Bird AI for Perched Birds

Yesterday I went out to Hendrie Valley for 2 hours to test the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI function, capturing photographs of small, perched birds. I returned home in a state of stunned amazement. I have never captured so many usable images of small birds, so easily, so confidently, and so quickly in my life.

Until a photographer actually uses the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI firsthand it is difficult to fully explain what the experience feels like. It is so completely liberating to not have to care about moving auto-focus points around while trying to photograph small, fidgety birds.  The amount of time saved, and the additional photographic opportunities that are created as a result, is just incredible.

After my 2 hour visit I returned home with more usable photographs than I could have ever imagined. I have been completely spoiled by the experience!

Rather than drone on about these test images, I’ll just share a good selection of them for all of you to view.

To put all of the photographs in context I decided to display each of them as 100% captures without any cropping. This will give you a good idea of what can be created when using the E-M1X along with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS and MC-14 teleconverter… and that incredible Bird Detection AI!

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 454 mm, efov 908 mm, f/8.9, 1/400, ISO-1250, subject distance 4.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-4000, subject distance 5.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-2500, subject distance 7.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 4.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-3200, subject distance 7.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 3.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 3.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-4000, subject distance 5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 5.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 3.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-3200, subject distance 5.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 4.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2000, subject distance 9.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-3200, subject distance 6.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 5.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 391 mm, efov 782 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-4000, subject distance 5.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 5.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2000, subject distance 6.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-3200, subject distance 5.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 391 mm, efov 782 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2000, subject distance 7.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 5.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 6.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 6.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 5.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-6400, subject distance 4.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 521 mm, efov 1042 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-4000, subject distance 5.3 metres

I hope you enjoyed the selection of photographs in this article. They are only a sampling of the images I was able to capture yesterday within a 2 hour window of opportunity. The E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI is amazing technology that expands what is possible with bird photography.

My understanding… based on information in an E-M1X review done by Imaging Resource… is that the E-M1X’s Subject Detection AI is so data intensive that it takes two quad core processors to be able to run the algorithms. Those two quad core processors generate a significant amount of heat, which in turn needs to be dissipated. Dave’s hardware explanation starts at about 12:35 in the YouTube video.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-5000, subject distance 6.5 metres

So… if you own an Olympus camera other than the E-M1X, it would be prudent not to get your hopes up that this technology will somehow magically migrate down to other models. This appears to be more than a firmware upgrade issue. It takes serious hardware as well as heat dissipation, to run this technology. At the present time the only Olympus camera with two quad core processors and an internal heat pipe is the E-M1X.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. A lens module for the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS lens was not yet available for DxO PhotoLab 4 at the time of writing this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1000, ISO-1250, subject distance 5.8 metres

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12 thoughts on “Bird AI for Perched Birds”

  1. Tom
    Sorry to bother you further as your responses above are more than helpful. Are your settings different when you are shooting BIF from what you told Rick above and if so, in what way?

    1. Never a bother to try to help a reader Joel!

      The only thing that I have not finalized when using Bird Detection AI for birds in flight is whether to have a single AF point active, a pattern, or all of them. I need to do more field work to see if any of these choices make a difference, and if so, when to adjust them. The other settings are the same in terms of Continuous Auto Focus with Tracking, Sequential Low with Silent Shutter at 18 frames-per-second and auto-focus sensitivity at +2.

      Tom

  2. Tom,
    A wonderful collection! The sharpness of the images, most taken at max EFV with the 100-400+1.4x TC is terrific. Do you think that you get better autofocus with this software update, or just ease of capture and tracking? I guess what I’m asking is “can I get that kind of sharpness with a Mkiii and that lens combo in those situations?”

    Thanks
    Glen

    1. Hi Glen,

      To be honest I’m not entirely sure. Since Bird Detection AI does not use any of the auto-focus points that are on the sensor of the E-M1X, it may be that the AI function does acquire sharper focus. When using Bird Detection AI the entire scene is analysed independently of the AF points on the sensor, and focus is done by algorithms processed by the 2 quad core processors in the E-M1X. In that regard the auto focus with the E-M1X when using this function would perform completely differently than the auto focus on the E-M1 Mark III. I read a review by Andy Rouse and he commented on how sharp the Bird Detection AI is, especially when it nails focus on the eye of the bird. I think it is safe to say that it is much easier to get the bird’s eye in focus when using Bird Detection AI with an E-M1X than when using traditional auto focus.

      Tom

  3. Tom
    This is an impressive group of small bird photos. As difficult as these small birds are to photograph, it is amazing that you got so many so well done and in so short a time. Two questions. When you did this shoot did you use single or continuous focus? And did you do bracketing?

    1. Hi Joel,

      This is just a sampling of what I was able to get… I had at least 3 times more images that I didn’t use in the article. I used Continuous Auto-Focus with Tracking with the Silent Shutter at 18 frames-per-second. I had all 121 of the auto-focus points engaged. I did not do any bracketing.

      Tom

  4. Thomas,

    what settings are you using with Bird AI? I’m having difficulty getting anything close to what you are, esp. with small birds on branches. Even on ducks on the water, I am not getting the “eye box”, just the big white oval box.

    Thanks,

    Rick

    1. Hi Rick,

      I have my E-M1X set to Continuous Auto-Focus with Tracking, obviously with the Bird Detection AI turned on. I used Sequential Low with Silent Shutter at 18 frames per second. I had all 121 AF points active with my auto-focus sensitivity set to +2.

      To get the E-M1X to acquire focus when using Bird Detection AI, you’ll need to half depress your shutter release and hold it there while you wait for the image to be processed by the dual quad core processors. As you continue to half depress the shutter release and hold it in that position, the box will then turn green and typically jumps to the body, then head, then eye of the bird. When the box is green you can fully depress your shutter release to capture your images. If the bird is too small in the frame then Bird Detection AI may only put a green box around the bird’s head. If the bird turns its head away from the camera the green box may go away from the eye to the head or to the body of the bird. If the bird turns its head toward the camera making its eye visible again, the Bird Detection AI will jump to its eye. The key is to have your shutter release half-depressed through all of this action. Bird Detection AI is a continuous auto-focus function, not single auto-focus.

      Tom

      1. Tom,

        thank you for this! I will make a few changes… 🙂

        I hope some day to be able to use your Nova Scotia ebook, when this is over. In the meanwhile, it’s e-experience.

        Rick

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