This article discusses a BIF fast response practice exercise that I do on a periodic basis as well as sharing some recent images captured during one of these practice sessions.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
As regular readers know, I’m a firm believer in ongoing practice to develop and maintain the physical skills associated with handheld photography. This becomes increasingly important as we age.
The BIF fast response practice exercise featured in this article has one primary goal… to increase the speed at which we can locate a bird-in-flight in our viewfinder and quickly capture images of it.
Since I almost never use my wife’s E-M1 Mark III and accompanying M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II zoom lens, I decided to use that equipment combination for this practice exercise.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this camera gear so I decided to use Pro Capture L set at 10 frames-per-second with the Frame Limiter turned off. I used Continuous Auto-Focus (C-AF) with sensitivity set to +2, along with a 3×3 AF grid. I kept the AF grid positioned in centre frame.
I popped a couple of my 64GB UHS-II SD cards in the E-M1 Mark III and set a goal of filling the two cards as quickly as possible, while attempting to capture as many usable photographs as possible.
To conduct an effective BIF quick response practice exercise it is important to have a plentiful amount of subject birds-in-flight that are proximate to your shooting position for a good duration of time.
It was a blustery morning with a stiff wind coming out of the west which suited my purposes. So, I headed off to Grimsby harbour hoping that I’d find a good population of gulls. Lady Luck smiled down on me and I was greeted with a plentiful selection of gulls in flight.
After watching them for a few minutes I decided to sit on a park bench close to the shoreline as it gave me a good shooting angle on the most common flight path being used by the gulls.
Once properly positioned I began firing off Pro Capture L image runs as quickly as I could as the gulls flew past my position. When my first card was full, I momentarily stopped and switched it out for a fresh UHS-II SD card in slot 1 so I could take advantage of its faster writing speed.
As could be reasonably expected when shooting at such a torrid pace there were a few times when the E-M1 Mark III struggled a bit to clear its buffer. I ignored those struggles and just kept firing away and missed a few photographs.
It took me 32 minutes to fill both of my 64GB UHS-II SD cards with a total of just under 4,500 photographs. That meant that I averaged about 140 photographs per minute during my BIF fast response practice exercise.
When shooting at this kind of continuously fast pace it can be difficult to maintain proper technique for the duration of the exercise. I kept focused on my primary goal of quickly finding birds-in-flight in my viewfinder and grabbing as many photographs as fast as I could. Obviously I missed a number of photographs as my technique would best be described as ‘variable’. 🙂
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the number of usable images generated during my BIF fast response exercise. The E-M1 Mark III performed quite well in terms of acquiring auto-focus. I ended up capturing a wheelbarrow full of images that were surplus to my needs.
Doing this exercise reinforced my previous experience in terms of the comfort and ergonomics of the Mark II and Mark III cameras. Quite simply I do not find either of these cameras the least bit comfortable to use for any decent duration of time.
I have large hands and there isn’t enough room on the grip for my little finger so I have to tuck it underneath the camera body. I find this very uncomfortable. When using heavier lenses like the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 or M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS I quickly get painful cramps in my forearm when using those lenses with either the Mark II or Mark III.
For a consumer grade lens the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II performed well. I stopped the lens down slightly to f/8 to give me a bit more depth-of-field as the gulls were flying in fairly close to me. I also assumed that many owners of this lens would likely stop it down a bit in order to increase sharpness slightly.
When buying lenses it is critical to have realistic expectations. As a consumer grade lens costing about $800 in Canada, the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II can not be expected to perform as well optically as the M.Zuiko 100-400 or the higher end PRO nature lenses like the 40-150 mm f/2.8, 300 mm f/4 IS or the 150-400 mm IS. These lenses cost between 2.5 to 12.5 times more money.
The M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II is quite a capable, small and lightweight lens. It is ideal as a telephoto zoom for travel or for photographers who occasionally like to photograph sports, birds and wildlife in good light… but don’t want to break the bank with a more expensive option.
As is the case with any telephoto lens, for best results it is important to get as many pixels on a subject bird as possible, and to use a fast enough shutter speed.
Overall, my recent BIF fast response practice exercise was a successful experiment. I was pleased with the quantity and quality of the images that I was able to capture during a very compressed timeframe, and my wife’s E-M1 Mark III and M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II both performed well. As time permits I’ll be doing a few more bird photography experiments with this equipment combination.
I brought an extra battery with me but did not have to use it. I put in a freshly charged battery in the E-M1 Mark III before leaving home. After capturing almost 4,500 images in 32 minutes of total shooting time, I still had 72% battery power remaining after completing my BIF fast response practice exercise.
Regardless of the camera gear that we may happen to use, periodically challenging ourselves with speed-related exercises can help to build and maintain our handheld photographic skills.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,151 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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