Big Dipper, Starry Sky Autofocus Handheld
Astrophotography,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Testing out Olympus’ New Starry Sky Autofocus Feature

With the OM-D E-M1 Mark III, Olympus introduced the new Starry Sky Autofocus feature.  Starry Sky AF has two focus modes: speed for handheld and accuracy for mounting on a tripod.  Wait a minute – handheld autofocusing of the stars in the dark.  I had to try this out.

I set out to photograph the Big Dipper, part of the constellation Ursa Major.  I was using the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens.

Starry Sky Autofocus Tests

HandHeld Mode

First, I tried the speed mode handheld. The photograph at the top of this blog post was taken handheld.  Here are the settings: Manual Mode, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 2.5 second exposure. 

It worked amazingly well, the Starry Sky AF + the image stabilization of the OM-D E-M1 Mark III really allows you to take handheld Starry Sky images with pinpoint stars.  I did take 4 exposures handheld and only 2 had nice pinpoint stars, but 50% is not bad when handheld in the dark. 

Topaz Labs

Big Dipper using Gaussian Blur
Starry Sky Focus Accuracy Mode

Tripod Mode

Next I tried the accuracy mode on a tripod (second photo in the blog).  Here are the settings: Manual Mode, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 6 second exposure.  I was able to take longer exposures using the accuracy mode and a tripod, but I think you’ll find the two photographs (handheld and tripod) quite comparable.

Steps to Set Up and Use Starry Sky AF

Starry Sky AF is also very easy to use.

  • In the A4 sub-menu under the custom menu, select either Speed or Accuracy in the Starry Sky AF Settings selection.
Starry Sky AF Mode Selection Menu
Starry Sky AF Mode Selection Menu
  • In AF Mode item in the Super Control Panel select Starry Sky AF.
Starry Sky Autofocus Selection
Starry Sky Autofocus Selection
  • In the AF area, select a 3X3 grid.  This will give Starry Sky AF to have a better chance to find a star in the AF area.
  • Compose on your subject and press the AEL/AFL button to activate Starry Sky AF.
Starry Sky is Running - Autofocusing the Stars
Starry Sky is Running – Autofocusing the Stars
  • A green dot will appear on your LCD when the stars are in focus.
  • Press the shutter button to take the photo.

I’m really impressed with the new AI features that Olympus is putting in its OM-D line of cameras that leverages the In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) in its bodies.  Head out tonight and try Starry Sky AF.

I enlarged the stars in the big dipper in Photoshop to highlight the constellation. Check this blog out to find out how I did it.

Written by Martin Belan

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