M.Zuiko 100-400 Three Strike Test

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.

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, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 8.1 metres

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’.

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, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 9.7 metres

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.

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, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 8.5 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 9.1 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 8.2 metres

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.

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, 1/320, ISO-6400, subject distance 12.8 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 8.2 metres

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.

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, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 8.5 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 16 metres

The shooting parameters outlined in this article are excellent from a test perspective, but certainly not recommended for other purposes.

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, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 16.1 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 9.1 metres

Even under these challenging conditions the auto-focus performance of the M.Zuiko 100-400 with my E-M1X was quite fast and accurate.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 9.4 metres

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 9.4 metres

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…

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, 1/400, ISO-2500, subject distance 7.3 metres

Technical Note

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.

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, 1/400, ISO-5000, subject distance 8.1 metres

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8 thoughts on “M.Zuiko 100-400 Three Strike Test”

  1. Great test for the lens and camera Tom!

    For someone looking to upgrade from an older camera. Do you think the E-M1 Mark III 12-100 and 100-400 would be a good around kit for family and birding in the Niagara area?

    1. Hi James,

      I recently purchased the M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS to match up with the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS as my travel/hiking kit. So… yes I think it is a great combination that provides a lot of versatility in only two lenses. Down the road if you add the 7-14 PRO 2.8 you would have an incredibly powerful kit covering an efov of 14 mm to 800 mm in only three lenses.

      Tom

  2. Tom
    These are excellent considering the circumstances of your test. And even more so when shooting hand held which I could not do with the test parameters you used. I have had the 100-400 for a few months and I only use it with my 1.25 TC even though I have a 2.0 TC. I understand this was a test for you and that was a good one. I am most impressed with the shots of the birds in the small tree limbs as that is one place I often have problems getting a good focus. I had some problems a few nights ago when I decided to shoot the moon with the 100-400 + 1.25. This is with my M1X camera. I shot it fully extended at ISO 200, f/10, and 1/60 sec. I never could get it to focus correctly so I manual focused it. I was using a tripod and remote cord release but even so, my photos were either a little soft or slightly out of focus, not sure which. This was mostly notable when blowing them up some. I thought this was a good test for the lens, camera, and photographer. Since I did that shoot, I have been looking at the Olympus manual again for the first time in a while and I see a number of focus options that may allow for better success in shots like I did. There are so many options with this camera that I need to spend more time on learning the camera well in order to shoot better.

    1. Hi Joel,

      I would never use this gear under my test conditions normally. It was more of an extreme, “I wonder if this will work” experiment.

      I think the MC-14 teleconverter is a more practical ‘everyday’ tool to use with this lens. I anticipate that I may have mine permanently attached to the 100-400, and only use the MC-20 in specific situations… perhaps air shows for example. There is a learning curve with all of the settings available to an Olympus owner! After 18 months I’m still finding my way around. When the Bird Detection AI is introduced that will at least solve my birding choice!

      Tom

  3. Very interesting. I don’t think a lot of people realize how difficult a task you set for yourself by trying to locate your subject without zooming wider – find the subject – then zoom out – when you are at 1600 mm. I realize you would not have time to do this when your subject won’t stand still for you! LOL All information we get from photographers actually using this lens plus the 2x teleconvertor makes a decision easier for those of us who are deciding whether or not this combo would be good for us. Although the other new telephoto lens looks great I doubt if many of us would be able to justify the cost. Thanks again for all your work. Very helpful.
    Have you ever considered allowing a couple of full res images to be downloaded for people to examine more carefully – just to see how a larger print might look rather than low res screen shots?? I realize you like to retain copyright on the image but you wouldn’t have to make your best image available – just something we could play with.

    1. Hi Ted,

      This is the first time that I’ve tried shooting at an efov of 1600 mm and it was much harder than I first anticipated. I think the MC-14 is a more realistic teleconverter to use with this lens on a regular basis. The MC-20 has its place in specific situations where a photographer has sufficient light. I’m sure I would have been able to capture significantly more photographs if I would have allowed myself to zoom in and out. That’s a luxury I will give myself in the future. 🙂

      Providing access to full resolution (or any images for that matter) is not something that I would do. I have lost thousands of images to piracy over the years and I would need to turn off the Copyright protection on this site to allow for copying or downloading.

      Tom

  4. Very nice Tom! They certainly cleaned up well in your denoise process.

    You mentioned “I was able to catch a few decent images” What was your success rate? I wouldn’t expect it to be too with those test conditions.

    Do you think you would have bee as successful with a M1 mkIII?
    (We won’t talk about the new bird detection AI coming soon to M1X😀😀

    1. Hi Jim,

      I didn’t calculate it, but I’d estimate it was probably less than 50%… maybe even lower. Trying to find a bird, focus on it, and press the shutter before it flies off is a real challenge when shooting handheld with an efov of 1600 mm. As I mentioned in the article, I also faced a reasonable breeze which kept my bird feeders swaying and moving around. This contributed to missed images as well.

      I don’t see any reason why a photographer could not be successful using an E-M1 Mark III. The issue isn’t so much the body as the difficulty in working with such a small viewing angle. Even a small hand or body movement is dramatically magnified and can take a bird out of the frame.

      Tom

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