Shootout Olympus Lens Shootout, Consumer Zoom vs Professional Prime: The Olympus 75-300mm ƒ4.8-6.7 II takes on the Olympus 300mm ƒ4.0 IS Pro

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Gorgeous 046 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

When I started experimenting with Olympus cameras in 2014 the first telephoto lens I got was the Olympus MZ 75-300mm ƒ4.8-6.7 II (75-300). I only used it for a few months before deciding to dive a little deeper into Olympus and picked up a better telephoto lens. That was the beginning of the end as I slowly made a full switch to Olympus from Canon. Since putting the 75-300 to the side 7 years ago I have only used it once, when doing this Olympus 300mm Lens Comparison. I do recommend taking a look at that comparison as well, has a lot of useful information.


Since doing the above comparison I have moved to Alaska and found a very cooperative Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes) living along a local cycling/walking path. Over the course of a few months I had captured a large number of amazing images of her using my professional level lenses. While photographing Gorgeous (my nickname for her) one day I was thinking about photographing her with my 75-300 just to see how well it would perform but hadn’t gotten around to yet. Since today was a clear sunny day I decided it was time to try and put the 75-300 on one of my Olympus OMD EM1’s (EM1) and threw it into the my pack. My normal wildlife photography setup is the Olympus MZ 300mm ƒ4.0 IS Pro (300/4) and Olympus ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 (150/2), which I personally believe is the best two lens combination I have ever used. Since I was bringing the 75-300 the decision was made to leave one of the other two lenses at home. The idea of doing a lens comparison never entered my mind because she never sits still very long. This makes taking photos with two different lenses from the same spot/distance almost impossible, which is a key component of how I do my comparisons. My initial thought was bring the 150/2 since I would have 300mm of reach if needed from the 75-300. At the last minute I swapped the 150/2 for the 300/4, honestly don’t remember what prompted me to make that switch but glad I did.

You can finish reading the article and find out the results here.

Phocal
 
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I actually like the little it larger DOF in the 75-300 image. I think it helps her stand out of the busier background. I wonder what the 300 would have done stopped down to f/5.6.

Of course, they are both outstanding images.
 
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Thanks for the writeup, very interesting.
I like the fox better from the 75-300 and the back ground from the 300. But as you say depends on how the final images will be presented.
Looking forward to your DoF article.

After looking at the difference between the two here I hope there is similar between the upcoming 150-400 & 100-400 as the later has me interested
 

Snowonuluru

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Great images and write-up as usual!
I like the image with deeper DOF. The front legs show more definition. The snow in front of gorgeous is more crisp too. I'm sure the 300/f4 if stopped down will produce an even more crisp feel for the snow. I don't mind the more busy background blur. There is enough "pop" simply because of the light shining on the golden fur, and because Gorgeous is simply stunningly beautiful! Although having said that, I do wonder "what if the background is darkened a bit in post processing."
 
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I actually like the little it larger DOF in the 75-300 image. I think it helps her stand out of the busier background. I wonder what the 300 would have done stopped down to f/5.6.

Of course, they are both outstanding images.

The extra DoF is a nice but not at the expense of the much worse background bokeh in my opinion. At f5.6 the 300 would have had a touch more DoF (about 2 inches) but the bokeh would have been worse. I have done a lot of testing of the 300/4 at f5.6 vs f4.0 and there is a bit more DoF and it does sharpen up a noticeable amount but the background bokeh becomes worse. Maybe if I didn't have the f4.0 version to look at I would find it acceptable but having the f4.0 version available the f5.6 is never worth it.
 
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Thanks for the writeup, very interesting.
I like the fox better from the 75-300 and the back ground from the 300. But as you say depends on how the final images will be presented.
Looking forward to your DoF article.

After looking at the difference between the two here I hope there is similar between the upcoming 150-400 & 100-400 as the later has me interested

You are welcome.
The extra DoF is nice but not worth the worse background.
I have been working on the DoF article for about 2 months now. I really want to finally get it finished and posted.

Those two lenses are going to be interesting. I am sure the 100-400 will be better than the xx-300mm lenses and knowing Olympus it will be a touch better than the Panny 100-400. But the 150-400 is an enigma. I honestly don't think it will beat the 300/4 at 300mm and I will bet they will be close at 400mm when using the EC-14 on the 300/4. This is based on my experience with the Canon 100-400 f4.0. That lens was great but never could compete with any of the primes in the same focal range, it was close but you could always tell it was just bit behind in image quality. Would love to get the 150-400 to play around with for a week but I am not in the market for that lens. If I was still shooting a lot of sports I would be all over it but as mostly a wildlife guy now it has no interest to me.
 
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Great images and write-up as usual!
I like the image with deeper DOF. The front legs show more definition. The snow in front of gorgeous is more crisp too. I'm sure the 300/f4 if stopped down will produce an even more crisp feel for the snow. I don't mind the more busy background blur. There is enough "pop" simply because of the light shining on the golden fur, and because Gorgeous is simply stunningly beautiful! Although having said that, I do wonder "what if the background is darkened a bit in post processing."

I do admit the deeper DoF does add a bit but me personally can't stand the background. Part of that could be from my years of shooting full frame and use to blurred backgrounds. The lighting does put some pop in there to separate from the background, which does help the 75-300 shot. I have never been a fan of darkening/lightening the background. To do it correctly is a lot more work/time than I like to put into an image, it would have to be an award winning image for me to go through all that. By doing it correctly I mean masking out the entire fox, include all those individual hairs sticking out, otherwise I can notice it. Granted, it takes looking to notice that all the individual hairs are not perfectly masked out but I am about to print something at 40x30 I am going over every single mm of that image.
 
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The pupil of the fox's eye give indication of how sharper Pro 300/4 @ wide open than the other lens .

I haven't wanted to say anything but that is exactly what does it for me. I have the advantage of being to see all the photos I took between the two lenses and the eye is a big giveaway in everyone of them. That extra resolution the 300/4 has over the 75-300 is really apparent in the eye of the fox in all my images. The 300/4 just has the ability to pull all that little detail from the eye, something the 75-300 just can't do.
 
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I posted these images in a few groups on Facebook and based on the replys and comments I have realized one flaw in my testing. I get much closer to my subjects than most people, I would say 2-3 times closer if not a bit more. This really helps lower resolution lenses like the 75-300 when comparing them to the 300/4.

This test was done in what was probably optimal conditions for the 75-300. I was close (30 feet) enough to fill the frame with the fox and there was enough sun to allow the 75-300 to be shot at base ISO. Now the shutter speeds for the entire shoot bounced between a few at 1/1000 which is where I really want to be with that lens. But most of them were down in the 1/640 range where I really have to start paying attention to my technique with the 75-300. I also had a huge portion of the photos shot at 1/400 which is really getting into the I must pay attention to my technique to get a good keeper rate.

Once the light starts getting dimmer (closer to sunset/sunrise) the image quality from the 75-300 drops because of the corresponding rise in ISO. The 300/4 has a faster aperture but the dual IS really helps with allowing much slower shutter speeds, as long as it is still fast enough to freeze the subject.

While the great light really helped the 75-300, the close distance helped it even more. Everyone knows I like to get close to my subjects and my move to Alaska hasn't changed that. Going by the large number of images I look at every week and talking with those photographers I know that most people don't shoot from my close distances. Most people are at least 2x the distance I get, with many being more like 3x or farther away. These greater distances mean they have to crop more to fill the photo with their subject, which will really show the lack of detail the 75-300 captures at greater distances. If I had done this test from 60 feet and not 30 the difference would have even more noticeable, with the 75-300 maybe even falling into the unacceptable range.

So in some ways I feel like my comparison is very misleading. It does show what the 75-300 is capable of when in the hands of not just an experienced photographer (with great long lens technique) but also one with amazing fieldcraft who gets close enough to fill the frame with his subject. But in the hands of the typical person who is going to buy the 75-300 and photograph wildlife the image quality will go down. But I just can't get myself to test lenses from distances closer to what other people shoot from. I try, I just can't get myself to take those photographs of my subject when they are so far away. It is just not in DNA.

When talking with people about lens resolution and subject distance I always tell them to think of the resolution as graph paper. The 300/4 would have very small squares compared to the larger squares of the 75-300. The more squares you have on your subject the more detail you will capture and once you get below a certain number of squares (number is based on output of image to some extent) the detail captured is just not enough to make an engaging image. When close like in my test the 75-300 is putting enough squares on the subject to make it hard to see any noticeable difference between the images. I also feel like there is point where more squares just doesn't make a difference to the human eye, that is until you start to crop or print large (printing is where this really comes into play, especially when printing large). So as the distance increases the number of squares decreases and the image quality goes down as well. If we say the 300/4 has squares 2x as small as the 75-300 then when we double the distance the 75-300 has 1/2 as many squares on the subject while the 300/4 has as many as the 75-300 did at 30 feet. At 30 feet we had enough squares that increasing (like with using the 300/4) the number doesn't make much if any noticeable difference. Now that we have doubled the distance the 75-300 is getting into the territory of not enough squares to get enough detail but the 300/4 is still has enough to produce a good image. Hope that made sense.
 

mfturner

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Certainly your fieldcraft displays the absolute upper limit of what the consumer lens can do. Most of us will certainly be 2-3x further from the subject, especially when walking my dog. One of the peices of Canon kit that I miss was my 300 f4 L IS lens, I might hope that the Olympus 300 f4 Pro lens is a bit better. Certainly my 75-300 zoom doesn't keep up, but is still a decent consumer option. Thank you for posting these shootouts.
 
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MZ I assume is what Olympus refers to their micro four thirds lenses by.... M. Zuiko Digital Lenses (Used to be Zuiko Digital Lenses for 4/3 cameras and just plain Zuiko for film).

Back on Topic. I am very impressed by what you can get out of that 75-300mm lens. Great technique and processing!
 

RAH

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Ah, OK, that makes sense. That's good - I thought it might refer to some off-brand Ebay special. Good to see my 75-300 testing so well! :) However, I am VERY anxious to see what the new 100-400 has to offer. I hope it is at least somewhat better than the P100-400! Can't wait!
 
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Certainly your fieldcraft displays the absolute upper limit of what the consumer lens can do. Most of us will certainly be 2-3x further from the subject, especially when walking my dog. One of the peices of Canon kit that I miss was my 300 f4 L IS lens, I might hope that the Olympus 300 f4 Pro lens is a bit better. Certainly my 75-300 zoom doesn't keep up, but is still a decent consumer option. Thank you for posting these shootouts.

You are welcome. I enjoy doing them as well as seeing just how much performance I can squeeze out of non-pro lenses. In the right conditions the 75-300 can create amazing images, especially when filling the frame with your subject.
 
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Ah, OK, that makes sense. That's good - I thought it might refer to some off-brand Ebay special. Good to see my 75-300 testing so well! :) However, I am VERY anxious to see what the new 100-400 has to offer. I hope it is at least somewhat better than the P100-400! Can't wait!

I am curious about the 100-400 as well. I am sure it will be a bit better than the Panny but it will also be bigger and heavier which will get everyone complaining about it.
 

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