M.Zuiko 100-400mm Review for Sports
MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose EarthquakesOct 28, 2020; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) celebrate sixth forward Cristian Espinoza (10) after scoring a goal against the Real Salt Lake during the first half at Earthquakes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new M.Zuiko 100-400mm F/5-6.3 lens and use it to photograph two San Jose Earthquakes games.
At 100-400mm, it's been the perfect lens to accommodate our new photo positions that are further from the field. My typical soccer game set up has been the 300 F4 (for most action on the field) and the 40-100mm F4 (for starting eleven photos, and near goal action/celebration). The 40-150mm F2.8 and 7-14mm F2.8 also often get in the mix. But from our new positions, the 100mm is loose enough to cover near field which means not having to make that decision of when to switch lenses. (I still brought some kind of wide because you should always have a wide... ya never know what might happen!)
An 800mm equivalent is LOOOOOONG. It's great for getting action across the goal. When I first started using the 300mm, it felt pretty long too because I had only used 600mm equivalent lenses a few times in my full-frame DSLR career, but I ultimately fell in love with covering action at that focal length as I became more comfortable following the action. I imagine I will get more comfortable using the lens at 400mm.
The barrel zoom takes some getting used to. Just as it takes some time to get used to long focal lengths, it also takes some time to get used to zooming, especially with a moving barrel. Being so accustomed to my fixed 300mm, I found myself forgetting I could zoom in/out during plays. But when I remember, it was great to maintain a player's body as they brought the ball down the field.
MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose EarthquakesOct 28, 2020; San Jose, California, USA; Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) controls the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Earthquakes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Is the F5-6.3 a problem?
The F5-6.3 is limiting. Not only in the sense that you need more light or higher ISO at that aperture but also because of the variable range. I'm in manual because the bright and changing sideline videoboards can throw-off exposure if I was otherwise in aperture priority, shutter priority, or auto ISO. While f/5 would have been nice for extra light and a slightly more shallow depth of field, I would have inconsistent exposure when I zoomed closer to 400mm, so instead I just left it at a constant f/6.3. While I tend to avoid putting my ISO in extension, it was necessary. I'm still pleased with the images at the higher ISO. The conversation around micro four thirds always comes back to ISO. I believe the crop sensor being slightly less capable than a full frame when it comes to ISO, is well worth the trade off in weight and size. I feel the same about this lens. Having an incredible 100-400mm range is worth losing a few stops and having to increase my ISO.
Does it replace the 300mm F4?
Not for me... but maybe for you. I still love the metal build and wider aperture of my 300mm. We sports photographers tend to be snobs about our long prime lenses.
Will it be added to my kit?
The one I am currently using is on loan. I am eagerly awaiting the 150-400mm F/4.5. My guess would be that I will prefer that lens over this one due to the wider aperture so that I can cover night games at lower ISO and have slightly more shallow depth of field to separate the action from the background. I try to not be a gear junkie and have gear that is redundant and the focal lengths are too similar to ever have both in my bag at once. But depending on what I was photographing if I needed to be a little wider or a little lighter, I may end up still choosing this over the 150-400mm or 300mm.
Should You Buy It?
Depending on what you mostly cover and your budget. If you only cover Friday night high school football at a poorly lit field, it might not be your best option compared to a lens with a wider aperture, but if you mostly cover day time games (or wildlife) and want to save some money, it is roughly half the price of the 300mm and has all the weather sealing and lightweight features you'd hope from a micro four thirds lens.
Thanks Olympus for letting me test out this lens. I'm so excited that even while the long term future of Olympus is somewhat unknown with the sale to JIP, releasing a lens like this gives a lot of hope that not only will JIP continue to launch new products but that the Olympus gear available now, can serve us well for many years.
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