ZD 150mm ƒ2.0, a park, and why I shoot Olympus

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Phocal, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    A lot of my friends here in the Houston area ask me why I shoot Olympus. There are many reasons I switched after 20+ years of shooting Canon. Everything from the weather sealing to the amazing SHG lenses that the EM1 is capable of using to the equally amazing new Pro line of lenses. I have shot film (medium format and 35mm), Canon full frame, Canon APS-C, and now µ4/3. I understand all the difference between the systems as well as the advantages/disadvantages of each, not wanting to have any kind of equivalency debate here. What Olympus provides me that no other system can is the ability to shoot the way I want, pretty simple.

    I have no problem sitting in one spot waiting for some form of wildlife to photograph or coming across a bird actively hunting and watching it for hours while photographing every single thing it catches (I regularly do both). What I prefer to do is cover miles of territory in a day and photograph the varied amount of wildlife that I come across. Shooting Olympus has allowed me to shoot the way I like and capture images that would have been very difficult or even impossible with any other system. Because of the smaller size and weight, I can carry multiple lenses to cover a variety of shooting situations without wishing I had a wagon to carry all that gear (although my kayak could be considered a wagon for carrying gear around all day).

    I spent a day at my favorite state park (Brazos Bend State Park in south east Texas, USA) with my EM1 plus the amazing Olympus ZD 150mm ƒ2.0. While editing the photographs I realized that based on the subjects I captured and the amount of territory I covered it would provide a good narrative as to why I shoot with the system that I do. So, I present some small talk combined with a photographic tour of a typical day of shooting.

    In the bag I had the following gear:
    - EM1
    - EM5
    - ZD 150mm ƒ2.0
    - MZ 17mm ƒ2.8
    - MZ 60mm ƒ2.8
    - Bower 7.5mm Fisheye
    - EC-14
    - EC-20
    - Emergency first aid kit as well as other survival things incase they are needed
    - Tripod (but after sunrise I dropped it off at the Jeep and did not carry it around)

    I started out on a fishing pier shooting sunrise with my EM5 and 7.5mm fisheye lens. Ended up not liking any of the sunrise fisheye shots, but I did pull out the EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-14 and captured this shot. I will note here that I ended up not using any other camera or lenses other then the EM1 and ZD 150mm after shooting sunrise.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-14 (212mm) – ISO 200, 1/1600 @ ƒ2.8
    23691416693_6d54ca8756_h. 1 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    After sunrise I walked back to the Jeep to drop of the tripod and put my water bladder into my backpack. I then headed out looking for wildlife to photograph and covered approximately .75 miles before coming across this American White Ibis (Eudocimus Albus) sitting in a tree with a very blue sky as the backdrop.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-14 (212mm) – ISO 200, 1/5000 @ ƒ4.0
    24022655200_a1c425a39e_h. 2 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    From there I walked about .3 miles (1.05 miles covered) to a spillway that because of all the recent rain had water running over it. I spotted a Little Blue Heron (Egretta Caerulea) on one side of the bridge over the spillway waiting for breakfast to get washed over. So I preceded down the bank on the opposite side and slowly duck walked under the bridge thru a few inches of water on very slippery moss covered concrete to capture this shot.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-14 (212mm) – ISO 200, 1/5000 @ ƒ3.5
    23690035784_2f20993359_h. 3 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I worked my way back the way I had come and then down the same side of the bridge as the Little Blue until I was next to the water. I had the water running over the spillway in front of me (my feet a few inches from the edge) and the swamp to my right about a foot away. I was able to get into place without spooking the Little Blue and I sat there waiting for him to catch something interesting. This spot not only attracts birds for the easy pickings, it is also a favorite spot of the local Alligators. It was not long before this American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis) popped up. I was able to get this shot before he disappeared under the surface of the water. Not being able to keep an eye on him I decided to abandon my spot. It was a warmish winter day with lots of sun, so I knew alligators would be seeking the banks to catch some sun and one of the reasons I came to the park on this day. I did not want him climbing up the bank right next to me, which I have had happen more times then I care to count (one of the problems with camo and sitting really still for long periods of time).

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-14 (212mm) – ISO 200, 1/4000 @ ƒ2.8
    24318263035_3efb29af02_h. 4 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I moved to the opposite side of the spillway and it was there that I decided to switch out the EC-14 for the EC-20. I had decided it would be good practice for when I get the 300mm Pro because it gives me basically the same lens. The major difference is I always try to shoot stopped down one stop at ƒ5.6 when using the EC-20, it gives a much sharper image if you can stop down 1-2 stops. My plan was to go the entire day using this setup to see if I really could live with using a super telephoto prime. Not much happened while sitting at the spillway and a few people I knew had come by so I joined them. Had gone maybe .15 miles (1.2 miles covered) when we spotted a huge group of American Coots (Fulica Americana). This shot covers a small portion of this very large group.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 500, 1/400 @ ƒ5.6
    23691431593_94715b268e_h. 5 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Right near the Coots was this Great Egret (Ardea Alba) sitting in a tree with the very blue sky of the day just peaking thru the branches.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/4000 @ ƒ5.6
    24318270565_e1c822eddd_h. 6 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    About another .2 miles (1.4 miles covered) down the trail I came across my first gator on the bank getting some sun. It was also the point that I knew would eventually come, I had too much lens. For gators along the bank you typically cannot get far enough away to shoot with 300mm. It is in these situations that I have come to rely on the ZD 150mm. The size of an adult alligator makes 150mm the perfect focal length for capturing them; it allows you to fill the frame while maintaining a safe working distance. This is the reason that after I acquire the 300mm Pro I will continue to bring the 150mm along.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm – ISO 200, 1/1250 @ ƒ2.8
    24210051792_928227b2d1_h. 7 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    After the gator I moved another .4 miles (1.8 miles covered) before coming to a spot that allowed me capture 4 photographs all close together. The first was this single American Coot (Fulica Americana), making it only the 2nd American Coot I have photographed and displayed. They are super common here and I hardly ever photograph them, not sure why I did today.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/2000 @ ƒ4.0
    24318274775_790cd6883d_h. 8 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I spotted this group of American White Ibis (Eudocimus Albus) and found the framing of the trees and the bright sun reflecting off the water interesting.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/8000 @ ƒ4.0
    24292111186_e253b7124c_h. 9 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Then I spotted some Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax Brasilianus) in the dead trees, making for easy silhouette opportunities.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/5000 @ ƒ4.5
    24210060732_016d015e97_h. 10 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/5000 @ ƒ5.6
    24235765731_a14a95f0c6_h. 11 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
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  3. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    While shooting the above photographs I lost contact with my friends who had moved on. I proceeded about .2 miles (2.0 miles covered) and decided to try a loop of trail that I have never been down. This loop was about 1.14 miles long (3.14 miles covered) and I did not find anything to photograph until about ¾ of the way around the loop. I spotted some turtles on a tree that had fallen over and was lying in the swamp. While trying to get into position (turtles are surprisingly hard to sneak up on, they spook really easy) I spotted a pair of Gulf Coast Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis Proximus) hanging out on some trees in the water.

    It was really difficult photographing these snakes, well actually snake because the large one took off while the smaller one hung around. The water was at least knee deep along the bank, not counting however far into the muck I would sink and I really did not feel like spending the rest of the day in wet boots (it was fairly cool and the water was cold). I was standing on branches over the water while chasing after and photographing this snake. Some of the most difficult shooting conditions I have encountered with the balancing act and dealing with getting closer then the minimum focus distance of the lens. I am sure it would have made for a pretty funny video, especially the times I slipped and almost fell in. Oh, I should mention that I don’t use a strap of any kind on my camera 90% of the time. This is one of those times I probably should have broken out my Blackrapid strap and used it. Anyways, not the best photographs but they appeal to me because of the story and they are not terrible.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/400 @ ƒ4.0
    23690062824_e6a13c235f_h. 12 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/500 @ ƒ4.0
    24235772191_4860f9a18e_h. 13 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/640 @ ƒ4.0
    24022690040_58132581fd_h. 14 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1000 @ ƒ4.0
    24210075812_9d200d0fb6_h. 15 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1000 @ ƒ4.0
    24292130446_d6d782ec85_h. 16 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I do wish it were brighter so I could have stopped down to get a little more DoF. I was already pushing the shutter speed as low as I could because of my unstable shooting position and the snake moving. I had considered switching to the EC-14 or no TC, but the 150 has a small reproduction ratio and is not the best for telephoto macro. Using the TC’s (especially the EC-20) makes it a bit better but not nearly as good as the new Pro lenses.
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  4. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    After completing the loop I decided to head back the way I had come. I was looking for gators and knew a few spots that they like to sun in the late morning. About .36 miles (2.36 miles covered) I spotted a Tricolored Heron (Egretta Tricolor) hunting along the edge of the lake and noticed three alligators in a group on the bank. This stretch of the trail had a lot of activity, both animal and human. I was only interested in the Tricolored (don’t see many of them at this park) and gators. While the gators remained in their spot (they more or less ignore people as they walk pass…….they are gators, what is a person going to do to them? Stab them with their selfie stick? I have seen some stupid stuff from people at the park) the Tricolored was moving back and forth along trail. He would fly to one end of about a ¼ mile stretch and hunt until disturbed by someone, typically by some kid screaming about seeing a gator, rinse and repeat. I don’t have a good a photo of a Tricolored catching anything interesting so I chased him up and down that stretch hoping to get a great photograph. Anyways, I got a few decent shots of him before he gave up and found someplace with less people around. While not the best photographs (not catching anything cool), they do show how well the 150 performs with the EC-20. The 2nd photo has no crop to it, he was that close.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1250 @ ƒ5.6
    24210082792_2d3d114061_h. 17 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1000 @ ƒ5.6
    24210088192_3cc30424c3_h. 18 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Before heading down to photograph the gators I grabbed a quick shot of this Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus Podiceps) because I liked the light he was in.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1000 @ ƒ5.6
    24235792101_ce9a3c5ccf_h. 19 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    The gators where not in good positions for photographs or in any particularly good poses. I managed to get a few captures of the same gator from two different sides. I am actually pleased with the first shot, just need to go in and remove the bits of branches that appear to be sticking out of the top of his head. The 2nd is not very good, but I like how his tooth line seems to be glowing so I included it.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    23691479483_5973a16b1a_h. 20 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 250, 1/320 @ ƒ6.3
    24235802961_9af3b40ed9_h. 21 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I walked a fairly long .7 miles (3.06 miles covered) before spotting this turtle to photograph. Still uncertain about the ID because he has characteristics of both a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys Scripta Elegans) and Painted Turtle (Chrysemys Picta).

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 320, 1/400 @ ƒ5.6
    24292156746_abf3897af9_h. 22 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    A short distance down I took this photograph for no reason other then I liked the deep blue color of the water. Processed using the Velvia preset in VSCO for a very saturated look.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/1250 @ ƒ5.6
    24318330055_8d20fc7601_h. 23 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I had gone maybe .25 miles (3.31 miles covered) when I came across this gator lying in some really green vegetation. Another shot that required me dropping the EC-20 and just using the bare lens. This is probably my favorite photograph of the day because of the detail captured and the colors.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm – ISO 200, 1/4000 @ ƒ2.8
    24210116222_be0553a74d_h. 24 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Finally, I spotted this Little Blue Heron (Egretta Caerulea) hunting and stopped to see if he would catch something interesting. I am still trying to get that perfect shot of a bird looking right at me and have been unsuccessful so far. I liked this shot because it reminds of those colorblind test photos the doctor shows you.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm + EC-20 (300mm) – ISO 200, 1/800 @ ƒ5.6
    23691410103_3ae326685f_h. 25 by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    It was about .6 miles back to the Jeep from the last photograph, making approximately 3.91 miles covered. Now that distance is just going by distances on the park map and my memory of where the photographs were taken. I had the GPS function of my Garmin Vivoactive running while out shooting and it clocked me at just over 7 miles. The discrepancy is because I hardly every walk without doubling back at some point. It can take me a total of 1 mile walked to make it down a ½ mile trail if I see a bird land behind me or get distracted.

    This was actually a pretty short day of walking for me; typically I shoot longer and cover more distance. It does demonstrate why the Olympus system is ideal for my style of shooting. I could not imagine doing this with any other system out there, the lenses required to achieve the same FoV would just make it difficult. Not sure I could have easily gotten (if at all) the photograph from under the bridge with an APS-C or Full frame camera and a lens that would give me the same FoV @ ƒ2.8 as the Little Tuna with the EC-14. I do know that there is no way I could have crawled around the trees chasing that snake with a lens providing the same FoV @ ƒ4.0 as the Little Tuna with the EC-14. Any other system would also weight a lot more making the day exhausting and the 1.5 hour drive home terrible.

    It also shows the versatility of the Little Tuna. This lens is just amazing, especially with its ability to use both TC’s and still maintain great IQ and bright apertures.

    All the photographs are available on my Flickr account in full resolution if anyone is interested, just click on the photos or follow this link: Brazos Bend State Park on 9 Jan 16

    Edit - forgot to add the thought of belly crawling toward a gator to get that low perspective I like with a lens that has the same FoV as the 150mm + EC-20 or even 150mm does not sound like much fun. I spend a lot of time crawling on the ground for my photographs and small size of the Olympus systems really facilitates this style of photography.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
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  6. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    I feel the same way. Great account and great shots!
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  7. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    I am very pleased with the output of my EC20 and 150f2, wide open. Enough that I don't know if I am going to bother with the 300f4.

    150+EC20 f4

    The 150 on its own is a bit sharper but I can live with the EC20.

    150f2 @ f2
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  8. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    It is a very versatile lens:

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  9. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    All the shots are great, but I love no. 4 with those OOF water drops and bubbles. So cool. That 150 f2 is a fantastic lens, as is your skilled use of it. :)
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  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you, it was a really enjoyable day out in the woods.
  11. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I agree, it is very versatile. The 150 with EC-20 probably is good enough, I am just to critical knowing how crazy sharp it is with no TC. The 300 is suppose to be sharper then the SHG stuff, even if it is just as sharp (or even close) it will be a huge improvement and one that I cannot pass up. Plus, with the TC it gives even more reach and the close focus is amazing (I really like shooting the larger small things like frogs, snakes, dragonflies, etc.). I will continue to carry the 150 and EC-14 with me because I really do need shorter focal lengths for a lot of my stuff.
  12. VooDoo64

    VooDoo64 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 17, 2010
    Zagreb - Croatia
    Davor Vojvoda
    i would stay on 150 f/2 aka small Tuna because its old school SHG gem and is f/2 on 150mm - its lens form the time where you got to make lens excellent opticly because there was no software correction in body like today and also dont forget that with 150 f/2 you got 150 f/2 and 300 f/4 and with 300 f/4 PRO you have 300 f/4 and 420 f/5.6 but you dont have f/2 - for me 150 f/2 is far better and far more versatile lens you have lens for night shooting ( f/2 ), 150, 210 and 300mm, and far shallow depth option, ect..
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  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you very much. I really love how that shot came out, it is getting printed and hung on my wall. I was in a creative mood that day and did a lot of shooting into the sun. It can really create some interesting effects, especially with a lens that overall handles that kind of shooting very well.
  14. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Great shots and a really nice description to go with them. I really like the snakes, but my favorite is #25. Almost abstract, but very arresting.
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  15. Bomber

    Bomber Mu-43 Veteran

    Hi Larry , some really nice photos in amongst them. Sure does look like you had a great day.
    Cheers Glen
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  16. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    For me the real reason to use the 300f4 would be the 1.4 TC but the testing with that is pretty poor. Also the SLR gear tests show the 300f4 only keeps up with the 150f2 but does not exceed it, and this is the kicker, their testing of the 150f2 was with a 10MP body vs a 16MP body for the 300f4.
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  17. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Nice shots!! I especially like the croc (alligator?) one!

    Also...love your enthusiasm...I've been curious about this for a while...does the E-M1 take ZD lenses WITHOUT an adapter? Can ZD lenses be made to work on an E-M5?
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  18. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    The E-M1 needs a mount adapter to use the 4/3 lenses but they AF well with the PDAF on chip. The E-M5 is effectively MF only with 4/3 lenses IMO (except for the select few CDAF optimized lenses which do not include the SHG lenses).

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  19. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Welcome back, we missed you.

    Great write up. Enjoyed the story. I can see why you like MFT so much.

    I had a chance to buy the 150,2 for $1200 not too long ago. I wish I'd grabbed it. It would be the perfect lens for shooting my daughter's ballet. Since I already own both TCs it makes sense for me to go that route rather than 300,4. You've convinced me. Now to find one again.
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  20. RMills

    RMills Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 7, 2014
    Excellent series and work! I like your narrative and tend to do the same. Really looking forward to the 300 f4 also, gonna be a long 6 weeks! Been staking a snowy owl that winters in my area, just can't get close enough with the 40-150 pro + TC!
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