Micro Four Thirds Talk Forum
I waited a long time (hopeful) for a lens like this to come to M43. From order to delivery, it was 8 months. That’s not a complaint, just a reference for those still waiting. It appears the OM-1 has driven demand even higher so wait times might be different today. Below are my impressions based on personal and professional use to date. I’m not a wildlife shooter but some of the sports I shoot put me places to experiment. I’ve tried to include full res images where appropriate to help illustrate.
Upon delivery I was convinced someone stole the lens from the box and replaced it with a bag of beans. I kept jostling the box thinking “there’s no way it’s THIS light!?”
First impressions: a little longer and a little heavier than the 300/4 but just as balanced. The weight is slightly more than the 150/2 (little tuna) but it feels better in hand (not so fat). It’s hard to describe, but every time I pick it up, I get the same feeling, like it should weigh more for a lens this size. Easier to pack than other super-teles I’ve owned. I’ve carried it in the Thinktank Digital Holster 150 with E-M1X – a perfect fit but not with the MC-14 attached.
Mounted on the OM-1 it fits in the LowePro ProTactic 350 along with the 40-150/2.8 (or 12-100/4) on a second OM-1 body, or lens only with more accessories. The E-M1X also fits in the 350 II but too tight to slip out the top. In any configuration that’s very compact for a two-camera setup and makes for a versatile package that is easy to carry for extended periods.
Autofocus feels a little faster than the 300/4 but both are stellar. The stepping motor is nearly silent. The little sound you do hear in quiet environments is mild/pleasing. AF engagement feels immediate but at the same time does not torque the lens when it moves the focus elements. The buttons and switches on the barrel have premium feel, and provide tactile, confident feedback even through light gloves. The lens has hunted end-to-end on me a couple of times with the limiter switch set to full range. I find the preset options of “6M” cut-off acceptable for near vs far work but I sometimes prefer to use the camera’s custom internal focus limiters and leave the lens in full range mode.
This is important to me. Handling some larger lenses is disappointing on smaller MILC bodies when shooting handheld. The Sony 200-600 in particular feels cumbersome with the weight of the front element so far out and cramped grip on the current bodies. Some lenses are just better suited for a monopod and that’s okay, that’s just not how I prefer to work.
The 150-400/4.5 feels familiar, like a miniaturized EF 200-400/4 but with the T/C in the right spot! The reversible carbon fiber lens hood is well designed, solid and easy to attach one handed. On smaller bodies like the EM1mkIII and OM-1 it is well balanced but it really shines on the EM1X. Near perfect front-to-back and easily wielded one handed thanks to the excellent grip on the EM1X in both orientations.
The 800-1000mm FOV can be daunting after several hours of use or when fatigued. Stabilizing the EVF eases subject tracking and allows for tighter framing (more pixels on subject). Even more pronounced in cold weather when extremities have a bit of tremor. Video footage is far more pleasing on the Olympus than other super-tele combos I have tried. Best to have a gimbal head + tripod if you plan to do extensive video work but for occasional clips or when you can brace yourself for longer shots the combined SYNC-IS is the best I’ve used.
I was concerned that adding the MC-14 would detrimentally impact autofocus speed and accuracy. For example, my Sony 1.4TC worked really well with the GM 100-400 but it was a dog on the 200-600. I was delighted to see the speed and accuracy of the 150-400/4.5 with the MC-14 does not appear to change in moderate to good lighting. Unlike the RF 100-500, the addition of a teleconverter does not cut the range short, allowing you the full 210 – 560mm at f/6.3 or 260-700 at f/8 with the internal TC engaged. I have not tested the MC-20 so cannot comment. Image quality with the MC-14 remains excellent whereas the 40-150/2.8 + MC-14 garners mixed reviews. I have provided sample images that better illustrate this using the same MC-14 on both lenses.
With regard to the internal TC it appears to be well matched for the lens. I do not notice any drop off in sharpness or contrast in use. It does help with framing at times and it's easy enough to flick on-off with middle finger to aid in composition without taking your attention away from the subject.
When continuous autofocusing (PDAF) in lower light the Olympus 40-150/2.8 is quicker than the 150-400/4.5 at 150mm. The addition of the MC-14 does slow AF down in low light, but accuracy remains excellent. On the OM-1, I can rely on AF in very low lighting with the MC-14 in place. I feel the EM1X has always performed well in this regard but the OM-1 sets a high bar for low light AF. Hunting is subtle and the lens rarely tries to run full range when it can’t find focus. Ultimately it provides the user a confident experience with few faults.
Very well controlled. It is rare that CA creeps up in still images. On a recent job, shooting surfers in harsh lighting, I recall one photo that required one-click clean-up in post. It was a black wet suit – the water on the arm glaring in the sun caused a narrow line of CA. Cleaned up nicely without bleeding into surrounding area.
No noticeable CA in video but I tend to record video footage in softer lighting. Will have a better test at the U.S. Open of Surfing in July which always has harsh mid-day sun and I shoot a fair amount of video there.
Built in Arca-Swiss grooves - round of applause! This should be the standard for every lens foot. Wish there was a QD socket but there are several attachment points on the lens I find useful for various straps. The foot rotates out of the way quickly but requires 4 hex bolts to remove completely. I have not removed it as the foot balances perfectly in my palm with my fingertips comfortably resting on the zoom ring.
Minimum Focus Distance:
One of the factors I appreciate most about M43 is the close focus ability. When I used the Sony 200-600 I was frustrated by the ~2.5 meter MFD. Same with Canon’s compact RF primes (6m for the 800mm/11!). For comparison, the 300 PRO is ~ 1.5 meters and the 150-400 is 1.3 meters across the zoom range (0.71X with the TC engaged). Not a true macro but excellent for close-ups with this focal range.
I live and shoot at the coast. Sand and salt-water are ubiquitous and the nearby deserts are just as harsh with windblown waves of fine particles. I was a bit concerned with the crevice around the TC switch but its shallower than it looks and easy to rinse. Dust and debris are easily removed and sand doesn’t seem to stick in there. The front element sheds water quickly when splashed. Given my track record with Olympus I don’t have any concerns with weather sealing - as good or better than anything else I’ve used.
Excellent color and contrast even against bright light sources. Fine feather detail is superb. Reminds me very much of the 300/4 and does not appear to have the harsh out of focus rendering the 40-150 can sometimes exhibit. Vignetting is well controlled in OOC JPG. Shooting against a clear blue sky I might apply a small adjustment post-crop to ORF’s.
Defocused light sources are generally pleasing - with a faint outer ring and a trace of onion-ring bokeh. Mostly round although sometimes bends are visible almost like straight aperture blades meeting.
Olympus struck a brilliant balance for this lens. It is compact and light enough to travel without feeling I have to compromise image quality. It is an absolute pleasure to use and live with on-the-go. Might want a second camera body as you won’t want to take it off! Paired with the 12-100/4 or either of the 40-150’s and you have a fantastic, lightweight kit that can do just about everything. I’ve only just started with this lens and I anticipate many wonderful years of use ahead.
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