Consider Lens Compatibility

It is always important to consider lens compatibility before buying a new camera body to avoid downstream disappointment. Many photographers are very excited about the introduction of new camera models as they often provide some performance upgrades and new technology when compared to previous generation cameras.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added as visual breaks.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-800, microscopic mode

It can also be important to exercise some caution mixing older generation cameras with new lenses. For example, when I was using DSLR equipment I had an auto-focus performance issue when I purchased a third party long telephoto zoom lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3931 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

At the time my main camera was a Nikon D800 and I had a D7000 as a back-up camera. The new 150-600 mm zoom I purchased at the time worked flawlessly with my D800. Unfortunately there was a noticeable auto-focus lag with my D7000.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3915 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.4 metres

The auto-focus hesitation significantly reduced the functionality of the lens to the point where it was not practical for me to use it for birds-in-flight. Even after firmware updates, the 150-600 mm never performed as well on my D7000 as it did on my newer generation D800.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5..6 @ 51.2 mm, f/4.2, 1/60, ISO-1400, 16 mm extension tube used

Various equipment manufacturers face this issue as changes in technology and the physical components inside cameras and lenses simply sometimes overshadow older generation equipment.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X with M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, f/5.6, efov 180 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-5000, subject distance 1.2 metres

I think this issue will become even more prevalent in the future as more manufacturers integrate computational photography into their products. These technologies will become key points of differentiation between products. I think it is unrealistic to expect manufacturers to work together to ensure A to Z compatibility with other brands that may share the same lens mount.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

The vast majority of M4/3 owners already know that mixing cameras and lenses from different manufacturers doesn’t always give them a full compliment of features and/or performance. Depending on the type of photography being done these issues may not be material in nature… or they may be deal breakers.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-1000, microscopic mode

Many folks are very excited about the technology and performance offered by the new OM-1 camera introduced by OMDS. Not all of the features in the OM-1 may work with the existing M4/3 lenses that a photographer may own.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/8.7, 1/1600, ISO-2500, cropped to 2525 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

For example, when using Pro Capture SH2 it is possible to shoot at 50 frames-per-second. There are 6 lenses that are compatible with this feature. The M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS is not one of them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-3200, cropped to 3665 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 4.2 metres

I don’t think there is anything nefarious going on. It is likely that the auto-focus motor in the M.Zuiko 100-400 simply isn’t fast enough to handle Pro Capture SH2 at 50 frames-per-second.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 800 mm, efov 1600, f/13, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3670 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.5 metres

We also need to realize that the weatherproofing provided by our camera body and lenses is dependent on the lowest rated component. Using the IP53 rated OM-1 with an IPX-1 rated lens means your gear will perform at a an IPX-1 level. Obviously using a non weatherproof lens on an IPX-1 or IP53 rated body means the combination simply isn’t weatherproof.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 760 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3837 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

The key point is to identify your key ‘must have’ performance criteria from a new camera body, then do some research to ensure that your current lenses will be compatible.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250

Those of us who shoot in RAW are aware that we often need to upgrade our post processing software when we purchase new camera bodies or lenses. So the issue of backwards compatibility with what we currently own is nothing new.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110 mm, efov 297 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, MOVO extension tubes used

As computational photography becomes more ingrained in new products from various manufacturers it will become increasingly important for photographers to consider compatibility issues.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/160, ISO-800, microscopic mode

When we moved into the Olympus M4/3 system we did not consider any lenses other than M.Zuiko. And, most of the lenses we chose were in the PRO category as they offered the most overall functionality with the computational photography features offered by the Olympus bodies we purchased. 🙂 but… that’s just my decision. You may choose to mix and match. Based on the work you do it may be a sound decision for you.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 53mm, efov 143mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-1600, extension tubes

To get the most out of our camera and lens investments we need to look beyond today and consider potential compatibility issues in the future.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,138 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 800 mm, efov 1600 mm, f/13, 1/1250, ISO-4000, handheld in-camera focus stacked image, cropped to 4648 pixels on the width, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted slightly using the Nik Collection, Topaz DeNoise AI applied

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8 thoughts on “Consider Lens Compatibility”

  1. Great article as always. I wondered at the time of buying the 100-400 IS about what the lack of a PRO designation would mean in the future. This has become my ‘go to’ lens for bird photography even though I own a 300mm IS PRO.
    Do you have an idea how I might find out the degraded PRO Capture rate of the 100-400 with the OM-1? I’m giving serious thought to an upgrade from my M1.2.

    1. Hi Colin,

      I’ve found that the technical information on the getolympus Asia website is more extensive than on the North American site. I’d suggest investigating that source. If my memory serves the 100-400 will shoot up to 25 fps in Pro Capture SH2.

      Tom

  2. The last sentence in the article is only valid if you know the future. I assume that we have all been ‘burned’ by the march of technology.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      While we may not know the future with absolute certainty, there are some assumptions about the future that would be reasonable in terms of camera equipment compatibility. It’s my belief that companies like OMDS will develop technology and computational photography functions that will be compatible primarily with their PRO series of lenses. M.Zuiko consumer grade lenses and M4/3 lenses from other manufacturers will pose the greatest risk for future incompatibility.

      I think that as the camera market continues to contract that manufacturers will take steps to only have their computational photography functions work with their own brand of lenses, and perhaps even only with their higher end products. A few years from now we may see the disappearance of entry level interchangeable lens cameras. Manufacturers will need to increase their per unit margins in order to stay in business. Today’s mid-range cameras will be the starting point to move into an interchangeable lens camera in the future. The economics of inexpensive entry level gear simply will not make sense.

      Tom

      1. It would seem that without having cheaper starting camera systems available, photographers wishing to upgrade will be fewer in number. This of course means less units sold which means higher prices across the board. Doesn’t sound like a particularly bright future. Sad to say.

        1. Hi Lewsh,

          The future will be bright for the companies that create and implement the most appropriate strategies given the shifts in the market.

          At some point the camera manufacturers will realise that people who are interested in photography will ‘cut their teeth’ with Smartphones. Then, as some consumer’s interest in photography grows, there will be an opportunity for camera companies to convert Smartphone users over to interchangeable lens camera systems. These will need to have unique capabilities that don’t compete with Smartphones.

          I agree with your point that the number of units purchased will decrease which will then lead to higher per unit prices. The camera companies will need to increase their margins to remain profitable selling a smaller volume. I have no inside information, but observing the OMDS launch of the OM-1 indicates to me that they are definitely positioning their products in the outdoor category with emphasis on nature, adventure and extreme travel. Given the size of OMDS and its relative product advantages/benefits this makes total sense to me.

          If we are all still around in 5 years it will be interesting to see which camera manufacturers are still in the business at that time. My perspective is that the companies with a clear eye on their target markets, bring innovation to those target markets, and keep their costs low will survive. The others won’t. At this point in time OMDS has a much chance of success as anyone else.

          Tom

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