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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.6-6.3 IS Review - Performance

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS Performance

Measuring sharpness with test charts for such a long lens has many challenges as the studio space is not long enough, so some measurements have to be moved outside. This means we are always at the mercy of air quality and the hot, hazy weather (at the time of testing) will likely reduce the figures somewhat. It does however still provide a guide that can be confirmed by actual shooting in the real world.


At 100mm, the centre is excellent from f/5 to f/11, very good at f/16 and then suffers from diffraction to make f/22 just fair. The edges are excellent from f/5 to f/8, very good at f/11, good at f/16 and fair at f/22.

At 200mm, the centre is very good from f/6 to f/16 and fair at f/22. The edges are very good at f/6 and f/8, good at f/11 and f/16 and fair at f/22.

At 300mm, the centre is very good from f/6.3 to f/11, good at f/16 and fair at f/22. The edges are good from f/6.3 to f/16 and fair at f/22.

At 400mm the centre is very good at f/6.3 and f/8, good at f/11 and f/16 and fair at f/22. The edges are good from f/6.3 to f/16 and fair at f/22.

 

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution and sharpness as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III using Imatest. Want to know more about how we review lenses?


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is generally held to about one third of a pixel throughout, and it looks as though firmware correction is built in. Further correction would not normally be necessary at these sort of levels, but could always be applied if required.

 

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III using Imatest.

 

Distortion is really very low for a zoom lens, again looking as though it is being corrected upfront by the lens/camera combination itself. Pincushion distortion can be measured, +0.18% at 100mm,+0.41% at 200mm, +0.47% at 300mm and +0.49% at 400mm. This is very close to being perfectly rectilinear.

Bokeh, the quality of the out of focus areas, is basically sublime, partly because of the lens construction and partly because such a long lens will throw backgrounds way out of focus fairly easily anyway. Even with the modest maximum apertures available, selective focus can be achieved.

Flare is effectively banished, even when really bright light sources are included in the edges of the frame. The ZERO coating clearly works extremely well.

Vignetting is also very low for a zoom lens, again suggesting that maybe a fair amount of compensation is built into the system from the start.

Aperture 100mm 200mm 300mm 400mm
f/5 -0.5      
f/5.6 -0.4      
f/6   -0.3    
f/6.3     -0.4 -0.7
f/8 -0.4 -0.2 -0.4 -0.7
f/11 -0.4 -0.2 -0.3 -0.7
f/16 -0.4 -0.2 -0.3 -0.7
f/22 -0.4 -0.2 -0.3 -0.7

 


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS Sample Photos

 

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS Aperture range

You can view additional images in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.


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Comments


6 Aug 2020 4:50PM
The resolution charts look pretty disappointing at all focal lengths except 100mm. What's going on?
6 Aug 2020 6:56PM

Quote:Measuring sharpness with test charts for such a long lens has many challenges as the studio space is not long enough, so some measurements have to be moved outside. This means we are always at the mercy of air quality and the hot, hazy weather (at the time of testing) will likely reduce the figures somewhat. It does however still provide a guide that can be confirmed by actual shooting in the real world.


In the real world the sharpness was fine, as we can see from the sample shots.
ChrisV Plus
13 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
9 Aug 2020 9:45PM
It seems strange to publish charts which don’t give an accurate indication of sharpness. It begs the question why present them at all if the data they’re presenting is at best misleading? What’s the point?
9 Aug 2020 10:06PM
It's a fair enough question Chris, and one that I debated before deciding to present the charts as they were. Firstly, many reviews simply don't try to produce MTF charts for very long lenses, basically because the distances invloved are so large. But I like to produce them if I can, and it was unfortunate that in the time slot I had the air was quite hazy from the heat, making the process extremely difficult and reducing the figures where any distance was involved outdoors.
However, they do represent what was possible under such conditions and also show that the sharpness holds up very well across the aperture range and also holds up as we zoom in to the longer focal lengths. So there is some information to be gleaned from this.
Obviously it was a decision that had to be made one way or another, and if I err I would always err on the side of at least presenting the information and then being able to discuss it.
10 Aug 2020 4:53PM
I notice that your review of the PL 100-400mm (Feb 2016) rates that lens about the same as the Oly 100-400mm (4.5 stars overall). But the sharpness of the PL measures considerably better than the Oly over most of the zoom range - e.g. PL centre sharpness of 2500 LW/PH at 300mm f/8 compared to the Oly measured at about 1900 LW/PH at 300mm f/8. Do you think the atmospheric conditions encountered during testing account for the sharpness difference. That is - would you say that these two lenses are equally as sharp in real world conditions across the zoom range?
10 Aug 2020 7:10PM
In the real world I've processed a large number of images from the new Olympus lens and it's beautifully sharp. The testing conditions were indeed less than ideal, as mentioned in the review and above. Also, different cameras will have an effect so there are no absolutes. Once the images are processed through Photoshop I doubt that there are any siginificant real world differences.
Of course, lenses are about more than just the bald figures and we also have to consider these other sharacteristics - the sum total of the corrections chosen and how they give a lens a particular "look". I like this new lens very much indeed and have been delighted with the finished results. You can find a fair number of them on my EPZ Portfolio (johnriley1uk).
lemmy 13 2.9k United Kingdom
25 Aug 2020 7:31PM
Sharpness has become such a fetish now that we can pixel peep with such ease. I can't think of any digital era lens that I've used - and it must be hundreds now - that hasn't been sharp enough. The reality of this lens, compared to the Panasonic equivalent, is that both are sharp enough that it's not a factor in buying them.

The buying decision should be more on size, weight, price, ease of use, maximum aperture. The shot below of a cyclist in London is on a Panasonic 100-400mm, 400mm @f/6.3. Take a look at those atmospherics - any lens with a horizontal FoV of less than 3 would do the job just as well.

I know everyone talks about wild life for long lenses but for me the perspective effect is the reason to have one. They just conjure pictures out of everyday scenes like this.

60591_1598380191.jpg

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