Lens Talk: Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 Mark II

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. 

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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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24 comments:

  1. I got rid of the lens. Even on a sturdy tripod the pictures were not sharp ar 300 mm.

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    Replies
    1. Seriously? I thought the images I got were plenty sharp.

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    2. Robin, many people are complaining because of vibrations. Somehow, many pictures will come out soft (shaked, vibrated).

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  2. First, not sure why my postings on this site is listed as "Unknown", but I am happy to be identified as "KJK". I rented the 75-300mm last year for a trip to San Diego, and used the lens almost exclusively at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. I tested the lens at home before leaving to test my hand holding ability, and found images using a shutter speed under 1/160 were hit or miss, which I attributed to user error or shutter shock from my EM-5 Mk I (there is no practical anti-shock solution on that camera). I found that the lens was capable of producing sharp images at 300mm and even sharper images at shorter focal lengths, though I was not disappointed which sharpness, contrast or color at 300mm, if not pushed to the extreme of the camera's shooting envelope in terms of ISO or shutter speed. I would consider purchasing the lens, though I would also consider the Panasonic 100-300mm due to it being about 2/3 stop faster at the long end.

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    1. I also used it at the San Diego zoo and wild animal park last year (pre virus). It was fine in the bright San Diego light but when the light started to go down the low aperture of this lens and the need to have a shutter speed that stopped action for the animals was pushing my little e-m 10 mk ii up towards 2000, which it just can't handle. I got annoyed at the lens but maybe I should have been thankful for something so light and with decent image quality that I could use during the day, and not tried to fight it in the low light.

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  3. Beautiful photos, Robin! The first thing I did with this lens was go to the zoo too. A note to smaller camera users: I've used this lens with an E-P5 and even an E-PL8 and it's light enough to handle fine with no problems (though with only 3-axis IBIS my min. shutter speed is closer to 1/800 -- but that's also my shaky hands!). To me the ultimate benefit of this lens is its portability: even in a case it fully fits in the elastic waterbottle pouch of my backpack for easy reach -- not something you can say for the 40-150!

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  4. The lens say it has fast AF, does this only refer to Standard AF or will it keep up in C-AF using continuous low burst mode of 10 fps on an E-M1 Mark II?

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  5. I have had this lens for about 3 years now with my em5-II. I like it very much, my problem is I am 75 years old and have shakiness. So at 300mm it is difficult for the IBIS to compensate all of the time. In the Philippines I impressed the heck out of My Nikon buddy by shooting a dragon fly 10 meters away at 300mm wide open. He could not believe the sharpness.

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  6. Not sure why I'm also being listed as "unknown'. Thanks for this informative article. I recently purchased a very lightly used e-m5 mark II and have been trying to decide which tele-zoom to purchase and have considered this one. I'd rather not spend as much as the pro lenses cost but would like the sharpest and brightest I can get, along with weather sealing.

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  7. Very nice pictures as ussual.
    You are shooting close-subjects where nearly any lens can produce nice results.

    When you try it a a longer distances : 10m...20m...50m, the lens will show its limitations.
    Yes, it's fine for a kit lens, maybe a bit too expensive for an F/6.3 lens.

    There is a big gap between 75-300mm and 300mm F/4.0. I hope Olympus will cover it with an affordable 100-400mm or other lens.

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  8. Hi Robin, great review. Is there any chance to get your images in full resolution? Regards!

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  9. Yes this lens is ok. Not perfect, especialy over 250mm, but relatively cheap and small enough to be carried anywhere. I always bring it with me when walking countryside or at the parks, along with a 12-40 and the macro 60. The weight is so light that I can carry everything effortlessly, even if I'm not sure I'll be able to use it all. The image quality is not excellent, but it is possible to get decent results. A few examples:

    http://loublipa.net/tartine/albums/Bestioles/P8190319-1500px-2.jpg
    http://loublipa.net/tartine/albums/Malaisie/P4120493-800px-3.jpg
    http://loublipa.net/tartine/albums/Bestioles/P8210819-1500px.jpg
    http://loublipa.net/tartine/albums/Bestioles/P8190293-1500px.jpg
    http://loublipa.net/tartine/albums/Malaisie/P4120493-800px-3.jpg

    I recently bought a zuiko 50-200. It's far better for moving target and subejct isolation, thanks to small aperture, but overall IQ is not really better and it's so big I cannot afford to bring it randomly, most of the time it stay in the shelf.

    My favourite m43 lenses are pana 20mm, oly 75-300 9-18 and 60mm macro. All are small and make good photos, and can compete effectively against APSC thanks to their size avantages. For bigger (and far more expensive!) lens I'm not sure m43 is always the best choice.

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  10. Splendid pictures, and well balanced review. Got that lens soon with Olympus system few years ago. As I don't do that much high range photography, I never saw a need to upgrade from it. At 300mm It really becomes a wiggle with shutter, camera shake, iso, high max aperture, and noticeable vignette at f6.7. Body stabilization helps, but it's still 600mm equivalent, and it acts as such at 300mm. When not on tripod, I've found that silent shutter helps a lot with my keeper rate. It's still not very good, since I occasionally get some rolling shutter distortions, but it outweighs shutter shock that I encounter otherwise. On other end, at 75mm to 100mm, it's quite splendid, though again not that better than kit 40-150mm. I use it a lot on landscapes, and have gotten some nice results with it. Plenty of usable handheld panoramas as well. It's quite impressive what can be achieved with the system at times. Like handheld ten images stack at 100mm.

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  11. Forgot something. It's easy to get dust inside the lens. Sealing is flimsy. A bit of dust in the air, and it's with you for a ride. It's not noticeable even at very small apertures because of high magnifications, but I guess I'll have to have mine cleaned sooner or later.

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  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ftysYL7Bxs

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