- Review Price: £815
Anybody who thinks that Micro FourThirds systems are all about ultra-compact bodies and lenses is likely to be surprised by the size of the Olympus 75-300mm zoom. Not only is the lens longer than the width of an Olympus PEN Mini body, but also its barrel diameter is greater than the camera’s height.
As a result, this particular pairing looks less like a camera with a lens on the front than it does a lens with a camera at the back.
That may sound like an esoteric distinction but when the camera is used on a tripod the lens barrel is very likely to foul on the mounting plate, potentially making the zoom ring impossible to rotate. Fortunately, this problem is largely alleviated when a larger Olympus OM-D body is used.
The lens itself, which is available in a choice of black or silver finishes, has an uncluttered design. The barrel is dominated by a broad zoom ring that fills more than the centre third of the lens. A much narrower manual-focus ring sits at the front of the lens but is still within easy reach.
The zoom ring has a 90 degree movement and feels slightly heavy, probably because of the amount of glass the gearing has to move. The focusing ring rotates continuously but lacks smoothness. Automatic focusing is truly silent, allowing Olympus to claim the zoom is optimised for both stills and movie use.
There are no other controls or markings on the lens as all other settings are made via the host camera. One such setting is the activation and mode of image stabilisation. Interestingly, and for the first time, the MTF results obtained with image stabilisation switched-on exceeded those recorded with it switched-off.
Despite the use of low-dispersion and high-refraction elements, chromatic aberration was noticeable at longer focal-lengths during testing. There were also times when the lens was slow to focus: again, this was most common at longer focal-lengths. These two problems restrict the enormous power of a zoom that extends to the equivalent field-of-view of a 600mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera.
Similarly, attempting to use a 600mm-equivalent lens on a body that lacks a viewfinder, is very awkward indeed as the slightest movement of the camera can make the intended composition disappear from view.
Overall, this is a hard lens to characterise. When used with an OM-D body it works well but there is no escaping the fact that chromatic aberration is an issue at longer focal lengths. Attempting to use the lens with a viewfinderless body, on the other hand, can be very frustrating. Then there is the price, some potential purchasers may opt for the Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 lens instead by virtue of the fact that it is smaller, lighter and costs less. But, of course, the 75-300mm zoom offers even more pulling power and in some situations that may be the decisive factor.