This article discusses the advantage of using a single point AF with Bird AI and other Intelligent Subject Tracking modes in the E-M1X. This posting includes a sample image run to help demonstrate how using single point AF with Bird AI can help overcome potentially difficult shooting situations. This article has been updated to include the fact that C-AF +TR needs to be turned on for Intelligent Subject Tracking to work. A few other modifications have also been done, including correcting some technical inaccuracies.
Before we get into the sample image run I think it is important to refer to some E-M1X review videos done by Dave Etchells at Imaging Resource and Chris Eyre-Walker, an Olympus Visionary. These video reviews provide interesting insights on how the Intelligent Subject Tracking in the E-M1X is designed to work. I have no first hand knowledge so I’ve been relying on the information in their respective videos.
I know that some E-M1X owners have been disappointed with some of the results that they have been getting when they’ve tried to use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. Unfortunately there is some information on the internet that may give E-M1X owners advice that may lead to less than optimal performance.
If you take some time to view the E-M1X review by Dave Etchells you’ll find some interesting information about the design of Intelligent Subject Tracking. Dave makes an interesting point that the E-M1X uses the dual TruePic VIII processors to recognize subjects, not any of the camera’s phase detect AF points. Multiple subjects can be simultaneously recognized and tracked by the TruePic VIII processors.
The camera doesn’t need to use multiple AF points to acquire auto-focus… so there’s no apparent benefit in having multiple points active since subject recognition is done by the TruePic VIII processors. C-AF +TR does need to be engaged as this is needed to acquire auto-focus and change the white box into a green one.
Now, let’s have a look at another piece of information contained in the E-M1X review done by Chris Eyre-Walker. In his YouTube review Chris specifically mentions that the E-M1X is designed to select a subject in the composition that is closest to the single AF point selected by a photographer.
As noted earlier, C-AF +TR needs to be turned on. Bird AI will certainly work when all AF points are activated, or a group of AF points. It’s been my experience that using a single AF point properly positioned on the AF grid produces faster and more accurate results than using multiple AF points. This is especially true when there are multiple birds in the frame.
If the E-M1X isn’t using its phase detect auto focus system to recognize subjects when in Intelligent Subject Tracking mode as Dave suggests, there’s no reason to have multiple AF points active. Using a single AF point (with C-AF +TR turned on) with Bird AI allows the photographer to tell their E-M1X precisely what they want their camera to do.
Like many other E-M1X owners I originally started using Bird Detection AI like I would use other auto-focusing technologies that were based on phase detect auto-focusing. My results were less than optimal. After reviewing the videos by Dave and Chris a number of times I realized that I was confusing my E-M1X by having more than a single AF point active.
As soon as I began using a single AF point with Bird AI my results improved immediately… especially when I started to proactively place my single AF point in my composition where I anticipated the head of the subject bird would be.
The other thing that I discovered through ongoing experimentation is that combining Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with Pro Capture L can be a killer combination. It does take a lot of practice and discipline. Waiting to fully depress my shutter release until after the desired bird behaviour has occurred felt strange… almost bizarre. It still doesn’t feel 100% natural to me… but I am becoming more and more comfortable the more I use it.
Now, let’s have a look at our sample image run that was captured using a single AF point with Bird AI. I also used Pro Capture L with this run of photographs. These images are shown as full frame captures without any cropping as I think it is important for readers to see the context of the image run.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
This is the first image of eight that are displayed in this article. I actually picked up this gull in-flight a couple of frames earlier. As we can see in the photograph above, the scene has multiple gulls along with a cormorant in the frame.
If I would have had all 121 AF points active (which is recommended in some YouTube videos) the E-M1X could have been confused as to which bird I wanted to photograph.
I think there are some basic defaults that the focusing algorithm uses in Intelligent Subject Tracking. Often it will select the subject closest to the camera, or sometimes will default to centre frame. In either scenario it would be difficult to know if the incoming gull in-flight would have been selected by the e-M1X when presented with a scene with so many potential subject birds.
Since I used a single AF point with Bird AI, my E-M1X was able to lock on to the incoming gull in-flight without being confused by the other birds in the composition.
Using Pro Capture L allowed my E-M1X to record images in temporary memory as I half depressed my shutter release. I get an audible ‘beep’ when auto-focus is achieved and I can watch the images being created and spooled into memory while I’m shooting.
Now, let’s view the next seven images in the run. You’ll see the gull in-flight flies right over the cormorant and lands directly in front of it. My E-M1X had no difficulty at all staying locked on the gull in-flight. Keep in mind that I am half depressing my shutter release to store images in temporary memory as this gull is flying into the scene.
It is important to note that I fully depressed my shutter release as the gull actually landed, which then caused the images stored in temporary memory to be written to my memory card. This is what makes using Pro Capture L so powerful, and feel counterintuitive at the same time.
It has been my experience that when used with a single AF point with C-AF +TR turned on Bird AI is simply awesome. Using it in combination with Pro Capture L can further enhance results.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All images are displayed as full frame captures without any cropping. This is the 1,117 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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