A tempting offer. Double your focal length using the MC-20 with only an extra 150 g in your backpack. It sounds like a great idea at first, but I remember my 35-mm days and trying to expand a 4/500mm lens with a 2x converter to a 8/1000mm. I wasn't convinced by the way the pictures turned out so I never used the 2x converter again.
In 2019, Olympus released this new converter and asked me to test it out. I was a bit apprehensive at first, after all, I am very happy with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4 IS PRO, so do I really need it? I tend to think that a converter ruins the image quality and in the MFT world, the MC-20 would turn the 300mm F4 into a 600mm F8, which is then the equivalent of 1200mm F8 in 35-mm format. However, after the initial test shots and images, I have to say that I was intrigued. The image quality seemed to be very good. I decided to test out the MC-20 in different locations and took it with me on a trip to the Sarek National Park in Sweden—it's particularly important to travel light when trekking there.
I packed the OM-D E-M1X, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 7‑14mm F2.8 PRO, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12‑100mm F4 IS PRO as well as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4 IS PRO and the MC-20 in my backpack. This meant that I had every focal length from 14-1200 mm at the ready, weighing in less than 7 kg in total for all that equipment—that's a huge photographic range!
The converter is specially designed for the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4 IS PRO, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40‑150mm F2.8 PRO as well as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100‑400mm F5.0-6.3 IS and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO. In addition to the great image quality, I find the closest focusing distance particularly exciting, especially with the 300mm lens where with the converter it is around 1.4 m—this opens up entirely new possibilities for detailed photography! The magnification here is almost 1:1* making the combination an excellent macro lens for animals that need their distance. Even with the 40-150mm, the limit is around 65 cm and offers a magnification of 1:1.2*. For me, this aspect definitely justifies the MC-20 becoming a "must have" in my backpack.
Obviously I'm not going to hide the fact that there are also limits when using a converter like this. On the 40-150mm lens, the auto focus is slightly slower and the sharpness and contrast reduce slightly. However, on the 300mm lens this is practically unnoticeable, which is why I primarily use it as an extension for the 300mm lens. The thing that surprised me the most is the low aberration. This shows that the converter is excellently calculated for this combination.
However, the biggest restrictions lie outside of the lenses. Anyone taking photographs with these focal lengths simply needs to be aware that the air between the front lens and the object also acts as a kind of lens. If the distance is too large, air movements and moisture inevitably result in loss of quality, which can be seen in the resolution, sharpness, and contrast. If you are aware of this and do not just want to use the MC-20 to shoot "master portraits" from an extended distance, then it is an excellent addition to the kit.
All in all I am impressed by the MC-20 and keep catching myself using it with the 300mm in particular in order to photograph areas or details that would otherwise not be possible. I never did that before with 35mm equipment. I can now say that in my opinion, it is definitely worth putting the extra 150 g in your backpack.
Author & Photographer: Andreas Geh
* 35mm equivalent