Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II ED M.Zuiko Digital
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Lab Test Results
September 23, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
In January of 2013 Olympus released an update to their 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 ED M.Zuiko Digital; this 'II' version doesn't seem to bring a host of changes to the lens. Looking just at the specifications, the only change appears to be the addition of a "ZERO" ("Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical") coating to the end element. Cosmetically, the lens has been redesigned, offering only a black color finish.
The lens was designed to fit the Micro Four Thirds mount, and accordingly offers the user a telephoto range of focal lengths, the equivalent of 150mm to 600mm. This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, however the minimum aperture remains at f/22. The following table reflects the change in aperture available for the lens:
The lens takes 58mm filters, but does not ship with the LH-61E lens hood. The lens is available now for around $550.
The 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 II offers excellent results in the wider end of its focal length spectrum. Even used wide open at 75mm and ƒ/4.8, the lens produces tack-sharp images from corner to corner (this is also true at 100mm and ƒ/5.1). Stopping down at either of these focal lengths doesn't produce any tangible increase in sharpness.
At 150mm and above, resolution suffers a bit. Wide open at ƒ/5.6 and 150mm, the central area of the frame is nice and sharp and we note some corner softness in the extreme corners, but stopping down to ƒ/8 or greater doesn't actually improve the corners - rather, the center degrades a bit to match the corners.
At 200mm and 300mm, the lens offers above-average performance for sharpness; the center is decently sharp, but the corners are significantly soft. Stopping down to ƒ/11 does help at the 200mm setting, but at 300mm setting, there's no significant improvement.
Diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, though the results at the shorter focal lengths aren't immediately obvious until ƒ/16 or ƒ/22, where we note very soft results across the frame (especially at 300mm).
CA is exceptionally well-controlled at the 75mm setting; between 100mm and 200mm it's decently tolerable, and it's only really noticeable at the 300mm setting. It doesn't really matter what aperture you set the lens, when it's present, it will show as purple-green fringing in areas of high contrast.
Corner shading isn't really a factor with the Olympus 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 II; regardless of the focal length or aperture, the corners never get more than a quarter-stop darker than the center of the frame.
Olympus performed a little magic here, and kept distortion to a minimum. It's present, but not extreme, with the corners showing some pincushion distortion. This distortion is at its most prominent above 75mm, but even then it's only around -0.3% in the extreme corners.
The Olympus 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 M.Zuiko is very fast to autofocus, taking less than a second to go through its entire focusing range. The lens adopts the new MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) design, making it ideal for use in both still and video applications. The front element does not rotate when focusing, making life that much easier for polarizer users.
The lens isn't a dedicated macro lens, producing just 0.18x magnification. The minimum close-focusing distance is just under three feet (90 cm). Given that the lens uses the same filter size and bayonet mount as the 40-150mm M.Zuiko, we see no reason why the the Macro Lens Converter (MCON-58) would not work on this lens as well. Using this adapter reduces the minimum close-focusing range to just 24cm (around 9 inches) on certain lenses (possibly including this one, but Olympus' press information doesn't make it clear); there doesn't seem to be any information at the time of writing concerning what magnification is offered by the adapter.
Build Quality and Handling
(Given the very small changes between this lens and its previous generation, it's worth reading our review of that lens, here.)
The Olympus 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 II M.Zuiko is an all-plastic lens, quite small given the design parameters of the Micro Four Thirds system. The lens is available in a semi-gloss black finish. The plastic filter threads take 58mm filters, and the body mount is metal. There is no distance scale, depth-of-field scale or infrared index.
The zoom ring is 1 5/8" wide, plastic with raised ribs sections that run lengthwise to the lens. The ring turns about 90 degrees through its range of focal lengths, and is quite easy to turn. There is some significant lens extension as the lens is zoomed out towards the tele end, adding almost two inches to its overall length when zoomed out to 300mm. Zoom creep isn't a factor with this lens, and there is no lock to prevent it.
The focus ring is located at the end of the lens, an indented plastic ring that's a half-inch wide and features a different raised-rib texture from the zoom ring. The ring is a fly-by-wire design, controlling focus electronically, so there are no hard stops at either the infinity or close-focus ends. It's not the most friendly of manual focus designs, but the 100% magnification on the LCD really helps nail an accurate focus. Given that focus is electronically controlled, you can assign the direction of focus to be either left or right. The front element doesn't turn during focusing operations.
Our sample didn't ship with the LH-61D lens hood, which is a circular-shaped, bayonet-mounted model that appears to be able to reverse onto the lens for storage. The lens hood will run you $25.
Olympus 75-300mm ƒ/4.8-6.7 ED M.Zuiko Digital ~$-
The previous generation of the lens. There isn't a huge difference here: the new lens is a bit sharper at 150mm, CA is improved, and there's slightly less corner shading.
Panasonic 100-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO ~$600
We haven't yet tested this lens, but on paper it's very similar. It offers a slightly faster variable aperture, but doesn't go as wide to 75mm.
One of the advantages of the Micro Four Thirds sensor is the effect it has on telephoto lenses: with its 2x crop factor, it gives this 75-300mm lens an effective field of view of 150-600mm. I wrote this to conclude on the previous version of the lens:
Optically the Olympus 75-300mm does very well, but not where you'd want it to - it's super-sharp at 70mm, not at the 300mm where I suspect the grand majority of users will want to use this lens. At 300mm, it's only above average, there's noticeable chromatic aberration, and the maximum aperture of ƒ/6.7 is one of the slowest I've seen for SLR lenses (even Tamron and Sigma seem to draw the line at ƒ/6.3).
It was true then, and it remains true for this lens: one thing Olympus did do right was reduce the MSRP from $800 to $550. So, it may not be a fantastic lens, but it's good for the job, and now it doesn't put too much of a dent in your wallet.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II ED M.Zuiko Digital User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Mr Fussy (2 reviews)Compact, lightweight, fast focus, afordable.Image quality a bit soft at 300MM ... but for the price!
I am coming off a Nikon, latest being a D300. I could NEVER afford nor carry a 600mm Nikon. Key advantages.reviewed September 27th, 2014 (purchased for $550)
1. Getting bird and other nature shots not previously achievable. Don't underestimate this point, a good quality shot is better than an outstanding quality shot you couldn't take.
2. I can carry this all day, easily, not even in a backpack.
3. It was affordable, frankly $550 is a bargain when used to paying Nikon prices.
4. I am getting sharp images at 300mm (600 equivalent) hand held at 1/250 sec. Which I am very happy about. E-M1 stabilization at work.
5. Cant wait for the 300mm Pro prime due in 2015.
6. Light enough to use the E-M1 tripod support. Doesn't need its own tripod collar.
Summary happy with this lens and delighted I switched from Nikon DX to OMD E-M1.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by tdonaldp (1 reviews)light weight, reasonably sharp-I get photos that are sharper than I got with nikon D800 + nikon 300mm F2.8
Over all rated 9- good value for the moneyreviewed July 2nd, 2014 (purchased for $549)
Construction 9. It is plastic, no lens hood
Optically 9. Sharp, lens does not creep, i.e. feather detail shows clearly - i.e. the feather components, color rendition is accurate, have not shot to induce flare. No noticeable barrel or pin cushion or chromatic aberration noted subjectively but suspect if bench tested it may?. I am getting pictures I was never able to get with my nikon gear - that I have traded in for the olympus system.--no regrets