Photographing Supercross with the E-M1X at the Olympus Press Experiential
I had the pleasure of joining Olympus for a press experiential in Florida where camera review journalists could get early access to the E-M1X in advance of the announcement. They organized a trip for us to photograph the supercross riders at Baker's Factory. I've never actually covered supercross before so as much as I was there to offer real-life input on the E-M1X, I was excited to actually take some photos, rain didn't bother the camera, or me!
Taking advantage of the custom focus mode: Motorcycles, I was able to easily track the riders on jumps and corners.
It came in incredibly handy as, depending on my angle, instead of following them on the course, they were popping out from behind the dirt mound/hill and I needed to be able to quickly grab focus on them even if I didn't quite get my single-point focus point on them.
I wanted to share this supercross post to give you an idea of what I was able to get alongside the reviewers. What an incredible opportunity to not just cover, but have the access during their practice to get really cool angles you'd never be permitted to get during a true competition.
One big point of confusion for some of the journalist was the difference between continuous high (three boxes H) and continuous low (three boxes L). This is not obvious in the menu or manual so let me explain:
a) Continuous low is not that low, up to 18fps with continuous focus
b) Continuous high is super high, up to 60fps and turns off the ability to track focus once you have fully pressed the shutter.
Just to repeat that last bit.
Continuous high disables continuous focus once you press the shutter.
So, if you are photographing a motorcycle coming towards you in C-AF Continuous High, you can continuous track the bike as it comes towards you with the shutter half-pressed, you press the shutter and first frame is probably tack-sharp, but it locks in on that focus point, so as the rider comes even closer to you, it does not continue tracking them whether you are in C-AF+Tracking or regular C-AF (the whole "+Tracking" is also confusing... the camera still "tracks" in C-AF without explicit tracking turned on). If you didn't know that, you might (incorrectly) think the Olympus continuous focus is not that great.
As with most functions, I ask, what is the use case for this? Why would you have continuous high where C-AF prior to shutter release but doesn't continue tracking? Well, let's say the rider was coming from the left side of your frame so you offset your single-point focus point to the left so it can grab focus with the bike framed to the left instead of center. As the bike moves across the frame to the right, if you haven't moved your camera to keep your focus point on the bike, it might re-focus onto the dirt where the rider was milliseconds ago. It's moving in the same focal distance plane, you would want to continuous focus as you track the bike prior to the jump (C-AF) then as the rider jumps and you press the shutter, you would want it to hold that focal point as the bike moves perpendicular to you across the frame.
This was a point of confusion for many of the journalists there asking whether the disabled continuous focus was a firmware bug that would be updated or a feature that would be added. It's not a lack of feature, that's how it's designed to work. I can't blame the journalists for not understanding this small but significant setting because they aren't necessarily primarily Olympus users and even though this is same functionality as on the E-M1 Mark II, they may not be familiar with the OM-D system in general and it's not overtly obvious in the Olympus manual (though the manual does spend more than one page explaining how to put on/take off lenses and lens caps :P). But it does serve as a good reminder that reviewers knowledge base is very broad. They are expected to be familiar with all systems, menus and quirks from cameras to lights to laptops (how they do this, I have no idea, so much expertise!) the compromise is, they might not have the intricate knowledge to give appropriately thorough insight on how to really optimize results with a specific product.
Their reviews are still incredibly helpful and valuable and you should certainly do your research before making a major purchasing decisions. But I hope that the review you trust the most, is your own. Go to your local camera store, hold it in your hands, take a workshop, and ask yourself will this camera help me make the images I want to create and will I enjoy using it? I do not think the E-M1X is for everyone. For many it's too much. Features you don't need at a price you can't justify. That's ok. There are tons of great cameras out there and you should find the one that works best for you. As for me, I look forward to using the E-M1X and the continued revolution of the OM-D.
To note all the images in these supercross photos are straight out of camera E-M1X with the MZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8, from a jpg file, and though I cropped some to better fit in the blog, there is no other fancy photoshop, enhancement or manipulation of the image.
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