American Birding Podcast



A New Digiscoping Lens with Lots of Utility!

I've invested in two new lenses for bird photography this year- Sigma's 50-500mm and more recently, an Olymus M. Zuiko ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II for digiscoping.  The Micro Four-Thirds lens fits mirrorless SLRs made by Olympus & Panasonic, and I'm mounting it on my trusty Panasonic DMC-G1. Clay Taylor tipped me off about its utility for digiscoping, and gave me the chance to test-fly it at the Midwest Birding Symposium last September.  The objective lens has an ideal diameter for matching up with many modern scope eyepieces (zoom or fixed), boasts a very fast & accurate internal focus (no lens bumping while it focuses), and features filter threads for those wishing to use a threaded digiscoping adapter.  Folks shooting video through their scopes will appreciate the nearly silent focus motor as well.  Perhaps most importantly for digiscoping, though, is the nearly vignette-proof results this lens produces.  With just a bit of lens zoom, I can get wall-to-wall frames without any shadowing or vignetting throughout my scope's zoom range and I've had similar success on other scope models I've tried.


I'm finding that I really like to hand-hold this rig to my scope's eyepiece.  I get stable by using kind of a claw grip, fingers partially around my eyepiece and partially around my camera lens to lock them together.  This allows for really quick deployment and easy sharing of the scope with others, not worrying about an adapter in the way.  Here's an example of a bird encounter I digiscoped last week when an adult Cooper's Hawk helped itself to a Eurasian Collared-dove in my back yard.  Knowing how skittish Coops can be, it felt good to get the scope on it & start shooting within seconds. 


As it turned out, this Coop was willing to sit up on the edge of a nearby building for a while, allowing for a 3-generation birding session!  Here's my son and parents enjoying crushing looks at the hawk.  Besides the pride I have in my son and the gratitude I have for my parents, this shows another great aspect of the lens.  By simply switching from aperture priority (my preferred digiscoping mode, shot wide-open) to intelligent auto (AKA "Dummy-Proof" mode), the rig becomes ideal for people and scenery.


For added bonus, I found out that the lens is also very nice for macro work.  A few weeks ago I came across this Common Garter Snake at Boulder Reservoir.  It froze in the grass for a while, not sure what to do as a friend and I marveled at its subtle colors and scale patterns.  Since the G1 has a pivoting view screen in addition to its electronic viewfinder, I could compose shots by holding the camera down at snake level, slowly closing in to within 8 inches of the reptile by holding the camera out at arm's length (for venomous snakes I'd switch to telephoto-macro technique!!) 



So to summarize, I'm really happy with this lens and would suggest it for anyone using the Micro Four-thirds camera format.  It makes an ideal companion to a telephoto DSLR rig, providing fantastic utility when digiscoping, shooting people &/or scenery, and for macro photography.