NANPA is the North American Nature Photography Association. It’s a leading organization for nature photographers. NANPA events should not be missed.
I’ll be leading the birds track at NANPA’s Nature Photography Celebration in Asheville, NC, April 19-21.
Join me and my colleagues in bird photography, night photography, landscapes, flowers, fine art, and conservation for an unprecedented amount of field time with other photographers as well as classroom sessions and opportunities to share images.
My friends save $75 on registration with the FriendOfKathy promo code. More info: nanpa.org/celebration.
Thanks to the nice folks at Olympus and Hunt’s Photo & Video I got to test the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and a 300mm lens with a 1.4x extender. My regular camera is a Canon 1DX with the Canon 300mm f/4 and a 1.4x extender.
So what would happen if I shot the cameras side-by-side?
I went to my friend Lee Hoy‘s house in Ft. Davis Texas. Lee had some hummingbird feeders that were pretty active thanks to fall migration. Hummingbirds were buzzing the feeders like crazy.
My test was to set both cameras on the most fancy fast focusing settings. Lee knows Olympus so he double-checked all my setting on that camera. I know Canon so had everything set on that camera.
Both cameras were set to f/7.1, aperture priority, at ISO 500, continuous auto-focus, and rapid release.
I picked-up one camera and fired. Then I put it down and picked-up the next camera. This went on for a little over an hour. Canon then Olympus then Canon then Olympus until I was exhausted.
In the end, I took 267 photos with the Olympus and 159 with the Canon. The Olympus has a higher frames-per-second rate so there will be more photos to edit. More opportunities to capture the precise moment of action, too. That’s the plan anyway.
Both cameras held and maintained focus on the hummingbirds. I was pleased to see that the Olympus kept-up with the Canon. Both cameras also failed to focus on a hummingbird about the same rate usually thanks to operator error.
Winner? Not one over the other. They Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II held in there against the Canon 1D X Mark II. That should be good news for any bird photographers looking to buy the Olympus system.
A lady in class mentioned that she was taking eight camera batteries on her next vacation. Eight batteries! That’s unheard of. I own two batteries for my Canon 5D Mark IV and one for my Canon 1DX. Why would this lady need eight for one camera?!
I’ve been testing the Olympus OM-D E-Mii and the OM-D E-M1X. Thanks to my testing I understood her statement wasn’t so crazy.
The battery life on these cameras is not great. A battery gets 2-3 hours of life. That’s turning the camera off and on, looking at photos on the back, taking a group of photos, putting the camera down, picking it back up, taking some more photos, setting it down, turning it off, turning it on, taking some photos, reviewing photos, etc. Two or three hours of this type of activity and the battery warning light is flashing.
For comparison, I can use a Canon 5D Mark IV battery all day without worrying. The Canon 1DX battery will last three or four days even with heavy shooting.
The E-Mii uses one battery. The more powerful E-M1X has a battery holder that uses two batteries. Luckily, both cameras use the same battery. That’s a great move, Olympus!
Each battery charges in a little over an hour. That’s not unusual for a camera battery. I charged three Olympus batteries in an evening with no problem but I was watching the charger and switching the batteries.
In real life, though, I’m dragging in at 10:00pm after a hard day of shooting and everything needs to be charged and ready to go by 5:00am. I’d find it hard to charge three batteries while sleeping.
Luckily, the batteries for these cameras are reasonably priced. A battery is $54 so it’s possible to buy some extras. The battery recharger is $59 so a photographer could have one or two more. There’s an after-market charger that claims to charge two batteries at a time. (I’ll let someone else test that item.)
Yes, there is a power grip for the OM-D E-Mii. That add weight and bulk — a reason many are using for switching to mirrorless.
A friend emailed: Hi Kathy. I have a question and I can’t find an answer on the Internet. I am looking at a lens with a fixed aperture of f4. What I’m wondering is how do you get more depth of field with a fixed aperture? People are singing praise for this lens and report it is on their camera all the time. But I’m wondering how it would do for landscape where you would want everything in focus. Or if you were focusing on a closer object and had mountains in the background. Any thoughts? Thanks
The Canon 16-35mm f/4 lens has f/stops from f/4 to f/22
My Answer: A fixed f/4 lens might have an aperture range from f/4 to f/22. You’d use the f/4 to blur backgrounds and the f/22 for landscapes. The lens has lots of f/stops and not just one.
A “fixed” lens doesn’t change the f/stop as you zoom the lens. In the Canon 16-35mm lens, zoom back to 16mm and you can use f/4. Zoom out to 35mm and you can still use f/4.
A “variable f/stop lens” would change the f/stop as you zoom. In the Canon 18-55mm lens, zoom back to 18mm and you can use f/3.5. Zoom out to 55mm and you can only go to f/5.6. The f/3.5 is no longer available.
Traditionally, “fixed” f/stop lenses give crisper and clearer photos. Fixed f/stop lenses are usually more expensive and better made. I think that’s the reason they give a better photo.
Peak Design is known for creating some neat products that are also stylish and well-designed. Above is a photo of their new Travel Tripod.
Take a look and let me know what you think. Peak Design Travel Tripod
Travel Tripod Aluminum = $349.95
Travel Tripod Carbon = $599.95
Wayne sent me an email asking if his next card should be a SD or a CF. Good question!
Here’s my reply:
I visited the Sandisk site to see what they are currently offering.
–CF Cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 160 MB/s. 128 GB with 120 MB/s
–SD cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 150 MB/s. 128 GB with 300 MB/s (That’s fast!!)
— CFast 2.0 by Sandisk: 512 BG with 450 MB/s (Wow doggie!!)
Background Information — In the beginning of the digital photography age we had Compact Flash cards, Standard Definition cards, and some other cards that have fallen by the wayside.
Compact Flash cards, or CF cards, were for the big, new digital cameras, like the 10D and D100 made by Canon and Nikon. Standard Definition cards, or SD cards, were for the tiny point-and-shoot cameras. Tiny cameras needed tiny cards.
Then camera like the Canon Rebel came out with SD slots. Eventually, the larger digital SLR cameras came out with SD slot and a CF slot. The Canon 6D is a larger digital SLR and it only takes the smaller SD cards.
What we have today is a choice. SD cards are just as fast as CF cards. Then CFast 2.0 are on the market with reasonable prices.
Canon wrote on their site that they are not abandoning the CF cards because so many pros use them. Good to know.
How fast of a card do you need? Do the math. Photo size x burst rate is the basic formula. 24MB raw file x 7 frames per second = 168 MB per second. That’s your starting point.
Ask also “how often do you hold the button down for 7 fps?” If the answer is often, then get a fast card. If the answer is never, then speed is not an issue when buying cards.
One last thing if you’re still with me. Buffer is also an issue. Look through your viewfinder on your camera. Push the shutter button half-way down. Look at the number is the bottom right corner or along the right side. The number might be 3 or 6 or 19 or 56. That number is how many photos the camera’s buffer (internal memory) can hold before the dreaded BUSY signal pops up and the camera stops firing. The buffer is based on the size of the photos you’re taking such as RAW or fine JPG. Bigger the photos the less photos that will fit in the buffer.
It always amazes me how much impact the flash can have on photos of birds in the forest.
Both were photographed with the following settings: Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/400 sec shutter speed, ISO 800, Canon 580 flash, 100-400mm lens.
The flash is set to TTL and high-speed.
At sunset in July we were cruising down the Rio Piquiri in the Pantanal of Brazil. Junior, the boat driver, killed the motor and pointed to a pair of jaguars sitting on the riverbank.
There were 10 people in the boat and all were squirming to get their cameras and find the jaguars. The boat was bobbing in the water. There was a lot of movement to try to photograph something after sunset.
I pushed the ISO button on my camera and rolled the dial all the way to 51,200. I could only get a 50th of a second shutter speed. No way the photos were going to work with a shutter speed like that!
Raul, our guide, had been bragging about this high-powered flashlight that he’d received as a gift from a previous guest. His little flashlight was nearly a spotlight.
“Raul, point that flashlight at the jaguars!” I yelled. It was magic! The light was enough light to give us shutter speeds in the 1/160th or 1/200th of a second range.
A modern high-power flashlight and modern cameras with high ISO gave us the ability to photograph a jaguar in the dark. I love it!
I love infrared photos but somehow I never seemed to get around to having an old camera converted to infrared. So earlier this year I got an email ad from Singh-Ray Filters advertising their infrared filter. My hand grabbed my computer mouse without my will and order the filter. Before I knew it, Singh-Ray’s IR 690 filter was heading to my doorstep.
The filter arrived, I read some articles online, and then went out to give it a try. The photos came out RED. Yep, they were red but they were supposed to be red.
The articles I read said that the photos out of the camera would be red. I was then supposed to process with method #1, method #2, or method #3 to get an infrared image.
I tried all the methods and simply had a black-and-white image. No snowy-white grass or grass that look so great in infrared photos. I could never get anything that even remotely looked like infrared.
Out of frustration, I sent an email to the folks at Singh-Ray Filters. I got an immediate response and they put me in touch with one of their experts. That man and I exchanged photos and emails for the next two weeks. I shot photos with the filter, processed them per his instructions, but nothing worked. He paid for me to ship my filter to him so he could use it on his camera.
In the end, we found that my Canon 5D Mark IV and my Canon Rebel need a Singh-Ray 830 Infrared filter. The IR 690 filter only yields a black-and-white image after processing.
Mystery solved. Singh-Ray Filters immediately shipped me an 830 Infrared Filter and issued a credit for my 690 IR filter once they received it.
Thanks to the great customer service at Singh-Ray Filters I’m now shooting infrared photos and loving my 830 Infrared filter.
By the way, the IR 690 filter works fine on Nikon camera. We found this situation only applies to Canon cameras.
Here’s how to take a photo with the 830 Infrared Filter:
- Set the camera to the Bulb exposure mode and decide which f/stop you’ll use.
- Frame the shot and focus the lens.
- Turn off auto-focus on the lens.
- Screw the filter on the lens without moving the focus ring.
- You can’t see through the IR filters.
- With the camera in Bulb
- Take the photo with the shutter open for about 4-minute.
- Adjust based on the histogram. A bit less time if the photo is too bright or a bit more time if the photo is too dark.
Here’s my method for processing photos taken with the 830 Infrared Filter:
- Open in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom
- Open Hue Saturation Luminance
- Move the red Luminance slider all the way to the right
- Move the red Saturation slider all the way to the left
- This gets rid of the red cast to the photo
- Go back to the Basic Tab
- Move the Exposure slider so the histogram hits the right corner
- Move the Black slider so the histogram hits the left corner
- Add some Contrast
- Continue processing to taste
I’ve just begun shooting in infrared and processing those photos. Stay tuned. More discoveries in store.