On Saturday of this past weekend I spent about 2.5 hours photographing swallows in flight. As readers who enjoy bird photography can attest, capturing images of these small ‘pocket rockets’ is a very challenging pastime. Saturday was the most successful swallows-in-flight photography outing that I have ever had. Rather than share just a smattering of photographs, this article contains a total of 24 E-M1X swallows in flight images. I could have shared a lot more… but I thought 2 dozen images would be plenty for this posting.
I captured all of the photographs in this article hand-held using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X fitted with an M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom lens along with an M.Zuiko 1.4X teleconverter.
This combination provides a maximum focal length of 210 mm, or an equivalent field-of-view of 420 mm when compared to a full frame camera. And, compared to my Nikon 1 V3/1 Nikkor 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 combo, the Olympus set-up only has about 50% of the reach of my Nikon 1 kit. All of this means that I didn’t have the reach I would have preferred. As a result I had no choice but to crop my photographs that are displayed in this posting.
All of the images in this article have been severely cropped. The original files were all initially cropped to 2500 pixels in width, down from the 5184 pixel width available on the E-M1X sensor. Then all of the photographs were resized to 1200 pixels for web use. Please keep that in mind when viewing these E-M1X swallows in flight images.
The fact that the photographs displayed in this article have held up at all is a testament to the optical quality of the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
Before I show you the balance of the images, I thought I’d mention the most unusual photograph from my outing. The image above is not a headless swallow! As it was flying over me, the bird was looking back over its shoulder. At that instant I happened to capture the photograph. Now let’s look at the balance of the collection of photographs…
While doing some research on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X I had read that the algorithms for the auto-focusing system had been completely redeveloped. The result is that the auto-focusing performance of the E-M1X is much better than the E-M1 Mark II.
One of the reviewers noted that the continuous auto-focusing with tracking had not yet been updated for the E-M1X. The camera supposedly is using the same AF-C with tracking as the E-M1 Mark II. I don’t know if this is factual or not.
Since I wanted to put the new continuous auto-focusing system of the E-M1X through its paces, I used AF-C only, and did not engage tracking. I do plan on doing another swallow in flight test using AF-C with subject tracking in the near future so I can compare results.
I experimented with various AF point grouping options. I had the most consistent performance when using the 5×5 array with continuous auto-focus. It was very quick and responsive, allowing me to pan with these fast, erratic flyers while firing off bursts of images at 10 frames-per-second.
The E-M1X is the best auto-focusing camera I have ever used to photograph swallows in-flight. After the first half-hour of my swallows-in-flight test I actually felt confident that I would get some usable images when I fired off an AF-C burst. I have never felt that way before with any other camera I’ve used in the past for this specific subject matter.
I captured more in-focus images of swallows in flight during my 2.5 hour test, than I had in all of my other past attempts combined. And… I wasn’t waiting for the birds to come in to land at a nesting box to get my captures. The E-M1X allowed me to pan with the birds and capture my images while they were in free flight mode.
I typically walk away from a swallow-in-flight session with 6-9 decent images… not hundreds. Sure, I still missed focus on a large number of attempted captures. But that was likely due to operator error and my lack of familiarity with the E-M1X, than the camera itself.
All photographs in this article were captured using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All of the photographs displayed in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process. DxO PhotoLab 2 now supports the Olympus OM-D E-M1X.
Use of Olympus Loaner Equipment
All of the photographs in this article were captured using Olympus Loaner Gear which was supplied by Olympus Americas Inc. on a no-charge basis. We are under no obligation what-so-ever to Olympus Americas Inc. in terms of our use of this loaner Olympus camera equipment. There is no expectation or agreement of any kind with Olympus Americas Inc. that we will create and share with readers any images, articles or videos, or on what that content may be.
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