Olympus 75-300mm Lens Offers Faux 600mm Range, Inflated Price Tag

Olympus has announced two new Micro Four Thirds lenses, a 75-300mm and a 40-150mm.  Respectively, the lenses cover a 35mm equivalent focal length of 150-600mm and 80-300mm due to the Micro Four Thirds 2x crop factor sensor.

The new lenses are optimized for Olympus’ PEN series cameras like the E-PL1 and E-P2 for faster contrast-detection autofocus during still and video capture.  The 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 carries a price tag of $899.99 (available December 2010), while the new 40-150mm lens runs $299.99 (available November 2010).

Smallest 600mm Lens in the World?

Olympus claims in its press release that its new 75-300mm lens “with a 35 mm equivalent of 150-600mm is the world’s smallest and lightest 600mm super telephoto lens.”

I’ll give Olympus that claim with an asterisk since it is probably implied that we are talking about a detachable lens.  However, there are plenty of superzoom point and shoot cameras that have smaller lenses and reach the “600mm equivalent” mark  (e.g., Nikon P100, Fuji HS10 and Olympus’ own SP-800UZ).

Of course, there is the image quality issue with those point and shoot cameras.  So, I get where Olympus is heading with this.  However, when you consider that 1.6x crop cameras (like a Canon Rebel T2i) paired with a 300mm lens give you a 480mm equivalent, then Olympus’ 600mm equivalent seems a bit more humble.

. . . Especially when you consider the price – $900 bones!

For a lens that has a max aperture of f/6.7 at 300mm (or 600mm depending on who you ask).

For consumers looking to buy this lens and pair with with their Olympus PEN camera, I want to point out some big concerns here regarding this slow aperture (read more about the significance of a lens aperture).

1.  A larger f/-number means less light gets through the lens, which requires a longer (slower) shutter speed.

2. A slower shutter speed means a greater likelihood of more camera shake blur.

3. A slower shutter speed means a greater likelihood of more motion blur from moving subjects.

4. A larger f/-number also means greater difficulty autofocusing, which is even more concerning for an already slower contrast-based AF system on Olympus PEN cameras.

I probably wouldn’t be up on a soapbox about this lens if it wasn’t priced at nearly a thousand bucks; however, I just cringed when I read that in Olympus’ announcement.  If it were priced at $400 or even $500, I probably would not have even noticed.

One would think that smaller lenses and image stabilization systems built into the camera body would result in cheaper lenses as well.  With the introduction of a $900 f/6.7 lens, however, it is obvious Olympus has other plans on its side of the Micro Four Thirds system.

Consider the $200 price tag of Canon’s 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM lens, which offers a 35mm equivalent of 120-480mm on a Rebel T2i or 60D.

Wait. No image stabilization, right?  Even the highly regarded Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is in the $530 range.

Same thing with Nikon – the excellent AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VRII lens is in the $590 range.  Want a more consumer-ish Nikon zoom?  You’re looking at the $150 range.

Maybe I’m being too hard on Olympus here.  And, maybe this $900 faux-600mm lens will turn out to be the one lens to rule them all and I’ll eat some crow.  But for a lens that competes in size, range and form-factor with sub-$200 lenses from Canon and Nikon (and has a slower f/6.7 aperture to boot), it’s going to take a heckuva time to convince me it’s worth almost a grand.

You can see the full press release from Olympus below.

Olympus Press Release

World’s Smallest 600mm Telephoto Zoom Lens and 80-300mm Equivalent Lenses Deliver Both Extreme Portability and Optimal HD Movie Recording

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., August 31, 2010 – Olympus today announces two new lenses to its Micro Four Thirds lens family: the M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL ED 75-300 MM F4.8-6.7 and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150MM F4.0-5.6. Both lenses feature a high-speed, silent autofocus during still shooting and high definition (HD) movie capture. They are the ultimate lenses for zooming in on sporting events, beautiful wildlife and faces from a distance, and because they make barely a whisper when focusing, they won’t call attention to photographer or add unwanted noise to movie recordings. Look what you can do.

Strong Zooms

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 with a 35 mm equivalent of 150-600mm is the world’s smallest and lightest 600mm super telephoto lens. Weighing merely 15.17 ounces and measuring 2.76 by 4.57 inches, this lightweight lens delivers excellent portability and outstanding image quality when paired with the award-winning Olympus PEN® cameras. Previous lenses offering 600mm or more have been too large and heavy for most users to enjoy super telephoto shooting. This lens is smaller and lighter than the comparable ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 70-300mm f4.8-6.7.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 is extremely light, weighing only 6.7 ounces. With a wide zoom range with a 35mm equivalent to 80-300mm, this lens offers versatility and portability. It’s an affordable complement to the powerfully simple 3x wide-angle zoom lens (M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42 f3.5-5.6) that comes standard with the PEN kit.

Silent Operation

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7’s rear focusing mechanism is comprised of a single-element unit, to enable remarkably fast and nearly silent HD movie recordings with sound. The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 has two lens elements in the rear focusing mechanism. The manual focusing mechanism is designed to deliver quiet and precise auto focus operation, for an affordable, high quality means to capture your life in still images or HD videos.

The new lenses are made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass to maximize the performance of the Micro Four Thirds System. The Micro Four Thirds System standard meets the telecentric requirements of dedicated digital design. Light rays strike the imaging element nearly head-on for optimum edge-to-edge image reproduction. It also enables much more compact design than the Four Thirds System standard (or other interchangeable lens systems) because it reduces the outer diameter of the lens mount by 6mm, and the distance from the lens mount to the sensor (the flange back distance) by approximately half. As a result, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL Micro Four Thirds System lenses offer uncompromising professional quality for capturing both still images and HD videos, and the lenses are exceptionally compact to make capturing life more fun.

The Micro Four Thirds System’s design, compact size, low weight and amazing image quality with the new lenses extend the photographic potential of the system by adding more options. The new lenses are compatible with all Micro Four Thirds System Olympus PEN cameras, and all other current and future cameras that comply with the Micro Four Thirds System standard. When mounted on an Olympus PEN camera, the lenses are stabilized thanks to the camera’s in-body Image Stabilization system and offer effective shake compensation at all focal lengths.

AVAILABILITY

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 will be available in December 2010, while the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 will be available in November 2010. Both lenses will be available in black and silver.

U.S. Pricing / Product Configurations
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 Estimated Street Price: $899.99
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 Estimated Street Price: $299.99

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Comments

  1. SR says

    Hi,

    I was wondering rather than spending 900$ for a micro four third lens, how about i put $300 for a four third lens of same distance (70-300mm) range with an adapter ($100).

    Can you tell me if this is a good idea?

    Thanks.

  2. Adrew Fildes says

    It will work. However it is large, especially with the adapter and slow focussing as it is not optimised for contrast detect focussing. I have done it. Note also that it is a little faster aperture and in good light, quite sharp if used intelligently.