New Oly 100-400 at the zoo

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
Flat view
skysurfer5 Contributing Member • Posts: 870
New Oly 100-400 at the zoo

My new M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS Lens (can these names get any longer?) arrived Thursday. On Friday morning, I took it to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo for a couple hours for a workout. The purpose of this “little” (and hopefully entertaining) essay and my two follow-up posts--all three with images--is to provide practical examples of what the 100-400 can do first time out in partially skilled hands. All images are SOOC jpegs. I cropped three images to eliminate annoying objects that intruded upon the only available line-of-sight and I squared up one flower image because I like it better than way.

Since I moved from FT to MFT in 2019, my typical zoo kit has consisted of an Olympus E-M1 Mk II or Mk III, a 40-150 mm f/2.8 lens, and both teleconverters, along with the 60 mm f/2.8 macro for flowers and bugs. However, the 40-150, even with the TCs, is too short for some of the larger exhibits and even for some of the smaller animals in the smaller exhibits. For example, when the elephants are 300 to 400 feet (90 to 120 m) away on the far side of their “yard,” you want more than the 40-150 and MC-20 can deliver.

I was pretty certain that the 100-400 would be the ultimate sub-$7,500 zoo lens, and boy howdy was I impressed with the results. (I wasn’t actually worried at all because my son bought his 100-400 about six weeks ago and he had already proved the point at the same zoo.) While I am not a bird-in-flight shooter, I want to try my hand at it at Avila Beach/Port San Luis on the Central Coast. Lots of birds there.

I had originally planned to compare the 100-400 side-by-side with the 40-150, but I had loaned the latter to my oldest daughter and wasn’t able to get it back until Saturday, so the 100-400 had to go it alone. I also brought a monopod, but at the last minute decided to leave it in the car and see how two hours of hand holding would work out. The weight wasn’t a problem for me while walking around because much of the time I carried the camera and lens by the lens foot. Nor was the weight a problem while shooting as long as I held the lens correctly. One lesson I learned while shooting is that I was initially putting my left hand where it would be on the 40-150 (that danged muscle memory) and this created an imbalance that made the lens feel heavier. Once I got the hang of sliding my left hand further out along the barrel, I didn’t notice the weight nearly as much. I just need more practice. That means more trips to the zoo and less time doing yard work. YEAH!

I shot the 100-400 across the entire range of focal lengths and apertures. However, I mostly used focal lengths between 300 mm and 400 mm, and even longer when using the TCs. Why buy a long lens if you don’t intend to use it long…at least the first time out, right? Also, I mostly kept the lens wide open because (1) it’s not a particularly fast lens, (2) it was a cloudy day, and (3) the Tropical Rainforest exhibit is enclosed in a heavy mesh and can be several stops darker than outside. Finally, the 100-400 focuses a little slower than the 40-150, although the focus distance limiter is a big help. Fortunately, most of the animals weren’t moving all that quickly so focus speed was rarely an issue.

This first set of images shows the 100-400 used for “portraits” and close-ups. This will be followed by some examples using the teleconverters out to 800 mm, then some examples of relatively slow shutter speeds and how good the non-synced IBIS turns out to be. Hint: it’s pretty darned good, although I’m sure it pales in comparison to the 12-100, 300, and 150-400.

Portrait of a ring-tailed lemur breaking off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar.

The zoo was decorated for their annual Zoo Boo event. This guy is obviously not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes.

The 100-400 makes a very good close-up lens. This flower and the moth (?) were not much further away than the 1.3 m close focusing distance.

Another flower, this time about 6 feet (1.8 m) away, and a very creamy background. You will note that the center stamens are in focus, but the edges of many of the petals are not. Well, for a 400-mm focal length and that distance, the depth of field is only about 0.1 in (2.5 mm).

-- hide signature --

'Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?'
…Winston S. Churchill

 skysurfer5's gear list:skysurfer5's gear list
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro +18 more
Flat view
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow