The M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5: A lens like no other

M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5

This year, Olympus expanded the scope of the Micro Four Thirds format with the January launch of the professional M.Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 super telephoto lens. It offers a reach equal to a 300mm to 800mm equivalent zoom on a full-frame 35mm body, with up to 1000mm when the internal 1.25x teleconverter is engaged at the flick of a switch. Adding an external Olympus teleconverter can maximize the effective range to 2000mm.

Imagine focusing on capturing the image of a sparrow feeding on the ground just a few meters away when a Cooper’s hawk swoops down to alight on a tree branch 40 meters away. With the Olympus 150-400mm, it only takes a moment to lift, zoom and focus to capture the perfect raptor image. If, after successfully capturing a portrait of a bird of prey, a butterfly appears on a flower from a distance of just 1.3 meters, the lens becomes an extraordinary macro-optical instrument, producing exquisite detail of the wings and of the insect’s body.

The ease of use of the lens is simply revolutionary. After nearly a month of experience shooting birds with it, I’ve found its revolutionary and complex feature set to be unrivaled among any of the best professional telephoto lenses I’ve owned and used.

The author took this photo of a Hen Harrier with the new Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 PRO lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III body. Photo by William Jobes

Its controls are fully accessible and easy to manage, giving photographers the ideal imaging tool to move freely and quickly throughout a full day in the field. Freed from the burden of the tripod, you’re ready to fully explore those wide open spaces.

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The built-in 1.25x teleconverter toggle switch is strategically placed to be used or locked securely, without taking your eyes off the viewfinder. Engage it and the glass in your hand can expand to provide a bright field of view equivalent to a full-frame 1000mm. With the teleconverter activated, the aperture is constant at f/5.6 at all zoom focal lengths.

Smooth and smooth focal length control can be turned with two fingers while holding the lens in one hand. This back-up technique allows you to follow a bird in flight at, say, 150mm, and once in focus, effortlessly zoom in to capture the close-up image. After all, the more subject in the frame, the higher the quality of the image.

Although barely featherweight, the 4.1-pound lens is significantly lighter and infinitely more flexible than professional full-frame lenses, often exceeding their focal range at the long end.

Its $7,499 price puts it solidly in the investment bracket, but it’s significantly cheaper than full-frame lenses in similar image quality brackets. Initial demand for this lens has been strong, with opening pre-orders far exceeding manufacturer expectations and production forecasts. So if this versatile workhorse seems to suit your style of avian photography, the best advice is to get on the waitlist now.

This article first appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Bird Watching Journal. We corrected references to the built-in teleconverter, which is 1.25x, not 1.4x.

Learn more about the 150-400mm f/4.5 lens at Adorama and B&H.