Most helpful positive review
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Performs a lot better than it should for the price - very nice lens !
on 6 August 2014
I'm writing this review as a long-time user of micro four thirds products and as a part-time pro photog who mainly uses a Sony DSLR/SLT setup. I have shot telephoto lenses for around 30 years now on film and digital. The 70/5-300 on DSLRs has tended to be a maligned lens because it is traditionally a fairly cheap and cheerful 'kit' kind of lens that folks often buy who don't care too much about ultimate image quality. I can certainly vouch for OEM and Sigma/Tamron 70-300s to be very mediocre - once you get to about 180mm+ they lose massive amounts of contrast and resolution and the build quality is often pretty low, with slow AF to boot. But reviews of this little m 4/3 lens are interesting - some say it is good but not great, some say it is good up to 200mm, some say it is mediocre and out-gunned by the more expensive Panasonic Lumix 100-300 lens for m 4/3.
Here is my own take - it's early days yet, but after a few 100 test shots, my conclusions are: lightweight and compact for a zoom of this size, as you would expect for a m 4/3 lens; might be a little unwieldy on a very small m 4/3 camera body when fully extended at 300mm (e.g. on an EPL5 or GM1) but on my EM5 it balances very well; feels quite solid in the hand and is 'made in Japan' - nice!; zoom action is just right - not too stiff, not too sloppy, no zoom creep experienced so far; AF not as snappy as a prime or smaller range zooms, but not overly sluggish either on my EM5 - about what I expected; AF-C not great at keeping up with moving targets, but that is more a limitation of the EM5 AF system and is not really the forte of micro four thirds - only the GH4 really starts to catch up with DSLRs when it comes to AF-C in my experience.
But what has really astonished me is the IQ - at 300mm my test shots show very good resolution and contrast - I was stunned to see that images from this lens and my EM5 match those from my Sony 70-400G lens (mounted on a Sony a57 or a77 SLT camera body) for contrast and sharpness - that Sony lens is a £1500 lens by the way ! Now I may have just been lucky and obtained a very good copy of the Olympus lens, and I do have a lot of years experience of handholding tele lenses to fall back on, but even so, this really surprised me. The quality of images from this lens far surpasses those from any other 70-300 or 75-300 I have ever come across on any system so far. If you have ever had, like I have, a Tamron 70-300 or one of those Tamron superzooms like a 28-300, the long end of this Olympus produces images far in excess of the quality of those produced by those other lenses.
Now of course you do need good technique when using a lens like this at the long end. On a m 4/3 system the 35mm equivalent focal length is X 2, so it it 150mm-600mm 35mm equivalent. Handholding a 600mm equivalent lens, even one quite small and light like this one, takes practice and patience to perfect. The IBIS on the EM5 is good of course, but you still need to treat a 300mm lens with respect. My test shots handheld at 1/500 shutter speed were very crisp at the 300mm end - I imagine on a tripod with IBIS turned off they would be even more impressive. I should also say I was very impressed by the low levels of purple fringing and chromatic aberration - again, much lower levels than I have seen on some much more expensive tele lenses on DSLR systems.
So, in conclusion, this lens was a real eye-opener for me - much, much sharper at the long end than I expected it to be. I have never owned the rival Panasonic 100-300 but I have owned the Panasonic 45-200 and this lens blows that one out of the water by quite some margin. And as I said above, it gives very expensive DSLR lenses like the Sony 70-400G a run for their money, even though on paper it shouldn't. I should add I also have a Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 lens - a lens that costs about £900, and again, this little Oly is as sharp as that lens - really impressive especially for the price.
This is therefore a great lens for wildlife. Is it a great lens for sports, action, air shows etc? Well once micro four thirds camera bodies have good AF-C and tracking capabilities it will be - for now, only really the GH4 offers that. So action shots will always be a bit challenging, but there certainly are users out there who are using this lens on m 4/3 and getting good action shots, so it can be done.
I can't recommend this lens highly enough in conclusion - it punches well above its weight. Shame on Olympus for not supplying a lens hood for free though - while many report the coatings on this lens make it very resistant to flare and ghosting, I would never use a long tele lens without a hood - I ended up buying a collapsible rubber hood sold on here and made by Hoya - you can, of course, buy other third party hoods or the over-priced official Olympus one. Looks like Oly have started supplying hoods with their more recent lens models..finally !