The other big Micro Four Thirds professional lens story at of this year’s CES 2016 is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro telephoto prime lens.
Along with the lens’ impressively high-end specs comes a high end price, and many M43 users will be comparing pros and cons of this long prime telephoto with those of its Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 telephoto zoom lens competitor. I am already, and the jury will be out until I can attach both to my GX8 or GH4 for serious tryouts shooting video and stills.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro specifications
- Micro Four Thirds mount.
- 300mm, 600mm (35mm Equivalent).
- Aperture range: f/4 to 22.
- Three HR glass elements and one E-HR element.
- Three Super ED Elements and Z coating nano.
- High-Speed MSC imager autofocus.
- 5-Axis sync image stabilization.
- Minimum focus distance: 4.6’.
- Splash, dust and freeze-proof construction.
- Manual Focus Clutch and L-Fn button.
The first big difference between both lenses is, of course, the fact that the Panasonic is a zoom lens with a focal length range of 100-400mm whereas the Olympus is a prime lens of 300mm focal length. In common with many zooms, the Panasonic has a variable maximum aperture range of f/4 to /6.3 at the long end whereas the Olympus telephoto is f/4.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 belongs to a professional quality lens line-up in the M.Zuiko Pro family, soon adding its 300mm telephoto focal length to the existing set of an 8mm fisheye, 7-14mm wide zoom, 12-40mm normal zoom and 40-150mm telephoto zoom.
Based on my many positive experiences with the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens, this beautifully-designed and built lens set will satisfy the needs of many still photographers and moviemakers.
The second big difference may be a sticking point, though. While the Olympus 300mm lens shares top-notch 5-axis image stabilization with the rest of the M.Zuiko Pro lens range, that full stabilization only works on Olympus camera bodies.
As with the 12-40mm zoom, the 300mm telephoto has no image stabilization at all on the Panasonic Lmix GH4 and in-body only image stabilization on the GX8, and, one assumes, the coming GH5. When the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm long telephoto zoom is used on the GX8 (and GH5), it will have full Dual IS and on the GH4 will have the lens’ internal image stabilization only.
Some image stabilization is better than none, when it is needed, and full 5-axis stabilization is even better again.
This would not be such a bind for me personally if Olympus and Panasonic both offered complete professional-quality lens ranges. There is much to admire about the M.Zuiko Pro range. I want to see a similarly high-specced range of professional prime and zoom lenses branded as Panasonic Leica, just like the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f/4-6.3, because there is also a great deal to admire about Leica lens designs. My many years relying on Leica prime lenses for Leica M-series cameras proved that.
None of this either/or stuff is what I want I really want to see between the two senior partners of the Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds coalition, Olympus and Panasonic. One of the most attractive features of the M43 format is its large range of native and adaptable lenses, far larger than those available to any user of either brand of traditional DSLR cameras.
All that aside, if I were an Olympus camera owner right now, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro would be high on my wishlist and I would already have its stablemates in the M.Zuiko range in my kit bag.
As for possible benefits of using the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 telephoto zoom on an Olympus camera body such as the OM-D E-M1, OM-D E-M5 Mark II or OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and whether any of the cameras support the OIS built into many other Panasonic lenses, that is beyond my current experience.
Olympus, please get in touch about loaning me cameras and lenses so I can fill this vast, yawning chasm in my M43 knowledge. It is hampering my ability to do my job to the utmost and to give my readers the most useful purchasing advice. [bctt tweet=”CES 2016: Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4.0 Pro telephoto prime lens announced, joining pro lens range”]
Micro Four Thirds users now have a powerful new option for photographing faraway and fast-moving subjects, and we at B&H are pleased to share the news. With the release of the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO lens, birders, wildlife, and sports photographers can be more certain that they don’t miss the shot while exploring new angles and creative possibilities.
Despite providing a 600mm equivalent focal length, this 300mm f/4 remains compact, measuring just about 9 inches long, as well as being easy to handle at slightly less than 3 pounds. To further ensure that images generated by this lens are sharp, a 5-Axis Sync IS system is built in, and works in conjunction with the in-camera stabilization systems of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and OM-D E-M1 to provide up to six stops of image stabilization for sharp handheld image-making in difficult lighting conditions. By combining both lens- and sensor-shift stabilization methods, shake correction is more effective for stills and movie recording while retaining a high degree of image quality.
In regard to the optical design, the lens features three Super ED elements, which suppress chromatic aberrations, as well as three HR elements and one E-HR element to minimize spherical aberrations. A new Z Coating Nano has also been applied to significantly reduce ghosting and flare for increased clarity, contrast, and color fidelity.
While it is clear that photographers who routinely capture images from long distances can appreciate this lens, the needs of macro shooters can also be well served by its 4.6′ minimum focus distance and 0.48x equivalent maximum image magnification. When used with the optional M.ZUIKO Digital MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter, the lens’s maximum image magnification is increased to 0.67x, its 35mm equivalent focal length becomes 840mm, and the minimum focusing distance is maintained for close-up shooting capabilities of insects, birds, and other small subjects from a comfortable working distance.
Rounding out the lens’s attributes, its physical construction is accentuated by hermetic seals in 17 places to prevent dust and moisture from entering the lens, making it an ideal companion for working in harsh climates. Handling is complemented by an L-Fn button, which can be programmed to control up to 27 different functions, as well as Focus Limiter and IS On/Off switches, and a manual focus ring. Additionally, the included removable tripod collar features an Arca-type foot for direct compatibility with a variety of tripod heads.
Included with the lens itself, a new LC-77B Front Lens Cap, DR-79 Decoration Ring, and LSC-1127 Lens Case were also announced, as well as an optional 77mm PRO ZERO Protection Filter.
Learn more about the Olympus Announces the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Lens at B&H
(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)