FIRST LOOK: My 1st day with the new Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro Lens. It’s a Beauty.

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FIRST LOOK: My 1st day with the new Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro Lens. It’s a Beauty!

By Steve Huff

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The Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro. Every now and again you get a product in your hands and say WOW, this IS QUALITY. I mean, I have never been a long telephoto guy, ever. I usually maxed out at 150mm though back many years ago I did own a Canon 70-300 DO and a 100-400 that I had loads of fun with. Either way, I am a standard 24, 35, 50, 75, 90 kind of guy, just what I am used to. When Olympus decided to ship me their new 300mm f/4 Pro which is a full pro lens weather sealed, built like a tank, and has on board IS as well as giving us a 600mm equivalent field of view. Yes, 600mm. You can even add the teleconverter on to make it even more insane.

Just two days ago this lens appeared on my doorstep, as if by magic a man in a brown shirt and shorts dropped it off! Was incredible, lol.

I have used this lens before, though VERY briefly. While in Austin with Olympus a while ago we were all able to use the 300mm for a few moments and then I knew it was quite special though using a 600mm equivalent lens, you need to be in some wide spaces or else forget it! Being in your kitchen with 600mm is not something that is useful. But shooting wildlife or sports or race cars or whatever you need 600mm worth of reach for, this will do the trick.

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My 1st thoughts after a day at the zoo with it is that it is incredibly sharp, easy to handhold and again, built to pro specs, very impressive. Of course, it should be used on a pro body like an E-M1 but I was using it on the newest PEN-F, which I just adore. This camera is so gorgeous, so slim, so nicely made and designed and the color and IQ are also top notch.

I will have a full review down the road of this incredible optic but I have never used a 300mm (or 600mm) quite this nice. It is well worth the cost of $2499 for someone who loves long telephoto primes of uncompromising quality. I mean, a Canon 600mm f/4 is over $11,000.  $2499 for the same equivilant FOV in an equally as well made lens, is quite, well, incredible. Olympus, to me, makes the best lenses next to Leica when it comes to size, color, quality and design and while this is a huge long lens and for a certain type of photography, Olympus knows how to make fantastic lenses and their Micro 4/3 system is still an amazing IQ machine here in 2016, with their bodies better than ever.

See my PEN-F review here if you missed that and take a look at the 1st samples below I shot yesterday at the zoo. FULL review with more samples will be coming soon BUT I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for this lens, it is so so beautiful!!! A 300MM DOES NOT SEEM TO GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. In fact, for some, this lens may be a reason to shoot Olympus. It’s that good. 

You can order the Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro at B&H Photo or Amazon

CLICK ALL images for larger view. None have been edited. Most from RAW. All handheld with a PEN-F.

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31 Comments

  1. Indeed the lens is tack sharp, but despite that I already sold it again. In combination with my EM-1 it was near impossible to get a succesful shot of a bird in flight. Autofocus was sluggish. Yes, the focus limiter was on the right setting. All focus points on. I tried it with my EM-5 II and it didn’t get noticably better.
    With my Em-5 II and the 40-150mm I was more succesful.
    And the bokeh of the lens is plain ugly. But that has always been a Olympus thingy.
    But sharp as hell 🙂
    A great lens for stationairy objects not too close to a complex background (like foliage).
    For BIF’s not so great. (Of course the lag of the EVF makes things even harder)
    Wish it was different because the sharpness of this lens………

  2. WE ALL CAN HELP STEVE BY BUYING THROUGH B&H AND AMAZON THROUGH THIS SITE. I’ve never done this on any site before, but will do so because I find Steve’s info, whether provided by him or others, to be very useful.
    It’s friendly here.
    Thanks for overall, not being a bunch of overly-egotistical/opinionated buttheads! Although some of us might be modestly egotistical and opinionated buttheads at times.

  3. Luna-
    I have this lens and the EM5ii. This combo (with any of the OM-D cameras) allows both IS systems (in-lens and IBIS) to work together, giving remarkable hand-holdability. Have gotten tack-sharp shots of not-flying birds at 1/40th sec! Truth. Not everytime, but often enough to be in awe! If you put this lens on a Panasonic GH4(no IBIS, but their present flagship camera), only the lens IS will be in effect. If you put it on a Panasonic GX8 (has IBIS), you still only have the IS of the lens, as Panasonic IBIS doesn’t marry-up with Olympus in-lens stabilizing. It would be great for all of us if Panasonic and Olympus would jump into the same bed and spawn greater compatiblilty between brands, but that usually doesn’t happen. However, Olympus was initially (info on some of the rumor sites, I think) going to release this lens without IS, but decided it could also nab Panasonic users with it’s inclusion. Obviously/seemingly a good biz decision, but not likely done with any particular love for Pansonic or us.

    Holy crap, I just realized my need to use the “()” a lot here, (don’t usually do that!)…not sure what it means, but hope it doesn’t distract from any info I’ve clumsily attempted to leave here.

    Also, not sure if anyone in these comments mentioned the close-focus of this 300mm f4, but I get clear focus 44 inches/1.12 meters from front of lens. Pretty sure the Olympus claim is 1.4 meters close-focus. Also, it doesn’t change when you use the 1.4 teleconverter. Tremendous for those who prefer not ground-crawling for plant life, lizards, snakes, snails, insects and those wanting great shots of butterflies, dragonflies…

    • Thanks, clearly described. I found out some of it on the web myself already.
      I’d love an extra long reach but I do prefer zoom in that area. So for me an Oly 100-400 with IS would be ideal. 🙂 I heard the Pana 100-400s OIS does very well without the IBIS on the Oly cameras though.

      But I’ll hold off a bit and see what Oly comes up with this year: a new EM1, some f1.2 primes and hopefully (though I heard no rumors yet) a nice tele zoom.
      For now I took advantage of their summer cashback promos and bought me the 75-300 II which does give me a 600mm reach (at a small price) and the 60mm macro since I don’t have interest in the new shorter macro that is coming anyway.
      Will keep me busy ’till fall. 🙂

  4. The problem with this equivalency talk (Olympus = 600mm on a full-frame) is that for resolution, it only mattered when the Olympus and FF cameras had similar pixel counts. Now, Nikon, Canon, etc., all sport near 40mp or higher resolution lessening the advantage Olympus once had. The only thing that has remained the same is that the angle of view is 2x narrower in the Olympus.

    • Yes and how many of those lenses can resolve 40mpx of detail i bet only the best and most expensive ones.

  5. Hi Steve You have a great resource for us all to read thanks

    I have the lens and it is a terrific lens for my uses – small birds, fauna and sports. All the reviewers and articles are suggesting “hand held is suburb” and it is but this is like pointing a pencil point at a target and hitting the target at the exact spot you want…most cannot do this well as we all have some sort of shakiness. I suggest using a monopod/ tripod for best results. You will be surprised at the results and better pin point focus you get. In small birds, fauna, people the focus on the eye is often most critical and the monopod makes this much more achievable. I like the monopod as it is easy to use, takes little room and allows for body and lens IS still to be on.

    Try to hold a pencil out in front of you and hit your target exactly…hold the pencil out there for 30 seconds or more and see how much you shake. This is a typical shooting if you are waiting for just that right turn of your subject.

    We have the almost perfect set now 12-40, 40-150 and the 300 with the 1.4x Hoping for the newer EM2 soon. 🙂

    Doug … long time M4/3 user

  6. A beautiful new Olympus EM-1 mark ii with higher FPS and better af tracking for action could make Olympus the king of sports/wildlife work….

  7. Great photos Steve, what a lens! The sadness in their eyes, such a sad place is the zoo, poor animals.

  8. my impression from your images:
    + very sharp (as far as you can judge from the tiny pictures)
    + excellent contrast
    + nice far background bokeh but:
    – not so nice focus transition and close background bokeh (see some out of focus hair of the monkey for example)
    – rather bad foreground bokeh (not that important in most cases?)

    looks not bad overall if you compare it to a nikon 600mm F4 which does a few things better i guess, but is heavyer and 5x the price.

    • The images are 1800-2000 pixels wide. Not “small”. I actually thought the foreground bokeh was some of the best I have seen. I haven’t seen better, so would love to see what 300mm or 600mm lens has better foreground bokeh 😉 I have sene no issues with Bokeh here, when compared to other choices, which appear quite a bit worse on these areas, with lenses costing more. This is giving you 600mm equivalent. To find a 600mm f/4 is not going to be good for your pocketbook (Canon is $11,000, or 8,500 more than this lens). There simply is not any lens that will give you this for this price at this quality, for any system. If there is, share the info 😉

      • No offence meant with the “small pictures” 😉 just saying that at this resolution most new lenses and many old lenses look pretty sharp at the given apertures.

        These rainbow disc blobs look pretty ugly to me (foreground bokeh), though I have no idea, if the expensive 600mm lenses would be better in this particular case, just a guess.
        Judging from examples online, the transition from focus to out of focus and the near background bokeh is better on the nikon 600mm f4, though it certainly would not justify the price and weight for most users.

        Your right, the lenses price / value ratio is unique and very good, I did’nt say anything contradicting that.

      • The picture with the two sleeping birds is a good example for bad near background and good far backround bokeh:
        Look at the eye of the right bird, it’s rather edgy and nervous. The far background ist smooth and nice.

    • You’renever gonna get terrific bokeh shapes on a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4. Beyond that, this lens is a tremendous optic; Olympus claims it’s the best lens they’ve ever produced in their history.

  9. I just wondered. It’s indeed a lot cheaper to buy an E-M1 together with this lens, instead of a good FF 600mm…

    • Yes, you’d have to buy the $10k+ 600MM FF lens to have a shot at matching IQ and sharpness of the Oly 300. It’s really the first time M43 that renders like FF, so much so, you forget your lugging around a bazooka. It’s as sharp, if not sharper than my Nocticron wide open.

      • You mean M4/3 matches in quality FF? Must be joking. The only logic way to compare FF with M4/3 would be shooting 300/4 on FF and use M4/3 crop. Doing this Olympus probably would win.

  10. Steve – doesn’t look as sharp as Olympus 40-150 f2.8 though still good for 300mm. are these hand held shots?

    • Handheld, and this is 600mm. The 40-150 is 80-300, so this is an extension on that at 600mm. This lens is insane, no other 600mm equivilant out there like it. It can not and should never be compared to the 40-150 as this is not a 150, itd double that focal length. Would be like comparing a 50mm to a 100mm. But this is probably the sharpest lens in Oly’s lineup.

  11. Hi Steve,

    I’m sure this lens is a wonderful product but I’m leaning more towards the versatility of the Pana 100-400 for a long tele.
    I see this lens hes built-in IS. When you enable it, does it use the lens IS instead of the Oly camera IS or does it combine both?
    If it does use the lens IS without the camera IS, isn’t that what happens when you put a Pana lens with IS enabled on an Oly camera?
    So is there actually a difference between using Oly lens IS and Pana lens IS on an Oly body?
    Or is Oly planning some combined IS like Panasonic has recently started with? Would that work with Pana lenses on an Oly body (and vice versa) then?
    Do you have a review of the Pana 100-400 yet?

    My cameras are the Pen-F and E-M1 by the way.

    Sorry for the load of questions, hope you can make me a bit wiser and ease my choices.

  12. Steve, looking forward to the full review. I’ve been considering pairing an MFT body with my Sony A7, for use exclusively on the long end (40-150 Pro and 300 Pro). I’d be very curious to see your thoughts on exactly what I’d be giving up, if anything, in using the MFT 300mm vs the full frame options at 600mm. Obviously, my male insecurities would be better assuaged by a huge white 600mm f/4… http://camerasize.com/compact/#312.17,654.506,ha,t

    • It’ll be 3-4 kilos lighter and 22cm shorter than nikon and canon alternatives. For.the same aperture you’ll have greater depth of field, a plus for me at this focal length. The stabilisation on an oly body is great, you need to take care but I have good shots at 1/20th.

      My gear strategy is the one you are considering; I use my Sony A7rii with lenses upto 85mm and oly for both of the longer end lenses you mention. I think the quality is great but I have never personally used a 600mm. The closest I have experience of would be a 100-400zoom on canon, both FF and APSC. I’d say the quality is slightly better, and it’s still lighter. Mine is carried around in a small messanger bag so it’s there if I take a walk near wildlife.

      For me you miss little if anything in quality, and you might actually take this one with you.

      • Greatlooking lens!

        I too look forward to the review. I also am surprised about your comments, I too have a Sony A7II for my close and personal work and Olympus Em-1 for the situations where fast AF and longer reach is needed. I am currently planning a trip from Sweden to New Zeeland and I was thinking of taking both cameras, The Sony with my Voigtländer 15mm and Ultron 35 mm f1.7 (adapted leica M) lenses, and the EM-1 with my Macro 60 mm and the 40-150 zoom. I love both these cameras and enjoy being able to switch between them as the mood strikes me.

        Steve Huff is responsible for both my choices through his positive reviews and I have not regretted buying any of them. I actually only own the Sony body, I have never owned a Sony-lens. I shoot 100% with other lenses and adapters which opened up the possibility to use all my old lenses that was just collecting dust.

        I was able to borrow a Panasonic 100 – 400 lens in my favourite camera shop to try on my EM-1 and one of their Panasonic GX8 bodies. I almost took the plunge but when I looked at the pictures at home som of them was backfocused. Something I thought impossible on sensorbased AF. That held me off from buying that lens and ditching my 40 – 150 Olympus. I would love to see Steve try that Panasonic lens and compare it with the Olympus 300.

        Cheers!

        • Hi Stefan,

          Interesting remarks you make.

          Like you, a lot of my gear has been bought due to the recommendations (or should I say inspirations?) by Steve. The rest was gear I already had but, believe it or not, I find recommended on his site as well. The man has an eye for gear that not only has quality and style but results in joy and satisfaction from owning and using it. (Cameras, lenses, bags, straps, …)

          I am an audiophile as well though my gear choices there are totally different from Steve’s. The reason probably is that other (and less) audio gear is available in Europe compared to the States. Add to that me being in love with vintage audio as well.

          Unlike you, Damoo and Steve I have no Sony A7. I’d love one but I can’t justify the additional cost upon a nice and elaborate Olympus kit being a complete amateur that has no professional use for it. I used an A7S and A7RII from a friend and did love it a lot.

          For the same reason I don’t own any Leica gear. Way to expensive for my use. I rented a Leica rangefinder long time ago for a day and loved the rangefinder concept as much as I found it impractical, but the cameras are damn top quality material.

          Now to you issue (and the opposite findings of Damoo) with the Pana 100-400. I’d actually prefer the 100-400 over the 300 for versatility. That’s why I’d like a review from Steve on an Oly body ILS and IBIS compared.
          But what I dob’t understand is why you’d ditch yoyr 40-150 over the whole 100-400 and 300 debacle. After all, the 40-150 is amagnificent lens with a whole other reach. Care to explain?

          • Hi!
            I agree that money really is a problem when you´re just an amateur takig pictures for your own pleasure. I bought the Sony because I got a very good deal on the body and I have 10 very nice lenses from three older system I used before going digital. Five Contax/Zeiss/Tamron lenses (Great but almost 30 years old). A pair of Canon and an old Nikon F-lens. I used to own, and be very happy with an EOS 5 MkII, but when I bought a EM-5 years ago I just stopped using it because the EM-5 was just so nice and easy to carry. After six months I sold off most of my Canongear and bought a few more Olympus lenses.

            Anyway, the reasoning I have behind the idea of selling the 40 – 150 is that I mostly shoot that lens at 150 mm and very often with the teleconverter added. It is my longest lens and I like to have som reach.

            At the same time, the strength of m43 is smaller sized cameras and lenses. I moved from Canon to get a lighter backpack that might actually contain something else but cameragear. I do not see myself carry both the 40-150 and an 100-400 lens at the same time. It would be like the Canon-days again.

            And then there´s the money. The Leica 100-400 will not come cheap. Since I want longer reach it makes sense to me to let go of the shorter lens and get some money back that I could put into the 100 – 400 lens.

            The caveat is that I got to try a preproduction lens and it fell short of my expectation. The build and size is fantastic and it looks sharp and contrasty in the viewfinder but my EM-1 had trouble focusing with it on the far end. And most surprisingly it missed focus quite a few times. When pixelpeeping I noticed that some unsharp pictures actually was backfocused. This is why I am eager to read a review of a production sample. Based on my own experience I will note buy the 100-400 lens. It may just be that the lense is too dark for the AF to be effective?

            Cheers!

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