Birds-in-Flight Using Pro Capture

I recently went to LaSalle Park in Burlington Ontario to photograph some birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L mode with my Olympus OM-D E-M1X. This article features 25 consecutive images of some swans in flight, along with some commentary about using Pro Capture L for these photographs.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Image 1: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

The two significant differences between using Pro Capture H and Pro Capture L are frame rates and continuous auto-focus. The frame rate with Pro Capture H is 60 fps, compared to 18 fps with Pro Capture L when using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Frame rates with Pro Capture can vary by Olympus camera model.

Image 2: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

Pro Capture L uses continuous auto-focus, while Pro Capture H uses the first frame of an image run to lock focus on the balance of the photographs.

Image 3: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

I’ve found that Pro Capture H is extremely useful when photographing birds, especially smaller ones, taking off or landing at a designated spot.

Image 4: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

Pro Capture H is not quite as practical with birds-in-flight as subject birds need to be flying at a 90-degree angle to my E-M1X for them to stay in focus.

Image 5: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

Both Pro Capture modes capture and spool photographs in temporary memory when the shutter release is half-depressed.

Image 6: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

When the shutter release is fully depressed, these images are then locked in and written to the memory card.

Image 7: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

A photographer can set the number of pre-shutter release images, and post-shutter release images, that will be captured.

Image 8: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

In the case of the photographs featured in this article, I had Pro Capture L set to 20 frames pre-shutter release, and the total number of frames set to 25. This gave me 5 frames after I fully depressed the shutter release.

Image 9: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

I started tracking this group of swans for several seconds as they approached from a distance.

Image 10: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

By half-depressing my shutter release I was able to capture a ‘rolling sample’ of 20 images as the swans continued to fly in towards me. I could simply wait for the action that I wanted to photograph to happen. Pro Capture L takes the guess work out of photographing birds-in-flight in terms of capturing specific bird behaviour.

Image 11: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

When photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L, it is important to remember to wait until the specific action you are anticipating has occurred. Fully depressing the shutter on your Olympus camera (i.e. E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark III) will then lock in those photographs and write them to your memory card.

Image 12: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, Pro Capture L

My objective with this photo run was to concentrate my image captures during the time period just before swans begin to sink lower into the water after touching down. Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L allowed me to be patient and just wait for the anticipated action to happen.

Image 13: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

I really enjoyed using Pro Capture L to photograph birds-in-flight as this mode provides a couple of important benefits.

Image 14: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

One of the biggest benefits is memory card management in terms of more selectively capturing critical images.

Image 15: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

As birds-in-flight approach, a photographer can pan with them. Then by half depressing the shutter release on their Olympus camera, store those photographs in temporary memory.

Image 16: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

A photographer does not have to write those images to their memory card until they know the desired action has occurred. If the birds veer away or do something else unexpected that makes the potential run unusable, the photographer can simply decide not to fully depress their shutter release. The images stored in temporary memory would then be deleted. This can save space on the camera’s memory card, preserve buffer, and reduce time in post when editing photographs.

Image 17: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture made it easier for me to more accurately follow the incoming birds. There were no viewing interruptions in my viewfinder caused by the shutter being actuated as I was storing images in temporary memory.

Image 18: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

Being able to pan with a bird while capturing images in temporary memory has some very interesting possibilities depending on the bird species being photographed.

Image 19: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

For example, terns will periodically do a mid-air shake to help dry themselves off after diving into the water to fish. Capturing these mid-air shake images can be difficult as it typically requires guessing about when to begin an AF-C image run. With the Pro Capture L mode a photographer can pan with the tern and wait until the bird actually completes its mid-air shake… then fully depress the shutter release. This would write the temporary images to the memory card and the photographer would be confident that the specific behaviour had been captured.

Image 20: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

All of the images that you have viewed thus far in this article, including the one above, were all captured before I fully depressed the shutter on my E-M1X.

Image 21: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

This action sequence of these swans in flight was captured in approximately 1.4 seconds in total. Not only that… there was absolutely no stress or pressure involved with capturing these photographs. All I had to do was pan with the birds, half depress my shutter release… and wait for the action I wanted to photograph to actually happen. Once the behaviour happened I fully depressed my shutter release to write those temporarily stored images to my memory card.

Image 22: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

I will definitely be using Pro Capture L on a regular basis when photographing birds-in-flight.

Image 23: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

In fact, photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L may very well become my preferred setting for specific species of birds like terns, herons and ospreys.

Image 24: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L is like betting on a horse race after you know which horse has won. You track a subject bird with your shutter release half depressed and simply wait for the desired behaviour to occur. Once the bird actually does the behaviour, you then fully depress your shutter release to write those photographs stored in temporary memory to your SD card. No guessing. No muss, no fuss.

Image 25: Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500, Pro Capture L

Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L is something folks interested in bird photography should try. You may, or may not, like this capability. But, it is definitely worth checking out. For my style of bird photography I can’t imagine not having at least one camera with this incredible technology.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134 mm, efov 268 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-250, Pro Capture L, subject distance 8.3 metres

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process, and are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

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14 thoughts on “Birds-in-Flight Using Pro Capture”

  1. Dear Thom
    On Nikon 1 cameras, there is the “best moment capture” mode, which resembles “pro capture” albeit already a few years before Olympus. On the V3, 40 images get stored and each new one is added while the earliest is removed from the buffer. On the V3, the rate at which the buffer gets filled can be chosen between 60/sec, 30/sec and 20/sec. Like on the m1x, one can select which of the buffered images one wishes to keep.
    Have you used “best moment capture” on Nikon 1 cameras? If not, why not? If yes, why have you not compared it to the olympus variant?
    Thanks for all the interesting advice and innumerable wonderful images!
    Good light and happy picture taking!
    Rudolf

    1. Hi Rudolf,

      If my memory serves the Best Moment Capture (BMC) on Nikon 1 cameras is basically an automatic setting… as such I really had no interest in using it as it did not give me the amount of control that I want with my gear (I almost always shoot my Nikon 1 gear in Manual mode). So, I never used it at all.

      I had a quick look at it again today and BMC seems to default to making all of the AF points active (AF-A)… and it seems to do auto exposure. I may not be investigating this properly, but I could not find many custom settings in the limited menu options when this function is selected. So… it still isn’t of any interest to me.

      I really don’t see BMC as even remotely similar to Pro Capture in terms of the customization available and the flexibility/functionality of the feature. From what I could discern reading the Nikon 1 manual, BMC limited in terms of the potential number of saved images (5 perhaps?). It also seems to work with AF-A only… not AF-C. When using Pro Capture with an Olympus camera ALL of the images are saved from a Pro Capture run once the shutter release is fully depressed… not just a few from the BMC run.

      With Pro Capture I maintain full control of all of my camera settings. This is critical for me as I shoot in E-M1X Manual mode. I can set the number of saved images that I want in terms of pre-shutter release as well as post shutter release frames. With Pro Capture my E-M1X can save up to 35 full resolution frames in temporary memory… all of which would be saved to my memory card. I can also set the total number of frames captured with Pro Capture… up to 99 frames (i.e. 64 frames after I fully depress the shutter). If desired I can capture up to 99 full resolution images and save them to my memory card. I can also maintain full control of my exposure settings, frame rates, ISO, auto-focus settings etc.

      Depending on whether I choose Pro Capture L or H I have the option to set a range of frame rates. Pro Capture L gives me continuous auto focus with frames rates of 10, 15 or 18. Pro Capture H locks focus and exposure based on the first frame. It gives me frame rate options of 15, 20, 30 and 60 frames per second.

      As you know I love my Nikon 1 gear… but Best Moment Capture is a feature that just doesn’t fit my needs.

      Tom

      1. Hi Tom,

        I’ve been reading your Small Sensor Photography website for some time now, and have always enjoyed the results you have obtained from the Nikon 1 series of cameras. I was very surprised to read your dismissal of Nikon’s ‘Best Moment Capture’ as not being remotely similar to the Olmypus Pro Capture.

        In fact, the two systems have a great deal of similarity, and unfortunately I feel you have done the Nikon 1 cameras a great disservice in this respect.

        Let me summarise the features of Best Moment Capture in the Nikon 1 V3.

        Turn the mode dial to Best Moment Capture, and press the shutter button half-way to start continuously recording 40 frames to the memory buffer, at a selectable 60 fps, 30 fps, or 20 fps. When the shutter button is fully depressed the 40 frames are recorded to temporary storage, and you can choose between recording the 40 frames before the button is fully pressed, 20 frames before and 20 frames after, or 40 frames after the button is fully pressed.

        The images in temporary storage are then presented and can be quickly scrolled through with the multi-selector to mark for saving (any number from 1 to the full 40) or deletion. There are two default presets here, either save the frame at the moment the shutter is fully pressed or all 40 frames, but in either case the 40 frames can be scrolled through to mark any number for saving or deletion. Then press the OK button to save your selected frames.

        When the mode dial is set to Best Moment Capture, almost all the usual settings are available –

        P,A,S,M Exposure Modes, Exposure Compensation, Metering, Image Quality/Size

        Focus Mode (AF-S, AF-C, Manual), AF-area mode (Auto Area, Single Point, Subject Tracking)

        White Balance, ISO, etc.

        The only settings not available are ones that are clearly not appropriate, such as Long Exposure NR, Interval Timer Shooting, and Flash Mode.

        I may be missing something here, and do not have an Olympus camera with Pro Capture, but the range of options seem extremely similar to what Olympus offer.

        More importantly, I use Best Moment Capture with my V3 to great effect to capture butterflies “in the wild”, and have been able to capture images that would be otherwise unobtainable. For example, I’m not sure if you have the Grayling (Hipparchia semele) in Canada, but it is notoriously difficult to view with its wings open, closing them immediately on landing and never opening them until it takes (rapid) flight. With Best Moment Capture it is almost trivial to get a good picture of the butterfly’s wings open in flight, and slower-moving butterflies such as the Red Admiral give outstanding results.

        I hope this short description will encourage you and others to spend a few minutes with their Nikon 1 camera and the Reference Manual and expore what it has to offer with Best Moment capture.

        Best regards

        Tony Nelson

        1. Hi Tony,

          Thank you for taking the time to post your detailed comment… much appreciated!

          As your comment indicates the Best Moment Capture feature on Nikon 1 cameras is capable of capturing some difficult images due to the use of its temporary memory. I certainly did not intend to disparage the Nikon 1 system as I have loved shooting with it for many years. I agree with your suggestion that if owners of Nikon 1 cameras have not investigated Best Moment Capture they should do so to see if it is something that they can use. In retrospect I could have clarified my comment better in that Nikon 1 Best Moment Capture is not remotely similar to Olympus Pro Capture in terms of the amount and degree of customization available.

          In terms of the Pro Capture feature on my Olympus OM-D E-M1X I find it to be significantly better to use as there are differences in functionality.

          1) There are two Pro Capture modes, Pro Capture H (high) and Pro Capture L (low). With the H setting the E-M1X locks focus and exposure based on the first frame of the run. The L mode provides continuous auto-focus.

          2) Pro Capture H gives options to shoot at 15 fps, 20 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps.

          3) Pro Capture L gives options to shoot in AF-C at 10 fps, 15 fps or 18 fps.

          4) Pre-Shutter frames can be set incrementally anywhere from 0 to 35 frames in either Pro Capture H or L. This is extremely important when photographing various species of birds or insects as the speed of subjects can vary significantly which directly impacts the number of Pre-shutter frames that a photographer may set. The response time of a photographer can also vary. This can also directly impact the number of Pre-Shutter Frames selected.

          5) The Frame Count Limiter can be set incrementally anywhere up to 99 frames. This is also extremely important depending on the subject and the objective of the photographer. For example, if a photographer wanted to capture a bird taking off… then wanted to pan with the bird when in flight using AF-C… they may set their Pre-Shutter Frames at 20 and their Frame Count Limiter at 54. This would give them an AF-C run (at 18 fps) of 3 seconds to capture all of the action from take off through to the bird being in flight for a couple of wing beats.

          6) By adjusting 4) and 5) above, a photographer can custom set their Pro Capture run to be specific for the type of subject, as well as for the objectives of the photographer. For example, when I use Pro Capture H to photograph butterflies or small birds I have my Pre-Shutter frames set to 15 and my Frame Count Limiter set to 15. This means that my E-M1X will create 15 continuously spooling full resolution files (RAW + jpeg fine if needed) in temporary memory and once I fully depress the shutter. It will not give me any additional frames after the shutter has been fully depressed. I typically shoot Pro Capture H at 60 fps. So, from the moment when a butterfly or a bird first launches into flight I have a 1/4 second for me to respond and lock in my images. If I had my Frame Limiter set to 20, I would also get 5 full resolution frames after I fully depress the shutter. When using Pro Capture H I fully depress my shutter once the subject bird or butterfly is about to leave my composition.

          7) Pro Capture continuously spools new images in temporary memory, so it will always give the photographer the latest selection of images depending on how the Pre-Shutter Frames has been set. I haven’t used Best Moment Capture for quite a while, but I seem to recall that once it stores 40 images in temporary memory, it discards those images then starts the process over with a new set of 40. I don’t believe that it adds/subjects each new image incrementally. As a result there is some discernible lag time between sets of 40 stored temp images. I could be mistaken on this of course.

          8) Pro Capture allows me to place my AF point anywhere within the focusing grid. I often position a subject bird on one side of my composition, anticipating that it will be flying across my screen. I assume Best Moment Capture also does this.

          9) I would never want to have to stop shooting to select which images that I want to save from a Best Moment Capture. Nor would I want to auto save 40 images as it would clog the buffer in a Nikon 1 camera and thus make capturing successive Best Moment Capture runs very difficult. I typically shoot a number of Pro Capture H runs in quick succession, especially in the case of butterflies where I may be quickly moving from one butterfly to another every couple of seconds as different individuals take flight. I custom set my Pre-Shutter and Frame Count Limiter so I don’t have to worry about what I want to save. I do get some ‘wasted’ frames from a 15/15 Pro Capture H run, but I can usually count on 6-8 potentially usable images from each run. It really depends on how close in I am to a bird or butterfly, where I have it positioned in my composition, its flight direction, and how much ‘flying room’ I have allowed.

          I hope this has answered some of your questions.

          Tom

    1. Hi Ed,

      My understanding is that Pro Capture works with the electronic shutter on the E-M1X… this could be the issue. Other unique capabilities of the E-M1X like LiveND and Handheld Hi Res mode also use the electronic shutter.

      Tom

  2. Thanks for all the great info you made available through this forum. I am looking to replace my Canon EOS 70D & Canon EF 400mm F5.6L with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X an done of these two setups: Olympus M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F/2.8 PRO + MC20 OR M.Zuiko ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO. After photographing birds for over 30 years now, my greatest thrill is when I get sharp images of small birds in flight (especially when they embark on long flights and are out in the open). I am going by the assumption that a fixed lens is always sharper/quicker than zoom lens and was heavily leaning towards the 300mm but wanted to get your opinion. I had a Nikkor 200-400mm in a past lifetime that was at 400mm 95% of the time so focal range is not a big plus for me (I will probably add the 40-150 or another lens down the road). Thanks in advance. Nick K.

    1. Hi Nick,

      I have never used the M.Zuiko PRO IS 300 mm f/4… so I really can’t give you a personal assessment. A long prime like this lens simply doesn’t fit my shooting style at all.

      I do know a couple of people who own the M.Zuiko PRO IS 300 mm f/4 lens and they absolutely love it. The M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 is a very sharp lens throughout the zoom range and works very well with the MC-20 teleconverter. Having said that, if you are looking for the sharpest images at an efov of 600 mm, the M.Zuiko PRO IS 300 mm f/4 is likely a better choice for your specific needs.

      You may want to hold your powder dry for a bit and wait until the M.Zuiko PRO IS 150-400 mm f/4.5 with built in 1.25 teleconverter is launched in 2020. From all accounts this will be a Pro grade zoom lens that would give you an efov of 800 mm at f/4.5 and 1000 mm at f/5.6. Married up with an E-M1X you’d also have 7.5 stops of IBIS. Plus, this lens will be compatible with the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter. This would give you an efov of 2000 mm at f/11 on the long end. This is a lens that I will be having a good look at once it is introduced as it would fit my objectives much better than the M.Zuiko PRO 300 mm f/4 IS prime.

      Tom

        1. Hi Nick,

          At this point that information is not known. Olympus did just register a new lens so there is some speculation that it could be introduced fairly early in 2020. It would make sense that the lens would be introduced before the Olympics.

          I have no idea on price. It would make sense that it would be more expensive than the 300 mm PRO IS f/4.

          Tom

  3. Tom,

    The Pro Capture L feature is very impressive. I can also understand why some pros like Buddy Eleazar has shifted (https://www.dpreview.com/interviews/0536950749/interview-wildlife-photographer-buddy-eleazer-on-why-he-chose-the-om-d-e-m1x) in equal parts because the heavy weight of the full frame bodies and lenses add up on repeated trips and also because the Olympus is indeed, impressive, on many fronts.

    In your pre- full shutter release press sequence, the swan seems to be walking on water. So much action happening in a space of what, 1.4 or so seconds. Impressive indeed.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Hi Oggie,

      Thanks for posting the link to the Buddy Eleazar interview… I think readers will find that of interest! Buddy creates some incredible images and a quick search on Google will lead to many hours of enjoyment viewing his work.

      I am just beginning to experiment with Pro Capture L mode and I’m very intrigued with the possibilities! My initial results have been very encouraging. Olympus seems to be a brand that many people like to criticize, mainly because of the M4/3 format. I think Olympus is doing some amazing things with its camera technology and lenses. I’m finding that my E-M1X’s allow me to push myself in new and different ways… which is exciting to say the least.

      The past few months I’ve had many more photographers proactively approach me when they notice that I’m shooting with Olympus gear, and specifically the E-M1X. They have lots of questions and after we have a chat, most leave being ‘Olympus curious’. I’m aware of a couple of them that have sold their full frame gear and moved over to Olympus. No question some folks need full frame gear for their work. Others are finding that Olympus technology is a good fit for their needs.

      Tom

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