Olympus 300mm f4 - What am I doing wrong?

mrjoemorgan

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I bought a second hand Olympus 300mm F4 PRO a few days ago and tried it out for the first time yesterday.

Shooting handheld with my EM1 Mark II and the MC-14, the results were less than satisfactory.

Looking at the info on the camera playback, using C-AF Single point, they all focused on the bird.

S-IS 1 on the camera. Lens IS was ON. Shot in Sequential Low with Anti Shock

Is it pilot error? Not holding the camera steady enough? Is it the way I have the camera setup for focus etc?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and advice

Joe

Example 1
1/1600 f6.3 ISO500 420mm
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Example 2
1/1000 f6.3 ISO 200 420mm
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Example 3
1/1600 f6.3 ISO 640 420mm
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Example 4
1/1000 f5.6 ISO1600 420mm
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Phocal

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First, why CAF for these images? Why not SAF? I suggest going back out and using SAF to see if it makes a differences. I am suspecting that you made need a micro focus adjustment, especially with the MC-14.

Second, go out and shoot without the MC-14 to see if that makes a difference and it will help rule out or rule in the TC.

Third, how much experience do you have shooting telephoto? Even tho your shutter speeds should be good enough, with poor technique even the best IS is not going to help you much.

Fourth, you said focus point was on the bird/s but where on the bird? Your images don't have full exif so I can't pull shooting distance to check DoF but it seems like there should have been plenty even if you were not on the eye of the bird.

Fifth, were you using the small focus point? Was the focus point larger (the green square) than the part of the bird you had it on? Also note that the actual focus area is a bit larger than the green box.

Looking at the last image it seems like focus is forward of the eye. It has also lost a good amount of detail because of the higher ISO.
 

robcee

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it looks to me like you're front-focused. Are you using single center square AF point? You could try focusing on the birds' eyes and repositioning or add a couple of points to your lens focus calibration in the settings.

You might want to try focus calibration anyway. At least then you can be sure whatever you're focusing on will be correct. Good luck, and hope you figure it out. That's a helluva lens combo.

(oops, I missed that you were using C-AF on these. I agree with @Phocal.)
 

Hendrik

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These look pretty typical for shots in which the subject (bird) hardly fills the middle box in the 9-section viewfinder grid, especially using continuous autofocus. In my experience, this is at the edge of Hail Mary territory. I can only manage shots at this distance using S-AF+M. Also, note the buzzard, being a larger bird, must be at least twice as far from the camera as the smaller birds. It is noticeably softer and in this instance you may be running into atmospheric effects as well.
 

Phocal

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it looks to me like you're front-focused. Are you using single center square AF point? You could try focusing on the birds' eyes and repositioning or add a couple of points to your lens focus calibration in the settings.

You might want to try focus calibration anyway. At least then you can be sure whatever you're focusing on will be correct. Good luck, and hope you figure it out. That's a helluva lens combo.
Can't use the focus and recompose with CAF and I have honestly found zero difference in focus accuracy between center and other focus points. For the record I have run focus calibration on all the points the first few times with my Olympus cameras and determined there is no difference and now just test the center for time reasons. With a DSLR there can be differences because of the two sensors (image and focus) not being perfectly parallel. But with on sensor PDAF, this is not a problem.
 

Phocal

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These look pretty typical for shots in which the subject (bird) hardly fills the middle box in the 9-section viewfinder grid, especially using continuous autofocus. In my experience, this is at the edge of Hail Mary territory. I can only manage shots at this distance using S-AF+M. Also, note the buzzard, being a larger bird, must be at least twice as far from the camera as the smaller birds. It is noticeably softer and in this instance you may be running into atmospheric effects as well.
The distances in these shots is not so much to cause much if any atmospheric effects. While I am one who gets very close to my subjects and always say something about extreme crops. That is not the issue here, the distances are not that great. It's is most likely a focus accuracy issue in CAF that is easily fixed or poor technique or possibly something wrong with lens/TC.
 

AndyT

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Can't add much to what Phocal has said, but in Example 1 the wood / tree seems to be in focus, ditto Example 4 for the twigs / branches.

To add - my first few attempts with this combo were disappointing, things have improved since then with a bit of improved technique.
 
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Hendrik

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The distances in these shots is not so much to cause much if any atmospheric effects. While I am one who gets very close to my subjects and always say something about extreme crops. That is not the issue here, the distances are not that great. It's is most likely a focus accuracy issue in CAF that is easily fixed or poor technique or possibly something wrong with lens/TC.
If you asked me to put money on your three suggestions, I agree, I'd put atmospheric problems last. For me, there is usually a learning curve when I bump up my equipment for reach. Like my mother, who whenever she cooked pancakes would throw away the first attempts, I regard the first few tens or hundreds of shots as test pieces as I learn the ropes and tighten up my technique.
 
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...I regard the first few tens or hundreds of shots as test pieces as I learn the ropes and tighten up my technique.
This would be very especially true for a 420mm telephoto lens on m43 handheld, remember you are trying to handhold something (in terms of reach) quite equal to:

dcbe807093ba478e4b5ee489fef222c3.jpg
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I myself have limited experience with super-long telephoto lenses but the limited photo's I shot were not sharp at all (quite frustrating), the shots by the owner of the lens were sharp... practice makes perfect.

Maybe to just ease your mind that you did not buy a not-so-good lens second hand, mount it on a very sturdy tripod and do some test shots (use a timer/remote/app).
 

Mack

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Does appear to be front focusing given some branches ahead of the bird are sharper.

Fwiw, I was testing my 40-150mm last night with the Micheal Tapes FocusTune 4 software and target and found my TC-1.4x alters the C-AF focus tuning numbers by a couple of points over shooting without it, and it changes over the zoom range by a point too shown below where Tele is fine at zero, but better with a -1 in Wide zoom.

Also, these things seem to pick a different spot with each shutter trip judging by the numbers of spots (shutter images) around each point on the X-axis too. Some I fired off 5 shots and they were all different. I know my Nikon's first shot is generally off a bit, but gets better on subsequent shots as the auto focus may not need to spin as far for a lock-on.

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The more you use it, the better you get understanding it and refining it. Really is a nice lens overall.
 

Phocal

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Also, these things seem to pick a different spot with each shutter trip judging by the numbers of spots (shutter images) around each point on the X-axis too.
This is because of how PDAF works. It is not 100% in accurate in how it determines distance for focusing. Every camera that uses PDAF will be the same.

It is also not unusual for a zoom to be different at the two ends of it's range.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Hey all, thank you for your replies and advice,

@Phocal - Shot C-AF for a few reasons. Ever since I moved to M43 I have never liked the AF system (I had the EM5.2 before) and typically always shoot SAF. When I moved to the EM1.2 I read a lot about the impressive AF system and how people can shoot CAF 99% of the time with great results. The main reason though, is that these birds were moving a lot, so I was hoping to catch them in flight.

Was using a single small focus point, and looking at the exif, all of the points are just below the birds head. See attached photo below.

In terms of experience, I used to shoot with Canon. 1Dx series with 400mm or 600mm lens for sports. Experience with m43 is limited to using my 40-150 w/ 1.4x

I am going to set up some test shots in my garden, using a tripod and using my 300 and my 40-150, with + without the MC-14 to see what happens and ill share the results.

I too thought it was front focusing based on how things around the bird look more in focus.

Never done focus/lens calibration / adjustments. I guess after the test shots I can start to look into some micro-adjustments.

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mrjoemorgan

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🤣

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Phocal

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@Phocal - Shot C-AF for a few reasons. Ever since I moved to M43 I have never liked the AF system (I had the EM5.2 before) and typically always shoot SAF. When I moved to the EM1.2 I read a lot about the impressive AF system and how people can shoot CAF 99% of the time with great results. The main reason though, is that these birds were moving a lot, so I was hoping to catch them in flight.
I can understand why you were using CAF. I actually use SAF almost exclusively for wildlife photography unless it's something actively on the move or if I am drifting in the kayak. For that unexpected thing on the move I have a button programmed for Myset 1 which is my CAF Myset. I actually change that Myset when I get in the field based on likely wildlife I will encounter as well as current conditions. This way I have a one button press to change the camera to the perfect CAF setup.

I am going to set up some test shots in my garden, using a tripod and using my 300 and my 40-150, with + without the MC-14 to see what happens and ill share the results.
That is what I suggest. Will at least help you determine if something is wrong with any part of your system.

I too thought it was front focusing based on how things around the bird look more in focus.

Never done focus/lens calibration / adjustments. I guess after the test shots I can start to look into some micro-adjustments.
Here is everything you need to know about doing a micro focus adjustment. Any questions don't hesitate to ask.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Okay so here is the test. My garden is small and light is not great, but hoping this help determine the issue.

I used a tripod for this test. Did both SAF and CAF. With and without 1.4x on both the 40-150mm and 300mm.

S-IS 1 on the camera. Lens IS was ON. Shot on 12s timer with Anti Shock

Test 1a - 40-150mm without MC-14 using SAF
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Test 1b - 40-150mm without MC-14 using CAF
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Test 2a - 40-150mm with MC-14 using SAF

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Test 2b - 40-150mm with MC-14 using CAF
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Test 3a - 300mm without MC-14 using SAF
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Test 3b - 300mm without MC-14 using CAF
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Test 4a - 300mm with MC-14 using SAF
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Test 4b - 300mm with MC-14 using CAF
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