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Old Monday 29th February 2016, 17:44   #1
PaulZr
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Olympus OM-D EM-5 Advice - Blurry pics

Hi,

New poster here, casual birder for many years, more recently getting a bit obsessive about it.

Anyhow, I recently purchased an OM-D EM-5 Mark ii & 75-300 lens, to replace my broken Olympus Stylus 1, for a reasonably compact camera to have along birding. I used the TCON-17x with the Stylus 1, and it was decent as a birding camera for documentation photos, giving me f2.8 at a 510mm focal length (35mm eq), but wasn't particularly durable with that big TCON mounted to plastic threads. And it had a small 1/1.7" sensor.

I expected significant improvements with the OM-D, with a larger sensor, and presumably better optics & IS, but even with feeder birds only 20 feet away, I just can't seem to get crisp photos. Maybe I simply haven't learned how to use this camera properly - I'd welcome advice from any OM-D users here.

I primarily use S-AF+MF, letting the camera do the initial focusing, then tweak from there if necessary, using the EVF & magnification. Here's some of what I've tried, testing with feeder birds (mostly the Common Redpolls that have been visiting this winter). With/without IBIS, with/without anti-shock, with a tripod (IBIS off), increasing the default JPG compression to L/SF, different focal lengths, different ISO settings, different speeds, etc. Even the tripod photos were not very crisp, my Stylus 1 was about as good hand-held. I've even tried the new Focus bracketing feature at its finest setting.

Image stabilization certainly helps at long focal lengths / low shutter speeds, but only from really blurry to somewhat blurry. Anti-Shock maybe helps a little, hard to tell. Switching to L/SF compression did seem to help a little. Tripod obviously helps at very low shutter speeds, but not much difference at higher speeds.

Thanks!
-Paul
(Wondering if I should have gone APS-C!)

Last edited by PaulZr : Tuesday 1st March 2016 at 16:46. Reason: Change "C-AF" to "S-AF".
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Old Monday 29th February 2016, 18:59   #2
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Paul,
I come from a pana background, so maybe not everything I am saying will help:

In the menu some place should be an anti shutter shock setting which you would want to turn to ON with 0 second delay. I would expect that to help a lot. Even so, I would try to avoid shutter speed less than 1/200. (for comparison, my Pana is at 1/400-1/500 as standard setting).

I always use single image focus. I usually keep the shutter down to take series of 2-3 images per series, and if the bird is still there, focus again and shoot another series, up to a good number of series. Some of the resulting images invariably are better than others.

Test out the camera lens on something that does not move so you get more certainty as to what really is going on.

Niels
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Old Monday 29th February 2016, 19:45   #3
Jim M.
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Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
In the menu some place should be an anti shutter shock setting which you would want to turn to ON with 0 second delay. I would expect that to help a lot.
I would tend towards the opposite advice. Anti-shock on olympus cams just means electronic shutter is used at shutter speeds of 1/340 sec or slower. Electronic shutter with fast moving subjects will result in blurring, so I would turn that off for typical bird photography. (Though i suppose at slow shutter speeds you're going to have blurring anyway if the subject moves.)

Paul--what shutter speeds are you using? 1/800 or higher would be best at max zoom if light permits. Also, have you tried increasing the amount of sharpening applied, either in camera or in post-processing? Perhaps you had sharpening set higher on the stylus? In any event, posting some sample shots might help determine what is going on.
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Old Monday 29th February 2016, 20:01   #4
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Jim,
the understanding I had from reading reviews was that there is one setting where the first point is electronic but the closing of the shutter is mechanical. By doing that, you avoid shutter shock in the lens, but you don't have the rolling shutter effect. If I have misunderstood the effect or the name of that setting, then I regret even getting involved.

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Old Monday 29th February 2016, 21:25   #5
Adey Baker
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There should be both! I have the EM1 rather than the EM5 II but I think they're effectively the same (assuming you've updated the firmware on EM1).

On the EM1 (and probably also the EM5 II, as they're usually laid out similarly), in the 'menu' go to the camera symbol 2, scroll down to 'Antishock/silent' and you can set both to '0sec' with low frame rate (high frame rate doesn't have antishock), then once you've 'OK-ed' each option you can select either option from the menu camera symbol 1 and go to the bottom option: sequence/selftimer/interval > >. Seems long-winded, but isn't now as pressing menu button now takes you back to your last option so toggling between the two option is a couple of seconds job (provided you remember to press 'OK' each time you change the option!). The number of frames per sec can be altered elsewhere when you're setting up the camera.

So far, I haven't noticed any rolling-shutter effects on bird photos, but there are obviously situations where it might show up. However, the silent shutter is a boon when you're close to the subject.
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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 04:19   #6
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Thanks everyone, this is really helpful, and gives me a number of things to try. After the first day, I've been shooting with anti-shock set to 1/8s, as I saw that recommended somewhere, as potentially better than 0s, though I'm not sure I saw a difference between 0 and 1/8. I have silent set to 0s, but haven't actually tried shooting in silent mode, I'll have to do some of that too.

I've attached one of the better examples, cropped to fit within the forum's limits, but otherwise not re-processed or compressed. This was f6.5, 1/250, ISO 500, zoom at 252mm (It seems a bit sharper when I back off max focal length). Focus was on the left bird, it's still way more blurry than I would expect. These birds were moving slightly but more or less in one place on the feeder. If their heads were blurry but body sharp, I'd just write it off as head movement, but the wing feathers are blurry too. Oh, it was on a tripod too - which I wouldn't use on a typical birding hike. The tripod helped a bit, but not substantially, if I had IBIS enabled for hand-held photos.

Jim, I've not tried in-camera sharpening or post-processing of any kind. It's funny, I'm involved with image processing at work, but when using a camera for fun, I just want it to 'work'. I'll have to experiment with those. Most of my feeder test shots have been in the neighborhood of 1/250. At 300mm, any faster and the ISO goes up pretty high - I have the max set at 3200 for now. While the sun was out, the subjects were not in bright sunlight, as there are a lot of trees (without leaves currently). This is probably typical of the kinds of pics I'd take in the field, like trying to get a pic of a warbler in a bush.

Niels, I haven't used burst, just single shot. Another thing to try out, thanks.

I have updated to the latest 2.2 firmware. I think that covers all the queries. As I test some of the suggestions, I'll post updates here.
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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 11:57   #7
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Hi Paul. I am sorry to hear that you are having problems getting sharp photos with your E-M5. You should definitely expect to get crisper shots than the sample you have posted.

I notice that you primarily use C-AF+MF. That doesn't seem to be an option on my E-M1, so I don't know if you meant S-AF+MF. I wouldn't use C-AF for birds at a feeder, although I normally use Sequential Shooting Low set to 4fps. That way I can take two or three shots if required. You also don't say what setting you have for the autofocusing. I have my AF targets set to single AF point small. I try to place the target over the bird's eye or bill where possible, half press the shutter button to lock the focus and recompose if required. Normally the bird is so small in the frame that cropping is possible later rather than recomposing the shot. With birds there is usually not enough time to shift the focus point about anyway.

I assume you are using Aperture Priority with Auto ISO? I think you will have to accept that you will need to use highish ISO values when the light is poor to keep the shutter speed high.

I hope you manage to find a solution to the problem, as the E-M5 II is a great camera.

Ron

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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 13:23   #8
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Are you shooting through a window?

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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 16:31   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoSpringChicken View Post
Hi Paul. I am sorry to hear that you are having problems getting sharp photos with your E-M5. You should definitely expect to get crisper shots than the sample you have posted.

I notice that you primarily use C-AF+MF. That doesn't seem to be an option on my E-M1, so I don't know if you meant S-AF+MF. I wouldn't use C-AF for birds at a feeder, although I normally use Sequential Shooting Low set to 4fps. That way I can take two or three shots if required. You also don't say what setting you have for the autofocusing. I have my AF targets set to single AF point small. I try to place the target over the bird's eye or bill where possible, half press the shutter button to lock the focus and recompose if required. Normally the bird is so small in the frame that cropping is possible later rather than recomposing the shot. With birds there is usually not enough time to shift the focus point about anyway.

I assume you are using Aperture Priority with Auto ISO? I think you will have to accept that you will need to use highish ISO values when the light is poor to keep the shutter speed high.

I hope you manage to find a solution to the problem, as the E-M5 II is a great camera.

Ron
Sorry Ron, typo - I did mean to say S-AF+MF, haven't tried using continuous AF for anything yet. I have auto-focus set to a small central point, that I line up with the bird of interest, then tweak with MF if needed. I have yet to try bursting, rather refocusing between each shot. I'll definitely try that, thanks. Yes, the small birds are small in the frame, even at 300mm only 20' away.

I've not used aperture priority, mostly "P" and "S", attempting to get the speeds up, thinking that was causing blur. Generally, though, in "P", the aperture was wide open (6.7 @ 300mm). Would Aperture Priority with stopping down a bit help?

My research indicated this would be a good camera for my needs, so yes, I'm hopeful I'll figure out how to take great photos, thanks!

Last edited by PaulZr : Tuesday 1st March 2016 at 16:43. Reason: Add last sentence.
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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 16:41   #10
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Are you shooting through a window?

Niels
Yes, these shots were through a window, and a double-pane one, with low-E rating too. How significant is this?

I have a basic understanding of optics principles, so figured if I shot straight through the (clean) window, to minimize refractions, it wouldn't have a big affect. I have some other shots of the same birds not through a window, I'll post one of those if I can find it (I've been shooting a *lot* of the same pic, so haven't saved them all...). I don't recall there being a significant difference, so at the time I discounted the window as being a significant contributor, but I'll be sure to do some comparisons with otherwise identical settings, to see how much affect the window has.

-Paul
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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 18:27   #11
njlarsen
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Yes, these shots were through a window, and a double-pane one, with low-E rating too. How significant is this?
I am not sure I ever had images better than what you are showing through a window.

Related: do you use any UV or other type of front filter on the lens? Most people consider those a big no-no

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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 19:56   #12
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Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
Related: do you use any UV or other type of front filter on the lens? Most people consider those a big no-no

Niels
Most? That's not my impression. I'd avoid cheap UV filters such as Tiffen, but otherwise I think they are fine and use one on my 100-300mm with no problems I'm aware of. But I'm open to being convinced otherwise.
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Old Tuesday 1st March 2016, 20:34   #13
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I am here going by my impression from reading other peoples input in a lot of different threads over several years. That does not mean that I have statistics to prove what I say, and someone may even convince me that I am wrong.

I suppose the proof is in the pudding, try with and without on a high resolution target that is close, and see if there is any difference when zooming in on the images.

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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 02:22   #14
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Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
I am not sure I ever had images better than what you are showing through a window.

Related: do you use any UV or other type of front filter on the lens? Most people consider those a big no-no

Niels
I'm not currently using any front filter. I've attached my best pic that wasn't through a window, a little farther away, perhaps 30 feet. 300mm, 1/250, f6.7, ISO 500, IBIS on. Pretty awful - no better than my through-the-window pics.

I need to run some more controlled tests, but that'll have to wait for the weekend, when it's actually light out while I'm home!
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 05:11   #15
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First thing i need to say is i dont use Olympus but the samples you posted show something major is wrong with the camera or your technique,i know it must be frustrating but the gear you have bought will achieve far better so stick with it eliminating possible problem areas.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 14:12   #16
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Originally Posted by PaulZr View Post
I'm not currently using any front filter. I've attached my best pic that wasn't through a window, a little farther away, perhaps 30 feet. 300mm, 1/250, f6.7, ISO 500, IBIS on. Pretty awful - no better than my through-the-window pics.

I need to run some more controlled tests, but that'll have to wait for the weekend, when it's actually light out while I'm home!
Presumably,with IBIS on you're hand-holding this shot (as you've indicated in your first post) otherwise I'd say certainly go for the silent mode with 0sec antishock (I think the 1/8th sec is the best option on the original MK I EM5 which doesn't allow 0sec).

There doesn't appear to be any obvious 'double image' on the sample, so it's probably a focus issue rather than shutter speed/ shock but I can't be 100% certain on that as slight vibration can take the edge off shots without being at all diagnostic!

With a few birds actively feeding there could be quite a bit of movement from the subject so there's a chance of slight blur from that or indeed difficulty for the camera nailing focus precisely. Have you activated one of the function buttons to acquire focus - 'back-button focus' - (Fn 1 is fine on the EM5 Mk II, if you're not left-eyed)? This way, you're at least preventing the camera from changing focus at the last moment as you depress the shutter to take the shot. I always shoot raw and jpeg and often activate the 2x digital converter via a function button to magnify the image to double-check focus.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 15:54   #17
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Have you tried focus peaking to see where the camera puts its focus?

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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 19:06   #18
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Presumably,with IBIS on you're hand-holding this shot (as you've indicated in your first post) otherwise I'd say certainly go for the silent mode with 0sec antishock (I think the 1/8th sec is the best option on the original MK I EM5 which doesn't allow 0sec).

There doesn't appear to be any obvious 'double image' on the sample, so it's probably a focus issue rather than shutter speed/ shock but I can't be 100% certain on that as slight vibration can take the edge off shots without being at all diagnostic!

With a few birds actively feeding there could be quite a bit of movement from the subject so there's a chance of slight blur from that or indeed difficulty for the camera nailing focus precisely. Have you activated one of the function buttons to acquire focus - 'back-button focus' - (Fn 1 is fine on the EM5 Mk II, if you're not left-eyed)? This way, you're at least preventing the camera from changing focus at the last moment as you depress the shutter to take the shot. I always shoot raw and jpeg and often activate the 2x digital converter via a function button to magnify the image to double-check focus.
Adey, thanks for the advice. The 2nd pic was hand-held, with IBIS on. I don't recall for sure if I had anti-shock enabled for that pic. Both shots were taken with a half-press to acquire focus, verify the single focus point was on the subject, tweak with MF if necessary using the zoom feature, and then complete the shutter press. Does this lock the focus in the same way as "back-button focus", or just the exposure? There were probably 2-3 seconds between half and full press of the shutter release while I verified focus.

These particular birds were fairly stationary, though they were moving their heads as they were eating. If it was head movement, I would expect the head to be blurry, but the tail feathers sharp. The feeder itself is blurry too, it was swaying slowly in the wind, but the 1/250 should have stopped this action. I did *not* have "Halfway Rls with IS" enabled, so I'll be trying that too.

I'm not trying to make excuses, just trying to understand what's going on, and what I can change. I'd rather the problem be me than the camera, it was by far the most I've ever spent on a camera! I know I need to work on my stance, how I'm holding my arms, and maybe how softly I'm pressing the shutter, especially at these long focal lengths. So much to remember! :)

I'll be sure to post a couple more pics with the suggestions here, in the hopes of narrowing down my problem. I've seen Robin Wong's blog using this lens on an OM-D EM10, taking hand-held shots of birds, and they're *very* crisp.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 19:12   #19
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Have you tried focus peaking to see where the camera puts its focus?
Yes, but not for these shots. Since the feeder was more-or-less in the same focal plane as the birds, when I'd focus on the birds, the entire feeder would get really white, making it hard to see the image. Probably the wire mesh showed lots of contrast peaks. I'll try it again, and see if it helps me focus. Also need to keep better notes on what settings were used on which shots - the EXIF data doesn't seem to save any of these kinds of settings.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 19:17   #20
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First thing i need to say is i dont use Olympus but the samples you posted show something major is wrong with the camera or your technique,i know it must be frustrating but the gear you have bought will achieve far better so stick with it eliminating possible problem areas.
Thanks Mike, that was my feeling too, this $1500 camera/lens combo should be able to do far, far better. I've seen some fantastic bird shots from others using this camera/lens, so I'll assume it's me for now. I was expecting this to be easier, though...
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 20:09   #21
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What I would try first, being outside without glass in between would be to use shutter speed in the range of 1/500 (and live with the resulting high iso for now).

Secondly, I would make sure that I use single AF, not continuous. In single shot AF, the process of half press presumable locks the AF as you expect (at least if Oly is similar to other cameras I have used). Shoot in continuous (2-3 shots per series) (medium speed I would suspect) and shoot a couple with just trusting the AF, and others where you try to tweak using manual focus.

Niels

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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 20:10   #22
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Jim,
the understanding I had from reading reviews was that there is one setting where the first point is electronic but the closing of the shutter is mechanical. By doing that, you avoid shutter shock in the lens, but you don't have the rolling shutter effect. If I have misunderstood the effect or the name of that setting, then I regret even getting involved.

Niels
Yes, you are correct. As others have intimated, I made an incorrect assumption. My bad.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 21:07   #23
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Hi,
Lets try and eliminate a few variables.
You say the birds are moving, the feeder is moving, there's 2 - 3 seconds between half press and the shot being taken and a reasonably slow shutter speed.
We can ignore the window as the outside shot is equally as bad.
Any one or probably combo of these things will cause grief.
What result do you get if you put the camera on a tripod and focus on a stationary object that's in front of your back fence hedges.
Using a cable release or the timer would be good as well.
What I'm wanting to know is what does the camera do when you and any movement are taken out of the equation, not shot through the window either.
If possible try with a high contrast and a low contrast subject (in relation to the background)

Another thought reset the cam to the original factory settings.
You've been playing a lot with different things there could be some oddball setting that's causing probs.

You should get real good pics with this cam and lens combo with out having to resort to being a rocket scientist
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Old Thursday 3rd March 2016, 04:05   #24
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OK, before I address Niels & Grahams posts, I'm attaching some shots I took this afternoon. Settings were as follows, others were at defaults, "New" indicates different settings from previous photos:

P mode
S-AF+M
Small central focus point
Anti-Shock On = 0s (New, previously 1/8s)
Noise Filter = Off (New - as recommended by Robin Wong)
Halfway Rls with IS = On (New)
Shooting Mode = Low-speed burst Anti-Shock, 3fps (New)
IBIS burst = On (New)
Images saved in "LF" jpeg (Previous were a mix of LF and LSF)

I attempted to hold the camera better, holding the lens with left hand, bracing left elbow against body. All shots were focused with half-press, verified auto-focus point, slight MF adjustment based on focus peaking, then full-press until 3 shots were taken. I think that covers it.

The first batch of 3 were of Canada Geese, focusing on one goose in the center, about 100 feet away. 300mm, f6.7, 1/250, ISO 250. Photos cropped, but otherwise unmodified. Isn't it interesting the difference in quality between the 3?
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Old Thursday 3rd March 2016, 04:22   #25
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The next burst of 3 is an American Tree Sparrow, about 15' away. 300mm, f6.7, 1/250, ISO 200. Images cropped to roughly 1200x900.

I don't see a significant difference between the 3. They're all a significant improvement over my Redpoll photos, but still a little out of focus, it seems. Thoughts?
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