Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS Review
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS is a brand new 4x telephoto superzoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds system.
Featuring near-silent, high-speed focusing, the dust-, splash- and freezeproof Olympus 100-400mm lens offers an extensive focal range of 200-800mm in 35mm terms.
It has a close focusing distance of 1.3m across the zoom range and a maximum magnification of 0.57x.
It uses 21 elements in 15 groups,including four Extra-low Dispersion (ED) lenses for suppressing colour bleeding, two Super High Refractive Index (Super HR) lenses, and two HR (High Refractive Index) lenses.
The 100-400m lens features built-in image stabilisation worth 3 stops to help to combat camera shake, while 9 circular diaphragm blades give the aperture a rounded shape.
When used with an optional teleconverter, the focal range is increased up to 1,120mm with the M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14 and up to 1600mm with the 2x Teleconverter MC-20.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens is priced at £1099.99 in the UK.
Ease of Use
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS is surprisingly compact and relatively light for a superzoom lens covering a huge 35mm equivalent focal range of 400-800mm.
Zoomed out to the 400mm setting, the lens does look a little innocuous even on a larger Micro Four Thirds camera body like the flagship OM-D E-M1X, and it's a little heavier than the Panasonic 100-400mm equivalent - 1120g vs 985g (excluding the tripod base plate, lens cap, lens rear cap, and lens hood). Olympus say that this is due to making room at the base of the lens for the optional 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
Zooming is not internal - The front extends considerably upon zooming to 400mm, extending from 20.5mm to reach nearly 25cms in length, at which point the lens cannot be considered tiny any more.
Still, it's a pretty compact affair for a lens that spans such a vast focal range, especially if you're coming from the world of DSLRs!
In terms of features, the lens offers an IS switch for turning the 3-stop image stabilisation on or off and an AF/MF switch for selecting the focusing method.
There's also a Focus Limiter switch with three settings, 1.3-6m, 1.3m-Infinity and 6m-Infinity, with the latter speeding up the autofocusing if you don't need to shoot closer than 6m away from your subject.
The zoom ring lock switch helps to prevent zoom creep. Note that the lens has to be set to 100mm before the switch can be activated.
The quick-shift, two-part rotating tripod collar that can be rotated using a knurled locking ring to easily switch between horizontal and vertical shooting orientations.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens may have a lot of plastic parts to help keep the weight down, but the lens mount is, thankfully, made of metal.
The lens is both dust- and moisture-resistant, an excellent feature given that this lens will predominantly be used by wildlife and sports photographers in all kinds of conditions.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens offers virtually silent focusing. In use, we also found the AF system to be very quick when pairing the lens with the OM-D E-M1X.
With the focus mode on the OM-D E-M1X set to AFC, the lens tracked moving subjects well, although it takes some practice to keep them in the frame when using the 800mm focal length!
The 72mm filter thread does not rotate on focus, which is good news for users of polarisers and graduated neutral density filters.
Manual focusing is possible in a focus-by-wire fashion. This should not put you off using it as it feels pretty natural in use, and actually enables the camera to display a magnified view of the subject automatically, i.e. without you having to press a dedicated button or enter the menu. The focus ring is generously sized and more than adequate for the job.
Usefully the lens comes with a snap-on lens hood. Olympus also include a cloth storage bag, and the lens accepts 72mm filters.
At the 100mm end of the zoom range, the lens has a diagonal angle of view of 12°, equivalent to that of a 200mm lens in a 35mm system.
At the 400mm end, the angle of view is 3.1°, which is the same as that of a 800mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera.
Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are not really a problem with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens, as shown in the examples below.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
With the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens set to its maximum aperture, you can see some light fall-off in the corners, but nothing too excessive. You will likely only notice this when photographing a subject with large homogeneous surfaces.
Although Olympus does not call the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS a macro lens, you can at least fill the frame when shooting at 400mm, with a maximum 0.57x magnification rating and the ability to focus at 1.3m/4.27ft away from the subject.
Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc.
In the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS lens, Olympus employed a diaphragm with 9 circular blades, which has resulted in very nice bokeh, at least in our opinion.
However, recognising that bokeh evaluation is subjective, we have provided a few examples for your perusal.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.