Olympus continues to add to its Pro lens quiver with the M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14, available as a useful accessory to the 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom lens. Currently, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens is the only lens that this teleconverter works with, but I’d assume that once we see the soon to be M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 PRO prime lens show up, that number will climb to two.
A teleconverter effectively multiplies the focal length of the lens it is coupled to, while decreasing the lens speed by one whole stop in the case of a 1.4x, or two stops when using a 2x tele converter (Oly, feel free to bust one of these guys out too!). In this case, it converts the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens into a 56-210mm f/4 optic which translates to an effective field of view in full frame terms of 112-420mm. Not a bad range, and one that for system users essentially turns the 40-150 (80-300mm e-fov) into two very useful lenses if we’re to look at it in Full Frame equivalency as a workhorse, studio portrait/event tele zoom akin to the various 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses as well as the more sport and light wildlife tele zooms of the world in the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 flavor, it begins to make a lot more sense as to why Olympus chose this range, as opposed to what would have been a more traditional 35-100mm (70-200mm) lens in the first place. Hmmmmm…
Firstly, for those who may be looking to poo poo the idea that a micro 4/3 lens, by some mathematical equation and digital amplification output algorithm will somehow equate to two full stops less of light gathering because of some math that means next to nothing in the real world because this is all adjusted to be equal across formats while shooting, feel free to offer your opinions in the comments, I don’t mind. The rest of us appreciate that for those of us that actually shoot with the micro 4/3 system, we have a lens, and now a 1.4x TC that offers us a wide focal range with the ability to shoot and gather light in a real world way that equates to the same thing (okay, actually a stop faster than the new FF Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom at the tele end with a third stop at the short end) when looking at exposure in the field. Yes, I know that a 210mm lens at f/4 will produce a deeper depth of field than a 420mm lens at f/4 would, and would in fact produce the same DOF as a 420mm f/8 lens would on a full frame camera, but that is something shooters of this system accept, and even embrace in many cases.
I shoot both systems (a FF Canon system and the m4/3 system) and appreciate that on the tele end of the range, I get more reach via the crop while saving 50% or more of the weight and bulk, not to mention a substantial amount of money in most cases, so, let’s just agree to say that both approaches have their benefits and draw backs and leave it at that. Maybe I can do all the Full Frame fanatics out there a solid and compare this combo to my 70-200mm f/2.8 + 1.4x EF TC soon, although that didn’t provide a ringing endorsement for the larger sensor the last time I did that, definitively anyway with the two lenses performing very comparably down to the pixel. I’m not going to go out and buy the Canon 100-400mm zoom which would be a more apt comparison granted, but that is largely because of this lens and new TC. I find that my tele needs are better served with the micro 4/3 system while I tend to find that my wide angle through portrait applications are still better served by my full frame setup, and I like, and still see great benefit to having and shooting with both.
Alright, that rant out of the way, let’s look at how this thing performs. Adding a mere 5/8″ (~15mm) in total length when on the camera, it is nearly unnoticeable because this lens isn’t exactly dainty to begin with. I’ve found that, to my eye, it produces little to no perceivable image quality degradation at all, and without pixel peeping, you won’t notice a difference in any real world application unless you’re printing very large, or viewing very closely at high magnification.
Below are some remarkably boring shots of a newspaper. I did a series of shots both with and without the teleconverter and did my best to match the physical focal length when the TC wasn’t on the lens. To compare apples, with the TC on, I shot the lens at the markings on the lens barrel as follows 40mm (x1.4 = 56mm), 107mm (or as close as I could x1.4 = 150mm, which ended up at 155mm, so the lens was adjusted to about the 109.5mm spot going by the markings) to match the 150mm focal length and then at 150mm (x1.4 = 210mm). Without the TC on, I shot as close as I could to 56mm (ended up showing in the EXIF as 57mm) and at 150mm to compare. The results aren’t surprising, showing a slight softening in the corners with the TC on, and you can see the full scene as it was captured at 56mm from 7′ away (click to see larger) and then followed by some 200% crops in the corners and center to compare at the listed apertures. I shot from this fixed location, and rather than bore you with even more full shots at the various focal lengths, I’ll just give you the widest to see what we started with.
Full image at 56mm as captured from about 7′ away:
I’m seeing very, very little difference in the center of any of the images at like aperture, so I’m going to save you and I some time and show you the one comparison that shows the biggest difference with the lens set at 40mm (56mm with the TC) and the lens zoomed to 57mm (I did my best) without the TC, in both cases set to f/4. These are 200% magnification crops.
Perhaps a very slight difference, and really, we’re talking at absolute pixel peeping levels here considering we’re looking at 200% crops. There is a difference, but one that is small, and I’m going to leave the center comparisons at that. I have looked at the centers from the other focal lengths and apertures shot at, and the differences are even less, so, I think center sharpness can be considered very good with the TC on comparatively.
Okay, the corners produce a wider gap on sharpness performance, so have a look, again 200% crops.
56mm in the corners:
Now, at 150mm:
…and finally, the lens with the TC at 210mm:
Is there a difference with and without the Teleconverter? Yes, yes there is. Is it huge? Well, I don’t think so considering that the difference is pretty manageable to my eye when looking at 200% crops, but to say that there is no difference would not be true. At 210mm, obviously without the TC, it is impossible to compare like focal length, but I’m impressed by, and happy with the sharpness at that extreme. To put it into a little perspective, the letters captured on the newsprint here measure about 2-3mm in height, so for me, a slight falloff in sharpness in the corners is an entirely acceptable tradeoff.
Vignetting is slight, but noticeable at both ends of the zoom range when using the MC14 wide open at f/4, and from my test shots, the same was also true wide open at f/2.8 without it. Stopped down one full stop nearly eliminates any noticeable vignetting. I saw this by way of the below shots. For the setup, and to keep a consistent frame, I adjusted the distance when shooting at either end of the zoom range. See below:
At the short end, 56mm, ISO200 at the listed f stop:
And shot at 210mm after being repositioned to equal framing:
Again, not a huge issue for me, but there is slight vignetting wide open at f/4 with it almost gone by f/5.6 to my eye. However, this is also the case for this (and most every other) lens without the teleconverter attached, so it is more or less par for the course, and nothing inherently wrong with the TC.
Here are a few shots while out in the wild, followed by 100% crops to see the detail when highly magnified, because frankly I’m tired of uploading boring, controlled test shots to prove to myself that this teleconverter is a good investment. All shot on the Panasonic GX7 (which itself is currently only $598 w/14-42 lens while they last!), click any to see larger:
56mm – ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/640sec
210mm – ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/800sec
210mm – ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/800sec
210mm – ISO 3200 – f/4 – 1/320sec
210mm – ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/800sec
So, who would really benefit from this teleconverter? Well, I think most folks who have ponied up for the 40-150mm f/2.8 should at least ask themselves if they feel they would benefit from a 112-420mm equivalent f/4 tele zoom for what they shoot. Losing the stop of light limited me to shooting when I had a decent amount of light, mainly because I tend to handhold most of the time. All of the non test shots above were shot without a tripod. If you’re a wildlife or sport shooter, you’ll know what you need speed wise, and really, this combo is as fast as any comparable lens in the full frame realm, so we’re really only limited by these cameras high ISO performance, which has been impressive and getting better with each new release (see the 100% crop from the ISO 3200 shot of the flower above as an example).
I see this teleconverter as a fairly inexpensive way to turn the 40-150 into a new lens, and honestly, we’re talking about the tele end here. Also, I was most interested in seeing it perform with the lens wide open because unless I’m shooting landscape or interior design shots on a tripod where I’d be potentially stitching, requiring deep DOF and wanting to avoid vignetting as much as possible, I’m normally at or near wide open with a tele lens for the extra speed to help combat hand shake. Personally, I’m impressed and happy with this TC’s performance wide open.
If you’re happy with the 300mm equivalent reach, then there’s no reason to buy this. If you feel you’d benefit from gaining that extra reach, it will probably be where you shoot (in the 150mm – 210mm range) most of the time, otherwise, it’s best to re-gain the stop, and max out the corner sharpness by taking it off. TC’s really make most sense for telephoto and super telephoto lenses as the aim is to gain more reach optically without the need to crop which results in losing pixels and overall resolution.
Sure it is a bit of a bummer that it works solely with one lens currently, but that is because a lens needs to be designed with a TC in mind, and be physically built to accept it. A teleconverter is a lens in and of itself which acts kinda like a set of binoculars (monoculars?) would to our eyes, for the lens it’s attached to by magnifying and properly focusing the light coming through it. Because of that, it is pretty crucial that it works near perfectly in concert with the optics in the original lens, otherwise the internet would have a field day tearing it apart. To get this right, most teleconverters include a protruding optic which needs to fit into the back of the lens, and if you look at most any lens, having the space to accept that isn’t a physical possibility, see below.
So, I can only assume that Olympus will also allow the new 300mm f/4 Pro lens to be compatible with this TC. If so, it’s value jumps again for those who may be looking at that lens in the future. That would turn it into a 420mm f/5.6 prime (840mm e-fov) which is pretty nuts, and really where I feel this system can start to excel, showing shooters a true benefit in cost and performance compared to larger, heavier, more expensive systems.
See the Olympus MC14 1.4x Teleconverter at B&H HERE and at Adorama HERE. Currently running $349, it’s not cheap, but neither is a 100-400mm lens, and if you’ve already got, or are considering getting the 40-150mm f/2.8, it is certainly worth a look. *All links included in this article are through my affiliation with both B&H and Adorama. If purchased through these links, the price of the items stay the same, but would provide me with a small referenced commission. If you do choose to buy anything, and do so through my affiliate links, just know that I am very appreciative, and that any money generated through the blog goes to purchasing more gear to review, well, some of it goes to the wife to keep her happier about me holed away in my office taking pictures of newspaper clippings and the like. Happy wife, happy life and that. 🙂 If you don’t choose to buy through my links, I’d suggest doing so through links of another site you find provides value. I have a few that I try to buy through to support because I know how much work goes into these sites, so if you really dislike me, but may appreciate my insight into who I feel deserves the support, feel free to ask, I won’t mind. It’s an easy way to help us lowly bloggers continue to justify doing this stuff.
If you’d like to read through my review on the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens, you can find that HERE.
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