Bird Photography with 75-300

This weekend  I went out to LaSalle Park and captured some bird photography with the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II zoom lens. I appreciate that some readers would like to see more samples of bird photography captured with affordable gear like the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II zoom lens… so I made some time to do so on Saturday.

The weather was grey, dull and overcast. Far from the kind of conditions that I would typically favour… but ideal to do some camera and lens testing! So, I grabbed my wife’s E-M1 Mark III fitted it with the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm zoom… then headed off to LaSalle Park.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 221 mm, efov 442 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2000, cropped to 3396 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.4 metres

I must confess it felt quite strange to use a camera that did not have Bird Detection AI, and I was very aware of my lack of familiarity with the E-M1 Mark III. Nevertheless I thought it was important to choose settings that would likely be commonly used by E-M1 Mark III owners when photographing birds-in-flight.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 3396 pixels on the width, subject distance 22.4 metres

I selected continuous auto-focus (C-AF) in silent shutter mode at 18 frames-per-second, and used a 5×5 AF point grid. A shutter speed of 1/2000 was used so I could shift between birds-in-flight and static birds without having to worry about my shutter speed. I began my LaSalle Park visit with a few photographs of gulls and ducks doing standard fly-bys.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 2064 pixels on the width, subject distance 26.8 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1600, cropped to 2321 pixels on the width, subject distance 42 metres

I wanted to get a decent selection of bird photography with the M.Zuiko 75-300 II and pushed the equipment with a few distant birds. This resulted in some severe crops (e.g. the two images above) which I wouldn’t normally do… but I thought some readers may have an interest.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 208 mm, efov 416 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, full frame capture, 10 metres

I looked for opportunities to capture a few different behaviours, like the mallard above dunking its head in the water.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 234 mm, efov 468 mm, f/6.4, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 4908 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.2 metres

And, the image above of a trumpeter swan going after a mute swan that had strayed too close to the trumpeter’s mate.

I also captured a few photographs of some mallard ducks landing on the surface of the bay, coming reasonably close in to shore.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 3176 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.6 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 5004 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.6 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 4656 pixels on the width, subject distance 14.9 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-5000, cropped to 4164 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.1 metres

I found that the responsiveness of the 75-300 mm II’s auto-focus was just a tad slower than the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm. It is still more than acceptable, but I had to be a bit more disciplined when responding to fast breaking image opportunities to allow for the difference in auto-focus acquisition.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-640, cropped to 3867 pixels on the width, subject distance 16 metres

There was a Pekin duck at LaSalle Park on Saturday morning, hanging around with the Mallards. I was able to get a few images of it on the shoreline and swimming.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 3613 pixels on the width, subject distance 12.2 metres

This species of duck is domesticated and the ducks are often kept as pets around ponds. They tend to be quite docile and can sometimes have an affectionate nature. Pekin ducks are sometimes bred for their meat and eggs.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 171 mm, efov 342 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2500, cropped to 3907 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.2 metres

It is probable that this particular bird escaped from a captive environment. Pekin ducks have short wings and are heavier than wild ducks, and sometimes are not capable of flight. It is doubtful that this particular duck will survive in a wild environment for very long.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 258 mm, efov 516 mm, f/6.5, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 3432 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.9 metres

Bird photography with the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II is an enjoyable experience. When paired with an E-M1 Mark III the combination is small, lightweight and easy to handle… enabling me  to capture a short image burst of a pigeon in flight.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 3495 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.4 metres

Most of the birds that were up flying were gulls. I did manage to get a number of images of ducks and geese coming in for water landings.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 286 mm, efov 572 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 4109 pixels on the width, subject distance 28.6 metres

Most of my bird-in-flight opportunities were with gulls. A lot of photographers feel that photographing gulls is a waste of time. I find them to be very good subjects with which to practice eye/hand coordination, and also to hone my shutter timing and in-flight compositions.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 208 mm, efov 416 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2500, full frame capture, subject distance 15 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 234 mm, efov 468 mm, f/6.4, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 4716 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.4 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 187 mm, efov 374 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2000, cropped to 4572 pixels on the width, subject distance 15 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 3901 pixels on the width, subject distance 20 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 215 mm, efov 430 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2500, cropped to 4420 pixels on the width, subject distance 14.6 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 234 mm, efov 468 mm, f/6.4, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, full frame capture on the width, subject distance 15 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 246 mm, efov 492 mm, f/6.4, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-2500, cropped to 4680 pixels on the width, subject distance 15 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 156 mm, efov 312 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 3978 pixels on the width, subject distance 15 metres

Even though gulls are extremely common birds, if we capture them at a precise moment in flight, the result can be some interesting images.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 275 mm, efov 550 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 3675 pixels on the width, subject distance 20.6 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 132 mm, efov 264 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 4644 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.1 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-4000, cropped to 4088 pixels on the width, subject distance 12.3 metres
OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-5000, cropped to 4572 pixels on the width, subject distance 15.2 metres

My bird photography session at LaSalle Park with the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II was less than three hours in duration. During that time I was able to capture a decent selection of images… and had a lot of fun in the process.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-3200, cropped to 3890 pixels on the width, subject distance 21.6 metres

The M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II has some limitations in terms of not being weather sealed, and using a slower, variable aperture design. On the positive side it is small, lightweight, affordable, and offers good auto-focus performance.

Bird photography with the 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II can be a very enjoyable experience. It’s one of those lenses that is quite capable… but very easy to underestimate.

OM-D EM-1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 228 mm, efov 456 mm, f/6.3, +0.7 EV, 1/2000, ISO-6400, cropped to 4881 pixels on the width, subject distance 15 metres

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. C-AF (continuous auto-focus) was used at 18 frames-per-second with silent shutter. A 5×5 AF grid was used. All images were captured with an OM-D E-M1 Mark III and an M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II zoom lens. This is the 1,245 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Bird Photography with 75-300”

  1. Thank you for this information. The image quality you were able to coax out makes me feel more confident in my choice of providing this same combo to my wife to replace the Nikon 1 V3 and her beloved 70 – 300mm telephoto lens that stopped working last Spring. Nikon finally got it fixed after many months waiting for parts but I think we will be permanently moving on from that to Olympus. She will mostly use it for Butterflies and Hummingbirds which should also be much easier. A little less reach than the Nikon but a larger sensor which should allow for a bit more cropping.

    1. Hi Ted,

      As you know the Nikon 1 V3 coupled with the 1 Nikkor 70-300 does make a really great birding and nature combination. I can understand why your wife has enjoyed using that equipment. I loved the 70-300 to the point that I owned two of them.

      Your wife will lose some reach as well as light gathering when you make the shift to Olympus/OM System and the 75 x 300. While she may lose a bit of reach/light on the lens, she will get a far more capable and flexible body moving to the E-M1 Mark III. For butterflies and hummingbirds I’m sure she will love Pro Capture L and H. That technology will dramatically expand her photographic potential.

      Moving from an 18.4 MP 3×2 sensor to a 20 MP 4×3 sensor will not give her any additional cropping potential on the width (V3 is 5232 x 3488 pixels, E-M1 Mark III is 5184 x 3888 pixels) but the 4×3 image format is far more useable for birding and insects like butterflies, dragonflies etc. as there are fewer wasted pixels in the composition. Plus the E-M1 Mark III will deliver 12.8 EV of dynamic range versus 10.7 EV (a difference of 0.5 EV is needed to be noticeable).

      My wife’s favourite Nikon 1 camera was the V3, and she is making the transition to the E-M1 Mark III without any issues.

      I’ll send you an email outside of the website on something that could be of interest.

      Tom

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