My Sony a7III Digiscoping Settings - 19 Jan 2019

Having the Sony Alpha a7III for a few months now I can honestly say that I LOVE THIS CAMERA! It fulfills my every need for digiscoping, and is so good I'm actually watching You Tube videos to learn how to be a better photographer. Most all of the major camera publications have made it 2018 Camera of the Year, or at least Finalist, so the hype is real. I've not been this excited about a camera since Nikon came out with the D500. So, I've been trying to get the most out of the a7III; not only for Digiscoping, but for Landscape, Portrait and even Street Photography. I've also applied these lessons to my Sony a6300 APS-C camera (also an excellent digiscoping camera).

If you are new to Sony (possibly migrating from Nikon, Canon or Panasonic?) or just want to get the most out of your camera(s) I cannot recommend Mark Galer ( highly enough. He is Sony's Camera Ambassador and has a slew of blog posts, articles, and You Tube videos on the Sony system; everything from lens and camera reviews to setting up camera menus and custom functions to optimize Landscape, Portrait, Action and Street Photography. I spent most of my Holiday break watching his videos and realizing just how sloppy my photography is. But, in the end, I came up with my settings for optimizing the Sony a7III for digiscoping.

I've set up Memory Recall "2" as my digiscoping setting on the a7III. MR "1" is set up for Landscape photography, so if I'm out in the field I can switch between the two without having to think about settings adjustments. But, more about that later. Here are the Menu settings for Digiscoping:

Camera 1 - Quality/Image Size1 (1/14)
File Format - RAW
RAW File Type - Uncompressed
JPEG Quality - Extra Fine
JPEG Image Size - L:24M
Aspect Ratio - 3:2
APS-C Super 35mm
                   - Shooting - Auto
                   - Shoot.:Manual - Off

If your processing software can't handle the latest RAW file format then select JPEG Extra Fine. Dynamic Range is now good enough on these cameras that you can correct Highlights/Shadowing even in JPEG Mode. I still prefer RAW for maximum processing power.
APS-C Super 35mm allows me to add a crop to my viewfinder image if I want an additional 1.5X boost in image magnification without loss of resolution (note that 24M images drop to 10M, however). I've set up C3 (custom button on back of camera) to allow me to switch between FF and Crop modes.

FF (left) and APSC-Super 35mm (right)
Camera 1 - Quality/Image Size2 (2/14)
Long Exposure NR - Off (grayed out)
High ISO NR - grayed out
Color Space - Adobe RGB (applies to JPG's only; sRGB has less color range than Adobe RGB but is preferred by many printing labs)
Lens Comp. - Auto

Camera 1 - Shoot Mode/Drive1 (3/14)
Scene Selection - grayed out
Drive Mode - Continuous Shooting Hi (this gives me max fps and helps to compensate for any lens blur or subject motion); Can be adjusted using the Fn button 
Bracket Settings - N/A here
MR 1,2 Recall - useful for recalling stored memory settings (store on card in Slot 2 so information is not lost when reformatting Slot 1, which is the fastest card)
MR 1,2 Memory - here is where camera settings can be stored to dials 1, 2 or M1 to M4. I will ultimately store all of my Digiscoping settings in "2". I have "1" set up for Landscape, M1 for Landscape, "2" for Digiscoping, M2 for Digiscoping, M3 for Portrait, and M4 for Street Photography. 
MR Select Media - Slot 2 (memory settings stored on Slot 2 card so that they are not deleted when I format Slot 1 for storing images/videos).

Incidentally, these are the memory cards that I'm using. The Sony card is in Slot 1 (lower slot on camera) as it is the faster of the 2 slots. So, if you like to write to 2 cards at once the camera will write at the slower of the two speeds (Slot 2 speed). I use Slot 2 as overflow as I tend not to generate more than 64GB a day and I don't worry about the cards failing (unless I shoot a wedding then I write to both cards).
Camera 1 - Shoot Mode/Drive2 (4/14) - I don't use this

Camera 1 - AF1 (5/14)
Focus Mode - Manual 
           I use this in conjunction with focus peaking to optimize focus; Autofocus on these cameras are some of the best, but not when a spotting scope is in front of the lens, so I get best results with a magnified image and focus peaking (more below)).
Priority Set in AF-S - Release (camera shutter can be activated even if subject is not in focus)
Priority Set in AF-C - Release 
Focus Area - Center 
            No matter how good the scope or camera equipment is there will always be some chromatic aberration toward the edges of your field of view. That's why lens alignment is critical, and the best optics are needed. By keeping the subject in the center of your FOV you will have sharpest focus and the least amount of CA possible. You can always crop your image later (Rule of Thirds, etc.).
Focus Settings
Set. V/H AF Area - Off (this allows you to maintain same focus area if you switch from vertical to horizontal viewing).

Camera 1 - AF2 (6/14)
AF Illuminator - Off
Center Lock-on AF - grayed out (I'm in Manual focus mode)
Set. Face Prty in AF - N/A (this is good for portrait photography when you wish to automatically focus on faces and eyes)
AF Track Sens - 3 (Standard)
AF System - grayed out
AF w/ shutter - Off (I like back button focus for AF, so I turn this off. Otherwise, if I focus off-center the camera will try to refocus when I press the shutter).

Camera 1 - AF3 (7/14)
Pre-AF - grayed out (camera will try to focus even before buttons are pressed; will cause battery drain)
Eye-Start AF - grayed out (same as previous)
AF Area Regist. - Off
Del. Reg. AF Area
AF Area Auto Clear - Off
Disp. cont. AF area - On (displays where AF points are activated)

Camera 1 - AF4 (8/14)
AF Micro Adj. - could be interesting to see if I could improve AF w/ the digiscoping rig, but that's a project for another day...

Camera 1 - Exposure1 (9/14)
Exposure Comp - grayed out. 
           Exposure Compensation is adjusted by the dial ON TOP OF THE CAMERA! Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! Why am I saying "Repeat"? Because, I was trying to digiscope a Northern Hawk Owl against a dark sky and needed to move the Exp. Comp. from -0.7 to +2.0 so the owl wouldn't be a silhouette. On the Sony a6300 this setting is controlled by the wheel on the back of the camera, and I kept hitting the wheel on this camera, which brought up my Display settings. I lost the owl that I drove 6 hours to see because I couldn't remember that Exposure Compensation is adjusted by the dial ON TOP OF THE CAMERA!

Reset EV Comp. - Reset (not sure what this does)
ISO - ISO Auto
          I have this set to a minimum of ISO 100 to a maximum ISO 6400. The camera will adjust ISO to maintain my minimum Shutter Speed of 1/1000 second. This ensures that I have the fastest shutter speed possible to stop action.
ISO AUTO Min. SS - 1/1000 sec. (this can be set as low as 1/400 sec depending upon subject and degree of motion; I will use my Fn button to change this if my subject is static)
Metering Mode - Center (as with Focus Area I meter off the center, since my subject will be center)
Face Priority in Mlti Mtr - On (only applicable for Portrait / People photography)

Camera 1 - Exposure2 (10/14)
Spot Metering Point - Center
Exposure step - 0.3EV (grayed out)
AEL w/ shutter - Auto
Exposure Std. Adjust - N/A (This function adjusts the standard of optimum exposure. Generally, the adjustment is not necessary)

Camera 1 - Flash (11/14) - N/A

Camera 1 - Color/WB/Img.Processing (12/14)
White Balance - Auto
Priority Set in AWB - Standard
DRO/Auto HDR - D-Range Opt. (dynamic range optimizer - standard)
Creative Style - Standard (only applicable for JPEG)
Picture Effect - Off (grayed out)
Picture Profile - Off (applies to JPEG only)

Camera 1 - Focus Assist (13/14)
Focus Magnifier - variable depending on lens used
Focus Magnifier Time - No Limit (can be adjusted from 1 - 5 sec.; I use it for critical focusing)
Initial Focus Mag. - x5.9 (value chosen by the Zeiss 35/2.8 lens)
AF in Focus Mag. - On
MF Assist - On (turning the focus ring on the lens will activate magnification assist; I have a black rubber band around the focusing ring to make focusing easier - thank you Black Swamp Bird Observatory).
Peak Setting (additional focusing aid highlights areas in focus with color pixels) - I leave off
      Peaking Display - Off
      Peaking Level - Mid
      Peaking Color - White

Camera 1 - Face Detection/Shoot Assist (14/14) - N/A

Camera 2 - Movie1 (1/9)
Exposure Mode - grayed out for Movie and S&Q (speed and quality) Movie Modes
File Format - XAVC S HD
Record Setting - 120p 100M
     I've chosen the non-4K setting of XAVC S HD and 120p 100M so that I can take slo-mo videos of digiscoped subjects. This setting allows me to play back at 5X slow-motion in post-processing. Otherwise video quality is good enough at normal speed. I have XAVC S 4K 24P 100M stored in Memory 1 on the camera program dial so I can switch easily to the higher-quality video mode with just a turn of the dial. Note that UHS-3 Speed Class 10 cards are necessary for 4K recording.
S&Q Settings
      Record Setting - 30p
      Frame Rate - 120p
    S&Q mode on the dial will record slow/high speed-motion videos and play back in slow motion, but at a quality less than the File Format I chose above. The 30p recording is lower quality than the 100p (100 megabytes per second).
Proxy Recording - Off (this option allows for recording of a smaller-quality file that can be directly uploaded to the internet).

Camera 2 - Movie2 (2/9)
AF drive speed - Fast (transition speed between focusing)
AF Track Sens - Responsive
Auto Slow Shut. - On
Audio Recording - On
Audio Rec Level - grayed out
Audio Level Display - On

Camera 2 - Movie3 (3/9)
Audio Out Timing - Live
Wind Noise Reduct. - On
Marker Display - Off
Marker Settings
Video Light Mode - Power Link
Movie w/ Shutter - On (allows you to start/stop video recording with Shutter press rather than pushing orange button on back of camera).

Camera 2 - Shutter/Steady Shot (4/9)
Silent Shooting - Off/On
     This setting I have stored on my C2 button on top of the camera to switch from Silent Shooting to Normal Shutter Noise. I leave it off because it reduces my overall fps when activated, but more importantly, I have noticed that rolling shutter is an issue with it ON. Rolling shutter is not an issue in single-frame shooting, but I've noticed image distortion when scrolling through frames after shooting with it on. Unless I need to worry about disturbing my subjects I will leave it off. Shutter-shock is reduced, however, when Silent Shooting is ON.
e-Front Curtain Shut. - On
Release w/o Lens - Disable
Release w/o Card - Disable
SteadyShot - Off (because the camera/scope is on a tripod in-camera stabilization will work against the tripod; useful when I'm hand-holding, however).
SteadyShot Settings

Camera 2 - Zoom (5/9) - grayed out
Camera 2 - Display/Auto Review1 (6/9) - N/A
Camera 2 - Display/Auto Review2 (7/9) - N/A

Camera 2 - Custom Operation1 (8/9)
(Photo) Custom Key
(Video) Custom Key
(Playback) Custom Key
      The Sony a7III has 4 Custom Buttons on the camera (C1 and C2 on top, C3 and C4 on the back). These items allow you to set which function will be used for which custom button. I have C1 set to Magnified Focus, C2 to Silent Shutter, C3 to FF/Crop Modes, and C4 to Touch Operation.
Function Menu Set. - this allows you to set 12 Functions from the Fn button on back of the camera.
Dial Setup - Av/Tv (you can switch front dial and rear dial to adjust aperture/shutter settings)
Av/Tv Rotate - Normal (Canon shooters may find that rotation direction is reversed on Sony cameras)

Camera 2 - Custom Operation2 (9/9)
Dial Ev Comp - Off (grayed out)
MOVIE Button - Always
Lock Operation Parts - Off
Audio Signals - Off

Snd to Smrtphn Func
Send to Computer
FTP Transfer Func.
View on TV
Ctrl w/ Smartphone
Airplane Mode - On (this will save some battery life if the camera is not searching for networks to connect to; turn off if you want to connect to network)
Wi-Fi Settings
Bluetooth Settings
Loc.Info.Link Set.
Edit Device Name
Imp Root Certificate
Reset Network Set.

Playback 1 
Rating Set (Cost Key)
Specify Printing

Playback 2
Photo Capture (grayed out)
Enlarge Image
Enlarge Init. Mag. - Standard Mag.
Enlarge Init. Pos. - Focused Position
Slide Show

Playback 3
Select PB Media - Slot 1 (this is the lower slot on the camera and faster writing slot)
View Mode
Image Index
Disp Cont Shoot Grp - Off
Display Rotation - Auto
Image Jump Setting

Toolbox - Setup1 (1/7)
Monitor Brightness - Manual (there is a Sunny Weather setting for max brightness on sunny days)
Viewfinder Brightness - Manual
Finder Color Temp. - 0
Gamma Disp. Assist - Off
Volume Settings - 9 (15 levels total)
Delete confirm. - "Cancel" first

Toolbox - Setup2 (2/7)
Display Quality - High
Pwr Save StartTime - 5 min. (can be set as high as 30 minutes)
Auto Pwr OFF Temp. - Standard (I've not had a problem w/ the camera overheating during video capture)
NTSC/PAL Selector (default is NTSC; camera will reboot if select PAL)
Cleaning Mode (sensor cleaning by vibration; camera needs to be turned off and on to resume operation/shooting)
Touch Operation - On (allows the back screen to be used for touch focus BUT NOT shutter release)

Toolbox - Setup3 (3/7)
Touch Panel/Pad - Touch Panel Only
Touch Pad Settings
Demo Mode - Off (grayed out)
TC/UB Settings
Remote Ctrl - Off
HDMI Settings

Toolbox - Setup4 (4/7)
4K Output Sel. - grayed out
USB Connection - Auto (select Mass Storage if performing Version Updates, or PC Remote if operating camera using computer software)
USB LUN Setting - Multi
USB Power Supply - On (allows external charging through USB port)
PC Remote Settings
Language - English

Toolbox - Setup5 (5/7)
Date/Time Setup
Area Setting
Copyright Info
Format - the important one; I always use the FORMAT button to reformat the SD card after transferring images to the computer. Note that formatting the card will erase any stored camera settings that were on the card, which is why I will store camera settings on the card in Slot 2.
File Number - Series (or you can Reset)
Set File Name - DSC

Toolbox - Setup6 (6/7)
Rec. Media Settings
      Prioritize Rec. Media - Slot 1
      Recording Mode - Standard
      Auto Switch Media - On
   This is where you can decide whether to record to both cards at the same time, or select one Slot or the other for Photo and/or Video recording. I record everything to Slot 1 (faster slot) and use Slot 2 for overflow and camera setting storage.
Select REC Folder - grayed out
New Folder
Folder Name - Date Form
Recover Image DB
Display Media Info. - this lets you see how much space is left on each card for photos (number) and video (time)

Toolbox - Setup7 (7/7)
Version - I'm still on Ver 1.01 even though latest version is 2.01 (check out YouTube for updating Firmware versions)
Setting Reset - reset camera to default settings

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That is it! If, by chance that you are interested in using these cameras for your Sony a7III please drop me a line and I can e-mail the settings files; they can be uploaded directly to the camera.


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