Olympus 75-300ii Review (pic heavy)

bbarnett51

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There has been some renewed interest in the Oly 75-300ii with Panasonic's 100-300ii release. I dont have the Panny to compare but I do have the Olympus and thought I would give an honest review. Just some background on me. I got started in photography because of wildlife. So most of my early experience was shooting in the 500-900mm eq range. I have shot with many long primes and zooms from Canon, Tamron, and Sigma. With the exception of the 500 f/4 Canon prime, 95% of my use was without tripods. I refuse to shoot wildlife with a tripod except for some rare occasions. It really kills my mobility and also my ability to get interesting perspectives. This info is only relevant in that I have a decent amount of experience in the focal length.
SO lets get to the fun stuff! I bought this lens bc I had a gift card to Best Buy. They have been out of the Panasonic 100-300ii so I thought I would give this a try. If I didnt like it I would return it or sell it and get the Panny when i came in. I only paid $75 of my own money for it so I didnt have much to lose and I have been impressed with all of my Oly lenses to date. However, I have held off on this lens bc its not weather sealed. Thats why I have wanted the new Panny but I digress. When I first opened the box and picked up the lens, I was instantly disappointed! The lens is all plastic and it feels like it too! I have shot with many plastic lenses that feel strong an well built. You would never question their build....this is NOT one of those lenses. Dont get me wrong it, you arent expecting springs to flyout or the front element to fall off but it doesnt feel like a serious lens. It does, however, have a metal lens mount unlike the 40-150r. The lens is very light and compact as well.
I instantly threw it on my camera and started taking shots at 600mm. Brick walls, stop signs, car license plates etc... I was in my car and ready to see what I just bought. Again disappointed! The photos were noticeably soft at 600mm and I was making sure I still had my reciept and that the box was not damaged in any way. At this point I was fully expecting the lens to be returned. HOWEVER, things get better...much better.
I had a weekend jam packed with fun events and plenty of time for photography. I took this weekend off from paid jobs to get caught up on editing and to attend some events with my kids. I decided to keep the lens for the weekend and put it through the paces.
Saturday I went to the woods and it was cloudy and sprinkling. Not a great time to test a lens but the sun kept breaking through and offering enough light to play around.
I found this squirrel pretty interesting as it fumbled with its snack. This was a promising shot. The sharpness is decent seeing that it was shot at 2000 ISO. 300mm 6.7, 1/200, ISO 2000


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As I went onto the trail it was a pretty miserable hike. Half of the trail was underwater and the buffalo gnats were as bad as I have ever experienced. The critters didnt seem very impressed either as they were nowhere to be seen! I stumbled upon a few common birds and startled 3 deer but that is all I saw. With cloudy skies most of these pics are flat but I felt like the lens was performing ok. I wasnt discouraged. 300mm 7.1, 1/320, ISO 320
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Going back to the car, I saw the sun popping out and I was ready to get some decent light. The cycling folks were out and gave me an opportunity to see how the Oly would do in better light. However I wanted a little motion blur so I stopped down. F14 probably doesnt produce sharpest results 300mm f14 1/80 ISO 200
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My car was parked overlooking a pasture and I snapped a few quick pics there in the parking lot as well. There was a deer hiding in the grass and this bird having a lunch worm! The bird was really frustrating me. I felt like this could be a really cool photograph but I couldnt get the head in focus. I had several attempts as it jumped from place to place but I never nailed the shot and its pretty soft. 300mm f 7.1, 1/400, ISO500
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Sunday was a different day. It was sunny and warm! I went to my favorite swamp for snake photos. On the way I saw a turtle on the side of the road. The lens really did well here! There was plenty of light and the turtle was nice enough to pose!
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As I was walking down the trail I found a doe feeding along the path. Again, good light equaled good results.
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As I entered the swamp, I knew I was in for a treat. There were cottonmouths all over the place. Some cloud cover moved in but the biggest problem was the canopy. The trees killed most of the light and I knew I would struggle. I was wading through water most of the time and finding the snakes sunning on logs or on the high ground. This guy was a little grumpy but allowed me to snap about 50 pics. This was not easy! The minimum focusing distance is 90cm. I was wanting to get in close and tight for a really cool mouth shot. I struggled to do this! In fact this entire series was a huge pain in the ass. Min focus distance and slow aperture made me work to get what I was after. Instead of raising ISO I decided to test the Oly IBIS. These were shot at 300m, hand held at 1/60th. The results are pretty decent. Shooting at 1/60 isnt a big deal but shooting it at 600mm eq is. The IBIS did well but I might have had sharper results raising the ISO and increasing shutter speed.
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Final thoughts: This is a 600mm eq lens in a very small package! In fact its easy to forget what I little miracle these m43 tele's really are. Here it is next to my Sigma 150-500. Simply amazing if you ask me.
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This lens is often referred to as SLOW. And I guess I agree to an extent but I have to ask Slow compared to what? Two of the top selling wildlife lenses out right now are the Sigma 150-600 and the Tamron 150-600 both are f/5-6.3. The Oly is right in the mix with f4.5-6.7. The Sigma 150-500 pictured above is also a 5-6.3. Most big zooms are! So the Oly really isnt a slow lens when you look at others in its class. Even the Panasonic Leica 100-400 is 4-6.3. However, it does make me appreciate the Panny 100-300ii f4-5.6. That makes it one of the fastest zooms in that focal range! Did I mention it also is weather sealed?
The lens doesnt have any annoying distortions that I found. CA isnt an issue either. It might be there in some situations but the lens handles it well.
Focusing is decent to good. It struggles in low light and the minimum focusing distance was annoying on several opportunities but its quiet and reasonably fast. I need to add that the Sigma and Tamron lenses have a minumum focus distance that is similar. However, I personally feel that this is even worse than advertised but that might just be me. It is very hard to remember that you are working with a 600mm eq lens! It certainly isnt like the pro lenses or the 45 1.8 but you wont be disappointed either. Most super zooms are a little slower in my experience.
Size and weight are simply amazing! This is a lens that you will want to carry. When hitting the trail for any casual hike you will likely reach for this lens first! I have carried a 500 f4 and tripod all through the swamps and flooded timber during duck season. I found absolutely no joy in doing so. It sucks! This lens, however, is a joy to carry. But the lightweight isnt all roses either. The oly is hard to control! This is a lens that requires full participation. You will see many reviews talk about the need for a tripod when shooting at 600mm. Honestly that is total BS. I shot 900mm eq all handheld with no problems. The tripod certainly helps but to say that a 600mm eq lens requires a tripod just isnt true. The only reason you see a tripod is bc of the weight. The photogs using the Tamron and Sigma super zooms frequently do so handheld. Now the Oly might benefit from a mono or tripod but its not bc of the focal length but bc of the weight. Steadying a lightweight lens of that focal length is a challenge. That is why my shots were so soft when I unboxed it and started firing away. I simply didnt know how to use the lens. I also think that some reviews calling this lens unusable at 300mm are seeing the result of their own form vs the result of the lens. SO what about sharpness. I would say its good at 600mm. Not great but good. Certainly usable and in good light the results are borderline great.
So who is this lens for? Honestly, I think anyone would welcome this lens in their bag. The pro/advanced hobbyist would like it as a casual zoom for family events and anytime their main lens would be a PIA. And lets be honest, that is more times than not. I was at the beach and found myself frustrated with the Oly 50-200swd and its not even that large. I would have gladly left it behind for this Oly! This isnt quit as sharp as the 50-200 but its longer, lighter, and IMO has better bokeh. I cant stand the bokeh on the 50-200
For the casual photographer this is a great option. You will not be disappointed in much of anything and it will give you great results in a tiny package. Go buy it! I think you will love it!
Who this lens isnt for!! Anyone with an unstabilized body! This lens would be a complete mess without IBIS. And anyone trying to use it would likely hate it! Its also not suitable for pro work but I dont think anyone in that position would be looking into a non weather sealed 6.7 aperture lens. Not that it cant produce images fit for publication, it definitely can in the right hands.
Lastly value. This is tough. If you notice, I havent mentioned price until now. I did that on purpose bc nothing confuses me more than when a reviewer makes statements like "it is a sharp lens.....for the price" What the hell does that mean! Either it is sharp or it isnt. When someone says "for the price" I simply dont know how to interpret that. This Oly lens has good sharpness. It isnt great but it is good! From 100-200 its pretty damn sharp at 300mm it suffers a little but its not terrible. Most superzooms arent at their bests wide open and maxed out. This lens is no different. If you can shoot at 250mm and f8 then you will get very nice results! If you have to shoot at 300mm you will be fine if you do your part! The build quality was a bit of a disappointment. It feels really plasticy and while $500 isnt expensive for a superzoom it is still a good amount of money. Once the lens is mounted, it doesnt feel too cheap but it also doesnt feel impressive like any of the DSLR superzooms. TAs mentioned before, the lens is not weathersealed and this is a big stumbling block for me. Oly has great weathersealing and not having it on a wildlife lens is disappointing. I can live with it but it really makes me want that new Panny. So for $150-$200 more you can get the Panny 100-300ii and its faster and weather sealed! If it produces the similar results, I think it might be the way to go....I should mention that the Panny is a little larger and I do not know if the results are on par with the Oly...although others reports suggest that it is. Im on the fence but I will probably sell this lens for $400 and buy the Panny simply for the weather sealing!

I know this was long winded and not full of technical information. Just real world use in the swamp and on the trail. I need to also mention that nearly all photos in this review have been cropped...like many wildlife photos require! They were also shot as jpegs. I do not shoot wildlife in RAW most of the time unless it is paid work.

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Karin115

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Thank you for your extensive report. For me it was very informative and I have made my decision. My provisional (and many others) conclusion that IQ difference is minimal, is definitive confirmed with this review, I do not need the weather resistant option of the Panasonic. 75mm on the wide end in stead of 100mm works better for me, as well as the minimum focus distance, which is 0.90 mtr for an Olympus and 1,50 mtr for a Panasonic lens.
Not being able to use ProCapture with the Pana 100-300 II is also a serious drawback, in my view. ProCapture is an innovative feature, it would be a pity, not using this on the E-M1 II. So I wil return the Pana 100-300 II and order an Oly 75-300mm II. You've been very helpful to me, thank you very much.
 
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AlexMachine

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Nov 16, 2016
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Great post. Thanks. I have this same lens and I am trying to find best camera settings for this one for wiödlife photos. I use EM1 and EM5. Smallest autofocus square, 0s antishock, IS Auto or on, shutter speed 1/1000 or more for birds. Still get quite a lot soft or out of focus pictures when I open them on my laptop, but many keepers also.
 

Robstar1963

Mad on Motorsports
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Great post. Thanks. I have this same lens and I am trying to find best camera settings for this one for wiödlife photos. I use EM1 and EM5. Smallest autofocus square, 0s antishock, IS Auto or on, shutter speed 1/1000 or more for birds. Still get quite a lot soft or out of focus pictures when I open them on my laptop, but many keepers also.
Hi Alex..
It might be worth trying the 9 square focus target setting - just to compare the success rate - it might give the camera a slightly better chance of capturing focus with moving subjects which might be missed by the single small square ?
I also get a very low keeper rate with CAF for Motorsports but I am more than happy with some of the successful shots I get
 
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Really great review of the lens and it matches my experiences with it. Especially the difficulty in shooting it because of the light weight, I have an easier time (less concentration on technique) with my 150/2 and EC-20.

On the part I quoted below............just because they (the Sigma/Tamron) are the top selling wildlife lenses doesn't make them not slow. The Sigma/Tamron 150-600 and Panny 100-400 as well as the xx-300 lenses are slow, doesn't mater how many are sold..........they are slow lenses that require good light to get the best out of them. They are the top selling wildlife lenses because they are stupid cheap compared to other options in the 500mm+ category.

This lens is often referred to as SLOW. And I guess I agree to an extent but I have to ask Slow compared to what? Two of the top selling wildlife lenses out right now are the Sigma 150-600 and the Tamron 150-600 both are f/5-6.3.

Because I have been playing around with that Bigma, I feel that the Sigma/Tamron lenses are easier to shoot handheld because of the greater weight compared to the Olympus 75-300. But..........they are also right at that limit of being to heavy to shoot handheld. I can shoot my Bigma handheld, but after about 3 or so hours I am reaching for the tripod........especially if I have been covering a lot of ground. It probably why I love my 150/2 so much, perfect weight to handhold all day, easy to shoot handheld and I can cover 10 miles in the swamp and not feel like I have been carrying around an anchor all day...........it's why I left Canon and my 600/4.

The photogs using the Tamron and Sigma super zooms frequently do so handheld

I have honestly not used mine since getting my EM1 and 50-200 followed by the 150/2. But I just can't bring myself to sell it for the reason you mentioned. I keep thinking it will come in handy when I can't bring the big guns with me, so I hang on to it. I will probably sell it when Olympus comes out with the mk3 version that is weather sealed...........which I feel they will need to do to compete with the Panasonic.
 

bbarnett51

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Really great review of the lens and it matches my experiences with it. Especially the difficulty in shooting it because of the light weight, I have an easier time (less concentration on technique) with my 150/2 and EC-20.

On the part I quoted below............just because they (the Sigma/Tamron) are the top selling wildlife lenses doesn't make them not slow. The Sigma/Tamron 150-600 and Panny 100-400 as well as the xx-300 lenses are slow, doesn't mater how many are sold..........they are slow lenses that require good light to get the best out of them. They are the top selling wildlife lenses because they are stupid cheap compared to other options in the 500mm+ category.



Because I have been playing around with that Bigma, I feel that the Sigma/Tamron lenses are easier to shoot handheld because of the greater weight compared to the Olympus 75-300. But..........they are also right at that limit of being to heavy to shoot handheld. I can shoot my Bigma handheld, but after about 3 or so hours I am reaching for the tripod........especially if I have been covering a lot of ground. It probably why I love my 150/2 so much, perfect weight to handhold all day, easy to shoot handheld and I can cover 10 miles in the swamp and not feel like I have been carrying around an anchor all day...........it's why I left Canon and my 600/4.



I have honestly not used mine since getting my EM1 and 50-200 followed by the 150/2. But I just can't bring myself to sell it for the reason you mentioned. I keep thinking it will come in handy when I can't bring the big guns with me, so I hang on to it. I will probably sell it when Olympus comes out with the mk3 version that is weather sealed...........which I feel they will need to do to compete with the Panasonic.

I agree about the slow factor. It's definitely that! I just meant it's not uniquely slow if you compare it. But yes it's slow and really hard to even use when under trees!

I took it out today in really good light and the results were pretty strong. However, it's so much harder to steady than any other lens I have shot. It's hard to hold it still and it's also hard to pan. I was photographing some Mississippi Kites in flight and the focus was really fast but I had trouble staying on the birds. That's the one area that I really miss. My Canon 7D and any of my teles were so easy to use for birding.
 
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I agree about the slow factor. It's definitely that! I just meant it's not uniquely slow if you compare it. But yes it's slow and really hard to even use when under trees!

I took it out today in really good light and the results were pretty strong. However, it's so much harder to steady than any other lens I have shot. It's hard to hold it still and it's also hard to pan. I was photographing some Mississippi Kites in flight and the focus was really fast but I had trouble staying on the birds. That's the one area that I really miss. My Canon 7D and any of my teles were so easy to use for birding.
Hi, thanks for a very good post, both well written and amply illustrated. I have the initial model. it suffers from "barrel creep" when held at an angle to the horizontal plane. Does the mkii have this trait? Or perhaps I have a poorly assembled unit?
 

stiblee

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Dec 11, 2016
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Thank you for the very interesting user review. I bought this lens new last month for $395 to use with my PEN-F and E-M10II. I don't use or need such a long lens (600mm in FF terms) all that much, but it is a nice additional lens to have for occasional use. Personally, the plastic build and feel of the lens is fine to me. I am glad it is not a big, heavy monster because if it was then even at the low price I would never have bought it. To have any hope of me carrying it around for the odd use sometimes it needs to be small and light. For this price level I wasn't expecting a big, heavy metal lens. :)
 

AlexMachine

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Hi, thanks for a very good post, both well written and amply illustrated. I have the initial model. it suffers from "barrel creep" when held at an angle to the horizontal plane. Does the mkii have this trait? Or perhaps I have a poorly assembled unit?
I bought my 75-300II about 1 month ago and it doesn´t have Barrel creep.
 

Growltiger

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I have been using the 75-300 II for three years. No barrel creep.
I have been happy with the results. The main limitation is when you have poor light, apart from that I have not felt a need to change.
It is important to me that it works with ProCapture.
Here is an example when I used it on an Amazon Kingfisher which looked about to dive, these are from a sequence using ProCapture at 300mm, 1/500:

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In very dark conditions when there just isn't enough light, one can resort to flash. This was in dark forest, taken at 300mm, 1/250 with flash:

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These photos seem sharp to me at 300mm. I suspect that some people saying it is soft at 300mm are not using a high enough shutter speed.
 

bbarnett51

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Here's a better representative of what this lens is capable of.
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Center crop ISO 1250. Still holds up fairly well. I didn't realize I cropped a different picture but same exact series.
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bbarnett51

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Hi, thanks for a very good post, both well written and amply illustrated. I have the initial model. it suffers from "barrel creep" when held at an angle to the horizontal plane. Does the mkii have this trait? Or perhaps I have a poorly assembled unit?

No barrel creep at all on mine. and thank you!
 

Karin115

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May 17, 2017
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Beautyfull! If I can reach that level with the 75-300 II I will be completely satisfied.
Today I have received the Olympus. I have noticed a little tolerance between the mount of the body and the lens, did any of you experience this too? For me it's the first time. Never had it before.
 

D7k1

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Mine has no creep and is snug also. Plus this is the perfect combination with the 9-18 for me for travel. Yes, my PL100-400 is a better lens, but the 75-300II is more than "good enough" when properly used IMHO. All you have to do is go through the Native Lens Image there are excellent images from many folks. You have to respect that this is 600mm effective focal length in a light lens - keep your shutters speeds up and use good technique for keepers.
 

bbarnett51

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A just a few recommendations. The IBIS does a really nice job and I'm finding that I can shoot a still subject at 1/50th at 300mm. This is allowing me to keep my ISO down. This turtle is 240mm f8 1/50th at ISO 200. I think it's decently sharp.
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DMullis

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I like my Mk II very much. Paradoxically, there are times when I wish it did have a tiny bit more weight. That might make the steadying process easier and supplement the IBIS.
 

bbarnett51

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I'm finding the best results without S-AF high frequency or speed or whatever it's called. I'm getting the hang of steadying this lens and really enjoying it. I'll be done posting unless I think there is something relevant. I also bought a lens hood on Amazon for like $10. Fits great. I'm keeping this lens and not getting the Panasonic.
300mm f7.1 1/500 ISO200

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AlexMachine

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For stationary birds I usually have S-AF, smallest AF square. After a few shots, I switch to MF (AEL/AFL lever mode 5 - so it changes between S-AF and MF) and AEL/AFL button is magnify in MF mode. Focus peaking is on. I found this helpful with small birds if there is a lot of small leaves, branches etc.
 

Sam S

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Feb 3, 2016
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I own the 40-150mm with the TC but still use the cheap 75-300mmii for airshows etc when light is decent. I tried 3 copies of the lens in-store before settling for the display unit as it was the sharpest they had, to me still sharp enough all the way to 300mm which is the FL this was taken.
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