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Shootout Lens Comparison - Olympus MZ 300mm f4.0 IS Pro & Olympus ZD 150mm f2.0 w/ EC-20

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by Phocal, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    As soon as I got the 300/4 I had people asking me to do a comparison of it against my ZD 150mm f2.0 w/ EC-20. I wanted to wait a bit so I could see how the MZ 300mm f4.0 IS Pro shot and that time has finally arrived. I had fully intended on doing this when I did the 300mm shootout but an unfortunate drop caused me to have to wait until today when I headed to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to check the status of Raptors arriving for the winter. While there looking for Raptors (saw a few but no shots, still a little early) I came upon a couple of subjects that allowed me to do a variety of test.

    The results were as I expected and it also confirmed what I had always suspected of the 150/2 w/ EC-20 combo.

    Before we can get to the images I guess I should go over the shooting situation and parameters…………………

    • ISO - Auto
    • White Balance - Auto
    • SAF w/ Single Small Auto Focus Point which I moved to a location for a decent composition.
    • Drive - Continuous Low w/ silent (set to 6.5fps)for all images except the ones with flash, for those I was in Continuous Low w/ Anti-Shock.
    • IBIS - SIS1
    • Metering - ESP
    • EV - +1 Stop for the Cormorant photos (including the flash photos) and 0EV for the GBH
    • Mode - Aperture Priority
    • Flash - For the images with flash I was using my Godox V860iiO mounted on the hot shoe in high speed sync mode.
    • Photos all taken in RAW and processed via my custom preset in LightRoom. The Cormorant images have no crop and the GBH are only cropped to 16:9 (still full length of original file).
    • Handheld w/ Elbows braced on knees while sitting on the ground for the GBH images. For the Cormorant the lens was resting on a pool noodle that was slipped over the edge of my window.
    I want to point out that in almost every image the 150/2 had a slower shutter speed than the 300/4. It was between 1/3 and 2/3 stops slower, mostly in the 2/3 stops slower range. This was also noticeable when looking through the viewfinder and believe it’s due to the TC because I know bare lens it is much brighter than the 300/4. I also believe my 150/2 w/ EC-20 is back focusing slightly and will likely repeat this comparison after I do a micro focus adjustment later this fall.

    Now for the photos………………………..
     
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    Shooting distance of 125 feet with both lenses wide-open.

    43374231320_b87a5b0c24_o.jpg
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    300/4 Wide-Open at 125 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    45138899832_2678162835_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Wide-Open at 125 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    Shooting distance of 125 feet with both lenses stopped down 1 full stop.

    45138926472_a587e10b73_o.jpg
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    300/4 Stopped Down at 125 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    43374205650_c3d17df473_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Stopped Down at 125 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr
     
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  3. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    Shooting distance of 24 feet with both lenses wide-open and without flash.

    43374236680_99f86f85f0_o.jpg
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    300/4 Wide-Open at 24 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    44277078105_e80cc3bc9a_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Wide-Open at 24 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    Shooting distance of 24 feet with both lenses stopped down 1 full stop and without flash.

    45138932312_4b248227be_o.jpg
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    300/4 Stopped Down at 24 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    45187844561_b3bfa81c91_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Stopped Down at 24 Feet by Phocal Art, on Flickr
     
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  4. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    Shooting distance of 24 feet with both lenses wide-open and w/ flash

    30249341557_e4616b6c22_o.jpg
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    300/4 Wide-Open at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    30249292187_0fb4523574_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Wide-Open at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    Shooting distance of 24 feet with both lenses stopped down 1 full stop and w/ flash

    45138938812_c649d98145_o.jpg
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    300/4 Stopped Down at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    43374222770_815691ed82_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Stopped Down at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr
     
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    My thoughts on the outcome…………………

    Color - I know it’s hard to tell by my sample images but the colors seem pretty similar, just as I found when I did my bare lens comparison.
    Resolution - It is pretty clear that the 300/4 has significantly more resolution than the 150/2 combo. When looking at the eye the 300/4 has this pop from greater detail captured than the 150/2. You can also notice it in the out of focus feathers as the 300/4 seems to retain fine detail as the focus falls off better than the 150/2 combo. I also wonder if this is because of back focusing and hope to have the time to test that theory soon.

    Distance - The Cormorant was right around my typical shooting distance, maybe even a bit far. I like to get close enough to shoot full body with the bare 150/2 and use the 300/4 for the up-close detail images. So I would really like to be a bit closer when using the 300/4. Now the GBH shots are way beyond what I would ever consider shooting at. But I decided to include him because that is probably about what most people shoot at, if not even farther away. This also confirmed what I believed about the 150/2 combo, it really suffered out past about 50 feet and why I have always gotten close.

    Bokeh - Another one that is hard to judge based on my sample images. I am sorry for that but I have to take what is given and these were the only 2 birds I was able to photograph with both lenses. I suspect that they are still pretty similar but I give a slight edge to the 300/4 this time (in my bare lens comparison I liked the 150/2 better), it keeps fine detail longer as focus fades. Now I have played around with the wide-open and stopped down with the 150/2 combo a lot over the years and the bokeh is noticeably worse when at f5.6 over f4.0. In situations like presented I would shoot stopped down because there is no bokeh to speak of. But in situations where there was a bokeh consideration I always shot the 150/2 combo wide-open and took the hit on sharpness.

    Flash - I really love how the flash shots turned out, they really brought out more color and detail in the Cormorant. The 150/2 when stopped down really came alive with the flash. I also believe in this shot I got the random error and the lens focused correctly and not back focus like I am suspecting on the other images.

    Honestly, this turned out exactly as I expected it would. The 300/4 continues to impress me with the detail it can capture in a subject and it really does make the perfect companion to the 150/2. Bare lens or with the EC-14 the 150/2 is spectacular and it’s why I love getting close enough to shoot subjects full body with it and use the 300/4 for the real detailed images. They have become my favorite two lens combo and while the 150/2 with EC-20 does very well, I don’t think it is a combo I will be using any longer. My hope was that it would have been closer and I could maybe leave the 300/4 behind when I wanted to travel light, but that is most likely not going to happen. That is unless I do find the 150/2 was back focusing, then I will redo this comparison and see how it comes out.

    FYI, I have been lazy about doing my micro focus adjustment since getting the 300/4 and this comparison has been the kick in the butt I need to get it done.

    Ok, let the comments and arguments and disagreements begin as I know they surely will…………….,

    Phocal

    Full resolution images available for download here - Amazon Photos
     
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  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    reserved…………………………...
     
  7. Ronnie,
    Thanks--again--for all the effort and info. You can include me in the "kick in the butt" category re: the lens align. Over the years I've looked at a lot of your photos and whatever you are doing is certainly right. It'll by my next purchase. I'm also curious about your flash usage. I know you do a lot of lower light shooting. Do you often use a flash in these conditions? And in good light, when would you think a flash would be advantageous?
    Eric
     
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  8. Xx123456xX

    Xx123456xX Mu-43 Regular

    153
    Nov 11, 2017
    Houston, TX, USA
    Jake
    Great comparison.

    I definitely notice the 150+EC has a subtle “haziness” (which could be the back focusing you mentioned) not present with the 300, but, at least to me, it produces perfectly acceptable results.
     
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  9. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    You are welcome. I really need to order the long ruler and will do that soon so I can test all my lenses, will make for a fun and aggravating day (will basically take all day to all my lenses on 2 cameras).

    Thanks and it works very well in my opinion.

    I use to use flash a lot when I shot Canon but I stopped taking it with me when I started looking at cutting down on the weight in my pack. Now that I am shooting Olympus I finally got around to picking up a flash and once again it goes with me every time. Now I actually use it a lot, good light and bad. In bad light it lets me shoot at a lower ISO so I can keep noise to a minimum and get as much detail as I can.

    Here is a shot I took on a very overcast and rainy day. Without the flash I was up over ISO 1600, so it really helped on this day.
    39106942365_8ac1b8fc8c_o.jpg
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    Little Blue Heron 004 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    Here is one from a day with good light. I am pissed I cut off his toes on this shot but I love how the flash got rid of any shadow on his chest and really pulled out all the fine feather detail. I honestly believe this is one of my best exposed photos of a white bird yet.
    24875769727_ae89b545c2_o.jpg
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    Great Egret 001 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    But my shots for this thread do a good job of showing the difference on a day with good light. I hate using photos with different settings but for this comparison it's necessary because of the birds position in the photos.

    In this shot without flash you notice that his chest is shadow.
    30249292187_0fb4523574_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Wide-Open at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    But when I used the flash his chest is no longer in shadow and it brings out more color in his feathers. By just using it is fill flash I still have some shadow from the sun but it's not as deep or as dark.
    43374222770_815691ed82_o.jpg
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    150/2 w/EC-20 Stopped Down at 24 Feet w/ Flash by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    Why I didn't want to use these two images is some of the additional detail is from stopping down, but some is also from the flash. You can get a little more detail when using the flash over not and for lenses like say the 75-300 this can be very handy.

    I don't use flash all the time because I can't shoot as fast. The camera will wait for the flash to recharge, even when shooting in burst. So when trying to capture a bird catching food I will sometimes use the flash and sometimes go without. Going without I capture more frames and more likely to get the image I am after. Using the flash it's harder to get that peak of action but when it all works out I get images like this.

    39035626775_7ed978ba79_o.jpg
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    Tricolored Heron 011 - Final Edit that I printed by Phocal Art, on Flickr

    The amount of detail in his feathers is just amazing and this image looks incredible printed 30x20.

    I should also point out that having the flash mounted makes the camera feel completely different. Much harder to control and use and way more difficult when trying to sneak up on something. So that's another reason I will sometimes not use it. It's also not weather sealed (I have a Godox V860iiO), but I have used it in the rain and the kayak (I suspect it will fail within a year but at $180 it's pretty cheap to replace).

    When I first got the Godox I was using the Better Beamer on it. But I thought about it and since I am almost always under 35 feet I don't really need the beamer. So lately I haven't been using the beamer, but I have it for the times I am farther away from my subjects (it packs so small and is very light).

    Hope that helps. If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

    Regards,
    Phocal
     
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  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Houston
    Thanks.

    Yes it does and they easily usable (have made a lot of money off shots from that combo). Hoping to do the adjustment soon so I can see if there is improvement, which I suspect there will be.
     
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