This year, Olympus has expanded the field of the Micro Four Thirds format with the debut in January of the M.Zuiko 150–400mm F4.5 super-telephoto pro zoom lens. It offers reach equal to a 300mm-800mm zoom equivalent on a full-frame 35mm body, with up to 1,000mm when the internal 1.25x teleconverter is engaged with the flip of a switch. Adding an Olympus external teleconverter can max out the effective reach at 2,000mm.
Imagine concentrating on capturing the image of a sparrow feeding on the ground just a few feet away when a Cooper’s Hawk swoops in to alight on the branch of a tree at 40 yards. With the Olympus 150-400mm, it only takes an instant to lift, zoom, and focus to grab that perfect raptor image. If, after nailing the bird-of-prey portrait, a butterfly appears on a flower as close as 1.3 meters, the lens becomes a macro-optical instrument extraordinaire, producing exquisite detail of the insect’s wings and body.
The operational ease-of-use of the lens is nothing short of revolutionary. After nearly a month’s experience taking bird photos with it, I found its groundbreaking, complex feature set without peer among all the top pro telephoto glass I’ve owned and used.
Its controls are fully accessible and easily managed handheld, giving photographers the perfect imaging tool to move freely and quickly throughout a full day in the field. Freed from the tripod burden, you’re ready to explore those wide-open spaces fully.
The built-in 1.25x teleconverter flip switch is strategically placed to be used, or securely locked, without averting one’s eye from the viewfinder. Engage it, and the glass in your hand can be zoomed to deliver a bright 1,000mm full-frame equivalent field of view. With teleconverter engaged, the aperture is constant at f/5.6 across all zoom focal lengths.
The smooth, fluid focal length barrel control can be rotated with two fingers while holding the lens in one hand. This shot-saving technique allows following a flying bird at, for example, 150mm, and once focus is achieved, effortlessly zooming in to capture the close-up image. After all, the more subject on the frame, the higher the image quality.
While hardly featherweight, the 4.1-pound lens is significantly lighter and infinitely more flexible than full-frame pro lenses, often surpassing their focal reach at the long end.
Its $7,499 price tag puts it solidly in the investment bracket, but it is notably less expensive than full-frame lenses in similar image quality brackets. Initial demand for the lens has been brisk, with opening bell pre-orders far exceeding manufacturer expectations and production forecasting. So, if this versatile workhorse seems right for your style of avian photography, the best advice is to grab a place on the waiting list now.
This article was first published in the May/June 2021 issue of BirdWatching magazine. We’ve corrected references to the built-in teleconverter, which is 1.25x, not 1.4x.Originally Published