E-M1 – Photographing Hummingbirds Eating from Flowers in the Garden

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drj3
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E-M1 – Photographing Hummingbirds Eating from Flowers in the Garden
4 months ago

Each summer I photograph hummingbirds as they eat from the various flowers in my wife’s garden. Previously, I used my E5 with the EC14+50-200 SWD for this. With the E5 I used SAF+MF with the single center point focus point and a shutter speed of 1/1000-1/1250 second. Accurate focus on the hummingbird is critical, since the typical depth of field will be between 2/3 and 3/4 inch and focusing on the blossom will always result in poor focus on the hummingbird. With pre-focus, the E5 would quickly autofocus on the hummingbird, important since the hummingbird rarely eats for the same blossom for more than a 1-2 seconds. Pre-focus is necessary since there are many leaves and other blossoms within a few inches of the hummingbird and the camera will tend to focus on these unless it is pre-focused.

I had a couple of hours this week to try the E-M1 with the same lenses and I first tried the same settings that I used with the E5 and found that the E-M1 would not focus quickly enough in SAF+MF mode. While the E-M1 will focus on something like the flower almost as quickly as the E5, the flying, moving hummingbird has fewer static distinctive features on which to focus. I switched to CAF with the E-M1 and manually pre-focused and moved the center focus point over the bird until the camera successfully autofocused. This is somewhat slower than with the E5 SAF+MF focus, but with quick pre-focus this works reasonably well. I am sure that I will be more successful with more practice with the E-M1. The success rate was somewhat lower than with the E5, but with the lower noise and better dynamic range of the E-M1, the keeper rate was probably about the same. The E-M1 does require more accurate pre-focusing than the E5.

Attached are four images from these initial attempts. The first demonstrates that the 1/1000 second shutter speed is sufficient for photographing the hummingbirds head which is relatively stationary as it eats. The second and third images use the better 1/1250 second shutter speed for the images of the hummingbirds body (somewhat more movement) as it eats. The final image of the hummingbird as it moves to a flower shows light motion blur with the 1/1250 shutter speed and a faster shutter speed would probably have been better. The two images with ISO = 400 would have been similar with the E5, the other two images are much better than the images would have been using the E5.

A shutter speed of 1/1600 would probably have been better

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drj3

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