Moving Toward Mirrorless — Hummingbirds

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.

Moving Toward Mirrorless — Magnification Factor

Rufous hummingbird photographed with Olympus EM1 Mark ii with a four-thirds sensor.

A full-frame sensor camera has a sensor that is 35mm on the longest side. A cropped sensor camera (APS-C) has a sensor that is smaller. A four-thirds sensor is even smaller at 17.5mm on the longest side.

Those smaller sensors give us what is called a crop factor. An image on a full-frame camera looks the same as if the image was taken with a film camera. Take the same photo with a APS-C camera and the image would appear to be cropped. Take the same photos with a four-thirds sensor and the image would appear more cropped.

That cropping is 1.5x on a Nikon and 1.6x on a Canon camera. The cropping is 2x on an Olympus or other four-thirds sensor camera.

Using that 2x magnification, a 300mm lens is now a 600mm lens. Add a teleconverter on that 300mm lens and you have a 420mm lens. Put that lens on a four-thirds camera and it is now equal to 840mm on a full-frame sensor camera.

Below are three different cameras all with a 300mm lens with 1.4x extender for 420mm from the same location.

The full frame is photographed with 420mm. The cropped is photographed with the same lens but because the sensor is smaller the lens is equal to a 672mm lens. The four-thirds sensor is magnified even more for a lens equal to an 840mm lens. (As was pointed out in an earlier post, all the camera set-ups weigh roughly 4.9 pounds but the view with the four-thirds is equal to a much heavier camera with lens.)

So the advantage of a four-thirds sensor camera is our subject appears bigger when using a telephoto lens with a lighter camera.

I was curious if the quality would be acceptable since the sensor was smaller.

Above is a photo of a female rufous hummingbird perched outside my kitchen window. This was photographed under horrible conditions. I’m shooting through a dirty window. I’m hand-holding the camera at ISO4000 and the image was shot in jpg versus raw. (I was cooking dinner at the time so give me a break.)
Same image as above and cropped to 100%. Notice the fine details in the feathers. No smooth, blotchy colors but actual fine details.

“Expert” opinion has been that the smaller the sensor the worse the quality. I think the fine engineering put into APS-C cameras like the Canon 7D Mark II and Nikon 500 really put an end to that thinking. My brief tests with the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark ii shows this four-thirds sensor can stand up with the best.

As usual, give me your thoughts. It’s always fun to read your experiences. Thanks again to Hunt’s Photo and Video and the folks at Olympus for making this test possible.

Canon EOS R: My Test Drive

Thanks to the folks at Hunt’s Photo & Video I got to test drive the new Canon EOS R.  This is Canon’s first entry into the full-frame mirrorless camera market.  I am highly impressed.

The camera has a great feel in the hand.  There’s plenty of room for your hand and right thumb giving a more robust feel than the Canon M-series cameras.

The swivel screen on the back of the camera is great for ground-level macro photos.

Hand-feel and ergonomics — give the camera an A+.  The electronic viewfinder is the brightest I’ve seen.  The touch screen on the back is quick and responsive.

Yet, how about the photos.  Last year, I pushed the Canon M-series camera pretty hard when I gave it a test drive so I thought I’d do the same with the EOS R.

Notice in the photos above that there’s no fringing on the leaves when the photo is enlarged to 200%.  The grain structure looks good.

Let’s try another test.

Above is a twilight photo with the Canon EOS R on a tripod.  Enlarged to 200% on the right.

Same scene but photographed with a Canon 5D Mark IV.

In low light I can’t see any difference between the photos taken with the Canon EOS R and the Canon 5D Mark IV.

A simple comparison of photos.  The photo taken with the Canon EOS R is on the left.  Canon 5D Mark IV on the right. Both are enlarged to 100%.   I can’t see any difference in quality.

I like starbursts in my photos.  How does the EOS R’s 24-105mm lens work in the starburst category?  Not bad!

Conclusions:

  • The Canon EOS R is a “real” camera on par with the Canon 5D Mark IV.
  • There does not appear to be any differences in the picture quality between the two cameras.
  • This is not a point-and-shoot or lower quality camera.
  • The Canon EOS R is going to make a lot of people rethink their mirrorless options.
  • First-time camera owners might skip the DSLR body in favor is this mirrorless.

I’m impressed with the Canon EOS R on static subjects.  How does it handle action?  Stay tuned.

Check out the great deals at Hunt’s Photo & Video on Canon EOS R and other products.

Here’s a video I created on the Canon EOS R.  Take a look.