It was a dull, grey afternoon yesteday… and the perfect conditions to do an M.Zuiko 100-400 three strike test!
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
One of my favourite things to do with a new lens is to test it under poor conditions just to see what will happen. Such was the case yesterday when my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom arrived. So, I decided on a ‘three strike test’.
It was a typical late November day. Dull, overcast lighting and a decent breeze, which caused bird feeders and branches to sway. Since I was shooting in the afternoon under poor light, the first strike for my M.Zuiko 100-400 test was having to shoot at high ISO values. If you check the EXIF data for the photographs in this article you’ll see that many were captured at ISO-6400, the lowest was ISO-2500.
Strike two was shooting the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS fully extended to 400 mm with a wide open aperture. Typically zoom lenses shot in this manner are a bit soft.
Strike three was deciding to use the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter for all of my test images. This created an equivalent field-of-view of 1600 mm with an aperture of f/13. This created challenges in terms of potential diffraction, and limiting my shutter speeds given the poor lighting.
Each of these three factors (high ISO, fully extended lens shot wide open, using a 2X teleconverter) can be challenging in their own right… especially for a small sensor camera. Since I was putting them all together during the same test photo session, I wasn’t sure if I’d get any usable images.
Since I had never used this particular combination of lens and teleconverter before, I gave myself the challenge of finding my subject birds with the lens/teleconverter combo fully extended to its efov of 1600 mm. Not allowing myself to use the wider end of the zoom range to find birds caused me to miss a lot of photographs hunting for my subjects! Never having the opportunity to try this long efov of 1600 mm before I can say that It was very difficult On the positive side it was an interesting way to start to develop some degree of eye/hand coordination at this crazy equivalent field-of-view.
Some of the birds, like chickadees and nuthatches, were only at the feeders for a couple of seconds before they flew off. This made acquiring focus on them particularly challenging when using an efov of 1600 mm.
I also challenged myself to acquire focus on small birds that were a bit further away. This was a good test of the image stabilization of the M.Zuiko 100-400 zoom lens and my E-M1X… and being able to precisely place a single auto-focus point.
The shooting parameters outlined in this article are excellent from a test perspective, but certainly not recommended for other purposes.
Pushing a number of photographic limits simultaneously does affect image quality. I consider the quality of the photographs in this article to be close to a worst case scenario.
Even under these challenging conditions the auto-focus performance of the M.Zuiko 100-400 with my E-M1X was quite fast and accurate.
Human error (i.e. me) was the source of the vast majority of missed images. It became apparent very quickly that when shooting at a very long equivalent field-of-view, the upcoming Bird Detection AI for the E-M1X will be invaluable. As the breeze made my bird feeders sway, it was very hard to keep an auto-focus point on a subject bird.
All of the photographs in this article are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping done to them. Even under my three strike test conditions, I managed to capture a few decent images. Here is my favourite one from my M.Zuiko 100-400 three strike test…
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All are displayed as full frame captures without any cropping done to them. A lens module for the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS lens is not yet available for DxO PhotoLab 4.
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