top of page

Olympus 300mm f/4

I think that it has been clear from previous posts that I've been struggling to get to grips with the Olympus System. Issues with Dynamic Range, Low Light were to be expected, at least to a certain extent, due the decrease in sensor size, but I have also had problems with sharpness of the images and noise, which are both more of a concern to me.

It hasn't been constant, some images have been incredibly sharp while others haven't. So I've put it down to user error, and practised. Practised some more and compared settings in various situations and different lenses.

The two pictures below were both taken in Basel and are both of wild animals. They have very similar settings, the same lens, a 300mm f/4 with the same x1.4 converter to bring the focal length up to 420mm was used, ISO was 6400 in both cases, and the aperture was f/5.6. The distance to the subject in both cases was also similar. The only difference is shutter speed. The one of the Nutria is 1/1600 sec, and the one of the Tawny Owlet is 1/1000 sec. In addition to this there is an obvious lighting difference, not considerable though. The Tawny Owlet image has been darkened and vignetted to emphasis the tunnel effect through the leaves. Yet there is a considerable difference in the quality of image, in particular, noise.

Unfortunately most of my images are the quality of the Tawny Owlet. After looking at the settings it became clear that in general sharper ones had an ISO of under ISO-3200, and improving greatly under ISO-1600. This is not always the case though as you can see from the previous two images which are both ISO-6400. There has to be an exception to every rule.

Nevertheless I decided to try keep trying. I really like the Olympus system, and I really want to like the Olympus system, but if I can only use it in bright light and fair whether, it really defeats some of the main reasons for using the system. What is the point of a water, cold, shock and dust resistant camera, if I can only use it in bright light and fair weather!

Practise helps though, and I think that I am finally getting to a place where I'm at least going in the right direction. It's still not quite where I'd like it to be, but it's getting better.

I recently took a trip to the top of a snow covered hill, to a place where I've often seen birds of prey. The plan was to test the 300mm with distant and moving subjects. I set up my tripod and placed the camera on top, added the Dot Sight EE-1 and waited, and waited some more. I put another jacket on as it was really very cold, and waited some more, jumped up and down on the spot, partly to try to keep warm but mostly out of frustration as I watched distant birds flying everywhere but close to where I was.

Then one started flying towards me, I could still just about move my fingers so I started to take some images with the new knowledge that I'd gained from the practise at home. The results can be seen in the following images.

I'm quite happy with my progress so far. I would have liked to try the combination with the x1.4 converter, but for some reason I left it at home. I have to pop out again this weekend. The Olympus Dot Sight EE-1 is absolutely invaluable in this situation, it makes tracking a moving object so much easier.

On a side note, there is in my opinion one major design floor with the Dot Sight though. The adjustment dials are in the wrong place and too easy to adjust. It is very easy to knock them accidentally, either when adjusting the Lock Dial on the Dot Sight itself, or changing the Mode Dial. Although I hope very much that Olympus will address this issue on the next version of the Dot Sight it will not stop me using this tool. It's fits to the hot shoe, so would work for any camera.

Even with the improvement in sharpness, all of these images were taken in bright light and with a very low ISO level. A level that would be rare to use in the early morning situations in which I like to take pictures of wildlife and landscapes. For this reason I'm still asking myself whether I should keep trying?

Should I keep trying, or should I return to a system that I know better, one that I know will work in low light and has a better dynamic range, and at least for me, image quality. Even with the increase in weight from the lenses and the less that ideal weather proofing the improvements in the new A7 mkIII and A7r mkIII are very appealing.

I don't like technology getting the better of me, which is probably why I keep trying, but at some point I have to make a decision!


bottom of page