Users of the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mirrorless camera who are into sports or wildlife photography have long yearned for a fast super telephoto lens. The new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro finally makes that a reality.
With the 2x crop factor of MFT image sensors, this lens delivers a resulting 600mm focal length in 35mm equivalent.
This makes it ideal when you need to zoom in on that elusive kingfisher far away.
For this review, I used the 300mm lens with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, which has been updated to the latest v4.1 firmware.
Many ultra-telephoto lenses are heavy and expensive. For example, a Canon EF600mm f/4 IS II USM lens costs a staggering $17,299 and weighs nearly 4kg on its own.
FOCAL LENGTH: 300mm
FOCUSING RANGE: 1.4m to infinity
MAXIMUM APERTURE: f/4
MINIMUM APERTURE: f/22 u 1.27kg
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
By comparison, this Olympus lens is quite affordable at $3,798 and weighs only 1.27kg. Even with the E-M1 attached, it is only around 1.8kg.
This means it is much less tiring to lug it about whether you are exploring Sungei Buloh or Botanic Gardens.
The lens comes with a tripod adapter, so you can mount it on a tripod or monopod.
Build and handling are superb. It feels solid and sturdy in your hands. It is also resistant to moisture and dust, and can handle temperatures as low as minus 10 deg C.
A lens hood is permanently attached to the lens and can slide forward to protect the lens element in front, as well as prevent flare.
Behind the lens hood, you will find a large focus ring that can be snapped back towards the camera to enable manual focus.
On the left of the lens, there is a selector that lets you toggle the focusing distance from 1.4m to 4m, 1.4m to infinity, and 4m to infinity.
An image stabiliser switch and the L-Fn programmable function button are sited below this selector. You can programme the L-Fn button to settings, such as White Balance, ISO or depth of field preview.
In terms of autofocusing, the lens was able to lock into focus almost instantaneously in bright sunlight. Tracking a flying bird while maintaining sharp focus was a breeze.
But in dim lighting conditions, there were times when it took me up to 2sec to get a sharp focus.
Picture quality is top-notch. Chromatic aberration and vignetting are almost non-existent. Corner-to-corner sharpness is maintained throughout the frame.
The softness exhibited is minimal even when you use the smaller aperture settings like f/16 and f/22, where softness is usually an issue.
• Verdict: The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro is a great addition to any MFT user's arsenal of lenses, especially those interested in sports, nature and wildlife photography.