This article shares my experiences using M.Zuiko teleconverters when shooting handheld, and discusses their relative merits.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
My first use of Olympus camera gear was with some loaner equipment provided by Olympus Americas back in late May 2019. This was prior to the introduction of the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter, so I borrowed an M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter,
I found this to be an excellent teleconverter and used it with the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8. This gave me an equivalent field-of-view of 112 mm to 420 mm at f/4.
I used the M.Zuiko MC-14 extensively for birds-in-flight as well as perched birds and other subjects. It performed wonderfully both in terms of auto-focus and image quality. The only downside was insufficient reach as I found a maximum efov of 420 mm to be limiting for my style of bird photography.
One of the things that really impressed me was how well the OM-D E-M1X performed with the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and MC-14 when photographing swallows in flight. It was really the first camera gear that I had used where I actually felt some confidence photographing these pocket rockets.
As luck would have it, Olympus introduced the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter at the end of June 2019. This was just prior to me placing my first camera gear order with Olympus Americas. So, rather than the MC-14 I ordered the MC-20 instead, as I really wanted the extra reach.
I had to wait for several months for my M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter to arrive as it was initially back ordered. My patience was rewarded with an excellent piece of camera gear.
Going from an efov of 420 mm to 600 mm doesn’t sound like much when you say it fast. The difference in the field was substantial in terms of the additional opportunities that the added reach provided.
Whenever I went out to photograph birds, the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter was permanently attached to my M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8. Even when fully extended, that combination when used with my OM-D E-M1X, easily outperformed the full frame gear that I had used in the past.
Having used Nikon 1 camera gear and the wonderful Nikon 1 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom (efov 189-810 mm) in the past, I still missed having more reach. The overall image quality with my Olympus kit was superior to my Nikon 1 files, so it was a trade-off I was prepared to make.
I began experimenting with Pro Capture H and fell in love with the technology. It opened up an incredible number of additional bird photography opportunities. The relative ease with which I could capture these images astounded me… and still does today.
A few readers have asked me if I ever considered the Panasonic 100-400 mm f/4-6.3 zoom. The quick answer is no. I had a brief and unsuccessful experience with that camera brand in the past.
I kept using the MC-20 teleconverter and had absolutely no thought about ever buying the MC-14. The added reach was more than worth the loss of one additional stop of light.
The M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom is the finest lens that I have ever used in terms of sharpness and image quality. When paired with the MC-20 it delivered excellent performance along with a small and lightweight form factor.
Up to this point, using M.Zuiko teleconverters had been an all round great experience. I was heavily skewed to the MC-20 because of the additional reach it provided. I’ve never liked shooting with prime lenses so the M.Zuiko PRO 300 mm f/4 IS lens was never a consideration for me.
I suppose if I owned the M.Zuiko PRO 300 mm f/4 IS I may have also purchased the MC-14 to get some additional flexibility. As it was I was happy using the MC-20 with the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and was waiting for some longer zooms from Olympus to be launched.
When the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 was announced it piqued my interest. Not because of its efov of 200-800 mm, but because using M.Zuiko teleconverters, both the MC-14 and MC-20, was possible. I salivated at the thought of that extra reach.
Like many photographers I had been waiting specifically for the M.Zuiko 150-400 f/4.5 with built-in 1.25 X teleconverter. Even before the size, weight and pricing details on that lens were announced, I decided that it would not be a good fit for my needs. So, I ordered the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS along with an MC-14 teleconverter.
This has proven to be a very good decision. Using M.Zuiko teleconverters with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm has expanded my bird photography potential exponentially.
Using M.Zuiko teleconverters means that I am now able to capture images of distant birds effectively without having to resort to aggressive cropping. Getting more pixels on a subject bird helps to maintain image quality.
When combined with other Olympus technologies like Pro Capture L and Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, the functionality of my camera gear boggles my mind. Using M.Zuiko teleconverters further extends that capability.
Using M.Zuiko teleconverters with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm opens up opportunities that many other photographers watch fly by. There are challenges with handheld technique as could be expected… but the results are worth the effort to develop these skills.
For anyone purchasing the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS adding the M.Zuiko MC-14 is really a no brainer decision. It extends the efov to 280 -1120 mm at an aperture of f/9 on the long end. This is a very useful and flexible focal length range, along with an acceptable aperture.
Using the M.Zuiko MC-20 is more challenging as additional light is needed, as well as better eye/hand coordination for birds-in-flight. I’ve found that the auto-focusing performance is ever so slightly below what is achieved with the MC-14… but still completely usable.
Using M.Zuiko teleconverters is an excellent way to expand the reach of Olympus camera gear with birds and wildlife photography. My ‘go to’ set up for bird photography is an E-M1X with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 and MC-14 teleconverter. Except when using Pro Capture H, I capture all of my perched bird and birds-in-flight images using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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