I appreciate that many Nikon 1 users are still lamenting the discontinuation of the product line. So am I. We need to accept that it is… what it is. Nothing is going to bring Nikon 1 back. All of us can take pleasure in using the Nikon 1 gear that we still have and celebrate its capabilities when we capture unique images with it. This article discusses using Pro Capture compared to Nikon 1.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. All of the images in this article were captured hand-held during the same visit to Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls Canada. Due to lighting conditions many images were captured using slower than ideal shutter speeds. My apologies for some images not being as sharp as I would have liked.
It likely comes as little surprise to Nikon 1 owners that I eventually chose to look at Olympus gear as my business needs shifted over time. Olympus is really the only brand that produces cameras that provide similar frame rates that Nikon 1 owners have come to cherish for their bird photography, along with a sensor format that works for my video business. I did not want to give up those frame rates, while at the same time meeting the changing needs of our business.
I find it quite bizarre that online reviewers gush over the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X being able to capture full resolution RAW files at 60 frames per second. Nikon 1 cameras accomplished that feat many years ago. At that time these same reviewers didn’t seem to notice or care. Perhaps that was the effect of small sensor bias.
When using Pro Capture with the E-M1 Mark II or the E-M1X, Nikon 1 owners can draw parallels with using their Nikon 1 gear at 30 or 60 frames per second. You will still need to plan your image runs based on subject birds moving at 90 degrees to your camera for best results.
The big difference is if you were late pressing your shutter release with Nikon 1 you would miss the exact moment you were trying to capture. With Pro Capture you will still grab that special moment image. The other benefit is not having to guess incorrectly with the timing of a 30 or 60 frame per second run… fill your buffer… then miss your shot . With Pro Capture you can confirm the frames in temporary memory by fully depressing the shutter release, even after the bird launches… and still capture that special moment.
With the Olympus Pro Capture mode you can set the number of frames that you want your camera to capture before the shutter release is fully pressed (up to 35). You can also set the number of frames you want to capture after the shutter release has been fully engaged, as well as the frame rate you want to use. This includes 30 and 60 frames per second.
This provides users of the Pro Capture mode plenty of options to adjust their settings for specific subject matter and the nature of the precise moment capture they are pursuing.
Many of us who enjoy bird photography often get fixated on capturing birds in flight. We forget there are many other moments that can yield quite interesting photographs.
Birds preening or stretching their wings can also make interesting images. Especially if we are able to get close up to them, which is possible in captive environments like Bird Kingdom. Using Pro Capture is ideal to capture these types of photographs.
Birds flying at acute or obtuse angles to your camera can quickly go out of focus when using Pro Capture. When shooting with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II or E-M1X you will need to remember that these cameras have a crop factor of 2.0X rather than 2.7X like Nikon 1 gear. You may need to stop lenses down a bit to get the depth of field required. This will depend on bird size, shooting angle, anticipated flight path etc.
Birds that immediately fly away from your camera during a Pro Capture run can yield nice wing positions, but can appear slightly out of focus if your lens was not stopped down sufficiently as you can see in the next image.
Birds flying parallel to your camera’s sensor will yield best results. As with all bird photos maintaining an appropriate shutter speed is required. Due to lighting conditions I couldn’t get as fast a shutter speed as I wanted in the image below. You can see that the bird has just left its perch with its wings in the process of extending.
I like using Pro Capture with a single auto focus point. I find this gives the best amount of control and creative freedom. For example, I wanted to capture a small finch launching itself into mid-air as it took off from its perch. I spotted a bird at the correct angle, but it was partially hidden behind a branch.
This posed no problem at all. I simply placed my single focus point on the portion of the bird’s body that I could see. Half depressed my shutter release, then patiently waited for the bird to launch.
The mid-air image is a bit soft due to shutter speed and using an aperture of f/2.8, but it does illustrate the technique involved. Anticipating bird movement can reduce the need to pan with a bird launching into flight. As with using a Nikon 1 camera at 30 or 60 frames per second, there is nothing stopping you from panning with a bird after you fully depress the shutter release when using Pro Capture.
Pro Capture can also be a very useful capability when attempting to capture an image of a bird in flight when it is positioned behind some branches in the foreground. Using a single focus point on the bird, and allowing flight room in your framing can yield an image like the one above. The images of the bird initially launching into flight will likely not be usable… but you will still have a good opportunity to capture your planned photograph.
Many photographers only want to capture birds in full flight. Pro Capture will not be quite as useful for them. I find that photographs of birds which are in the process of taking off can have a nice feeling of anticipation. Let’s look at four consecutive images captured with Pro Capture that illustrate this feeling of anticipation.
If you check the EXIF data you’ll notice that I stopped my lens down slightly to f/6.3 for a bit more depth of field as the bird was launching in my direction.
Shooting with a 4:3 ratio is different than the 3:2 ratio we are used to with Nikon 1 gear. After using the E-M1X for the past 6 weeks I can say that I actually like the 4:3 format better for bird photography and also for flower photography. I still prefer the Nikon 1’s 3:2 ratio for landscapes.
Let’s have a look at our last set of images. This is a run of six consecutive images captured using the E-M1X’s Pro Capture mode.
I have noticed there is less time and effort needed in post with Olympus OM-D E-M1X images (and I assume with the E-M1 Mark II) when compared to Nikon 1. I thought I was pretty efficient working with Nikon 1 RAW files. The E-M1X RAW files take even less time in post. I estimate about 40-50% less time, not counting computer processing time.
Compared to a Nikon 1 V2 or V3 there is considerably more dynamic range and colour depth with which to work. That is to be expected when going from a 1″ non-BSI sensor to M4/3.
Since I don’t have any first hand experience using an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I can’t comment on the difference the latest firmware update will make in terms of auto-focusing performance. Some Olympus owners that I know who have the camera say the upgrade was significant and quite noticeable.
For those of you who own, or are interested in the Nikon 1 system, you may want to check out The Little Camera That Could. These little cameras still rock! The eBook is available for purchase and download. It is priced at $9.99 Canadian. Readers interested in purchasing a copy can use the link below.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held 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 post processing approach.
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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