Bushwalking with the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens

Written by Gary on February 9th, 2019

Recently I posted how my favorite walk about lens is the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8.

If I am wanting to target smaller wildlife such as birds, then the more focal length reach the better, and the Olympus micro ZD 300mm f/4 OIS lens is a perfect lens for such ventures.

Matched with the Olympus OM-D E-M1II Micro Four Thirds camera, it becomes a unique kit which is:

  • incredibly sharp 600mm focal length reach in full frame terms
  • excellent weathersealing
  • fast and accurate auto focus
  • perhaps the heaviest kit I am prepared to carry in my hand for 1-2 hours on my short walks coming in at under 2kg – no other kit can give that telephoto reach at that image quality for under 2kg!
  • awesome level of image stabilisation (although the E-M1X will give even more image stabilisation)
  • ability to shoot at up to 18fps silently with continuous AF
  • ability to capture a burst of shots BEFORE you release the shutter button which is great for capturing birds taking off
  • ability to program the camera to ignore foreground or background when focusing by dialing in a focus range limiter – not just the one that is on the lens.
  • ability to shoot hand held 4K 30p video (although you do need to take some care in this to avoid too much camera shake as I had in my video below)

The down-side is that it is still quite heavy and the focal length is fixed so when you are about to step on a snake as I almost did, the lens to too long to capture it – and even larger animals such as kangaroos can be too close to capture.

Here are a selection of shots from yesterday:

No idea what bird this is (cropped image) but it didn’t hang around long (tree trunk darkened in post-processing) – Bald Hills Nature Conservation Park where I convinced my wife that even if it is remote, it is safe to walk – I was not aware this guy found 10 or so copperhead snakes in the wetlands there one afternoon – but then he went searching for them!

The snake I almost stepped on was near the entrance to the nearby Kings Flat Reserve. It was a shiny deep black colour and although I only saw the tail end as it slithered into the undergrowth, it looked to be about 1m long or so and I suspect it was probably a Red-bellied Black Snake.
eastern yellow robin
I believe this is an Eastern Yellow Robin in the Bald Hills reserve (cropped)
bee hive
almost bumped my head on this lot at Bald Hills – I presume they are native bees but I am no expert on these!
kangaroo and joey
Kangaroo and her joey happened to cross our paths
Here is a quick hand held video using this lens, apologies for the shake, not even the wonderful IS could cope with my tired arms at the end of the day combined with my inexpertise at video work – something I rarely do but on this occasion my wife requested a video.
Her mother was slack leaving this big burr on her neck, but he is still very cute!
and just to show how well this lens can perform even shooting into the low afternoon sun, the micro contrast and sharpness is awesome.
Another demonstration of the shallow depth of field and bokeh.

None of the above would have been possible had I used my full frame camera – they just don’t make a lens with the same capabilities in that weight range – as discussed in my earlier blog post here.

If I was a birder with plenty of patience and sitting in a hide with a tripod, then sure, the full frame camera with a 600mm f/4 lens may get better image quality – but at what price in terms of money and burden?


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