Olympus EM1 MKIII Face Priority-1st Model Shoot Results

SpecFoto

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Short Recap: Initial impression is that the new Face Priority on the EM1 MkIII is good, but not great, and gets a 7.5 out of 10 rating, where the face and eye decect on my Sony A73 is a solid 9.5.

Long Version: Got to do my first model shoot in a couple of months yesterday, and also used my 6 week old EM1 MkIII for the first time in this type of setting. Was anxious to try out the highly touted improved eye and face tracking system called Face Priority. Set my camera to A mode and used 2 lenses for this, the 12-40 f2.8 Pro and the Nocticron 42.5 f1.2, IBIS on, lens OIS off. The shoot was in the local foothills and it was a beautiful clear and crisp day. About half the photos were in bright sun, the other half in the shade of trees, an old barn structure or a railroad car. A good friend shot with me who just bought his first Olympus last week thanks to my recommendation, also the MkIII, after more than 20 years of using Nikon. He bought the 12-100 f4 Pro lens and really liked it, as it replaces his 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8 Nikkors with a much smaller package.

My first 39 shots were taken with the 2 models right against some shadowed concrete bridge supports which were covered in graffiti. On about 5 or so, I noticed the face square jumping to some graffiti on the wall and I used FN front button, preprogrammed to turn face priority on/off, and then the joystick to move the focus back, take the shot, and hit the FN again to restart Face Priority. So all ended up in perfect focus. Excellent, I thought, what a great start.

But once we moved to where the models were not against the walls, but with an open background or inside a rail car with a dark background, the results changed drastically. 82 out of the remaining 365 photos were OOF, where the face priority either front of back focused on something else and the eyes/face were not sharp, even though I had gotten a green square in the EVF. The face square appeared, and in most the lock on the eyes, when visible, but then face square disappeared, it did not jump to anything else like it did when shooting against the walls. My friend shooting alongside me said the same thing about the face square disappearing, so it wasn't anything I had accidentally done. There were series of shots taken from the same shooting position with the same background, and a couple shots in a row would be OOF and then focus would return, only to be lost again. The worst was a series of 22 photos shot in shade under a dilapidated barn with open sides. I was using my Godox AD200 in flash HS Sync mode and only 6 out of 22 were in focus. At another spot, 8 shots with the model leaning along the side of a railroad car, with me shooting parallel along the side of the car, were all OOF, but as soon as I moved 45 degrees to the side of the railcar, and without touching anything on the camera, the focus returned. The majority of the misfires were taken with the model being close enough for a 3/4 or full body shot, so in the 4 to 6 meter range. About 50 photos were taken at 10 meters or more and all of these were in perfect focus. Very perplexing. And it wasn’t my ss, as the far majority were taken at 1/320sec or greater. 14 for example, out of 39 shots at 1/2,500ss were OOF. The slowest ss was 1/60 and the far majority are in perfect focus.

Final tally is Face Priority nailed focus on 322 out of my 404 Face Priority On total photos, which is a big improvement over my G9, but it is a little bit disappointing to me from what I was led to believe. I am sure some of the missed results are from me using this new Face Priority system for the first time and there are things I may need to learn. But where do I do that, as Olympus only has a 2 minute video showing how it performs in full sun and the only instructions are the ones in the manual that says how to turn it on or off….However my Sony A73 with its awesome face/eye detect, would have missed maybe 2-5 photos per 100, based upon 31 similar photo shoots and approx. 14,000 total portrait photos taken with it the since Sept 2018. So initial impression is that the new Face Priority on the EM1 MkIII is good, but not great, and gets a 7.5 out of 10 rating, where the face and eye detect on my Sony A73 is a solid 9.5. I have developed an AF confidence with the Sony at these types of events and really no longer worry about focusing as the face/eye detect is so good. Hopefully the EM1 MkIII Face Priority will allow for this too, with practise and FW updates.

P. S. My friend in using his new EM1 MkIII for the first time just wanted to see how it all worked. He put his camera into the P mode, turned Face Priority on, used only the 12-100 f4 Pro zoom, and did not adjust the camera in any other way. He has not gone through all of his photos yet, but we discussed it this morning and his results mirror mine, he felt that 20 to 25% at initial glance were OOF.
 
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BPCS

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Interesting thanks. I have been thinking about a mkiii EM1 and was aware the eye detection is improved, but your experience is what I feared... still not dependable enough. If it is family snapshots, a slight focus miss is ok... the memory is still captured and the person obviously identifiable. If the shoot is for professional paid work, then eye detect must work at least as good as alternative focus techniques... at least about 95% reliable.

From what I have read, it seems that head and shoulders portraits produce almost perfect results with eye detect, but full length shots is where things get a lot worse... your experience?
 
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Love to see postings like this with hands on comparisons instead of people debating numbers or doing that silly picture thing to compare sizes.

FWIW I had an A7rii and came back to Olympus with a E-m1ii and I felt the Oly was inferior when it came to Face detect.
 

kbouk

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You don't have to turn on/off face priority with the FN button when camera choose another face.

With face priority ON you can assign to whatever FN button the menu option to let you choose the right face with the button arrows. I love to see this works also with the joystick.
 

comment23

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S-AF or C-AF?

I find C-AF works best for people shots using face priority for me. This is because I often find myself holding down on the half-press for a moment or longer out of age-old habit.
 

Saledolce

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I see the opening post is May 2020, did any firmware update improve the situation in the meanwhile?
 
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I find C-AF works best for people shots using face priority for me.
In most situations for me I find C-AF works best. I think this is because in my shooting, the faces that I'm trying to get are my kids who won't stop moving. When I find out of focus on face detect it's generally when I've switched modes and forgot that the FN lever was set to S-AF. When people are still/posing, I think the S-AF hits fine for me but I don't have numbers to back anything up.

It's by no means perfect and I don't have any Sony to compare it to, but it is miles ahead of the E-M1.1 that I came from. It is good enough that for day to day I don't wish I had switched systems. I would really love to see some commitment to update the focus performance on the E-M1.3, but nothing as of yet.

From the description above I wonder if some of the misses come from what could be brightly backlit subjects. The focus even in C-AF seems to be drawn to areas of high contrast, and if the subject face and eye is something that's relatively low contrast in the scene it could have an influence on it nailing the correct depth. I wouldn't doubt this would be cause for serious reservation to rely on it in some of those professional situations where flash is used as the OP listed.
 

SpecFoto

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So I post my initial findings 16 months ago and you guys finally get around to responding.....:sleep: :roflmao:

Have used the EM1 MkIII on a few model shoots since, but I tend to use the Sony system more simply because the Sony Eye Detect AF is more accurate, especially at longer focal lengths than the Olympus Face/Eye Priority AF is. I tend to use AF-C at 3 FPS on both systems as my standard. My last shoot was at the end of August and I used EM1 MKIII and the new to me Oly 17mm f1.2 Pro all day and the Eye Priority AF hit rate was 9 out of 10, which is excellent. Very happy with these results.

Mostly though I do outside portraits in the surround desert/mountain environments and as the models are sometimes 7 to 10 meters away, I generally use the Nocticron 42.5 F1.2 and Oly 75mm f1.8 primes. I found that the farther away the model, the less reliable the Eye Priority AF is. With the 75mm f1.8 the hit ratio is in the 6 or 7 out of 10 shots range, not bad, but the Sony with my (FF) Batis 135mm f2.8 FF lens is 9.3 out of 10 shots at the same distances. This is no reflection on the 75mm f1.8, it is an excellent lens and the standard AF is fast and accurate. The Noct, usually because the model is closer, is more like 8 out of 10, or 9 out of 10 on 3/4 body closeups, where my Batis (FF) 85mm f1.8 is a rock with Eye Detect AF, like 9.7 out of 10 shots are sharp, it rarely misses. The Olympus Face/Eye Priority AF is WAY better than it was on my original EM1 or my G9 and overall I am happy with it, but I will choose the Sony setup every time if I know I will be shooting at longer subject distances.

Re the question on a FW upgrade for the Face/Eye Priority AF, I haven't seen one for this, but hopefully OM Digital is working on it.
 
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SaintMovies

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I am a Sony shooter (formerly canon) for my professional work. I bought into the OLYMPUS ecosystem primarily for my leisure and vacation travels. I did hope I could integrate my OMD EM1MKIII for some pro work, I too found the face eye/detect unreliable and outright disappointing compared to Sony and Canon. I mostly don’t use the feature and rely on old school techniques when photographing people that are mostly not moving; landscapes and generally still objects. I love the other strengths of the camera like focus stacking, HHHR… so it’s a tool for some specific photography— it’s not what I reach for if I need quick precise focusing on people. So I picked up a Sony A6600 to accompany my EM1 MKIII my leisure use and travels.
 

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