After an absolutely dreadful period of rain here in the UK I finally managed to galvanise myself to actually get out and take some photographs. On various facebook forums that I subscribe to there has been much much talk about the new MC20 2x tele-converter that Olympus have launched that works with the 40-150 f/2.8 and the 300mm f/4.0 pro lenses.
Currently the converter is like hens teath in the UK with it being out of stock everywhere, however when I was at the Birdfair Show in August I was actually able to get one from Park Cameras as they had been well stocked for the show by Olympus UK who were making alot of noise about the new OMD EM1X. Despite this and for various reasons, not the least of which has been a period of absolutely dreadful weather I have not actually got around to actually using it in anger.
I think alot of people are interested in the MC20 because they own the 40-150 f/2.8 and see it as a cheap/lightweight way to get the range of the 300mm lens. For me however what really piqued my interest was the ability to further lengthen the 300mm and effectively give me a 600mm (1200mm FF equiv) f/8.0 that is supposedly handholdable for bird photography.
So off to the moors around the Yorkshire Dales to try and find a suitable subject.
I have many times tried to photograph Red Grouse but because they are a game bird, i.e are shot by people that think that blasting defenceless birds is some kind of sport, they tend not surprisingly to be quite flighty and wary of close approach and thus a good candidate for the 600mm treatment.
And for once a measure of success. A number of birds were located and the 300mm + MC20 combo given a good workout.
The light levels were generally quite poor so I was forced to push the iso up to 800 or 1,250 and even then was only able to get a shutter speed of 1/50s – 1/100s (all images with +0.3 stop exposure compensation), one downside of the MC20 is that you do of course loose 2 stops of exposure so the max aperture of the 300mm f/4 becomes f/8 – so I was very reliant on the superb image stabilisation of the OMD EM1 mark II and of course the image stabilisation built into into the 300mm lens. I am happy to report that it is perfectly possible to hand-hold this combo at 1/50s and no doubt with practice even slower shutter speeds, although you are of course still reliant on the subject not moving which of course with wildlife/birds is always going to be an issue.
To say that I am pleased with the results is an under-statement. The 300mm and MC20 combo appears to be able to deliver excellent results, I am sure there is some degredation of the native 300mm lens but in all honesty it is very difficult to spot and if you can see it I suspect it is more to do with the higher iso required to use it than the optics per se.
So here are a few of the results and also in the final picture an example that I managed without the MC20. As always click on the images to see them larger.