Small Birds at 1120 mm

This article shares a selection of photographs of small birds at 1120 mm equivalent field-of-view. All images were captured handheld during a recent visit to Hendrie Valley.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-500, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 4.2 metres

I arrived at Hendrie at 11 AM on an overcast day. Since my primary objective was to capture images of small, perch birds the weather conditions were not of any significant concern.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 7.9 metres

After meeting a friend, we began our photography hike at the Cherry Hill Gate, then proceeded across the boardwalk and ended up at the ponds at Grindstone Creek. We then retraced our route. I had more luck photographing small birds at 1120 mm on the return hike.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-320, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 3.9 metres

This time of year the population of birds at various locations along our route is quite variable. We stopped a number of times and waited patiently for the birds to congregate.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 4.9 metres

This strategy was successful at a number of locations, allowing us to photograph small birds for 15 to 20 minutes before moving on.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 6.6 metres

I really enjoy photographing small birds at 1120 mm efov as this focal length allows me to get in tight with subject birds. As is the case with all of the photographs in this article, I can often avoid any cropping to my images and use them as full frame captures.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-5000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 8 metres

Small birds tend to be skittish so one needs to work quickly to spot potential subject birds, acquire auto-focus and grab some photographs before they flit off.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 4.8 metres

I’ve been using my E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking for a few months now and I’ve become very familiar with it.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 2.8 metres

It does take some time to get used to this technology. Now that I’m acclimatized to it, I really can’t imagine using any other camera except my E-M1X for bird photography. I find using Bird Detection AI faster and more accurate than anything else I’ve used in the past.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-6400, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 8.8 metres

Being able to adjust my compositions without the need to move any auto-focus points around saves valuable time. Especially with small birds that move constantly.

Some online reviews of the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking have recommended engaging all of the E-M1X’s auto-focus points. Others suggest using a 5×5 grid.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 10.4 metres

I’ve found both of these approaches are counterproductive. As noted in the original E-M1X review done by Imaging Resource, the camera does not use any auto-focus points to determine focus when AI Subject Tracking is engaged. Instead one of the E-M1X’s processors analyzes the entire scene, then determines the auto-focusing. Let’s have a look at a 100% crop from the image above.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 10.4 metres, 100% crop from image above

As you can see with the 100% crop above, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking works very well indeed. I’ve found engaging a single auto-focus point works best as it allows me to ‘thread the needle’ with Bird AI when photographing birds buried in trees and bushes.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-6400, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 5.9 metres

I brought my wife’s E-M1 Mark III equipped with the M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 zoom with me… intending to capture some perched and in-flight birds with it. As I was leaving Hendrie Valley in the afternoon it dawned on me that I hadn’t even taken the E-M1 Mark III out of my camera bag. Maybe next time… 🙂

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/800, ISO-3200, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 4.3 metres

For the past few months I’ve had the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter basically permanently mounted on my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom. I love the flexibility of the 280-1120 mm efov range. Losing one stop of light is a trade-off that I’m happy to make for the extra reach.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI, full frame capture, subject distance 5.6 metres

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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2 thoughts on “Small Birds at 1120 mm”

  1. Question Tom. Is it safe to assume that you are using S-AF and not C-AF since these birds are on a perch and your intention is to shoot them on the perch?

    Joel

    1. Hi Joel,

      Since Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking works with C-AF + TR I shoot all of my bird photography at 18 frames-per-second for both perched birds and those in-flight. This can be reduced to a slower frame rate of course. I find that a quick tap on the shutter release can generate individual frames if I desire. I typically take a very short burst just in case the bird’s nictitating membrane was lowered.

      Tom

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