I have been receiving numerous requests for me to do something with the Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 Mark II lens, and I finally got my hands on a loaner from Olympus Malaysia recently. I thought why not have some fun shooting some cute animals at the National Zoo and at the same time invite you guys to come along with me for this short shooting adventure? No animals were harmed I promise, just camera shooting away with my trigger happy fingers. I brought my E-M1 Mark II and made a mini review of this lens, which is a budget super telephoto zoom lens that should sit high on your consideration list if you want to start shooting wildlife, bird or sports without the need to break the bank.
The Olympus 75-300mm is made plastic, but the lens body does feel solid and there are no creaky parts. The lens does not have internal zoom, it extends out when zooming to the longer telephoto range. There is no zoom creep when the lens is fully extended, the lens holds its position without falling back in when pointing the lens upward. The lens is light – weighing only 432g, having a compact and lightweight construction makes this lens such a joy to handle. It should match any Olympus cameras perfectly, and handling was not an issue. I was shooting at the zoo for more than 3 hours, hand-holding the Olympus 75-300mm lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body. I did not feel any strain or got tired from this combination, the lens felt perfectly balanced and using it for long hour shooting was not a problem.
Olympus 75-300mm lens is a super telephoto zoom lens, having maximum reach of 300mm (600mm equivalent in 35mm format). This makes the 75-300mm lens suitable for photography that requires a long range shooting, such as wildlife, birding or even sports photography. Do bear in mind the maximum aperture opening of F4.8 to 6.7 of this lens is not bright and makes this lens less suitable for low light photography. If you need to do a lot of indoor shooting or deal with low light, the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens (with a teleconverter if you need the reach) is a more suited lens for the job.
The lens is made of 18 elements in 13 group construction, featuring 1 Super ED lens, 2 ED lenses and 3 HR lenses. Many have reported that they achieved sub-par images when shooting with the Olympus 75-300mm lens, and could not get anything sharp at full reach of 300mm. I find my experience to be the complete opposite, I did get beautifully sharp images all the way to 300mm full zoom. I admit, the best sharpness was achieved somewhere within the 75-200mm zoom range, and anything further than that, especially at the furthest end 300mm, there is a noticeable drop of overall sharpness, but the image output was far from soft, in fact it was still decently sharp, capturing plenty of useful fine detail, good contrast and overall clarity. I would not hesitate to go all the way to 300mm for the reach, and I was perfectly happy with my images at 300mm from the Olympus 75-300mm lens.
Other aspects of image quality was nothing to write about, I did not notice any issue with chromatic aberration of pincushion distortion, perhaps both technical lens flaws were compensated and mitigated by software correction built into the camera. To me I do not care if it was the software that did some processing trick as long as I get good results free from such flaws, I am happy. Flare was well controlled, I did shoot against some strong source of light but did not see any problem with ghosting or flare. The Olympus 75-300mm Mark II lens does have ZERO coating from Olympus which resists flare quite effectively.
All images were shot with OM-D E-M1 Mark II in raw and post-processed using Capture One Pro 20.
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Shooting under abundant light, the Autofocus was fast and reliable, and I could nail critically sharp focus again and again easily. This was a challenge for a 300mm lens, as a little movement can render the image soft, being slightly out of focus. The combination of 75-300mm on E-M1 Mark II got me very high hit rates, and some misses were due to my own user operational mistake (placing the focusing point at the wrong spot).
The E-M1 Mark II’s built in body 5-Axis IS was good enough to handle the 75-300mm, and I can shoot hand-held with confidence. I also made sure my shutter speed was fast enough to mitigate any subject movement. The camera’s 5-Axis IS may be able to steady my hands, but if the shutter speed is too slow, the subject may still have movements and that can cause soft image output. I always kept an eye on my shutter speed and ensured it stayed higher than 1/100 sec, or even 1/200 sec if I anticipated the subject not staying very still. To be able to achieve this, sometimes I do need to bump up the ISO numbers, even as high as ISO1600 shooting under daylight condition (under shade). Sufficiently fast shutter speed should be the priority to achieve sharp results, high ISO noise should not be the main concern.
I did shoot mostly at almost full zoom 300mm, though in most practical shooting we don’t do that, I admit. I just want to fully utilise the maximum reach of the lens, and I have to say each and every time I review my images shot at full 300mm reach, I was surprised by the sharpness and overall image quality the 75-300mm delivers. I am not expecting the lens to outperform higher grade Olympus lenses such as 40-150mm F2.8 PRO or 300mm F4 PRO, but for a budget and compact-built 75-300mm lens, it performs incredibly well. Not everyone can afford the 300mm F4 PRO and having a good alternative that still delivers good results, the 75-300mm is the answer.
The only one downside to this lens is the not so bright aperture opening of F4.8 to 6.7, making this lens less useful in low light shooting conditions. 300mm at F6.7 is not exactly something that you can use confidently indoor, and the bump in ISO to compensate for the lack of light will degrade the image quality very quickly. Apart from that, there was nothing else to complain about the Olympus 75-300mm lens, it is a budget friendly option that is truly small and light and delivers really good results under good light.
I know some will ask to compare against Panasonic 100-300mm and the newer 100-400mm, I have none of these lenses, and even if I have them by chance I am not allowed to do anything with these non Olympus lenses. However, the Olympus 75-300mm is selling lower in price in comparison to those two aforementioned alternatives. I am sure you can find a lot of other reviews online.
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Do you have the Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 Mark II lens? Do share your experience using the lens, I would love to hear your thoughts.
For those of you who want to explore the world of wildlife, sports and bird photography, the 75-300mm Olympus is a good place to start, and do not get dissuaded by the heavy price tag of the 300mm F4 IS PRO. Indeed the 300mm PRO is a better lens, but hey, 75-300mm is a zoom lens, allows you to shoot at wider focal lengths to fit more of an animal that is not too far away, is much smaller, lighter and easier to handle and bring around in a smaller bag. It is the perfect lens to start with.
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