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BIFs with the E-M1--can I do better?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Bristolero, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Hello All,
    I recently ran across a thread about using the E-M1 mk 2 and the D-500 for motorsports. The two main posters @Robstar1963@Robstar1963 @ijm5012@ijm5012 both had some difficulty, especially with slower panning shots looking fine in the EVF, but later many of the the downloaded images exhibited a slight degree of blurriness. And these guys are good! That got me to thinking about the images I took from my kayak recently. These photos were taken on two consecutive afternoons, in good lighting and in calm seas. Please note that these are the best of the bunch--as usual, I erased my lemons. So my question to you better minds, especially those of you who shoot the mk 2, or shoot in larger formats: how much better (more detailed, less blurry) would my shots be with upgraded equipment? And related mostly to Bifs/action shooting in CAF.

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    First shot is three Harlequins flying along the shore. Nice color because of the light, but slightly blurry. Approximately a 50% crop, 1/1250, base ISO. All photos @ f 4 with the 300 Pro.

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    Next, a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye shot @ 1/1000 and ISO 320. Pretty good detail and I got lucky with the panning. I really have no complaints about this photo except I was too far away causing a fairly heavy crop.

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    I saw this Bald Eagle perched in a tree overlooking the shore and paddled underneath. 1/1600 @250 ISO. Nice and clear because it's close.

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    A trio of Harlequins shot @ 1/1250 and ISO 500. Again nice color, but just a touch unsharp. There was a slight swell, so I might have slightly missed focus.

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    Another drake and hen Goldeneye shot the next day. On this day I did two things differently. Since I had a lot of light, I bumped the shutter to 1/2000. I also turned the IBIS off. This and all later shots taken with these settings.

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    For stop-action shots, I really have better success with 1/2000 or faster. I'm happy with this shot, even though it's about a 50% crop.

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    Another 1/2000 shot @ ISO 400.

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    Shot again @ 1/2000 with the IBIS off. One method I use to determine if my shots are sharp is if the small pupil is visible. These are, but some blur persists. Another 50% crop.

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    Last is a lone male. Still a fair crop, but at least I started closer, so should be more detail. Is there enough?

    These are examples of the best I can do with the E-M1, 300 Pro, and good light. I have bumped up my shutter as fast as I dare w/o raising the ISO to detrimental levels. I have turned off the IBIS for these faster shots, and I really believe that makes a difference. One thing I have yet neglected to do is a PDAF focus adjustment. @Phocal@Phocal--next on my list! Other than that, and attempting to get closer, do you think I would see noticeable improvement with a mk 2, or with a larger format? I'm curious to hear what you think.
    Thanks in advance,
    Eric
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  2. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    628
    Apr 24, 2018
    Many birds fly FAST, and the closer they are the faster the apparent speed.
    Next time out, try bumping your shutter speed as HIGH as you can. If there is an increase in sharpness, then you know you need to use a higher shutter speed. IOW, get your shutter speed as high as you need to, to freeze the action, and raise the ISO as necessary to do that.
    My logic is, "it is better to have ISO noise, than a blurry picture." Unless you want the blurry background from panning.

    I understand IBIS can slow down CAF, not affect sharpness. But maybe it does.

    The problem with a larger format is physically larger and heavier camera and lens. You would need a 600mm lens on a FF camera to match the field of view of the 300mm lens on your EM1. That is the reason that I don't have an autofocus FF lens longer and faster than my 75-300mm, too big and heavy. If I need more than 6x magnification, I switch to m4/3 and its 75-300 to get 12x magnification, in a smaller/lighter kit.
     
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  3. PannyPaul

    PannyPaul Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Aug 8, 2017
    i have no idea about your question but the bald eagle is stunning. Great light, great detail
     
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  4. I've noticed IBIS slowing down C-AF on the single processor E-M1 Mk1 so I use the OIS . I hear it's not a problem on the Mk2 thanks to it having a dedicated processor for AF and one for everything else.
     
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  5. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Ian
    Hey Eric,

    I'll start off by saying that Rob has definitely gotten better slow-shutter panning shots with the E-M1 II than I have. I don't know if its because I tend to have 1-2 cups of coffee a day, 7 days a week, or if Rob is just that much better (this is more likely the case than the former).

    The issues that I have experienced (and Rob as well based on some PM discussions we've had) is two fold:
    • First is that when using slow shutter speeds and panning with the subject (in our case, race cars or motorcycles), there is a direct (and non-linear) correlation between shutter speed & the number of keepers. As shutter speed goes down, so too does your keeper rate. While this is true for any camera, It seems to be exacerbated with the E-M1 II (I can't comment on the E-M1, since it's been so long since I've shot with one). While I still experience this behavior with my D500, it's not nearly as severe.
    • Second, and probably more frustrating, is that when reviewing the image in the EVF, it appears sharp. However, it's not until you get home and look at the file on the computer where you see some blurriness in the fine details (mostly sponsor stickers), which can really kill the image.
    I have a theory (one that is untested, because I really don't know how to test it) that because IBIS is present in the camera means that the sensor can move. I've shot with IBIS on auto-detect, IBIS to correct for vertical movement only, and IBIS off entirely, none of which seem to make a difference in the keeper rate coming out of the camera. The D500 on the other hand has the sensor fixed in place (but with lens-based stabilization), so the sensor does not move around as you pan the camera, and subject it to a centrifugal force.

    Having said all that, I'm not certain how pertinent it is to your situation. Rob and I are shooting with very slow shutter speeds, most of the times a 1/125 or less. You on the other hand are panning with the fastest shutter speed possible to help freeze that motion (something that generally is a no-no when shooting cars with a panning motion).

    To be honest, I'm not certain how something like a D500 would improve the images you've shared. If you were having an issue where the AF would bouncing around and not staying on your subject, then I would say to check out a D500 and take it for a spin to see how it does. But it doesn't sound like that's an issue for you.

    One thing I will say is that the E-M1 II is an upgrade over the E-M1. It's a far more polished camera, and the AF is better (and more customizable). I did some some comparisons between the E-M1 II and D500 for shooting auto-x as well motorcycle racing, and it shows that the E-M1 II can work for these types of shoots. However, you have to be willing to deal with a lower keeper rate is my experience, and personally, that sucks a lot of the fun out of the event. To think that you've captured a bunch of great images, only to get back to the house, pop the SD card in to the computer and see that shots you thought were nice and sharp actually aren't.

    I recently dragged my Nikon gear down to Georgia to shoot a sports car race, and without a doubt I captured the best racing images I've ever shot that weekend. Yes, the venue and lighting played a roll in that, but the gear did as well. And while lugging all that gear around was heavy, it was never overly burdensome and I feel that the end results were absolutely worth it.

    I realized that this is quite the rambling, so I'll sum it up by saying this: Do I think the E-M1 II is better than the E-M1? Yes, definitely. Used prices are coming down to reasonable levels now, and the camera does not seem to be plagued by the litany of build quality issues that the original one had, so you should be OK to pick up a used copy. However, if it's at all possible, I would suggest renting the E-M1 II, as well as the D500 and a telephoto lens (either the 200-500/5.6 or the new 500/5.6 PF), and shoot them side by side. That way you get a good idea of how each system performs relative to one another when subjected to the same conditions.
     
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  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    1. Panning - Is one of the hardest techniques to master in photography. Some of your issues are most likely a result of not having perfect technique, especially from a kayak. I know personally I have a harder time panning from my kayak than from land, especially in my less stable kayak. The mk2 has less blackout than the original I believe, so upgrading to the mk2 could really help, getting use to that blackout took me some time (so different from an optical viewfinder).
    2. Micro focus adjustment - I have honestly still not done my 300/4 and really need to because I do suspect it is not perfect. When I am in my kayak I do a lot of drifting towards my subjects and have noticed more slightly out of focus images with the 300/4 compared to my 150/2 (which does have the adjustment performed on it). So that could be causing some of your problems, but would also need checked on the mk2.
    3. IBIS - I know on my EM1 that turning it off does make CAF work a bit better but you also lose the stabilized viewfinder. I personally just suck it up and keep it on because I find the stabilized viewfinder helps me keep on target (more on that shortly). The mk2 does have two processors to help with this and you will find better performance from it.
    4. Focus Points - You don't mention what you are doing for focus points. I personally have much better success using a single focus point that I place where I want it. For larger things like planes I use the large focus point, just find it easier. For smaller subjects like birds I much prefer the small focus point and placing it where I want, but even that can be very difficult. The biggest problem is when the focus point is larger than say the head of your bird (which is where I put the focus point) and it grabs focus on the background. The problem with putting it on the body is you could catch the wing tip vs the body and while DoF may be enough to also get the head you have to remember that there really is only 1 very exact distance that is in focus, everything else in the DoF is really just "acceptably in focus". You combine that with say needing a micro adjustment because you are front focusing a bit and you can see how things start to get compounded. I have notices when shooting cycling that I have to put the focus point on the head and not chest. With it on the chest you are focusing behind the face and while the writing on the jersey is perfectly sharp the face can be a tad soft. I have never been a fan of grouped focus points because you don't have any real control over what the critical focus point is.
    5. Distance - You know how I feel about this. While the 300/4 is an amazing lens and captures a lot of detail, cropping 1/2 the photo away is going to be detrimental to the amount of detail you have in the photo. I have found that I can crop down to around 3000px on the long side (original EM1) and still maintain enough detail to meet my IQ needs. I still try not to (only a few times have I done this) because if I crop that much I can't print 40x30 and maintain the quality I am after. But for special images I will and will just keep print sizes down for that image, but would prefer not to. That is one thing I have really worked on since switching to m4/3 because I knew I was losing the ability to crop by going to the smaller sensor. So far I have had good luck in getting close so I don't have to crop and as I do it more and more my skill increases and it becomes easier and easier. I know a lot of people when I talk about getting close will say that sometimes you can't because where you are doesn't allow it, my solution to that is I don't go to those places. My places may have less abundant wildlife or be way out of the way and hard to get to but it gives me the freedom I need to do what I do. If someplace is one of those places (have lots of them here in Texas as well as in Florida) where you have to stay on the boardwalk I typically don't go. If I do go I only shoot stuff that is close, I don't need that photo of some bird 150 feet away. I guess that is also why I have switched to shooting out of the kayak as much as possible, way more freedom in getting close.
    In short you will see improvements going to the mk2. If I did a lot more CAF shooting (other than drifting in the kayak) I would have switched because the mk2 is much better at CAF. You would see better CAF ability with say the D500, but I don't think you would see much better IQ overall (especially if you use the more consumer type lenses on it). Keep in mind that the Nikon 200-500 is not weather sealed and since you shoot so much from the kayak I am not sure that is a lens you would want to pick up. Also, the 200-500 doesn't have the IQ the 300/4 does and honestly I don't think the Sigma 150-600 Sport does either (it is more on par with the Panny 100-400). The best option to keep the IQ you are use to from the 300/4 would be something like the new Nikon 500/5.6, but that is also a $3.5k lens.

    my 2 copper pieces,

    Phocal
     
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  7. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Ian,
    Thanks for your "ramble" and input. I reviewed your auto-x post (had seen it previously) and think I will try a Mk 2 first. I really don't have too much trouble keeping birds in the EVF, but do have to put up with the usual Mk 1 issue where 50% of the pics in a series are totally out of focus. I travel a lot and spend time backpacking and the D500 + lens combo would probably be more than I want to transport. Currently I can get the Mk 1, 300 Pro and TC, your old 12-40, batteries and charger, all in a Pelican 1400 case, which is fairly small. Looking at the D500 pics that you have posted, and FF bird pics from other posters, I would agree that the larger formats do resolve better. I may in the future move in that direction, and I am awaiting reviews of the Z6 when it arrives. Like many others however, I'm invested in Oly glass and am not looking forward the the $$ dunking if I decide to swim in a different pool.
    Thanks again for your response, and especially for the testing you have done.
    Eric
     
  8. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 2, 2013
    Colorado
    Eric,
    Did you mention previously that you publish a number of your wildlife images? Maybe this will come down to a business decision. Would sharper pictures of ducks in flight bring in enough income to justify the expense of a new system? Would your other wildlife images be improved? Would you have had your FF pro lens on hand for your wildlife encounters (like those awesome moose shots last month)? I bought my GX-8 and 100-400 combo used from a guy who tried to switch over from Canon for BIF because of the weight, but he couldn't accept the reduced IQ.

    I often ask myself the same question, but when I put my prints on display with the rest of the wildlife photo club that I joined, I can't see an image quality difference in the prints (and I would consider it pretty lucky if they were close to the quality of stuff you share here). I still have this nagging ego thing where I question if I'm just doing a better job as a photog and my results would be better if it were with higher end equipment. The reality is that I'm, at best, about as skilled as the other enthusiasts in the group. The people that shoot larger formats just end up cropping more of the image away to make the composition (the other hobbyists, that is). The big part of that for me, is that photography is generally a side effect of going out into nature. I carry my camera because I enjoy photography, but I rarely make photo specific outings. If the purpose of my trips was photography (and I made enough of a go at it to justify the $10k+ for FF gear) then I would have no objection to carrying all of that stuff. I also am not a huge BIF shooter (unless they're clay BIFs and I'm shouldering a 12g), so I rarely need top end AF. There is a local semi-pro (he has business cards and stuff, so maybe pro?) who shoots a combo of D850 and D500, and puts out some great stuff. The advantage that he uses the D500 for fast moving stuff and extra reach, the D850 when he is closer, but uses the same lenses. His output from his D850 definitely stomps on my efforts with m4/3 on the landscape front. For macro, I did a little photowalk with some co-workers who shot Canon (one FF, one APS-C) both with "L" macro lenses (180mm and a 100mm), and I saw absolutely no reason to spring for a different system for macro.

    I think that the resolution/detail from the modern m4/3 cameras and Pro lenses is going to rival pretty well what you will get out of an APS-C competitor. Where they seem to fall short is on the auto-focus and tracking compared to some other systems (esp D500). There is definitely the potential for higher quality with larger sensors, but I don't think that most people can actually realize that advantage under normal circumstances (ie not with a guide or in a blind, etc,etc.). So, for my ramble, I think that bigger gear can put out better images in some cases, but it's not right for me, personally. I'm sure that you're going to take great shots regardless of the kit, but it would probably be worth renting a different system just to see.
     
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  9. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    491
    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    Masaaki
    Eric,
    You've already have stunning techniques and IQ, with fabulous environment for BIF (always admire your pictures, and feel like moving to Alaska because of your pictures!). With your skills, I doubt that EM1.2 brings 'significant' improvement regarding IQ, or even keeper rate. But I don't have experience with EM1, so I can't be 100% sure about that. Could be major improvement. Regarding D500, improvement would be significant, I believe, especially regarding keeper rate (not IQ). So IMO it's worth investing some money to rent and try.

    Just for my personal purposes, I recently did EM1.2, G9 and D500 shootout comparison, specifically focused on the ability to lock AF on the bird 'in the air' (not AF on perched birds and track when the bird fly out). Summary is available here:
    G9 with birds

    It was so easy to lock AF point on the flying bird with D500. Of course, once EM1.2 grab the AF, it did a great job, and image quality was on par, or sometimes superior to D500. But it's so heartbreaking when I miss an eagle flying close by, and cannot get the initial lock, right? That's why I'm carrying both (EM1.2 for maximum resolution, D500 for speed) all the time.

    As for the weather sealing, as Phocal pointed out, Nikon lenses are not listed as weather sealed even the newest 500mm PF. But from my experience using 300mm PF, using in a light rain is just fine. When it's raining hard, I usually use a cover (or not try to go birding). D500 has a pretty good sealing all around, except for the shoe mount. Another thing I wanted to note is, the newest 500mm PF is actually the same weight as Oly300mmF4. So, the only difference will be the weight of bodies. IMHO, EM1.2 is actually a little too small for 300mmF4, so I prefer beefier body like D500. On Kayak? I don't know...it's your call.

    This is from novice experience (2yr bird photography), so YMMV.
    Best, Masaaki
     
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  10. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Mountain, thanks for the detailed reply. Interesting comments about your images compared with the rest of the wildlife photo club. I don't have the opportunity to join something like that, actually you guys are my photo club. What keeps me inspired by the mu 4/3 system is the great photos on these forums, like those hummingbirds you posted last(?) year. That, and I just like the ergonomics, size and appearance of the cameras and lenses. If I didn't spend a lot of time with this stuff on my back, size and weight wouldn't be so much of an issue.
    Take care,
    Eric
    BTW: If you shoot 12 ga. you need to shoot FF.
    The 10 gaugers need medium format.
     
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  11. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Ronnie,
    Lots to address in what you have said. I also have two kayaks. One is slim, fast, just slides through the water--and tippy. That's the one I used to shoot from. I also have a tubby yellow plastic thing that is much more stable and which is now my main shooting platform. Even when using the wider kayak, I will still miss focus shooting swimming birds in CDAF. So I most likely am occasionally doing it when shooting flying stuff, too.
    I have grown to really believe that turning off the IBIS helps with PDAF accuracy on the Mk 1. I especially notice it on Goldeneyes, since they have a small black pupil in a brilliant yellow eye and you can tell if you've nailed the focus or not. I now shoot with my left thumb on the 300 Pro's sync IBIS switch so I can quickly turn it on or off depending on whether a bird is stationary or flying. I love the IBIS of the Oly combo and would never not use it when shooting stationary stuff in CDAF. Interestingly, my CDAF shots are always spot on sharp when I do my part.
    I use the smallest focus stuff for stationary shots and the all points for flyings birds. I know it seems counter-intuitive, and I used the nine point for a while at first, but the all points just seems to work better for me. However--with practice I have gotten quite a bit better at tracking birds in the EVF and I should probably give the large single point a try now. Interestingly, I was just looking at some waterfowl shots I got this afternoon. I got a dozen shots as the took off en masse, and the camera usually focused on the nearest birds. This, using the all points focus.
    You are 100% right on the distance issue. I find that I spend more time sneaking around rock outcroppings, etc., than I used too. And I have found that on the open ocean, I can get closer, often much closer, in a kayak than in a motorized skiff. That said, you've seen my photos and commentary above with an awful lot of "50% crops", so I'm not alway very successful.
    Anyhow, late night up here and I'm off for bed soon.
    Take care,
    Eric
     
  12. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    628
    Apr 24, 2018
    So my 20 gauge is :mu43: :D  or is that APS-C.
     
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  13. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 2, 2013
    Colorado
    .410 is cell phone?
     
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  14. Mountain

    Mountain Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 2, 2013
    Colorado
    Pellets are like pixels, the more you put on target the better. Maybe I should switch to 10ga for some extra cropping ability.
     
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  15. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    628
    Apr 24, 2018
    Oh my shoulder :( 
    Too old for the big-bore stuff.
     
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  16. Wibbly23

    Wibbly23 Mu-43 Rookie

    22
    Nov 6, 2018
    i didn't read all the long posts in between, and maybe this has been mentioned, but you can set the IBIS to act only in the vertical axis. so if you're panning horizontally it will not attempt to correct horizontal motion, only vertical. this is likely the preferable setting for panning shots.


    you may also want to set your camera up for back button focus. this will allow you to control when the CAF is active for your pan.
     
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  17. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Masaaki,
    Thanks for the link and the effort to test. I'd read your post and found it right up my alley in what I wanted to know . I fortunately live in a place that gives me plenty of chances to shoot, at least when the weather permits. So if I screw up one day, I will often soon get another chance. I'd like to improve my keeper rate, but what I'm really after is sharper photos. If I can accomplish that with the Mk 2, I'd be happy, since I already have enough Oly glass to keep me happy. I think I'll pick up a Mk 2 and see if that fits the bill. If so, great. If not, perhaps a Z6 if it reviews well. Unlike the rest of the forum members, I have other things that need $$, so I'd certainly prefer option #1:) . Coincidentally, today I received a PM from a photographer friend who has a Mk 2, so I may get to try it out when I get up that way.
    Anyhow, thanks for the info and keep up those enjoyable posts.
    Eric
     
  18. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    Surely it must be a mu/43!
     
  19. Bristolero

    Bristolero Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    May 15, 2017
    Alaska/New Zealand
    In my earlier traveling years I lived in Surrey with a friend who was a shooter. The UK has no limits on gauge, or bore, as they say. I had the "pleasure" of shooting a 7 bore. It let me know when I pulled the trigger! While in the country, I saw but did not shoot an 8 gauge, a 4 gauge, and saw photos of a 2 gauge--Ouch!!!
     
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  20. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    491
    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    Masaaki
    Glad to hear the information was helpful. Looking forward to seeing your photos with the upgrade (whichever path you choose). Keep us drooling over your photos!
     
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