Any time a new camera or lens is announced, we often scour the internet for any available reviews. While many online reviews are excellent, it’s also important to consider that every review (including ours) are implicitly biased. We tackle the issue in this week’s episode.
Testing the Olympus 100-400mm with a teleconverter
The Olympus 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 lens is a surprisingly good performer, especially considering its sub-$1500 price point. It’s not a lens that I’d even consider using with a teleconverter, because you lose quite a bit of light in that scenario. Nevertheless, I figured I’d try it out when I was in San Diego last week leading my birds in flight photo workshop.
I put the Olympus MC-14 1.4x teleconverter on the 100-400mm and happened to encounter a song sparrow at relatively close range. So I gave it a shot. At these extreme magnifications, the lack of a good optical image stabilizer was noticeable (IBIS gives better results with this lens), but I kept the shutter speed high, and hoped for the best. I surprisingly got a couple of keepers, but autofocus accuracy was reduced somewhat (not unexpected).
Song sparrow at 1122mm effective, f/9.0 ISO 20,000 (click for full-size image).
In the past, I might have tossed these images out… ISOs 20,000? But by using DXO Pure Raw 3 to de-noise the raw files and a little Topaz Photo AI sharpening, the results were quite usable!
While most camera lenses produced these days are excellent, sometimes you get a defective one. It’s happened to both of us a few times over the years. This week, we’ll talk about what to look for when you’re evaluating a new lens, and how to spot common defects.
It’s that time of year where dread starts to seep in… no, not Aunt Mabel’s fruit cake, but what to do when a friend asks you “what’s a good camera; I only have a few hundred dollars to spend.”
Well, that’s where we come in. Assuming your friend (or relative) really understands what it means to operate a “real” camera, then there are lots of good options out there on the used market. Today, we’ll go through a short list of camera bodies which still deliver the goods and are great values.
The lens + teleconverter combo is sharp, but autofocus slows down
I went out again with the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor, and this time I used the Z teleconverter TC 1.4x. This combination delivers the equivalent of a 250-840mm f/7.8-9 lens. Again, I’m still using a Nikon Z6 body, so autofocus performance is slower than what you’d see with a Nikon Z8/Z9.
Autofocus definitely slowed down a bit when using the teleconverter, but once focus was acquired it did a good job of staying locked in. What I found from my test shots was that sharpness across the frame was still excellent, even wide-open. Stopping down to f/11 improved edge sharpness slightly, but not enough to make me feel like I needed to do so. I feel that if you can handle the light-loss penalty (1-stop), and reduced AF performance, go ahead and use this combination wide-open. It’s very very good.
Here are a few full-resolution sample images from the Nikon 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Z Nikkor + Nikon Z teleconverter 1.4x. Click on any image to view it full-size.
Examples of the Nikon 180-600mm + 1.4x Z teleconverter, all shot wide-open at f/6.3, hand-held. Click an image to see the full-resolution, un-cropped shot.