Category Archives: Cable Airshow

Olympus E-M5 at an Air Show

In a past post, I wrote about my experiences using my Olympus E-M5 and Canon 60D at air shows.  This time I want to talk about the E-M5 by itself.

It’s been a busy year for me so far regarding air shows.  I’ve been to 3 air shows in the first 5 months of the year.  The Cable Air Show, LA County Air Show, and most recently the Chino Planes of Fame Air Show.  I’ve taken the  E-M5 to all three and it performed both well, and not so well.

I mentioned some of my issues in a previous post, but to recap, I’d say the top 2 were the poor autofocus/tracking performance and the image blanking out in the EVF (electronic viewfinder).

Luckily there’s a lot of info available online.  After doing a little research, I made some changes to my settings.  I kept the autofocus the same at Single AF, but changed the focus points.  Originally I had it set for a single, very small AF point, but changed it to a slightly larger grid (still centered and smaller than the entire grid).  The other changes were increasing the refresh rate of the EFV, and slowing down the sequential shooting mode from 9 frames per second to about 6 frames per second.  This combination really made a difference in the EVF not going blank on me.  Although the changes improved the overall performance of the E-M5, I still brought my Canon 60D along, but that will be the subject of another post.

The Chino Planes of Fame Air Show is always a big deal for me.  I just love the WWII warbirds, and the Planes of Fame Museum puts plenty of them in the air.  As a  bonus, they always get something a little more modern, and this year it was the F-22 Raptor!

Part of my routine, in addition to getting my sunrise photo pass for the show on Saturday, is to attend the preview event on Friday.  I thought this would be a good chance to get warmed up with my E-M5, as well as have some ice cold beer and some laughs with a friend (thanks Jeremy)!

I did make one mistake on Friday.  I brought my slinger bag packed not only with my E-M5 and a couple of lenses, but also my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm and 70-200mm lenses.  I was nervous about just having my E-M5, so I thought it would be a good idea to bring the big stuff.  The funny thing was that as the day wore on, I never got the 60D out of the bag.  I used my E-M5 the entire day.  Wow, did that bag get heavy!

On the day of the show (Saturday for me), I arrived very early.  The sunrise photo pass gets 75 photographers out on the tarmac at 5:00am, and in position for the sunrise.  We all scrambled around, getting in various positions to get the shots we were after.  I put myself near the F-22 Raptor so I could capture it with the sun rising in the background.  I used my E-M5 exclusively.  After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the show to start at 11:00am.

Once the show started, I switched to my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm lens.  While I will write about this in a separate post, suffice it to say that it performed perfectly.  The only real problem was it got heavy after awhile,  and did I mention that it’s heavy?

What counts in the end are the results.  Here they are:

I’m very pleased with my E-M5.  The changes I made seemed to have helped.  While it’s not quite up to par with my 60D for capturing fast moving air planes, it’s much better than it was.  I think I’ll keep it!

That’s it for this post.  Next time, I’ll go into more detail about using my 60D at the Planes of Fame Air Show.

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

60D vs E-M5 at an Airshow

This post is about a real world comparison between my Canon 60D and Olympus OMD E-M5 at the LA Count Airshow. My little review is not scientific nor is it heavy in the technical specifications of each camera. It is just my experience between these different types of camera and how they performed for me at a fast action event.

I was really looking forward to this airshow.  When I found out they were offering special photographer access (for a price) I jumped at the chance.  Having a very limited crowd of like minded photographers and access to all of the plane on the field for sunrise was not something I was going to pass up.

A couple of days before the event, I started getting my camera gear organized.  I made up my mind that I was going to bring both my Canon 60D DSLR and my Olympus E-M5 Mirrorless to this event.  It was immediately apparent that the 60D with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 and 200-500mm lenses were going to get heavy.   My E-M5,  45-200mm Panasonic, and 17mm f/1.8 Olympus lenses were beautiful, sleek, and  lightweight in comparison.

There was a good reason to bring my beast of a DSLR and it’s large lenses along.The last airshow I attended, I brought just one camera, the E-M5.  I did manage to get some decent shots, but my keeper rate was low.  Continuous autofocus/tracking performance was poor to say the least.  There is a work around, and for me that was to use just one center focus point, set the camera to single shot autofocus and the full 9 frames per second.  I’d pan along the path of a plane and when the time was right, I’d press the shutter for several frames.  I’d usually get one, maybe two frames clear and in focus if I was lucky.  The E-M5 is lightning fast when locking on with the single point autofocus, so even with a moving target you stand a chance of getting a frame or two in focus.

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5
Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5
One of the things that caught my attention for the LA County Airshow was the Blue Angels were going to perform.  For loud, fast paced action in the air I don’t think it gets much better.  In addition to the Blue Angels there were a number of other types of planes including some of my favorite WWII warbirds.  This was going to be a great place to use both cameras.

The morning started off with wandering around the static displays, and my using the E-M5 on a tripod.  I really enjoyed how quick, light, and easy to maneuver this combination was.  Unfortunately I had to carry around my boat anchor of a camera bag (stuffed with the Canon gear).  For this type of shooting (objects that don’t move) the E-M5 was perfectly suited.  I went back and forth between single exposures and multi exposures for HDR.

Blue Angel #7, Sunrise
Olympus E-M5 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens. HDR image.

When the action started, I continued to use my E-M5.  I really wanted to test it and see if everything I had read online about it’s poor tracking autofocus performance was true.  I have to admit that very early on I became discouraged.  Even with some of the slower moving aircraft, the E-M5 would miss, and completely loose focus, hunting back and forth, struggling to find the subject again.

Olympus E-M5, Out of Focus

This is what it looks like when I got my 60D and 200-500mm Tamron lens out.  The 60D was set to AI-Servo (continuous autofocus):

A4 Skyhawks, Canon 60D
Canon 60D, 200-500mm Tamron Lens

As the airshow progressed, I used the E-M5 less and less.  It was just too frustrating to keep missing shots.  The 60D on the other hand would lock on to the planes quickly, and as long as I tracked along smoothly, it would stay locked on.  I think the only real problems were related to my technique, and the wind.  It was very windy that day, and my Tamron 200-500mm lens with lens hood is quite large.   When the wind would gust and I was pointed vertically following a plane, I would actually bet bounced around and pushed off track.  It was annoying but not a show stopper!

There was a time not too long ago that I thought about selling the 60D and related gear.  I really don’t enjoy lugging it around.  There have been times when after a long day of shooting the weight of it starts taking the fun out of what ever event I was participating in.  So far, I’ve been able to use my E-M5 for every other type of photography I’ve attempted.    Unfortunately it isn’t suited to fast action.  Yes, I know this has been discussed on various forums, but I’m a funny guy.  I need to see for myself whether the chatter is legitimate, or folks not really knowing what they are doing and blaming the equipment.  In this case, they were right.

The question is, what am I going to do about it?  For now, nothing.  I did think about selling the Canon gear to fund purchasing the newer Olympus E-M1.  The E-M1 is supposed to have fixed the focusing issue by utilizing a hybrid system including both Contrast Detection and  Phase Detection auto focus.  The reports on the photography forums have been generally favorable.

Maybe I’ll believe them this time!  In the meantime, here are a few more photos from the airshow:

P-51C, Take Off
Red Tail P-51C, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
B-25 Mitchell
B-25 Mitchell, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
Blue Angel 5, Take Off
Blue Angel 5, Take Off Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
High Speed Pass, Blue Angels
High Speed Pass, Blue Angels, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
Blue Angels, Breakaway
Blue Angels, Breakaway Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens

Hopefully my dilemma and comparison has helped answer some questions you may have had.  If nothing else, you may want to keep your beast of a DSLR if you enjoy fast action photography.  Or if you don’t want to keep it, you may want to check out the Olympus OMD E-M1.

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

 

 

 

Cable Airshow and my OM-D E-M5

The Cable Airshow was something I was looking forward to for a couple of reasons.  The 1st was because it’s an airshow!  And the 2nd is because it was a great place to finally give my Olympus OM-D
E-M5 a real workout!

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ve been wondering, since I got my E-M5, whether or not it would be a replacement for my Canon 60D, especially with regards to the fast action of an airshow.  And I finally have my answer. Unfortunately it’s no!

In order to really put the E-M5 to the test, I left my Canon 60D at home. This forced me to use the E-M5 in every situation, from high speed fly-by’s to static displays. I brought lenses for the show, but stayed mostly with the Panasonic 45-200mm. I found the 45-200mm adequate, and for this airshow seldom needed the extra reach of a longer lens. The key, no matter which camera system you may own is to be patient. While it can be tempting to start shooting while the planes are far off, the best method for getting that great shot is to wait for them to get closer and then press that shutter. It sounds easier than it is to actually do! As you hear the low rumble of the engines in the distance, the excitement begins to build and you just may not be able to wait. I know I still have that trouble.

As the show progressed, I started to get comfortable with the performance of the E-M5. I set the camera to shutter priority, 1/200th of a second, and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture (f-stop). Some of the other settings were ISO 200, high speed shutter at 9 fps, and RAW file format.

With the shutter speed fixed at 1/200th, the camera could not achieve its maximum 9 fps. How can I tell?  By the sound. Not very scientific and more seat of the pants, but it’s definitely not 9 fps. When I switched over to aperture priority and set the f-stop to f/4, there was a distinct difference in the sound of the shutter firing away in very rapid succession!

Getting back to the airshow, I picked out a good spot about midway down the field and staked out my claim (put my chair down). The planes would take off right in front of me! And, when they would do their fly-by’s, I was perfectly situated to track and pan each plane as it flew by. The E-M5 has an EVF (electronic viewfinder), as opposed to the standard optical viewfinder found on DSLR’s like my Canon 60D. While the EVF on the E-M5 is very good, I noticed a problem using it while trying to track and pan the planes as they quickly flew by. The shutter was firing and I was panning, but the EVF couldn’t seem to keep up. The image in the EVF seemed to stutter, and I’d lose track of the plane. Since I couldn’t consistently keep track of the plane, I’d sometimes end up with pieces of it in the frame and not the whole thing. Frustrating to say the least.

There is a lot of chatter online about the inability of the E-M5 to perform continuous auto focus for fast action. This seems especially true for those involved in capturing birds in flight. One of the techniques used as a work around is the set the camera for single focus, using just one central focus point, pick a spot where the action will happen and press the shutter when your subject enters the frame. Actually I used a modified version of this, tracking and panning the action as best as I could and once the focus locked on I’d press the shutter. I’d capture a few frames and even with the stuttering EVF, I’d try to keep up with the plane, pick another spot, lock the focus on and capture a few more frames.

Compared to my Canon 60D, this is a very clunky way to work. It seems strange that my DSLR 60D, with all of its moving parts does a better job with this type of photography than my high tech E-M5. I don’t think the 60D was much better at locking focus, but it’s defiantly much better at keeping the image in view (optical viewfinder) and continuous auto focus.

There is one thing that I think the E-M5 is equal too or even a little better than the 60D, and that is image quality. Of the shots that I did capture  that were acceptable, I was very pleased with how clean they were. The color and contrast were very nice out of the camera, and even better when adjusted in Photoshop.

And now, here are the results:

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Overall, I’m pleased with my results, difficult as they were to achieve. And there’s some good news, I don’t have to wait until May for the Chino Planes of Fame Airshow, there’s a new airshow happening in March and the Blue Angels will be there! Its called the LA County Airshow, here’s the link – I’ll be attending and brining both my Canon 60D and E-M5.

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!