Pond Hop at ISO-6400

This short article shares 12 consecutive Pro Capture H photographs of a sparrow pond hop at ISO-6400, captured handheld using an E-M1X and M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom. These images were captured through my kitchen window using my standard Pro Capture H settings (60 frames-per-second, 15 Pre Shutter Frames, Frame Limiter set to 15).

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

We are half way through our latest COVID-19 stay-at-home order so I’ve been observing birds in my backyard to see what photographic opportunities exist.

On a sporadic basis we do have quite a few sparrows around our pond, drinking or bathing. I’ve been using them as convenient subjects to do some testing with high ISO values when using Pro Capture H. The results of that testing may end up being a future posting.

This article shares a selection of 12 consecutive Pro Capture H images of a sparrow pond hop at ISO-6400. Since we’re in the dead of winter in Ontario, my pond is in continual shade during all daylight hours. This makes exposures difficult, especially when using a shutter speed of 1/2500 which is my standard Pro Capture H setting for small birds. The photographs featured in this article were captured at 12:21 in the afternoon.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H

I was anticipating that this sparrow would take flight on an upward angled trajectory, in a right to left flight path. So, I positioned the subject bird in the lower right corner of the composition to allow for wing extension.

Instead of taking flight the sparrow simply hopped onto the rock directly in front of it. Once the sparrow landed on the rock, I fully depressed the shutter release on my E-M1X and committed the Pre Shutter frames to memory.

Even though the bird didn’t behave as anticipated, I still found the resulting photographs of interest. A decent amount of water spray was kicked up by the sparrow which added some nice details to the photographs. Let’s have a look at the rest of the 12 consecutive image run.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H

You’ll notice that the sparrow’s nictitating membrane is protecting its eye in the image above. This was likely a reflex action caused by the water spray.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, cropped to 4660 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H

One of the things that I love about using Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second is that it allows me to capture small, incremental movements in a subject bird’s body and wing positions. This technology transforms a common, every day action like this sparrow pond hop, into something of wonder as I examine the resulting images.

If OM Digital was able to update the firmware in my OM-D cameras to allow Pro Capture H to be used at 120 frames-per-second, I’d use it in a heartbeat! The 12 consecutive photographs featured in this article were captured in a total of 1/5th of a second.

Technical Note

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 as appropriate.

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6 thoughts on “Pond Hop at ISO-6400”

    1. Hi Mark,

      It is very difficult to estimate as it really depends on how you have your camera set in terms of the number of Pre Shutter Frames and your frames per second, and how much time you spend with images continuously spooling in temporary memory. If you keep your Pre Shutter Frames to a smaller number and don’t hold your spooling for long durations the potential drain is greatly reduced.

      I typically shoot in Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second with 15 Pre-Shutter Frames. Rather than half depress my shutter for long periods of time I do a series of very quick 1/2 second to 1 second half depressions. Using this technique I have often captured 400 images or more and only use 1/2 charge of one battery.

      Watching for birds to signal that they are about to take flight can also significantly reduce battery drain.

      Tom

      1. Thanks Tom for your advice. So far have used it a few times on one birding outing – particularly with fantails which are extremely fidgety and dont often “signal” their intention to take off. But ProCap with 15 shot buffer enabled me to get a take off sequence which went from the first frame sitiing on the perch and the second frame was airborne – that’s how slow I was to push the button down fully! Would never have got the take off unless I just did spray and pray at the slightest movement and fill up the card!

        1. Hi Mark,

          If you find that your response time is not quick enough to capture all of the action that you want there’s a couple of things you can do. The first is to increase the number of Pre-Shutter frames. The second is to use a faster frame rate. The reason I always use Pro Capture H with small birds is that Pro Capture L just doesn’t give me the ability to capture as much progressive action as I want.

          I have both L and H frame rate settings stored in My Menu. I like easy access to them as it makes it quick for me to adjust my Pre Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter by bird species if I need to do so.

          I understand your comment about how fidgety fantails are! I had the opportunity to capture some images of one while visiting the Blue Spring on the North Island. Using a Nikon 1 V3, my best option was to set my frame rate at 60fps and ‘spray and pray’ to some degree as I tried to anticipate the bird’s movement. As you know, this is difficult. I’m not sure if I’ll have the opportunity to visit your beautiful country again. My wife and I have visited a number of times and would love another trip… with COVID, costs and time… it is difficult.

          Tom

  1. Hello Thomas,
    Pro-Capture remains one of my favorite features in the OMD cameras, and especially for birds it makes it possible to capture amazing images.
    It took me a while to get the hang of but it’s now saved on a custom setting and I find myself using it quite often (your advices helped a lot).
    Best Regards,
    Mauro

    1. Hi Mauro,

      I also use Pro Capture on a very frequent basis and it one of my favourite settings as well. I have C3 set up for Pro Capture H, and C4 set up for Bird Detection AI. This allows me to quickly go from one bird photo opportunity without even having to look at my E-M1X.

      With COVID-19 lock downs I haven’t been able to get out much with my camera lately. When I do, I’ll decide whether to change my C1 and C2 custom settings. Currently C1 is for C-AF using Cluster Area AF, and C2 is for Pro Capture L. I’m thinking about changing C1 to a single point or small cluster AF and shoot at 60 frames per second. I need more practical field testing to determine what makes the most sense for me.

      Tom

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