Olympus 300mm Lens Shootout

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Phocal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,374
Olympus 300mm Lens Shootout

I arrived at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas in a good mood despite my pack weighing in at just over 48 pounds. Pulling the F-stop Ajna from the back of the Jeep and throwing it over my shoulders I couldn’t help but think if all this work was really worth it. Just about every photographer who does an article comparing two or more lenses photograph some stationary subject like a target or brick wall. I have always felt those types of test do nothing to illustrate how the lenses operate in a real world shooting environment. For that reason I have always conducted my lens comparisons in the field photographing the subjects I would normally use the lenses for.

Sure I could just use a photographic target and show you this lens will resolve x number of lines per millimeter while this lens will resolve x + x. Don’t get me wrong, that is great for figuring out what lenses is better and being a serious gear geek I enjoy that information. But what does that difference really mean in a photograph of a bird? Will I notice a difference in actual use between this $3,000 professional level lens and this $1000 consumer lens? Is that difference worth the extra cost?

These are the types of questions that shooting a target or brick wall cannot answer and is why I conduct my comparisons like I do.

For todays outing I had the following gear in my pack:

  • Olympus OMD EM1 /w grip (EM1)
  • Olympus OMD EM1 (EM1)
  • OLympus MZ 300mm f4.0 IS Pro (Micro Tuna)
  • Olympus MZ 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 II (75-300)
  • OLympus ZD 50-200 f2.8-3.5 SWD (SWD)
  • Olympus ZD 150mm f2.0 (Little Tuna)
  • Olympus MC-14
  • Olympus EC-14
  • Olympus EC-20
  • Godox V860iiO
  • Godox X1T-O
  • 3D printed skimmer pod w/ ballhead
  • 3 liters of water

I have seen a lot of µ4/3 photographers in forums and social media complaining about the weight of newer professional level gear from Olympus. Some even claiming that it’s gotten to where µ4/3 camera/lens are approaching full frame size. Those comments always make me laugh because it is so easy to prove wrong. I could go through and prove it right here by looking up weights and comparing a similar load out of full frame gear, but I have more important things to do like provide you with this information. I will say as a previous full frame/APSC shooter that there is no way I could fit a similar load out into a 40L bag, let alone carry it while covering just over 8 miles. This and the amazing weather-sealing of Olympus is why I switched systems after 25 years with Canon.

Anyway, let’s continue with the comparison.

It was really foggy driving in, so everything was covered wet with dew when I arrived. This comparison was to include the Olympus ZD 150 ƒ2.0 (Little Tuna), but while switching from the Olympus ZD 50-200 ƒ2.3-3.5 SWD (SWD) to the Little Tuna I dropped the Tuna. Which resulted in it getting wet on both ends and never un-fogging while I had my subject in front of me. I actually had problems with all the lenses fogging up because of having to lay them in the extremely wet grass. There were a few times I had to remove the lens hood and wait for the lens to un-fog before taking any photos because they wouldn’t un-fog with the hood on. I thought about removing the hoods completely but needed them on the lens to keep the front element from getting wet while laying in the grass.

Another problem with my preferred way of doing lens comparisons is actually getting all the gear into position to photograph my subject. I am one of those rare photographers who doesn’t like to crop, so getting close and filling the frame with my subject is the only alternative. In normal photography outings this is never really a problem because I typically drop my pack and sneak/crawl into range with just my camera and lens. When you have four lenses and two cameras that you want to photograph something with the difficulty of getting into position is compounded. Normally I have this small tarp in my pack that is used when the ground is wet or muddy or full of bird poop. Today I was concerned with the weight of my pack, so I left out everything that was not essential and one of those things was my tarp. I spent the entire day cursing myself for leaving it behind.

I had tried to crawl towards three different birds while dragging the pack behind me. The thought was it would give me a place to layout my cameras and lenses while photographing the bird. Problem was the pack caused a bit too much commotion, which spooked my chosen subjects before I could get close enough for even one photograph. I changed my tactics when coming upon this Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias). This time I crawled towards the bird while carrying two cameras with lenses attached. I am really good at judging distance and talk extensively about it in my article on depth of field (DoF). Today I was just a little off in my prediction and ended up at 41 feet away vs the planned 50 foot distance. After getting into position with the two cameras I laid them on the grass being careful to not get the front lens elements wet before slowly crawling back to grab the other two lenses. It took me about 45 minutes to get into position with all the lenses because I was being extra cautious to not spook another subject (something I hate doing).

Continue reading and see the results here.


 Phocal's gear list:Phocal's gear list
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake +6 more
Olympus E-M1
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