Brown Bear, Katmai National Park, Alaska
Bird Photography,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear,  Wildlife

What Bird and Wildlife Subjects work with OM Systems / Olympus Subject Detection AF?

Olympus first introduced Bird Detection AF with the OM-D E-M1X.  OM Digital Solutions improved Bird Detection AF with the OM System OM-1 camera, and also added Subject Detection for Dogs and Cats.

OM Digital Solutions has been consistent in their messaging that Subject Detection AF is only intended for those subjects that are named in the Subject Detection AF selections.  Of course, Dog and Cat Subject Detection AF also works for their wildlife cousins like tigers and wolves. 

The OM-1 manual also indicates that Dog and Cat Subject Detection works on cats, dogs, and similar animals.

Subject Detection AF Information from OM-1 Manual
Subject Detection AF Information from OM-1 Manual

What subjects work with Dog and Cat, and Bird Detection AF?

Dog and Cat Subject Detection AF

I’ve tested Dog and Cat Subject Detection on my dog in the back yard and it worked really well for both still and action shots.  I’ve also tested it on several other wild animals with good results including Squirrels, Deer, Bears, Moose, and Muskrats. 

I didn’t have good results using Dog and Cat Subject Detection with marine mammals like Humpback Whales and Sea Otters. I had much better results using C-AF without Subject Detection AF.

Overall, Dog and Cat Subject Detection worked well on a variety of land animals with 4 legs.

Greater Yellowlegs using Bird Detection AF on the OM-1
Greater Yellowlegs using Bird Detection AF on the OM-1

Bird Detection AF

I’ve been using the Bird Detection AF since it was introduced with the OM-D E-M1X.  With the Bird Detection AF on the OM-1, it is now my default setting for photographing birds. 

I only switch it off if Bird Detection AF when it is having difficulty locating the subject.  I do find that Bird Detection AF has trouble locating subjects in low contrast situations and compositions with busy backgrounds.

Uncropped Swallowtail Butterfly Photo taken with Bird Detection AF on the OM-1
Uncropped Swallowtail Butterfly Photo taken with Bird Detection AF on the OM-1

Does Bird Detection AF Work with Butterflies?

One of the questions that I’ve seen frequently asked is “Does Bird Detection AF work for photographing butterflies?”  Capturing a butterfly in flight can be a challenge.  So on my last trip to the Eastern Shore of the United States, I tested Bird Detection AF on quite a few butterflies. 

I tested it on both Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies both stationary and in flight and had no luck getting in focus shots using Bird Detection AF.  Some of the shots were quite close with the butterfly filling about a 1/4 of the frame and I still didn’t get an in focus image.

So, after that test, I can state that, Bird Detection AF does not work on butterflies.

Northern Harrier in Flight
Northern Harrier Taken with Bird Detection AF on the E-M1X

Hopefully, OM Digital Solutions will continue to improve subject detection and add additional subjects.  It would be great if they could add subjects with firmware updates.  With the E-M1X, Olympus added Bird Detection AF with firmware update 2.0.

If you’ve had good or bad results with Subject Detection AF on other animals, leave a comment with your results so we can add to the list of subjects that work with OM System’s Subject Detection AF.

Written by Martin Belan

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