Mallard Overtaken in Mid-Air

This article features a selection of 14 consecutive images of a male mallard being overtaken in mid-air by a female. What makes this series remarkable was the the Bird Detection AI on my OM-D E-M1X was able to maintain focus on the male mallard even though the female flew past it in the foreground.

The Bird Detection AI of my OM-D E-M1X was locked on the head of the male mallard and ignored the female duck that had overtaken it in mid-air.

Other factors which make this series of images noteworthy to me is that they were captured handheld about 45 minutes before sunset in fading light at ISO-6400. My M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom was fitted with the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter. The combination was fully extended to 560 mm, or an equivalent field-of-view of 1120 mm.

Let’s have a look of this image run showing the male mallard being overtaken in mid-air. I was positioned about 40 metres from this mid-air action.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

In the first four photographs of the image run, the female mallard is not visible.

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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400

In frame 5 of the image run we can see the female mallard entering the scene. The following four frames show the male mallard being overtaken in mid-air, with the female mallard flying through the foreground of the scene. As you can see, the female mallard remains out-of-focus.

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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400

The artificial intelligence of the Bird Detection AI in my E-M1X is simply incredible to be able to ignore the female duck that flew through the foreground of the four photographs above.

The next three frames of the image run show the male mallard flying by itself with no obstructions in the foreground.

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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400

In frames 12 through 14 of the image run the male mallard flies past some distractions in the background. Once again the Bird Detection AI of my E-M1X does a stellar job ignoring those distractions and keeps locked on the male mallard.

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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400
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, 1/1600, ISO-6400

I still have a lot of experimenting to do with the Bird Detection AI technology of my E-M1X before I become fully competent using it. These images were from my very first day using this incredible feature of my E-M1X. When I returned home and started to review these specific photographs I was astounded with how well Bird Detection AI could hold focus in this situation.

One of the reasons that I decided to invest in the OM-D E-M1X was the potential for birds to be added to its Subject Tracking AI capability. Now that it is here… it makes the 18 month wait worth every minute.

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. Photographs were cropped to approximately 400 pixels on the width, then resized for web use. 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.

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8 thoughts on “Mallard Overtaken in Mid-Air”

  1. Great sequence of shot!. this shows off the advantage that this new AI Bird Detection AF feature has brought to the E-M1X. It will no doubt make it a game changer for wildlife photographers using that camera.
    I already had a E-M1.3 and was a little disappointed that it didn’t get the update. However, I managed to purchase a “like new” used E-M1X which arrived in good time for the update. So, like you I was keen to see how the new feature performed. I am not disappointed with the initial results which have certainly increased my keeper rate considerably. I just need to improve on my panning skills in order to keep the birds in frame but I am very pleased so far.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for sharing your initial experiences with the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI feature!

      I will be using Bird Detection AI as my default setting when photographing birds. Like any new feature it takes some time to experiment with it and develop one’s technique. On my first day I went out for an hour or so in the morning, had lunch, then went out again for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I was much more competent during my afternoon session. So even my porous, old brain adapted fairly quickly!

      Tom

  2. Way beyond what one could have hoped for. Add to the camera your ability to hand hold and it is an extremely powerful combination. I am trying mine out again today but I dont have any photos as convincing as these, at least not yet!

    1. Hi Joel,

      The frames with the female mallard fall into the category of ‘dumb luck’ on my part. I vaguely remember sensing something unusual happening in my composition but it wasn’t until I started sorting through my images that I actually realized what had occurred. I was stunned.

      Tom

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