Great Egret. ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/2000 Second
Bird Photography,  Photo Gear

Using the Olympus OM-D for Wildlife and Bird photography

Updated Blog on Using the Olympus OM-D and 300mm f/4 lens for Bird and Wildlife Photography

I’ve spent several weeks testing the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for wildlife and bird photography.  While I love the Olympus OM-D for landscape, macro, travel, and street photography, I’m not ready to sell my Canon 5D Mark iii and 500mm f/4 lens in favor of the OM-D for wildlife and bird photography.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the results of my wildlife and bird photography tests and give some tips on using the Olympus OM-D for bird and wildlife.  While this won’t be my primary outfit for this type of photography, it still can be used in a pinch especially when you’re not able to carry a lot of gear.

Mallard Duck Olympus OM-D

This Mallard hen was very close about 25 feet.  I reduced the noise in Lightroom 5 and did some light sharpening in Photoshop CC

For the test I used the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm f/4.0-f5.6 lens and the Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm f/4.0-f5.6 lens.  These lenses are certainly not the same quality as Nikon or Canon telephoto prime lenses.  But high quality telephoto primes for wildlife and birds are not yet available for micro four thirds cameras.

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Wildlife and Bird Photography Test Results

Overall, I found the quality of the images not up to par for bird and wildlife photography.  That said, I am used to shooting the Canon 500mm f/4 and Canon 300mm f/4 lenses with the Canon 5d Mark iii camera.  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 could still be used in a pinch if you can’t bring other larger gear on your photo shoot.

The camera did do better in brighter light than on the evening and morning shoots.  However, wildlife are more active in the morning and evening.  In the evening and morning, I needed to raise the ISO to 1000+ to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the subject.  The photos were quite noisy.

The ratio of “keepers” was still low even when the subject was reasonably close.

I also found the continuous focus tracking not ready to attempt birds in flight.

Great Blue Heron Olympus OM-D

This Great Blue Heron was shot in the early evening from about 60 feet away.  Light editing in Lightroom 5 and sharpened in Photoshop CC.

Tips for Shooting Wildlife with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

If you plan to use the Olympus OM-D for wildlife and bird photography, here are a few tips that might be useful.

  • Shoot in brighter lighting conditions.  The OM-D performed better in these circumstances
  • If you have to shoot in the evenings and mornings, use a tripod.  This will help to photograph stationary subjects at lower shutter speeds.
  • Set the size of the focus points on the OM-D to the smaller sizes for more precise focus.
  • Shoot in sequential high shooting mode.  Although the OM-D doesn’t focus between shots in sequential high mode, the 9 fps helps to increase the number of keepers.

Micro four thirds cameras should continue to improve to get better results for wildlife photography.  The introduction of fast prime telephoto lenses would also help make these cameras better candidates for wildlife and bird photography.

Related Posts
Shooting Macro Photos with the Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 kit lens
Canon 6d vs. Olympus OM-D E-M5 for Travel Photography
Should You Upgrade to the Olympus OM-D E-M1?

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