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Author Topic: OMD focus problems in wildlife photography  (Read 5705 times)
David S
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« on: July 02, 2013, 10:45:20 AM »
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Previously on bird trips, I have used the 45 - 200 mm Lumix lens with a GH2 and found most shots in reasonable focus.

This year I used my OMD E5 with the Lumix 100-300mm zoom and was more than a bit distressed to find a lot of 'out of focus' shots at the 300 (600 mm equiv) end with the focus locking onto a leaf or branch a few cm. in front or behind even when I was convinced in the viewfinder that the bird was in the center and in focus.
It is not motion caused as the branch or leaf is quite sharp and I have checked the focus in more relaxed situations on the lens and camera focus accurately when such leaf or branch alternatives don't exist.
The weather on the weekend was poor with heavy cloud so I had to use the lens wide open and boost the ISO to get good hand held speeds.
Frustratingly I got some decent shots of the same birds when they were not obscured by or close to the problem branches.

Any techniques that might help me?

Thanks,

Dave S
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walter.sk
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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 12:57:25 PM »
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I'm not an OMD user, but it sounds as if you are using an AF setting that uses either a group of AF points or zone-focus setup where you don't have complete control over what the camera selects as the focus point.  If so, try using a single-point AF.  If not, I dunno.
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David S
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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 01:38:25 PM »
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I'm not an OMD user, but it sounds as if you are using an AF setting that uses either a group of AF points or zone-focus setup where you don't have complete control over what the camera selects as the focus point.  If so, try using a single-point AF.  If not, I dunno.

Unfortunately I am using the center point focus set up.

Dave S
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Telecaster
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 04:08:23 PM »
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One trick you may want to try: switch on the manual focusing rectangle and set the magnification to 10 or 14x. Then switch back to AF...the rectangle will stay at the smaller MF size, which should give you greater AF precision.

I do lots of MF photography with my OMD so I have a function button (on the top deck) dedicated to this. Using the aux. grip, I trigger the shutter with my middle finger and the MF mag. with my index finger. It's become second nature, so much so that cameras with just a shutter release now feel weird.   Shocked

-Dave-
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SZRitter
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2013, 04:33:14 PM »
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One trick you may want to try: switch on the manual focusing rectangle and set the magnification to 10 or 14x. Then switch back to AF...the rectangle will stay at the smaller MF size, which should give you greater AF precision.

I do lots of MF photography with my OMD so I have a function button (on the top deck) dedicated to this. Using the aux. grip, I trigger the shutter with my middle finger and the MF mag. with my index finger. It's become second nature, so much so that cameras with just a shutter release now feel weird.   Shocked

-Dave-

Where do you set the focus magnification? I just got an E-M5 a couple of weeks ago and have a few legacy lenses I'm using. So far I have the "focus peaking hack" set on there, which has done reasonably well.
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gerafotografija
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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2013, 11:34:19 PM »
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I have also had a relatively low bird hit rate with the OMD AF using the MZuiko 75-300, and chalked it up to it choosing the wrong thing to focus on. Branches and leaves seem to be an issue, and I assume that is because they often have higher contrast than the bird. I hadn't stumbled on the smaller focus point trick and will try it.

I do have a higher hit rate if I use the AF area select rather than AF lock with a half-press of the shutter and then recompose. Since the arrow keys can be set to do this AF point selection, and the EVF shows what is going on, you don't have to move your eye from the viewfinder to do this.

To answer the question about changing magnification and MF. Once you go to the magnified view, you can change the magnification with the front dial by default (5x-14x).

There is a setting for bringing up the magnified view anytime you touch the focus ring, but I don't like the camera switching to magnified view automatically, since just a slight touch of the lens ring does it.

I also set a button to bring up the magnified view (note that it takes two button hits to actually get this to initiate, not sure why). First hit lights up the green focus square, and then the second gets it into magnified view. After the first time you do this, each touch of the button switches between magnified view and normal.

Also, you could set a button to turn on the "teleconvertor". This gives you instant 2x magnification, and even without peaking, the burst in contrast when the part of the image you are looking at comes into focus is very noticeable. If you need more magnification, hit your magnification preset button, and dial in whatever works. The total magnification is still the same, so if you already have the teleconvertor on, the levels for the magnification function will read 2.5-7x.

I find both the automatic magnification when you touch the lens, and the two Fn button presses to bring up the dedicated magnification function kind of annoying options. The teleconvertor setting, which does not appear to affect the RAW file size, seems to work for me. Not sure if that affects the metering or not (probably), but it does cut the number of autofocus regions in the frame down to just a small grid. They don't seem to become smaller though.

Hope this helps. The instant 2x magnification is usually enough for me to get reasonable MF dialed in, and I don't go beyond the 5x or 7x even when it is critical and I have more time.

I have used focus peaking on the X20 and I am not getting more reliable MF with that than with the magnified view on the OMD. Not sure I would use focus peaking on the OMD if it was an either or option.
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ned
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2013, 02:21:38 AM »
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Having shot many thousands of bird photographs with my Olympus E5 and owning and testing the OMD EM-5 specifically for birds and BIF I can tell you that the EM5 contrast detection system is not good at all for this type of photography. Focus hit rate with moving subjects one of several difficult challenges with the camera and available long lenses. With its fast auto focus I had high hopes for a compact field setup but it  just couldn't cut it.
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PhotoEcosse
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2013, 04:09:18 AM »
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I got rid of the OM-D for exactly that reason. It was a nice camera with a wide lens for street photography but "difficult" for wildlife. The AF locking onto a branch or leaf rather than the bird was something that I put down to there being greater contrast with those artefacts than the intended subject.

Oddly enough, with my Nikon dSLRs, I often focus manually for wildlife shots but I never found that particularly easy with the Ollie either.
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David S
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2013, 09:30:13 AM »
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Many thanks to all who replied. I will try out some of the suggestions over the next week or so.
It may be that my GH2 works better for bird shots than the OMD so I will try both and see how the results turn out.

I have also already tried AF with MF assist and this does seem to help a bit as does turning on the digital teleconverter to focus.

Thanks,

Dave S
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BJL
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2013, 10:16:02 AM »
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One trick you may want to try: switch on the manual focusing rectangle and set the magnification to 10 or 14x. Then switch back to AF...the rectangle will stay at the smaller MF size, which should give you greater AF precision.
Agreed: the smaller AF rectangle should help.  At least part of the problem described in the OP is that AFAIK, the CD AF picks the point of highest contrast anywhere within the AF rectangle, and the edge of a branch or leaf is likely to have higher contrast than any part of the bird.

I use a mixture of initial AF with manual checking and correction after AF has made its best effort, but clearly that is not always possible with active subjects. EDIT: Though the standard way to do this is with mode AF-S + MF, I prefer to use MF, mode 3: this allows single AF to be done by briefly pressing the AEL/AFL button (which I have set to the video button, since I do not do much video).
« Last Edit: July 03, 2013, 11:15:21 AM by BJL » Logged
BJL
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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2013, 02:58:11 PM »
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To answer a few other questions that came up along the way.

- To activate Magnify mode, you can first assign it to one of the programmable buttons.

- However, the Multi Function mode, which by default is on button Fn2, has "magnify" as one of its four options, so you could just set Fn2 to that mode. To change the mode of the Multi Function button, hold down that button while rotating either control wheel.

- The reason why it takes two button presses to get the magnified view is that the first press puts you into the setting mode, where you can move the magnification region around (with the arrow keys) and adjust the degree of magnification (press Info, then use arrow keys or either control wheel.)


David,
    I hope you enjoy reading poorly written manuals and/or experimenting with settings; that is necessary to get the best out of this camera! Another good place to ask questions or search for them already answered is http://photo.stackexchange.com where there is a tag [olympus-omd]


P. S. Do the admins care to move this thread to the new forum Compact System Cameras?
« Last Edit: July 03, 2013, 03:05:39 PM by BJL » Logged
David S
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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2013, 07:30:53 AM »
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David,
    I hope you enjoy reading poorly written manuals and/or experimenting with settings; that is necessary to get the best out of this camera! Another good place to ask questions or search for them already answered is http://photo.stackexchange.com where there is a tag [olympus-omd]


Thanks for the reference to photo.stackexchange.
I hate to admit it but I have read and re-read the manual several times and even had manual assist activated but didn't think I needed to use it!! Oh well I will next time and I am definitely going to try the magnify button as well as the digital tele-converter tricks.

Many thanks to all,

Dave S
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OldRoy
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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2013, 09:56:12 AM »
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I have an OMD and the 100-300 and I like to shot birds too - although I have low expectations about the technical qualities and tend to use these shots in the same way that dedicated birders keep a notebook.

That said there are plenty of useful suggestions here already. I'd concur in a general way with the comments. Setting the focus box to its smallest is a big help; unfortunately I've found no mode where it just stays locked at that size. I like to see the histogram and it's an either/or. The huge default focus box is simply an idiotic design decision.

However I've found that the biggest hindrance to sharp results is a consequence of the EFL. Hand held @ 600 mm is an inherent challenge whereas you can usually see whether the subject's in focus - or at least when it's well out. The best change I've made, apart from practice, is to set the anti-shock mode (at 1/8th sec; I haven't really experimented) and shoot small bursts - it doesn't seem to make much difference whether they're high- or low-speed bursts - as the IBIS seems to catch up. Since adopting this method I've had a much higher hit rate. Lots of PP deleting required of course.

Roy
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PhotoEcosse
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« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2013, 03:24:13 PM »
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I have an OMD and the 100-300 and I like to shot birds too - although I have low expectations about the technical qualities and tend to use these shots in the same way that dedicated birders keep a notebook.

That's quite a nice analogy and just shows that there are, indeed, horses for courses.
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OldRoy
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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2013, 03:11:50 AM »
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That's quite a nice analogy and just shows that there are, indeed, horses for courses.
What I should have added (apart from correcting the typo) is that this combination is capable of producing quite nice results. And of course it's small enough to have with you during the times when you're likely, fortuitously, to encounter the quarry. Which a 600 mm FF lens isn't. Not that I have one...
Roy
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rolivsey
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« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2014, 11:34:30 PM »
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I have M1 and 75-300 and am getting terrible results.
Cannot focus on a large bird on abranch at 20 meters, an eagle on a rock at 25m
Looks OK through viewfinder.

3 days and no good photos
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dwswager
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« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2014, 11:43:54 AM »
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I'm not an OMD user, but it sounds as if you are using an AF setting that uses either a group of AF points or zone-focus setup where you don't have complete control over what the camera selects as the focus point.  If so, try using a single-point AF.  If not, I dunno.


Oddly enough, that is the exact problem that Group Area AF (5 points in a cross arrangement with no dominant point) as opposed to Dynamic AF (dominant point with numerous points around it) on my D810 is designed to solve.  I just got the camera and have not exercised Group Area AF, but it is intended to help with small targets and erratic movement to keep the camera from focusing on the background.

Here is a link to an explanation: Nikon Group Area AF Mode
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David S
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« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2014, 11:45:00 AM »
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I started this thread some time ago and have found it difficult to get consistent good focus at 600 mm equiv. So far, my best results are using manual focus. I also went and bought a Panasonic GX7 and find I get many more in focus shots with it at 600mm. The spot focus setting and the EVF magnification make quite a difference and since I do not make large prints, the quality differences between the two cameras do not make a difference for me.

I should also add that the various suggestions in this thread all helped me.

Dave S
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