E-M1 & 40-150 2.8+1.4TC focus problems

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by The Count, Oct 23, 2015.

  1. The Count

    The Count New to Mu-43

    5
    May 16, 2015
    Bethesda, MD
    I recently went on a BIF (birds in flight) shoot with my E-M1,40-150 f2.8 and the 1.4 teleconverter. I couldn't believe how poorly the autofocus performed! I don't think I got one useable shot! The lens kept hunting and by the time any semblance of focus was reached the bird would leave the frame. I may have captured 1 or 2 semi useable shots of of several hundred! I realize that this is a difficult AF situation for any system, but frankly I was very disappointed. I had brought along my ancient Nikon D300 and what should have been a much poorer performing lens (18-200 mm, which is <1/2 the price of the Olympus 40-150!) and it vastly outperformed the E-M1 and reportedly one of Olympus' best pro lenses. I also had quite a bit of difficulty with the E-M1's otherwise excellent EVF with fast moving birds of prey (mostly Sharp Shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks). Until this BIF shoot, I had happily phased out my Nikon SLR and thought I'd never look back. I was also looking forward to the new pro 300 mm f4 for BIF work, but now I'm having some second thoughts about completely giving up on my SLR system for super telephoto/action work. I'd love to hear other people's experience with the E-M1 and this 40-150 + TC for fast action like bird photography. Hopefully positive autofocus experiences! Thanks!
     
  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
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  3. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    ..... I agree with the user error comment .....
     
  4. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Do you have the latest firmware 3.0+?
     
  5. Atom Ant

    Atom Ant Mu-43 Veteran

    241
    Oct 24, 2012
    Melbourne, OZ
    Adam
    So if you reckon it is just user error by the OP, any suggestions as to best technique for BIF with that equipment?
     
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  6. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    Sample images of the failed attempts would need nice. It will help to determine some things.

    AF / EVF settings would help too.
     
  7. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    758
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    As one who shoots BIF with the same combo as the OP as well as a 7d Mk II, I agree it is very probably an issue of being used to how a DSLR would do it and how the E-M1 can do it. It's not as effortless, and settings are more critical.

    My wife still swears S-AF is better on the E-M1 than C-AF, even after fw 3.0.
     
  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I linked 4 threads that I wrote up about action photography (not birds in flight but the settings and techniques are pretty much the same) using an EM1 and two different lenses (ZD 150/2 and ZD 50-200 SWD) that do not focus as fast or as accurately as the OP's 40-150 Pro. There are also lots of threads on that very subject the a simple search can turn up.
     
  9. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    That I do not agree with, C-AF after firmware 3 is much better and works great.
     
  10. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    758
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    You're probably right. She's still stubborn, and IMO hasn't given the new capabilities a chance. Since I am using the Canon, I don't really have an opinion on it.
     
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  11. The Count

    The Count New to Mu-43

    5
    May 16, 2015
    Bethesda, MD
    Well these are obviously some excellent examples Phocal! They are beautifully framed and perfectly focused as far as I'm concerned. Back to get back to my initial comment, I am certainly not disputing that it is not possible to achieve such images with my E-M1, it's just that the keeper rate vs. my much older camera and frankly optically poorer Nikon lens is no where near as good. I wanted to hold off on replying for a couple of weeks in order to play with the settings (C-AF vs S-AF) and so on while practicing with bald eagles at Conowingo Dam and various gulls around the waterways where I live and my conclusion is still the same. As for other questions, I do have the latest 3.0 firmware for the E-M1. I'll tell you that the biggest improvement I've experienced over the past few weeks has simply been not using the EVF at all. I purchased the Olympus EE-1 dot sight (EE-1 Dot Sight | Olympus) and this has increased my keeper rate somewhat. To answer some of the other questions, I've disabled the review feature of the EVF and make use of the full AF points settings. While I am happy about this development with the EE-1 dot sight, I am still disappointed in the fact that the combination of using the EVF and C-AF on the EM1 just can't keep up with moving birds at what I would think is an acceptable keeper rate. So certainly Phocal, after shooting several thousand frames over the past few weeks, I've collected a few that I'm happy to share with friends, but it just doesn't seem to me like I've done better than using volume shooting and hoping for the best. I'm sure that someone's thinking that that's a big part of BIF photography anyway, but I think you get my point. Bogdan.
     
  12. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    You say C-AF, but which speed? C-AF Hi or Low? When using C-AF Lo it shows a preview between each frame but with C-AF Hi it shows review only, so with a moving bird in the sky, if you aim at what you see in the EVF with a central AF target on the bird then you will be focussing behind the bird. This is why the EE-1 dot sight gives you more keepers if that is what you are keeping on the moving bird. Also, you might find the 9 AF targets to be better if there is background to the bird (beside open sky) as it is more likely to sometimes focus on the background. Also, in Menu *A & the last item in that list, C-AF Lock, I would suggest trying Low if there are any possible disruptive objects etc that would cause you to lose the tracking in C-AF (don't use C-AF tracking though) or Off. Basically, suck & see which works for you in your situation.
     
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  13. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    This is not the first debate of its kind on this topic. I agree w/ your basic point - the E-M1 does not have pro-DSLR performance for shooting BIF - but folks here can give you tips to improve your keeper rate if you give them a chance by providing a bit more info & some photos. I've stood next to someone w/ a 7DII w/ the EF 100-400II shooting the same BIF. He could get 3-4 in focus captures by the time I got one w/ my ZD300 + EC14 & E-M1. The big ZD has slower AF motors than your 40-150 & 43 SWD lenses.

    Your expectations about AF performance for BIF also seem high. But BIF is one of the most demanding AF challenges there is. And there are so many variations on birds & settings. Just keeping a bird in the finder is really tough & that's why EVF lag/blackout requires using different technique. BTW, the D300 was no AF slouch in its day.

    For a useful context to this discussion, I've been reading the DPR reports on the AF performance Sony A7RII w/ adapted & native lenses. The AF technology of the A7RII is a big leap ahead of the E-M1 & raised DPRs hopes that mirrorless was finally able to match pro-level DSLR AF performance. Didn't happen. EVF blackout & poor AF tracking in some conditions were especially well described when DPR took the A7RII out for sports action shooting. But they also noted that going back to old school technique - single AF target on subject - used before DSLR AF tracking was greatly improved, worked fine with the Sony. The same is true for E-M1 & BIF. (IMHO, AF tracking is not a mirrorless problem because the Nikon 1 system has great BIF performance. So seems to me this is a AF software issue & the Oly & Sony have not done the research that Canikon have.)

    My experience w/ the ZD300 usually w/ EC14 & E-M1 is its main weakness is distracting backgrounds in their many forms. I've posted many BIF shots here & my keeper rate is 60+% as long as I can keep the bird in the center of the frame & don't have a distracting background. Distracting backgrounds require several techniques depending on the situation. The key is finding a way to get initial focus lock &/or getting focus back on the bird after initial lock on a background. From your mention about shooting Sharp Shins & Coopers (typically found in forested areas that these birds colors often matches), I suspect this is one of the challenges you are dealing with. But if you're unable to get a high keeper rate for Eagles in a blue sky, something else is going on.

    I've found it helpful to break my BIF shooting situations into categories & identify an effective technique for each. My most useful tip is that per-focus is of critical importance. So posting some of your photos along w/ some description of how your shooting would help others provide you their useful experience if you're open to that.

     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
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  14. JamesD

    JamesD Mu-43 Regular

    58
    Mar 18, 2015
    Elk Grove, CA
    Jim Landers
    I had to re read your post to make sure I hadn't written it myself. My experience exactly! I have quite a bit of experience shooting BIF's with Sony, and a bit with Canon and Nikon, so I'm not a noob. I was getting enthused about the forthcoming 300/4 and 100-400 as an option to the big DSLR lenses, so I bought a tc to use with my 40-150/2.8. Without going to the frustrating detail, my experience brings to mind the old saying, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while". Very disappointing.
    '
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
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