A goal that is out of the ordinary
Usually known for its relatively compact hybrids with 4/3 “sensors and its discrete optics, Olympus has just marketed the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO, a premium long telephoto zoom lens intended for wildlife and wildlife photographers. sport.
Simmered for many years by Japanese engineers, it first stands out with its white dress; a color that has long been used on pro models from Canon and Sony. It obviously also stands out for its focal length equivalent to that of a 300-800 mm (or even 375-1000 mm once the integrated teleconverter is activated) with a constant f / 4.5 aperture, all in just 30 cm long .
Almost inexpensive for this type of zoom
This extravagant optic is therefore offered at an equally stratospheric price in the Micro 4/3 universe: € 7999! Yet when you look at what is done in full frame, the Olympus zoom seems almost cheap. Indeed, among the telezooms with integrated teleconverter, there are references such as the AF-S Nikkor 180-400mm f / 4 E TC1.4 FL ED VR from Nikon or the EF 200-400mm f / 4L IS USM Extender 1.4 x of Canon, two monsters over 3.5 kg displayed at € 12,000.
If the Olympus seems attractive against full-frame lenses, it will have a lot to do against zooms intended for 4/3 sensors. There are thus several models that can be opposed to it. At Panasonic, we find the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f / 4.0-5.6 II ASPH. and the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f / 4-6.3 ASPH. POWER OIS , marketed respectively € 569 and € 1,449. Olympus is offering the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS for € 1,299.
A premium lens
Covered with a white robe, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO is clearly inspired by high-end optics from other manufacturers. The white color would limit the rise in temperature of the lens during a long session in the sun.
Like Canon, Nikon or Sony, this zoom is marked with a metallic identification plate screwed onto the barrel. A little coquetry of professional optics. This plate is attached to a tripod mounting collar. Note that while it is possible to orient the position of the shoe, it is not possible to completely remove the collar.
The construction of the zoom gives off an impression of solidity. Built entirely in metal, it still weighs 1.875 kg, for 31 cm long. It is therefore not a featherweight. Mounted on a 4/3 “sensor device, it causes a certain imbalance, even if the imposing OM-D E-M1X is used .
That being said, it must be recognized that it remains compact for a lens offering such a focal range on a constant f / 4.5 aperture. For comparison, its size is similar to that of Sony’s FE 200-600mm f / 5.6-6.3G , a lens with a smaller focal length.
Style and build of Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm
The M.Zuiko Digital 150-400mm is equipped with all the controls one would expect from a zoom of this ilk. There are no less than five switches on its left side:
- a focusing distance selector (1.3 m – ∞; 1.3 – 6 m; 6 m – ∞)
- a switch to switch between autofocus and manual focus
- a button dedicated to stabilization
- a command to mute the autofocus sound
- an “L-Fn – Preset” switch to modify the behavior of the autofocus or lock the focus.
This last command is connected to the four black keys located on either side of the lens, between the zoom ring and the focusing ring. These keys can be configured from the unit menus. On the other side of the lens, a small “Set” button lets you save the focus position and reuse it later.
An integrated 1.25x teleconverter
The small protuberance at the base of the lens is used to store the 1.25x teleconverter. To activate this function, you have to switch a small lever located on the right side; a system that we find for example on the Canon EF 200-400mm f / 4 L IS USM 1.4x. A latch locks the position to avoid accidentally changing the focal length.
The focus and zoom rings offer a very flexible stroke. Some may find the focus ring a little too smooth, while others will appreciate the easy handling. If not bad, rotating the zoom ring would have provided a better feel; a recurring regret on this type of large zooms.
This optic does not have a distance scale, but the all-weather finish has not been forgotten. We cannot verify this point precisely, but Olympus is recognized on this criterion, in particular for being one of the only manufacturers to offer tropicalized devices certified IPX1.
As can be seen in the gallery above, the telephoto zoom behaves very well from the full f / 4.5 aperture, even if it seems a little behind. Note that the maximum sharpness is reached between f / 5.6 and f / 8. It is therefore advisable to close the diaphragm slightly to have the best shots, even if this induces a loss of precious light.
The lens maintains good sharpness up to f / 11, but diffraction alters the rendering of shots from f / 16. It is interesting to note that these observations are valid for all focal ranges, from 150 to 400 mm. Olympus has achieved a little tour de force by offering such a homogeneous Micro 4/3 zoom.
We also made a comparison between the Olympus zoom and a full frame lens, the FE 70-300mm F / 4.5-5.6 G OSS from Sony. We invite you to read our conclusions in the proposed article linked below. To sum up, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO does not have to be ashamed of its performance against a 24×36 zoom.
Geometric aberrations appear when moving away from Gaussian conditions. In practice, we often encounter two types of geometric distortions: pincushion distortions and barrel distortions. A third so-called mustache distortion “combines” the previous two and is more difficult to correct in post-production. Certain photographic practices seek to reduce these defects, but a very distorted effect can be deliberately sought for an artistic effect. Distortion should not be confused with the deformations induced by the focal length used, which will amplify or reduce the perspectives.
As we can see, distortions are very contained with this Olympus zoom. It must be said that it is rare to observe major deformations with long telezooms. This is all the more the case with this equivalent 300-800 mm in 24×36.
Chromatic aberrations are different kinds of unwanted little colored fringes that appear in the image, often in areas of high contrast or around its periphery. We measure the presence of lateral type chromatic aberrations. The appearance of the phenomenon in its purple form can also be due to an “overflow” of electrons from one pixel to another on some sensors, particularly when the photosites are small. These aberrations are therefore not optical.
This M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO has virtually no chromatic aberrations. They remain imperceptible.
Vignetting generally results in a darkening of the periphery of the image relative to the center. It is measured in IL (Lumination Index) and indicates the difference between the amount of light received by the edges and that received at the center of the sensor. Vignetting is very easy to correct in post-production, but it is also very popular with some photographers.
In the case of our zoom, it is at the longest focal length, 400 mm, that it manifests itself the most. However, this remains very limited and even tends to disappear completely from f / 5.6.
Portrait champion, for animals
Unsurprisingly, the maximum aperture of f / 4.5 doesn’t produce the best bokeh . In addition, we can observe that the bubbles produced are not perfectly round in the center and slight roughness which prevents them from being perfectly smooth. On this type of lens, these small imperfections should not pose a problem in practice.
With a focal length equivalent to 300-800 mm in 24×36, we can not really say that this Olympus zoom is the lens of choice for the portrait. To properly frame the possible model, it would be necessary to stand at a good distance. Getting the subject out of the background shouldn’t be too complicated in this situation, however. However, for this discipline, we will generally prefer a shorter focal length (85 or 100 mm).
However, the minimum focusing distance of 1.3m available across the entire focal range – and even in 1.25x mode – is a small feat. This allows you to be fairly close to your subject and to make original framing, especially on a human being.
The preferred frame of this M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO is more sports or animal photography. It then takes on its full meaning. Fans of the genre will be able to capture birds twirling in the air in a valley, antelopes in the savannah or racing cars launched at full speed. All with a single lens that fits in a backpack.
A very responsive autofocus of Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm
Among other features, Olympus puts forward very advanced bird tracking on its high-end cameras. In fact, it works well, but not without some hassle. The number of birds present in the field must be taken into account, since the camera will randomly focus on one of the birds. A constraint to be taken into account before starting to shoot a swarm of swallows.
That being said, we have to admit that the 150-400mm autofocus is really responsive. It manages without problem the focusing system of the OM-D E-M1X used in this test; the hybrid offering a real challenge with its 60 fps burst. Still, the 150-400mm doesn’t shake when tracking, and changing the focal plane isn’t a problem either. It’s impressive. Note that we still had some difficulty in achieving a fast focus on very close subjects, less than 6m.
It should be remembered that this M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO is intended for hybrids with a relatively small sensor compared to 24×36. Also, the maximum aperture f / 4.5 associated with this type of sensor is not the best of allies when the sun runs out. It will be necessary to ensure the rise in ISO, the digital noise can quickly damage the photo.
Always provide a monopod
This will not come as a surprise to specialist photographers, but we recommend using a monopod or tripod with such a focal length. The lens is certainly less bulky than a Canon EF 800mm f / 5.6L IS USM (4.5 kg for 46 cm long), however in the long run, the arm tires. A stand will further enhance the stability when shooting. If the zoom has optical stabilization that works in concert with the mechanical stabilization of the sensor, extreme focal lengths of 800 or 1000mm (or even more with an external teleconverter) become complicated to manage without support.
Finally, as we indicated above, the lens is fully tropicalized thanks to numerous seals. The internal zoom offering additional theoretical security. On our first outing with the M.Zuiko 150-400mm f / 4.5, we encountered heavy rain and even snow, with no problem. A good point for backpackers, although it should be mentioned that a material that we take care of is a material that will age well.
Sample pictures of Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm – Conclusion
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO is a very original lens. It is quite easily distinguished from its peers in Micro 4/3 mount. Imposing, it is nonetheless “compact” for a zoom capable of reaching 1000 mm in 24×36 equivalent – thanks to the integrated 1.25x teleconverter. This is a must-have for sports or wildlife photographers with a Micro 4/3 mount hybrid. It allows you to capture very distant subjects without having to bother with multiple lenses. Its finishes are exemplary and its very good stitching. However, it is a high-end product, intended for professionals or wealthy amateurs. Those who would like a very long focal length zoom nevertheless have some Micro 4/3 fallback solutions.Panasonic Lumix Leica DG Vario Elmar 100-400mm f / 4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS or even its equivalent from Olympus, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f / 5-6.3 IS. Finally, a little shorter, but more accessible, there is also the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f / 4.0-5.6 ASPH Power OIS as an alternative to this M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO out of category at any level.
Pros of Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm
- Good finishes.
- Resistance to humidity and dust.
- Customizable and shortcut control buttons.
- Constant opening.
- Good level of sharpness.
- Responsive autofocus.
Cons of Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm
- Objective which remains imposing – despite the prowess of Olympus.
- Relatively small maximum opening.
- Perfectible zoom ring rotation.