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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review

John Riley reviews the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 IS PRO Telephoto lens, that gives a 600mm equivalent.

| Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS Pro in Interchangeable Lenses
BUY NOW OLYMPUS M. Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS Pro

Handling and Features

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: Olympus 300mm F4 Oblique Front

Olympus are renowned for high quality lenses and this latest 300mm f/4 optic is aimed at the very top of the range in terms of both quality and also being the longest Micro-Four-Thirds design. This review looks at its handling and performance and sees whether or not it lives up to our high level of expectation.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO Handling and Features

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: Olympus 300mm F4 On OM D E M5 Hood Retracted

The lens weighs 1.27kg and takes 77mm filters. It is fairly chunky in appearance, but balances well and becomes the main centre of balance when coupled to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 used for this review. In fact, the camera body is insignificant compared to the lens. The important thing is that the overall package works well and is not unduly heavy or cumbersome in use. This is useful for a lens that gives a 35mm-equivalent field of view of a 600mm f/4 lens. This is a powerful telephoto and needs care in handling to obtain the maximum benefit. Camera shake is the main enemy that will take the edge off sharpness, even on a tripod.


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However, the IS (Image Stabilisation) mechanism built into the lens offers optical image stabilisation, plus "Sync-IS", which is the ability to work in conjunction with the in-body 5-axis sensor-shift IS to offer up to six stops benefit. The E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II camera bodies, with the latest firmware updates, will be needed to take advantage of this fully. The L-Fn button on the lens offers up to 27 assignable functions.

The 300mm focuses down to a very close 1.4m (4' 6”) which enables a maximum magnification of 0.24x, very useful for small birds, animals and other closer subjects. Internal focusing means that the lens does not change length during AF operation, nor does the front element rotate. Using polarising filters will therefore be made easier. A switch on the lens body can select various distance ranges to make focusing quicker within restricted limits. Below this is the IS on/off switch.

Manual focusing is engaged by pulling back the focusing ring. This reveals a distance scale and allows rotation of the ring to focus. There are definite stops at each end of the focusing range rather than the continuous rotation of many modern lenses. This ring clicks into place very smoothly, but slightly more resistance to the action would be helpful. Depending upon how we hold the lens, it is fairly easy to engage manual focus by accident.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: Olympus M Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO Hands On (4)

The lens is largely constructed of metal, and looks built for long, hard professional use. There is a rotating Arca-Swiss compatible tripod foot that can be removed if desired and replaced by a supplied beauty ring. The lens hood slides out in use and this is a very good operational feature. There is no more messing about finding a place to store a lens hood once it is removed. This helps a basically compact and user-friendly design to be even more efficient in use. There is moisture sealing, the lens being described as “dust, freeze and splashproof” so light rain, dusty environments or cold weather should not present problems.

There are nine diaphragm blades, which should improve the appearance of out of focus highlights, the bokeh of the lens. Lens construction is 17 elements in 10 groups. These include three ED (Extra Low Dispersion), three HR (High Refractive Index) and one E-HR (Extra High Refractive Index) elements, a complex construction indeed.

In terms of general handling, apart from the light action of the AF/MF switching there are no issues. The 300mm f/4 is very easy to handle.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: Olympus 300mm F4 Oblique Rear

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO Performance

Sharpness is of a very high order. At f/4 the lens is very evenly matched edge and centre and delivers excellent sharpness, bordering on outstanding. At f/5.6 results are truly outstanding right across the frame, with an impressive set of figures that are virtually identical centre and edge. F/8 and f/11 remain excellent and also very even, sharpness only starting to tail off due to diffraction at f/16 and f/22. Used at optimum apertures, results from this Olympus lens are simply superb.


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: 300mm MTF
300mm MTF

How to read our 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 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-M5 using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well controlled throughout the range, so colour fringing is virtually eliminated.


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review: 300mm CA
300mm CA

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration 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-M5 using Imatest.

Looking at the images shot, the bokeh is just lovely and smooth. Such a long lens will by its very nature tend towards selective focus and out of focus backgrounds, and at wide apertures the effect is sublime.

The IS system is remarkably good. Without IS engaged, I could manage a moderately sharp image at 1/160 second, which in itself is not too bad for a 600mm-equivalent lens. With IS switched on, that 1/160 second becomes razor sharp and the difference is very clear to see. A total benefit of six stops is achievable with care, and four stops should be no problem at all. Very impressive.

Distortion is almost non-existent and measures at just -0.193% of barrelling. There are no issues with architectural photography, although this focal length may not be the first choice anyway for such subjects. Flare resistance is likewise excellent.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS Pro Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Olympus 300mm f/4 IS Pro lens is priced at £2199. This is a large saving compared to the older, larger and heavier Olympus 300mm f/2.8, costing £5689.

Looking at what costs are like for other marques, 300mm f/4 lenses may be less expensive, but if we consider the job they do and look at the crop factors involved, then the picture is quite different.

For example, the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens costs £8895, but for crop sensor cameras their 400mm f/5.6 L USM is £889. Nikon users have the AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 E FL ED VR (£9650), and Sony users have the Sony 500mm f/4 G SSM (£9,999). The nearest equivalent for Pentax APS-C users would be the SMC Pentax-D FA 150-450mm (£1599) or the SMC Pentax-DA 560mm f/5.6 (£2999). As the new full frame Pentax K-1 becomes available, the 150-450mm is a full frame lens, and Pentax are also listing the 560mm as being fully compatible with the larger format, even though not labelled as such.

Against this backdrop, Olympus MFT users do seem to have here a lens which measures up very well in terms of cost. For more options have a look at the Top 5 Best Olympus Lenses of 2015.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO Verdict

Considered against what users of other marques might pay, the cost of the Olympus 300mm f/4 does seem to be very reasonable. We can add to that its compact size, relatively light weight and excellent ergonomics. Quality is superb.

All in all, a lot of thought and skill has gone into this lens and it is certain to find favour amongst Olympus MFT sports and wildlife photographers. The fact that close focusing brings other subjects into range is an added bonus.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO Pros

Outstanding sharpness
Fast and silent AF
Highly effective IS
Very well controlled CA
Excellent flare resistance
Great handling
Reasonably compact

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO Cons

Easy to engage MF in error


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Review:

The Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 IS offers outstanding quality and handling for Micro Four Thirds cameras.


Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS Pro Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Focal Length300mm
Angle of View4.1°
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size77mm
35mm equivalent600mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus140cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLC-77B Lens Cap, LR-2 Lens Rear Cap, DR-79 Decoration Ring, LSC-1127 Lens Case, Instruction Manual, Warranty Card

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themak Avatar
themak 10 1.1k Scotland
22 Feb 2016 2:29PM
That sparrow's a redwing, I think.
ShaunsPics Avatar
ShaunsPics 12 87 United Kingdom
23 Feb 2016 9:46PM
Dam you beat me to it your right it is.
johnriley1uk Avatar
24 Feb 2016 9:32AM
Thanks for info, my identification skills still could do with some improvement!
ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 17 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
24 Feb 2016 11:26AM
Looks like an excellent performer, but comparing it with 600mm on FF would only be equivalent if you were talking about a maximum aperture of f8 on the larger format in terms of DoF character and overall light gathering.

I'm not saying this lens does not have the characteristics of a fast, sharp lens, but the more logical 'equivalence' argument puts prices more into perspective.
photowanderer Avatar
24 Feb 2016 4:15PM
An exciting new lens. I wish I could afford one. Don't understand why these MFT lenses stop down as far as f22, because as the Imatest graph shows, even at f8 image quality is beginning to get progressively worse as the lens is stopped down.
kettel Avatar
kettel 7 1 Sweden
20 Mar 2016 4:32PM
Now with Metabones and Kipon adapters performing reasonably well with MFT-bodies, I would really like to see a review of the Canon 300mm/f4 L IS USM vs the Oly 300mm/f4. Current price at amazon is £320 for the adapter and around £960 for said lens, total £1280.

Not to mention the bigger used market of old Canon L-glass. Of course, AF-performance and IS won't be on par with this beauty of a lens, but for those of us not quite ready to spend £2000+ on a lens, it would be a real treat to find a real in-depth review of the adapted longer lenses from Canon on Oly-bodies, primarily the E-M1 due to it's PDAF.
photohounds Avatar
27 Jun 2018 12:46PM
Hand-holding a 600mm "equivalent" lens requires the SAME aperture/fstop for a given ISO. Period.
A canon 600/4 is impossible to hold for long unless you fancy yourself as the Terminator.
A mate has one. Here is another bloke with one MASSIVE lens - he isn't hand-holding it for a reason - 900mm and 5.3 KILOS! It is an excellent lens ... but!!
You can hand-hold a Zuiko 300/4 - I've tried it and it's quite portable -which is why birders are (ahem) flocking to the 300mm Zuiko.

DOF will be a tad greater but still minimal (people usually want a bit MORE DOF, not less from all but P&S and phones).
People who pretend the whole point of every lens and every shot is near-zero DOF are amusing fools.
Such is the nature of gimmicks and "looking professional".

Example: a canon 85/1,2 wide open for a face shot means NO ears.
It's a gimmick, as opposed to creativity. Try selling such a portrait.

MFT offers an excellent compromise between soft DOF and portability.
Unless you're in a studio, portability is KING.

Portability enabled 35mm to render MF camera sales "NICHE" by the mid 1970s because it was "good enough".

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