Mallard In-Flight Test

This article features a selection of images from a mallard in-flight test I did late last year at Grimsby harbour. All photographs were captured handheld using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X, M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8, and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8,1/1600, ISO-1250, subject distance 12.2 metres

I began my mallard in-flight test photographing some birds as they were flying in quite close to me. My objective was to see how fast my E-M1X would acquire auto-focus on the incoming ducks.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-640, subject distance 9.5 metres

Some others visitors to the harbour were feeding grain to the ducks which caused a flurry of activity.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 124mm, efov 248mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1250, subject distance 8.2 metres

Picking out a subject mallard as a number were flying in at the same time was an interesting challenge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-800, subject distance 5.9 metres

As you can see from the EXIF data I allowed the ducks to get in reasonably tight to me before I captured my images. Subject distances in the four photographs above ranged from 5.9 to 12.2 metres (~19.4 to 40 feet). I was quite pleased with how quickly my E-M1X acquired focus and locked on to subject mallards.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-500, subject distance 19.5 metres

I also had the opportunity to capture some photographs with cleaner backgrounds during my mallard in-flight test. The photograph above and the ones that follow were from the same AF-C run. Since there were repeating wing patterns every second frame I’ve only included some sample frames from the run.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-500, subject distance 18.7 metres

This particular mallard decided to slow down and hover slightly during the image run which produced some interesting flight feather positions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-500, subject distance 20.1 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-500, subject distance 16.6 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-400, subject distance 15.65 metres

The last photograph in this article is one of my favourites captured during my mallard in-flight test.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-400, subject distance 15.65 metres

Overall I was very pleased with how the Olympus OM-D E-M1X performed. It would be nice to have some additional reach with my Olympus kit. We’ll have to see what lens options Olympus offers in the future. For the time being I’m quite happy with how the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2/8 combined with the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter performs.

In situations where I need additional reach, I can still call on my Nikon 1 V3 and 1 Nikkor CX 70-300mm combination.

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. Photographs were cropped to varying degrees.

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4 thoughts on “Mallard In-Flight Test”

  1. Hello
    On the E-M1X what did you have the focus area points set to and what tracking sensitivity did you use ?
    Thanks
    Karl

    1. Hi Karl,

      I’ve still be experimenting with my settings for birds-in-flight. The images in this recent article were captured back in December, and with COVID-19 restrictions I haven’t been able to get out the past couple of months.

      I have been using single point AF (the smallest point available on the E-M1X), most often with C-AF (without subject tracking), and AF sensitivity set to +2. I typically photograph birds using the Low Sequential AF-C frame rate of 18 fps with the silent shutter. As you know this does require good hand-holding technique to keep the AF single point on the bird-in-flight. With the AF high sensitivity if the AF point comes off the bird there is a risk that the camera will then lose AF and hunt a bit. If the single AF point is maintained on the bird the keeper rate is very high with the high AF sensitivity setting.

      I’ve also been experimenting with custom 3×5 and 3×7 custom AF spreads, often using these in conjunction with AF-C +TR and the Airplane Subject Tracking mode. When the E-M1X can be tricked into assessing a bird to be an airplane this does work very well. If the E-M1X locks on with these settings it typically nails focus on virtually 100% of the images.

      Once the camera loses a bird with these settings it is very problematic of course. Once I can get back out in the field I hope to experiment with this more to see if I can get it to work more consistently. Failing that the single AF point with AF-C without subject tracking, with AF sensitivity at +2 is my most common setting.

      Tom

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