Sunday, January 24, 2016

Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO Lens Review

Important Notes:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.


I am finally back in Kuala Lumpur after being away to my hometown, Kuching for almost a month, taking care of my beloved mum who underwent a surgery. Everything was well, mum can walk steadily and I am now back to action in full swing. Thank you every one for being so supportive and understanding all this time. This blog is now officially off the short hiatus and I will be actively shooting and blogging again. The first gear review for the year 2016 will be none other than the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens which was released earlier this month. 

The Olympus super telephoto lens, M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO completes the full PRO lens lined up as announced, and there is very little to complain about lens choices when it comes to Micro Four Thirds any more. I have written about my first impression handling the lens briefly earlier here (click to read the blog entry). Earlier today, I have spent the entire day shooting with the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO mounted on the OM-D E-M1 at several locations, and now I have sufficient photographs and shooting experience to complete a full blog review of the lens. 


Olympus OM-D E-M1 was my choice of weapon to review the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens. 



I was shooting hand-held all the way, hence I took off the tripod collar. The lens itself is rather long. 


A quick recap of the important highlights of this M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens:

1) The Best Olympus Lens Ever. Designed to perform optically the best among the history of all Olympus lenses. I expect this lens to be super, super sharp. 

2) New 5-Axis Sync Image Stabilization mechanism that takes full advantage of combined body IS + lens IS working together. I have stated in my hands on preview that I could hand-hold my shots down to shutter speed as slow as 1/10th of a second. There will be plenty of tests to prove this point. I was not exaggerating. 

3) Respectable close up shooting, with minimal focusing distance of 1.4m. Perhaps, this is the ONLY lens in this category/range out there that can perform pseudo-macro shots on the fly. 

4) Full compatibility with the 1.4x Teleconverter, MC-14, providing 420mm focal length reach at F5.6 maximum aperture. 

As usual, I have subjected the lens to all possible torture in real life shooting conditions. 

Before I jump right into my review, please allow me to clarify something crucial. 

ABOUT 300mm AND ME

Honestly, a 300mm lens (we are talking about 600mm equivalent focal length here) is not a commonly used lens, and certainly not a "must-have" lens for most people. Such a long focal length is catered for very specific needs in photography, mostly for birding, wildlife/animal, sports, stage/concerts and motorsports. These are specialized photography categories, which unfortunately I have not had much chance of exploring. I have very little experience using such a long focal length in any kind of photography that I have done before, and I do not see the need for what I usually do: street, portraits, event, macro and everyday lifestyle shots. I fully acknowledge that there are better suited, more qualified photographers out there who can do a better job than me in testing the lens and realizing its full potential. Wildlife photographers and sports photographers can churn out amazing shots that I can only dream of at this moment. I am sure that there will be online reviews done by such photographers which will be more relevant in such related photography fields, which I am unable to provide. 

Edit: one of such notable reviews was done by  Peter Baumgarten, and his review can be found here (click). 

Nevertheless, I have early access to this M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens, and with my limited knowledge and experience with a 300mm lens, I am reviewing this lens from an "every-man" photographer's perspective. I am not shooting wildlife, or sports. I would imagine, if this 300mm lens falls into the hands of an ordinary photographer (such as myself), and I asked: "what would you do with the 300mm lens?". The answer would be rather straightforward - visit the zoo, the bird park and shoot whatever interesting subjects that I can come across. I live in Kuala Lumpur, and I have always been a city-boy, and no way am I going to spend a week in the jungle to shoot some animals. I hope what I am doing here will be useful and beneficial, not exactly for the pro wildlife and sports photographers, but for average, normal photographers which I think makes up of 90% of my beautiful blog audience here!


LENS SHARPNESS

Now that we have that out of the way, I shall start with the first, and most important question of all: image sharpness. Why not have a look some sample photographs first?

1/800s, F5.6, ISO200

1/125s, F4, ISO500

1/80sec, F4, ISO500

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1/80sec, F4, ISO200

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1/60sec, F4, ISO1000

1/60sec, F4, ISO1000

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1/180s, F4, ISO200

1/40sec, F4, ISO200

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If you have scrutinized the sample images as shown above, I think you can predict what I am going to say about the lens sharpness. It is extremely sharp. The sharpness was so incredible you can immediately tell the difference in terms of details clarity just by reviewing the images on the camera LCD screen (was on an E-M1). The level of fine details captured was beyond anything I have witnessed so far coming from Olympus lenses. Yes, someone will ask how does this 300mm PRO lens compare with the two sharpest lenses from Olympus, the 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. The 300mm F4 PRO beats both the aforementioned lenses. I do not have evidence of any comparisons to show, and I understand if you have your doubts, but I do not have the necessary means to perform a fair, controlled and reasonable comparison experiments. I shall let the technical review sites do such comparisons (resolution tests, charts, etc). I am making this conclusion based on my extensive experience shooting with the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses, and I know, the new M,Zuiko 300mm F4 trumps them both. If you ask me by how much? I dare say, by quite a noticeable margin. You can instantly see it when you shoot with the 300mm F4 PRO for the first time. 

Olympus claims that this M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens has the most sophisticated lens design, and performs the best in terms of optical quality, and even surpasses the legendary, older DSLR version of the Olympus ZD 300mm F2.8 lens. I did have the intention of lugging both lenses, 300mm F4 and F2.8 to do a side by side, real life comparison test outdoor. However, the thought of carrying such large and heavy lenses, together with equally heavy tripods, just discouraged me from making it happen at the time being. 

If you are thinking that the USD2499 price tag of the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO is on the high side, you may want to consider just one important point: it is the price to pay to obtain the BEST lens from Olympus, ever.

5-AXIS SYNC IMAGE STABILIZATION

The next hoo-haa Olympus created for this M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens, is the utilization of their new 5-Axis Sync IS mechanism, which is basically a combination of both camera and lens IS working hand in hand to maximize the IS performance, especially for a super long telephoto lens. It is no secret that lens based IS works well for longer focal length lenses. Therefore, to take the 5-Axis IS to the next level, and further improving on the already incredible image stabilization system in the OM-D, the 300mm F4 PRO lens is the first from Olympus to feature 2-Axis IS built inside the lens. 

Here are some important points to note: Currently only Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II bodies can enjoy the 5-Axis Sync IS with the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens. All other Olympus camera bodies does not support this feature. It is my understanding that selected models will get firmware updates in the future to enable the support for the 5-Axis Sync IS. For E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II, you do not get the choice to choose which IS to use, meaning you only have ONE choice of Image Stabilization, which is the full 5-Axis Sync IS using BOTH lens + body IS system. However, for all other Olympus cameras that do not support 5-Axis Sync IS, you need to manually choose which IS you would want to use, either body 5-Axis IS, or the lens 2-Axis IS. 

We all know that Olympus is not bluffing when it comes to their 5-Axis IS, first introduced in OM-D E-M5, and improved in subsequent iterations of Olympus cameras. How much improvement is there this time, with the 5-Axis Sync IS? Olympus claims that with this new IS mechanism, 6 shutter speed steps of compensation can be achieved. That means, from 600mm (equivalent focal length) to 300mm equals 1 step, 300mm to 150mm is another step, and so forth. In order to prove that it really can compensate up to 6 steps of shutter speed, the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens must be hand-held at 1/10sec while shooting. 

Imagine, using a 600mm long lens, shooting without aid of tripod or monopod, just with your bare-hands, standing, and your shutter speed is 1/10sec. 

At first, this sounded a little too fantastic to believe, even to myself. If you are telling me that the lens can be hand-held at 1/60sec, or even 1/40sec, I would have no doubt immediately. But honestly 1/10sec? 

How crazy is that?

So I pushed the lens, and slowed down the shutter speed. The following shots were ALL taken hand-held at 1/10sec shutter speed, with myself free standing and not bracing my body against anything. 


1/10sec, F6.3, ISO200

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1/10sec, F22, ISO200

1/10sec, F4, ISO500

1/10sec, F4, ISO500

1/10sec, F20, ISO200

It was possible!

I hand-held and tested the 300mm F4 PRO lens on the E-M1, and constantly getting sharp images at 1/10sec shutter speed. I could not believe it at first, and thought I was lucky, but it kept happening, again and again, with perfectly sharp images. 

Now, bear in mind that I rarely use a 300mm lens, and this lens is rather heavy (I shall explain in the handling part of my review). The handling was not exactly balanced, and I did struggle to hand-hold my shots. Despite all the difficulties, the results spoke for themselves, it really accomplished full 6 steps of shutter speed compensation. 

What is the consequence of having such an incredible Image Stabilization? Of course I am not saying you and I should use 1/10sec of shutter speed for all our shots, that would be impractical and does not make sense when it comes to real life shooting. Let me ask you another question, utilizing any non Olympus lenses on non Olympus bodies (all other brands that I shall not name else I get based and burned later), say, at 300mm focal length, or even at 600mm, without a use of monopod or tripod, at what comfortable shutter speed are you able to hand-hold? For most sane photographers, not many would dare go below 1/160sec, and certainly, almost no one would go slower than 1/100sec. Now, with this Olympus 5-Axis Sync IS, I can confidently hand-hold at 1/40-1/100sec shutter speed, and I use these shutter speeds for many of my sample photos shown in this blog without hesitation. Images came out perfectly sharp, and blur-free. That is the main advantage of having the 5-Axis Sync IS in my personal opinion: the freedom of not having to carry additional support equipment, and ability to just shoot hand-held all the time. 


CLOSE UP SHOOTING - A LITTLE BIT OF MACRO

The M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO can go as close as 1.4m from the subject to the image sensor, which is quite a serious close up shooting capability, considering the long focal length of 600mm equivalent. This results in a maximum of 0.24x magnification, which in 35mm format is close to half of true 1:1 macro capability. 

I would not say that this is a game-changing feature to have in a super telephoto lens. As I have discussed earlier, photographers who seek out such a specific lens are probably dedicated to specific photography subjects they are shooting. However, do consider this scenario: while you are waiting, camping for that rare beautiful bird to appear, you started to get a little bored. Birders can wait for hours, even days for the birds to show up. You are in the jungle perhaps, surrounded by nature. What if a colorful centipede suddenly crawled up a tree trunk in front of you? What if a beautiful butterfly stopped by a few meters away from you? Instead of using another camera and lens, or changing to macro lens, you can immediately use the same setup of 300mm F4 PRO on OM-D and attack whatever subjects coming into the macro distance. This convenience, can be quite useful. 

1/250sec, F10, ISO500

1/250sec, F6.3, ISO200

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1/400sec, F8, ISO320

1/160sec, F10, ISO200

1/125sec, F5.6, ISO500

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LENS HANDLING

Here comes perhaps, the only unfavorable part of this review, lens and camera handling. By far, I have rated Olympus OM-D E-M1 to have the best handling of all Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera available at this moment. I have attached the HLD-7 additional battery grip for further support, considering the 300mm lens is not exactly that small. 

Lets do some quick, logical calculations. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 body weighs about 500g, and the HLD-7 grip weighs about 200g, bringing the body and grip combo to approximately 700g of weight. On the other hand, the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 Pro weighs at 1.3kg, which is nearly TWICE the weight of the body and grip combo. It does not take a genius to figure out that balance is surely off when using the 300mm PRO on the E-M1. 

Now, for other camera brands, with the lens bazookas of 300mm or even 600mm lenses, it is universally accepted, and understood that those humongous lenses are meant to be seated on tripods. You do not hand-hold a 4kg lens for hours waiting for a bird to appear. Considering that the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO is considerably lighter than competition, I initially though hand-holding the lens for long hours would be a breeze. I was wrong. 

Do not get me wrong, the combo was still manageable, at a total weight of less than 2kg, I have used heavier DSLR + lens combo before previously. It is not the weight that bothered me. It was the lack of balance. There was no comfortable way of holding the lens while shooting. It always feel heavy at the front, and the lens is pulling the camera down as you shoot. That discomfort was not something I particularly like when I was out shooting the whole day, from morning (at the Zoo) and all the way to late afternoon (Bird Park). I cannot help but wonder how much better the handling would have been, if only the lens was about 300-400g lighter. 

While the 300mm F4 PRO lens is by no means small when it comes to Micro Four Thirds standards, I have no complains about the size. I think it does make sense to have larger diameter, for better quality lens elements as well as the F4 opening aperture. The weight of the lens was excessive and I do recommend use of monopod if you intend to shoot for very long hours. 


COMPATIBILITY WITH MC-14 1.4x TELE CONVERTER

Olympus 1.4x TeleConverter MC-14 was designed to be used for the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, and is also fully compatible with the new M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO. In case you are not aware, currently only these two lenses are compatible with the MC-14 teleconverter, and no other Olympus lenses can be used together with it. 

By adapting the MC-14, you get 1.4 times of the original focal length, resulting in 420mm focal length (840mm in 35mm equivalent), but you are losing aperture from F4 to F5.6, which is one stop difference. From my previous experience using the MC-14 on 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, the sharpness of the images produced were still sharp and detailed, Autofocus performance was slightly shower, but still fast enough that you do not need to worry about missing shots. Similar experience was observed with the new M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens. 

I obtained very sharp images from the tele-converter MC-14 used with the 300mm F4 PRO lens. 

The question is, do you really need the teleconverter in the first place? Any piece of adapter or additional glass in front of the sensor will decrease the optical performance, even by a small margin. For some photographers who need as much reach as possible, then the teleconverter does make sense. 

50% Crop of full size image. 
1/600sec, F5.6, ISO200, MC-14 used

50% Crop from full size image
1/2000sec, F4, ISO200 no teleconverter used

1/125sec, F8, ISO640, MC-14 used

1/50sec, F7.1, ISO200, No teleconverter used

1/200sec, F5.6, ISO200, MC-14 used

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1/80sec, F5.6, ISO200, MC-14 used

1/180sec, F4, ISO200, No teleconverter used

OTHER LENS TECHNICAL MATTERS

Chromatic Abberation
The images, converted to JPEG from RAW via Olympus Viewer 3 exhibited no traces of CA, and I believe it was due to both lens correction and software correction, working together to eliminated purple or green fringing. Looking at the following subsequent images, buildings against bright sky and the helicopter in the sky, these are the typical shots that will attract strong purple fringing when any lens is used wide open, but CA was not present at all. 

Bokeh Quality
Bokeh quality of this lens is good, and the rendering of out of focus area was pleasing and creamy at the same time. There was no observed harshness, even stopping down the lens to F10. Such a long focal length aids in isolating the subject and creating shallower depth of field than usual. 

Battery Life
I was told that using the new 5-Axis Sync IS, and also by driving the lenses inside such a huge 300mm F4 PRO, battery life will be drained faster. I spent about 3 hours shooting 200 shots in the zoo, and another 2 hours in the Bird Park, covering another 400 shots. I killed 1 battery and was running on the second one. I did not feel the battery life was significantly affected, though I have time and time again mentioned that Olympus should improve the capacity of their batteries in newer cameras. 

Autofocus Performance
AF was extremely fast, for a super long lens, and I expected it to be coming from an Olympus M.Zuiko line-up. It is perhaps, a tad slower than the 12-40mm or 40-150mm F2.8, but still on par with most M.Zuiko lens line-up, and certainly not something that needs worrying about. Accuracy was spot on, and I nailed focus 90% of the time. The remaining failed 10%? User error. To optimize the performance of the AF, it is recommended to select the best option in the AF limited switch to suit the subject distance. 


For close up shooting, select the 1.4-4m distance range, and for everything that is far away, select the 4m to infinity option. Using the right selection will mitigate the lens hunting issue and lesser the chance of having failed AF. 

Weather-Sealing
Like all PRO lenses, This M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO is fully weather sealed against splash, dust and freezing environment. I did not test the weather-sealing, though I believe someone else will torture the lens for this. Just wait for it!

Built in Hood and Flare
The lens features a non-detachable lens hood, though it can be extended and retracted with ease. The 300mm F4 PRO lens has new nano-particle coating that combats flare and ghosting, which I have not seen in any of the images I have taken. Flare is not the biggest concern for telephoto lenses, unlike ultra wide angles and normal focal lengths. 

1/40sec, F4, ISO500

1/80sec, F4, ISO500
Bokeh Quality Test

1/40sec, F4, ISO200
Bokeh Quality test

1/320sec, F4, ISO1000
Bokeh Quality test

1/2500sec, F4, ISO200 
No traces of Chromatic Aberration

1/5000sec, F4, ISO200
No Traces of Chromatic Aberration 

1/4000sec, F4, ISO200

I fully understand your need to pixel-peep the images, therefore I am providing full resolution downloads of 15 selected images from this blog entry. You may download it here:



CONCLUSIONS

What I Like About 300mm F4 IS PRO
Sharpest Olympus lens, ever. Period. 
5-Axis Sync IS allows 6 steps shutter speed compensation, hand-holding as slow as 1/10sec possible. 
Incredible Close Up capability is flexible and useful
Smooth and pleasing bokeh, fast AF, Focus Limiter Switch is useful

What I Dislike About 300mm F4 IS PRO
Handling could have been better. The lens and camera combo is not balanced, and the lens feels front heavy. Uncomfortable long hours shooting hand-held. 


There you go, my FIRST review for the year 2016! 

Using the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens was quite an eye-opening experience as the thrill and awe I went through reviewing the image quality produced by this lens. There is not much to write about what I dislike. Here is the sharpest lens Olympus has ever manufactured, and adding to that the introduction of even more powerful version of the already incredible 5-Axis IS system. 

This may not be the lens for every one (certainly not me), but if you do find a need for a 300mm lens in your type of photography, I think the 300mm is the answer to your prayers. 



103 comments :

  1. Amazing lens. Thanks for the review Robin. We can see yourself in the blue eyed bird crop and the eye of the owl at 1/10 of a second. Great review , great pictures and game changing lens.

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    1. Thanks Philippe! Yes, I can see myself in quite a few of the eyes of the birds!

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  3. Thanks for the great review, I'm now in official gear desire mode as I tend to shoot dancers indoors. I will be curious to see if the 40-150 F 2.8 lens with the extender or the 300 F4 becomes the dominate go to lens.

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    1. Hi John, thanks for the kind words.
      It all depends on your working distance. Usually, 40-150mm provides ample coverage. Do you need to go all the way to 300mm? And bear in mind, at 300mm, you are stuck at one focal length. While the 40-150mm you still have 40mm to play with, often can fit a few dancers together in a scene.
      If you are sitting super far away, eg concert venue, or a football field, then 300mm makes sense.

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  4. These images are amazing a birders dream lens. I can't wait to see it on the EM-1mk 2 :)

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  5. This is an amazing capture only possible with such an amazing lens.
    http://robinwong.blogspot.my/2016/01/olympus-mzuiko-300mm-f4-pro-lens-review.html

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    1. Hey Robert,
      The lens is indeed incredible! We shall be planning on touch and try events soon. Stay tuned!

      Delete
  6. Lovely Color Rendering
    http://robinwong.blogspot.my/2016/01/olympus-mzuiko-300mm-f4-pro-lens-review.html?showComment=1453570792896#c161320082159770132

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  7. Brilliant review, Robin, and you certainly allowed your images to do the talking! I can't wait to receive my copy of this lens and have scheduled a trip to Costa Rica to shoot some exotic birds and wildlife!

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    1. Thanks Bobby. Whoah, now I envy you, I wish I can go to an adventure and shoot all the way too!

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  8. Great lens and great review. The sharpness is remarkable. I hope it won't remain in the wishlist :)

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    1. Thanks! Indeed sharpness is superb. If you do need it for specific purposes, why not?

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  9. Wow....what a wonderful lens. Superpics. I can only disagree on one thing and it is not only based on this review. The bokeh. I have seen quite a few samples and think the bokeh can be a rreal downside. And that is true for the 40-150 and even the 12-40: the do have what I would describe as "nervous bokeh" the background is at a certain distance behind the subject. But that is the only downside when it comes to IQ. Can't see the panaleica zoom compete here, but the limited pics I saw do show nicer bokeh. Thx again!

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    1. The characteristics of the bokeh has been the same for the PRO lens line up and I do not see how that affected the overall outcome. If someone claims that the Panasonic is better, it is not fair by just looking at sample images. There needs to be a direct comparison. Do bear in mind I was shooting mostly during noon, and I live near the equator line, hence harsher sun conditions. A few have commented about the bokeh on my 40-150mm F2.8 sample images, I was like, come on, that was harsh sun's doing!

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  10. Spotted a mistake f/4 to f/5.6 is a one stop lost with 1.4x teleconverter ;-)

    Very nice review!

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    1. Thanks. Fixed it. Writing a blog entry late in the evening after a full day of shooting was not exactly a good idea (and I was inserting the metadata one by one after each image)

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  11. Your photos taken with the 300mm lens are outstanding. While you did not show any BIF prior to seeing your photos, prior to reading your review, I did not believe that M43 could compete against photos taken taken with FF sensor cameras with long lenses from Nikon and Canon. Excellent review and excellent lens.

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    1. Hi Howard,
      I believe other photographers will do BIF, I have not done it, and I certainly need time to learn how to do it! Thanks for the kind words.

      Delete
  12. Robin
    Excellent review as always. Brilliant lens and excellent photographer.
    Glad to hear your mother is doing well.
    Don from America

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    1. Thanks for the concern Don, and cheers for the compliments.

      Delete
  13. Excellent review and useful real world samples, thanks

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  14. Excellent pictures, as always! I wonder whether the handling would have been more balanced if you hadn't removed the tripod collar but rather used it to hold the lens, kind of using your left hand as a monopod.

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    1. Hi John,
      Have tried with the collar beforehand, it was worse actually as the collar added more weight!

      Delete
    2. I wonder if using a monopod that's at an angel , pointing to your chest (a monopod that's resting on your chest / some harness) could help with the balance issue. That way you should be able to get some more stability too, whilst also supporting the lens better / not doing everything with hands.

      Delete
  15. Another excellent review. This is a lens I would love to own however due to the price it's probably a lens I'll never own. I'm currently using the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro and 40-150 f/2.8 pro and I also have the 1.4 Teleconverter. Your images show how amazing this lens is and I really appreciate the review. I will however have to wait and see how the Panasonic 100-400mm reviews come along and will more than likely pick up the Panasonic 100-400 over the Olympus 400 purely for cost reasons.

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    1. Thanks Howei. I myself am curious about the new Panaosnic 100-400mm as well. We shall wait for reviews. I wonder what took Panasonic so long.

      Delete
  16. Great review with some excellent photos! Did you use the lens on a tripod? Do you think it would require a gimbal head of some sort?

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    1. Dear Unknown,
      Kindly spend some time reading the blog. I have spent a lot of time composing it. All your questions are answered already.

      Delete
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  17. Thanks for your review. Far too much expensive and big for me, but your pictures are very pleasant.

    Even if you are a "city-boy" as you say, you can easily spend a day or two in Bako Park near Kuching with that 300mm, I'm sure you are talented enough to bring back world-class wildlife picture! I love that place very much, so an incredible place.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. If I were to go Bako I might be shooting something else: wide angle scenery shots and close up macro shots.

      Delete
  18. Quote:"The M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO can go as close as 1.4m from the subject to the image sensor, which is quite a serious close up shooting capability, considering the long focal length of 600mm equivalent. This results in a maximum of 0.24x magnification, which in 35mm format is close to half of true 1:1 macro capability. "

    Focal length is still 300 mm. But FoV corresponds to 600 mm in 135 film.
    So, shouldn't that be maximum of 0.27x magnification? And close to a quarter of true 1:1 macro capability for 135 film?

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    1. Hi Carl,
      The lens' true magnification is 0.24x, but in 35mm format it is equivalent to 0.48x. I take that as very close to 0.5x, which is half of full 1 to 1 magnification.

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    2. 0.5x eh, not bad! Very close to macro

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  19. Hello Robin and thx for the nice review. As always I really appreciate your pictures.
    There is only one thing I can not really understand. Why do you have problems in handling?
    With a lens that big and heavy I would not only hold the camera with both hands. Instead I would more hold it like a gun. Left hand under the lens and stabilize with your elbow on your chest. For me this always works great with longer focal lengths, because you also shake less this way.
    Best regards

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    1. Excellent advice (from Joe McNally - Da Grip) for left eyed folks like me. :-)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDsx3-FWfwk

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    2. Mr Chainsaw,
      I did exactly as that. Still find it rather unbalanced.

      Delete
  20. Great review and image quality is really impressive. Handholding 300mm and having sharp images at 1/10s is like a deram come true.
    One thing about the article though: f4.0 to f5.6 is not a half stop but a full stop difference.

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    Replies
    1. Someone else beat you to it. That has been fixed.

      Delete
  21. Bokeh is very "nervous". Seeing this is the last photo.

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    1. Sigh. Again, it is not fair to point out just based on ONE photo. The last photo was taken near noon. The sun in Malaysia, being so near in the equator line, has funny ways of rendering light on subjects, making them appear a lot harsher than other countries.
      Believe me, no lens can create anything smoother, it is the matter of lighting on subject.

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    4. As usual, great review. However I do not subscribe entirely to the mere fact of photographing near of the equator to explain what the "nervous" bokeh. Sites like DPReview also displays the effect of harsh and donuts on their images. Another Nordic photographer with beautiful images of elk in the snow had similar problems. It surprises me a little, because despite the price it seems a compromise between sharpness and bokeh occasionally.

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    5. It ia difficult to explain but I will try my best. The quality of bokeh also largely depends on how the light falls on the out of focus area. If the harsh light hits subjects which are then highlighted in very crude manner, there is ni possibility to get smooth bokeh. This problem is especially true for countries nearer to the equator line and as much as I try to avoid this I just do not have whole week to review the lens and make do with the images I have.

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    6. First we had the lack of sufficient megapixels. Then we had the lack in depth of field. And now we have the nervous bokeh discussion? These Full Frame fundamentalists are really hard to convince. Don’t know where this topic started but I remember that Photozone did not give the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 full marks because of it’s nervous out-of-focus blur. I like their reviews, but if I look at other long lens examples at their website I notice the same problems when they shoot restless backgrounds. My divine Nikon 135mm f2.0 had it as well. So the lesson for today is: Restless backgrounds can result in restless blurs!

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  22. Bokeh is very "nervous". Seeing this is the last photo.

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  23. Great review again Robin.

    I shoot regularly with the Oly 75-300 MK2 with my EM5 MK2 currently. One thing I find is that the subject distance is quite critical in getting detailed shots. I was wondering if you could share in your blog entry how close are those birds/subjects were when you shoot them?

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    1. Hi Scorpio,
      They were at bird park KL and the birds were not shy with humans. I'd say, ranging from 2 meters to maybe 5 meters away.

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    2. Robin thanks for the reply.

      I have to say, if the birds are only 2 to 5 meters away, I think it is not impossible even for Oly 75-300 (also need good light) to get sharp and detailed shots. In any case, I am excited about the lens and am still debating to see if this or the Panasonic 100-400mm would be a more suitable upgrade for my birding needs. Getting to 800mm reach has opened up more possibilities.

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  24. Great photos. Agree re your comments about weight, it is a shame they couldn't have got it around 1kg. Have you seen SLR Gear review? They found shutter shock at slow speeds even with AntiShock setting - they showed sharper images using electronic shutter - any comments on what you found?

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    1. They found shutter shock, yes, but their tests also have the 5-Axis IS turned off.

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  25. I would like to see this lens compared to the older Zuiko 300mm f2.8.

    Chris @cmbfoto

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    1. I would like it too. But it is too trouble some and surely not practical to be done in real life shooting.

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  26. Wow, great review, Robin. That lens is outrageous! I'd buy one in a heartbeat. Your picture quality always amazes me, as an E-M1 user for over a year now. Since moving from a 27" Apple iMac to a 15" MacBook Pro, I cannot seem to get it to accept Olympus Viewer 3 for some reason. Yes, many of my jpg's are very sharp, but I cannot seem to get quite the sheer resolution you do on your blog pages. Using RAW files is a little limited then. Any ideas?

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    1. Olympus viewer 3 should be fully compatible with Mac. Have you downloaded the latest version of OV3?

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  27. Great shots from an interesting new lens and a very capable photographer.

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  28. Excellent review, Robin.. Glad that your Mom is better and you are back in action.. I checked your site only yesterday for the anticipated update and not seeing any was wondering, and hoping that it happens soon.

    It is refreshing to see those now-familiar faces again (of the Blue-bird, Superb starling, Black-headed Bulbul, Crested pigeon etc..)shot with this new PRO lens. I appreciate your reviews based on real-life situations and it gives a better idea of what the lens can produce in similar shooting scenarios. Moreover, these pics shot under almost similar conditions from the same location, gives a good basis for comparative evaluation and judgement for the reader, who has been following your blogs for a while.

    I may not fully agree with the "lens and camera combo not balanced" part, though. I doubt the lens by itself is front-heavy so as to cause an imbalance, going by the design. ( May be, that's not what you meant, perhaps). But,being (relatively) Heavy and Long -Yes, as it's natural outcome of the longer focal length. But do take it as your personal experience from using it - And, I have not had the chance to see/handle it, let alone use it :)

    Personally, I have found that a slightly heavy lens (1-1.5 kg) that's about 8-10" long is more comfortable to hold steady, when dealing with such magnification than a lighter long-lens. The 'heft' acts as a dampener for shaky hands, even when you get exhausted spending a day shooting in the field. As the center of gravity shifts from the body towards the lens,the thrust shifts to the left hand that's holding the lens to support the weight and also serve as a pivot to frame and pan, while the right hand operates the camera as softly as possible to minimize shake/changes to the composition. It took me some getting-used-to, but becomes comfortable later as you perfect the hand-holding technique. And, non-extending lenses are way better in this respect.

    And, yes, I agree with your view on the 'bokeh' rendering and the harsh/direct equatorial light is certainly not the ideal lighting, photographically speaking.. Thanks again, for this much awaited review, with a fabulous set of pictures that do the talking..

    Cheers,
    Ramesh

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    1. Thanks Ramesh for the concern of my mum and kind words, appreciate them.

      Also thanks for understanding about the harsh background creating ugly bokeh! I cannot just reject all my shots because of that, and there are situations that cannot be avoided.

      Regarding the handling and balance, I guess the only way for you to see if it works for you, is to try it out yourself. For me, I still feel it can be improved.

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  29. Looks like that all photos where taken at close range, did you take some photos of birds 20 to 30 meters away?

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    1. Because all the birds were very close. I was in a bird park after all.

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  30. Great review this lens looks excellent but not fòr an EM-10 user . I'm just don't get why made a lens that wont work on the whole range of camera's its kinda like upsetting half your customers.

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    1. David, for now it is not compatible but in the future upgrades will be available via firmware to fully utilize the 5-axis sync IS.

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  31. Aus Deutschland:
    Nicht schlecht, doch ich bin auf den direkten Vergleich mit dem neuen Panasonic 100-400 gespannt. Wenn bei in Deutschland erhältlich sind werde ich testen.
    Zur E-M1 MK2 hoffe ich ganz stark auf viel bessere Akkus - bei kälte unter 0-Grad, Video und bei schnellen Serien geht der Saft extrem schnell aus (der Hld-7 hilft ist aber nicht die Lösung)!!!

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  32. As a person with GAS, I wish I had this gem. But this lens is not for me either, because a) I'm not a pro, b) not a wealthy person and c) think this lens is big.
    So I have to content myself with the 75-300 II.
    btw I liked the posing chimp.
    Cheers!

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    1. Agreed with all your reasoning, and I can say the same about myself.
      Thanks for the kind words.

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  33. Wonderful photos as always Robin, requiring not only an excellent lens but also a very capable photographer behind the camera!
    May the light always be with you. Best wishes, Thierry

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  35. Great review and images Robin. I am considering this lens but will have to trade in my beloved Canon 300 2.8 IS. My concern is that the Olympus may not be as sharp (if that is even possible) and more DOF (with 50D). But in exchange I lose a lot of weight, superior IS, and not need to carry/invest in another camera system. I already have EM1 with other lenses. Looking forward to your comparison with the Olympus 300 f2.8. Thanks.

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    1. Not going to say much about which lens is sharper but it is difficult to think that the lens is not sharp enough!
      But of course I have not tested the canon so no comments on that either!

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    2. And no tripod needed either!
      Bob on Chicago

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  36. Thanks! I am not the targeted user of such a lens but it is interesting to see that they have outdone all Four-Thirds lenses with this one.

    You got me thinking about my 14 hour days with the E-1 and 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 in gymnasiums photographing wrestling and later, the E-1 or E-5 and the ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 photographing swimming. I didn't even own a tripod to use. Balance for me has been so critical, and even though I own a tripod now, I rarely use it because it's usually in the way.

    Since micro Four-Thirds, the lenses are so short and thin that it's rare to need any support. I've seen so many comments, from people who wouldn't buy the 300mm f/4.0 lens, that it is too large, too heavy, not micro Four-Thirds at all. It seems just fine to offer as an incentive for people to switch brands.

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    1. I think overall it is still a compelling choice, much smaller and lighter than what competitions offer. Yet delivering top notch quality and surely hand-holdable.

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  37. I shoot crew regattas for my sons high school team. This lens is right up my alley. Saving my pennies now hoping to get results even close to your examples. When I am in an officials boat, this isn't needed. When I'm on shore this will be priceless (with the extender)

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    1. Sounds like you have found a need for the lens! Go get one.

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  39. These photographs are jaw-dropping, Robin. Enough to so justify the price? Not sure... but this was a wonderful read. I definitely have some lens envy going! Thanks for another thoughtful review!

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  40. Excellent review with awesome pix as ever, Robin.

    BUT can we lose the pseudo militaristic and socially aggressive "weapon" word when referring to a camera? Isn't "camera" good enough? So it is a "cool" term today (it has actually been around on and off, for decades) but its really a wannabe term. You are a long, long way from a wannabe -- just be yourself, a top photographer, taking superb pictures, not a pseudo mass killer or something.

    I mean just look at the real meaning of the word:

    1. any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon.
    2. anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim:

    All the best

    Cheers, Geoff

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  41. That's a great lens! And your photos are unbelievable! Haven't you made a video portfolio of them yet? I've recently seen one, made by my friend who's also photographer, made here: https://www.viosk.com/. I looked good!

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    1. Sorry, not "I", I meant it looked good)))

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  42. Fantastic Sync IS! Thanks for the review.

    Warning! GAS level critical!

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  43. Thanks for the review Robin - sounds stunning!
    Can you tell me what shutter settings you used on the camera for this lens - esp those amazing slow shutter speed shots.
    Thanks
    Andrew

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  44. Hi! I placed a preorder, much thanks to your excellent review! By the way, do you know if Olympus will add sync is to the E-P5? Or at least the E-M10 II? Was planning to buy the new Pen-F, but I am unsure after todays reviews.

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  45. What gear do I need for shooting sporting clays?
    Products for the Working Man

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  46. Thank you Robin. Excellent review and the first images that make me believe that this camera/lens combination is a professional alternative in the 600 mm range.

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  47. Dear Robin, life will not be the same until I have my hands on this lens:-)
    Question: I never really understood the difference of the pro-concept and the regular lenses in the Zuiko Olypmus line, the 45mm and 75mm - I think these two lenses are pretty "Pro"? And, given the development with image stabilization in the lens, will we see an upgrade of the regular fixed lenses to a pro level?

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    1. I have owned and used this lens for a while now. I am very pleased. Excellent sharpness and long reach. Also very effective as a pseudo macro for flowers and bees.

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  49. Hi Robin, I enjoyed looking at your photography. All of your photos look perfectly balance & POP. I would like you to recommend me a lens. I'd just bought Olympus OMD E-M10 ii with kit lens of 14-150mm F4-5.6. I feel that my photo not as sharp as yours even shooting in RAW and convert it into Jpeg by using OV3 also my photos are shoot in focus

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