Olympus OM-D E-M1 for sports using C-AF Tracking and the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens

Written by Gary on July 2nd, 2016

I come from many years of using a long line of Olympus cameras – none of which had continuous autofocus tracking that actually was useful (OM film cameras, C8080WZ, E330, E510, E-M5 digital cameras), so even though I have owned the only Micro Four Thirds camera with on-sensor PDAF, Olympus OM-D E-M1 , I have never bothered to really try C-AF Tracking … until today.

Today I took the E-M1 with the awesome Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens for a spin at a local Australian Rules Football footy ground in heavy overcast with the prime aim to see if the folks on the internet are correct that C-AF Tracking mode actually works well with this kit.

So I set the E-M1 up as follows:

  • almost the latest firmware installed – E-M1 = 4.0; lens = 1.0; (just realised there is v4.1 available, although this update is not said to change AF capability, so updating to that tonight!)
  • Noise Filter = OFF and Picture mode = vivid (just in case I use CDAF as these settings give faster CDAF – which I didn’t actually end up using)
  • Shutter priority exposure mode with shutter speed 1/1250th sec, aperture automatically used f/4 and ISO was on auto-ISO and automatically used 800
  • Exposure compensation to – 0.7 as the shadow/highlight indicator in EVF was suggesting the whites on the jumpers was otherwise blowing out
  • High speed burst mode (10fps)
  • AF mode = C-AF + Tracking
  • AF region = centre 9 squares
  • EVF refresh rate HIGH
  • C-AF Lock = LOW (to reduce chance of loss of lock when a player ran in front and AF re-acquiring lock on that player instead)
  • Release Priority C = OFF (gives more focused images but less images and you do get more shutter delay as it needs to lock focus before releasing shutter)
  • IS on

Technique:

  • Point and shoot and hope for the best – no I did not wait to gain AF lock, I just pressed the shutter when the action was in frame – it does help to have the action in the AF region – you may want to expand the AF region for your own needs but this does risk AF lock on the background or a player to the side in the foreground.

Outcome:

Pleasantly surprised seeing beautifully sharp images pop into the EVF on playback

See example below, these have been cropped, and have had a touch of toning and vignetting applied as this lens does not vignette to any appreciable amount even wide open.

footy

no crop for this one:

footy

and a short ~50% cropped sequence:

footy

footy

footy

Conclusion:

Although I am not a sports shooter, the C-AF Tracking seemed to work at least as well if not better than my Canon 1D Mark III sports dSLR, and I was able to get more telephoto effect and image detail hand held than I could with the Canon.

I was very pleasantly surprised the I could just point and shoot and the camera did the rest reasonably well.

The main issue is at 600mm equivalent field of view, it does take a bit of practice to ensure you get the action in the frame when it is moving quickly over the ground – and it is for this reason, Olympus introduced the Olympus EE-1 Dot Sight as I have discussed in a prior post. I feel that the Dot Sight would largely address this problem and be a very handy addition to this kit.

 

 

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