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This has been a strange one to organise because anyone who knows me knows that I NEVER shoot on a wide area mode with animal eye-AF to photograph dogs in woodlands. However, I shoot Sony which means that I can use a smaller area mode (like spot focus) and still have eye-AF pick up the last little bit. That’s not the case for Canon or Nikon shooters who have to decide between wide area + animal eye-AF OR spot focus with no animal eye-af. So what does that mean for dog photographers?

To test the situation, I took Alfie out in god-awful photography weather (midday full sun) to see how the Sony A9ii would do on wide area mode with animal eye-af.

Of course, I wasn’t going to make it easy. I did shots in places like I normally would, using my three compositional layers most of the time – foreground, midground and background. Here’s what happened:

https://youtu.be/BEXc4Yl3xEo

Sure, the animal eye-AF will work perfectly in studio or in wide open areas without anything near/in front of the subject, but in my normal locations, it’s an absolute no-go. I’d miss WAY too many shots! For reference, this is my kind of work, with foreground plants and stuff to shoot through/around:

I’ve trialled the Canon R5 for a week and I found that it tried harder than the sony to grab an eye, usually looking through the undergrowth with a bit of encouragement to find the subject, however, I still found it hit and miss.

I also had the pleasure of test driving a Nikon mirrorless in the same location that this video was shot. For all of the images, spot focus was the only option as the Nikon couldn’t look past the bushes in the scene closer to the camera to find the eye.

Was this test scientific? No! Does it give me enough information to know that I made the right call choosing a Sony mirrorless to pair animal eye-AF with a smaller area mode, essentially telling the camera to look for an eye in this small section of the scene instead? Hell yes.

I’d love to know the experiences of anyone shooting with cameras that have eye-af to see if they’ve had similar results in this kind of a location, please drop a comment below!