M4/3 Birding Lens Choice

This article discusses my M4/3 birding lens choice, specifically the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, subject distance 2.3 metres

I have received some emails asking if I had considered the Panasonic 100-400 mm f/4-6.3 for birding. The short answer is no. I didn’t see that lens as a good fit for my business needs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-6400, subject distance 3.7 metres

Being a variable aperture zoom, the Panasonic 100-400 mm f/4-6.3 is a dedicated nature lens that is too slow to be serviceable for my industrial video business. It also does not provide enough flexibility for my other needs. All things considered, the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with the MC-20 teleconverter was a much more flexible and practical choice for me.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-6400, subject distance 1.3 metres

The M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8, when combined with the M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 zooms, provides excellent focal length coverage. It is fast enough for my typical industrial video needs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, subject distance 1.5 metres

The MC-20 teleconverter is an excellent piece of gear and does a wonderful job adding flexibility to the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 as a birding lens combination. The equivalent field-of-view with this combination is 160 mm to 600 mm at f/5.6. While some additional reach would have been preferred, this combination is quite serviceable. Additionally, there are times when a shorter length, faster aperture zoom lens comes in handy for bird photography. This was another reason that I did not consider the Panasonic 100-400 mm f/4-6.3 zoom.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-2000, subject distance 3 metres

The M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 is a superb lens. Adding the MC-20 teleconverter has almost no impact on sharpness. I haven’t noticed any issues with auto-focusing speed or accuracy.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, -1 step, 1/50, ISO-800, subject distance 3.5 metres

Since I don’t like using prime lenses for still photography, I had no interest in the M.Zuiko PRO 300 mm f/4. I know some folks who own this lens and rave about it. I love to get in close and personal for much of my bird photography and the M.Zuiko PRO 300 mm f/4 just doesn’t offer the flexibility I want. Plus, I would have no use for it at all with my industrial video business. So… it is not a good fit for me.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 3 metres

As a M4/3 birding lens choice, the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and MC-20 teleconverter combination has the added benefit of being relatively small and light. I can keep it in a mid-sized shoulder bag with my other Olympus gear and have a lot of flexibility and portability with a total weight of about 4 KG.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-6400, subject distance 1.5 metres

There are some lenses on the horizon that could add more potential selection to a photographer’s M4/3 birding lens choice. The M.Zuiko 150-400 mm f/4.5 TC1.25 IS PRO zoom is supposed to be introduced in 2020. It will likely be a significant investment, but would represent a very powerful professional level nature zoom lens. Combined with the MC-20 it would offer an equivalent field-of-view of 2000 mm in a hand-held package.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 170 mm, efov 340 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-1000, subject distance 1.3 metres

The Olympus Lens Road Map is also showing an M.Zuiko 100-400 mm consumer lens. This will likely be a variable aperture lens that would directly compete with the Panasonic 100-400 mm zoom. So… some interesting things to potentially look for down the road on the M4/3 birding lens choice front.

I still plan on using my Nikon 1 V-Series cameras with the 1 Nikkor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. It is a great, lightweight kit that provides an equivalent field-of-view of 189 mm to 810 mm. So a variable aperture zoom with a similar equivalent field-of-view (e.g. Panasonic 100-400 mm f/4-6.3) is not of much interest to me on a personal basis.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 190 mm, efov 380 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1000, -0.7 step

Most of the images in this article are new captures I did recently at Bird Kingdom. You can check out other birding images by looking through the micro four thirds sensor category on this website. You’ll find various bird photography articles including those utilizing the E-M1X Pro Capture H mode.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 120 mm, efov 240 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 2.8 metres

Many of the birds-in-flight photographs you’ll see were captured at more typical birding distances. All were l were taken with the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom. In terms of teleconverter use, older images were likely done with the MC-14 teleconverter. All newer photographs would have been captured using the MC-20 . If a photographer was planning to buy only one M.Zuiko teleconverter, the MC-20 would be my suggestion. I have no plans to buy the MC-14.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 190 mm, efov 380 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1250, -0.7 step

In the future I may add more reach for my M4/3 bird photography depending on what new lenses become available. Until then I am quite happy with the performance of my current M4/3 birding lens choice.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X with M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko M20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-1250, subject distance 39.8 metres

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2 thoughts on “M4/3 Birding Lens Choice”

  1. I know you like zooms, but I very highly recommend the incredible Zuiko Digital 150mm ƒ/2, which with the EC-20 teleconverter, gives you 300mm ƒ/4.

    The outstanding Zuiko Digital 35-100mm ƒ/2 zoom is perhaps a bit short for you, but it yields 70-200mm ƒ/4 with the MC-20.

    I know you like autofocus (as well as zooms!) but I’m having a great time with the Olympus OM Zuiko 350mm ƒ/2.8, which with the 1.4X-A teleconverter, gives you 500mm ƒ/4. You can’t really shoot this beast hand-held, but I’ve finally discovered a use for a monopod — IBIS does the rest!

    http://www.bytesmiths.com/Personal/pix/Heron%20Copy.jpg

    What can I say? I’m just a huge fan of outstanding legacy glass!

    1. Hi Jan,

      Thanks for sharing your perspectives and experience with some of the M.Zuiko legacy lenses! I’m a newcomer to the Olympus brand so I am sadly lacking when it comes to knowledge and experience with older lenses. When I was doing my original research on the Olympus camera brand it became apparent that the company has a long history of innovative, quality products.

      Your comment made me wonder what the 350 mm f/2.8 would be like when combined with the MC-20 teleconverter.

      Tom

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