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

      Photo Review 9.0

      In summary

      While its two stops slower than the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens at the 300mm focal length, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens offers a more versatile alternative that is smaller, lighter and more affordable.

      Most photographers will buy this lens for shooting sports and/or wildlife. Bird photographers, in particular, are likely to find this lens appealing and its compactness and light weight – plus its effective stabilisation – make it ideal for hand-held use.

      It’s also a good choice for sports photographers who spend a lot of time standing and outdoor photographers who require long lenses. The generous lens hood is great for excluding stray light in challenging situations.

      Full review

      Scheduled to arrive in stores late this month, the new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens has the longest reach of any zoom lens released so far for Olympus interchangeable-lens cameras. Owners of Panasonic’s cameras have enjoyed the Leica-branded DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power OIS lens since 2016 and many OM-D camera owners purchased this lens. Now Olympus has provided a dedicated M.Zuiko lens to cater for OM-D owners.

      Side view of the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens without the lens hood but with the tripod collar in place. (Source: Olympus).

      Like the Panasonic lens, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens covers focal lengths equivalent to 200-800mm in 35mm format. Its optical design contains 21 elements in 15 groups and includes four ED (Extra-low Dispersion), two Super HR (High Resolution) and two HR elements to keep resolution high across the entire zoom range.


      A cutaway view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens showing the positions of the various elements. (Source: Olympus.)

      ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) Coating is also used to reduce the effects of ghosting and flare, particularly with backlit subjects. Nine diaphragm blades close to produce a circular aperture for smooth, attractive bokeh. This lens is also weather sealed to the same levels of dustproof and splashproof performance as the M.Zuiko PRO series.


      This illustration shows the weatherproof sealing in the new lens and the OM-D E-M1 Mk III camera on which it is mounted. (Source: Olympus)

      The in-lens stabilisation system provides up to three stops of shake correction and can works with the 5-axis IS systems in Olympus cameras to provide even more stabilisation. The tripod adapter has a large locking screw to enable fast swapping between landscape and portrait orientation.

      Focusing is controlled by a micromotor using the proprietary MSC (Movie and Stills Compatible) system that drives the focusing lens, which is positioned towards the rear of the lens assembly. The result is fast, near-silent operation that makes this lens quiet enough for 4K video shooting.

      The lens will focus to within 1.3 metres of subjects across the entire zoom range and delivers slightly greater than half life size magnification at the 400mm position. This also provides a good working distance for photographing small birds and animals and enough magnification for flower shots.

      The lens takes 72mm filters. It is supplied with front and end caps, the tripod extension foot and a cylindrical lens hood.

      Who’s it For?
       Most photographers will buy this lens for shooting sports and/or wildlife. Bird photographers, in particular, are likely to find this lens appealing and its compactness and light weight – plus its effective stabilisation – make it ideal for hand-held use.

      It’s also a good choice for sports photographers who spend a lot of time standing and outdoor photographers who require long lenses.  The generous lens hood is great for excluding stray light in challenging situations.

      Olympus makes much of the ability of this lens to be used with its optional MC-14 and MC-20 Teleconverter lenses. With the 1.4x MC-14 Teleconverter, the zoom range extends to 280-1120mm in 35mm equivalent focal length, while the MC-20 extends the range to 400-1600mm equivalent, making super telephoto shooting possible. Maximum apertures are reduced by 1.4 and 2 stops, respectively.

      The 100-400mm lens also supports the Focus Stacking function provided in the E-M1X, E-M1 and E-M5 II and III but not the E-M10 cameras.

      Olympus or Panasonic?
      Owners of M4/3 cameras are able to choose lenses from a number of manufacturers, with the choice between Olympus and Panasonic being the only option in the case of the 100-400mm lenses. Although they differ in some respects, they are similar in many ways, including size and price.

      Until now, Olympus camera owners who wanted this zoom range had only one choice; now they have two! The table below compares key features of both lenses.

      Olympus Panasonic
      Max. aperture f/5.0-6.3 f/4.0-6.3
      Min. Aperture f/22
      Optical design 21 elements in 15 groups 20 elements in 13 groups
      Special elements 4 ED, 2 Super HR, 2 HR lenses 1 aspherical ED, 1 UED, 2 ED lenses
      Special coatings ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) Coating Not specified
      Stabilisation Yes (3 steps) Yes (correction not specified)
      Minimum focus 1.3 metres
      Max. magnification 0.29x 0.25x
      Focus drive MSC (micromotor driving rear focus lens) Micromotor
      Manual over-ride Not specified Yes
      Distance limiter Yes
      Zoom method Rotary (extending inner barrel)
      Zoom lock Yes
      Filter size 72 mm
      Supplied accessories Hood, tripod adapter, front and end caps
      Weather sealed Yes (dust and splashproof)
      Dimensions (DxL) 86.4 x 205.7 mm 83 x 171.5 mm
      Weight (without tripod collar) 1120 grams 985 grams
      Accepts teleconverters Yes (MC-14 and MC-20 )
      Release date August 2020 January 2016
      Current RRP AU$2299 AU$2399

      Having been on the market for almost five years, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH  Power OIS lens is probably due for an update, although in the current market that is unlikely. It’s currently being offered for well below the listed RRP which, itself, has risen since we reviewed it shortly after it was released. (So it looks a bit like a bargain.)

      Build and Ergonomics
      Olympus doesn’t reveal whether the barrel of this lens is made from metal, although both the barrel and the tripod collar feel solid and cool to the touch. The sample lens felt equally comfortable on the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV camera Olympus supplied for our separate ‘First Look’ review and our own E-M1 Mark II camera.


      The M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens shown on the OM-D E-M1 Mark III camera. (Source: Olympus.)

      Without the lens cap and hood it’s almost 206 mm in length; attaching the hood adds a further 60 mm to the overall length. The supplied hood is cylindrical and attaches via a bayonet fitting but there is no additional clamp to hold it securely in place.

      A black band roughly 20 mm wide carries the bayonet fitting for the hood and has its inner edge threaded to accept 72 mm filters. Behind this band is a metal band that is about 9 mm wide and carries the blue Olympus branding ring.

      Immediately aft of this section is an 18 mm wide focusing ring that is completely encircled by a grip band of narrow ribbing. Focusing is totally internal and achieved by moving a single element towards the rear of the lens barrel.

      A 5 mm wide, black band sits just behind the focusing ring, carrying the branding and designation of the lens. Behind – and separated by a narrow gutter – is the zoom ring, which has an un-ribbed 6 mm wide section that carries the focal length settings for the zoom. Indices are provided for the 100mm, 150mm, 200mm, 300mm and 400mm positions.

      The remainder of the zoom ring is roughly 41 mm wide and completely clad in bands of ribbing that provides a different ‘feel’ from the ribbing on the focusing ring. Zooming from 100mm to 400mm extends the inner barrel of the lens by 60 mm without changing the angle of the front element, at the same time reducing the maximum aperture as shown in the table below.

      100mm 150mm 200mm 300mm 400mm
      Maximum aperture f/5.0 f/5.7 f/5.9 f/6.3 f/6.3

      There are five distinct zones in the roughly 100 mm long non-moving section of the barrel, which ends in the metal lens mount. The first is 15 mm wide and contains no controls. Behind it is a 25 mm wide section that carried the zoom lock around the right hand side, with sliders for the focus limiter, AF/MF switch and IS On/Off to the left.

      White dots separated by 90-degrees provide index marks for aligning the tripod in landscape and portrait orientations. A 30 mm wide section aft of the controls band provides an anchoring point for the supplied tripod adapter. It has an Arca-Swiss style foot that will fit on most high-quality tripods.

      The lens barrel steps in between the tripod mount and the mounting plate for attaching it to the camera. The only marking in this section of the barrel is a red dot with the closest focusing distance in metres and feet stamped next to it. The lens attaches to the camera via a solid metal mounting plate.

      Performance
      As with the Panasonic lens, the only objective measurements of performance we could conduct were at 100mm due to a lack of space in our testing set-up. These were carried out with the lens on our OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera. We also made subjective assessments of performance across a variety of focal length settings, using the lens on the new OM-D E-M10 IV camera.

      Imatest showed the review lens to be an excellent performer at the 100mm focal length and well able to meet expectations for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera’s 20-megapixel sensor. Remarkably, there was very little difference between centre and edge resolution across the entire aperture range, as shown in the graph of our test results below.

      The highest resolution was at f/6.3, after which resolution declined gradually. Subjective assessment of images taken at other focal lengths suggested image sharpness was maintained at other focal lengths throughout the zoom range, with slight softening becoming visible when diffraction began to have an effect from about f/10 onwards.

      Lateral chromatic aberration remained in the negligible band for most of the aperture settings, but crept into the low band from f/9 onwards, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below. The red line marks the boundary between negligible and low CA.

      We were able to assess both vignetting and rectilinear distortion when using the lens on the E-M1 Mark II since it allowed us to capture raw files free from any in-camera corrections.  As expected, although very slight vignetting could be seen at 400mm with the f/6.3 maximum aperture, both were effectively negligible, a normal situation with super telephoto lenses.

      Autofocusing was almost silent with both camera bodies and, with both cameras it appeared to lock on swiftly and accurately in most situations.  We had a few ‘misses’ when focusing failed, mostly because of either the subject moving between when the shutter button was half-pressed and when the shot was taken.

      Another situation in which autofocus failed was when shooting a flock of seagulls crowding around a food source in low-angle backlighting. This rather extreme situation also produced the only instances of flare and chromatic aberrations.

      In both cases, the resulting shots were impossible to correct post-capture. Outside of this situation, the review lens handled backlighting very well.

      Even though the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 IS lens is not especially fast, it was still able to produce attractive bokeh in out-of-focus areas, particularly when the subject’s background was evenly-lit. The nine-bladed iris diaphragm was at least partly responsible.

      With the lens on the E-M10 IV and relying on the built-in stabilisation and the Auto ISO setting, the camera tended to select shutter speeds of 1/800 second or higher, adjusting the ISO to compensate across the 200 to 6400 range. Going on the focal length reciprocal estimation, the minimum shutter speed for hand-holding this lens should be 1/800 second at 400mm, given the 2x crop factor.

      It’s interesting to see that’s exactly what the camera used, even for shorter focal length settings. On the E-M1 II with ISO set at 200, the slowest shutter speed we could manage while obtaining a reasonably high percentage of sharp images was 1/80 second.

      Conclusion

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      SPECS

      Picture angle: 12 degrees to 3.1 degrees
      Minimum aperture:  f/22
      Lens construction: 21 elements in 15 groups (with 4 ED lenses, 2 Super HR lenses, 2 HR lenses)
      Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
      Diaphragm Blades:  9 (circular aperture)
      Weather resistance: IEC Standard publication 60529 IPX1 splashproof and dustproof construction
      Focus drive: High-speed Imager AF (MSC)
      Stabilisation: Lens IS 3 steps
      Minimum focus: 1.3 metres (entire zoom range)
      Maximum magnification: 0.09x at 100mm / 0.29x at 400mm (max. 0.57x in 35mm equivalent)
      Filter size: 72 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 86.4 x 205.7 mm
      Weight: 1120 grams without  tripod adapter / 1325 grams with tripod adapter
      Standard Accessories: LH-76D Lens Hood, LC-72D Lens Cap, LR-2 Lens Rear Cap, Instruction Manual, Warranty Card
      Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678, www.olympus.com.au

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG files recorded with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body.

       

      SAMPLES

      The images below were recorded with the lens on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body.


      Vignetting at 100mm f/5.


      Vignetting at 150mm f/5.6.


      Vignetting at 200mm f/5.9.


      Vignetting at 300mm f/6.3.


      Vignetting at 400mm f/6.3.


      Rectilinear distortion at 100mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 150mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 200mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 300mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 400mm.


      100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.


      150mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.


      200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.


      300mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/7.1.


      400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/7.1.


      Close-up at 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/5.6


      Close-up at 400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/320 second at f/10.


      An example of perspective compression caused by long focal lengths; 100mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/1250 second at f/10.


      100mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/2500 second at f/7.1.


      400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/7.1.

      The images below were recorded with the lens on the pre-release OM-D E-M10 Mark IV camera body.


      Strong backlighting showing colour anomalies plus slight veiling flare; 123mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/4000 second at f/6.3.


      Strong backlighting with veiling flare; 150mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/6.3.


      Strong backlighting; 244mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/6.3. 


      285mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/640 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/7.1.


      400mm focal length, ISO 4000, 1/800 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 6400, 1/800 second at f/6.3.


      400mm focal length, ISO 4000, 1/800 second at f/6.3.

      Additional image samples can be found with our FIRST LOOK review of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV camera.

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$2299; US$1500

      • Build: 9.0
      • Handling: 9.0
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Versatility: 9.0

       

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