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Bird Photography,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

How to Use the Olympus / OM System Internal AF Limiter to Improve Your Bird Photography

The internal AF Limiter in Olympus / OM System cameras allows you to be much more precise in setting the focusing distance range than using the Focus Limiter Switch located on your M.Zuiko lenses.  This allows the autofocus to work faster and can result in more keeper photographs.

AF Limiter Menu Settings

The menu location for the AF Limiter varies based on the Olympus / OM System Camera model.

OM-1 AI Limiter Settings

  • On the OM System OM-1, the AF Limiter settings are located on the 3rd Sub-menu of the AF menu tab.
  • There are 3 configurable settings (on1, on2, and on3) that can be set to different distance ranges.
  • The distance scale can be changed to either feet or meters.  This is done within one of the configurable distance settings (on1, on2, etc.).  Once it is changed in one of the settings, it will change it for all 3.  However, this must be changed separately for each shooting and customized mode (A, M, C1, etc.).
  • The distance range can be set from 0 – 999.9 feet or meters.
  • Setting the Release Priority to On will allow the shutter to be released when the subject is out of focus.  It will help to avoid missed shots in the shooting sequence.
AF Limiter Settings - OM-1
AF Limiter Settings – OM-1

OM-D AF Limiter Settings

The settings for Olympus OM-D cameras are the same as for the OM-1 except that they are called Setting 1, Setting 2 and Setting 3.  On my OM-D E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X, the AI Limiter is located in the Gear Menu, Sub-menu A3. 

I don’t have all the Olympus OM-D cameras to verify, but I believe the AI Limiter is only available in the E-M1 line starting with the E-M1 Mark II and the OM-1.

Assign AF Limiter to a Button on OM-1
Assign AF Limiter to a Button on OM-1

Configure AF Limiter to a Button

I would definitely configure the AF Limiter to a button for the shooting modes that you use for bird photography.  This will enable you to quickly turn on / off the AF Limiter or change the range by switching settings (on1, on2, on3) if a subject appears outside your AF Limiter range.

  • Press and release the button to turn the AF Limiter on / off.
  • Press and rotate the front or rear dial to select on1, on2, or on3 (setting 1, setting 2, or setting 3).
  • I have the AF Limiter configured to the Exposure Compensation Button for the Custom Modes that I used for Bird Photography.
  • Use the Gear Icon in the Super Control Panel to map the AI Limiter to a button.
Pre MF AF Mode Setting on the OM-1
Pre MF AF Mode Setting on the OM-1

Use PreMF Focus Mode to Estimate the Distance to Your Subject

I am not very good at estimating distances.  Luckily, Olympus / OM System cameras have a Focus Mode (Pre MF) that will tell you the approximate distance to your subject.  Below is how to use Pre MF to determine the distance to set your AI Limiter Focus Range.

  • Select Pre MF as the AF Mode
  • Press OK to exit the Super Control Panel
  • Press INFO
  • Use the Shutter Button or Manual Focus Ring to focus the area where your subject is / will be located. The distance at the bottom of the LCD and Viewfinder will show the approximate distance you are from the subject.  The distance will update each time you refocus.
  • Update the AF Limiter Distance settings in the menu with a distance closer and further to where your subject will be located.
  • How far to set your distance range will really be dependent on your subject.
    • If you are photographing birds landing on a limb in your backyard, you can set a tighter range.
    • If you are photographing Short-eared Owls flying across a large field, you will need to set a larger range.
Focus Limiter Set to the Middle Setting on the 300mm f/4 Lens
Focus Limiter Set to the Middle Setting on the 300mm f/4 Lens

Notes and Tips for using the AF Limiter

  • The AI Limiter will override the Focus Limiter switch on your lens if you have the Focus Limiter on your lens set to the middle setting.  If the limiter on your lens is set to another setting besides the center setting, the AF Limiter on the camera will be disabled.
  • You need to set the AF Limiter settings for each Shooting & Custom Dial Mode where you want to use the feature.  You will also need to map the AI Limiter to a button for each Shooting and Custom Mode as well.

The AI Limiter is a customizable setting that allows you to set a very precise distance range for the camera to autofocus.  However, it can take a little time to set up in the field especially if you want to set the range for multiple shooting modes.  In the time it takes to set up the distance range for the AI Limiter, you may have missed the shot. 

The AI Limiter works well when you know the distance of your subject ahead of time and have time to set it up.  In situations where I don’t have time to set up the AI Limiter Distance Range, I use the Focus Limiter Switch on my M.Zuiko lens.  Below are some example scenarios that work well with the AF Limiter.

Example Scenarios for Using the AF Limiter

  • A branch in your backyard where birds land before they visit your bird feeder.  For this scenario you can set a fairly narrow distance range.
  • A bird returning to their nest / hole in a tree.
  • A pattern in a lake where waterfowl typically fly in out of the lake.
  • When walking along a tree line for bird photography where the distance is consistent from the trail.
  • The AF Limiter is terrific for Pro Capture if you know the distance range ahead of time.  A good example is that wading birds like Herons and Egrets. they can be very methodical when fishing.  You should have time to determine and set up the Focus Limiter settings for use with Pro Capture.

These are just a few bird photography scenarios where you can use the AI Limiter, but you should be able to add your own by using these examples as a starting point.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Blog Posts
How I Set Up the OM System OM-1 for Nature Photography
Comparing the OM Systems OM-1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1X for Bird Photography
8 Tips for Handheld Focus Stacking for Macro Photography on Olympus / OM System Cameras

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