Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

A Hole in the System

Birdhouse in Snow

There is, as far as I can tell, only one serious hole in my newly adopted Olympus system – a good, sharp, reliable telephoto lens.  A lens that has enough reach to get you close to something that is otherwise unreachable.  Like critters that are too small for most lenses or too big to safely get close to.  Or landscape objects that are just too distant (like up – or down – a 2,000 foot cliff).  Or even people that you just don’t want to tip off that you’re photographing them.  There just isn’t a micro four-thirds lens currently available that stacks up to a good 70 – 200 mm f/2.8 telephoto or, for example, Canon’s wonderful 300 mm prime.  With a 1.4x or 2.0x extender these lenses were more than adequate (for my purposes, anyway).

Without such a telephoto I was good up to 150 mm (in full-frame metrics) when using the EM-5 or my current EM-1. For me, that’s not quite enough.  If I happen to be roaming around Zion NP and a desert Bighorn (or two or three) shows up in the vicinity, I’d at least like the option of getting reasonably close (optically, that is).  Or if I see an eagle or condor soaring near the high cliffs, it would be nice to be able to get a shot or two where you could actually see the thing without cropping the hell out of the image.  Or, if we wind up making it to Charleston, SC this spring, I know I’ll probably get a view or two of some large water birds and some even larger alligators.  From past experience I know that herons don’t like a lot of close-up attention – especially when they’re nesting – and alligators are something else altogether.  I’d just as soon be as far away as possible.  Those guys have big teeth.

So I sold my rarely used 17 mm f/1.8 Olympus lens and bought the Olympus 75 – 300 mm f/4.8 – 6.7 II telephoto lens.  (In full-frame terms, that’s equivalent to 150 – 600 mm.)  Admittedly, it’s not a world-class lens.  But hopefully, it’ll do.  For now.  I’ve seen pictures of a new Olympus 300 mm f/4 prime that is supposed to be released sometime in 2015.  According to the rumors, it’ll be one of the “PRO” lenses (like the very good 12 – 40 mm f/2.8 PRO).  It sounds good, but I’m guessing that it’ll be more expensive than the one I just bought.  Probably a LOT more expensive.  Better start saving my pennies (and nickels and dimes and quarters, etc., etc.).

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is one of the “test” images I made over the last couple of days with the new 75 – 300 mm lens.  This was taken near the middle of the range, or about 150mm (300mm full-frame).  At this focal length, the lens is reasonably sharp.  It falls off a bit at either end of the range – at an equivalent 600 mm, it definitely loses some sharpness.  And it’s a bit on the slow side at the long end as far as focusing is concerned.  But as I said, it’ll have to do.  There really aren’t many other choices.


7 Responses to “A Hole in the System”

  1. Mark Hobson

    I regularly use my 50-200mm f2.8-4 4/3rds lens on my µ4/3 cameras (w adapter of course). The lens is optically excellent. You should be able to find a used one at a very attractive price.

    • Paul Maxim

      I did briefly consider that lens, Mark. And I wish I’d had a chance to test it. I read some of the reviews by people using it on micro 4/3 cameras and saw a few too many comments that it focused very slowly. They all said that it was excellent glass but didn’t like the focusing time, especially in dim light. Since I wasn’t able to try it myself, I have no idea if any of that is true. I’d love to hear whether or not you’ve had that problem. I guess it only matters if what you’re photographing is moving……….

      • blovius

        Since I rarely picture moving referents with this lens – when I do, I mount it on my E-3 – focusing speed is of no concern to me. That written, it’s a bit on the slow side but for my use that issue is far surpassed by the excellent optical quality of the lens. And, the 400mm (35mm equiv.) reach of the lens is more than sufficient for my picturing.

        PS found a used one at KEH for under $400.00

  2. John

    That’s interesting you feel that way – Thom Hogan basically says that’s the gap in m4/3 lenses as well. My guess is the 300mm lens Olympus has coming out in only another year(!), will be killer. In the meantime maybe grab an adapter and a telephoto from a different manufacturer…

    • Paul Maxim

      I’m certainly going to keep looking for some better telephoto glass, but the one I bought seems to be “adequate” for now. At this point, Olympus seems to be in the process of upgrading their micro 4/3 lens lineup. The old ones are good, but the newer ones are a bit heavier, better built, and, in the case of the 12 – 40 mm f/2.8 lens, weather-sealed. And I still say that the 75 mm lens is one of the best I’ve ever used. I just wish they’d introduce the new ones a little faster – before I get too old to use them!

  3. Cedric Canard

    For a test image this is nice. I am sure you will enjoy this lens. I don’t generally worry much about sharpness in lenses but that may just be a self-preservation mechanism since I can’t afford the lenses that would provide sharpness all the way through 🙂 Anyway have fun Paul. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. I can’t really afford them either, but I’ve got a kind of obsession about sharpness. A fuzzy picture drives me nuts – it’s the first thing I look for (whether it’s my image or someone else’s). It’s illogical, I know, but it is what it is. That’s the one time I’ll take as many photographs as I can: if I have what I think is a good composition and I know I won’t be back I’ll keep shooting as long as I can. Just to be sure I get one or two that has acceptable sharpness.

      I think i could have been a charter member of the f/64 group……….


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