Andre's Blog
Perfection is when there is nothing left to take away
Can Lumix DMC-G1 stop time at 1/125th of a second?

I was browsing the Lumix website and noticed that the shutter speed reported for an image of a hummingbird in flight was 1/125th of a second. Hummingbirds flap their wings at approximately 50 flaps per second, so I would expect the wings to show some motion blur at this shutter speed, which could be anywhere from 10% to 70% of the wing path. However, there was absolutely no motion blur in the picture.

For comparison, here an amazing picture of a hummingbird in flight captured by Rick Leche at 1/2500th of a second. Wings, as expected at this shutter speed, show no motion blur.

Rufous Hummingbird - All fired up to impress the ladies!, Copyright Rick Leche

It seemed to me that Panasonic wasn't telling the whole story for their picture. After a few moments, looking at the beautiful colors of Rick's hummingbird and comparing it with the Panasonic's image, which shows a bit of a blue hue, I finally realized that the Panasonic's image was shot with a flash!

Now I knew what I was looking for, so I searched Flickr for pictures of hummingbirds shot with a flash. Here's one image captured by Jason Paluck at 1/200th of a second.

Ruby-throated hummingbird, Copyright Jason Paluck

The shutter of an SLR opens fully at speeds up to 1/200th of a second, depending on the type of camera, so the actual time the sensor remains exposed to the light is defined by the speed of the flash and not as much by the time the shutter remains open. In order to reduce the amount of ambient light before and after the flash fires, the aperture is usually set at f11 or f13.

Jason was also kind enough to publish the setup he uses to photograph hummingbirds in flight, which explains the amazing quality of his pictures.

Setup shot for hummingbirds, Copyright Jason Paluck

So, the Panasonic's image that caught my attention was real and all one would need to capture a similar one was a tripod, manual focus and a remote control. This is most certainly not the kind of setup that an average G1 user would try, so I didn't find any sample hummingbird flash shots captured with DMC-G1 on Flickr, but there were a few beautiful ones captured without a flash. None of these images can be reproduced in this blog, so here are the links.