I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. All the content shared here are my own opinion and thoughts, which can be subjective
I have been away from work, from Kuala Lumpur busy city life, and even shutter therapy for a few weeks now. Currently I am in my hometown Kuching to be with my beloved mum. She has just undergone her Knee Replacement Surgery two days ago. The operation was a success and she is recovering well, so do not be alarmed and there really is nothing to worry about. For many of you who have been following my blog for some time, you would recall an incident about two years ago when my mum accidentally fell and shattered her hip, and the previous surgery happened when I was low on cash. I shall be forever grateful for all the beautiful folks out there who contributed to that surgery and pulled both myself and mum out of the difficult situation. This time around, there was no surprises and we were fully prepared for the surgery. Now, I am ensuring that I spend as much time as I can to be with her.
Therefore, do expect this blog to slow down with less frequent updates.
Today, Olympus launched the much awaited M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens. I have had the opportunity to handle the lens briefly, though not enough to write a full review yet. I have not brought the lens out for a full on testing, hence I do not have sample photographs to show, I shall write about my first impression and quick hands-on preview of the new super telephoto lens.
Some key highlights of the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO Lens:
1) Featuring 5-Axis Sync Image Stabilization
This new Image Stabilization mechanism uses both the built in body 5-Axis IS and also the built in lens IS to produce and incredible 6 shutter speed steps of compensation (This is true for E-M1 with Version 4 Firmware and E-M5 Mark II with Version 2 Firmware). Olympus claims this to be the most powerful and effective IS system available in the consumer camera market today, and seriously this is no joke. In my very brief test handling the lens, I was able to hand-held the lens and get consistently sharp images shooting at 1/10sec shutter speed. You heard that right, I was shooting a 600mm equivalent super telephoto lens, hand-held at ridiculously low 1/10sec shutter speed. Of course we do not need to shoot at 1/10sec or anything near that crazy slow shutter speed but the assurance that this lens is able to be fully utilized without the need of additional support system (tripods, monopods) enhanced the overall philosophy of Micro Four Thirds system: strong advantage when it comes to gear mobility.
2) Superlative Optics Construction, the Sharpest Olympus Lens Ever
The sharpest Olympus lens has always been the legendary DSLR Four Thirds ZD 300mm F2.8 PRO lens, and now the new M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO surpasses that in terms of overall image quality and sharpness. At least that was what the MTF chart says and it is not difficult to believe considering the advancement of optical technologies and manufacturing capabilities over the years. The optical construction consists of three super ED, one extra-high refractive and three high refractive elements. How sharp is the new M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO really is, and how good the lens flaw controls are, I can only find out when I do my extensive tests. I am actually super excited to see how sharp this lens truly is! How much sharper can this lens be over the already superlative M,Zuiko 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens?
3) Comparatively small and light
Weighing about 1.3kg and at 23cm long, while this M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens is indeed the largest native lens for Micro Four Thirds system, it is still far smaller and lighter in comparison to any equivalent 600mm lenses out there. I understand that the equivalence argument will see no end and it probably might rub some shoulders in the wrong way, but you got to admit, there really is no 600mm F4 equivalent lens (in whatever equivalent ways you want to see it) that is fully hand-holdable without using any kind of support. I can assure you that the advantage of using the M,Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO is the ability to use it hand-held, confidently, due to the incredible 5-Axis Sync IS. The lens does feel heavy but it was not uncomfortable to hold, and definitely you MUST add on battery grips for E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II to add stability. Since I have not used the lens more than 15 minutes in each short testing sessions, I shall only comment further on the overall handling and ergonomics of the lens after extensive shooting is done (eg, half day shooting outdoor at the zoo).
4) Amazing close-up Shooting at 1.4m miminum focusing distance
While I do not imagine people shooting macro with this 300mm lens, having such close shooting capability can be convenient. Say, you are camping and waiting for the bird in a forest, and then a beautiful colorful butterfly decided to show up a few meters in front of you. Without changing lens, you can use the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO and still get away with very decent shot of the butterfly, with sufficient magnification. The magnification is rated at 0.24x (in 35mm equivalent this is 0.48x, about half of real 1 to 1 magnification) which is quite impressive for such a long lens. Lenses from other competitors in similar range will require you to step back 4-5 meters away, and do not provide such large magnification.
Some other points worth mentioning:
Full compatibility with the 1.4x tele converter MC-14 which was built for the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. Using the MC-14 on 300mm results in 420mm reach at F5.6, which is not too shabby, and reportedly at minimal loss of sharpness only. This shall be one of the item in my to-test list for my review soon.
The hood is built in, but has a reverse mechanism for quick release when needed.
There is a new ZERO Nano Coating, which delivers better control of lens flare and minimizes ghosting.
Like all Olympus PRO lenses, there is full weather-sealing: splash-proof, dust-proof and freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celcius, complementing the OM-D line of cameras,
For full press release and specifications, you may read it here (click).
I acknowledge that a super-telephoto lens, especially 600mm equivalent long is not a lens that is high in the priority list of many photographers. The usage of this lens is rather limited and very specific. The main usages of such a long focal length would be mainly for birding and wildlife photography, followed by sports and motorsports. I do not see this lens as a lens to be carried around every day causally. If you do need such a long focal length and you treasure the ease of moving around without being weighed down by your gear, the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 Pro should be in your consideration.
Just a quick note, about the 5-Axis Sync IS, currently this only works for E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II, with latest firmwares Version 4 and Version 2 respectively. Compatibility for other cameras shall be made available in stages via future firmware upgrades. At this moment, I do not have the information on when these updates will happen.
I understand that my hands-on preview of the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO is a quick and brief one, but boy an I super excited to try it out!
Unfortunately that will hot happen any time soon, as I am still in my hometown Kuching, accompanying mum during her recovery from her recent surgery.
However, I shall get right into shooting and reviewing of the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO lens, when I return to Kuala Lumpur in a few weeks time!
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