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Upgrading from Bridge Camera to M43 (1 Viewer)

MelospizaMelodiaFan

I photograph birds
United States
I am making a list of expectations now, to be followed by observations of how things play out. I am currently using a Panasonic FZ150 point-and-shoot camera, the results of which you can see in my gallery. I have learned a lot about photography and post-processing with this camera. On a nice, clear day, it can create nice images. It is also very easy to use and carry.

On its way to me is a used Olympus E-M1 mark ii and Zuiko 100-400 f5-6.3. Here are the ways I hope it will improve upon the FZ150 with its 1/2.3" sensor.
  1. Image Quality - With the bridge camera, I can rarely resolve the fine hairs in the feathers of birds. I am hoping to consistently get this with good light and proximity to the subject. Also, if a subject is off-center, I expect its image to be sharper.
  2. High ISO performance - I limit my FZ150 to ISO400 because of noise. I am hoping to get similar results in M43 at 3200, perhaps pushing to 6400. This would allow me to shoot in lower light/cloudy days.
  3. Autofocus - My hopes are that phase-detection autofocus will make a big difference, especially for birds-in-flight. I am able to get small flying birds in the frame with my bridge camera, but they are rarely in focus.
  4. Pro capture - I am really looking forward to this. I have wasted many frames trying to anticipate the takeoff of a perched bird, so I hope those days are over with pro capture. Maybe I can get lucky and capture a predator strike on a stationary subject someday.
  5. Weather sealing - I am normally a fair weather photographer, but this capability will tempt me to venture out when in inclement weather.
  6. IS - The lens IS of my 12 year old FZ is quite good; I have no issues shooting at 600 mm equivalent FOV. I just hope the new system can match that.
I am not looking forward to the added weight and bulk, but I suppose that is the price to be paid for added performance.
 
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Excellent choice and reasonable expectations--looks like you have done your homework. I have been using the EM-1ii for 6 years and have been really happy with it--actually own two bodies. Only thing you mention I am personally not a fan of is pro capture. Creates too many photos to sort through--and I already have too many.:LOL:
 
Excellent choice and reasonable expectations--looks like you have done your homework. I have been using the EM-1ii for 6 years and have been really happy with it--actually own two bodies. Only thing you mention I am personally not a fan of is pro capture. Creates too many photos to sort through--and I already have too many.:LOL:
Thanks for your reply, I plan to use pro cap sparingly, but I will probably end up with too many photos to sort through.
 
I have now owned my Olympus E-M1 ii and Zuiko 100-400 lens for a few days, been shooting with it every chance I had. Some observations:

Image Quality - My first session with the camera produced a lot of meh results. I was second guessing my decision to spend the money to upgrade. Yesterday, I took an image of a Scrub Jay and got the details I was looking for:
jay feather detail.png
My bridge camera could only hint at these details. What it took to get this result: 1) very close (~6m) to the subject, 2) dialing FL back to 328mm, 3) fast shutter speed 1/1600, 4) Seated position with elbows resting upon legs. I'm not going to be able to get as close, nor be as stable all the time. And it's tempting to use the full 400mm of FL.

High ISO performance - the photo of the Jay above was taken at ISO1600. That's two stops above where I limited my bridge camera, and the M43 image has more detail/less noise. I am pleased with that. It means I can use faster shutter speeds, which is generally good for birds and long lenses. Here is a photo of a black phoebe that I took at ISO5000:
black phoebe ISO5000.jpg
It's a usable image, but you can tell it is noisy and being pushed to the limit, and details are getting smudged. Perhaps I'll get better at post processing, which might help. One thing I notice with M43 is that I can push exposure more in post before I see posterization, which is a product of improved dynamic range.

Autofocus - In my point and shoot, there were a few autofocus options, and no way to move the focus point. I'm still learning how best to utilize the AF options for different situations with my E-M1ii. One thing is for certain, the Olympus is in a totally different league. Here is a series of images I shot of a jay:
Jay sequence.jpg
Nothing to write home about, but my bridge camera would have given me 7 blurred images out of 9. Also, it would have started buffering before it got to 9 images. The Olympus shoots at 10 fps with C-AF, compared to 5.5 with my FZ150, which makes a big difference. All in all, the AF lives up to my expectations.

Image stabilization - in my bridge camera, I would have to pop off 5-6 shots at 600mm EFOV in hopes of getting one in focus. I don't know how much was weak AF vs. weak IS. However, I could confidently get decent results at 1/30 or 1/25 if I could get enough shots off. With the Olympus, AF is pretty solid, so I have to chalk up less-than-tack-sharp images to motion blur. The IS is about the same as on my bridge camera at long FL, so I still have to rely on reeling off a bunch of shots in hopes of getting a keeper. I'm just getting started, so I have hopes that I will improve my keeper rate.

I'll post another update as I learn more about my new system. So far, so good!
 
Regarding your iso 5000 image: you do not state whether this was shot in raw or jpg, and what you use for apps for processing. I would expect to do better on an iso 5000 picture, and my camera is about the same generation as yours.
Niels
 
Regarding your iso 5000 image: you do not state whether this was shot in raw or jpg, and what you use for apps for processing. I would expect to do better on an iso 5000 picture, and my camera is about the same generation as yours.
Niels
Hi, Niels, I shot in RAW. I use Darktable and GIMP for processing. I have attached the RAW file if you (or anyone) wants to take a crack at it.
 

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My first session with the camera produced a lot of meh results. I was second guessing my decision to spend the money to upgrade.
That pretty much describes my reaction to all my purchases of photography equipment. It takes a while to learn how to use stuff and see how it performs in a variety of situations.

I'm not sure what you are already aware of, but here are some less obvious tips:

– For perched birds, I always use small single point continuous autofocus (without tracking). Tests by users at DP review have shown that the actual autofocus area for the small single point is significantly smaller (i.e. more precise) for this camera with continuous autofocus as opposed to single autofocus.

– Unless you are using flash, always use the electronic shutter. You can get higher frame rates, never have to worry about an issue called "shutter shock", and extend the life of the camera (mechanical shutters have a limited expected number of exposures before they die).

– Set up a special custom mode for birds in flight. I use the nine box autofocus setting and continuous autofocus; the custom mode will remember the shutter speed you set when you save the mode, and you want that to be high – I think I use around 1/1500. I usually zoom out for birds in flight at least initially – but it depends how adept you are on keeping up with the bird.

– There is a setting that affects the speed of continuous autofocus adjustment – I would set that to +2, the highest setting.
 
Hi, Niels, I shot in RAW. I use Darktable and GIMP for processing. I have attached the RAW file if you (or anyone) wants to take a crack at it.
I'm not sure what is going on with that photo, but I agree the detail is terrible. Something seems off. I have shot plenty of ISO 6400 photos with the same camera that look much better. But I find that how high-iso shots turn out depends on lots of different factors, e.g. how much light is available.

As an example I attach one ISO 6400 shot with my EM-1 mkii from my trip last year to Peru – it has been processed with DxO PureRaw 2. Was taken from some distance in a dark rainforest; 1/200.
 

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I'm not sure what is going on with that photo, but I agree the detail is terrible. Something seems off. I have shot plenty of ISO 6400 photos with the same camera that look much better. But I find that how high-iso shots turn out depends on lots of different factors, e.g. how much light is available.

As an example I attach one ISO 6400 shot with my EM-1 mkii from my trip last year to Peru – it has been processed with DxO PureRaw 2. Was taken from some distance in a dark rainforest; 1/200.
Yup, I'd be happy with results like that 👍
 
Hi, Niels, I shot in RAW. I use Darktable and GIMP for processing. I have attached the RAW file if you (or anyone) wants to take a crack at it.
Attached is what I was able to do with your raw file using DxO PureRaw & Topaz sharpen AI. Not great, but I think it's an improvement.
 

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Attached is what I was able to do with your raw file using DxO PureRaw & Topaz sharpen AI. Not great, but I think it's an improvement.
That looks much better. I will keep taking photos and practicing my PP. I'll try different software as well. Thanks for showing me the possibilities.
 
This is also an ISO6400 image I took today 😃
Apparently not all ISO6400 images are not equal. I think you need some direct light, or it looks like crap. Also helps if the subject is very close.
full
 
It helps (per my experience) if the subject is correctly lightened, and it helps if you can reduce the size of the image afterwards (which I think might be what you are seeing when you say being close).
Niels
 
It helps (per my experience) if the subject is correctly lightened, and it helps if you can reduce the size of the image afterwards (which I think might be what you are seeing when you say being close).
Niels
I did not downsize the image this time, but that does help. Being very close to the subject gave nice detail rendering despite low light. The photo of the phoebe was probably at 10x the distance.

This is also a high contrast image; although it required hight ISO overall, some part have decent light.
 
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An update after shooting several hundred more images -
  • I am still happy with the image quality upgrade from my old camera. I don't think I can go back to the bridge camera for shooting a tough subject like birds.
  • I am getting used to carrying and handling the camera, although switching lenses is a bit of a hassle.
  • A benefit of using higher ISOs is that I can use higher shutter speeds. Shooting at 1/2000 increases my keepers by eliminating motion blur induced by my hands. I think this is one of the hugest advantages I gained.
  • The ability to manual focus on-demand is great for birds behind branches. I can quickly dial in focus if my camera is fixated on branches in the foreground.
  • Where I am finding a bit of learning curve is 1) exposure compensation. The image of the black phoebe shared above could have used some to increase contrast. I am still learning how much to compensate, based on the histogram. It's just a lot to do with a bird that may fly away in an instant. It will just take some practice, I expect. 2) Finding the best autofocus setup for BIF. Again, it just takes some experimentation. The hardest shots are ones with no time to set up. A bird is flying by and you have 2 seconds to get a shot off. Sometimes I miss those.
Overall, I am very pleased with my new setup, and don't regret the decision to upgrade.
 
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Mallard3 SmT 10102023.jpg

Today I tested the weather proofing of my camera and lens. It was a light drizzle when I set out, but it became light rain. I called my sister, who is a pro photographer. I told her I was walking in the rain with my camera, and she warned me not to push my luck. Even though my E-M1 ii and Zuiko 100-400 are weather sealed, unnecessary exposure to rain seems like asking for trouble. For the rest of the walk, I shielded my camera as best I could.

The camera/lens performed as usual and don't seem to show any ill effects. I managed to snap this shot of a mallard with raindrops beading on its back. I can see the appeal of inclement weather photography, because you are treated to opportunities unique to these conditions. I was hoping to see a frog or snake in the water, but not this time. I shot this photo at 1/40, which does not yield many keepers. Next time I will probably shield my camera with a poncho until it is time to take a photo. It seems more prudent this way. Needless to say, I would never have tried this with my unsealed bridge camera.
 
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Beautiful shot!

My Panasonic combo is supposedly less strongly weather sealed than yours. I don't think I have exposed it to real rain but plenty of times with light drizzle. It seems to have survived well enough even though a couple of screws visible from the outside seems to have corroded a little.
Niels
 

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