Is the Olympus m.Zuiko 75-300mm lens good enough for some serious wildlife photography?

My absolute favourite wildlife photography lens was the Canon 300mm F4 IS L. One could get pin-sharp photos hand-held with this baby. Normally we would be 10 or so people on a game drive vehicle, with no place to steady your camera, so that ability would come in real handy

The only time I wished I didn’t have this lens on the body, was when we came to a searing halt around a bend in a Timbavati dirt road. Meters away from us, was a leopard stretching itself in the fork of a magnificent tree, in front of a glowing red sun settling into a purple-orange African horison…

The optical length of the 300mm (480mm on a Canon APS-C body), was just too long to capture the scene. Although it was many, many a year ago, I still experience the traumatic trance I did then – it was the shot that would have launched a stellar photographic career. That night around the fire, I metaphorically shed sizzling tears into the embers of my ruined photographic dream…

And that’s why we have zoom lenses today.

The Olympus m.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II is a smallish lens, with a super reach on a micro four thirds camera body – 150mm to a whole whopping 600mm. With in-body stabilisation on Olympus OM-D bodies, it makes for serious play-time, chasing wildlife and birds.

Although the lens is consumer-orientated, it would be quite interesting to see what image quality one could squeeze out of it. Two quickish game drives produced some fairly surprising results…

Buffalo in the Kruger National Park - © Franz Rabe
Buffalo in the Kruger National Park – © Franz Rabe
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 75-300mm II – ISO 800 – 1/160 sec at F8 – 109mm
Buffalo - 100% Crop
Buffalo – 100% Crop

The African buffalo was indeed a very accommodating model, keeping very still as he held his side profile on display, whilst munching away. As the 100% crop confirms, quite sharp results were to be had. A big print could be made from this image.

Rhino © Franz Rabe
Rhino © Franz Rabe
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 75-300mm II – ISO 400 – 1/60 sec at F8 – 94mm

 

Rhino - 100% Crop
Rhino – 100% Crop

The 100% crop shows a satisfyingly sharp portrayal of the rough skin texture of the rhino.

The next photo was especially impressive: the Brown Snake-Eagle was some distance off and the shot had to be made right at the 600mm extent – keeping in mind that it was in-body stabilisation, as well as the optical length of the lens, the detail and clarity were remarkable.

Brown Snake-Eagle © Franz Rabe
Brown Snake-Eagle © Franz Rabe
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 75-300mm II – ISO 800 – 1/6400 sec at F6.7 – 300mm
Brown Snake-Eagle - 100% Crop
Brown Snake-Eagle – 100% Crop

Although the previous photograph is actually causing my theory a bit of leakage, the optimum sharpness of the lens is gained just before maximum (300mm) optical length is reached, but that could also be due to keeping the lens super still at that length. The next photo at least gives quite a bit of substance to that theory (taken at 215mm) and is resplendent with minute detail (you can even see my car in its eye!).

Stare & Stripes © Franz Rabe
Stare & Stripes © Franz Rabe
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 75-300mm II – ISO 400 – 1/1000 sec at F8 – 215mm
Stare & Stripes - 100% Crop
Stare & Stripes – 100% Crop

For premium image results, I find it best to keep the aperture settings between F6.7 & F8. It helps a lot to use a bean bag if possible, or just to brace your body against some support to keep the camera as super steady as possible. If not, the results can be grainy and soft, which is understandable, considering the optical length.

In proving itself to be a capable wildlife lens, the m.Zuiko 75-300mm II lens even did a bit of landscaping on the side !

Autumn Landscape © Franz Rabe
Autumn Landscape © Franz Rabe
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 75-300mm II – ISO 400 – 1/1600 sec at F8 – 94mm

 

 

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