My New Love Affair With Olympus Pro Capture Mode

Northern Cardinal Photo by Scott Bourne

My New Love Affair With Olympus Pro Capture Mode

Olympus’ Pro Capture mode allows you to take pictures before you – take pictures. Pro Capture takes advantage of the camera’s electronic shutter. Once you half-press the shutter, the camera starts filling a buffer. When you finally press the shutter, a pre-determined number of images that occur BEFORE and AFTER the actual shutter press are recorded.

The staggering to me that Pro Capture even works in RAW mode. The kind of processing power required to do those computations dwarfs what it took to put a man on the Moon!

As you can imagine, the application for bird photography is quite valuable. In the past, I rarely used Pro Capture because by default, it means you limit when you can use tracking AF and with the larger birds I routinely photograph, i.e., bald eagles, sandhill cranes, egrets and herons, the feature has limited application. I have used it in the past to get the decisive moment when an eagle strikes the water. But that is not something I do for hours at a time.

Thrasher_Mockingbird photo by Scott Bourne

Once I start photographing perching birds, well that is a different story. Then I use Pro Capture 80% of the time, unless I am just making static. portraits.

As the bird approaches their perch, you can be pre-focused there with your finger half-pressing the shutter button. This starts the buffer. (I highly recommend using a tripod when using this technique because you will be sitting and waiting for the birds for long periods of time – it also enables you to use the Olympus RM-CB2 Release Cable making it easier to time your response to the birds.) As you see the bird approach the frame (I sit back from the camera not even looking at the screen, but rather the perch.) you press the shutter button. Same for when the bird leaps off the perch. Even if your finger’s a little late on the trigger, (and it will be) you’ll find a few frames in there that happened before you even started shooting. Amazing doesn’t begin to cover it.


I’ve tried for years to time pictures like the ones I am showing you here in this post, to no avail. Without Pro Capture, it would just be luck. And I am NOT that lucky. Believe me. But with Pro Capture, I had success on the first day!

Pro Capture has applications for all sorts of photography like sports, fast-action of any kind, and even wedding photography.

Manual focus for pro capture - instruction photo by Scott Bourne


Pro Capture is a feature you need to enable on your camera. You can find the settings for Pro Capture in menu C-1. Go to C1 – PRO CAP – MAX FRAMES PER SECOND (I suggest 60 for high mode and 18 for low mode.) You can customize how many pictures you capture BEFORE actually pressing the shutter and AFTER you press the shutter.

The maximum number of pre-shutter frames that can be recorded once the shutter button is fully pressed is 35.

There is a green display icon shows in the upper left corner of the viewfinder that tells you if you have initiated Pro Capture Mode and the camera is currently buffering frames.

Cardinal in flight photo by Scott Bourne

Should you use HIGH or LOW setting? It depends. The HIGH setting is going to give you the most chances to get fine differences in movement, but it’s also going to take up a lot of memory card space, use a lot of battery and leave you with a LOT LOT LOT of files to view and cull and edit in post. LOW gives you less chances but saves on the space, memory, time issue. For some situations, HIGH is needed and worth the minor pain point of more editing time. Your exact shooting conditions and ability to judge your subject’s movement will dictate which mode you want to set.


Pro capture works on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the Olympus OM-D E-M1X.

A few notes about Pro Capture mode. When in Pro Capture LOW, your minimum aperture will be f/8. Also, when in Pro Capture mode, flash cannot be used. On PRO CAPTURE HIGH – focus locks after first image is buffered so it will not track with the subject.

Cardinal in flight photo by Scott Bourne


Like anything else, mastering Pro Capture mode takes practice. Don’t expect massive success your first time trying it out. But if you read the manual, and practice for a few hours, that’s all it should take to get the kind of shots you’ll want to share with all your friends.

PictureMethods has partnered with B&H Photo & Video to bring you the best gear selection and prices. Check for the best camera deals here.

5 Responses

  1. Nice article Scott, as usual.

    One correction you state 30 FPS for low mode, the values you can select are 10, 15, 18 FPS.

    I setup two of my custom modes, one is mechanical shutter the other electronic. Both are setup for fast shutter, auto ISO, etc. for shooting moving subjects. With the lever adjusting between spot focus and a 3×3 with tracking. The electronic shutter is set to enable Pro Capture, the trick to make this work is to use back button focus (BBF). Yeah, I know you don’t like BBF, but hear me out. By using BBF I can use the AEL/AFL button to get focus and get IBIS going to steady the camera down. If I decide that I want to use Pro Capture, I simply half press the shutter. If I don’t need Pro Capture, I simply full press when I want it.

    I find this is useful for wildlife and sports, like when you’re tracking a receiver in football, you see him turn to get the ball, start pro capture and track him, when you see the ball press the shutter and you have a good chance at getting it.

    1. Thanks for catching my senior moment Bob – I have corrected the post. As for the rest of your settings – I can’t use Auto ISO much of the time because when photographing bald eagles for instance – ANY sort of AUTO exposure setting misses most of the time. I have to stay 100% Manual. As for Back Button Focus – each to his own – you will never convince me to switch 🙂 That said, I know that many people find it useful but I don’t want this thread to be hijacked re: back button focus – back to the main thrust of the story – Pro Capture Mode can be incredibly useful to some people like me – it may never come in to play for landscape shooters, still life shooters, architectural shooters, etc.

      1. Sorry about hijacking your thread, again 🙂

        I’m going to have to give some thought on the Auto ISO comment. Does this assume you’re shooting Manual, or are you shooting Shutter priority. If manual, I can understand what you’re saying. In Shutter priority, fixing the ISO would allow the aperture to float more, with auto ISO you get float on both ISO and Aperture with the camera usually making some decent decisions.

        One of the things I settled on some time ago was to use matrix metering. Which is something that DSLR users look at me like I’m mad. But here’s my thought process; with matrix I’m getting an average of the entire scene, so it doesn’t really change that much, if I move to a shadow area it adjusts, open sky it adjusts, but in those areas not so much. Nice part as the light is changing in the morning or evening, the camera does a pretty good job of handling the adjustment for me.

        I use EV compensation to get the subject looking like I want them and do a background check, that’s the nice part of an EVF you see what you’re getting (mostly). I also turn on the blinkies so that I have a good idea of areas that are clipping on either end, and adjust as appropriate.

        Hopefully one of these days I can win the lottery and afford to book a one on one workshop with you. Now if I can just manage that before you retire for the final time 🙂

      2. Hi Bob I shoot manual 95% of the time. Auto anything doesn’t work when the bird is in flight if that bird passes by backgrounds of different brightness. As for workshops. You’re welcome any time but you never know. I may stop sucking at retirement one of these days 😀

  2. I was using Pro Capture this past week when shooting the high jump at a track meet. I got incredible images as the jumper went and rolled over the bar, first head, then back and then the trailing legs straightened to clear it. So many incredibly sharp images (you could see their individual hairs flying in the breeze) I didn’t know what to do with them all. This is such a great feature of the Olympus–it makes me look better than I am!

Leave a Reply to Scott BourneCancel reply




Related Post

How Photographers Can Get The Most Out of Threads

Be sure to fill out your bio on Threads and note that it will...

Photographers You Should Know – Elliott Erwitt

A member of the Magnum Photos agency since 1953, Mr. Erwitt was one of...

HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod – A Quick Review

The HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod stands out as a versatile and innovative solution for...