Sometimes when you travel it’s not possible to bring along big lenses and big DSLRs for bird photography. The current weight and size limitations imposed by the airlines has made traveling with photo equipment even more difficult.
Lately, I’ve only been bringing my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens on my travels. These trips have not been solely nature photography vacations. They were business trips for work and a beach vacation with my wife. For these trips, the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 100-300mm lens fit easily into a regular backpack.
For photography only vacations such as my upcoming trip to Yellowstone, I will be hauling along my big lens and DSLR. Still for these other vacations other non-photography vacations, it is still nice to have a longer focal length lens and good quality camera to photograph birds and wildlife during the trip.
In this blog, I will describe my experience using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm lens for bird photography. I will also pass along tips for photographing birds with this setup and share several bird photos taken on these trips.
Experience using the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 100-300mm Lens for Bird Photography
The Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 100-300mm lens performed reasonably well when photographing stationary birds in good light. In low light, the challenge was to keep the shutter speed high enough while not raising the ISO where the pictures were too noisy. The 5-axis image stabilization built in the OM-D E-M1 also helped when taking pictures of stationary birds at lower shutter speeds.
I also found that in shady areas or compositions with a lot of branches or other objects in the viewfinder that the autofocus was slow and seemed to hunt to get focus. I found that by first manually focusing on the subject and then pressing the shutter to autofocus helped to speed up autofocusing. While this worked well, I think the focus ring on the Panasonic 100-300mm lens could be a bit larger. I found myself searching for the focus ring on several occasions.
With the slow focusing and hunting of the autofocus, I used single autofocus instead of continuous autofocus while photographing birds with the OM-D E-M1. I also used either sequential low or sequential high shooting mode while photographing birds.
The Olympus OM-D does not focus between shots when using sequential high mode. So if your first frame is out of focus, chances are the remaining shots in the sequence will be out of focus until you focus on the subject again.
I found that I had a smaller percentage of keeper photographs using the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic lens combination than I’m used to with my Canon 5D Mark III with a prime telephoto lens. However, I did bring home quite a few keepers some of which are shared in this blog post.
I also noticed purple fringing from chromatic aberration on quite a few photos. This was easily fixed using Lightroom.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the performance of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic 100-300mm lens. It is important to set expectations with yourself on what to expect with this combo. You will not get the same quality and keeper percentage as with a professional setup like the Canon 5d Mark III and Canon 500mm f/4. However, I could not have taken that camera / lens combination on these trips and I would have missed out on taking these photographs.
It is also important to note that the lenses in general for Micro Four Thirds cameras are much smaller than than the lenses for full frame and crop sensor cameras. By packing the Olympus OM-D E-M1, I also had room for a greater variety of lenses including a macro lens.