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OM-D and birds

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by dsmithla, Jun 14, 2012.

  1. dsmithla

    dsmithla Mu-43 Rookie Subscribing Member

    Jun 13, 2012
    So is the OM-D quick enough to get good images of birds in flight? Looking to finally go digital, and I'm interested in wildlife photography (for myself, not for money). I kayak the coastal areas and we have lots of pelicans, egrets, herons, and ibises. I would love to be able to capture the pelicans in flight.

    I like what I'm seeing of the OM-D, good images, responsive according to all the reviews, wonderful size (I'm also looking at the D7000 from Nikon).

    We also have the occasional bald eagle and osprey (and one barred owl in my back yard). Other than that, it would just be a travel and carry camera, which I feel it can handle admirably.


    D Smith
  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I've got good images of birds in flight with an E-P3. Provided your shutter speed is high enough, the problem isn't so much the camera but how fast you are. The time lags that cause an issue are your response time and the camera's slight lag between shutter button press and shutter activation. Of those 2, I'd suggest the photographer's response time is often the larger.

    What can slow the camera down is auto focus which is contrast based. If you haven't got good contrast in the area of the bird, or between the bird and background in the area you're trying to focus on, your auto focus speed will be slow and that will slow things down a bit. If you can pre-focus so that the camera doesn't have to focus after you press the shutter, your success rate should go up.

    I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to capture pelicans in flight, especially since they're white birds and should provide a good contrast target. Crows and ravens might be a very different prospect.
  3. dsmithla

    dsmithla Mu-43 Rookie Subscribing Member

    Jun 13, 2012
    o.k. thanks. (it doesn't hurt that Pelicans fly pretty slow either)
  4. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 19, 2012
    IMO (coming from a D7000 to MFT and using MFT for 5 months) your preferred application is not a good match for MFT. The D7000 is superb in this role; you will miss a lot of shots with contrast focus compared to the Nikon.
  5. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Plus, m43 is very lacking in suitable lenses if you would like to take this seriously. This is a situation that calls for a DSLR and the Nikon is a solid choice.
  6. nueces snapper

    nueces snapper Mu-43 All-Pro

    AND the few thousand $ needed for a decent long lens. :cool: 
  7. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Birds in flight can be done with anything, it just comes down to planning/preparedness and knowing your equipment. I had a D7000 before the OM-D and can't say that the AF made it substantially easier. The shorter viewfinder blackout and true live view when continuous shooting was a little nicer.

    Here are a few with not only the E-M5 but legacy Manual focus lenses....
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  8. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    Albuquerque, NM
    Mike Barber
    I think a D7000 or maybe even a D800 would be better. Especially with the 135 format, you could actually take 2 kayaks for the body/ lens and yourself-Just think of all the extra paddling opportunities!
  9. dsmithla

    dsmithla Mu-43 Rookie Subscribing Member

    Jun 13, 2012
    Heli-mech, if I can get shots that nice, I will be very pleased. I really like the first shot. What lens was that?

    Have you tried the OM-D at any airshows?
  10. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Nikon 180mm ED 2.8 AIS. No airshows or the like yet, did snap a F-18 that was flying by my work, as well as a few helicopters but they were far away or relatively slow so they were not difficult shots. However being that planes at a airshow would be near infinity and relatively not drastically changing distance it should not be difficult to do manually.

    Using manual lenses I find that as long as you are a good judge of distance then you just have your lens "pre-set" at the approximate subject distance. From there using magnified view you can fine tune relatively easily. That is what I mean by planning and knowing your equipment.

    You plan by watching where the birds are flying and figure out the best spot to try and catch them. This can allow you to narrow down your "focus range" substantially.

    Know you equipment by knowing how to get into/out of magnify quickly, know your lens and which way to turn the focus ring for desired result, have the aperture pre-set for optimum shutter speed vs DOF........

    Yes one off impromptu shots of a bird flying by you would be easier on a DSLR w/AF but there are many other reasons to go m4/3 and you can definitely still do BIF. Remember too that the 2x factor, so that 180mm 2.8 becomes a 360mm 2.8, only much lighter than its APC or FF equivalent. I love the E-M5 because I can go from my large legacy long lenses plus Grip to my native m4/3 lenses with no grip for a compact setup. Far more flexibility than the D7000 I came from. Not to mention that manual focus is easier with the magnified view and good AF long glass for the D7000 was $$$$$.
  11. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've gotten quite a few good shots with my GH2. I don't find the focus a problem, it's generally fast enough and accurate enough. The challenge I have is keeping them in the viewfinder. If I manage to get them in the AF area, the success rate is very high.

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5968859126/" title="P1120997.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">
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  12. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Great shots there :thumbup:
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  13. dsmithla

    dsmithla Mu-43 Rookie Subscribing Member

    Jun 13, 2012
    Wow, o.k. you guys have reassured me. It actually sounds like for the trickier shots, I would just be shooting like I do now (I've never actually owned an autofocus camera. My wife and daughters do, and my oldest owns a Canon 40D that I play with from time to time. I mostly just throw the Canon AE-1P on manual and bang away). That's actually comforting in a way.

    I'm comfortable with the thought of the OM-D now, thanks.

    (Going to a hot air balloon show today, and borrowing the 40D, and thinking, man, I don't want to lug that thing).

    Zach, I like those.
  14. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    I hate to go contrary to the others here, but I much prefer shooting wildlife with my 7D than with my EM5. The big reasons:

    1) The tracking AF is light years better. For birds in flight with the 7D I can turn on all the AF points, point at the bird, hold down the AF button, and fire off as many frames as I want without worrying about focus. The vast majority of the frames will be in focus, even with extremely difficult subjects like songbirds hunting bugs. The continuous AF on the EM5 is nearly worthless. It won't even track my 17/mo daughter walking slowly with any reliability.

    2) Mirror blackout time on my 7D is shorter than the EVF blackout on my EM5. This doesn't normally bother me too much; even my old Canon 300D wasn't too bad. But the EM5 (and every other EVF I've used) is a little slow. Firing a frame at a moving subject and tracking it while the EVF blacked out is more challenging with the EM5 than the 7D. Not impossible, but if your subject takes a turn when you shoot you might lose it.

    3) Selecting AF points is easier/faster with my 7D. The "castle" controller is a great dedicated controller. The EM5 is too small for such a control, so you have to push a button, use a joystick, then push another button. It makes framing stationary subjects more difficult.

    4) It's easier to review photos on the 7D than the EM5. With the 7D you shoot with the OVF and peek at LCD if you want to see the photo. If you don't you just keep looking at the OVF. With the EM5 if you have review turned on it shows in the EVF. Compounding that annoyance it's not always immediate to review your photo with the Play button on the EM5.

    On the up side the EM5 has its great 9fps, buffers well, is much smaller and lighter with a 100-300, has a nice bright EVF, an has better noise performance than the 7D. Personally I use the EM5 more than the 7D because of its size. Sometimes I kick myself when a bird flies by, but it's better than the pain of carrying an extra 5lbs of DSLR!
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I can't argue with your reasons but I'd start shooting the E-M5 when birds fly by. You may surprise yourself. I startled the bird in the shot below into flight and then caught it with the 45mm 1.8 on an E-P3 set to S-AF. It's not the best bird in flight shot around by a long shot, and I miss a lot more like this than I catch, but I often like what I catch.

    Plus there's the thrill of doing what people keep saying you can't do.

    Now if only I could remember not to try catching birds like this when they're twice as far away from me as this one was, and I've got the 12mm mounted on the camera. I have to admit that I find it a lot easier to catch the bird in flight that way, but I have to pore over the shot at 100% on my computer searching for the bird in order to be able to find an image that takes up 100 pixels. I exaggerate a bit, the bird is usually a little larger in the frame than that, but the shots are totally unusable except for one thing: reaction time practice. If I can catch the bird in the centre of the frame with the 12mm, I may be able to get it in the frame next time with the 45mm or even the 40-150.

    When I got my E-P3 and started getting back into photography after a break of many years, bird photography wasn't what I had in mind, and it isn't my main interest by a long shot, but I do have fun when I go out to do some and M43 gear is what I have so I make the most of it. The keeper rate is low if the bird is moving but that's OK.

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  16. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    Oh, I definitely TRY to shoot any bird I see, even if I have my 45/2.8 mounted! Film is cheap these days. :) 

    I just don't get a good keeper rate with my M43 gear as it stands today. Maybe I'm being stung by the fact that many of the birds I'm going for are songbirds, which are much trickier to track than waterfowl and larger birds.

    S-AF seems to be the best way to go no matter the subject, because the EM5 locks very quickly and won't get distracted and switch off to the background. This was how I had to shoot with my GH1, too. S-AF isn't ideal, but C-AF is bad enough that it's really the only way to shoot.

    When shooting S-AF for motion I find manually focusing as you track and AF'ing only when shooting gives the best results. The less the AF system has to shift, the less lag you get during AF.

    I can't wait for the day we get a M43 body whose C-AF can match my 7D. I'll pay $2K for that body happily, because I'll make at least that selling my 7D and 100-400. Until that day for me it's EM5 in a pinch, but 7D when I'm going bird hunting.
  17. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 17, 2012
    Hopefully the pro omd has on sensor pdaf for ft lenses and better C-AF.
  18. st3v4nt

    st3v4nt Mu-43 Veteran

    May 26, 2011
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    It sounds to me you have not exploring the customize side of EM-5. On my EM-5 to move S-AF point all I have to do is press one of button that I dedicate for AF select, (on my setting is direct record button) and all I have to do next, is use both dial to change where to put new AF point (one dial for vertical the other dial for horizontal) and then press shutter button to take a picture all without moving my eyes from EVF. Of course we can also use touch to focus or touch to focus and shoot from LCD.

    I don't know what you meant with "castle" button but I guess it's a joystick controller in 7D which I wish use by OMD instead the unmarked four way arrow button.
  19. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Don't know if you saw this post of mine on the Share Birds thread:


    Talk about shooting with any lens. I was shooting with the PL 25mm, the shots shown are full frame with no cropping, and I was deleting some shots because the birds were too close for the lens to focus. It's amusing that it took a pack of birds to teach me what the phrase "like shooting fish in a barrel" means.

    Film is cheap these days, which is why I had more than a few shots to discard :) 

    I don't expect to do this type of bird photography again any time soon.

    Note for OP: Don't worry about shooting birds in flight. It's really hard to shoot them when they're perched on your arm and you're trying to fend them off while protecting your meal. Catching the one in flight in the second shot of the post in the link was really a piece of cake, and that's all it took to get them close enough.
  20. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    If it does, my wife is going to kill me. :) 

    The "castle" is the joystick, yes. Some call it the castle because it's got ridges like, well, a castle tower.

    I've got the AF point selection assigned to a direct press on the four-way controller (actually I don't think you can NOT set that button to do AF point selection), but using the dials is unintuitive to me. I used to do it that way on the 1DMk2 and despite my Nintendo upbringing I had a hard time coordinating my hands to move both dials simultaneously. It's all personal preference, of course, so I'm happy to believe that some might find the EM5's ergonomics perfect for wildlife. It's just not for me!

    I'm quite jealous you were attacked by such cool birds. Where I live the only birds you'll see close to you are sparrows and ducks looking to be fed. A whole gang of rainbow-feathered birds? That's cool!

    On good days I can get close enough to fill the frame with a wild songbird at 600mm-e (400mm on my 7D, 300mm on my EM5). On bad days even 1000mm-e isn't enough. I love it when a brave bird lands close enough to shoot with my wide zoom, but that's pretty rare.
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