We are accustomed to shots from an inexpensive telephoto lens having a lower contrast and being less sharp. If you want to make sharp, contrast-rich telephoto shots on a camera with a full-frame sensor, then the longest bright telephoto lenses cost many thousands of euros. They are heavy, and the longest focal distance remains—even if you use an extra teleconverter—limited to less than 1200mm.
Videographers are accustomed to using smaller sensors and thus pulling their subject in closer. By filming in 4K video, you can do that as well: with 30 shots per second of 8 megapixels. It is thus also possible for amateur photographers to pull in subjects with a relatively short focal distance. You choose between video (preferably with a shutter time of 1/50 of a second, since at a faster shutter time the image becomes jerky) and 4K Photo (preferably with the fastest shutter time possible).
How would the image quality from these extreme telephoto lens shots be? I took the acid test and put this video on the site, with the question of what focal distance, converted to a full-format sensor, this shot was made with.
2 of the 50 readers got it right
A full 94% of the 50 readers who responded thought it was a focal distance of 300 mm or 500 mm (converted to full frame). Two of the 50 respondents were correct. Video recordings for nature films are frequently made with a focal distance of 1000 mm (FF equivalent). The video of the magpie was made with a lens with a 400 mm focal distance on a Panasonic GH4. It gives you—if you film in Ultra-HD/4K—a field of view of 1° 14′. That corresponds with the field of view of a 2000mm lens on a camera with a full format sensor. I was also pleasantly surprised by the high image quality and took a couple of pictures with a similar set-up. I think that there is even more room for improvement by choosing a modern telephoto lens (I expect a great deal of the Olympus 4300mm f/4, with or without a teleconverter), since all the shots on this page are made with an Olympus 50-200mm zoom lens plus a 2x converter.
Practically everyone thought it was a much shorter focal distance
Filming with an extreme telephoto lens means that you are forced to work from a sturdy tripod. Even then, a tiny bit of wind can have a significant impact on the image. For the shot of the swan, I had to stabilize the image in Adobe Premiere Pro. For 4K Photo, this is a bit less important, since if you choose a fast shutter speed, then there will always be a good picture in there, despite the movements that you make with the lens.
The shot above is also made with a 400 mm focal distance on a Panasonic GH4 (Olympus 50-20 mm zoom with 2x converter). I hope in the coming weeks to be able to experiment a bit with even longer focal distances.
Panasonic G7 4K Photo
The video below begins with a 100% partial enlargement of a video that was made with the Panasonic G7 (our G7 review appears very soon) in the 4K Photo mode. For the video, I wanted to keep some of the bokeh, and I cropped it a bit less, so that the kingfisher in the video is a bit smaller.