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PEN E-PL1: Cheap thrills

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by naturecloseups, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Ok, so the ultra-cheap, ultra-light polycarbonate-built 75-240mm/f4.5-5.6 AF Zoom Nikkor looks pretty interesting to me as an adapted 140-480mm zoom lens on m4/3 bodies. But that's all theory -- how does it work in practice for closeups?

    In summary -- the lens is a steller performer when coupled with the Nikon 3T in all major aspects of closeup photography: sharpness, color rendition, contrast, flatness of field, background rendition, working distance and most importantly -- ability to change magnification (and resulting composition) without needing to move my tripod.

    What's all the fuss about not having to move the tripod? When you are shooting a skittish subject and you've already set up your tripod (according to desired plane of focus/subject plane) with its legs dipped into the undergrowth, the last thing you want is to scare the subject away because you needed to move "a wee bit closer" since you were using a macro prime and the only way to change magnification is getting closer. The zoom with diopter lets you change the magnification just by turning the zoom ring and then fine tuning the focus.

    The scenario where it helps the most is when you are pointing downwards as in shot below and the only way to get closer is to adjust the length of all three tripod legs. Enough fussing around to annoy even the calmest of subjects. In this case I just positioned my tripod once and then used the zoom to achieve a suitable magnification. The moth was sitting happily in place all through.

    75-240mm/f4.5-5.6 AF Zoon Nikkor + Nikon 3T, f11


    Similarly -- the following is a very skittish variety of damselfly that doesn't fly far away but changes perch by 8-12 inches at the drop of a hat. I was more than half a meter away when I shot this and I used the zoom to fine tune magnification. The longish FL did a terrific job of isolating the subject in spite of a badly clutter background.

    75-240mm/f4.5-5.6 AF Zoon Nikkor + Nikon 3T, f8


    Finally, resized images are usually alright, but what about the true optical quality (which equates to only "sharpness" to most folks) of this lens? Well, for pixel-peepers (and those who have "read on the internet" that a macro lens is the only way to go for closeups) here's a 100% crop using the same rig, with default in-camera sharpness setting. If you process from raw you will get a bit more details. I'll happily use it in lieu of any of macro lenses for most of my field work. Only when I find something that is completely oblivious to what I am doing -- I first shoot a few shots using this rig and then change lenses to one of my macro lenses that fits the situation.

    75-240mm/f4.5-5.6 AF Zoon Nikkor + Nikon 3T, f11

    • Like Like x 15
  2. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 6, 2010
    Hi - very interesting post - just curious, what ISO settings did you use ? thanks
  3. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Gwendal, all images are at ISO 100 -- first two are processed from raw and the crop is default JPEG.

  4. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium
    Great job !

    C U,
  5. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    PEN E-PL1: More cheap thrills

    As I continue using the 75-240mm/f4.5-5.6 Zoom Nikkor + 3T, I have to really force myself to try out my dedicated macro lenses -- I frankly don't feel motivated. I am actually wondering whether this lens, together with another copy coupled with the Nikon 4T -- can replace most of my ~100mm macro primes -- I suspect they can.

    All uncropped and taken in a variety of lighting conditions.

    Grasshopper busy eating, bright overcast lighting


    Mating weevils in really flat light -- a while before evening. The subject(s) were surprisingly deep and determining optimal plane of focus was very tricky involving lots of tradeoffs here and there


    Another grasshopper -- Direct partly diffused sun


    This is called a Banana Skipper -- they are always pi$$ed off as you can tell from the eyes. Very low and flat lighting under a tree so flash fill was necessary


    Now if you'll please excuse me -- I'll shut my piehole and try out the other lenses. I need a couple more of these zooms so don't want to make a big noise about how good they are.
    • Like Like x 5
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA

    Impressive results. Curious if you've tried the 70-300mm (4/3 version), and if so how you found it by comparison?
  7. Vidar

    Vidar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 31, 2009
    Bergen, Norway
    Insects this large scares me....:eek: 

    Great macro photography, congrats!:bravo-009:
    • Like Like x 1
  8. et100

    et100 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 15, 2010
    Chicago area - USA
    excuse my ignorance but what is 3T and 4T? 3x and 4x teleconverter or.....

    great macros, what is the total mag of this setup, i would guess 4:1??

    finally what kind of shutter speed?

    thanks for educating me!
  9. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Thanks, no I have not yet had a chance to try the 4/3rds version of the 70-300mm Zuiko D. But I have heard a lot of good things about that lens so I would expect that to be at par with this one though this one cost me about 1/4th of the ZD 70-300!

    et100, The nikon 3T and 4T are ø 52mm achromatic diopters (1.5D and 2.9D respectively). The nikon 5T and 6T are similar powered ones in that order but with ø 62mm. They were discontinued about 5-6 years ago and hard to find today.

    The total magnification with 75-240 + 3T varies from 0.11x to 0.36x with the lens focus set at infinity. However, because of the 2x crop factor the setup has about twice as much "frame filling potential" as compared to 35mm.

    IIRC, the shutter speeds ranged from 1/5s to 1/80s.

    What strikes me as most funny is the initial poor reception of this lens which was produced only for about an year in spite of the brilliant optics. Back in 1999 Nikon had just started producing gear at their China manufacturing plants and the polycarbonate construction was squarely bashed by the growing number of internet "experts". People were yet to get used to the "Made in China" label on Nikon products. As typical, internet pea-brains slammed the lens by comparing it to a 80-200/2.8 Zoom Nikkor. So why did I seek the lens out? Because of the fantastic optics the polycarbonate body houses while weighing in at a weight of less than 400 grams *and* the steller performance this lens is capable of when coupled with Nikon 3T/4T achromats. In 2006 I passed on a chance to buy this and had opted for a 55-200VR instead even after I tested it to be optically inferior just for the VR function which isn't as useful as I had anticipated. So when I got that chance again I lapped it up right away.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Ok, I finally overcame the addiction and started trying out the other lenses but not before this amazing zoom gave me my final keeper for this run -- a very alert and skittish species of skipper butterfly I have wanted to photograph for many, many years. The generous 667mm max working distance was helpful.

    • Like Like x 3
  11. brnmatsumoto

    brnmatsumoto Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 18, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    Wow, this is all beautiful photographs. Where do you find such wonderful subjects?

    Your depth of field is set perfectly and I love your composition.

  12. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Brian -- thanks, all are shot in (relative) leisure off a tripod (a tripod is something that will guarantee consistently fantastic shots from that remarkable Sigma 400mm of yours when coupled with the Nikon PN11).

    A bit of cropping could have helped some shots even more but I prefer to leave them uncropped and work on improving my in-camera compositions instead.

  13. brnmatsumoto

    brnmatsumoto Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 18, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    A good point about the tripod. The Sigma lens has potential, but its fixed focal length plus its long working distance has disadvantages. If my angle of view or distance is not right, I have to move a surprising degree to get a different view point. For me to exploit its capabilities, I need a cooperative subject who will patiently wait for me to reposition. So, I am thinking of doing more shooting in the morning when the insects are a little sluggish. My main problem is having too much magnification. Finding the subject in the viewfinder can be quite challenging. I am thinking of adopting your strategy of using a medium focal length zoom. I have a Series 1 Vivitar zoom macro--with a 90-180 mm focal length. This should be more convenient. If I can dig up an achromatic doublet, this might be a more general purpose macro lens for me.

    I have a 77 mm achromatic doublet from Canon and with step down rings, I can mount it on the Sigma. That should be an interesting experiment.


  14. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Today was the shortest trip to the field because of a persistent, nagging drizzle. In total, shooting time was limited to less than 15 mins. I had to use my white diffusion umbrella as rain cover but the gear was still getting dangerously wet so I packed up. Until Olympus/Panasonic come up with some weather sealed model I can't risk it beyond a certain point.

    Again using the 75-240/4.5-5.6 zoom nikkor with Nikon 3T. Miles of working distance and astonishing crispness that literally rival macro lenses.

    Dragonfly -- today's only shot and not sure if a keeper. I'll sleep over it and then decide.

    As usual -- this is uncropped, entire frame.


    Dragonfly crop. Enough said about the sharpness of the 75-240 nikkor.

    BTW most "impressive" macro shots you see on the net are "made" in this manner -- 100% pixel-cropped off a larger image pretending to be the whole scene. The only difference is that the techniques are usually wanting.

    • Like Like x 5
  15. yogz

    yogz Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 8, 2010


    So in summary, the equipment needed for use with e-pl1 :
    1) Nikon -> m4/3 adapter
    2) 75-240/4.5-5.6 zoom nikkor
    3) Nikon 3T

    Very cool images....would love to see some flora.
  16. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Thanks, that's all you need. I also use a Gitzo Explorer tripod. Additionally I use a ø52mm spacer tube instead of the supplied hood to get more working distance.

    I received the second copy of this lens yesterday (surprising it says "Nikon Japan" on it while the first one I got clearly says "Made in China" -- not that it matters). I may pick up a few more but since this lens was manufactured only for about an year it is bit of a rarity.

    Re. flora shots, sorry to disappoint you -- I can't remember the last time I shot a flower through any lens :frown: . If I ever take aflower shot with this lens I'll be sure to post it back on here.

  17. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
  18. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium
    very nice work, naturecloseups (your parents never baptised you this way, did they ???)
    I've never used close up diopters, but find my Micro-Nikkor 200/4 the best solution for insect because of working distance

    C U
  19. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I am in awe of the quality of the output from that combination. I am interested in the details of the lighting setup you use as well.
  20. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Hi Ulfric -- sorry I don't have a photo of the combo taken yet but I'll keep in mind to take and post one the next time I take that out for shoting.

    Re. the Vivitar zoom in the thread you posted -- I think sharpness wise both of these zooms are on par. I do believe the Nikkor 75-240 is noticeably better in terms of contrast and color rendition (which is to be expected since it is a much newer lens).

    Thanks Rafael -- yes parents did keep a boring name which I don't use online :wink:

    I do have and use the 200/4 AFD ED IF Micro Nikkor, Canon FD 200/4 Macro and a Sigma APO 180/5.6 Macro (N-AI mount) with my E-PL1. However, the working distance at around .5x mag is the longest with the zoom combo and the sharpness is identical to any of the dedicate macro lenses.

    I by no means want to imply the zoom and dedicated macro lenses are on the same level overall -- since all of these are FF lenses, some difference can be expected with regard to corner sharpness on FF sensors because macro lenses are optimized for flat field repro. However -- for m4/3 the corner sharpness is comparable between the zoom and the dedicated macros. And weight wise this combo wins over the Nikon and Canon dedicated macro lenses (the Nikon 200 is 1200 grams and Canon 200 is about 900 grams).

    The Sigma APO 180/5.6 1:2 macro is lighter but in any case it is a remarkable lens with only 450 grams of weight but good luck finding one. I just got lucky when I purchased this as new old stock from an eBay seller with lousy ratings.

    Thanks Narnian. I normall use a Sunpak PF20 XD with diffuser to give a touch of fill. For this particular shot I further diffused it through the edge of my white umbrella that I was using it at rain cover. The ambient light was sombre and overcast and I wanted the flame tones on the dragonfly to stand out against the dull background of dead, brown foliage.
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