Turning an Olympus 300mm f/4 lens (600mm EFL) into a 600mm f/8 lens (1200mm EFL) used to be a dream of mine. Well that dream has come true. I wrote a while back of the announcement of Olympus’ new MC-20 M.Zuiko Digital 2x Teleconverter and shared some tips on how to get the most out of teleconverters on your camera.
I already have two of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital MC-14 1.4x Teleconverters and love them. When I first mentioned the 2X, it was based on news reports – i.e., I had not yet received my 2X. Now I have the 2X in my hand and I have run some initial tests. Note that the real test will come this fall when I take it to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The birds are sometimes quite far away and 1200mm ELF will be very helpful.
But for now, I just ran some simple tests shooting stuff nearby to see how sharp and contrasty the new TC is and whether or not it delivers good color accuracy and maintains fast autofocus on the master lens. I also wanted to test IS in conjunction with and without the new MC-20.
Before I go on, here are the basic specs…
- Micro 4/3 Mount Teleconverter For Select Micro 4/3 Mount Lenses
- 2x Magnification Factor
- Communication between Lens and Camera
- FAST AF, 5-Axis Stabilization Compatible
- Up to +5 EV Image Stabilization
- 9 Lens Elements in 4 Groups
- 1 HR Lens Element
- ZERO Coating Reduces Ghosting and Flare
- Weather-Resistant Construction
The MC-20 currently only works on the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Lens and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Lens.
The new 2X TC will also work on the Olympus Super Zoom (150-400mm f/4.5) coming next year.
Holding the MC-20 2X in my hand – it feels solid. Its got metal construction (no cheap plastic here). There is a protrusion that extends from the TC – and this is why it only works with two current Olympus lens.
I am very happy that Olympus decided to weather seal this lens. In my line of work, I often photograph in the rain. Another thing I wanted to check was the stability of the teleconverter when mated to the master lens. I am happy to report that there is a very good, solid connection between the two. No loose wobbles, etc., that I have sometimes experienced when using off brand TCS.
While I need to do more testing, my initial thoughts are that autofocus is about the same as using the 1.4 TC from Olympus. There might be a slightly noticeable lag in AF, but it won’t negatively impact most real-life shooting situations. I barely noticed it and frankly, expected it to be much worse – given my past experience with Canon & Nikon 2X TCs. It’s absolutely NOT a reason to avoid using this TC.
There’s good color fidelity and contrast when using the MC-20 and as to the answer to everyone’s question – is it sharp? You bet it is. If your technique is good, you will get amazing results. I have never seen a 2X TC work this well. It’s able to deliver results that would fool 99% of the people into thinking there was no teleconverter attached. The sharpness of the Olympus 2X TC is (in my opinion) on par with that of the Olympus 1.4 TC.
One of the reasons that the MC-20 is so good is that the master lenses are some of the best in the world. If you start with a super sharp lens, it’s easier to add a TC to maintain sharpness. I tested the 2X on both adaptable lenses and I got results that were remarkably similar to those I can (and do) regularly achieve with the Olympus 1.4 TC.
I am just guessing, but I’d guess sharpness is negatively impacted on the 300mm f/4 by no more than 4%. I’m eyeballing that but I bet I’m close. Most of you wouldn’t notice it. And there are going to be some tradeoffs when you use a teleconverter. You can’t have everything in life – or in photography.
NOTE REMINDER: The technique you use will absolutely impact your results – I wrote a post on teleconverter basics and highly recommend that you read it in conjunction with this review. It will add much more context to what I am saying. Pay particular attention to the need for decent light to get the best performance out of this gear.
On the 40-150 f/2.8, the 2X TC (like the 1.4 TC) produces some minor, easily-controlled in post, chromatic aberrations. They were minimal, but noticeable. If you have rudimentary post-processing skills you can reduce or even eliminate the CA from that combo.
As I expected, performance is better on the prime. But more than good enough on the zoom.
As to image stabilization, well it still works with the 2X but not quite as well. I noticed that you’ll lose about a stop of IS when the 2X TC is mated to the master lens. Since the Olympus IS is already the best in the business, it’s not going to be that big a problem. You can still handhold this lens and TC combo and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say about any similarly situated camera and lens. I couldn’t handhold 600mm on my old DSLR, let alone 1200mm. I hand held the image of the fire truck above using only the IBIS – not the IS on the lens and I got a sharp photo.
If you had asked me when I was just starting out, would it be possible for a manufacturer to create a lens/camera combo that could deliver 1200mm f/8 lens with good color, sharpness, and clarity and do it in a handhold able package, I would have said “NOT A CHANCE!” Turns out this is just one more thing I was wrong about back in the day.
If you read the article I linked at the top of this post on technique, and you practice, you’ll get professional results out of this new teleconverter.
At $429.99, it is priced similarly to other name-brand TCs in its class, but it delivers better performance based on my limited experience.
I’m thrilled to see this happen in my lifetime, and while 1200mm at f/8 does have its limitations, when the setting and opportunity is right, I am ecstatic that I have the option of going with the 2X TC mounted to my 300 f/4 lens.
DISCLAIMER: Crop factor and the associated focal length multiplier only affects field of view. I prefer to reference this as effective focal length but others use FOV. Feel free to use whichever term you like. Also – please note that I am an Olympus Visionary. I have tried to give as unbiased a review as I possibly can here and Olympus doesn’t tell me what to say. I did want to disclose the relationship for those who might want to know.
PictureMethods has partnered with B&H Photo & Video to bring you the best gear selection and prices. Check for the best camera deals here.