I recently had the opportunity to visit a bird of prey sanctuary and pondered for far too long about which lenses to bring. Definitely the 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro because it is so optically good, focuses so quickly and is my longest focal length m43 lens so I can use Pro Capture with it should the need arise. But would the reach be long enough? Certainly in authentically wild conditions, a 150 mm for birding just doesn’t cut it. I needed the 300mm f/4 Pro, but alas, I can’t justify spending that much money ….. yet. So I brought along my Sigma 500mm f/4.5 which I could shoot at 500mm or at 350 mm f/3.2 with my Metabones Speed Booster T Ultra adaptor.
I needn’t have worried because the birds are so relaxed that we could approach them very closely and the 40-150mm was really ideal. I did try the Sigma for some extreme closeups but during midflight shots it refocused so slowly in C-AF mode that it couldn’t keep up with the birds’ speed. Again, I could have used the 300mm f/4 Pro. When I got home, I did some research and decided to take a chance and purchase a used copy of the 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II. It is very compact, optically quite sophisticated with 18 lenses in 13 groups with one Super ED element and two ED elements, and a true Olympus m43 lens capable of Pro Capture mode and fast focus. It is however a slow lens with mediocre reviews. And it also only cost me $350 USD.
I compared it to my 43rds 50-200mm SWD ($500), the Canon 300mm L f/4 non IS ($600) and the m43 40-150mm Pro with TC14 ($1200) conducting my MTF analyses as described in earlier blog entries. The lenses were tested at either 200mm f/6.1 or at 300mm f/7.
From left to right: Zuiko 75-300mm, Zuiko 50-200mm SWD, Canon 300mm f/4, Zuiko 40-150mm Pro
Here are the MTF curves with MTF10 in red and MTF30 in green. The top row from left to right: Zuiko 75-300 at 200mm, Zuiko 75-300 at 300mm, Zuiko 40-150mm at 200mm. The second row from left to right: Zuiko 50-200mm SWD at 200mm, Canon 300mm at 200mm with Metabones Speedbooster T Ultra, Canon 300mm at 300mm.The full sized graphs can be seen here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4852049/MTFmontage6.jpg
Here are the actual ISO 12233 resolution charts.The 50% sized chart can be seen here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4852049/MTFChartMontage6.jpg
My copy of the 75-300mm is actually pretty good, it performs better at 300mm then at 200mm which is opposite to what other reviews have found. But then there is an awful lot of variability in the performance of mass produced camera lenses. Some will be far better and far worse than average. The 40-150mm Pro even with the TC14 doesn’t disappoint. What is surprising is how good the Canon 300mm L is, especially with the Speedbooster T Ultra. My only concern is that the Canon likely doesn’t focus as fast or as accurately with whatever smart adaptor I would be using as compared to a native m43 lens. I have to give the 75-300mm a real world test but for the time being enjoy the Great Horned Owl.
Some bird shots cropped at 100% from left to right: Zuiko 40-150mm PRO @ 210mm f/6.3, Zuiko 75-300 @ 208mm f/6.3, Zuiko 75-300 @ 300mm f/6.7 . Even when enlarged to greater than 100% the images all hold up well and the 75-300 appears to be as good as the 40-150 PRO lens to the eye with objects this small.