There has been a lot of publicity about the High-speed shooting modes on the OM System OM-1 camera. With the OM-1, OM Digital Solutions introduced two new high speed shooting modes SH1 and SH2.
The SH1 shooting mode will shoot up to an amazing 120 frames per second (fps). In SH1 mode, the camera will set the focus and exposure at the beginning of each shooting sequence (when the shutter button is initially pressed). The SH2 mode will take up to 50 fps and will focus and determine the exposure between each frame.
The SH2 mode is an exciting new feature for bird, wildlife, and sports photographers capturing action sequences of their subjects. Is the SH2 shooting mode in the OM-1 too good to be true?
While testing the camera and digging through the footnotes in the manual, there are several fairly significant limitations to the SH2 shooting mode. These limitations are also applicable to Pro Capture SH2 where these higher frame rates may be even more useful. The SH1 shooting mode does not have these same limitations since it only focuses prior to the first frame.
Limitations of the High-speed Sequential Shooting Mode (SH2) in the OM-1
- The lowest shutter speed for SH2 and ProCap SH2 is 1/640 second @ 50 fps and 1/320 second @25 fps
- When using C-AF (with or without tracking) with SH2 / ProCap SH2 at aperture values larger than f/8, focus accuracy is decreased
- SH2 and ProCap SH2 can only be used with specific lenses
Impact of the SH2 Limitations for Bird and Wildlife Photographers
Lowest Shutter Speed Limitations
The minimum shutter speed limitation for SH2 mode could be the biggest for bird and wildlife photographers. This will probably work fine for action photography in good light with a bright background like birds in flight against a light sky. However, this could be impactful for action photographs of birds and wildlife are in lower light with darker backgrounds.
With the E-M1X, I have successfully captured bird and wildlife action photographs at shutter speeds slower than 1/640 second.
The camera behavior for Lowest Shutter Speed for SH2 acts differently in the different shooting modes.
- Shutter Priority Mode – The camera prevents you from selecting a shutter speed lower than the lowest shutter speed limitation. The Aperture will blink in the viewfinder / LCD when proper exposure cannot be reached with the current settings.
- Aperture Priority Mode – The camera will let you shoot at the current settings but will result in a dark / underexposed image as the camera will take the image at the lowest shutter speed setting. The Shutter Speed will blink in the viewfinder / LCD when proper exposure cannot be reached with the current settings.
- Manual Mode – The camera prevents you from selecting a shutter speed lower than the lowest shutter speed limitation. The Exposure Meter will blink in the viewfinder / LCD when proper exposure cannot be reached with the current settings.
Shooting birds in Aperture Priority Mode, I’ve had multiple photos come out underexposed because I missed the blinking Shutter Speed in the viewfinder.
One option to deal with this limitation would be to use Auto ISO with a higher upper ISO limit, but you may get noisier action photographs. I set the my Custom Mode for Birds in Flight (C2) to use Silent Sequential Mode which still gets up 20 fps without these limitations.
f/8 Aperture Limitation
This limitation would come into play when trying to photograph multiple birds or animals and get all of them in focus. The camera does not prevent you from using a smaller aperture (larger aperture values) than f/8. Focusing accuracy will be impacted when using these smaller apertures.
SH2 is Only Usable with Specific Lenses
The OM-1 User Manual indicates that “SH2 and ProCap SH2 can only be used with specific lenses.” See below the list of lenses that work with SH2. Actually, lenses not in this list will still work with SH2. They will just not be able to achieve the 50 fps speed. They are limited to 25 fps.
Lenses That Can Shoot 50 fps in SH2 Shooting Mode
- M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
- M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Ⅱ
- M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
- M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
- M.Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS PRO
- M.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 IS PRO
The M.Zuiko 100-400 f5.0-6.3 IS lens, a common lens for bird and wildlife photographers, is not on list of compatible lenses for SH2. I tested this lens with SH2 on the OM-1 and was only able to set the SH2 maximum fps to 25 in the Sequential Shooting Settings.
While I’m still excited about the high frame rates for the OM-1’s SH1 and SH2 modes, I’m looking at using these modes more in special situations than for my daily shooting modes for bird and wildlife photography.
I think the SH2 mode would work well for action photography in good lighting conditions like:
- Pro Capture for smaller bird take-offs
- Pro Capture for bees and other flying insects
- Capturing fast birds in flight like Kingfishers or Swallows
Written by Martin Belan
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