Lately I’ve have some interesting email exchanges with readers, as well as some comments on this website, about my Pro Capture H settings and the rationale for them. It occurred to me that perhaps the best way to demonstrate why I do what I do, is to show Pro Capture in reverse.
By that I mean showing a Pro Capture H run in reverse order from the last frame to the first. Before we get into a sample Pro Capture H run, let’s review why a photographer would choose to use Pro Capture H in the first place.
Why use Pro Capture H?
The main reason why a photographer would use Pro Capture H is to photograph an action sequence that is typically very difficult to obtain due to rapid subject movement. These are quite different situations than those where regular continuous auto-focus with a fast frame rate would be commonly used.
Pro Capture H is particularly well suited to situations when a static subject rapidly transitions into movement. Think of a bird taking flight, a batter swinging at a pitch, or a tennis player completing a serve. These are instances when shutter release timing can be critical to capturing the precise moment a photographer has in their mind. These are critical moment images, or ‘money shots’ as some pro photographers call them.
Why use 60 frames-per-second?
I use 60 frames-per-second because my interest is in capturing as many images as possible with small, incremental differences in motion, giving me the best chance to photograph a unique aspect of a subject’s movements. This can be especially important when photographing very fast moving subjects like small birds taking flight or landing.
Why do you set your E-M1X for 15 Pre-shutter frames?
There’s two basic reasons for this… photographic efficiency and buffer management. When I first started out using Pro Capture H I had my E-M1X set for 20 Pre-shutter frames and my Frame Limiter set to 35 frames. So, every Pro Capture H run would generate 35 images. I found that the bulk of those photographs ended up being wasted as the subject bird had left the frame for most of them.
With 20 frames stored in temporary memory (i.e. Pre-shutter frames), as well as my E-M1X needing to process 15 additional ‘new’ images, it would take some time for the camera to process all of those photographs. I still had some buffer left, but I couldn’t shoot a number of successive Pro Capture H bursts and still have sufficient buffer with those settings.
The number of Pre-shutter frames that a photographer chooses really depends on their objective for the Pro Capture H run, and their reaction time. I’ve found that 15 Pre-Shutter frames gives me 1/4 second to capture my desired action images which is appropriate given my current physical capabilities. It also gives me a sufficient number of frames to capture the key critical moment images I want. I tried to take my Pre-shutter frames down to 10 or 12, but my response time just wasn’t quick enough. Using 18 Pre-shutter frames created too much image waste.
Why don’t you program your E-M1X to capture any post shutter images?
With small birds in flight there is simply no reason for me to want any post shutter frames. The subject bird would have exited the composition long before those post shutter frames were captured.
I could program some post shutter frames and press my shutter release earlier in the Pro Capture H run. All this would do is generate more early frames that would not show much actual subject movement in them. These types of images would not be particularly usable and would waste my available buffer space, and cause more work in post deleting these files.
My standard Pro Capture H settings for small birds are 15 Pre-shutter frames and 15 for Frame Limiter. There may be situations where I may change this when photographing larger birds if I was planning to pan with the bird after it launched into flight. Using the 15/15 settings allows me to shoot a number of successive Pro Capture H runs while still maintaining fast image processing to my UHS-II memory cards, and not filling the buffer of my E-M1X.
Pro Capture in reverse.
Let’s have a look at a sample run of images illustrating Pro Capture in reverse. These photographs are of a female Baltimore Oriole launching into flight from an orange we had mounted on a shepherd’s hook in our backyard. These images were shot through my kitchen window. All photographs are shown as 100% captures without any cropping.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
The frame above illustrates when I actually fully depressed the shutter release on my E-M1X. We can see that the oriole had already left the composition.
Now, let’s look at four earlier photographs to arrive at the frame where I made the mental decision to fully depress my shutter release.
As the Baltimore Oriole was starting to leave the frame in the photograph above, is the moment at which I decided to fully depress my shutter release. It took five frames for me to actually complete that brain to hand response, or a total of 1/12th of a second.
We’ll now have a look at the middle 5 frames of our Pro Capture in reverse image run. This mid section of a Pro Capture H run is where I would intend to capture all of my potential ‘money shots’.
Without the clipped wing the image above could have been a potential keeper.
This is the ‘money shot’ out of this Pro Capture in reverse sequence. Beautiful wing extension. The bird is nicely framed in the composition. Imagine this same pose with the Baltimore Oriole leaving a tree branch in a more natural setting.
Frame 6 of our Pro Capture in reverse image run shows our subject bird just as it is taking flight. Depending on wing position this moment can often yield an appealing image, although not in this instance.
The first 5 frames of our Pro Capture in reverse image run are simply lead ins to the potential ‘money shots’. Sometimes these initial images can be usable if part of the intent of a photographer is to capture a bird’s launching into flight body movements.
These last 5 photographs of our Pro Capture in reverse series are not particularly appealing. These demonstrate why I don’t typically program my E-M1X with any post shutter release frames. As soon as a small bird has executed the desired action, I fully depress my shutter release, confidently knowing that I have the action images I want.
It is important to mention that the number of potential ‘money shots’ with a Pro Capture H image run is directly affected by your proximity to a subject bird and its perched position. The tighter in you are to a bird, the fewer the number of potential ‘money shots’ that will be created. The upside is that the subject bird will fill more of the frame so you can avoid cropping.
A bird perched on an angle (like the Oriole in this sample image run) will tend to take flight faster with more abrupt wing movements when compared to a small bird launching from a typical standing position. The number of potential ‘money shots’ will typically be higher when photographing birds taking flight from a normal standing position.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Image were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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