Revolutionary bird photography:
Hand-held shooting with a 600mm lens
Incredible resolving power and image quality

Photos and commentary by Yusuke Odagiri

A bright, high-performance super telephoto lens is essential for capturing beautiful shots of birds. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO is the lens bird photography enthusiasts who use OM-D and PEN have been waiting for. Here I'd like to share different ways to make use of its power and how to master using this lens.

1Revolutionising bird photography

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO is the fifth lens in the M.Zuiko PRO series, a line-up developed for professionals and known for its superb optical performance as well as splashproof and dustproof construction. It has a focal length of 300mm, which is 600mm when converted to 35-mm equivalent focal length. It has a bright f/4.0 aperture which is fantastic. Many times in bird photography a focal length of more than 500mm (35mm equivalent) is required, and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO is up to the task when combined with an OM-D or PEN.

One of the highlights of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO is the inclusion of an in-lens optical image stabilisation system. Working in concert with the in-body 5-axis image stabilisation on the OM-D (E-M1, E-M5 Mark II) and PEN-F, a 5-axis Sync IS system is formed to provide image stabilisation performance equivalent to 6 shutter speed steps. Even on lenses with a long focal length that require a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. or faster to prevent camera shake, 5-axis sync IS makes it possible to capture crisp images 6 shutter speed steps lower at 1/15 seconds. With 5-axis sync IS, even in dark conditions where a tripod is usually necessary, you can shoot handheld and achieve sharp, blur-free images.

Because this is an M.Zuiko PRO lens, its image quality is impeccable. Suppressing chromatic aberration and colour bleeding, which affect image quality on telephoto lenses, three Super ED lenses are lavishly used for excellent resolving power and optical performance similar to fluorite (extremely minor refraction rate changes from blue to red wavelength). Simply looking through the built-in EVF (electronic viewfinder) is enough to experience the superior resolving power.
The level of detail is so fine that when photographing birds, the smallest details in the wings are captured and the texture of the features comes across clearly on the screen. Powerful image stabilisation contributes to sharp images, and the widest aperture setting does not result in brightness falloff around the edges or a loss in image quality.

The closest focusing distance is 1.4 m, with focusing possible up to 1.15 m from the end of the lens. Although a shooting distance of 3 to 10 m is the norm for photographing birds, unwary subjects can sometimes come in close, making a short closest focusing distance very helpful.

M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO attached to the OM-D E-M1 (with HLD-7)
M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO attached to the OM-D E-M1 (with HLD-7)

This is a white-eye that came for the nectar in the flower. It was photographed from a distance of approximately three metres. Because the depth of field is shallow I stopped down to f/7.1, but with the eyes in focus, it still leaves the tail feathers out of focus.

This is a magnified shot of a Darian redstart's face. The detail in the plumage and feathers around its beak are sharp to the point where you can almost feel the texture.

This is a male Daurian redstart perched on a tree 5 m away. Hand-held shooting makes it possible to quickly capture a shot of this small, restless bird.

Shooting with tripod collar on
If you have large hands, the tripod base plate can rest on the palm of your left hand and your fingers can be placed on the focus ring and the end portion of the lens for a steady hold.
Shooting with decoration ring on
For those with smaller hands or those who like to lighten their equipment even a little bit, the included decoration ring DR-79 can replace the tripod collar for an easier grip. Doing so makes the camera approximately 200 g lighter.
When the tripod collar is removed, the DR-79 decoration ring can be attached to hide tripod attachment parts.
Switches and buttons on the side of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO
From the top you can see the Focus Limit switch, IS (image stabilisation) switch, and the L-Fn (lens function) button. The Focus Limit narrows down the AF focus area, improving AF efficiency. It has three positions: the standard 1.4 m to ∞ (infinity), 1.4 to 4 m for close-up photography, and 4 m to ∞ for capturing far-away subjects.
IS on/off can be controlled by the IS switch. Please contact our customer service center for details on how controls differ according to the camera body.
You can assign favourite functions to the L-Fn button in the camera's custom menu.

This is a sparrow that suddenly landed in front of me. Despite the extreme close distance of approximately 1.5 m, I was able to get a good shot.

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