Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II Vs Panasonic 100-300 f/4.0-5.6 OIS

_DVA0016This was a quick and dirty shoot out to determine which of the only two available really long lenses for micro four thirds format was the better performer. After this comparison between the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II and the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 OIS, I ended up keeping one of the lenses, but it was not the one I intended to keep at the start of the shoot-out.

(If you aren’t interested in the longer version, the conclusions are right at the bottom, scroll down to the bottom of this page)

After playing with my OM-D E-M5 for few days, which I’m bit obsessed about, I started to look around for a long zoom to complement my 12-50mm lens. I browsed the net looking for reviews and read everything I could find. Unfortunately, there weren’t many reviews, and the opinions were divided.

Long story short; I ended up buying both the Olympus and Panasonic and had to figure out which was the one I wanted to keep.

Panasonic 100-300 was the chunkier of the two but was half a stop faster. Olympus 75-300 II on the other hand was slender than the Panasonic and felt bit more balanced on the small OM-D E-M5 body.

olympus 75-300 panasoic 100-300 zoomed

olympus 75-300 panasoic 100-300 zoomed

 

 

olympus-75-300-panasonic-100-300

I was almost ready to return the Panasonic; but thought I had to check this out myself.

I thought of using a chess board as the target for the shootout, but decided to go with my daughter’s dollhouse because it was more fun. The dollhouse was lit with two Nikon SB800 speedlights bounced off two reflectors. Exposure was kept constant during the entire shoot by changing the light output of speedlights. Shutter speed was kept at 1/125s for all the frames.

More on using Nikon Speedlights and PocketWizards with Olympus OM-D E-M5 later…..

dollhouse-olympus-75-300-panasonic-100-300

Camera was mounted on an Arca-Swiss Z1 +  Gitzo 3530 and was kept static during the entire shoot.

Focusing was carefully done on the same area of the dollhouse and images were captured at 100mm, 200mm and 300mm focal lengths at f/6.7, f/8 and f/11 for Olympus 75-300 lens, and f/5.6, f/8 and f/11 for Panasonic 100-300 lens respectively.

Images were captured in RAW and was examined at 100% magnification in Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop.

The following images are cropped jpeg versions at 100% magnification. No sharpening applied.

Widest apertures at the extreme telephoto ends of both lenses were chosen as “wide open apertures” to keep the aperture variable constant through the entire focal length range. Choosing  the widest possible apertures at the short ends of both these variable aperture zoom lenses would not have allowed that.

Wide open at 200mm and 300mm

Click on the images for larger versions

Olympus 75-300 f/6.7- 200mm

Olympus 75-300 f/6.7- 200mm

Olympus 75-300 f/6.7- 200mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 200mm

 

Olympus 75-300mm f/6.7 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/6.7 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/6.7 300mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/5.6 300mm

 

At f/8

Click on the images for larger versions

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 200mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 200mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 200mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 200mm

 

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/8 300mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/8 300mm

 

At f/11

Click on the images for larger versions

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 200mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 200mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 200mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 200mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 200mm

 

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 300mm

Olympus 75-300mm f/11 300mm

 

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 300mm

Panasonic 100-300mm f/11 300mm

Hopefully these crops are big enough for you to make up your minds as to which one was the sharper lens.

Please note that the test shoot was performed only on the two lenses I bought, on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 body. Therefore sample variations were not taken into consideration. Having said that, I didn’t think my Olympus was a lemon!

Here are my conclusions.

  1. Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 was significantly sharper than the Olympus 75-300 f/4.8-6.7 II lens throughout the entire aperture range – I did not expect this!!
  2. Sharpness differences are quite marked around the 300mm ends of the lenses – at 300mm, my copy of Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 was significantly sharper than the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 lens.
  3. From f/11 onwards, sharpness of both lenses began to deteriorate.
  4. At widest apertures both the lenses were sharper than at f/11.
  5. The sharpest aperture of both these lenses were at f/8.

Comments

  1. Ken Cameron says

    Interesting review. I have to wonder about sample variation, though, as other reviewers have reached exactly the opposite conclusion. Your testing provides good reasons for you decide which of your two lenses to keep, but is maybe less useful to anyone else.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Ken,
      As I have mentioned in the post, sample variation has not been taken in to consideration. Having said that, I did produce images that were sharp enough with the Olympus, so I didn’t think my sample was a ‘lemon’.

      I bought the Olympus at the time it got released and there were no comparison reviews around. So I had to perform my own tests to decide which one to keep.

      Since then I have seen comprehensive reviews about both lenses on ePhotozine and they have come to the same conclusion as I have come to!

      They highly recommend the Panasonic and don’t say much about the Olympus!
      Photozone so far has reviewed only the Panasonic!!

      As for me, I have got rid of the Panasonic as well – When I want reach, I bite the bullet and lug around my Nikon 500mm f/4!

  2. Per says

    Thank you for a very interesting review. I have though come to an opposite conclusion! Maybe it’s something wrong with my eyes! I can’t see in your pictures that the Panasonic is sharper than the Olympus at 300mm (the important focal distance for these lenses). In MTF-tests they seem to be about equal (except that Panasonic presents significantly higher figures on their website compared to what Olympus presents). On the web I’ve seen excellent sharp pictures from both lenses.

    I have the Panasonic but I don’t like the lens as it’s clumsy and the manual focusing and zoom aren’t smooth. I have just ordered the Olympus and hope that it will be a lens that I want to carry with me and that it gets some use! I’m only using Olympus bodies so I don’t need the OIS of the Panasonic.

    Besides I have the Panasonic short tele zoom 45-150mm that I like very much. It’s very portable and functions very well and has a good image quality.

    Regards,
    Per

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Per,
      To see the difference please click on the images to open up 100% crops, and note the edges of the arches and the edges of the white pattern at the middle.
      As I have said I haven’t disregarded the sample variation and at the time I did this there were no MTF charts; The only place I go for those btw, is photozone

      Few weeks after this review I have got rid of the Panasonic as well – Now I only have the 12-50 kit lens with the OM-D.

  3. Per says

    I understand that you keep the Zuiko 12-50mm! It’s a very nice (and underrated) lens. I have also used it all the time with my E-M5 especially as it also has macro capabilities.

    Yes we will see if I like the Olympus 75-300 any better than the Pana 100-300. If not I will return it. I’ve taken some very good pictures with the Pana 100-300mm though but I don’t very often carry it with me. It was the test on Photozone that made me buy the Panasonic 45-150mm as I (like you) trust their tests. It did very well on that test and it handles very well and is very easy to carry. I think the idea of the Micro Fourthirds sytem is that you easily can bring your equipment with you and still have a high quality equipment. Everyday when I walk my dog I use to hang the camerabag on my shoulder and also bring it with me on other occasions. If I don’t I will miss many good opportunities to take pictures. On my walks I do very seldom see any other people carrying cameras and especially not big DSLR:s!

    Regards,
    Per

    • says

      I have got mixed feelings about the 12-50mm. It is one of the most versatile lenses I own and serves the purpose of buying the OM-D (E-M5). But it isn’t sharp! I don’t have dogs, but I have two girls below 5yrs :)

      I tried both 45mm and 75mm which are tack sharp but lack the versatility I need. New 12-35 f/2.8 seems nice but lacks the reach. I think they recently announced 14-150?? or something similar but didn’t have time to look at that!!

  4. Per says

    I recently got the OM-D E-M1 with the fabulous 12-40mm F2,8. This is an extremely good combination. This lens can focus to 20cm for near field pictures. I will keep my E-M5 and use it mainly for the Panasonic 45-150mm or the extremely good Zuiko 60mm F2,8 macro. I need at least two bodies as it’s very fiddly to change lenses when you are outside. I’ll see if I’ll get use of the longer reach 75-300mm.

    I have completely left the bigger and heavier DSLR:s behind as the 4/3-format gives a more than sufficient good quality. It’s possible to make very good prints up to A2-size and ISO 1600. The very good IBIS makes it possible to use a comparably lower ISO. For web use the quality is even very overpower!

    A note about the Zuiko 60mm F2,8 macro: this lens is the best I’ve ever used for hand held macro photography (I have experience from classics such as Zeiss Makro Planar 60mm F2,8, Canon FD 50mm F3,5, Zuiko 50mm F2,0 and Panasonic/Leica Elmarit 45mm F2,8). This lens works very well together with the IBIS in the recent Olympus bodies for hand held macro photography. I think the dedicated lens hood (or copies of it) is essential as it gives a better grip of the lens.

    About the 12-50mm Zuiko: It’s maybe not the sharpest lens on the optical bench (but it’s not bad). It’s though a very good all purpose lens. It’s so many factors that decides if a picture is sharp enough. I think that the photographing technique has much more influence on the result than the measured sharpness in the lab.

    I have the same profession as you but I’m near retirement. I live in Sweden. I have worked as photographer many years ago before changing profession but it has always been a great interest of mine. Our kids are grown up and we got a dog that’s forcing us to go for several long walks each day. This gives me a great opportunity to exert photography!

    Regards,

    Per

    • says

      Great to hear from you again Per;
      I keep on looking at E-M1 but was wondering whether I could justify buying another camera. I agree with you about the 12-50mm. As I said before it the most versatile of all the lenses I own – this include all the ‘pro’ Nikon glass! and it is the worst when it comes to sharpness. Having said that I have made A2 prints from the images I made with this lens and no one has complained about the sharpness yet!

  5. Teru Kage says

    I’ve had the Pany 45-200mm for a few years now but I’m beginning to yearn for something with a little more reach. My current body is an E-PL5 so I’m inclined to go with the 100-300 because its OIS will probably produce less blur than the 2-axis IBIS. But I’m worried that my Oly won’t make lens corrections (distortion and CA) with the 100-300. Any observations on this?

    • says

      Teru
      As another poster had pointed out DXO labs have concluded Olympus 75-300 II to be sharper than the Panasonic 100-300, which is the exact opposite of the results of my test. So the first thing I want to tell you is to have look at the Olympus and to test the both the lenses at a store before buying.

      When no tests were available online and Oly was brand new to the market, my test was good enough for me to conclude about the samples I had. Please check out both yourself before buying.

      I have more or less abandoned the micro four thirds system and gave my OM-D to my wife; she loves it but uses it in i-Auto mode :-(

      Correcting CA, a function which I have never used/noticed, must be an in camera software function!! If you use lightroom you can easily achieve it by just ticking a box!

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