This article discusses photographing dragonflies handheld at 1600 mm equivalent field-of-view, and shares a selection of new images. All photographs were captured using an E-M1X, M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter. All images were created with my lens fully extended and fitted with the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter. This produces a focal length of 800 mm (efov 1600 mm).
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Effectively using a long telephoto lens in conjunction with a 2X teleconverter takes some practice and understanding of possible environmental issues. Some key factors need to be considered. These include a photographer’s handheld technique and ability. The image stabilization/vibration control of the camera gear used. Diffraction can also be a factor depending on the camera format and the aperture selected.
Atmospheric conditions such as heat radiating from the ground, and particulates in the air, can affect image quality. Under these conditions image softening can occur especially when attempting to photograph a distant subject.
I originally purchased my M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter to use with my M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom lens. This combination produces a maximum equivalent field-of-view of 600 mm, which I consider the minimum acceptable for my bird photography. My preferred approach with bird, animal and insect photography is to put as many pixels as possible on the subject.
The image above is a full frame capture without any cropping. To me being able to avoid cropping is ideal from a pixels on subject standpoint. It is quite common for some photographers, especially those who may not be used to shooting with very long focal lengths, to blame their camera gear if their photographs are somewhat soft.
While some 2X teleconverters may create quite a bit of image softness, this is not necessarily the case with the M.Zuiko MC-20. The next image is a 100% crop taken from the photograph above. It shows a reasonable amount of detail given that an aperture of f/13 was used, the zoom lens was fully extended, and a 2X teleconverter was utilized.
When doing photography coaching, it has been my experience that the highest levels of image softness are typically caused by a photographer’s handheld technique, choosing an inappropriate shutter speed or focusing point, or atmospheric conditions. In the image below, the head of the dragonfly was my focus point.
When using a teleconverter it is important to remember that it can affect the IBIS performance of your camera, or in-lens stabilization. For example, the MC-14 reduces IBIS performance by one stop, while the MC-20 reduces it by two stops. Recognizing this loss of image stabilization effectiveness, a photographer should adjust their settings to include a faster shutter speed when using teleconverters.
It should be noted that I find the E-M1X’s IBIS performance to be excellent and I shot all of the images in this article with the in-lens stabilization turned off. The image below is a 100% crop of the previous photograph.
Other than the Pro Capture H photographs in this article, if you check the EXIF data you’ll see that I used shutter speeds between 1/800 to 1/1250 for most of the photographs. There was some breeze on the morning that I captured these images. I also wanted to make sure that I used a fast enough shutter speed to acquire good auto-focus when photographing dragonflies at 1600 mm efov handheld.
My experience with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom has been completely satisfying. The lens is sharper than other long telephoto lenses that I’ve used in the past including full frame and Nikon 1 gear. Auto-focus performance has been fast and accurate. I have also found the M.Zuiko 100-400 zoom handles very well with the various on-barrel controls well positioned and easy to operate. The size and weight of the lens suits my needs.
The M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter has also met my expectations. In my experience the MC-14 is a better choice for birds-in-flight and general bird photography. Smaller subjects like these dragonflies at 1600 mm efov are perfect for the MC-20. Good light is needed of course.
All of the photographs in this article were created at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario during about a 1/2 hour of photography time. I was very fortunate that there were a number of dragonflies at the lily ponds during my visit.
As is the case with birds, it is important to photograph dragonflies from eye level whenever possible. This gives images a more natural look and helps to bring viewers into your photographs with a feeling of “being there”. Photographing dragonflies from this perspective adds some intimacy to images.
When possible it is advantageous to position yourself with the sun at your back and frame the dragonflies up against complimentary backgrounds that are somewhat distant. This helps to create good subject separation in your photographs.
Photographing dragonflies at 1600 mm efov takes some practice, good technique, and patience. Sometimes dragonflies only land for a few seconds so good eye/hand coordination is also important.
It is also be helpful to look for highlight areas in your background. Framing a dragonfly in a highlight shape can add an artistic element to your composition.
Creating images of dragonflies at 1600 mm handheld is a form of ‘personal challenge’ photography that I very much enjoy. Pushing oneself and one’s camera gear can be a very rewarding experience.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted where appropriate. This is the 1,062nd article published on this website since its original inception.
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