Time to reassess the 200/2.8 as a birding lens?

zanydroid

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Back in the day, the 200/2.8 +TC package cost more than the 300/4. So of course the other 300/4 won the hearts and minds of M43 birders.

But at the dawn of the new decade, the 200/2.8 and 1.4 TC package is now $1599 at efinity, vs $1899 for the bare 300/4. The Panasonic 2x is more readily available for a good used deal than the Olymp Now that the price points foe 200/2.8+both TCs and 300/4 +1.4 are really close in price, and the 2x40-150 is now on the market, how do the lenses stack up?

Here is what I think. Super curious to sew what others think.

Of course, if you are already heavily invested in Oly TCs, bodies, and lenses, the calculus shifts in favor of sticking with Olympus.

As an ultraportable kit, this competes against the 2x40-150 and 100-400. IMO the 2x40-150 would work better for most Olympus-only shooters, and covers the widest focal range. For Panasonic or both brand shooters, I have always thought that DFD lenses like 100-400 or 200 are a safer bet (though lack experimental data to back it up). IMO the 200 (like the 300) have a lot more sharpness to spare compared to 100-400, which helps your pictures today and ensures that you get the most out of future sensor resolution increases.

As for the 200 vs the 300, this is a tough call and depends a lot on requirements. The 300 can theoretically reach farther, however 600/8 has a pretty narrow shooting envelope; it would benefit greatly from one stop of sensor improvement. At 400/5.6, one would assume the 300 would be sharper given less TC. Of course the 200/2.8 of the PL lens is usable today in many situations.

The main reason I think the 200/2.8 deserves another look is that its size is more consistent with the design ethos of M43 and crop sensor. This is important to me personally because I would like a low mass kit for tracking small birds. At 1250 grams (+150 for the TC), it is smaller than the classic portable primes from canon (300/4 and 400/5.6). While the 300/4 weighs MORE than the Sony 100-400GM and is arguably in the same IQ class yet slower to operate due to being a prime.

Data I don’t have:
  • AF speed/tracking accuracy on both platforms.
  • Actual sharpness comparison at 400
  • How usable 200 is for non birding photography.
 

PakkyT

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- EM1 w/ 150/2
And put the 1.4 converter on that one you get over 200mm and with only a single stop of light loss you still effectively have f2.8.

Of course if anyone really wanted a kick ass setup, assuming cost and size isn't an issue, the EM1 with the old 4/3rds Oly 300/2.8 where the image is corrected in the optics rather than in firmware. And actually the price is pretty good considering what the equivalent costs in other systems,
 

zanydroid

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Thanks for the pointers to those lenses. Seems like combined use on Olympus and Panasonic is a pretty complicated solution to figure out, so I got my homework cut out for me.

I plan to test MF on GH5 for animal videos, which would enable me to use those 4/3 lenses. I could also accept the 100-400 as a lens for 75% video only use (not for stills though, too inconsistent).

Also need to see what GH6 and EM1.3 bring to the table. Really interested in dual ISO for wildlife and video. Who knows, maybe the GH6 will focus/burst as fast as G9 and have PDAF

Are the 150/2 and 300/2.8 still serviceable by Olympus? They are quite the investment for a legacy lens. I guess they are newer and in better shape than FDs, which AFAIK are only serviceably by third parties.
 

PakkyT

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Are the 150/2 and 300/2.8 still serviceable by Olympus?
@Phocal can probably answer this for the 150 since I believe he periodically sends his high end weatherproof lenses in for "reconditioning" of the orings and such. I don't think he has the 300 thought.


Also, what is the usual way to try exotic Olympus 43 glass before buying? I don’t think that is a standard rental item.
Ya most place only rent currently retailed stuff. Unless you are near a seller I don't think there is a way to try before you buy and you have to take the risk. On the other hand, if the lens is good, both those models you can very likely resell for about the same price as you paid for them if you change your mind later on, although it could take some time to find a buyer of these sort of higher end lenses.
 

zanydroid

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Even better combo for a 2 lens 2 camera kit that’s actually easy to carry.

- EM1 w/ 300/4
- EM1 w/ 150/2

Best two lens setup I’ve ever used.
What do you shoot with the 150/2 in that scenario?

Also I would be super tempted to carry one Panasonic camera to opportunistically take some videos, since I haven’t been able to get OMLog to do what I want, and the Panasonic log profiles are helpful for a lot of lighting conditions.

Maybe I can try one of those RAW video hacks on Olympus.
 

Phocal

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What do you shoot with the 150/2 in that scenario?

Also I would be super tempted to carry one Panasonic camera to opportunistically take some videos, since I haven’t been able to get OMLog to do what I want, and the Panasonic log profiles are helpful for a lot of lighting conditions.

Maybe I can try one of those RAW video hacks on Olympus.
I use it to shoot everything from landscapes to portraits to airshows to sports to wildlife. It is actually the perfect alligator lens, my favorite subject. Here is an album of photos shot with the bare lens and here is an album with shots using the EC-14 (I don't use the EC-14 with it that much for some reason). Before I got the 300/4 I also used it with the EC-20, here is an album of those images.

As to how I use the 150/2 and 300/4 together, well I actually always try to get close enough to shoot with the 150/2. I love that lens and still feel it's the most amazing lens I have ever used and I have used most of the Canon L lenses. But I can't always get close enough for the 150/2, so when I can't that is when I use the 300/4 (I rarely use the MC-14 on the 300/4, just really don't need that much reach often).

When I can get close enough with the 150/2 I like to shoot full body with it.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
Prairie Dog 001 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

While using the 300/4 to shoot up-close detailed images.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
Prairie Dog 010 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

I seldom go out with both lenses, when I do it always turns out that I should have brought both lenses. Because they are small compared to my old full frame gear I can bring both. I would never think of bringing a pair of 1D's along with a 300/2.8 and 600/4, I will cover 7-10+ miles in a day running around the swamps looking for stuff to photograph. But with m4/3 I can and do do this on a regular basis.

Oh, as mentioned by @The Grumpy Snapper, I have really good field craft and tend to get a lot closer than most people can.
 
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Always love the phocal photos.

OT. The 200 and 200w1.4 look great on paper and the price is now more reasonable from some sellers.

Agree that this should be a serious consideration for the birding folks.
 
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I have succumbed to this devious thread.

Expect some poorly executed bird photos in the next few weeks coming out of Maryland and using a newly added 200/2.8.
 

Aristophanes

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It’s a bit large for most birds, really.

I can maybe see some storks, cranes, larger raptors, and pelicans wielding it to snap stoopid hooman photos. But the smaller species like ducks, swallows, owls, and toucans would really struggle with the weight.
 
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It’s a bit large for most birds, really.

I can maybe see some storks, cranes, larger raptors, and pelicans wielding it to snap stoopid hooman photos. But the smaller species like ducks, swallows, owls, and toucans would really struggle with the weight.
The Micro Four Thirds Consortium is missing out on a huge market. They need to go back to creating small, compact offerings for the birds that partake in the "humaning" hobby.
 

Phocal

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Honestly...………………………….

As a birding lens...………………...

The 200/2.8 is really to short for 90% of the people out there who are already in the 800mm+ of reach and are still cropping 1/2 the photograph away because they are to far away. Someone with great field craft could do pretty well with it when it comes to birds. Now as a wildlife life lens, the reach should be good for most people...………...then again is still probably to short for most.

my 2 copper pieces,

Phocal
 

The Grumpy Snapper

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Honestly...………………………….

As a birding lens...………………...

The 200/2.8 is really to short for 90% of the people out there who are already in the 800mm+ of reach and are still cropping 1/2 the photograph away because they are to far away. Someone with great field craft could do pretty well with it when it comes to birds. Now as a wildlife life lens, the reach should be good for most people...………...then again is still probably to short for most.

my 2 copper pieces,

Phocal
I think you're being to generous. It's probably to short for 98% of people. No one seems to want to bother learning fieldcraft these days.
 
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I agree that when you need a long lens, you need a looong lens many times. I do, however, see many nice shots in the birding forum here with the 40-150/2.8 with and without tele. The 200 gives us 200/2.8 and 280/4 (almost matching the reach of the 300/4) while having center resolution that is top of the charts according to lenstip.

For the backyard and park shooter like myself, who is not in danger of being eaten by a bear, the 200/280 reach will be great :).
 
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