Help me map out my wildlife gear roadmap

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by zanydroid, Jul 13, 2019 at 6:13 PM.

  1. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    I’m looking for advice on how to build out additional equipment for wildlife. Currently own A7riii + Sigma 100-400, plus EM10.2 & GH5.

    I want a smaller system, and I’d like to start doing BIF. I like taking both videos and stills. It seems that the PanaLeica 100-400 is the best option for me. Top tier Panasonic stabilization, weighs less than my current lens, and gets me to 800mm. I would expect the AF performance with a GH5 to be better than my current system in many situations. Perhaps add a EM1.2 down the line to get the better AF and lower EVF lag

    That said, I do want to double check some of my assumptions, & where I can go next after the PL 100-400. I don’t think an equivalent lens to that PL100-400 will come out for any other system for some time (closest would be RX10iv and Nikon 300PF, the former doesn’t go to 600 and the latter requires swapping TCs, including a 1.7x). For M43, my understanding is that the only upgrade path will be to that 150-400 that’s coming out someday (the 300mm is a sidegrade with more IQ).

    My current system: The Sigma 100-400 doesn’t have a fast enough motor for me, and the 600mm effective focal length is not enough for the perched birds around here. 1.4x teleconverter is not usable on my hardware. The lens + adapter also weighs 2.75 lb. It’s really hard to use for handheld videos.

    In terms of my experience level with various equipment, I’ve shot a few weekends with the Sigma 150-600 and Panasonic 100-300 on EM10.2 and GH5, and rented a couple of current gen Nikon and Canon bodies. I liked the Panasonic 100-300 form factor, but the stills IQ at 600mm (effective) was too soft for me even in good light, and the Dual IS at 600mm (effective) micro-jittered in videos even with IS-Lock mode on GH5. That said, I was actually quite pleased with how good the videos are for such a small system / long focal length.

    Thoughts on other options:
    Fuji seems like a dead end. It has few options beyond 100-400

    Canon - less recent investment than Nikon in enthusiast lenses for wildlife. Their small primes are really old

    Nikon seems like a pretty reasonable way to go, given how nice their super-telephoto lineup is. I could definitely see myself getting a 300PF, 500PF, or 150-600 down the line. Now, having three systems could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.
    D500 - really liked that camera, a little bit heavy
    D7500 - save $500 and 100g on for other lenses

    Sony also seems like a pretty good path, since I plan to maintain that system long term for portraits and general sports. That new 200-600 is a great value for $1999 for people that are already in Sony.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019 at 6:27 PM
  2. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    EM1X or wait to see what the EM1-mk3 has.
    And wait for the Olympus 150-400 pro lens.
  3. snaimpally

    snaimpally Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019 at 7:16 PM
  4. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    I'd rather spend money on glass than EM1X:)

    150-400 Pro... is that coming out before 2021? :laugh1: No way I can use the new equipment this season, and I can buy the Sony 200-600 today for pretty much the same range and light gathering capability on my A7riii, and at lower than the expected cost of the 150-400 Pro.
  5. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    Thanks! I've checked out Daniel's stuff over the years, really awesome. Will keep an eye for new content.
  6. The Grumpy Snapper

    The Grumpy Snapper Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 9, 2017
    Sony A6000 series body.
  7. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    Agreed, this might be a worthwhile tool, esp since it has more teleconverter compatibility than my current body. Not super clear though on the added value. I already have a body I can use the 200-600 on, and an A6400 costs a good chunk of a lens.
  8. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    You said you wanted to do BiF.
    From what I read, the EM1X is the Olympus camera that can do that.
    The FW upgrade to the mk2 brings some of that SW technology from the X to the mk2. So maybe the mk2 has gotten better for BiF, I don't know.

    I can't tell you about the EVF lag in the mk2 until fall sports starts up in Sept.

    You said you wanted a smaller system.
    But then you are talking about keeping the Sony, and looking at the Nikon. :confused:
    A 600mm FF lens is most always going to be bigger and heavier than a 400mm m4/3 lens.

    Of the two Nikon cameras (D500 & D7500), the D500 would be your best choice for BiF. The AF is the standard that other cameras compare to. But it is also the heavier camera.

    In general, the Nikon option is heavier than Olympus. But if you compare the EM1X to the D500, the EM1X is actually heavier than the D500. :eek:
    You then need to look at a kit spec of camera + lens.
    The Olympus EM1X + 150-400 compared to the Nikon D500 + 200-500.
    IF the Olympus 150-400 comes in at 1,200 grams, 20% heavier than the P-Leica 100-400 (1,000 grams), then the Olympus kit is about 1,000 grams lighter than the Nikon kit. Difference in weight is due to the lenses, the Nikon 200-500 being 2,300 grams.
    The Sigma 150-600 is about 500 grams lighter than the Nikon 200-500, but total Nikon kit would still be 500 grams heavier than the Olympus.
    And you still have a BIGGER lens on the Nikon.

    You can do the numbers for the Sony.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    My beef with the EM1X is that a lot of that price premium goes into things that don't help for what I shoot, i.e. all the extra processing for the hand held long exposure capability. I love joysticks, but I'm not paying an extra $1800 (vs EM1.2 used price) for one.

    I expect to need to add both a higher performance light setup and some heavier setups with bigger glass.

    Nikon a smaller lens than the 100-400 (985g), the 300PF. That is 750g. D7500 is 720g, D500 is 860g. EM1.2 is 574g.

    Nikon also has a 500PF 5.6, which has the same weight saving Fresnel optics as the 300PF. It's smaller than 100-400 5.6 zooms

    I think that size estimate is too low.

    The 150-400 is f4.5, so the entrance pupil will be 90mm. That is a hair smaller than 600mm f6.3 zooms, the lightest of which are approx 1900g. The new sony 200-600 is 2100g. The 150-400 has to be at least as heavy as the 300F4 since it's a prime and longer, for a pretty close aperture. Olympus lenses tend to be built heavier than both the lightest 150-600 superteles and PanaLeica lenses. 400 f4.5 is exactly one stop slower than 400 f6.3, the speed of the PL 100-400, which translates to close to 2x weight gain usually.

    So maybe 1700g?

    Yeah I absolutely love the magical tracking on the D500. But it is a little chunky, and I suspect the D7500 would already be as good as the EM1.2 (even if the tracking is a little worse, the zero lag EVF and better sight picture through the OVF would be a big benefit).

    Size comparisons:

    Small class
    - A7riii (current) + adapter + 100-400 = 1935g. 100-600 effective FL. Slow autofocus.
    - EM1.2 + 100-400 = 1560g. 200-800 effective FL
    - D7500 + 300PF + 1.7xTC = 1650g. 450-765 effective FL
    [I'm not interested in the PL 50-200, too pricey right now and not enough reach]

    Large class
    - A7riii + 200-600 = 650g + 2100g = 2750g. 100-900 effective FL
    - EM1.2 + 150-400 = > 2325g. 300-1000 effective FL
    - D7500 + 150-600 = 2600g. 225-900 effective FL
  10. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    Yup the Olympus Pro lenses tend to be heavy and 1700g would not surprise me.
    That is the reason I have both consumer and pro Olympus lenses. Some times I just do not want to carry the extra weight.

    I would follow the treads on the EM1-mk2 after the FW 3 update, to see if the AF sounds like it meets your needs.
    Also check the EM1X treads. Some of the EM1X guys have both the X and mk2, so can give you a better comparison between the two.
  11. masayoshi

    masayoshi Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Dec 5, 2016
    Salt Lake City
    If you shoot only BIF, I would recommend D500 + 300PF assuming the bird is close enough, but it doesn't have a reach for your case even with 1.4 teleconverter. Besides, it's not convenient for video shooting (certainly doable, though). You either need to accept some compromise with one system, or carry two systems, one for speed (BIF) and another for reach and video.
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  12. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    I can't comment on a Panasonic body with the PL100-400, but I can comment on the Olympus ecosystem, and the PL100-400 with the E-M1 MkII -- if you are indeed truly thinking about acquiring that body down the line. In the context of using it with an E-M1 MkII, the 300mm Pro is definitely an upgrade (not at all a side-grade) to the PL100-400. I own them both, and the 300mm Pro's light gathering, sharpness, compatibility with features like Pro Capture Low and dual IS (key reasons to do wildlife with Olympus, IMO) as well as reliability of the weather sealing are noticeable differences. On the downside, shooting wildlife with a super-telephoto prime is a bit more challenging (but doable), and the PL100-400 is a lighter and less expensive lens.

    I also wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the 150-400mm Pro as a future upgrade path. It will be expensive and not out until 2020, true, but it will have far more potential hand-held reach and light gathering than anything else out there. The E-M1X, however... While it is a better camera than the E-M1 MkII (particularly in ergonomics and reliability), until they come out with bird AI tracking for the X (and they're working on it), the E-M1 MkII with firmware 3.0 is so close to the E-M1X in capability specific to birding that I can understand your reluctance there.

    As a long-term investment into a system, Olympus is a roll of the dice. They're dedicated to becoming a leader in sports and wildlife and using the µ4/3 format to do it. As one who has been shooting this format for wildlife for about a decade, I would say that they are making steady progress -- even though a lot of that was catch-up to more mature DSLR technologies (and Sony innovation). They're not quite there yet, and there is still a gaping concern about lowlight action performance from the sensor, but that's the sacrifice of a lighter kit. But what they have done is impressive and I daresay offers a unique and liberating shooting experience. The Pro lens' resolutions are also strong enough to handle future increases in sensor IQ, so if Olympus continues with what they are doing and sticks around long enough for such sensor improvements to occur (risks that should be weighed before investing in them), I believe they will meet their goal.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 3:20 AM
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  13. macro

    macro Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 22, 2012
    New Zealand
    For value I think the Sony 200-600 is going to be very interesting to watch and see what people get from it. Remember though, it's not a GM lens, so lets just wait and see. On FF with the the long end, then F/6.3 is not an issue. Don't rush into that one, but if it all works out, I might join you with my Sony ;)

    For m4/3 the up coming Oly 150-400 F/4.5 is going to be a stunner looking at the specs and elements. Same thing once again, wait and see. It's going to be on a totally different price point though. That's going to be the hard one to get over for most.

    All the best and times are looking very good for us overall.

  14. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019

    I guess side-grade wasn’t the best way to put it… on the quantitative optical parameters alone, it looked really close (1/3 stop), and I do prefer the Olympus rendering to Panasonic in general. However, I don’t feel I’m ready to graduate to primes + TC workflow yet.

    How well does the 300 prime work with a 2x TC, in terms of focus speed and sharpness? (I assume the 1.4x TC is fine as with most lenses)?

    Olympus is in an interesting segment. Their focusing on a higher segment than I’m currently in right now (i.e., the same league as Zeiss, GM, and premium RF lenses), and don’t really have much to offer in the intervening gap. I guess PanaLeica occupies it in the M43 with all the recent $1000-1500 lenses, so maybe that’s fine. I'm skeptical as to how good m43 can be for the conventional way sport are shot -- with telephotos on monopods in a pre-allocated space for photographers, and often indoors / at night under questionable lighting conditions. All my investment for sports shooting is on FF.

    I’m not super worried about losing my investment in Olympus — my camera equipment is pure overhead, not a financial investment, and I’m old enough to be pretty darn satisfied with a 5-10 year run on anything great in life :). People are still having fun with their FT lenses well after the industry moved on. I don’t see any other companies going after the same shooting envelope anytime soon, so even if mFT disappears tomorrow, they’ll still be strictly rational choices for another ~3-5 years. At that point, AF and sensor efficiency improvements on other formats will probably eclipse M43, but M43 would still be decent for a few years beyond that.

    As for Olympus’s challenges:
    I feel high res FF systems (i.e., how folks like Mark Smith used to use the D850) have more flexibility right now than mFT. If you can get 30% closer, you can shoot the full frame with better light gathering, while using one lens & without swapping a TC. Obviously, a lot of nuances here (e.g., the picture won’t be sharp outside of the APS-C circle on a lens optimized to be as portable as possible, & you might be more mobile with a portable kit, and get access to nicer situations).

    Also, the FF system is arguably easier to improve, e.g. they can easily go to 60MP sensors if they want to and keep about the same DR numbers. Unlike DSLRs, Canon and Sony mirrorless are able to autofocus down the the same slow effective apertures as mFT (e.g., they work down to F/11 or smaller). So if they wanted to, they could come out with small superteles that can compete with mFT ones. They’re probably not going to though (well, Canon and Sony probably won’t even though they have the AF technology to do it today; Nikon might).

    Now, Olympus has to make greater than GM-levels of sharpness (albeit on a smaller imaging circle) in their pro lenses just to have a great lens for 20MP mFT sensors, let alone the fabled 26/33MP ones. As well as pay for a disproportionate chunk of R&D on this class of sensor. IMO, the most tactically-efficient innovation on mFT ecosystem going on right now leverages the fact that you can buy nice video versions of the sensor off the shelf.
  15. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    Hmm, I forgot to account for the built-in TC in my prognosticating, that’s probably another $750 in price vs a lens w/o that feature.

    Yup, I get that the 150-400 F/4.5 has to be a better lens than the Sony given the positioning of one as Pro and the other as G. On the quantitative technical parameters, pretty sure on current bodies the APS-C crop will acquaint nicely against the 150-400 in resolution, but probably not the FF.

    So I think for most enthusiasts, I think the 200-600 + A6400 would get just as nice pictures and end up costing about the same as just the 150-400. And arguably easier for novices to get results with Sony AF. Though they have to suffer through using A6xxx series body, vs enjoying an mFT body. Heck, I think A7riii + 200-600 might end up costing the same or less than EM1.2 + 150-400 f/4.5 (let alone pairing that with an EM1X).

    [And for the record, even if I got the 200-600, I would definitely still daydream about the 150-400 when it shows up]
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 6:29 AM
  16. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    I just got my MC-20 TC, and haven't had time to try it out yet. However, I'd advise checking out this thread to see what others have done. I actually have not been a fan of teleconverters (neither the Olympus MC-14 x1.4 nor my Canon EF x1.4 III), and wasn't planning on getting the MC-20, but that thread convinced me otherwise. Very impressive, and a good example of what the Oly system is now capable of. Olympus is coming out with more telephoto and super-telephoto lenses on their roadmap, which will flesh out the lens options a lot more.

    I rather feel that isn't the shooting experience µ4/3 is going for. They want to enable you to scrap the monopod and be more mobile, and they shouldn't realistically be expecting to be a major player in indoor/dim light venues. I don't see how full frame can be challenged there.

    It's certainly a valid strategy that can produce good results, but there is no free lunch. As you said, getting close enough is possible sometimes, other times not -- which in itself limits flexibility. But even when close, smaller birds require heavy magnifications. Sometimes people try to get the weight down by pairing it with a slower or shorter lens, but if it were me, I'd have a hard time willingly sacrificing the IQ advantages of such a powerful camera by pushing its high ISO and cropping leeway. I'd probably be too tempted to buy heavier lenses to take the great pictures it is capable of, but the weight and expense would drag me down too much. Even if I could get down to comparable gear sizes/weights, there are other downsides such as slower burst and processing speeds, much larger files, and more difficulty getting sharp images.

    Also, Olympus cameras have some excellent, unique features that can make a difference. They are not applicable in all situations, but when they can be utilized, they really do either a) mitigate the sensor deficiencies, or b) enable shots that would be much harder (if even possible) to get on other systems. They greatly expand the flexibility of the kit and make it punch above its sensor size, IMO. I'm not trying to say µ4/3 is a better route than full frame (or vice versa), but I do think that if Olympus stays on its path (and survives long enough to see it through), it could become (if not already) a very compelling option to consider, even professionally.

    I feel a little differently about that, simply because there are diminishing returns for full frame. As I mentioned above, larger MP sensors come with their own drawbacks, and very few people really need that much resolution. Full frame IQ is already good enough that more would be overkill for the vast majority of people (actually, I feel like it already is). That's not to say more sensor development won't happen (camera companies have to keep selling new tech or go out of business), but that any such innovations could eventually find its way into µ4/3 as well, where it would have greater effect because µ4/3 IQ has more room to grow -- especially in terms of noise performance and dynamic range improvements that don't involve computational photography.
  17. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    That is only how ONE set of sport photographers shoot.

    Depending on the specific sport, level and venue, some of us are not under such tight constraints.
    • I shoot on the sidelines and am free to move. Similarly you can be in the bleachers and be pretty free to move.
    • I HATED when I had to use a monopod, due to an injury. I shoot free hand-held, so that I can have a WIDE arc of motion to pan/track the players. I have a comparatively small arc of motion when I use a monopod.
    • To shoot hand-held I want a lighter kit, so my arms are not worn out before the end of the game.
    • Yes, the lighting at night games generally STINK, especially if you shoot from the end zone. So I grab every chance to shoot a day game.
    If you are shooting in poor light, like your sports stadium at night, you are NOT going to shoot with an f/11 lens. You will be shooting with the FASTEST lens that you can shoot with. It is not about AF at small apertures, it is about exposure; lens wide open, shutter speed at least 1/500 sec. Unless you are shooting at a crazy high ISO, that f/11 lens is not usable for night games.

    Example, I shoot at ISO 6400, f/4, 1/500 sec.
    With that f/11 lens, you have to shoot at ISO 51,200, f/11, 1/500 sec.
    Is the FF sensor 3 stops better than a m4/3 sensor, to be able to shoot at ISO 51200?​

    • A FF lens is a FF lens. dSLR or mirrorless, the image circle is the same size. So unless they apply new/different technology (like the fernel elements in the new Nikon prime teles) or lighter weight material, they will not reduce the size/weight much.
    • A smaller aperture will use a smaller objective lens, so the lens can be made smaller in diameter. But the length is still the same, 600mm is still 600mm.
    • However the crop factor effect is always there. A 12x lens on a FF = 600mm, a 12x lens on a m4/3 is 300mm. At the same aperture, a 300mm lens will always be smaller and lighter than a 600mm lens.

  18. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019
    Wow, that was super helpful to know... I think I've been following too limited of a group of sports shooters online. Do you have an album where I can see the type of results you can get with this shooting style?

    Ah, actually, I was thinking about wildlife photography in good conditions when I wrote that. E.g., out in the day, with a cooperative subject, and with good stabilization. With DSLRs you had to shoot at F5.6-F8 to get autofocus. With mirrorless and crop you can easily drive that down to much higher effective apertures, which means the lens can diameter can be smaller without losing autofocus. For instance, the PL100-400 is comparable to F/13 or f/11 on FF / APS-C. There are no DSLR/lens combinations that can autofocus in a comparable sized lens. There are a couple other M43 lenses that are similarly 1-2 stops smaller than the DSLR equivalents, e.g. the 50-200, and perform well in the conditions to which they're suited.

    Yup, physics is a &*(%&. There's no free lunch. Except maybe improving sensor efficiency, improving sharpness enough so that people see the details and not the noise. Or getting better at taking pictures.
  19. zanydroid

    zanydroid Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2019

    Makes sense. I think I got the idea that m43 was competing in the terrible shooting conditions space after watching review videos of the EM1.2 for shooting indoor sports. There isn't enough content out there talking about how to play to the unique strengths of the hardware.
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