New camera (Oympus EM1II), lens (300 mm f/4.0; 600 mm 35 mm equivalent) and 1.4x telecoverter (extending the forenamed lens to 840 mm 35 mm equivalent). The Blue Heron photo above was taken hand-held with the forenamed camera lens combination--the image stabilization is amazing.
Northern Cardinal uncropped (far from normal range—maybe an escapee) close crop. Backlit hand-held at 840/35 mm equivalent. Close-crop below.
Allen's uncropped (left) and close-up (below)--hand-held at 840/35 mm equivalent.
A Cormorant taken with the 1.4 converter mated with the f/2.8 40 to 150 mm (discussed on my 2015 post below) offering a 35 mm equivalent of 112 to 420 mm--this photo was taken at 420 mm.
Northern Cardinal, our 70th back-yard bird. Other photos taken at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach CA.
EM1II with M.Zuiko 300 mm f/4.0 juxtaposed to my Canon 7D with EOS 100 - 400 mm f/4.5-5.6 (see my original 2013 post below). All of the issues raised in the original post have been mitigated.
Follow-up posted December 1, 2015
My micro 4/3s Olympus gear is compact, light and versatile—never gets in the way. I’m now shooting with a fast and very sharp M.Zuiko f/2.8 40 to 150mm (80 to 300mm 35mm equivalent) lens.
Silver City NM
|Original image 150mm ISO 320 f/2.8 1/1600|
35mm equivalent of 300mm
This lens has less reach than either my Canon 100 to 400 mm (f/4.5-5.6 160 to 640mm APSC 35mm equivalent) or Olympus M.Zuiko 75 to 300mm (f/4.8-6.7 150 to 600mm 35mm equivalent) zooms. If desired, increased “range” is achieved by using the camera’s digital teleconverter, mentioned in my original post (see below), permitting a 160 to 600mm range. Photo taken using the digital teleconverter feature:
Seal Beach Pier CA
|Original digital teleconverter image 300mm ISO 200 f/2.8 1/3200 35mm equivalent of 600mm|
Lastly, i've discovered that the 150mm (300mm 35mm equivalent) focal length really "fits my eye" for panoramas of birds.
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge NM
The autofocus issue mentioned in my original post has been mitigated by a camera software update instituting smaller autofocus targets (standard on the newer OMD EM5 Mk2 and EM1 PRO cameras).
Auto focus tracking is still limited in my three year Olympus OMD EM5; presumably improved in newer models.
The range of the M.Zuiko f2.8 40-150 zoom can also be extended by using a 1.4x teleconverter, but its pricey.
Still have the slower 75-300mm lens for special use cases. This lens is very small and easy to pack--performs best with lots of light.
Original Post from October 29, 2013
My trusty birding camera has been a Canon 7D with EOS 100 - 400 mm (offering a 35 mm equivalent of 160 - 640 mm). I now have a smaller and lighter birding kit: An Olympus OM-D E-M5 with M.Zuiko 75 - 300 mm lens (offering a 35 mm equivalent of 150 to 600 mm--the E-M5's digital tele-converter provides a zoom range to 1200 mm).
Observations from my first birding trip (the American Birding Association's San Diego Birding Rally) with my E-M5:
(a) Carrying a smaller and lighter camera with binoculars is a neck- and shoulder-saver.
(b) The tele-converter 1200 mm can provide great "snapshots" for identification and/or photos for one's bird list.
(c) Focus lock can be tricky at 1200 mm. Focusing on a larger adjacent object and/or manual focus was often required.
(d) Auto focus tracking is limited; thus, capturing birds in flight was very difficult.
(e) The 7D with the 100 - 400 fully extended is much easier to hold steady (due to size and weight) in contrast to the E-M5 with tele-converter 1200 mm. Using a high frame (burst) rate, however, increased the likelihood of capturing the target in-frame and in-focus.
Examples of photos taken with tele-coverter 1200 mm (left image) juxtaposed with a "close-up" crop (right image).