Olympus 75-300 focal length upscale test

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Klorenzo, Oct 21, 2015.

  1. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    EDIT: also see the later post with outdoor shots and opposite results.

    You know, sometimes you have a little doubt running around in your head so you say: "ok, let's do a couple of test shots". After three hours you wake up, have lunch 2 hours late, and here I am with the results.

    The 75-300 is much better at 200 then at 300 so the question was: what if I shoot at 200 and upscale?

    TL;DR: shoot at 200mm/f8 and upscale.

    Here's what I found out.

    0. About the test. Shot on tripod, self timer, etc. All at close focus distance indoor. Raw develped with Darktable with the same minimal processing (no denoise, little sharpening).

    1. For these tests I took three or four shots for each setting. Then I selected the best one of each set. It was quite impressive to see the difference between shots supposed to be identical. Maybe AF differences, maybe a little shutter shock, whatever was was clearly visible (at 100%). See best/worst samples on Flickr.

    2. The 75-300 resolution drops sharply after 200 and regains a little close to 300. So yes, upscaling by 160% gives much better results (in pixel-peeper terms) then a straight 300mm shot both at f8.


    View attachment 443364

    200mm upscale only (160%)

    View attachment 443365

    3. At 200mm the best aperture is f8. From 6.1 to 7.1 there is almost no difference then there is a little jump a f8. The difference is small, much smaller then the 6.7-8 difference at 300mm, so it's not a big loss going wide open.

    4. For upscale I simply used GIMP with "Sinc(Lanczos3)" algorithm (the one that worked best). After upscale I think that the sharpening is mainly lost so, on a different version, I also reapplied a light unsharp mask. The 200mm upscaled with no sharpening is already better then the original 300mm. In the comparison crop below I used the first version.

    5. unless you need to print big there is no need to upscale: just crop and be happy.

    6. To see the impact of the upscale I reopened from scratch an upscaled file (saved as jpeg 100% quality) and downscaled back to the original size. I could see no difference at all switching back and forth between the two files at 100%.

    7. I also tried upscaling other focal lenghts: best one was 200mm.

    First set: 75, 150, 200, 300 (left to right order, center crop (resized by flickr to insert it here))


    Second set (A): 200, 228, 256, 300


    8. I asked myself if the drop in IQ was due to the tripod too small for those focal lengths, especially considering the slow shutter speed. Maybe. At the same time all reviews I've seen report the same drop in IQ. Even if it is some problem with the tripod, shutter shock, etc. I think I'm going to encounter it even in real life so I consider it part of what I'm testing. Anyway I'm going to repeat a limited test next time I'm outdoor with fast shutter speed (testing distant focus too).

    9. On flicker there are 15 huge uncompressed jpegs. There are two sets, the first one (75, 150, 200, 300) and the "A" set (200, 228, 256, 300). See the file name for details. Flickr quick zoom is not 100% but good enough to see the difference. Download the files if really interested.

    I'm quite happy with the results. First, now I have a sharper lens :). Second, it's a little faster and shorter so it needs less stabilization making it even more fast. Third, I have one more reason to get closer to the subject that is probably the thing that matters most anyway. Fourth, I can now resist a few more months before getting an E-M1 and the Oly 150/2 or the 300/4.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Resistance is futile, get the 150/2........................you will not be sorry you did
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  3. MRM

    MRM Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2013
    Seattle, WA
    Nice! That is some great info. I wonder how up scaling works with better lenses. The 40-150 up scaling vs with ec14. Or 150 with Ec-14 up scaled to 300mm equivalent. up scaling in the real world also has the bonus of being able to take a slightly wider shot which can be taken with a lower shutter speed and for wildlife it is easier to set composition later with a slightly wider lens.
  4. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    I have the E-M10, so I should change the body too...and with those money I can get a Samyang 7.5, a good tripod, the rent, a Canon 400/4.5, a Nikon 105/2.5 and maybe something else too :)

    Let's say that I'm waiting for a good occasion.
  5. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Seems like maybe one should just get the 45-175mm ? :)
  6. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Yes, I thought something like that. But maybe the 40-175 at 175 drops, while the 75-300 is still in the sweet spot...
  7. Machi

    Machi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 23, 2015
    This is interesting. I would expect more from the modern lens.
    All my tests with legacy lenses and cheap basic lenses (O14-42, O40-150) shows better resolution with longer focal length.
  8. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Quick update: I went to the park (4 PM, cloudy sky) and took some test shots at 20, 20, 35, 40 and...200(?) meters.

    The 300mm won 3 matches, the 200mm got one and the last one is a draw. The 300mm is slightly better then the upscaled 200mm. The difference is subtle, only visible at 100%, but the 300mm shot is more natural with much more micro details (details 2 or 3 pixels wide). The 200mm has a little more contrast so it may look better but it is less accurate. A very slight denoise almost cancels the difference at all.

    Where the 200mm won is because out of the 7 shots took at 300mm none was completely still.
    The draw is similar: out of 18 shots I got none that was completely still for both focal lengths, handheld, 1/400s. These were the first shots I took, I suppose I was still "heavy" breathing for the walk in the park without noticing. Fifteen minutes later I got several sharp shots of that same target with a manual focus Tamron at 210mm and shutter speed 1/60 (I suppose the bigger mass of the lens also made the miracle).

    In one test I got only one sharp shot out of 14 for the 300mm (1/320s). I did my best to get still shots (sitting, IBIS on, shoot in between breaths, elbows closed resting on knees, EVF, etc.) but it was not enough. My fault of course, I'm reporting this just to give an idea of how hard can be to use a super light 600mm eq. handheld at "slow" shutter speed. IBIS didn't help much. Again I'm talking about 100% view perfectly sharp shots, many were otherwise usable.
    At 200mm the perfectly sharp shots were more, nearly half I'd say. I was quite impressed with how much sharp the lens can be overall (f8).

    So the 300mm is microscopically better IF you can get a perfect steady shot. Not so easy (handheld) considering the aperture. Pushing up the ISO to get enough shutter speed quickly cancel the subtle advantage. The cropped file is 7MP, for most purposes there is no need to upscale it. So I still think that in many situations 200mm is still the better focal length. A super smart program could also give better results with the upscale/sharpening/denoise.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2015
  9. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Looking at many reviews I've seen that is almost the norm for zoom lenses to loose some resolution on the tele end, even the 12-40 for example. But I never did many tests like this and I hope I never will again :)
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
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  10. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Close versus distant focus may also have made a difference in the initial testing. Super telephotos are rarely optimised for close focussing.
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  11. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    I agree with wijiang.

    My comments:
    - the 300 mm shots will probably benefit from a small unsharp mask, while it would be a little more difficult for the upscaled 200 mm shots.
    - it is very difficult to limit to one given focal length (for example 200 mm on a 70-300). It's not natural.
    - I don't know which body you use, but with my E-M10, when shooting tele (my max is 150 mm), I avoid shutter speeds between 1/1000s - 1/320s, to avoid shutter shock. 0s Antishock is active only from 1/320s. However, I don't think this is the problem on your 300 mm, the image seems soft, even a little out of focus, and that is not how shutter shock picture look like from my experience.
  12. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    1. I applied the default sharpening that I use with all the RAW files, it's not very strong but is there. It could be pushed more, sharpness, contrast, and I even tried to PP both files to see if the 300 could catch up the 200. Both improved much but the result was the same.

    2. it depends much on what you are shooting. Here I'm thinking about wildlife that for me means to set the lens to the maximum focal length and taking a few shots while slowly getting closer to the subject. With good light I'd probably go to 300mm. In low light I think I'd prefer to stay at 200mm, using one stop slower shutter speed to keep ISO lower. It also depends on how much the subjects fills the frame: if at 300mm is already small I think that at 200mm there are not enough pixels to do the upscale trick.

    3. here I used the term to refer to the normal shutter vibrations with a long lens and long exposure. The shutter speed was extremely slow so it is not the infamous "shutter shock". The image is soft but not that bad: you can almost read the super small text on top of the note. Did you check the full file at 100% on Flickr? Wrong focus is a possibility as the DoF was quite thin (around 2 cm) but I took several shot with AF, smallest square and picked the best one. The wood clip, the text on the bulb all seem reasonably focused.
  13. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    What I meant is that compared to the 200 mm upscaled file, the 300 mm seems a little out of focus.
    Maybe it's because of the shallower depth-of-field.
  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
  15. pcovers

    pcovers Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 13, 2015
    That was exactly my experience and results with the 70-300mm. At long distances, 300mm always beat my attempts to use 200mm and upscaled to 300. As distances grew shorter, so was the better performance of 200 scaled to 300.
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