Primary BIF Setting

After some field experience using Pro Capture L with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking to photograph birds-in-flight, I’ve decided it will be my primary BIF setting. While this technology combination did require some adjustment to my technique, it was worth the effort to make the change.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 321 mm, efov 642 mm, f/8.6, 1/1600, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 4100 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.9 metres

Quite simply I love having the dual advantages of using the ‘time machine’ of Pro Capture L to store images in temporary memory, as well as the subject tracking and auto focus performance available with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 334 mm, efov 668 mm, f/8.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 2622 pixels on the height, subject distance 16.9 metres

Using this combination requires me to be more disciplined with my technique in terms of shutter timing. Shot discipline is always a good thing of course. One benefit is that I don’t have to commit saving frames to memory unless the BIF action that I wanted to capture actually happened.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/1600, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3374 pixels on the width subject distance 35.9 metres

For this approach to be effective I needed to up my game in terms of staying aware of the auto focusing status alerts provided by my E-M1X. When I’m ‘in sync’ with my E-M1X and I do my part, the resulting images have consistently more than met my needs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 4298 pixels on the width subject distance 14.2 metres

One of my challenges with using Pro Capture L with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking was remembering to keep shooting after I fully depress the shutter. With my standard Pro Capture H settings (i.e. 15 Pre Shutter Frames and Frame Count Limiter set to 15) it has become second nature for me to fully depress the shutter release once the subject bird has left the frame… and not to expect the camera to capture any additional images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3663 pixels on the width subject distance 18.6 metres

As strange as it may sound, with Pro Capture L I now need to consciously concentrate on continuing to pan with a bird after I fully depress the shutter. With more field use, I’m sure it won’t take too long for this to feel completely normal.

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, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3793 pixels on the width subject distance 35.1 metres

During my last bird-in-flight photo session I captured several thousand images. I ended up deleting the majority of them without a thorough review simply because I had more than enough keepers. I didn’t want to spend the time to go through all of the images in detail.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 483 mm, efov 966 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-1600, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3966 pixels on the width subject distance 34.9 metres

I’m still playing around a bit with my Pro Capture L settings. For the time being I’ll be using 9 Pre Shutter frames with no frame limiter. I think this setting will give me sufficient time when shooting at 18 frames-per-second to respond to the actions of birds-in-flight. If not, I can always increase the Pre Shutter frames as needed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 19.5 metres

During my field tests I pushed my gear to see how it would perform in a range of scenarios, including birds rapidly approaching my camera.

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-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 4418 pixels on the width, subject distance 19.2 metres

I also did some testing with my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS and M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter combination fully extended to 560 mm (efov 1120) with subject birds flying less than 20 metres away.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 502 mm, efov 1004 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3416 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.6 metres

Other test images involved capturing birds-in-flight proximate to potentially confusing backgrounds. These were a bit more tricky but usually still quite doable.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 502 mm, efov 1004 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3052 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.7 metres

Standard fly-by photographs have become very routine and capturing decently long image runs is not an issue. Given the effects of rhythmic motion, I often only need the Pro Capture L Pre Shutter portion of the image run anyway.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/1600, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 4341 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.5 metres

It should be remembered that the choice of camera settings is a very personal decision. What works for one photographer may not be a good fit with another.

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, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 2974 pixels on the height, subject distance 54.6 metres

One of the field tests that I haven’t been able to do with Pro Capture L and Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking yet, is photographing small birds like swallows in flight. Hopefully as the spring birding season advances I’ll be able to assess this specific scenario. As noted in a previous article Pro Capture L and Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking has proven very capable in other challenging situations.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 483 mm, efov 966 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3335 pixels on the width

For my needs, Pro Capture L with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking is my primary BIF setting. Unless I need more light, or more reach, I always shoot using the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter with my E-M1X and M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom. When it comes to camera gear and technology to use for birds-in-flight… I’m a very happy camper.

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, 1/2000, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3124 pixels on the width

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. Crops are noted for each photograph.

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12 thoughts on “Primary BIF Setting”

    1. Hi Brian,

      I’ve never used back button focus on any camera that I’ve owned… so unfortunately I’m unable to offer any assistance with the E-M1X. Perhaps there is something that Gavin Hoey or Espen Hellend have done on YouTube about this subject.

      Tom

  1. Are you setting your shutter speed? What are you leaving variable or camera AI dependent? I notice most of your pictures are 1/1600 or 1/2000 and ISO 640 or 800 in this series. I am assuming that the f-stop is based on the max available at that mm with that lens.

    1. Hi Reno,

      I shoot in manual mode and set the shutter speed for birds in flight typically between 1/1600 and 1/3200 depending on the species. I sometimes tweak it to 1/2000 for larger birds under bright conditions. ISO values are done by the E-M1X as I use Auto-ISO. I shoot my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS wide open, so the aperture changes based on lens focal length.

      Tom

  2. Thanks for sharing Thomas!

    It takes a lot of trials & errors to find the right settings and the information you provide really helps.

    Best Regards,

    Mauro

  3. I also had a deleting problem. Yesterday I shot 6000 frames using ProCapture L, most of those with the 2x extension tube were soft because I forgot to increase the shutter speed to account for doubling the focal length.

    I also take a quick scan of my JPEG L fine and raw side by side, those I remember to save I add to my may use list, I move or put them in another solder on my Drive. Then I go back to those unpicked and start deleting in mass, not having to worry too much I might delete some good keepers. Still, it two a couple of hours to get the 6000 files down to 1100, then I only keep the 550 Raw files on my computer. Out of these, I really have 5 to 10 that I really like. Very low acceptance rate indeed.

  4. Tom
    Thanks much for your continuing postings of settings and use of the Oly cameras and lens for bird shooting. While it is true that our settings are quite personal, from my standpoint it is also true that I do not have near the experience nor skill in shooting birds that you have. And for me to get to your knowledge level by just shooting on my own is not going to happen. So your postings are most valuable to me and I greatly appreciate what you give us. If I find it does not work well for me, I can always do something else but your info is an excellent place to start.
    Re the above, I note that you took a few thousand photos on this shoot and using Pro Capture, I can see how that would be. My question in this regard is how do you go about deleting such a great quantity of photos without spending all your time looking at them? When I shoot even a thousand or so it seems it takes me forever to wade through them. And there are, as you said, many duplicates of each other. But deleting them is like torture in that I am always thinking I need to look out for the best photo which may be the next one. Any advise on this?
    Joel

    1. Hi Joel,

      I agree that deleting photographs can be a very difficult process… so one needs to be pretty brutal with files. Defining exactly what I’m looking for in advance is absolutely essential to be able to make quick decisions on deletes.

      When I’m specifically doing field tests with a new lens, camera feature, or a shooting approach, I tend to shoot repetitive types of images, often starting with birds more distant, then working with subjects that are closer in to me. So, I know in advance that many of my more distant bird subjects will likely be deleted first. Many of my ‘rapid deletes’ are photographs in which the bird is quite small in the frame. I’ll take a quick look at a few images from the same image run to see if the AF was accurate. I’ll make a mental note, then just delete the entire image run without giving it any more thought.

      My general rule of thumb is that unless the bird fills about 40% of the frame it is a quick delete candidate image. I file all of my images in Windows Explorer so when I open up a couple of thousand photographs I can do an intial assessment very quickly. This is one of the main reasons that I shoot in RAW + jpeg fine… I can look at the jpegs very quickly in Windows Explorer without having to actually open up the RAW files. I may highlight a hundred or more consecutive images at a time where the bird is too small in the frame to be usable, then just delete them all without wasting my time on them. From a pragmatic standpoint I can’t do very much with files where the subject bird is too small in the frame so I don’t worry about deleting them.

      At times I do have some noteworthy experiences. One such case was the gull in a previous article that kept on dropping an object and retrieving it in mid-air. As soon as I got back to my office I looked for those noteworthy images and placed them in a specific, separate file. In this case, ‘gull dropping item in mid-air’. That way I know I have those ‘special’ images saved so I won’t delete them inadvertently. Sometimes I have several groupings of images that may be candidates for special articles… so I break them out and place them in individual files right up front. Then do a review of them later.

      Part of my image review process involves setting up a file called ‘potential keepers’. As I quickly scan through my images I look for photographs where I have interesting lighting, unusual wing positions, or images where the bird is quite large in the frame. I’ll then quickly move those files into the ‘potential keepers’ file. I can do this quick visual scan through a day’s worth of photographs pretty quickly. I think I had a little over 4,000 images related to the ‘Primary BIF Setting’ article. My first run through all of those images would have taken two or three hours max.

      After the initial run through is completed, I go back to my ‘potential keepers’ file and open up the RAW files in DxO so I can have a better look at them. I’ll have Windows Explorer open on one of my monitors and DxO open on the other one. As I find images that I like I process them immediately. Then continue doing my review. Once I’ve processed all of my favourite images in my ‘potential keepers’ file I’ll do a quick count. If I have a sufficient number of finished images for my purposes I just delete all of the files that I didn’t initially take time to process. I never fret about deleting photographs that didn’t make my processing cut. If they didn’t make it… they didn’t make it. Then, I go back to my master file for that day’s shooting and delete everything that didn’t make it into the ‘potential keepers’ file. Most of the time less than 10% to 15% of images make it into my ‘potential keepers’ file… so lots of photographs get deleted pretty quickly.

      Sorry this response was a bit long, but I wanted to give you a good idea on how I quickly scan through my images and decide which ones to actually process.

      Tom

      1. Thanks for the excellent overview. You clearly have a good system in place and you have given me some very good ideas. I appreciate your response.

        Joel

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