Space Farms Zoo – Sony A99 II and 70-400mm F/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens

The family and I went to this awesome little Zoo over in Wantage, NJ called Space Farms, and I was fortunate enough to have the Sony A99 II and  Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens in hand.

Talk about a killer combo! I gatta say, these are some of the best quality zoo type photos I have ever gotten. The sharpness of the  Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens is remarkable, and the focus of the Sony A99 II is borderline magical. I say this because I was shooting thru fences the entire time and the camera just new not to focus on the fence. It did occasionally, don’t get me wrong, but 90% of the time it just went for the animal eyes like a mind reader. Once again, I was giddy with excitement using this camera and lens in particular. Unbelievable is what I was thinking over and over as I took these photos. The sharpness and accuracy was astounding all day long shooting thru multiple fences even!

The thumb control knob on the Sony A99 II which I previously reported being a little finicky, is still acting a little strange. For the most part it works great, but occasionally it does not respond for some reason. It happened only a few times throughout the day, but this should not happen at all in my opinion. I never missed a shot because of it, but the few times it happened were noticeable.

I was using expandable flexible spot for the focus area and AF-A for the focus mode. AF-A automatically switches from AF-C (Continuous) to AF-S (Single Shot) focus modes. This worked great for me all day long as well and I used the thumb controller to change the focus area quite often. The A99 II was also average metering mode and Auto ISO maxed out at 25,600

We took over 400 photos at the Zoo, so I’m sharing a ton of images in this article! Get ready and be sure to click on the photos for the ~1600px higher res versions if you really want to see some extra detail.
My Sony A99 II Review is Now Up Here >>

Sony A99 II w/ Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II w/ Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens

Space Farms Zoo – Sony A99 II and 70-400mm G II SSM Lens

When you walk into Space Farms you’re are greeted with this huge bear that used to be in the zoo back in the day. Now it’s stuffed and posing like monument in the grand entrance way area. This is a fairly low key family run establishment, so you really get that welcome to my house type of feeling. The staff is just awesome and super helpful. They were having just as much fun as us it looked like!

I processed these photos in Lightroom and just did the basic adjustments like lens profile correction, a medium tone curve, and I added a vignette to many of the photos. On a few photos I used the adjustment brush to darken the extremely bright areas that were distracting as well.  See my recent article on Lightroom Editing Crash Course Style if you want to see how to do these basic adjustments on your files >>
Anyway here is the big bear and due to the low light, this photo was taken at ISO 20,000 for reference! All the image info is in the caption just below each image, and be sure to click on the images for the ~1600px version if you like!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 160mm, f/5, 1/160sec, ISO 20,000

When you walk out of the main building you’re in the Zoo area and greeted with a nice playground with a bear eyeing you up in the background.

It’s cool how the bear is hanging out with a bunch of fox like creatures. They share a space and at first it seams odd, but they seam to get along quite well. This is shooting thru a fence, so you can see a hint of the criss-cross in this frame.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 330mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 250

Next to the bear was this smiling Fox I think.. Again, thru the fence which you can see, but it really doesn’t ruin the photo that bad.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 160

Chickens be cluck-in and this is also shooting thru a fence!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 160
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 160
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 160

I think this next bird was some kind of vulture, but it might be a turkey, not really sure… Just a head shot with insane sharpness and detail.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 100

Next to the nasty looking bird above was this ostrich looking dinosaur which towered over Layla.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 100
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 100

For this next crazy shot I think the bird blinked and this is the eye-lid, but oddly everything else is blurry? I cropped in on this image for a closer look… Is was just the one eye that looked like this, so it must have been winking at me 😉

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 100

Next I got a pretty good photo of a duck, but I chopped the feet off unfortunately… All I needed to do was back off to about 350mm and I would have had the feet in frame.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 640

And a head shot…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 800

This next photo was a bit blown out straight off the camera, but I just dragged the highlights slider back in Lightroom and the feather detail all came back. The dynamic range of the A99 II 42mp sensor is awesome!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 125

I think this next bird is a goose of some sort.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 500

Next we passed by a turtle on a log at a distance.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 160

Jase wanted some more feed for the animals and his face was covered in dirt by this point…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 70mm, f/6.3, 1/160sec, ISO 100

The Lion was peeking his head up.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 2000

Just look at the detail on this huge lion paw!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO 800
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 200mm, f/5.6, 1/200sec, ISO 200
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 200mm, f/5.6, 1/200sec, ISO 200
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 200mm, f/5.6, 1/200sec, ISO 200

Next we wondered over to the tigers for a few minutes… This first tiger was watching his incoming brother as you will see.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 280mm, f/7.1, 1/320sec, ISO 200
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/7.1, 1/400sec, ISO 200
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 250mm, f/7.1, 1/250sec, ISO 100
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 180mm, f/7.1, 1/200sec, ISO 100

Then they fed the tigers and this was a little disturbing I’m not gonna lie, but was still cool to see nonetheless.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/11, 1/400sec, ISO 500
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/11, 1/400sec, ISO 500

Nearby the tigers were lemurs, and the noise is a bit noticeable in this image, due mostly to a poor exposure. I should have adjusted the exposure comp down about 1-stop, because of all the black in the scene. The camera actually over-exposed this frame by about 1-stop I would say. Also, the fence really ruins this photo overall…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/7.1, 1/400sec, ISO 6400
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/8, 1/250sec, ISO 1250

Next a peacock was posing for me and the colors were amazing!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/400sec, ISO 320

In the distance behind the peacock was this windmill I could not help but take a snap of.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/11, 1/400sec, ISO 800

Next we have some snakes and the fence was brutal for this display, but again the shots still came out pretty darn good overall. I actually had the camera set to f/10 on these frames which was not intentional. I accidentally changed the aperture and did not realize until after… This first snake is a Rattle Snake and yers it was very scary looking to me!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/10, 1/400sec, ISO 6400
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/10, 1/400sec, ISO 6400

Look at the tail!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/10, 1/400sec, ISO 6400
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/10, 1/400sec, ISO 6400

This next snake is a Copper Head which I actually have where I live in NY, so be careful if you see one of these!! At least the rattle snake above, which we also have in our area, will rattle to warn you!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 280mm, f/5.6, 1/320sec, ISO 160

And here is the snake handler guy who was extremely knowledgable to say the least! Parker was rattling off fun facts like you can’t even believe.. Get it, rattle? I know lame joke…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 150mm, f/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO 160

And a few more photos of the family 🙂

Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 120mm, f/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO 320

A kodiak bear…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 330mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 125

A ground hog of some sort posing…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 250mm, f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 100

They even have Bison at Space Farms, but man do they stink!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 1600
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 800

Jase was throwing food for them also, but they did not even budge…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 140mm, f/5.6, 1/160sec, ISO 320

Some feeding frames..

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 125
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 125
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 125
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/320sec, ISO 100
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 280mm, f/8, 1/320sec, ISO 1000

Here are the kids and I 🙂

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 75mm, f/8, 1/80sec, ISO 250

A killer Lion photo and you just can’t believe how big these cats are in real life!

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/400sec, ISO 1600

Space farms is also a museum, so it has huge barns filled with stuff from the past including tools, cars, motorcycles, minerals, and more. I took a few quick random snaps while heading back to the snake pit.

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 120mm, f/5.6, 1/1000sec, ISO 100
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 75mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 2500
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 230mm, f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 12800
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 12800
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/320sec, ISO 12800
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 5000
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 135mm, f/5.6, 1/160sec, ISO 3200
Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 20000

I took these last two frames as we were walking out of the place… I particularly like the frame of the bird eyeballing Michele. She looks a lot closer to the bird than she actually is, just so you know…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 330mm, f/5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 250

And lastly the kids on the Space Farms Lion for a closer…

Sony A99 II - 70-400mm G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II – 70-400mm G SSM II Lens @ 75mm, f/5.6, 1/80sec, ISO 160

Closing Remarks

I had an absolute blast at Space Farms Zoo with the family and I hope you enjoyed viewing the photos…
More importantly, the Sony A99 II and 70-400mm G SSM II Lens performed magnificently! Incredible quality photos and the camera and lens combo performed excellent overall. The focus accuracy was super impressive to me, especially with all the fencing, and I was not using the focus limiter switch on the lens for those wondering. The lens sharpness is razor blade territory and the bokeh produced is dreamy to say the least.

I really wish the lens had OSS built in for that extra stabilization at 400mm while hand holding. Other than that I would say this is one of the best camera and lens combos I have ever used in my life. The other was my Canon 5d Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm L IS Lens. That combo is also killer, but does not have quite the same magic look that these images are displaying. At least to my eye anyway….

That is about it for this article, but please feel free to leave comments and questions below as always! I really enjoy reading them and would love to hear what you think about these photos…

Catch up with you later and have a great day,
Jay


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