A day with the ZD 50-200 SWD and EC-20

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Phocal, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I went to my favorite state park yesterday with the intention of using my ZD 50-200 SWD and EC-20 (also intended to shoot wide-open) for most of the day. I started with the 150 and EC-14 for the early light and then switched over to the SWD+EC-20 after the sun came up above the trees. I did go back to the 150 and EC-20 for the last hour or so of the day.

    ISO 320, 1/400 @ ƒ6.9 - 338mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]1 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    ISO 400, 1/400 @ ƒ7.0 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]2 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    * All photographs shot using an EM1 w/ ZD 50-200 SWD + EC-20 and handheld *
    * Click thru to Flickr where full resolution photos are available *

    The weather forecast was for partly cloudy but to me it seemed more like it was partly sunny the entire day. This resulted in me playing a serious game of compromise on ISO and shutter speed the entire day. For some reason about 1/2 way thru the day I decided to check the micro focus adjust settings and to my surprise all of my settings for the 50-200 were gone (the 150 settings were still there tho). So all of these shots are taken without any micro focus adjust. Not very happy about this and not sure what happen to them, I checked after FW 4.0 and all my settings were there (that was the last time I remember looking at the settings). So I guess this test shows what your typical nontechnical photographer would experience with this combo.

    The birds were out early but seemed to just disappear not long after I switched to the SWD, but the gators were out in force. I saw more gators then I have seen at the park in months, probably since late spring when the park closed for a month due to serious flooding. It was nice seeing all the gators for a change and I took advantage of it.

    The first two photos above are the only two bird photos of the set and both shot using Aperture Priority (the Carolina Wren was photographed while moving into position to photograph the Snowy Egret). I have to admit to really messing up when photographing these two birds. I am so use to using the Little Tuna that I did not check the settings the camera was giving me. Based on the amount of light my eyes were seeing, I just assumed that my shutter speed would be within my limits. But this goes to show the amazing ability of the IBIS in the EM1 to handle long focal lengths at slower shutter speeds.

    After shooting the birds above I realized that Aperture Priority was just not going to cut it so I switched to manual for the remainder of the day.

    I have been on this kick of shooting into the sun the last few months, so I tried one with the SWD. With the EC-20 attached the lens seems to lose a lot of contrast, especially when shooting into the sun. It does not perform nearly as well as the Little Tuna for shots like this with the EC-20, need to test it out without a TC to see how well it performs.

    ISO 800, 1/800 @ ƒ7.1 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]3 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The next 4 photographs are all of the same gator and I believe from the same spot, I could have crawled closer between shots but don't think so. I am not positive because I would shoot, move forward, shoot, move forward until I reached my comfort level.

    ISO 500, 1/800 @ ƒ7.1 - 158mm (this is not wide-open because I forgot that the aperture does not change in manual when zooming like it does in Aperture Priority, have only used my 150 prime for the last few months so forgot how zooms and aperture react in the different modes)
    [​IMG]4 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    ISO 640, 1/800 @ ƒ7.1 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]5 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    ISO 500, 1/800 @ f7.1 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]6 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    ISO 500, 1/1000 @ f7.1 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]7 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I was on this gator eye kick yesterday because having 800mm of effective reach was 200mm more then I am use to having. It was really nice having that extra reach but it is not really as much as you would think. I have determined that to get the photograph I am after (eye filling 1/2 the frame or so) I need 1200mm of reach or more. Here are two photographs a friend took of me while I was taking the above photographs.

    [​IMG]Gator Bait 09 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Gator Bait 12 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I just looked at the exif data and I was about 13 feet away when taking the above photographs. I am comfortable around 10 feet from the gators but the park was really busy with lots of people walking by and people tend to be stupid and loud when in the park. The gators were a little jumpy at times so I was trying to maintain a bit farther distance incase things went bad. They were actually fine with me being that close (they will hiss when you get to close, which is a sign to back away or risk getting charged at) and would close their eyes and enjoy the sun. I would have to wait until someone walked by for them to open their eyes so I could get a photograph, after the person passed they would once again close their eyes (yes, he knew I was there the entire time.......they can feel vibrations in the ground).

    This next shot I was 12 feet away and I love the reflection in his eye, you can see the people walking by.

    ISO 500, 1/1250 @ ƒ7.0 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]8 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This next photograph is the same gator as above but after he decided to get up and move. The photo is a bit soft because I was trying to shoot and make sure I was not about to be lunch. Where he was laying it was somewhat shaded and he decided to move over to the lake (he had come out of the swamp originally) to lay in the full sun along the bank. Not sure how the aperture changed, must have hit it while trying to zoom out and not crap my pants. Yes, I was pretty nervous when I saw him stand up thru the viewfinder and was not sure what he was doing (I could hear a group of very loud kids coming down the path). This is the only time I really wished I had the Little Tuna on the camera, not often do I have a gator walk past me while laying on the ground only 12 feet away.

    ISO 500, 1/1250 ƒ6.3 - 100mm
    [​IMG]9 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Here is another photograph my friend took while I was taking the above two photographs. You can get a sense of why I was nervous when he stood up to move over by the lake. He actually moved next to that gator I took 4 photographs of above. There were so many gators out that at any one time I would have 3-4 of them all within 20 feet or so.......such an awesome day to be out with my favorite subjects.

    [​IMG]Gator Bait 08 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I will end it with a really shitty macro shot. I have used the SWD and EC-14 for some great closeup shots and was hoping for a good result with the EC-20. The conditions sucked, deep in the swamp with the sun behind clouds (so dull flat light) and a background that made for some crazy ugly bokeh. But, it does show that it is pretty capable and with some shallow DoF even at ƒ7.1 (focus distance was 4.8 feet)

    ISO 800, 1/800 @ ƒ7.1 - 400mm (wide-open)
    [​IMG]10 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Post broken up due to word count limits

    My thoughts on using the 50-200 SWD + EC-20:

    The combo is actually pretty capable and from looking at my photographs it seems better to use it with the EC-20 over the EC-14 and cropping. But that is only if you are going to use it at the full 400mm, otherwise use the EC-14. The autofocus would hunt at times, but the light was good to marginal to pure crap. In good light it would focus fine, a little slower then with the EC-14 or no TC....it was enough slower (if that makes sense) to be noticeable. This would really only matter if you were trying to shoot fast-moving objects like sports or BiF. That egret I photographed was moving all over the place chasing after crawfish and the camera had no problem keeping up with his movements, never felt like it was focusing to slow to get the photographs I wanted. But, I would not use this combo for sports or BiFs...just not viable.

    Yesterday was not super sunny so I was never able to shoot at ISO 200 and I think that even in bright light I would struggle to keep the shutter speed at 1/1000 (my minimum for birds striking at fish) and use ISO 200. For my shooting, even on bright days, in the swamps under all the trees ISO 200 would be a rare occasion....probably be around ISO 400 as the norm with ISO 800+ not uncommon.

    Shooting at the wider aperture was defiantly noticeable to me and I had to work to get the really nice blurred background. At ƒ7.1 you just can't blow away the background as easily as you can at ƒ4.0 or lower and it is evident in the bird photos as well as a few of the gator shots. The gator walking shot with my Little Tuna (I typically use it without a TC and at ƒ2.8-4.0 for gators) would have blown away that background and made for a much nicer shot. The first two gator shots (into the sun and the full head) also show the downside to the wide aperture. The other gator shots I moved around to get those shots with the most pleasing background that I could. I was fortunate that gators sunning themselves are pretty lazy and allow you to move positions without spooking them, something you cannot do with most wildlife (I know a bear or bobcat would not allow that).

    Edit - I wanted to add my thoughts about budget. If you already have the 50-200 and associated MMF and a EM1 and are looking for a budget 400mm this would make a great one. Already having the other parts all you would need to add is the EC-20 and you would have 400mm at pretty much the same aperture as the Panny 100-400. But this really is only a viable budget option if you already own everything but the EC-20. If you don't have the 50-200, then by the time you buy the lens, MMF-3, EC-20 and you really need the EC-14 for anything under 400mm you may as well just get the Panny 100-400.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
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  3. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    My thoughts on the upcoming super telephoto lenses:

    I cannot help but compare my use of the Little Tuna and the SWD to using the Olympus 300mm or Panny 100-400. When I use the 150/2 I typically start out without a TC and as the day brightens add the TC's. If I can get close enough in early light, why not take advantage of the wide-open sharpness of the lens to keep ISO low and shutter speed high? So I work my butt off to get close so I can use it without a TC, but if needed I will add the TC's and compensate with ISO or shutter speed depending on situation.

    I can and do use the 150/2 with EC-20 at ƒ4.0 but really prefer to use it at ƒ5.6 (it is just a tad sharper but is still useable wide-open). I know from using this combo that the Olympus 300 will be a great lens as far as speed goes. Yes, I would love the Big Tuna and ƒ2.8 but for my shooting style that really is to much lens to lug around (I covered 10.5 miles yesterday while out shooting) and the reason I switched to Olympus.

    I have used the 150/2 a lot at ƒ5.6, which is the reported aperture of the Panny 100-400 at 300mm. At 300mm this will be acceptable but not ideal. It is nice knowing that with the 150/2 I can and will drop down to ƒ4.0 if it is the difference between ISO 800 and ISO 1600 (800 is as high as I really like to go but I will push 2000ish if and when I really have to). The difference in sharpness of the 150/2 between those two apertures is not enough to justify the lost of detail when going from ISO 800 to 1600 so I will drop to wide-open in these situations.

    I know some are going to jump on here and say well I use xxxx ISO all the time and it is perfectly acceptable. That is you and your perceived level of quality that you are willing to settle for. I am not saying that I never shoot higher or never post photographs of higher ISO because I do. Given the choice, I prefer not to go above ISO 800 for wildlife and the gear available currently allows me to not have to go above that in most situations. Like I said, that is my wildlife limit, for other subjects I do go as high as ISO 3200 and I am perfectly comfortable with that. Above 3200 and I just don't think the sensor tech is really up to the challenge yet.

    So, given my experience at shooting 300mm at ƒ5.6 I know the Panny 100-400 at 300mm will still provide acceptable speed (this is for me, everyone is different). It is when you jump up to 400mm that the Panny really starts to show its weakness and this was really brought to light for me yesterday while using the 50-200 SWD + EC-20. That combo is only 1/3 stop slower then the Panny and I never was able to shoot below ISO 320. Also note that at the ISO 320 and 400 shots I was using shutter speeds of 1/400 which was really to slow to freeze the motion of the bird striking the fish (I have lots of blurry shots of the strikes to prove that). If shooting at 1/1000 (my preferred speed for this) I would need an ISO of 800 which is my limit and does not leave much room for compromise and both those shots were in bright light. True the Panny would have been at ISO 640, but this is still leaving very little wiggle room and if the bird moves into shade I am easily above ISO 800.

    Yes, I know the Olympus with the MC-14 is only 1/3 stop faster then the Panny and some will argue that it really makes no difference. They are probably right in the grand scheme of things. Then there is the debate of zoom more versatile then a prime, which for wildlife photography I just don't see it. For sports I do, but then again the Panny really is to slow for sports photography (my opinion, you don't have to agree). I have also only been using a prime lens for the last 3 months or so and I am use to that limitation for my photography. Granted it has been with two TC's, but I will still have said prime and one of the TC's with me when I need them. At 300mm the Panny is marginal as far as aperture speed for me and the Olympus is what I have become accustomed to because it is a good compromise between size/weight and lens speed. At 400mm (which face it, is where most will use a zoom, I know that I will attempt to use my prime without a TC as I have been doing with the 150) they are pretty much even but the Olympus is still 1/3 stop faster (which happens to be the marginally acceptable aperture speed that I find the Panny has at 300mm).

    Based on my shooting the 150/2 with both TC's and the 50-200 SWD with the EC-20 I am confident that for me the Olympus 300mm Pro is the right choice over the Panny 100-400.
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  4. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    @PeHa@PeHa Here are my shots using the 50-200 SWD and EC-20
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you @barry13@barry13 for the feature, it is greatly appreciated :yahoo:
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  6. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Great write up on your usage of the various lens and teleconvertors. Not everyone will have the same shooting habits are you, and I'm sure 100-400 will suit some others better.

    A little too close to gators for my comfort, 'gator bait' is a good title for those photos :p
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  7. MetilHed

    MetilHed Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 30, 2015
    Real Name:
    My EC-20 is in the mail. I can't wait !
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  8. Gidget

    Gidget Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 22, 2010
    Real Name:
    Leah Hallett
    I love your Snowy Egret. You must have great technique and a pleasantly sharp 50-200mm.

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  9. dlvolk

    dlvolk New to Mu-43

    May 14, 2015
    Nice photos and great article. i've been wondering how the 50-200 performs.
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  10. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    I think you should use a satellite for those gator shots.:eek-31:
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  11. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    Ronnie, I really appreciate the time and work you put into this. I’ve had the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50-200mm SWD since 2009 but could never find a compulsive enough review that I felt I could trust and purchase the EC-20.

    Now on the other hand, I don’t know whether to thank you, or cuss you!

    For years I’ve been debating about alternatives and many reviews of the 50-200mm and EC-20 were mixed. For several reasons a super telephoto prime does not fit into my desires/needs. So when the Olympus 300mm f/4 was announced with the $2500 price I knew it was not for me. OTH the Panasonic Lumix Leica Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F/4-6.3 should meet my needs at a price that for a hobby (vs business expense) lens I can live with. So I jumped on the pre-order the day it was announced!

    Initially I had intended to buy the 100-400mm and sell the 50-200. About two weeks ago I had a job where the 100-400mm would not have sufficed, so now the 50-200mm is destined to stay in my kit.

    And I had not seen this thread until a few days ago. So now you have caused me much angst in whether to wait the 100-400mm or buy the EC-20. :wink:

    So thank you (or maybe not :wink:). But I really do appreciate it! I am going to wait the 100-400mm
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  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I agree, that is why I repeadily said this is based on my requirements. But, it should give others a good idea of what to expect with this combo as well as if using the Panny 100-400 in regards to ISO vs Shutter Speed.

    They are pretty laid back reptiles and will warn you with a hiss if you get closer then they want. The few bad encounters I have had have been with "Problem" Gators that ended up having to be taken care of. They become "Problem" Gators because people like to feed them and they start to associate people with food........feeding wild animals causes problems and when it comes to large predators usually ends up in the animal being killed. For gators, under 8 feet they will typically catch and re-locate. Over 8 feet they just kill them, starts getting dangerous to try and catch the big ones.

    Gator Bait is what all my friends call me.
  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Hope it works out for you, I have been happy with my on both the 50-200, but mostly with the 150mm ƒ2.0.
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  14. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you, I do believe I got a really sharp 50-200 because it has always produced razor sharp photos.

    I do have very good technique. It was developed from years of shooting rifles (got my first 22 when I was 8) as well as sniper training while in the Navy. I rarely use a tripod for my wildlife stuff......only when in the kayak (that's only occasionally) or when using my Canon FD 400mm (that is just to keep the distance constant really).
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  15. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks, the 50-200 performs very well and as I found out it does pretty good with the EC-20. Without a TC or with the EC-14 it is an amazing lens and IMHO the best bargain out there in any camera system.
  16. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    There is no fun in that :biggrin:
  17. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    LOL......I'm sorry :daz:

    If you already have the 50-200 and only occasionally need 400mm of reach the EC-20 is a great deal. Honestly, I would rather have the 50-200 with the EC-14&20.......you end up with a faster and more versitale lens for 280mm and under and not much slower for the 400mm end. I guess you need to also be shooting an EM1 as it is the only lens that will really focus the lens, but I figure you would be if you had the 50-200. That was the first time to really use the 50-200 with the EC-20 and I was impressed with the performance. I may even take it to the rookery here in a few weeks and see how it does, the 50-200 with EC-14 performed amazingly well there last year (did not have the 150/2 for spring last year).

    I am glad you found the write up useful and hope that others do also. I like testing gear and pushing it as far as I can. I also like writing, so it's a perfect fit. Any other questions don't hesitate to ask, I will answer as best as I can.

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  18. photoeagle

    photoeagle Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 25, 2015
    Real Name:
    Brad Harris
    Very well done, I also enjoyed your write up too.
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  19. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you
  20. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    I just ordered an EC-20. Well now the question - Did you cost me a couple of hundred bucks:boohoo:, or did you save me $$$$$ ? :bowdown:

    Over the last seven years I have been so close to buying the EC-20, so I finally gave in. if I could not experience the EC-20 & 50-200mm against the Panasonic 100-400mm - and which I'll be comparing to the Nikon D800 & D7200 with an 80-400mm - I would always be wondering.