Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens

About six months in the past, I made a heart-wrenching, painful, and troublesome choice: I switched from Canon to Olympus.

Now, I’m not some loopy, brand-loyal photographer. I feel the Canon versus Nikon argument is ridiculous. However I had invested 1000’s of {dollars}, tens of 1000’s actually, in my Canon gear.

Nonetheless, my photographic priorities have been altering. I’ve established one thing of a distinct segment in Alaska wilderness images and the dimensions and weight of my Canon package was turning into a hindrance.

bird in a tree - Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lensbird in a tree - Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens

I’ve been extraordinarily impressed by the sharpness and clear bokeh of this lens. Swainson’s Thrush, Alaska. Lumix G9 with Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

Measurement and weight had been an element

Entry to lots of the locations I work on project or lead picture workshops and excursions is by way of small airplane or on foot. In different phrases, the load of my gear is a significant consideration.

Increasingly more usually, I used to be compelled to go over my beloved Canon 500mm f4L, as a result of it was simply too darn heavy and ponderous. Somewhat, I’d pack one thing extra compact, even when it wasn’t pretty much as good. Leaving that large lens behind was painful, however essential, and I consistently wished for one thing comparable that wasn’t so darn large.

On account of leaving the large glass behind, my wildlife work suffered. So I began experimenting with quite a lot of different lenses for the Canon system: Tamron’s and Sigma’s 150-600mm lenses, and Canon’s 100-400mm and the 70-200mm f/2.Eight with a 2x teleconverter.

All had been respectable, however none matched the standard and dreamy bokeh of the 500mm f4.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - spruce grouse Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - spruce grouse

Spruce Grouse, Denali Nationwide Park, Alaska. Lumix GX85 and Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

Some smaller choices

Unrelated to this search, I bought somewhat Lumix GX85 as a backup digicam for wilderness journeys. Stunned by the standard of the micro 4/3rds system, I rented a few lengthy lenses for it. First the Lumix/Leica 100-400, (which I’ve beforehand reviewed right here on DPS), after which the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO.

Whereas the Lumix/Leica 100-400mm combo gave me a staggering attain (200-800mm equal on the 4/3rds system), the sharpness on the lengthy finish was imperfect, and the bokeh was missing. It’s an ideal lens, however simply doesn’t fairly evaluate to the 500mm f/4.

The Olympus 300mm F4 alternatively… that one took me fully abruptly.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO LensReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens

A tricky, all-metal housing and full climate sealing imply the sturdiness of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO simply compares to the very best lenses by Canon and Nikon.

Six months after first renting the Olympus, I bought all of my Canon gear and bought a Lumix G9 physique, quite a lot of Lumix/Leica lenses and the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO lens.

Here’s what I consider it.

Worth – Olympus 300mm F4 PRO

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - moose in a fieldReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - moose in a field

Bull moose. Denali Nationwide Park, Alaska. Made with the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO on a Lumix GX85 physique.

A brand new Canon 600mm F4L at present sells for $11,500. The Olympus 300mm F4 PRO is about $2,500.

Yeah, no contest there. You can purchase the Olympus and nonetheless have sufficient left over for a visit to Alaska to {photograph} brown bears AND a visit to Africa to see lions and elephants (journey is all the time cash properly spent).

Measurement and Weight

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO LensReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens

At 9 inches lengthy (with the hood retracted) and three.25lbs, the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO is a 3rd the load and half the size of the Canon 600mm F4L.

Due to the smaller sensor of the 4/3rds system, you possibly can match equal or higher magnification right into a lens whereas retaining the identical most aperture in a MUCH smaller package deal. Canon’s 600mm F4 lens weighs in at a whopping 8.6lbs (3.9kg) whereas the Olympus with the identical equal magnification and most aperture is a comparably dainty 3.25 (1.47kg).

Bodily, it’s also rather more compact. At about 9 inches (22.9 cm) lengthy it’s roughly half the size of the Canon lens. In relation to dimension, the Olympus is a transparent winner for a wilderness photographer like myself.

However how is the standard?

Sharpness

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - bird in the grassReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - bird in the grass

I made this picture of a Smith’s Longspur in Alaska’s Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge with a Canon 5D Mark III and 500mm F4L. It’s sharp and crisp, as you’d count on.

After I first thought of changing my Canon gear with Olympus I took each techniques out within the area for a week-long picture workshop I used to be main. On the journey, I used to be in a position to shoot each beneath comparable situations. Later, once I examined the pictures at 100%, I felt the sharpness was kind of equal even once they had been shot large open at F4.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - fox in the grassReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - fox in the grass

Simply as sharp because the Canon 500mm. Fox. Umnak Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Lumix G9 and Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

With a sigh of reduction, I moved on to . . .

Bokeh

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - brown wren Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - brown wren

Few lenses can evaluate to the dreamy bokeh of the Canon 500mm F4 L. (Canyon Wren, Joshua Tree Nationwide Park, CA.)

The bokeh of a lens is among the most vital points of picture high quality. In wildlife images, the flexibility to separate your topic from the background is a large asset, that means you want a shallow depth of area. The massive Canon can obtain this with aplomb. Its bokeh is clean and creamy and creates an ideal background in your topic. This, I knew, could be the best problem for the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

And it’s the one place the Olympus fell brief… however solely simply (and I imply by the narrowest of margins). Since a 4/3rds sensor crops fairly than bodily magnifies a picture, the depth of area is similar as you’d obtain with 300mm f4 on the full-frame Canon digicam for those who cropped the picture by 50%.

Which is to say, it nonetheless has an ideal, shallow depth of area, however the bokeh retains extra kind than it does with the 500mm or 600mm.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - black raven close up Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - black raven close up

Although not fairly the wonderful bokeh of the Canon 500mm, the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO attains one thing VERY shut and simply have a look at that sharpness! (Widespread Raven. Juneau, Alaska. Lumix G9 and Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.)

In relation to bokeh, the Canon had the sting, however not by a lot.

Efficiency

Autofocus

The Canon 500mm F4 has lightning-fast autofocus. That isn’t up for debate and is among the causes that so many professional wildlife and sports activities photographers choose that lens.

So how does the Olympus evaluate?

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - crane in flightReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - crane in flight

This picture made with the Canon 500mm F4L was straightforward to seize with the lightning quick autofocus system.

This was a more durable comparability to make as a result of autofocus potential is a mixture of digicam physique and lens and the way the 2 talk. After I use the Olympus, my alternative of a digicam physique is the Lumix G9. At first, I anticipated that this mixing of producers would hinder the efficiency, however I’ve been relieved to search out that isn’t the case. Lumix our bodies are absolutely appropriate with all options of Olympus lenses with no obvious loss in efficiency.

I’ve discovered the autofocus of the Lumix/Olympus mixture to be exact and intensely quick, attaining focus as rapidly because the Canon.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - birds in flight and snowy mountain Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - birds in flight and snowy mountain

Birds in flight, significantly towards a background like this are onerous for any autofocus system to deal with. However the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO was in a position to make it occur and quick.

One other nifty function of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO is you possibly can swap between auto and handbook focus just by giving somewhat tug on the main focus ring. It snaps down, and out of the blue you might be in handbook focus, click on it again, and autofocus returns. There isn’t a fumbling round for switches.

Stabilization and Handhold-ability

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - waterfall in AlaskaReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - waterfall in Alaska

Waterfall, Umnak Island, Alaska. Made at 1/15th of second handheld (!!!) with the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO on a Lumix G9 physique.

Canon’s picture stabilization is extraordinarily good, however they’ve stubbornly refused to combine stabilization into their digicam our bodies. Lumix, nonetheless, has stabilization constructed into the physique which communicates with simultaneous stabilization within the lens!

Right here, the Lumix/Olympus combo is a transparent winner. I’ve discovered I can hand maintain the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO on the Lumix G9 as little as 1/15th of a second and nonetheless get acceptably sharp photographs. The small, simply dealt with dimension actually helps with this, however I might NEVER be capable of hand maintain the Canon 500mm at 1/15th.

The general efficiency winner? The Olympus 300mm f4 PRO.

Conclusion

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - bald eagleReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - bald eagle

Bald Eagle, Unalaska Island, Alaska. Lumix G9 physique with the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

I’ll be sincere right here, occasionally I miss the large Canon 500mm f4L. However not for causes of picture high quality or area efficiency. Somewhat, I miss the snob enchantment of that large glass. It’s the stupidest of silly causes, however it’s an actual one.

As a professional photographer, the large lens was a badge of honor. Fortuitously, I’ve (principally) outgrown the must be seen as a professional once I’m within the area capturing. Now, I strive to focus on making photographs ok that they communicate for themselves, and go away the lens dimension contests to others.

Review of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - caribouReview of the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens - caribou

Caribou in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic. Lumix G9, Olympus 300mm F4 PRO.

After I put apart the dimensions and snob enchantment, I’m in no way sorry to have moved away from Canon. Now, my large lens is sufficiently small that I carry it in all places (even on my night dog-walks). It’s mild and unobtrusive and I may even carry it backpacking. The standard is so near that of the larger glass, that the variations are nearly unimportant.

So yeah, I just like the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO. So much.

Abstract

Reviewer

David Shaw

Assessment Date

Reviewed Merchandise

Olympus 300mm F4 PRO Lens

Creator Score

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