Reviews |Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1099.99

$1499

Our Verdict

Top-end, long telephoto lenses do not come cheap so you have to accept some compromises if you want to get a long lens for wildlife photography without dipping deep into your bank account. The biggest compromise that you’ll have to accept with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS, is that unless you’re shooting on a bright day, you’re likely to need to push the sensitivity up to get fast enough shutter speeds to freeze movement.

For

  • Compact for the effective focal length (200-800mm)
  • Stabilised
  • Dust and weatherproof

Against

  • Variable aperture with a maximum of f/5.6-6.3
  • Stabilisation not compatible with Sync IS

What is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS?

While the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS isn’t one of Olympus’s Pro lenses, it’s one of its higher-quality M.Zuiko optics. As you’d expect, it has the Micro Four Thirds mount and is suitable for use on any of the company’s Pen or OM-D series cameras – or one of Panasonic’s Lumix series of Micro Four Thirds cameras.

The crop factor of Four Thirds type sensors imparts a 2x focal length magnification factor which means that the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS has an effective focal length of 200-800mm in action. That’s a very desirable range for wildlife photographers, especially anyone interested in photographing birds.

In addition, the lens is compatible with Olympus’s M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14  and 2x Teleconverter MC-20. When one of these is in use the effective focal length is extended to  280-1,120mm and 400-16,000mm respectively. That’s enough to give the average photographer palpitations.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS review

Specification

  • Product type: Telephoto zoom lens
  • Announced: 4th August 2020
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 100-400mm, effective 200-800mm
  • Angle of view: 12 – 3.1°
  • Closest focusing distance: 1.3m
  • Construction: 21 elements in 15 groups
  • Maximum aperture range: f/5.0-6.3
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Image stabilisation: Up to 3EV, not compatible with Sync IS
  • Teleconverter compatibility: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14 and 2x Teleconverter MC-20 giving 280-1,120mm and 400-16,000mm effective focal length respectively
  • Filter diameter: 72mm
  • Dimensions (length x diameter): 205.7 x 86.4mm
  • Weight: 1,120g
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS review

Features

Despite its long focal length, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS has closest focusing distance of 1.3m across its full zoom range, which means if a distant subject gets closer, you can continue to shoot until it’s almost within touching-distance.

There’s also an optical stabilisation system built in that is said to offer up to 3EV of shutter speed compensation when hand-holding the camera. However, this system is not compatible with IS Sync so it can’t work in tandem with a camera’s in-body-image-stabiliser (IBIS).

In addition, the lens is sealed to give the same level of dust-proofing, splashproofing and freezeproofing as the M.Zuiko PRO series lenses.

Following a firmware upgrade the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and M-D E-M5 Mark III will also function in Focus Stacking mode with the lens. This enables a series of images to be shot at different focus distances and then composites them automatically into a single image with extensive depth of field.

The optical construction of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS includes four Extra-low Dispersion (ED) lenses to suppress colour bleeding, two Super High Refractive Index (Super HR) lenses, and two HR (High Refractive Index) lenses for bright, clear details into the edges of the image at every focal length.

Olympus has used a rear focus system to drive the lightweight focusing elements.

There’s also a Focus Switch and a Focus Limiter. The latter enables the autofocus (AF) operating range to be switched between three levels as required by the subject distance.

Olympus has also applied its ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating to reduce ghosts and flare.

Build and Handling

I was pleasantly surprised by the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS when it arrived a few weeks before its announcement. Having been told that it’s not one of tPro-series optics, I had tempered my expectations, but it creates a great first impression when you pull it from the box.

The barrel looks and feels nice and the manual focus and zoom rings rotate smoothly. The zoom ring is broad and within easy reach. I found I could tweak the framing quickly and easily as I supported the lens with my left hand.

It’s nice to see a lock on the zoom ring, but the lens didn’t extend when I left it unlocked and walked with it mounted on a camera handing over my shoulder. Of course, that might change with extensive use, but nevertheless, it’s clear that this is a nicely built optic.

The autofocus limiter switch is also a nice addition with settings of 1.3-6m, 1.3m to infinity and 6m to infinity. That’s useful when you’re shooting birds in flight or through foliage or something.

While 1.12Kg is very reasonable for a lens with an effective focal length range fo 200-800mm, it’s still pretty hefty. However, it pairs very nicely with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III or Mark II. The camera’s grip is large enough to make the two work together.

I shot hand-held, but there’s a tripod foot on a removable collar on the lens if you want a tripod or monopod to take the weight. Helpfully, the foot is Arca Swiss compatible so it can be mounted directly into Arca Swiss type tripod heads. Alternatively, there’s a thread to attach a monopod or quick release plate.

Read our Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III review

Performance

Wildlife photography, especially bird photography is an art that takes practise, and I am out of practice. However, mounted on the OM-D E-M1 II, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS was kind to me. It’s focusing was fast enough to get subjects like ducks and even a red kite sharp as I waved the camera in their general direction.

Checking the images on a computer screen reveals that the results are very good. The level of detail isn’t exceptional, but it’s more than acceptable.

When you shoot wide-open, there’s a hint of vignetting visible, but as is often the case, it’rs more apparent in the thumbnails when you’re growing the images than it is when you open them. It’s not objectionable and within the level of corner shading that I often apply to images to add emphasis to the subject.

I spotted a ting amount of chromatic aberration along the edges of bird in flight, but that’s easily dealt with when processing the raw files.

Aperture and Shutter Speed

One issue with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS is that you’re likely to have to push the sensitivity (ISO) up to get the shutter speed you need to freeze movement if the light is less than ideal. On a bright sunny day you can happily use exposure settings like 1/1250sec at f/8 and ISO 200, but when the sun disappears you’ll need to push up the ISO.

Even at around 5pm on an overcast day at the end of June in the UK, I had to use ISO 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/800sec.

As a result, it’s likely that the shooting conditions and the subject will determine the exposure settings that you use.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS stabilisation performance

Olympus claims that the stabilisation system in the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS is able to extend the hand-holdable shutter speed by up to 3EV.

Well after shooting at the 400mm end, which is equivalent to 800mm, on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I think that’s a conservative assessment. I was able to get some shots sharp at shutter speeds as low as 1/10sec, and at 1/25 sec my hit rate was around 50-60%.  By 1/100sec it was close to 100%.

That’s very handy if your subject isn’t moving.

Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS image gallery

Early Verdict

An effective focal length range of 200-800mm is very attractive to anyone interested in wildlife photography, but the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS is the type of lens that is more likely to be bought for its longest focal lengths rather than its entire zoom range.

At the longest point, the maximum aperture is f/6.3, which limits the maximum shutter speed that’s available a little, so this might not be the best choice of lens for winter and low-light wildlife photography. But during the summer or if you’re prepared to push the sensitivity (ISO) up, this is a very enticing option that’s more affordable than other options like the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Sport DG OS HSM (£1,249 / $1,849) or even Olympus’s own M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f4 IS PRO lens (£2,199 / $2,749).

guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments