AF Track Sens to 5 (Responsive). By default it's at 3 (Balanced).

Joel Hazel's picture

I’ll give it a try. Once all this nasty PNW smoke clears. Thanks! : )

Sridhar Chilimuri's picture

This is a indeed a very good lens for the price. Like others have commented it seem to perform better with A9. I am comparing it with A73R. It seems Dave setup the perfect combo of a9II and this lens. A well done video - short and informative. Virtue in brevity.

Steve Hunter's picture

I pair it with the A9, and get plenty of crisp BIFs. It can hunt at times, but mostly in tough conditions for any AF system, like today: distant swifts against a uniformly gray sky.

Overall it has way exceeded my expectations. Even with the 2x TC I've been getting sharp, contrasty images.

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

I started with the Sigma 150-600mm but when the the Sony 200-600 came out I bought after saving for it this July, My first test was the moon at 600mm, 900mm in aps-c then with the 2X teleconverter all hand held from my front yard. Remember the moon is like a lightbulb and bright so bird settings do not apply! But if you can hold steady and both camera IBIS and lens OSS can help! But selector to one and single shots using AF as a test and the surprise. All captures were keepers, after chimping the first only needing the one. But sharpness/clarity should be a GM and as far as tracking (my movements controlled) you can see the everything kinda slow and get still as you hold Back Focus for even moe control. As far as BIF think duck/goose/dove hunting or just go out and track some birds. He says first time wearing camo, ALWAYS wear it and digital the best and put a digital LensCoat on the white lens. Like four legged critters (deer/elk/moose [can not see colors just shapes]) alert to movement of dark or white and birds (do see color) do too, to get close be invisible. Also the difference of the other makers is that the Sony Teleconverters give proper lens, mm and shot information to metadata so your post programs can identify and give a LC and you know IF you used a TC. Also Sony will hold focus even if tracking and flies behind a tree with limbs out of focus. Also a quick adjust three legged sticks on hunting stores sites adjusts from 3 ft to 6+ ft with camera QR on top. For a FF moon 1800mm (600mm + 2X + aps-c), or just 600mm both super sharp with A7iii.

Stephen Parkin's picture

Love this lens BUT would it be ok paired with the Sony a7 first version ?