About a year ago I made an interesting lens purchase, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 lens to be used on my Olympus DSLR E-5. I have always have a weakness for long telephoto zoom lenses, and when a friend gave me a deal I could not resist, I knew I just had to have one. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and this is probably one of the lens that have provided me with some of the best images I have ever shot.
Since the range of focal length is longer than usual, the 50-200mm is a rather specific purpose lens. It is surely not a lens to be used for everyday walk-around purposes, or something that you would bring to a dinner party or street shooting. I find it strange how many new generation photographers would frown upon long telephoto lenses, because I strongly believe that having one is very important even though you may not necessarily use it very often. There are times when you need that extra reach, and when you have the zoom lens, you will feel that it is a life saving situation. Throughout the past year, I have had quite a few of such mentioned situations when I was very, very glad that I have brought along the 50-200mm lens to capture the shots that I have had in mind.
In this blog entry, I shall compile a collection of random images, all shot with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 lens.
At 200mm focal length (effectively 400mm on 35mm format) you will get a very profound subject isolation, not just in terms of background blur, but the compression effect that just enhances the 3-D feel of the image. This image was shot at a beach at Bali, a pre-wedding shooting.
Another example of background compression effect, the sun appears a lot larger than it was seen with naked eye. An even longer lens will provide even stronger compression. This effect can only be accomplished with a long lens. KL Tower in the morning, shot at Dataran Merdeka.
200mm focal length is not exactly long enough to shoot the moon. This shot was a 100% crop of the original image, but even at 100% crop, the sharpness and amount of details captured by the lens was really incredible.
A zoom tele-photo lens is surely a must have if you shoot a lot of events. The 50-200mm lens was a god-sent when I was covering the Bersih 3.0 rally back in April this year. The extra working distance means you do not have to take unnecessary risks of going too close, and the extra far reach have me flexibility in tight composition, such as the image above, zooming right into the hands motion and gesture only, to express and tell the message which was very evident on its own.
A long lens can produce very flattering shallow depth of field, rendering very dreamy bokeh.
Some insects are very sensitive to movements, hence appraching with a macro lens shooting at close distance may not be the best solution for such case. Also, not all insects require macro lens capability. A dragonfly is actually very large, and when you need to fit two dragonflies in a shot, macro lens is not really necessary. I remember shooting this pair of dragonflies across the pond (about 3-4 meters away from where I stand). I love how at 200mm full zoom, the background can be blurred to pure, creamy nothingness !!
Long lenses are perfect for very sensitive butterflies or bees, especially those that are constantly in motion. The Autofocus of the 50-200mm lens I had is not as fast as the newer SWD version, but it was good enough to capture some decent in motion shots.
Though I am not really into bird photography, or have done any sort of birding before, I must admit even by just shooting birds in Bird Park or Zoo was quite exciting, and can be rewarding. I think I am a fairly open minded photographer, I pretty much enjoy shooting anything at all. I acknowledge that birding is probably one of the more challenging photography genre, requiring unsurpassed amount of patience and extremely good eye-sight. Not something that anyone can do, or are willing to do.
An attempt to freeze a bird in flight. This was taken about a week ago in Zoo Negara. Coupling the 50-200mm lens on my Olympus DSLR E-5, the autofocus performance was quite fast and reliable.
Long lens is very good portrait lens. Shooting at longer focal length, they are free of any barrrel distortion which would make the subject look cartoonish. Also, at longer focal length the compression effect creates very good facial profile, looking very natural and pleasing. Oh and the superb background blur rendering, on top of heavily compressed background added the "cinematic" effect. I like how long lenses would just direct you straight into the "facial expression", and being void of all other distractions.
Another example of how I use the 50-200mm as a portrait shooting lens. Even when I placed my subject right at the corner (head on left top corner), the proportions and geometrical profile were maintained, without any ugly distortion or unwanted "stretch-pull" effect known in most 50mm or wider lenses. A lot of new-comers to photography do not realize this but you will be murdered if you do not take care of the distortions of human portraits. Trust me, I learned it the hard way. And long-telephoto zoom lenses can save your ass here.
If you have a great looking background, and you want to "enlarge" the background as the backdrop for your outdoor portrait, zooming in is the answer. I noticed how the morning harsh sunlight made the water on the lake glistened and sparkled. Shooting the couple Anston and Janice against the sparkling background can only be achieved with a longer lens. If I was shooting with anything wider. I might have included the ugly sky, the trees, and probably the rubbish bin next to them. The compressed background effect is a powerful tool for composition and subject isolation.
I love shooting live music, especially those performed on stage. I shot this image of Rashdan Harith last year in Suara Kami 2011 Festival, out in the open. I like how the facial expression was intensified, and the attention is drawn straight to that expression.
Concert lovers? You will suffer without a long lens !! Well it also depends on where you are standing. If you have the media pass, you can get away with wider lenses. If you were like me standing 10-20 rows behind the front of the stage most of the time, the only way for you to get close to the performers without physically being there was the use of long lenses. This was Kyoto Protocol performing at this year's Hitz FM Birthday Invasion Party.
When I was shooting the Hitz FM Birthday Invasion I did not know Jason Lo was lined up as one of the performers. Thank goodness I had my 50-200mm with me !!! Listening to Jason performing life was a truly memorable experience, but being able to capture some good, clear shots of him was even better.
I was on a destination wedding assignment in Bali, shooting for Mabel and Calvin. The bad news was that I had to work with a group of videographers, and they had the priority to be in front at all times, taking away all the auspicious shooting positions. It was at times like this that the 50-200mm was very useful. I somehow managed to zoom pass the videographer (well, me standing from one side, not that my lens can see through them) and using very tight composition to capture some very important moments.
I was shooting the Bersih 3.0 rally earlier this year, and you have no idea how many people there were. It was very crowded and messy, and no way I can go away with clean composition. Again, tight compression composed shots, coupled with good background blur was the answer.
In some very rare occasions I do shoot the street with the 50-200mm lens.
This traditional Malay dance performance was taken last year, in KL Festival 2011. I have just acquired my lens back then, and this was one of the "getting used to the lens" session. The Autofocus performs very well, even in such unevenly lit condition, and sometimes, very dark.
Another shot from the traditional Malay dance
A conceptual, modern, artistic sort of dance. I love watching live dramas, theater shows, or dance performance. I like watching music bands perform live. Having the 50-200mm lens was surely a plus when I go to one of these shows.
It is disheartening to hear some people who has not really used or found the need to use long tele-photo zoom lens to make quick judgment or label others who use the long lenses as being lazy. I agree that if you can get close to your subject, you should, and the zoom that you need would be your feet. I also have to acknowledge the fact that would not be the case for all situations, and there are indeed some circumstances that require the use of longer lenses. Laziness has nothing to do with this, different lenses are designed for different purposes. It would be selfish, and unwise to dismiss the importance of a true, powerful long tele-photo lens. There are many things that the long lens can do, that shorter lens cannot.
Do you own a long lens? Perhaps a Canon or Nikon 70-200mm? What are your thoughts? Do share !