Bird photography with the OM System Olympus OM-1 – Amateur Photographer’s Online Editor, Joshua Waller, and Deputy Online Editor, Jessica Miller spent a day photographing birds with Olympus/OMDS Ambassador, and AP Zoom Photo Tours guide, Tesni Ward, with the brand-new OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1.
Tesni Ward photographing birds with the OM-1
Using the OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1, Tesni likes that you can customise the camera for your own shooting needs. With the new OM-1, Tesni has noticed faster, and more responsive autofocus (AF), as well as notably improved bird tracking, which finds and locks on to the bird’s eye.
Tesni also found the blackout free shooting, at upto 50fps with C-AF, extremely useful for tracking moving subjects. The viewfinder is also significantly improved, giving a great view, and the improved weather sealing is of particular benefit when shooting in extreme conditions. The camera is also easy to use when wearing gloves.
Tesni has spent a lot of time watching and studying birds, and says the best way to see them is in the real world, so you can see and hear them, and learn their behaviour. This will help you know when something (like flight, flapping, etc) is coming so you’re ready to take the shot.
Top settings to use when shooting wildlife with the OM-1:
- Setup a custom mode for specific shooting scenario e.g. birds
- Customise buttons to give quicker access to the AF mode needed
- Customise the burst rate to suit you, and make sure you know your camera before shooting
- Ensure the shutter speed is right for the type of shooting, and use burst mode so you’re ready to shoot whatever happens
- Blackout free 50fps C-AF is amazing for tracking animals in the frame
- Olympus / OMDS cameras are very customisable, which is great, but can be confusing if you don’t know the camera, and it’s worth working out before shooting
Top tips for shooting birds and wildlife:
- Look for background colour, and avoid distraction
- Be prepared for bad weather, look for areas where you can get better colour adding interest into the background
- Watch the weather, as blue skies and bright sun can be too harsh and make photography difficult
- Knowing your subject helps, so you can prepare for when they are about to fly, flap, or duck under water
- You can always crop in post but can’t un-crop if you’ve used too much zoom
Join Tesni Ward on an AP Zoom Tours event
Tesni Ward is running a number of different photo holiday tours with Amateur Photographer and Zoom Photo Tours, and you can get great advice from Tesni, as well as the opportunity to shoot several different birds and wildlife.
- Lots of great tips for how to shoot birds in motion, including how to keep the camera stable and smooth while shooting.
Find out more here.
Joshua Waller photographing wildlife with the Olympus OM-1
Using the OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1 for bird photography was particularly easy, once the camera’s Bird Detection AF was setup. This was activated using the camera’s menus, but quicker access to this setting is possible by customising the camera.
The camera is extremely rapid, and in some cases may be too quick, for example, I personally don’t need to shoot at 120fps, so opted for a slower continuous shooting speed. If you do want to shoot at 120fps, then Pro Capture can help here as it can shoot images before you’ve even pressed the shutter release button.
The camera has a new AI (Artificial Intelligence) auto-focus system that can detect a wide number of different subjects. This combined with the new Quad-pixel AF system, with 1053 AF points covering the sensor, makes for an extremely fast AF system, that can work at speeds up to 50fps with continuous AF tracking – when used with specific Olympus PRO lenses.
How to customise and setup Bird Detection AF on the OM-1
- In the Menus – you can find the settings in the AF section, or you can also add “Subject Detection” to the MyMenu section for quicker access
- You can setup a custom button so that you can quickly change the subject detection, by pressing the button and scrolling through the options using a command wheel
- Check your continuous shooting mode, you’ll need SH2 which enables continuous AF and metering, and not SH1 (super high-speed) – SH1 sets AF to fixed / single-AF, rather than continuous
- Check your AF setting is set to C-AF + Tracking
- You’ll be able to see the tracking appear in real-time on the screen when the camera detects the subject
Shooting wildlife with the camera, and in this case, birds, was particularly impressive, as the camera’s bird detection AF system is extremely rapid, and reliable, locking onto the bird’s eye, even when the bird was dark in colour. The camera also gave sharp detailed images, even when shooting wide-open at f4 with the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and 1.4X Tele Converter.
Jessica Miller photographing wildlife with the Olympus OM-1
I bought my DSLR around six years ago as a final year university student just getting into photography. I’ve had plenty of time to get to know my camera well, so it’s quite daunting to think about using a different system.
When the opportunity to try out the Olympus OM-1 came about, I was quite excited to give it a go. This is my first time using the OM System and mirrorless technology.
On the day I took my DSLR camera along to the shoot with Tesni – I certainly noticed the difference when I switched between the two. Firstly, the size and weight. Being able to hold and grip the camera comfortably is quite an important factor for me, and I also like to carry my camera around wherever I am.
The OM-1 body is much more compact than the DSLR, so overall was easier to handle. My camera with an 18-135mm lens attached together weighs over 1.1kg (the body alone is just under 700g). Whereas the Olympus OM-1 body on its own weighs 599g – with the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens and 1.4x TC we were using, weighs around 1010g.
Although there isn’t much difference between the numbers here, with an equivalent lens on the DSLR this would be a hefty camera to carry around. Having less weight on your shoulders certainly feels more appealing.
Another factor I would be looking for in a new camera would be how easy it is to learn and use. On this workshop we set up the Bird Detection AF mode – which was an easy process, and the menu itself was very user-friendly and well designed. The Bird Detection AF mode was particularly helpful in our situation and quick to operate and focus, ensuring we got sharp shots whether the bird was stood still or in flight.
I had a go at using my DSLR for photographing the same birds, and the camera felt slow and clunky after using the OM-1. Overall, I was very impressed with the system and the versatility this camera could have across different genres.
Read our full OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1 review