PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


There are (still) no telephotos for me

The world hasn’t really changed since the last time that I wrote on the subject, and I haven’t really changed either so I’m still stuck.

This lens is 15cm long.  It’s the telephoto that I want.

More after the jump.

The only telephoto I want to buy has a very dark cloud hanging over its head that prevents me from buying it: the Olympus Zuiko 150mm f/2.  I desire it greatly because it is small, lightweight, and despite the odds stacked against it, it has proven to be an extremely powerful optical device.  This is the telephoto for the otherwise-Leica photographer.

Unfortunately the Four Thirds system (sans Micro) is dying faster than film these days and as yet there are no Micro Four Thirds products that implement phase-detection AF (e.g. adapters with pellicle mirror, phase sensors embedded on the image sensor) on that platform.  It’s a big deal for this lens because it’s old-fashioned, it wants to be told to servo to a specific distance at a specific time and not scan the space in itty-bitty steps the way contrast-detect AF does.  That means the lens doesn't handle either moving subjects or video very well or those cameras.

It’s unclear what Olympus’ strategy will be for the final days of the E-system in general, and its lenses in particular.  Will they enable E-system lenses to work on Micro Four Thirds cameras with phase-detection AF?  Will they scrap the E-system wholesale and redesign (i.e. “Mk-II”) the high-grade lenses for contrast-detection AF instead?  Without knowing how it will play out it’s hard to think about buying an E-system lens today, especial a high-grade lens like this one.

Thinking about it now, integrating phase-detection onto the image sensor sounds like a requirement for a professional mirror-less camera.  It seems that everyone in Japan has a patent on this technology so it has got to ship in a product eventually, and Olympus is the company with the most incentives to do so.  I really hope this is Olympus’ strategy.

Now returning to reality… humbug, I just don’t want to buy any of the Nikkor telephotos.


Comments (12) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Are the Nikon 85mm f1.4 G, and 135mm DC f2.0 combined with the D700 such bad ideas for you? 🙂
    They may not be optically perfect, but both are cheaper, lighter, have great bokeh, and combined with the D700, probably have better low light abilities than the Oly 150mm plus E3 combo.
    Otherwise, what about the Voigtlander 180mm f4? Much more Leica like in operation, cheaper, way smaller, and with great bokeh.
    Also the Nikon 300mm f4 is good value, and does 1:4 magnification, or the Sigma 150mm f2.8 is also very sharp… But somehow I don’t think you’re the Sigma type 🙂

    All the best.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I have a 100mm ZF so I don’t see myself picking up one or two lenses that are right on top of that in terms of focal length…

      In theory a 300mm f/4 lens is what I’m looking for here, but Nikon’s current version doesn’t have VR and that’s a real deal breaker. Honestly, I never have enough light to shoot 1/300+ speeds. Also at the end of the day a real 300mm lens is kind of a telescope in terms of size.

      In my analysis I consider the Zuiko 150mm to be equivalent in every way to a 300mm f/4 because the small sensor’s 2-stop penalty (to ISO and to DOF) cancels with the lens’ 2-stop bonus in aperture. Well that’s equivalent in every way except size!

      If you follow my train of thought with the other articles, I’m also wondering what the point is of shooting a D700 side by side with an M9 because the two want to take very similar focal length lenses in the ideal case. It would be more productive if my two cameras did completely different things.

  2. What locations are you looking to shoot a 300mm equiv lens?
    I find it hard to see how you can’t reach 1/300th in daylight outside at f4.0 (with the af-s Nikkor).
    And if shooting inside your home do you really need 300mm ?
    I can’t see that the M9 and D700 are similar in that you would get car more portraits in focus with an AF lens (say the 85mm G), than using the Zeiss 100 macro in practice. This is my experience having owned both and shot moving targets (girlfriends dog). I actualy sold the zeiss as as much as it’s uber sharp, in practice I never used it as it was just too bulky and slow to operate… I actualy prefer the Voigtlander 90mm for ease of use… It just ends up on the camera far more often due to size and handling.
    Just my thoughts…

    • I don’t have any problems focusing the Zeiss. You have to understand that I don’t even own an AF lens, I haven’t for several years. So manual focus is in my bloodstream and I optimize my technique according to it.

      I haven’t settled on the type of location I will use the lens at. That’s probably not a good thing — I guess if I had a specific location I could optimize by choosing a lens just for it. For now what I want is a flexible medium-long lens, in the same respect as other lenses I own are flexible and not dedicated to a specific type of shot.

      • Dare I say that as good as the Zeiss 100mm 1:2 f2.0 macro is, it could be described a as jack of all trades and a master of none… Including macro lol (ouch). I think the thin I liked about it most was the fact that I had one to use… The focus action is pure pleasure when you are shooting a stationary object it might add.
        In practice other lenses are more focussed, and less jacked 🙂
        Ok I’ll shut up now.

        • You don’t have to shut up. 🙂

          I think the special signature of the 100mm ZF may have passed you by. There are two things that it does really well and if you don’t pick up on them then it might seem like a boring lens: (1) it maintains image contrast and resists flare/glare longer than virtually all other telephotos; (2) it has insignificant aberrations outside the plane of focus also which makes its Bokeh especially neutral (never a nervous look or undue fuzz) as well as the ramp into and out of the plane of focus unusually long / gradual / smooth.

          There are a few lenses that have (1) and a few that have (2) but only a handful that have both. It is definitely true that in this fresh new world with the 85G in it, the 100ZF has more serious competition than it used to. Yep.

          As for the macro part… that 1:2 limit was never a limiting factor for me. What I really take the “makro” to mean is that the lens doesn’t lose resolution or micro-contrast as you focus closer as would normal lenses. This lens has essentially the same resolution at infinity and in the “headshot range”. Some famously good lenses don’t have this property (e.g. the 90mm Summicron ASPH).

  3. I should say I use the 85mm G as often as the 90mm… Especially when you really HAVE to get the shot. This is the difference between the M9 and D700 as much as the M9 CAN land the shot, how often will it at tele focal lengths?

  4. Hmmm, having read the discussion…Very interesting views on things…

    I want to add something however:
    Regarding the color fringing K is experiencing with the 100 ZF:
    This is existing. I even say it is existing on every ZF I have (except for the 50 Macro). The trick is that optically the occurance of color fringing is actually pointing to a very high corrected lens. You will not find color fringes with a cheapo Sigma lens. Not because they are not there but they are covered up by other aberrations. With the Zeiss lenses this is not the case anymore. If you read the reviews carefully you can see that also Leica is struggling with this. That is the reason why all Leica lenses 50 and longer are apochromatic (one of the reasons they are so expensive).

    I am very happy with the ZF and would not want to trade for any other 100 mm alike.

  5. have you considered leica lens paired with olympus EP-2 / EP-3? With simple novoflex adapter, you can get used 135mm f/2.8 Leica that are cheap (saw one at running for 500ish usd), coupled with olympus in body image stabilizer. I used my 35mm f/2 biogon with EP-2 indoor, i can handheld it for 1/8 sec (at base ISO) 😀

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