Field testing the Olympus 75-300mm M.Zuiko Lens

Update: check out some more refined pictures with this lens in a more recent post. It took me a little while to get accustomed to the tight focus and slow aperture.

After months of shooting with the kit lens and a couple primes on the OM-D E-M5, I now have come to a rather obvious realization. I can never go back to full-frame SLR (digital or otherwise) or even a range-finder style camera.

While picking up a new strap for the OMD at a local camera shop, I found myself fondling the Nikon D600 sitting on the counter and thinking, “this is not much bigger than the mirror-less options – and it’s really, really nice!”. After leaving, I stopped in my tracks, snapped back to reality, and realized my decision-making has little to do with the body anymore, and everything to do with the lenses.

The biggest advantage of the micro 4:3 format for a photographer on-the-go is the selection of massively high-quality while at the same time small and lightweight lenses. Taking this to the extreme, I find that there is now nothing stopping me from combining a long trail run on the weekend with a little nature photography.

I think I stepped it up to “11” yesterday by putting the equivalent of a 600mm FF lens on my camera and going for a run that lasted around 3 hours – including a bit for focusing and shutter release.

The Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 M. Zuiko lens is not really small, but when you realize that with a 2x crop factor sensor you are carrying a 600mm equivalent lens in your pocket, it makes you think.

On top of that, Olympus put a stack of awesome glass inside.

I am growing accustomed to getting perfect color rendition with lenses like the Oly 45mm f1.8 and near perfect with the much less expensive Sigma 19mm f2.8. Admittedly I find I need to do a little more processing with images from the later compared to the Oly lens, which seems to match up with the sensor perfectly. However, the king of m4/3 zooms knocked me for a loop on its first outing.

The color rendition was great, the bokeh was pleasing, and it made what seemed like impossible telephoto pictures quite possible.

I concur with some other reviewers who mention limited aperture size, especially on the long end, will restrict you to good lighting or high ISO. Reviews I read before buying are here, here and here – the last one from Ming Thein has some stunning photos with a Panasonic lens similar to this one.

Keep in mind that you need shutter speeds at least 1/250, and maybe 1/500 to stop the telephoto shake all the way out at 600mm range, especially if you don’t want to sacrifice a little IQ by turning on the camera body IS system.

One thing grabbed my attention switching from the wide-normal prime I use most of the time. Going to a big hunk of glass like this and hearing the motors whirring was a shock at first. It is not the lightning fast AF that OMD owners expect. I liked the results though, and considering how tight the focus needs to be at full extension for this crazy NASA ready 6-fold optical zoom, I was impressed that I didn’t need to rely on manual focus for perfection.

Although I have been using the Sigma and Oly primes as substitutes for a macro lens on occasion, I didn’t expect to be able to do the same with a telephoto zoom. Sure, the maximum aperture is limited, and the close focus is not that close, but it can still deliver close-ups in a pinch.

You’ll notice the noise level on one of these images. That comes with the territory when pushing up to 1600 ISO to keep the shutter speed high while in the shade.

For reference, here is another low light close up image in four versions, OOC raw imported by Aperture (upper left), straight raw to jpeg conversion after auto exposure adjustment (upper right), “lightest” noise reduction in Topaz DeNoise (lower left), and the final version run through the Astia slide film PS filter from Alien Skin (lower right).

There is really nothing to complain about with this camera/lens combo in any reasonable lighting condition.

Of course, now comes the hard part. It is the realization that I can never switch to a DSLR or a ranger finder system without losing a lot of options. You can’t focus a telephoto lens on a range finder. On the other hand, you could run a marathon with a DSLR strapped to your body, but the lens would swing around whack you on the head and then you’d have to explain what you were doing to the paramedics. Not necessary.

One more bonus: you can also take perfect long distance architectural shots with this lens. I didn’t see much in the way of distortion, the colors are still great, and I can bike or walk around with this combo without drawing anyone’s attention (although the lens hood needs to come off to go into anything resembling stealthy street photography mode).

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3 thoughts on “Field testing the Olympus 75-300mm M.Zuiko Lens

  1. Hi Arėjukas,
    How many times have I wished that I had a camera with me when out running?…Enough to do something about it. I’ve tried a compact on my running belt, still bounces. How do you carry you gear…backpack?
    Best, Dave

    • Hi Dave,
      I’ve had a few point-and-shoot cameras that are easier to carry, but it wasn’t until I got used to having an OM-D slung across my body that I actually started running with one. I keep the camera hanging approximately against the small of my back, which requires a strap that doesn’t slide much on my shoulder..

      This weekend I’m in the mountains and trying to figure out what minimum set of equipment I can put in a backpack to get good panorama shots of the high Sierras.
      I’ll let you know how it goes.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      Cheers!

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