Sony A7 III - Sigma 150-600 C - MC-11 Review (Part II)

If you haven't already done so, please check out Part I of this series as it will help you understand this blog entry better.

Gear Used for Testing

For the second series of tests, I decided to head to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.  Here, I was better able to test the Sony against mammals and shoot some water features.  Since, I live close to the Smokies, I can make it to the location on a day trip.

After about a 3.5 hour drive, I was on location at Cataloochee, NC.  This is an area of the Smokies I often go to, to photograph Rocky Mountain Elk.  On this day, however, there were no elk to be found.   Not only were there no elk to be found, but no turkeys either.  Both, are usually common here.  After some head scratching moments, I found myself photographing Cataloochee Creek. That is the great thing about the smokies. There are always opportunities and sometimes you just have to switch to Plan B when you are at a location.

As the testing continued, I noticed I was becoming fairly familiar with the Sony, so finding the right settings was not difficult at all.  I have to say though, I missed having the top LCD that I have gotten so used to using on the Canon DSLR cameras.  It is nice to just glance down on it and make quick changes.  However, you can pop out the back viewfinder on the Sony and kind of accomplish the same task by using the various display options.

I put my Sony A7 III on my tripod, changed to uncompressed RAW and made several images from 20 to 30 seconds of the water.  Some images were made using a polarizing filter and some were not.  For a lens, I chose the Canon EF 24mm f2.8 set at f22. My ISO was set to 100.  Really there was too much diffraction at f22. I would have been better off using f11 and focus stacking.  

I thought that overall, the image quality was amazing.  It is easy to see why Sony cameras are used so heavily by landscape photographers.  I particularly thought the greens were well represented, but I thought the dynamic range could have been a little better.  Below is an example of the shots at Cataloochee Creek.

Cataloochee Creek - Sony A7 III, 30 Seconds, 24mm, f22, ISO 100
My day was certainly not over at this point, so I loaded everything back in the car and headed over a couple mountains to Cherokee, NC to see if there were any elk near there.  I arrived maybe 40 minutes later at this location, but again, found no elk.  Such is the life of a wildlife photographer.

So, at this point, I had a choice.  I could wait here and see if the elk would make an appearance, or I could make a  two hour run over to Cades Cove in Tennessee.  Being in a fairly adventurous mood, I headed for Cades Cove.  At the same time, the clouds began to move in.  This was actually a blessing and would allow me to shoot all day long.

Two hours later, I arrived at Cades Cove and entered the car touring loop.  The first pass was quiet, but on the second pass, I found a few whitetail does to try my hand at.  I was using the expand flexible spot with lock-on mode for all of the doe shots and my ISO was 1600 plus.  Below are two images from that fairly short shoot.

Cades Cove, TN - Whitetail Deer (ISO 1600, 1/800, Sigma 150-600, 347mm)

I spent another couple hours here and also photographed some turkeys.  I didn't think they were really good enough to put in this blog, I left them out.  At this point in the game, it was getting to be later in the afternoon.  Knowing that I was now close to five hours from home, I decided it was best to head back up over the mountains.

As I came back into the Cherokee, NC area, I was met with a good surprise.  The herd of elk were making their way toward the main road to cross.  I quickly made a u-turn and pulled off the side of the road.  I knew I wouldn't have much time, so I quickly got my gear together and headed over to the open fields they were crossing.

Almost as soon as I started shooting I noticed an elk calf running to catch up with the herd.  I switched on the camera and started shooting.  This would be a good test for the camera's tracking.  Later, I determined the burst only got about 1 frame sharp out of the series.  This was a bit of a disappointment for me.  I should also note that I had a good lock on the elk's head, so there was no user error here.  Below is the best image and even it is not super tack sharp.  It is acceptable sharpness.

Cherokee, NC - Elk Calf Catching up with the Herd, Sigma 150-600, f6.3, 600 mm, ISO 500, 1/2000

I continued to monitor the herd, but it was getting harder as they tried to make the crossing across the road.  I managed to get this shot below of one of the bull elk heading for the road.

Cherokee, NC - Bull Elk in Velvet, Sigma 150-600, f6.3, 421 mm, ISO 1250, 1/2000

At this point it was quickly getting late and I really needed to head home.  That is, if I wanted to get home before midnight.  So, I reluctantly gathered my gear and off I went.

On this second outing with the camera, I certainly became much more acquainted with how it works and felt like I was becoming much more proficient.  However, there are still several more tests to come, before I am ready to put my seal of approval on it.  Here are the pros and cons from photographing mammals in the Smokies.


  • The buffer is really great when using compressed raw.  I never ran out of buffer when shooting these animals.
  • Being able to see the camera lock and follow the animal, even when using the expansion modes was awesome.  I call it the dancing green AF points.
  • Great image quality when photographing at higher ISOs.  By higher, I mean anything between 1600 and 6400.
  • Flip up screen was very useful when photographing low level flowers and fungi.
  • MC-11 loved my Canon 100mm Macro.  It drove the autofocus without issue.
  • Great looking greens in the landscape shots.


  • Unable to switch to silent mode because of the potential for distortion from running Elk.  That is a big bummer!
  • Autofocus seemed to struggle a bit on the running elk, even though it showed locked on.  Two of the best poses were missed. This is most likely and MC-11/150-600 issue.
  • Single point shooting not as effective as expansion modes with lock-on.  This causes focus to grab the noses and not the eyes.
  • Animal eye detect is not available at the time of this writing for the MC-11. I put a request in for Sigma to introduce it, but who knows.  That would have prevented the issue above.
  • It would be nice to be able to shoot uncompressed RAW with a deep buffer. 


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