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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Two things; I enjoyed your beginning rant as I do get annoyed at folks who seem to love to interject negative comments about micro four thirds aperture effects anywhere they can.
And two, maybe a blog entry someday just on other blogs you enjoy and would recommend?
OK, a third thing, this and the review of the lens were very useful. I don’t know that I will be trading in my 100-300 lens just yet, if I ever do I will re-read these reviews. And show them to the wife. 🙂
Thanks Steve. Yes, I find as a camera nerd, and one that loves most image making devices with their ups and downs, I find it funny when anyone feels that because they chose to buy something, for whatever reason, it is and should be better than something else for everyone. Always makes me laugh, and certainly not a camera brand or format specific issue. It happens in many different industries.
I actually have a longstanding list of fun sites that I really enjoy over on the Freesources page (up at the top). Lots of other sites, blogs, forums, etc. I try to add to it as I come across new and cool sites, so if you have any other suggestions, I’m always game 🙂
I actually did have the 100-300 along with me this last weekend (down at Smith Rock, where I took the climbing pics) and my unscientific opinion on the difference is that the 40-150 w/TC is sharper at the comparable wider apertures and comparable focal lengths, but the 100-300 largely closes that gap at or above f/8, and obviously offers 90mm more reach (180 equivalent) which the 40-150/TC combo can’t compare to. I’m probably going to be trading my 100-300 to my brother in law because I don’t have a ton of need for that extra reach, although there will be times that I’d miss it, but I’m hoping that the Oly 300mm f/4 is reasonably priced, somewhere near or below where this 40-150 lens is at would be my idea of “reasonable” considering other 300mm f/4 optics going for around $1k-1200 or so. We shall see.
Thanks for the read man.
Thanks for the helpful look at the teleconverter.
I’ve been wondering how this compares to my Four-Thirds 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, as it seems so much better than the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8. When Olympus come out with their E-M1 firmware v3.0 update that improves tracking fps, I think I might find it difficult to use the GH4 for long distance photography, even though the balance with the heavier lens is better.
Being a system newbie to an extent having just come into the fold at the introduction of the micro 4/3 standard, I have to say that there were a few lenses in 4/3 land that I drooled over the prospect of. I don’t know why we aren’t seeing a bigger push to incorporate the hybrid AF system on new cameras. I know that the main benefit falls into working with lenses built to be used on Phase Detection AF systems, but surely there is a way (a-la the DFD technology) that can employ some of the on sensor phase points, even with m4/3 lenses I’d think.
If we could also see “smart” adapters enable AF with other brand lenses, further benefited by a hybrid AF, then damn, all the better. I know every camera company want’s to sell their own lenses, but c’mon, when you’re staring up at the top of the Nikanon mountain, why not try to start chipping away at that in any way you can (for the first time in my life, I’m considering buying a Sony camera because I can potentially use my really good Canon lenses, and they’ll AF via a smart adapter. I do wish that we’d see more of a push for that, and at the very least, a more concerted effort into jointly developing the on sensor hybrid AF.
I am close to wanting to pull the trigger on a GH4, and if that comes to be, I’ll be certain to test out the tracking with this combo on it.
Just FYI – I’ve talked with Olympus directly and the PDAF enabled sensors do, in fact, use PDAF data to aid in focusing in C-AF as well as S-AF on native m43 lenses.
They could not provide the proprietary information on when the camera determines when to use that data or when it does.
Really, on m4/3 lenses eh? That’s great. I really think that if they can advance this technology, it can prove to be a huge rallying point for anyone needing quick C-AF. CDAF is fast when there is a lot of contrast, but still struggles to follow the movement of that contrast. Not entirely evident when focus distances are great as the working DOF tends to be a bit deeper and therefore more is in focus, but for closer focusing distances, movement, especially toward or away from the camera can be tricky.
I hope that the hybrid AF becomes standard, and they look to invest in advancing it. It can’t hurt!
Thanks for the great review! Waiting for my 40-150mm f/2.8 to come along with my E-M5 Mark II. I’ll proabaly sell my 100-300mm and get the TC for the better IQ.
I’m tired of hearing the clueless continually degrade m43 becaue of “aperture equivalence”. The simple explanation is that a 40-150mm f/2.8 lens will give the same depth of field as a 40-150mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame camera. Some detractors of m43 seem to think that razor thin depth of field is somehow the holy grail that all photographers absolutely need to attain at all costs. Thre is something to be said for having more depth of field a tthe same aperature.
I did some very unscientific comparison shots between the 100-300 and the 40-150/1.4xTC combo, and while there’s no real substitution for the extra reach that the longer tele zoom offers, the IQ at 420mm on the Oly zoom is certainly, noticeably better. When cropping into the image to “match” the angle of view, while the overall resolution is lower for obvious reasons, the sharpness and contrast is better with the Oly combo. Not hugely, but at like aperture, the Pana zoom is softer. Still, for the price, I think the 100-300 is a solid performer, and there will be cases where I miss it if and when I do get rid of it.
Great read Tyson, I was really impressed with the TC results. Having used teleconverters before (admittedly cheaper FD ones) I was expecting as much clarity ad you got. Anyone with that oly lens should really invest in one, as the results suggest it much more than a gimmick. Interesting stuff. 4/3 just gets better!
*wasn’t expecting as much clarity as you got
Thank You very much for this informative review. Have you measured the length of the protruding element? how deep does it protrude into the lens? I’ve tried to search for this bit of info with no luck…
I’ve not physically measured the element, and I don’t have it with me currently, but I’d say it is about 3/8-1/2″ (about 1cm or so) going purely by memory. It will not fit in any other lens for the system that I have or am aware of. If you look at the picture I have here, handholding it, to give you reference, the width of the adapter while on the body (less the mount and protruding element) is about 1/2″ or so.
Carl, I just physically measured it, and the protruding element extends 12mm from the base of the mount to the tip, or 8mm from the top edge of the lens mount to its tip (the part we see if looking at it from the side). Hope this answers the question you’ve been looking to figure out.
I find no reason to use the MC-14. Looking at images taken with and without, I find that the image deteriorates a little, but sufficiently, so that there is no increase in image detail when comparing an image taken with the 40-150 at 150 and with the 1.4x at 150. And I lose on the wide end, and I lose an f stop.
Well, I’d say that the difference between cropping into an image shot at 150mm vs 210mm with the TC wouldn’t be equal, but if you see no real value in the reach, then I’d agree that it would be an unnecessary purchase. What this TC does is basically covert an 80-300mm E-FOV f/2.8 into a 100-400mm E-FOV f/4 (or 112-420mm E-FOV). Not necessary, but if one already owns the 40-150 lens, I think it is a great way to get some extra reach without sacrificing much in the way of anything but a stop which you’d be doing with most any lens at that focal length anyway natively.
But if I can achieve the same effect just by enlarging in software, what is the point? If I’m not getting extra detail, what does it do for me to “convert” the lens into an 100-400?
I strongly doubt that you’d achieve the same result by enlarging a crop in post by subdividing pixels, and certainly couldn’t create pixels where there were none to begin with, but I would be interested in your technique. I’d need to see a digitally cropped and enlarged version the way you’re describing versus an image of the same subject with a longer physical focal length personally to see what you’re claiming, but I’ve never been able to crop out pixels and recreate resolution myself.
Thank you for your review.
Something to be added: if you use an Olympus body such as the E-M1/E-M5/E-P5 or the new E-M5 II instead of a Lumix, you will benefit of the 5 axis IBIS that will gain some 3.5 f stops, that will prove essential for hand held photography.
Thank you Mercurio, you’re correct. I have found that the IBIS in the GX7 though is equal to that for my shooting style and results. I have compared the IBIS systems in the original EM5 and the GX7 (admittedly not the newer system in the EM5-II) and I found that while the Oly system does great at stabilizing the live view image and provides a good result in hand holding, the Panasonic did better for still results, 90 % of the time or so. Of course, the Panasonic IBIS system doesn’t work for video, and the GX7 is the only Pana body with IBIS, so for any other Pana body, shooters would have to live without IS, or look to the 35-100 and 100-300 to get stabilized tele lenses.
Thx for a good real world review!
For those FF fans, the equivalence is just for DOF, which is 2 stops deeper w/ m43.
For the light gathering, F2.8 is F2.8, regardless of format.
And it’s not about the total light gathered by the sensor, but the light intensity pr. area!
A couplevof lab links supporting your empirical observations:
If we’re talking about signal:noise, and in turn noise performance, then the total light argument is one to entertain. If we are talking real exposure, ignoring noise performance at the pixel level, and ignoring pixel density as well, then aperture is aperture, shutter speed is shutter speed and DOF is entirely determined by only three factors, physical focal length, aperture relative to that focal length (again, a physical measurement) and focusing distance. That’s it. Sensor size has no effect on DOF. If we relatively frame an image as we would to equal that of another format (which is actually impossible because we are altering our location and in turn altering our relation to all elements in the scene) then we are altering our physical focusing distance and this will affect the DOF. I don’t understand why we struggle with this so greatly. A 150mm lens set to f/2.8, focused to 10′ will have a physically measurable DOF regardless of the sensor it is focusing light onto. How much of the scene will be in frame will change, and this is the crop factor. COC can come into play, but again that is assuming we are attempting to compare different formats as equals, which isn’t possible, and then take relative viewing distance into play, yada yada.
I feel that so often, one person or another will claim X or Y and use incomplete data to “prove their point” which isn’t wrong as long as we can read between the lines, which often we don’t. It’s a simple equation that is messed up by all of us trying to use it selectively.
Thanks for the comment and read Erik!
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Does this converter really work with the Panasonic GX7? I can’t seem to get it to work with the GX7 and Oly pro lens???
Really? I have had no problems whatsoever myself.
Actually, there is a whole world of lenses that the MC-14 works just dandy with: adapted lenses!
I use this with a number of legacy OM Zuiko film lenses, including the 600mm f6.5, 500mm f8 Reflex, and the 300mm f4.5. With an inexpensive OM –> MFT adapter, there is plenty of room for the protruding front element of the MC-14.
It also works well with adapted 4/3rds lenses, notably the 35-100mm f2.0 and the 50-200mm f2.8-3.5. I know from this article that you are not a fan of adapted 4/3rds lenses, but in particular, the 35-100/2 is a unique lens that yields a Fool Frame field-of-view equivalent of 282mm f2.8 at the long end with the MC-14.
I’m playing with comparisons with the OM 1.4XA teleconverter and the 4/3rds EC-14 teleconverters, and it appears to compare favourably.
The availability of inexpensive adapters to a wide variety of other lens systems is one of the things I love about Micro Four Thirds!