Sports using the Olympus ZD 50-200mm with 2x TC for 800mm reach from the boundary

Written by Gary on March 2nd, 2009

Much has been aired of concerns of the inevitably higher noise levels at high ISO of the Olympus 2x cropped when compared to the larger sensors.

BUT, if you can get by with ISO 800 and below, the 2x crop creates a unique opportunity by giving you unprecedented image stabilised telephoto reach of 800mm in a compact, relatively light (1.8kg), hand holdable package which you just can’t manage to achieve at all with a Nikon D700 or Canon 5DMII.

Yesterday, I played in our annual social cricket game, and brought along with me two camera kits:

  • Canon 1DMIII (1.3x crop) with EF 135mm f/2.0L + 1.4x teleconverter
  • Olympus E510 with ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD + EC-20 2x teleconverter

I like this combination as they are both about the same weight, and I can use the Canon to get in close while I am on the field risking my life getting hit by a cricket ball as I concentrate on getting the shot. While the Olympus I gave to a friend’s teenage son who had never used such a camera before, and I showed him how to AF by pressing the Fn button and all he had to do was take shots from the safety of the boundary line.

He absolutely loved clicking away and the extreme telephoto of 800mm reach in 35mm terms allowed him to capture the action on the centre of the pitch as if he was standing right there.

It was quite a cloudy day (great for avoiding highlights being blown out but not so good for super-telephotos hand held), so I had set the E510 to AWB, ISO 400, aperture priority at f/8 (f/4 x 2 for the teleconverter, although for some he must of accidentally moved it to f/10 ie. f/5 x 2).

So here are a few of what this 1st time, unsupervised photographer managed to achieve – these are straight jpegs from the camera – no crop, no sharpening, no PS other than resize and jpeg compression for the web.

Click on each to be taken to a larger view.

The first is a photo he took of his dad leg glancing for four runs:

his dad

And a batsman about to punish a bowler:


And he took one of his friend on the field not to far away, and it shows the lovely bokeh this lens has (this one I have cropped to about 25% of the whole image):


More of the day’s cricket shots can be seen here – yes that’s me in far camera right of the team photo

The close portrait shots using the Canon are very nice but it did require me to be within 3m of the subject to get them, not 100m as with the Olympus combo – distance changes everything!

More of my photos of the 50-200mm with 2xTC combo can be seen here.

The new E-620 and E-30 will be MUCH better than the E510 for sports as the extra AF points will allow more functional continuous AF, while the E-3 will allow you to keep shooting with this lens combo even if it starts raining.

Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses – as good as the Nikon D700 and Canon 5DMII are, I doubt they could achieve this telephoto reach without necessitating a tripod or monpod, and of course, the 5DMII may die if it starts getting a bit of a drizzle rain happening whereas the E-3 should be fine.

I have a web page outlining the comparative offerings available to Canon, Nikon and Olympus for telephoto lenses here – as can be seen, a hand holdable 800mm kit is not really possible on full frame dSLRs but could be achievable on the 1.5x or 1.6x cropped sensor dSLRs but on these, the noise at high ISO is not substantially different to that on Olympus.


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Thanks a million for this, I appreciate the info