Saturday, 26 September 2015

Olympus MCON-P02 Macro Converter

This article has my thoughts and impressions of using the MCON-P02 macro converter. I'm not an expert or professional in photography so this is not a technical or comprehensive review. Normally I wouldn't think to write an article about camera gear because there are so many much more advanced and informed photographers out there. However, when I was looking for a macro lens I didn't find many reviews for this lens converter. I hope at least my experience that I'll explain here, may go some way to help you.

I currently use a Panasonic Lumix GX7. It is a Micro Four Thirds system camera. That's a camera where you can change lens and it is mirrorless.

A while ago I was thinking about macro photography. It's where you take photos in close-up, of flowers, insects, etc. It might be fun, especially when you want a change from the usual shots. There are a few choices of macro lens for m43 cameras, from the reviews I've read probably the best is the Olympus 60mm macro lens. But it is expensive. I asked myself the question, am I that interested in macro photography enough, to spend that much cash on such a lens? Probably not, at least at this stage. I started looking for a cheaper alternative.


Olympus MCON-P02 Converter
Typically you'll find few kind words for lens converters. They are lenses that attach to another lens to convert the focal length to something else. As a lens is usually designed to-do one job, attaching a converter to it to change its focal length does sound like it'll reduce the image quality. But this is a generalisation and of course there are exceptions. In my search for a macro option I discovered the MCON-P02. I think it is one of those exceptions...

Here is a link to the Olympus website where you can find the specification and list of lenses the converter fits:
http://www.olympus.co.uk/site/en/c/lenses/adapters_converters/converters/mcon_p02_macro_converter/mcon_p02_macro_converter_specifications.html

In my case I own the excellent Olympus 45mm (90mm equivalent) F1.8 lens. It is great for portraits and even general photography. It's minimum focus distance is 50cm (about 6 feet). That doesn't let you get close enough to an insect to take a good photo (you'd have to crop a lot!). Add the converter and you can get much closer, about 24cm. The converter makes the 45mm lens even more versatile.

Panasonic Lumix GX7, Olympus 45mm lens with adapter and MCON-P02 Converter attached

The converter has a ring adapter included, this is needed depending on the diameter of the lens you are mounting it on. The adapter changes the diameter. I need it for the 45mm lens. But it isn't a big deal, it stays on and you soon forget it. Just take care when you take the converter off. The adapter and converter lens screw onto the lens, the same as a filter would.

Adapter


Handling
The converter is well built, it is small, it takes little space in your camera bag or pocket, especially compared to a full scale lens. When I use the converter I often will take it on and off depending on the shot I want. This is less cumbersome than changing lenses. However, take care with the adapter ring that you don't drop it. Watch your fingers because it is easy to put your fingerprints on the converter or the front of your lens. I recommend you carry a micro-fibre cleaning cloth with you, you'll need it. The converter comes with caps, one for the front, one for the back. I do find juggling these and my lens cap, a bit of a chore but it's a similar problem when changing lenses.

MCON-P02 Converter


Shooting Experience
You have to get close to the subject but not too close, it's about 24cm (closer for lenses other than the 45mm), you'll find yourself moving back and forth toward the subject to find the focus. At least I found this due to the leaves of plants being in the foreground, sometimes you want to photograph an insect beyond the leaves. Also using the pinpoint focussing can help or manual focussing. 

I find using aperture priority (A) mode is best. When photographing subjects close-up it's best to use a smaller aperture, that means a higher F number. Because the 45mm is so excellent and can go to F1.8 you might be tempted to use a low F number. The problem is that close-up (macro) means there will be more out of focus. Only a small amount of the photo will be in focus. This might make a nice photo, maybe a bit arty ;-)  I found above F4 was better, F6 and F11 often worked well. You have to experiment as it depends on the light and what the out of focus area of the photo looks like. Sometimes it was ugly at a double figure F number so I went to a lower F number and it improved.

If you are taking photos of insects then they might be moving around, in that case a higher F number is also better, as you are more likely to get a clean shot. Remember, the lower the F number, the more out-of-focus areas there will be.

Olympus 45mm + MCON-P02 at F5.6, ISO 200

Many suggest for macro you should use a tripod. I don't because it's a hassle to carry one and set it up. Hand-held means you can get into all kinds of tight places. The Olympus 45mm doesn't have image stabilisation but the GX7 (and Olympus cameras) does so I haven't had many problems with camera shake.

Insects always want to fly away though, I tried burst mode, that gives you a series of shots to choose from. Sometimes I use that if all else fails (an annoyingly fast moving bee perhaps!). I found auto focus works well, especially with the touch screen focus of the GX7 but sometimes manual focus was better, you can be more precise.

So far I've found the image quality to be excellent, the same as I've become used to with the Olympus 45mm. I don't think the converter can be reducing the quality, at least not enough that I can see with my eyes.


Conclusion
The converter does not give you a true macro lens because you can't get those really super close shots, for those you will need to go to a true macro lens. Where this converter excels is in its small size and price. It's around 100 dollars, Euros, etc. The picture quality is excellent. As a starting point for macro photography it's great. I recommend it.

For a true comparison with the Olympus 60mm macro or other real macro lens, I hope one day someone will write such an article. In the meantime I hope this article has given you some idea about the converter and how it is in use.

GX7 with Olympus 45mm and the MCON-02 (not attached)

Samples
Here are a few sample photos I took using the Olympus 45mm and MCON-P02 Macro Converter: www.mgxp.com/mcon-p02


References

Wikipedia Mirrorless Cameras
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirrorless_interchangeable-lens_camera

Olympus
http://www.olympus.co.uk/site/en/c/lenses/adapters_converters/converters/mcon_p02_macro_converter/index.html



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