Buffalo fighting lions - m43 photos

Started Feb 3, 2014 | Discussions thread
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NZ Scott
NZ Scott Veteran Member • Posts: 4,540
Buffalo fighting lions - m43 photos

Hi guys,

I recently returned from a three-month backpacking trip in Africa. I took an Olympus E-P3 camera body and five lenses - the Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye, the 12/2.0, the 17/1.8, the 60/2.8 Macro and the 75-300 II.

Today I'd like to share some photos taken with the 75-300 II, which performed well above expectations when paired with the $2 bag of rice that I used for stabilisation while shooting from vehicles. The was necessary because the 75-300 II has a very slow maximum aperture and the E-P3 is not capable of compensating for this with stabilisation or ISO (it has the useless two-way IBIS which I never bothered to turn on and a last-generation sensor produces poor images over ISO 800).

These photos were all taken in the Serengeti, Tanzania, during the course of an hour at about lunch-time.

1) We were driving across the plain when someone spotted 11 lions walking towards us in single file. Lions are very lazy, so the fact that they were moving in daylight meant that they were probably hunting:

2) One of the lions - the lead female - moved towards a herd of buffalo while the other lions rested or moved around the herd into strategic positions.

3) After a long wait, one of the buffalo started to run and three of the lions gave chase.

4) One of the lions grabbed the buffalo by the tail, but that didn't stop it from charging other lions and trying to gouge them.


This shot has more grain than the others because of the way I treated it in post (I merged it with a black-and-white copy of the same image, to bring out detail in the lions' muscles and buffalo's scratch-marks), and should not be interpreted as a reflection of lens/camera performance.

6) By now, a fleet of safari vehicles had gathered. The buffalo apparently mistook the vehicles for its herd, and it ran towards us.

6) Again, this shot is relatively grainy because of treatment in post. It has also been quite heavily cropped.

7) One hour after it all began, the lions got tired and took a nap. The buffalo stood around for a while and then trundled away to rejoion its herd.

I have to say that I was very pleased with the performance of my kit during this episode. Here are some thoughts:


The E-P3 and 75-300 II did a great job, nailing focus time after time. The older PEN cameras are supposed to be weak performers for action and sports because of their poor C-AF capabilities, but I did not find this to be an issue. I simply shot in S-AF, using the E-P3's smallest focusing box. I would say that 80 per cent of my shots were perfectly focused. As for the 75-300 II, I found it to very snappy and responsive.

Image quality:

I wouldn't claim that the above shots are technically perfect, but I think they look pretty damn good for a $535 lens mounted on an obsolete camera resting on a $2 bag of rice. In the 75-200 range, the lens is very sharp. In the 200-300 range, it was still pretty good.

Would I have gotten better photos with L-glass mounted on a full-frame Canon? Probably. But for me, it wasn't worth the weight, size and cost penalties involved in travelling with such a system.

In short, I'm really happy with the way my m43 gear handled this situation - especially since action wildlife photography is supposed to highlight the weaknesses of this system.

Questions and comments are welcome.


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My Flickr stream:
My kit: E-P3, 12/2.0, 17/1.8, 45/1.8, 60/2.8 Macro, 7.5 Fisheye, 14-42 IIR, 40-150 ED, 75-300 II

 NZ Scott's gear list:NZ Scott's gear list
Olympus PEN E-P3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 Panasonic G85 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 +11 more
Olympus PEN E-P3
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