During a recent visit to Hendrie Valley I had the opportunity to capture a number of M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom cardinal images at 1120 mm efov. My E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI auto-focusing function and the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter were used to create all of the photographs in this article.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
My primary objective during this particular photography outing was to practice locating birds in my viewfinder and acquiring focus on them quickly, when using an equivalent field-of-view of 1120 mm.
I positioned myself on an area of the boardwalk at Hendrie Valley where I know a variety of species tend to congregate. As it turned out, there were a number of female cardinals in the area, along with the occasional male bird.
For the most part I was not overly concerned with composition and backgrounds in my photographs. Again, my primary purpose was to locate birds as quickly as possible and practice my eye/hand coordination at this long equivalent field-of-view.
Small birds are often more skittish than larger birds. Once a specific bird lands it will frequently only stay on that perch for a very limited amount of time. Sometimes only a few seconds.
When photographing wildlife, and specifically birds, it is critical to get the eye of the subject in focus. Even though cameras like the E-M1X have a joystick that works very efficiently moving a single auto-focus point into the right position, it can take me too much time with small birds, and I miss image opportunities as a result.
The Bird Detection AI on the E-M1X is much faster acquiring focus on a bird’s eye than I can do manually using the camera’s auto-focus joystick. This enables me to capture a much higher number of images of small, perched birds that are in proper focus.
As I became more accustomed with my eye/hand coordination shooting handheld at an equivalent field-of-view of 1120 mm, I found that I was more adept at positioning the bird in a better position in the frame in terms of composition. This produced more pleasing images. It does feel odd pointing my E-M1X at a subject bird and not having to think about moving any auto-focus points. Like birds, we are creatures of habit.
When I returned home and reviewed my images I was quite pleased with the number of good, usable photographs that had been able to capture. Not only that… I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! So much so that I intend on spending a lot more time photographing perched birds, rather than mainly focusing on birds-in-flight. Once COVID-19 restrictions allow of course.
You’ll notice that my distance to subject for most of the photographs in this article was in the 5 to 7 metre range (~16.4 to 23 feet). At the aperture and the focal length used, this produced a total depth-of-field of approximately 2 to 4 centimetres (~0.8 to 1.6 inches), with half of that behind the point of focus, and half in front. So, even with these small birds I was able to get sufficient depth-of-field to have their eyes and beaks in focus when shooting at an efov of 1120 mm from a reasonably close distance.
Proponents of full frame camera gear like to comment about the advantages of shallow depth-of-field. Few discuss the challenges associated with getting adequate depth-of-field when photographing landscapes, macro images, birds and nature with that camera format. Quite simply, wider angle lenses will always have deeper depth of field than longer focal length lenses when shot at the same aperture. This is true regardless of a camera’s sensor size.
So, using a M4/3 camera at a focal length of 560 mm (efov 1120) at f/9 will always have more depth of field than full frame gear at f/9 when using a focal length of 1120 mm, with the same distance to subject. Imagine viewing the photograph below if the bird’s eye was in focus, but not its beak. Deeper depth-of-field created by being able to use wider angle lenses to achieve the same efov is one of the practical advantages of using M4/3 gear for this genre of photography. Not to mention the increased portability of the equipment.
Without question photographing moving subjects in low light will always be an advantage for larger sensor cameras due to their low light capability. That’s not to say that M4/3 cameras cannot be used at higher ISO values. I purposely exposed the images in this article with faster shutter speeds than needed, to force higher ISO-values as part of my testing. Even at ISO-2500 to ISO-5000 these images are perfectly usable for my needs… and likely would meet the needs of many other photographers.
I absolutely love the added reach and flexibility that the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS brings to my bird and nature photography. Especially when used with the MC-14 teleconverter. It allows me capture a wider variety of photographs, and ramps up the ‘fun-o-meter’ to boot!
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted where appropriate.
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