Angry Birds

Technology is amazing sometimes.

Today I’ll give you a series of shots that were only possible because of Super High-speed Pre-burst Mode.

Super High-speed Pre-burst Mode – what a name! It’s descriptive, up to a point, and I guess since Olympus already grabbed Pro-Capture for its version, that’s the best Panasonic could do. I’ll call it Pre-Capture since that’s shorter!

All the photos in this post were taken with this fantastic bit of tech. It wasn’t the best day for it since the light was harsh and the wind was unbelievable. But when this Baldie landed on that branch and I could get reasonably close, I decided to give it a try. I got the kayak side on to a big tree down in the water and the wind basically pinned me there. The boat still bounced and moved quite a bit, but there were periods when it was reasonably still. With Dual-IS and 1/5000th of a second, the photos are acceptably sharp. I was at ISO 800 and between 350 and 400mm with the Panasonic/Leica zoom. I was waiting for a take off shot.

Of course it decided to sit there for an hour. Seriously. I had to basically hold the camera to my eye, keep everything in frame and in focus for so long my arms started to shake. Next time I’ll bring the tripod or at least the monopod, which in a kayak isn’t easy, but isn’t impossible. Still. Ugh. Very sore. Even my wrists were screaming from being bent so long. Luckily there was a persistent and brave Eastern Kingbird to liven things up for me while I waited. I caught a couple of dive sequences and this is the best of them in a slide show and here’s a link to a little video I made using the same photos.

Without Pre-Capture, I’d have never gotten the whole sequence since I only noticed the angry bird when it was on the eagle’s head. With it, I have it entering the frame and completing the dive from the start. It’s like magic. But not. Here’s how it works –

In the Lumix G9, Pre-Capture is a setting with two modes – 20 frame-per-second and 60 FPS. These are called SH1 PRE and SH2 PRE in camera and use the electronic shutter as you might suppose. You can assign your capture dial’s two Burst positions to one of these for easy access. I use the first for regular high speed shooting and the second for Pre-Capture. It starts taking photos as soon as you’ve engaged autofocus, usually by a 1/2 press of the shutter. The camera stores the images in the buffer until you press the shutter all the way. Let go and those buffered images are deleted. Half-press again and new ones go into the buffer. But when you press the shutter all the way, those are written to the SD card and you’re already taking more shots. If you keep the shutter half pressed for longer than 1 minute without pressing it all the way, the photos expire and you have to half press again to take more.

When the shutter is fully pressed the maximum number of continuous photos that can be taken is 50 using either mode and RAW files. In the lower right corner of the display you will see a number like r20. This indicates how many continuous photos you can take at that moment. It counts down as you shoot. When it gets to 0, burst recording shuts down until it writes the files to the card and the buffer frees up. This doesn’t happen all the time, and so you will see that r number fluctuate as the images are captured, buffered and written to the SD card.

Oh yeah, and they can be RAW files. Not jpegs or shots peeled from a 6K video (that’s a different function on the G9). So the quality is what you’re used to and the images can be edited just like any other RAW file. The buffer holds .4 seconds worth of images before the shutter is fully pressed. That’s 8 photos total for AFF or AFC modes, more for AFS.

Perfect for the instant and unpredictable action of birds. As I said, by the time I noticed the Kingbird in the frame up there it was already at the eagle’s head, and I don’t know about you, but my reflexes aren’t fast enough to catch stuff like that, but even if they are if you don’t see something happening in time, you miss it. Here it is at work with a take off sequence (about time!). Believe it or not, but this guy pooped twice without leaving. I got all excited for the take off that normally follows when a raptor poops, but no, there it sat. Finally it had enough of the little pest and –

 

They aren’t all the sharpest shots ever, but that’s the nature of AFC – continuous means a constant adjustment and, depending on the AF sensitivity settings you have dialed in, the prediction the computer makes may or may not keep up with your subject. Especially if it’s coming toward you. Check out the AF Custom Setting section of the recording menu to see what’s available and how you can customize the sets for your particular subjects. Sets 3 and 4 are probably good starting points for birds and wildlife that move unpredictably, in different directions and at different speeds. Times like these are perfect for using Topaz Denoise and/or Sharpen AI to improve IQ.

A few things to keep in mind if you decide to use Pre-Capture or whatever it may be called on your camera –

  • Memory – this uses a LOT so get big cards and keep spares if you’re going to be out all day. You will delete hundreds or thousands of photos if you don’t use Pre-Cap wisely. Yeah, the same shot of the same bird sitting there doing nothing. Everyone needs those! LOL! Oh and a fast memory card is helpful, too. UHS Speed class 3 is what I use.
  • Power– OMG does it eat the battery. All that buffering will do it even if you don’t end up hitting the shutter and actually taking sequences of action shots. Keep extra batteries to hand and keep an eye on the power level indicator, too.
  • Playback – in the G9 each sequence is stored in a folder on the SD card that displays only the first photo when you are in review mode. By using either the joystick and the rear dial you can see them in a little stop-motion style video or one at a time. Pushing up on the joystick or dial gives you the short video, pushing down then right with either control lets you view them singly.
  • Exposure and focus – with AFF/AFC exposure is adjusted for each frame (unless you’re in manual) and Predicted focusing is engaged (focus is estimated within a predicted range the subject might move in the frame).

 

And before I go, there is something odd about this technology is its availability. It’s been on Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras for years. Panasonic full frame cameras have it, too. Only some new Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras have it, and I don’t think at all with Sony. I say this because when I’ve talked about it and showed photos using it, a lot of other brand users turn green and pine for it on the next firmware update. Or wish they had it with RAW files instead of Jpeg or 6K video. Strange. Not sure what’s going on there, but it’s another reason I really like my G9.

So I guess I need to turn my attention to hummingbirds and insects using Pre-Capture. Squirrels, chipmunks and other fast little critters could work here, too. Oh the possibilities!

 

3 thoughts on “Angry Birds

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  1. Nice captures! I have been using something similar on our road trip to capture the world out of the car window, and it works really well. 😉

      1. No need to eeek! I am eeeking now! I like to shoot in burst mode when trying to catch something but have no idea what to do – or am too lazy to do it!! I do it also when bracketing, setting the bracket and burst to the same number so I always return to the first image in the bracket, which for me is 0 – but if I forget I am bracketing, I end up wondering why my pictures are too light, too dark, perfect, and then maybe the light bulb goes off.

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