Distance and Image Quality (Get closer, improve technique, or blame it on the lens?)

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Auf Reisen Regular Member • Posts: 144
Distance and Image Quality (Get closer, improve technique, or blame it on the lens?)

Hello everyone!
I am currently testing the Olympus 75-300 on an OMD EM10 II. In good light and closer distances, I get results that I am more than happy with.

These were both hand-held at a distance of maybe 2 or 3 meters. I didn't zoom all the way out, I think I was at about 250 and 140mm, respectively. Keep in mind MFT has a 2x crop factor.
Now, compare that to a subject I have taken hundreds of photos of:

This is by far the best shot out of hundreds of pictures taken on different days in different light conditions. As you can see, it is not very sharp. A more representative shot would be this one, and it is still in the upper 20% I decided to keep:

I have tried about every kind of shutter speed from 1/200 to 1/1000, ISO from 200 to 2000. Hand-held, lens resting on my knees, or on a monopod. The only thing I haven't tried so far is dragging a heavy tripod out there and going down to 1/50 or so. But it really doesn't look like shutter speed is the problem here, as I often see no difference between shots at 1/200 and 1/1000. They're all washed out. Is this just as good as it is going to get at this distance (about 15-20m)? Do lenses like this have a problem at these distances? Yes, I realise I am at 300mm for these shots, but the IQ is usually just fine at that length with closer subjects. Should I stop down? I'm at a loss.

 Auf Reisen's gear list:Auf Reisen's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm 1:4.8-6.7 II Tamron 14-150mm F/3.5-5.8 Di III
Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
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