Zuiko 50-200mm Shooting Butterflies

Anston, a previous Olympus user has jumped to Nikon DSLR system, but not without leaving a few items behind. One of those precious items was Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 Mk1 (non-SWD), and I was the fortunate person to pick it up from him. He gave me an offer that I could not refuse, plus I have been secretly lusting for this lens for a long, long time !! Having acquired the 50-200 from Anston, together with another friend, Fattien we decided to attack the Butterfly Park, KL on this glorious Sunday morning.

Since it was my first encounter with a 50-200mm, I chose to give my 50mm macro a rest, though macro shooting is usually the main agenda in the butterfly park. I wanted to try out this new baby, and really get used to handling it. Hence, 95% of my shots in this session were taken with the 50-200mm, save a few with extreme magnification which required the use of the true macro lens, the 50mm F2 macro.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 Mk1, unless otherwise stated.

100% crop from previous image, extremely sharp and full of details !! Compression artifacts at the background due to turning off the noise filter, which can be mitigated by reducing the in-camera sharpness setting to -2.

Tale of two flying dragons.

The two dragonflies from the previous image decided to make things a little heaty.

First time holding the lens, I thought to myself "crap, I need a larger camera bag !!" Thank goodness I was using E-5, on its own was quite hefty to balance off the weight of the 50-200mm, which was not exactly that light. I find no issues handling the longer and larger lens, and it was quite comfortable shooting it with the E-5. I really appreciate the longer reach of 200mm (vs the 150mm on my old 40-150mm mk1 lens). The best of all, the significantly wider aperture of F2.8 to 3.5, which gave a huge advantage in achieveing higher shutter speed to counter shake blurring and also to create that deliciously beautiful bokeh (background blur) effect, an important element in throwing the background off to isolate the subject better. Indeed, the bokeh as predicted, was very pleasing and desirable. Creamy, smooth and yummy.

The images from this 50-200mm come out very sharp, a lot sharper than I actually expected. It is of course not anywhere near the quality of 50mm F2 macro lens, but the sharpness of 50-200mm is really impressive, at ALL zoom range from 50mm all the way to 200mm. I shot mostly wide open, but sometimes I do stop down the aperture a stop or two to have more depth of field (to get all the wings of butterfly in focus). The shooting session was done during day time, out in the open where plenty of sunlight was available. Therefore no focusing issue was encountered, the lens was not exactly blinding fast (darn, after reviewing the E-P3 everything else seems rather slow), but it was fast enough for my shooting needs in the butterfly park. There was no hunting encountered so far, and the lens nailed almost all of the focusing attempts accurately, with reasonably high success hit rate. Shooting with shallow DOF of a telephoto lens at 200mm on F3.5 aperture, having pin-point accurate focus is important.

The focus was off the eye, I actually placed the camera on the floor and shot with the live view, turning the swivel screen facing upwards. Live view is useful, but can be tricky to use in such critical situations where the butterfly kept moving and could fly off at any time. I liked how the bright backlight shined through the wings.

Close up capability of the 50-200mm is impressive.

Another two dragonflies going at it.

A closer look on the action.

A pair of damselflies. Taken with 50mm F2 Macro lens with wireless TTL Flash off camera.

In this particular session, I was not exactly doing macro photography. I also did not fill the entire butterfly in the frame like I usually do. I have included a lot more empty spaces, some revealing details in the background and adjacent leaves and branches, composing the images in a way that the subjects have some connection to its background and surrounding environment. Also, the surrounding elements have very good colours and texture, adding depth and boosting the overall presentation.

I guess that is what photography is all about, your style and preferences would change and evolve over time as you progress further down the road, and you would want to try something different and new. I could go a lot nearer to the butterflies and squeeze out more details, but hey, if I was so concerned of getting magnification and details, would that 50mm macro not do a better job?

Taken with 50mm F2 Macro lens with wireless TTL Flash off camera.

Taken with 50mm F2 Macro lens with wireless TTL Flash off camera.

It was  a great session shooting along Anston, who was kind enough to let go of his 50-200mm to me, that I have fallen in love with deeply, immediately. It was also great seeing Fattien again, and surprise, he is also passionate about macro photography !!! Hah, now I have another kaki for macro shooting.

I have now, a High Grade fully weather sealed telephoto lens, the 50-200mm. I love long lenses. There is nothing wrong with that. I know how people say long zoom lenses make you lazy, so what? I choose to love it, and I will shoot with it a lot.


  1. Hi Robin,

    The 50-200mm lens is an impressive piece of equipment that really compliments any Olympus dslr body especially your E5 and course YOU! Sad to hear your friend jumped ship, he'll miss having this lens around in his arsenal. I have the same lens but the SWD version and it has never been detached from my camera. Though heavy, it worth it's weight in gold. I usually bring a monopod with me but my hands are not shaky like yours. Wonderful macro shots as always! This lens is in excellent very capable hands. Looking forward to see more pics. maybe you can go birding next session.

  2. hello eric,
    thanks a lot for such kind compliments, I certainly do not deserve them!!
    I am falling deeply in love with the 50-200 lens. loving the sharpness and overall image quality.
    birding is a different game. altogether!! I dont think I have the skills yet haha.. maybe one day I will try.

  3. Good buy Robin!!! I've the same lens too, it's always in my camera bag, when I go out photo shooting.

  4. thanks unker vic, it will always stay with me during shooting too. now the problem is I need a bigger bag hahaha

  5. aaron,
    thanks!! lets go shooting together la!!!

  6. Not as sharp as my favo,50mm but ... really nice shots, I have the Leica 15 150mm for zoo and travel purpose, and like it.

    The Oly colors are really lovely!

    You will be ( very very ) happy with the 50-200 !!

  7. thanks rick!! 50mm f2 macro is optimized for squeezing incredible amount of details, so I wont expect 50200 to be as sharp. nonetheless on its own class the 50200 being a long lens is impressive, hard to find any fault in the lens. I am loving it!!

  8. nice work with the 50/200. i sold it because i hardly ever have use for a telephoto and kept the 40-150. i do have the 9-18, which i love for landscapes and wide angles. great job with the pic and oly cameras. i'm afraid of butterflies, but liked your pics.

  9. thanks for the kind words valerie!! telephoto lens is not everyones cup of tea, totally understandable.

  10. Robin,

    i wanna say it, "mamamia!"
    nice photo, i like it.

    share lah few tip to a beginner like me. =)

  11. hey chainzz
    thanks for the compliments. throughout my blog writings I do share my concepts and techniques.

  12. Incredible shots! I am planning to get a used one. I am just wondering what would be a good price for this lens in the used market? Is $600-650 a good price? Thanks