Olympus 75-300mm II - advice

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Kakapo, Nov 17, 2015.

  1. Kakapo

    Kakapo New to Mu-43

    Nov 17, 2015

    I've been using the Olympus 75-300mm ii with my EM5 for the past few weeks and I have been struggling taking good photos of more distant objects. I've experimented with a bunch of settings but I've not found a set-up that consistently works. I've taken a lot of photos I like of, say, butterflies 10ft away from me, but very few of (e.g.) a bird near the top of a tree. I think the problem I have is mostly focusing.

    I've attached a couple (unedited) photos to illustrate what I mean. The cormorant in the first is a good example of what tends to happen in my photos at this range: it is not sharp. The second is better but still I feel it's not sharp enough either, particularly the head. It's not, for instance, a photo I could print out and appreciate -- irrespective of its artistic merit -- because the bird doesn't have enough detail.

    I'm not sure if I'm expecting too much from this lens, but then I have looked at other users' images on the showcase thread and they're often very good at are comparable distances. If anyone could give me some tips or a good set-up for using this lens, or even look at my photos and see where I'm going wrong, I'd be very grateful.

    PA250042.JPG PA250025.JPG
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  2. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Hi Kakapo, welcome to the forum.
    First thing I'd check is the shutter speed: to shoot at 300mm you need to go fast. How much was it in the bad shots?
    I try to use 1/500 as a minimum, 1/1000 better.

    When you have enough light you could stop it down to f8 to get a little better results. When possible try not to go too much over 200mm.
  3. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    I have a similar issue with my Panasonic 100-300mm. Regardless of shutter speed, aperture, or stabilization, I find that the results are much better when shooting close subjects rather than distant ones.

    So I'm not sure whether it's distance haze / atmosphere, or whether these lenses simply don't perform that well near infinity (well, beyond say, 20-30 feet).

    I actually noticed a similar phenomenon with my 14-140. Many people have voiced disappointment with the 140mm end, saying it's very soft...but I have at least a couple shots that are absolutely tack sharp taken at 140mm. However, they were all at taken with a subject (say, a small bird) perhaps 5 feet away. Once I focus closer to infinity, the lens performs progressively worse.
  4. excman

    excman Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Dec 16, 2012
    Odsherred, Denmark,
    Hello Klorenzo
    I also struggled with my Pana 100-300 in the beginning.
    With Pan 100-300 I got shutter shock from 1/400 and longer times.
    Try setting your shutter with 1/8 sec. delay and practice to take a steaddy position. Possibly stabilize at things in the environment.
    Shutter speed should normally be 2 x actual focal length.
  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
  6. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I would agree with using the 1/8 sec Anti-Shock delay as it might just be the cause of the distant blurriness. The Olympus 75-300 (II) lens wide open (if you call it that) at f6.7 is still quite sharp & worth using to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible & also, increasing the ISO might be needed sometimes, but then the clarity & sharpness will drop when increasing it (too much). I do use ISO 6400 if needed but it does depend on the scene as to how well that ends up.
  7. Kakapo

    Kakapo New to Mu-43

    Nov 17, 2015
    Thanks all for the replies. I've set the shutter delay so I'll try that from now on. I'll also see what I can do with the flash, which I hadn't even thought of using at 300mm.

    Klorenzo - On the two photos I attached it was 1/250. On all but the sunniest of days I find that when I try to increase the shutter speed the photo that results is just too dark. The camera typically recommends (via S or A mode) that I use a shutter speed of less than 1/400 (usually more like 1/125!). When I increase the ISO to compensate it usually becomes too soft. If I increase the shutter speed to 1/500-1000 and get an underexposed photo would it still be sharper (the exposure I can fix in post), or should I always try to get the exposure more or less right in the field?
  8. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Are you shooting RAW always? I find the main killer of detail is not noise, but noise reduction. I prefer to process with only chroma noise reduction, and luminance noise reduction only in the out-of-focus areas, which prevents the image from looking grainy.

    With that in mind, I regularly boost ISOs to 1000-1600 and think nothing of it during the day. I find that as long as there is actual light in the scene, ISOs up to 3200 are totally usable. M4/3 files fall apart at high ISOs when there is very little light, such that the shot noise in the shadows is the primary contributor to image degradation.

    This is no masterpiece of art, but it shows what you should hopefully be able to expect. That's a ~3" long bird shot with a Panasonic 100-300 @ 300mm, handheld, f7.1, 1/1250s, ISO 1000 shot in the late afternoon into a shadowy forest.

    EDIT: Err, maybe not the best example, since the compression on this site has turned a 1MB JPEG into 280K and killed a lot of the sharpness. It's okay if you open it full-size in a new window, but not ideal...

    Attached Files:

  9. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    On the first one and maybe on the second one it might have focused in the foreground a little more and missed the subject. When I had this lens I sometimes used the magnify feature to check focus. Technique is everything at this length, get down on the ground if you can and watch your breathing. Half press for IBIS and let out a short bust (L). I could manage pretty low shutter speeds at 300mm, f6.7 and it was sharp enough. Also try to keep it at around 280mm and stop down if you can.. I know you cant always do this. Here is an example when I was on the ground leaning on my backpack. 286mm f7.1 1/400th iso 320

    21884845983_82a61479b0_h.jpg Green Heron by Siftu, on Flickr
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
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  10. Brian Beezley

    Brian Beezley Mu-43 All-Pro

    That's a marvelous photo of a Green Heron. When sand or grainy dirt is present in a photo, I often try to estimate the focal point by locating the sharpest sand region. In the heron photo, it appears to be just behind the bird (I used the largest image at Flickr). But I wouldn't know it looking at the bird itself, which looks really good and plenty sharp to me.

  11. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    With 1/250 you can take sharp shots but you need to be extremely careful. Or use a good strong tripod or a sand/rice bag or at least a monopod.

    Try a few of these and see what works best:
    - set Noise Filter to Off (but leave Noise reduction = Auto). In this way high iso should look more grainy but better.
    - go in S mode and set to 1/500. Rise ISO up to 1600 as needed. If it's still too dark go to 1/250. If still too dark it's time to go home :)
    - take multiple shots, single or with short burst, some will be better then others
    - find a comfortable position where the camera is well supported and you are relaxed: knee, sit, crawl, etc. look for articles like this or this. Breath slowly and shoot between breaths. You should clearly see in the EVF when you are still and when you are not.
    - get as close as possible

    Try to get the exposure right, it's better to rise the ISO then correct the exposure later.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. NigelD

    NigelD Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 23, 2015
    Just a suggestion but if you're shooting 300mm, your effective focal length is 600mm. On a normal DSLR you'd want to shoot at 1/640 sec minimum to reduce blurring possibility. Have you taken any at this speed or faster to see if that works? As others say - raise the ISO to achieve this and shoot to the right to reduce noise.
  13. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    This is true and the safest. But the Oly IBIS really helps out at this focal length. It's very possible to shoot sharp even at 1/60th but technique become critical.
  14. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    ...assuming you're shooting a totally static subject, no?
  15. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    After shooting with the 75-300mm II I've found the following:

    1) The EM5 was a big culprit to image issues. The EM1 with firmware before version 3 was a little better but not much - I almost gave up on the lens and sold it. After the firmware update to 3.0+ and the EM5 mk II, the 75-300 is a different lens. The AF is more accurate and quicker to acquire a focus lock. Unfortunately, this doesn't help you much unless you are going to upgrade the camera body.
    I wrote up a blog about it here:
    Pre-firmware review
    After firmware review
    2) The 300mm end of the lens is not as good as 75mm to about 280mm.
    3) Atmospheric conditions can play a big role in how the image looks at the end.
    4) Keep that shutter speed up, as high as you can. Even with IBIS on, I still try and keep the shutter speed up to 1/1000 or faster if possible.
    5) With a light hungry aperture of 4.8-6.7 - I only shoot this lens when I know I will have good light. By that I mean good sunshine. If it gets overcast, it stays in the bag or doesn;t come along at all. Stopping down some does help...but then you make the lens that much more hungry. I find that wide open still gives acceptable results.
    6) Cropping does no favors to this lens, at least if you crop more than say, 30-40%.
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  16. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    I guess I should give an example. ISO 2500, 1/60th 300mm f6.7 handheld. Sure not the sharpest. (Click to enlarge)
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
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  17. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Wow, 1/60, 300mm...I should really try harder. Is this with a 5-axis IBIS? Did you took a few or is a single shot? Do you often use it at this speed?
    How do you hold the camera?
  18. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    Yeah I made sure I used the em5ii for the best IBIS. I must admit I don't often use it at this speed. But all my parameters were pushed for this shot. I only owned the lens for about 2 weeks and was debating if I should keep it, but I just don't shoot wildlife that often. If I remember correctly it was morning and I stepped out of my hotel room and these white faced monkeys were on the roof. I didn't have time for tripods or flashes I just picked up my camera and started shooting. I did lean on a pole or the railing of the balcony and just started firing away. I have about 6 shots with shutter speeds of 1/60th and 1/80th. I knew I would get them better later with my 75mm f1.8 so I didn't spend too much time on them. This is the complete set


    I do think your advice above is spot on.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
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  19. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Long leners are harder to shoot well than a lot of people realize. Sure, they provide reach, but slower glass also begs for great light, and composition remains very important.

    The two shots posted are of subjects that are very far off - if you wanted better detail in the bird, you would have probably preferred to either be a good bit closer, or shoot an even longer lens (400 or even 500 or 600mm would be realistic to get 'ideal' photos of those subjects). Plus you'd want better light to get the most out of the contrast and color.

    With petty much all photography getting closer is better. I don't have the 70-300, but used to have the P100-300 - it was a good lens in the right light and closer was always better. Not so much because of sharpness, but simply because the photos were simply better (lighting, composition)
  20. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Check out these galleries:
    More Zoo Photos
    Toronto Zoo September 2014

    I shot nearly every photo with the 75-300 and being in a city zoo, was pretty casual about it. No tripods, no monopods. I may have used non-ttl flash in one or two shots. You'll see at least a couple of shots that were affected by environmental issues (i.e.: heat swirling). It's very easy to catch that sort of thing with what's basically a 600mm lens.

    Spot-Metering can open up a bit more control for you, as well.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
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