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!
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:
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!