This article discusses the Pro Capture settings that are available on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and some of the factors that a photographer would consider when choosing which settings to use. I’d like to thank one of our readers, Joel Bateman, for asking a question related to one of my earlier articles. This provided the creative spark for this posting.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Why use Pro Capture?
The fundamental reason why a photographer would choose to use Pro Capture is to ensure that they are able to capture specific subject actions with their photographs. Examples would be a bird taking flight, a batter hitting a pitch, or a high jumper successfully clearing the bar.
Olympus cameras that have the Pro Capture feature are able to do this by storing images in temporary memory, then committing them to the camera’s SD card once the shutter release is fully depressed. In essence, a photographer waits for the desired action to actually happen, then fully depresses their shutter release. Think of Pro Capture as turning your Olympus camera into a time machine which enables you to go back in time.
What’s the difference between Pro Capture H and Pro Capture L?
There are two fundamental differences between Pro Capture H and Pro Capture L. With Pro Capture L your Olympus camera is still able to continuously auto-focus. Pro Capture H uses the first frame of the image run to lock focus and exposure.
The other fundamental difference is frame rate. Pro Capture L allows frame rates up to 18 fps, while Pro Capture H enables frame rates as high as 60 fps.
Both Pro Capture L and Pro Capture H create full resolution 20.4MP RAW and jpeg files.
When would a photographer chose Pro Capture L versus Pro Capture H?
A photographer would choose Pro Capture L when they know that they need their Olympus camera to continuously auto-focus on their subject. This would typically be when the subject is moving towards the camera or is otherwise not following a path that is parallel to the focal plane of their camera. An example would be a photographer panning with a tern waiting for the bird to do a mid-air shake.
In situations where the subject is currently stationery a photographer may choose Pro Capture H in order to use a higher frame rate and thus capture more discreet subject movements. A good example of this would be a bird taking flight. Pro Capture H can also be used effectively when waiting for an action to happen at a static location. An example of this is a bird coming in to land at a nest. The butterfly image above was captured after the butterfly flew off the flower.
What frame rate options are available with Pro Capture?
With an Olympus OM-D E-M1X frame rates of 10 fps, 15 fps and 18 fps are provided with Pro Capture L. The frame rates for Pro Capture H are 15 fps, 20 fps, 30 fps and 60 fps.
How are the Pre-shutter Frames and Frame Count Limiter settings used?
The Pre-Shutter Frames allows a photographer to select how many frames they want to be stored in temporary memory when they half-depress the shutter release on their Olympus camera. With an OM-D E-M1X up to 35 pre-shutter frames can be selected.
The Frame Count Limiter allows a photographer to determine the total number of frames that they want their Pro Capture run to consume. With an OM-D E-M1X the maximum number of frames allowed is 99 with both Pro Capture L and Pro Capture H.
When setting the Frame Count Limiter a photographer needs to consider how many Pre-shutter Frames they have set with their Olympus camera, then add the number of frames they want their camera to capture after they fully depress their shutter release. For example, if a photographer wants to capture 15 pre-shutter release frames and 15 frames after they fully depress their shutter release, they would set the Frame Count Limiter to 30.
What factors come into play when deciding how to set Pre-Shutter Frames and the Frame Count Limiter?
The number one factor is the photographer’s objective in using the Pro Capture mode in terms of the specific subject behaviour they want to capture. Another issue is their physical response time in terms of how quickly they can react to a subject moving.
The size and speed of their subject can also come into play. For example, smaller birds move much faster than do larger birds. If a photographer wants to capture a bird launching into flight they would likely set their Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Count Limiter at lower values than if they were going to capture the same behaviour with a larger bird.
The speed of a bird’s wing movements may also impact the frame rate that a photographer chooses with Pro Capture. For example, they may choose 60 frames-per-second when photographing a small bird launching into flight, but only 30 frames-per-second for a larger bird like a heron.
Are Pro Capture settings the same on all Olympus cameras?
No, Pro Capture settings can vary by Olympus camera model. Photographers should check their manual to learn what settings are available on their specific camera.
Does using Pro Capture affect buffer performance?
Yes it can, depending on the number of frames programmed and the Olympus camera used, as well as the speed of the SD card.
When shooting at 10 or 18 frames-per-second using continuous auto-focus with an Olympus OM-D E-M1X fitted with a high speed UHS-II SD card, a photographer would not typically have any buffer lag. This is due to the fact that the E-M1X is able to very quickly write to the UHS-II SD card as the frames are being captured. Think of having the tap in your kitchen turned on at the same flow rate as the sink is able to empty.
When using the Pro Capture mode photographs are stored in temporary memory. It is not until the photographer fully depresses their shutter release that these stored images are released to be written to the SD card. Referencing our sink analogy, using Pro Capture is like putting a stopper in the sink and allowing it to partially fill, then removing the stopper to allow for the water to drain.
The higher the Frame Count Limiter is set, the longer it will take the stored photographs to write. Obviously image writing speed is also impacted by the speed of your SD card and the processing power of your Olympus camera.
Can using Pro Capture improve photographic efficiency?
Absolutely! When used properly Pro Capture enables a photographer to only capture the desired subject actions that they want to photograph. By turning their Olympus camera into a time machine with Pro Capture a photographer no longer has to guess whether a subject is going to actually exhibit the desired behaviour. They can simply wait for the desired behaviour to occur, then fully depress their shutter release to commit those photographs to their SD card.
A photographer does have to be careful in terms of how they set their Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Count Limiter to avoid wasted frames.
Does using Pro Capture affect battery life in terms of the number of images captured from a full charge?
Yes, it can. When a photographer uses Pro Capture and half-depresses the shutter release on their Olympus camera it will capture the desired number of pre-shutter frames. Not only that, their Olympus camera will keep spooling successive new images as long as the shutter release is half-depressed. Older images that have been spooled over by newer images would be gone, but they still would have consumed battery power to be captured and stored in temporary memory.
For example, let’s say that a photographer is using Pro Capture H set to 15 Pre-shutter Frames and is shooting at 60 frames per second. As soon as that photographer half-depresses their shutter release their Olympus camera will begin to capture 15 Pre-Shutter Frames. The camera will then continue to spool updated images for as long as the shutter release is half-depressed. If the photographer keeps Pro Capture focused on a subject bird for 2 seconds, then decides not to commit any frames to memory, their Olympus camera would have captured a total of 120 images, spooled away 105 of the oldest ones, and discarded the 15 photographs stored in temporary memory. All of this takes battery power.
When I’m out using my Olympus OM-D E-M1X and photographing birds-in-flight using continuous auto-focus and a frame rate of 18 frames-per-second, I can typically get at least 2,500 images or more from a set of fully charged batteries. If I’m out only using Pro Capture H mode, the number of images from a full set of batteries could be reduced by half. Much of that depends on how long I hold my E-M1X on a subject bird and continuously spool images in temporary memory.
It is advisable to always have additional charged batteries with you when planning to use Pro Capture extensively.
Pro Capture is a game changer for bird photographers.
Until a photographer actually uses the Olympus Pro Capture feature it is impossible to fully appreciate how much of a game changer this capability is for bird photography. Now that I’ve been using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X for almost a year I simply cannot imagine doing bird photography without Olympus Pro Capture. This incredible technology allows me to consistently and deliberately capture action images of birds that would have been relegated to exceptional timing, my physical response ability, and a good dose of luck in the past.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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