Olympus 300mm F4 Pro more observations

Well it’s still very much early days for me with the Olympus set up, and I still have a nice warm glow about the system. Thus far my only gripe is the autofocus on the E-M5 MKII. To be fair I kinda saw this coming, the E-M5 MKII is a cash saving compromise for me at the moment, as I just couldn’t bring myself to splash the cash for an E-M1 MKII which has an auto-focus system designed for sports and wildlife photography as well as the 300mm F4 Pro lens and MC-14 extender.

For example, what I’ve noticed is that with a stationary bird in reasonable light the E-M5 copes admirably and locks on without too much fuss in a manner not dissimilar to many APS-c DSLR’s, however, once the light levels drop or things start moving about, especially on a complex background the limitations of the EM5 MKII auto focus system become apparent. I’ve found myself on a few occasions having to snap the manual focus clutch in to place (which by the way is a very nice touch if you need to quickly flip into manual focus by sliding back the focus ring on the lens body), to rescue focus that the E-M5 has completely lost, but hey, I’m tracking small birds here in dense undergrowth, so let’s not be too harsh.

What is still apparent is the quality of the lens. Even when I’ve failed to hit my focus target, there is often an area in sharp focus such as the birds feet which demonstrate how sharp the lens is. It’s going to be interesting when we travel to mid Wales in a few weeks time to see how the E-M5 copes with Red Kites at the Gigrin farm Kite feeding station.

For now, I’m still happy, as long as I can stay patient until the E-m1 drops in price.

Olympus 300mm F4 PRO first impressions

Well it’s been a while since I let my Canon big glass go due to my ageing frame complaining about carting the weight around. I’ve been using our trusty Canon 400mm F5.6 since letting the 300mm F2.8 go, however, now that Helen has fully embraced the joys of telephoto photography we decided it was time to invest in a second telephoto lens to avoid arguments.

After much googling and rumination we decided to invest in a M43 lens, as I’d already been using a Panasonic GH4 for video work and panoramas for a couple of years. After comparing the two M43 telephoto options on our shortlist, the Panasonic 100-400 and the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO we finally decided, on the basis of looking at images and reviews, to go with the Olympus 300mm F4 PRO plus the matching MC-14 1.4 teleconverter.

Our primary interest in this lens is from the perspective of shooting birds, so the lens first real test was a Treecreeper close to our local canal.

At the time these shots were taken, I was still waiting for the teleconverter to arrive, so the shots were with just the 300mm lens, mounted on an Olympus EM-5 MKII.

The distance and size of the subject meant that the Treecreeper was quite small in the frame, so this is a good test of the lenses ability to stand up to a tight crop, a scenario that most of us photographing small passerines are used to.

Here is the full frame image

And here is a close crop of the same image

Bearing in mind that these shots are hand held, I have to say that I’m already extremely impressed with the Olympus lens. The lens has an in built stabiliser system which operates in addition to the sensor based stabiliser on the Olympus EM-5 MKII. The combined effect is quite amazing. As you look through the EVF, on half depressing the shutter release the stabilisers kick in and the image you are presented with magically transforms, looking like you’d suddenly put it on a tripod (I’ve read that Olympus hand select the gyro sensors for these lenses and I can well believe it!)

There’s obviously a lot more to think about with this combination. I’m interested to see how it’s close focusing (down to 1.4 metres would you believe) works for dragonflies and other small subjects like lizards, and there’s also still the question of how well the auto focus performs over time compared to equivalent DSLR combos.

I’ll endeavour to keep posting about this lens, as I didn’t find a lot of information online for bird photographers about it.  First impressions though are immensely positive, roll on June and our trip to Mid Wales where I’ll be seeing how the Olympus combo copes with Red Kites.