Dragonflies with MC-20

This article shares some photographs from a recent dragonflies with MC-20 handheld test that I did at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario. While my favourite teleconverter is the M.Zuiko MC-14, I do occasionally use the M.Zuiko MC-20 when I need some additional reach.

I visited the lily ponds at the Royal Botanical Gardens with a very specific test in mind. That was to photograph dragonflies in flight handheld at 800 mm (efov 1600 mm) while filling my frame as much as possible. All of the images featured in this article are shown as full frame captures without any cropping… obviously resized for web use.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

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, 1/6400, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

When I arrived at the lily ponds it actually took a fair amount of time to find the right photographic opportunity to use for my dragonflies with MC-20 test. I had to study the behaviour of the dragonflies in order to identify some foliage that was being consistently used as a perch.

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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.5 metres

Not only did the perch need to be used on a very frequent basis, it also had to provide me with an unobstructed background. And, allow me to shoot at an equivalent-field-of-view of 1600 mm from the correct distance so I could fill my frame. This ended up being a subject distance of about 3.5 to 3.7 metres (~11.5 to 12.1 feet).

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, 1/4000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

I placed my short stool close to the water’s edge of the lily pond and waited patiently for my subject dragonflies  to continue with their landings and take-offs. Given my objective of filling my frame as much as possible my shutter release timing was significantly challenged.

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, 1/4000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

The best I could do with many of my initial attempts was to capture the dragonflies once they had landed. It took a good deal of concentration to get my shutter release timing fast enough to get the dragonflies while in flight… as they entered and exited my frame extremely quickly.

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, 1/4000, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.5 metres

As I tried to hone my technique it became obvious that my best results were being created when I tried to capture dragonflies coming in to land. I used a variety of shutter speeds and found that 1/4000 to 1/6400 was the most effective range. Using very fast shutter speeds like 1/10000 or 1/12800 seemed to accentuate rolling shutter distortions.

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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

On my drive in to the Royal Botanical Gardens I decided that I would use my standard Pro Capture H settings of 15 for both my Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter. Adding more Pre-Shutter Frames would have made my dragonflies with MC-20 test quite a bit easier. But… taking an easier approach doesn’t support skills development as much as being challenged.

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, 1/6400, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.6 metres

I did get into a pretty decent groove and was able to capture some useable images of dragonflies taking flight as well as landing. Using an aperture of f/13 along with fast shutter speeds resulted in high ISO images. C’est la vie!

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, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.5 metres

Using a long focal length with a comparatively short distance to subject made for very shallow depth-of-field. As you can see in the above photograph, even a slightly angled flight path resulted in the dragonfly’s body going out of focus.

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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.6 metres

Concentrating on dragonflies using flight paths parallel to the focal plane of my camera’s sensor yielded the best results.

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, 1/5000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.5 metres

On a few occasions I lucked into some images with a nice 3_D effect which added an additional feeling of depth to the scene.

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, 1/6400, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

I appreciate that some photographers don’t like using teleconverters as they feel there is too much of a trade-off with image quality. Each of us makes our own decisions in this regard.

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, 1/4000, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

I’ve always loved to push myself and my camera gear just to see what will happen. I didn’t have high expectations with regards to image quality with my dragonflies with MC-20 test. Shooting at f/13 with a 2X teleconverter, fully extending my lens to an efov of 1600 mm… at high ISO values… isn’t typically a recipe for success with a small sensor camera. But it can be a heck of a lot of fun!

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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

Given the technical limitations associated with my dragonflies with MC-20 test I was reasonably pleased with the results.

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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.6 metres

Life can be a comparative experience. Looking back to an article that I published about a year ago that discussed photographing dragonflies at 1600 mm efov, my recent dragonflies with MC-20 test yielded far more useable photographs of dragonflies in flight. Progress, even if it’s only incremental, is still progress.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All Pro Capture H photographs were captured using my standard settings for this mode: 60 frames-per-second, single AF point, Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limited both set to 15. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post.  Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,196 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, 1/6400, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.7 metres

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4 thoughts on “Dragonflies with MC-20”

  1. Some very nice shots Thomas. Were you at Rock Garden or Hendrie Park. I was there (Rock Garden) last Sunday doing same thing, but with the 75-300mm on my EM5iii. I’ve been thinking about the 100-400mm lens or the 300mm pro lens. Obvious large price difference but used the 300mm can be had for about the same price as a new 100-400 lens.

    1. Hi Derek,

      I was at the lily ponds located behind the main RBG building. This area is accessed by a tunnel from the main building. Did you have much luck with dragonflies at the Rock Garden? I’ve never tried photographing them at that location.

      Tom

      1. Hi Tom,

        Yes, some success. Finally, looked at the photos last night. Some keepers but of course the 75-300 doesn’t have the reach or sharpness that the 100-400 has, especially with the MC20. I hadn’t planned on shooting them as my wife and I were there to shoot the water lilies and lotuses and other flora. But, I had the telephoto with me so I took some photos.

        I’ve been to the pond you are talking about. They are usually plentiful there as well.

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