Review: Olympus 300mm f4.0 IS PRO (Micro Four Thirds)

If you’re a Micro Four Thirds camera user, you’re most likely the type of person that loves to shoot street photography–but the Olympus 300mm f4 IS Pro is pretty much a far fetch from anything that a street photographer would use. Billed as one of Olympus’s Pro lenses, this one is designed for wildlife, sports, etc. Complete with weather sealing and a fairly light weight overall, what you’ll be most happy with is the fact that it’s also pretty small.

With an f4 aperture, you’ll probably never want or need to stop it down.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great colors
  • Sharp image quality
  • Nice bokeh
  • Incredible build quality overall

Cons

  • Pretty expensive

Gear Used

The 300mm f4 IS Pro lens was tested with the Olympus OMD EM5 and OMD EM1.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the product listing

Key Specs

  1. Focal Length
    300mm
  2. 35mm Equivalent Focal Length
    600mm
  3. Lens Construction
    17 Elements in 10 Groups (3 Super ED lenses, 3 HR lenses,1 E-HR lens)
  4. Dust & Drip Proof
    Yes
  5. Closest Focusing Distance
    1.4m
  6. Maximum Aperture
    f4.0
  7. Minimum Aperture
    f22

Additional Specs

  1. Angle of View
    4.1 Degree
  2. Max. Image Magnification
    0.24x
  3. 35mm Equivalent Max. Image Magnification
    0.48x
  4. Minimum Field Size
    72.1 × 54.2 mm
  5. Number of Blades
    9 (Circular Aperture Diaphragm)
  6. Filter Size
    Diameter 77mm
  7. Weight
    1270g without the tripod collar; 1475g with the tripod collar
  8. Focusing System
    High-speed Imager AF (MSC)
  9. Box Contents
    Lens Cap (LC-77B), Lens Rear Cap (LR-2), Decoration Ring (DR-79) Instruction Manual, Olympus Local Warranty Card, LensCase (LSC-1127)
  10. Related Accessories (Option)
    PRF-ZD77 PRO 1.4x TELECONVERTER(M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 1.4x TELECONVERTER MC-14)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (2 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

The Olympus 300mm f4 IS Pro is a lens that is very much unlike many of the other Olympus lenses. It’s very large in terms of what’s available for mirrorless cameras, and mostly in black. Considering that this is a prime lens, the overall body really has one major dial: focusing.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (4 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

The lens has a few controls on the side: one of these is the image stabilization and the other main one that I worked with is the focus limiter. You probably won’t work with very much otherwise.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (5 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

Another very nice feature is the fact that the lens hood retracts into itself. When you extend it and then twist it in a clockwise motion, it will lock into place.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (8 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

The 300mm f4 also comes with a tripod collar. This obviously lets you use it when you need to on a tripod. When you place the camera down for a second, it keeps both the camera and the lens well off the surface.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (3 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

This lens is designed and built very solid. It’s weather sealed, has metal on the outside, and feels incredibly serious. I took the lens to the beach recently and it was able to stand up to both sand and splashes from the Atlantic Ocean. But otherwise, it’s one of the best made Olympus lenses I’ve seen or tested.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus 300mm f4 lens review product images (7 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

This isn’t a typical Olympus lens. For starters, you’ll need to consider the fact that the lens has image stabilization. Additionally, you’ll need to be conscious of all the switches when you take it out of a camera bag. Sometimes they’ll be switched to a position you don’t want.

Otherwise, it’s a matter of pointing, shooting, and falling in love with the photos.

Autofocus

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Olympus has always had an incredible autofocus system, but with this lens is where I started to see the flaws of the system. On the EM1, the camera and lens lock onto a subject very quickly. But when it comes to AF tracking (such as trying to keep a flying seagull in place) you’re going to have a tough time even when panning accordingly.

Image Quality

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If you’re paying over $2,000 for a lens, you really should be getting some of the best image quality you possibly can. Indeed, that’s what you’re getting here. Of any of the Olympus lenses out there, this one perhaps has the best image quality I’ve seen–even better than the company’s very good 75mm f1.8.

Bokeh

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This is the equivalent of a 600mm f8 lens when you translate it into full frame 35mm terms–because it’s such a long lens your bokeh is always going to be creamy, dreamy, and gorgeous. As always with Olympus lenses, you can’t go wrong with the bokeh here.

Color Rendition

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The color from the 300mm f4 is pretty vivid overall. To be fair though, this is what many Olympus lenses have rendered for a few years now and it can also be modified using the camera profiles in Lightroom. Still though, the output is quite vivid–which makes sense because lots of people may be using it for wildlife.

Years ago, I used to be a professional paparazzo. I wish I had this lens back in that day.

Chromatic Aberration

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In my tests, I couldn’t find any sort of chromatic aberration that was worth talking about. In fact, I couldn’t even spot purple fringing. That’s nice to know since Lightroom doesn’t offer lens correction for Olympus optics.

Sharpness

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This lens is wide open at f4–but it’s like shooting at f8 when it come to depth of field (not light gathering). For that reason, the lens output is crazy sharp and you’ve got no major reason to even stop it down.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Fantastic image quality overall
  • Weather sealing
  • Pretty light weight and small

Dislikes

  • Nothing majorly to be honest

The Olympus 300mm f4 IS Pro lens is wonderful. It renders solid image quality, is built well, is lightweight, and honestly has a whole lot going for it. If you’re shooting wildlife, there’s very little reason why you’d give this one up.

My bigger problems with the lens don’t even really have to do with this exemplary product–it instead has to do with Micro Four Thirds overall. The system is capable of doing great things and rendering incredible quality, but the system has also been falling behind Fujifilm and Sony. Part of this has to do with the sensor size because everyone only wants something bigger.

Yes, it’s a myth, but most people don’t understand that. The EM1, Pen F, and all their cameras are highly capable and very good. In fact, I still use my OMD EM5 with a Voigtlander lens for street photography partially because their ergonomics are so solid. Indeed, Fujifilm and Olympus both are tough to beat when it comes to this.

Even crazier, if Olympus had a full frame sensor, they’d probably be wiping the floor with Sony and Fujifilm. They’ve got loads of support for their system, but their products aren’t truly pro with the according pro services. The EM1 has an auto mode for starters, and the 300mm f4 IS Pro has an incredible build quality but lacks a major professional support system if someone needs it.

For that reason, this lens is great. In fact, it’s fantastic–but I’ve got doubts about the Micro Four Thirds world overall despite my love of their cameras.

Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Olympus 300mm f4 IS Pro lens receives five out of five stars for being a fantastic product overall.