E-M1 II's Digital Focus Limiter - A Brilliant Feature

ijm5012

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One of the E-M1 II's features that I don't see talked about frequently is its digital focus limiter, which allows the user to set a minimum and maximum focusing distance for any lens mounted on the camera. Focus limiters are traditionally implemented as switches on the lens body, and found mostly on macro and telephoto lenses. However, due to the smaller size of m43 lenses, this feature is typically omitted (with the exception of the bigger lenses like the 300/4 PRO, PL 200/2.8, PL 100-400, etc., and macro lenses like the O60 or PL45). However, with the E-M1 II, ANY lens can now have this functionality. In fact, I find this feature to be BETTER than the focus limiters found on the lenses because you can set the distances to whatever value you need (rather than being limited to the typical 5m - ∞ or thereabouts typically found on telephoto lenses).

I was recently able to put this feature to use with my 100-300 II, and it enabled me to get shots that I would've have a much more difficult time getting had I only been able to use the full focusing distance.

I was photographing the 2018 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at a local race track, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, and found an interesting vantage point to shoot from, where cars come up over the crest of a blind hill. One of the nice things about this location is that it's lit very well in the morning due to the sun's position. However, when shooting above the guard rail, you get a fairly boring composition in that there's a lot of "dead space" at the bottom of the image. To address this, instead of shooting over the guard rail, I laid on the ground and shot through a gap in the guard rail (see the first image below, showing the gap I was shooting through).

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Gap in the guard rail I was shooting through by Ian Menego, on Flickr


This enabled me to create a more interesting composition, with the foreground consisting of out-of-focus grass between myself and the track (see the second image below). Now, the issue with this is that the camera wanted to grab focus on the grass, whereas I wanted to focus on the curbing at the crest of the hill to capture the cars as they entered the frame (in the image above, you can see just how tiny this bit of track was that I was attempting to shoot). Just using the lens as it is, this would've resulted in an excessive amount of frustration. However, thanks to the E-M1 II, I was able to set up a custom focus limit with a minimum focusing distance of 25m, ensuring that the camera would never focus on the grass in the foreground, but instead focus where I wanted (i.e. the track).

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Composition of image by Ian Menego, on Flickr


Putting this feature to use, I was able to capture the images shown below. Without this feature (or even with a lens-based focus limiter), I would've ended up with shots where the camera decided to focus on the grass rather than intended subject. However, thanks to the E-M1 II's ingenious software-based implementation, I didn't have a single shot focused on the grass rather than the car. Yet another example of a very small area of innovation that can make a big difference when it comes to shooting.

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wjiang

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Sounds like an awesome feature. How is it at limiting focus to an intermediate distance? I often find with the 100-300 II on my E-M1 the AF racks out to infinity or very close when I'm trying to get a bird in the sky in focus.
 

ijm5012

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Sounds like an awesome feature. How is it at limiting focus to an intermediate distance? I often find with the 100-300 II on my E-M1 the AF racks out to infinity or very close when I'm trying to get a bird in the sky in focus.
I can't personally comment on its functionality when setting a maximum focusing distance, as I always leave it at infinity and set a minimum focusing distance based on my shooting needs, but I don't see any reason why it would behave any differently or worse.

When setting the minimum focusing distance, it performed flawlessly. Set the desired mfd, and the camera never focused closer than I wanted it to. As soon as I disabled the focus limiter, the camera could focus on the grass. Re-enable the focus limiter, and it went back to not focusing on the grass.

It worked exactly how I wanted it to. As I mentioned in the OP, I think this feature is even better than lens-based focus limiters, because I can set the distance to whatever I want. Most telephoto lenses have a 3, 5 or 10m mfd when using the built-in focus limiter. However, I was able to set a mfd of 25m to ensure that the camera never grabbed focus on the grass (when playing around with the feature, even when set to 10m it would still grab focus on some distant grass in some instances).
 

Nick779

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I can't personally comment on its functionality when setting a maximum focusing distance, as I always leave it at infinity and set a minimum focusing distance based on my shooting needs, but I don't see any reason why it would behave any differently or worse.

When setting the minimum focusing distance, it performed flawlessly. Set the desired mfd, and the camera never focused closer than I wanted it to. As soon as I disabled the focus limiter, the camera could focus on the grass. Re-enable the focus limiter, and it went back to not focusing on the grass.

It worked exactly how I wanted it to. As I mentioned in the OP, I think this feature is even better than lens-based focus limiters, because I can set the distance to whatever I want. Most telephoto lenses have a 3, 5 or 10m mfd when using the built-in focus limiter. However, I was able to set a mfd of 25m to ensure that the camera never grabbed focus on the grass (when playing around with the feature, even when set to 10m it would still grab focus on some distant grass in some instances).
I was paging through the manual for my new EM1.2 and came across this feature. I had close to the same idea as you, but never even considered something like the grass being a problem. Glad to hear it works so well, I was planning a rough panning setting and another with a limited end distance for Macro.
 

tkbslc

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I'm not trying to say it isn't a useful feature to have, but I feel like your examples shown would also have been easily possible by manually choosing a focus point.
 

ijm5012

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I'm not trying to say it isn't a useful feature to have, but I feel like your examples shown would also have been easily possible by manually choosing a focus point.
With the 5-point AF and panning with the cars as they moved down the track, there were times that the lower focus point would grab ahold of the grass due to the contrast once the grass began to obscure the lower parts of the car (when not having the focus limiter set to on).

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kbouk

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Ιf you can’t estimate exactly the distance for use on the focus limiter there is another useful feature on EM1.2 , the MF preset focus, you can use it to meter the distance to the target (as a laser meter) and then set the focus limiter on a bigger area around it.
 

whizwalk

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Hi! Has anyone tried to use this feature to accurately set the Hyperfocal distance? I’ve been puzzled about how to set Hyperfocal on as most lenses don’t have a good distance scale, and the focusing distance is not visible in the EVF.
 

wjiang

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Hi! Has anyone tried to use this feature to accurately set the Hyperfocal distance? I’ve been puzzled about how to set Hyperfocal on as most lenses don’t have a good distance scale, and the focusing distance is not visible in the EVF.
It's not that well calibrated in absolute terms (focus-by-wire lenses typically aren't), so I doubt that you can set anything 'accurately'.
 

Bagrphotography

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I was wondering if/when it would be introduced! (by either Panasonic or Olympus)

I wonder if this was planned for use particularly with the 150-400?

This really has me leaning towards the EM1-II then. (or does the EM1X have this as well?)
 

Mack

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I agree. Really is a useful feature. I use it on both the E-M1 Mark II and the E-M1X both, although the E-M1X seems to get an AF lock-on faster and better in lower light too with the f/4 lenses, imho. Probably due to it having the split dual processors where one is assigned to handle the focus and AI both, verses the single processor in the E-M1 Mark II running the whole tamale.

I find shooting birds in the yard flying near me that I can set the AF limiter to 4-9 feet so I can get maximum feather detail with the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens. Couple that with a Better Beamer and a Godox TT685-O flash and it works really well. Once they get out to around 12-15 feet, the slower f/4 lenses aren't cutting it for me along with the HSS flash so the AF limiter can ignore them too beyond that distance.

I set mine up to where the Far distance achieves a focus lock, and then change it closer to me where the background will remain out of focus. This gets rid of trees, buildings, clouds or whatever is behind the bird. Then do the same for the near position so I don't get a pole or tree in the foreground and set the close/near limiter distance.

Once done, I can then apply whatever exposure along with the Better Beamer to light them up which adds a bit of contrast to their feathers. Given I prefer to shoot close with the m43, the Better Beamer can be aimed by sliding the Fresnel lens up or down in the Velcro mount. Easier to do shooting a darkened wall with the zoom on wide and then moving the Fresnel up or down (Usually downward by 3/8" for mine.) to center it, then zoom the lens into telephoto which then covers the flash area.
 

Robstar1963

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One of the E-M1 II's features that I don't see talked about frequently is its digital focus limiter, which allows the user to set a minimum and maximum focusing distance for any lens mounted on the camera. Focus limiters are traditionally implemented as switches on the lens body, and found mostly on macro and telephoto lenses. However, due to the smaller size of m43 lenses, this feature is typically omitted (with the exception of the bigger lenses like the 300/4 PRO, PL 200/2.8, PL 100-400, etc., and macro lenses like the O60 or PL45). However, with the E-M1 II, ANY lens can now have this functionality. In fact, I find this feature to be BETTER than the focus limiters found on the lenses because you can set the distances to whatever value you need (rather than being limited to the typical 5m - ∞ or thereabouts typically found on telephoto lenses).

I was recently able to put this feature to use with my 100-300 II, and it enabled me to get shots that I would've have a much more difficult time getting had I only been able to use the full focusing distance.

I was photographing the 2018 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at a local race track, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, and found an interesting vantage point to shoot from, where cars come up over the crest of a blind hill. One of the nice things about this location is that it's lit very well in the morning due to the sun's position. However, when shooting above the guard rail, you get a fairly boring composition in that there's a lot of "dead space" at the bottom of the image. To address this, instead of shooting over the guard rail, I laid on the ground and shot through a gap in the guard rail (see the first image below, showing the gap I was shooting through).

View attachment 666144Gap in the guard rail I was shooting through by Ian Menego, on Flickr


This enabled me to create a more interesting composition, with the foreground consisting of out-of-focus grass between myself and the track (see the second image below). Now, the issue with this is that the camera wanted to grab focus on the grass, whereas I wanted to focus on the curbing at the crest of the hill to capture the cars as they entered the frame (in the image above, you can see just how tiny this bit of track was that I was attempting to shoot). Just using the lens as it is, this would've resulted in an excessive amount of frustration. However, thanks to the E-M1 II, I was able to set up a custom focus limit with a minimum focusing distance of 25m, ensuring that the camera would never focus on the grass in the foreground, but instead focus where I wanted (i.e. the track).

View attachment 666145Composition of image by Ian Menego, on Flickr


Putting this feature to use, I was able to capture the images shown below. Without this feature (or even with a lens-based focus limiter), I would've ended up with shots where the camera decided to focus on the grass rather than intended subject. However, thanks to the E-M1 II's ingenious software-based implementation, I didn't have a single shot focused on the grass rather than the car. Yet another example of a very small area of innovation that can make a big difference when it comes to shooting.

View attachment 666146
View attachment 666147
View attachment 666148
View attachment 666149
View attachment 666150
Great post @ijm5012 - only came across it today because it had been resurrected - very informative - thanks for posting
Haven’t noticed you around here lately - hope you are well !
 

wjiang

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I was wondering if/when it would be introduced! (by either Panasonic or Olympus)

I wonder if this was planned for use particularly with the 150-400?

This really has me leaning towards the EM1-II then. (or does the EM1X have this as well?)
It has existed for quite a while. It's most useful for lenses like the 40-150 with TC or 75-300, 100-300 that have no hardware limiter.
 
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Very interesting topic.
I have this feature on my E-M5 mk3. I clearly overlooked it when reading the manual, thinking I would never use it.
I'll read it again, to see how easy it is to set it on/off.

I clearly missed some pictures in the past (for instance with long focal lenghts and in the direction of the sun), because the AF was lost and was trying to focus a lot too close.
Sometimes the photo was out of focus, sometimes it took too much time to get in focus to get the shot.
I could have focused with MF but I wanted to have the ability to zoom so a "prepared MF" shot was out of the question.

I'll make some tests to see how it works.
 

fsuscotphoto

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I find it amazing that I keep learning new things about the camera. These cameras can do SO MUCH that we've not even touched on yet. The future is bright.
 
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So... I just checked the manual.

If you assign the function to a button, it's perfect. You press the button to set it on/off, and rotate the dial when pressed to choose which set (1/2/3) you want to use.
However, all my buttons are already assigned. I also don't want this feature to be selected if I push the button by mistake.

The only other way to select it seems to be going through the menus.
I'm surprised you can't select it from the SCP...
The best way to put it in place would be using the 1/2 Fn lever. But as with face detection, the level 1/2 doesn't recall AF limiter values... that's surprising.
 
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