Olympus 150-400 Lens - is it worth the price?
Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Should You Upgrade to the Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro Lens for Bird and Wildlife Photography

I’m finally getting around to selling my old Canon DSLR gear.  I’ve been using Olympus Micro Four Thirds photography gear since 2014, and I have been using it for all genres of photography (except deep sky astrophotography) for several years. I think I’m finally getting comfortable with OM Digital Solutions acquiring the Olympus Imaging Division since they’ve now released 2 new camera models.

So, what should I do with the money from selling my old gear?  Put it in the bank?  Travel more?  Buy more gear? Buy the Olympus 150-500mm f/4.5 Pro Lens? I already own the Olympus 300mm f/4 and the Olympus 100-400mm f/5 – 6.3. Hmmm?

Maybe I should have titled this blog, “Should I Upgrade to the Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm lens?” Hopefully through my diligence in making this decision, I can also help you decide on whether to purchase this lens as well.

Let’s start by looking at some specifications.

Olympus Long Lens Specifications

LensDimensionsWeightImage StabilizationPrice
Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 w/ 1.25x TC Pro4.6” x 12.4” / 115.8 x 314.3mm4.1 lb / 1875 gUp to 7.5 Stops with Sync IS, 8 Stops when using the 150-400 f/4.25 Pro @ 150mm$7,499
Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro3.64” x 8.94” / 92.5 x 227mm3.25 lb / 1475 gUp to 7.5 Stops with Sync IS.$2,999
Olympus 100-400mm f/5 – 6.33.4” x 8.1” / 86.4 x 205.7mm2.46 lb / 1120 gUp to 3 Stops.  Does not have Sync IS.$1,499
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro3.13 x 6.3″ / 79.4 x 160 mm1.67 lb / 760 gNone in lens, camera body only$1,499

*All the above lenses are compatible with both the 1.4x and 2.0x Teleconverters.

The above table takes a look at the specifications for 4 of the Olympus long lens options.  I’ll use this table as reference as we walk thru the different decision points on whether to purchase this amazing, but expensive lens.

Decision Points for Deciding to Purchase the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 lens with a built in 1.25x Teleconverter

Image Stabilization (IS)

Looking at the above table, the Olympus 150-400mm and 300mm f/4 lead the way with image stabilization.  If you are handholding the camera for bird and wildlife photography, Image Stabilization is an important consideration.  This is especially important if you photograph in the early morning light, like I do.

Both the 300mm f/4 and 150-400mm have 7.5 stops of Image Stabilization and use Olympus Sync IS technology which combines the stabilization of both the camera and the lens.  The 150-400mm lens does add an additional ½ stop of IS but only when it is used at 150mm.

The Olympus 100-400mm f/5.6-6.3 does not have Sync IS and can only use either the stabilization in the lens or camera body.

Weight

The 150-400mm Pro Lens weighs in at 4.1 pounds (1875 grams) which is almost a pound (.85 lb / 400 g) heavier than the 300mm f/4 and over 1.5 pounds (1.64 lbs / 755 g) heavier than the 100-400mm f/5.6-6.3.

I almost always use the 1.4x Teleconverter with the Olympus 300mm f/4.  When you add the weight of the 1.4x Teleconverter (.23 pounds) to the weight of the 30mmm f/4 (3.25 pounds), it is just a little over a ½ pound lighter than the 150-400mm lens which has a 1.25x Teleconverter built in.

While the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 would make my Micro Four Thirds kit a little heavier, I don’t see that being a show stopper in purchasing this lens.

Olympus 150-400 f/4.5 Dimensions
Olympus 150-400 f/4.5 Dimensions

Travelability / Lens Size

I list size as a separate criteria from weight because of air travel.  I fly a lot to reach my photography destinations, and even though I travel with my gear in a Pelican Case, I don’t like the idea of checking my photography gear and having it thrown the cargo area of the plane.

With the Pelican Air 1535 Case, I can fit an amazing amount of gear in the case and still be able to fit the case in the overhead storage bins.  In fact, I can fit the Olympus 300mm f/4, 100-400 f/5.6 – 6.3, 12-100 f/4, 8-25 f/4, 1.4x Teleconverter, 2.0x Teleconverter, 2 camera bodies and room for accessories in the Pelican Air 1535.

If you do a lot of traveling for your photography, you may want to look into a Pelican Air 1535 Case.

If I did purchase the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro lens, I would need to reconfigure my Pelican Case since the 150-400 is too long to fit into the case width wise; it would need to fit in the Pelican Case length wise.

I was quite surprised at the price of additional dividers ($61 for 2 dividers) or an additional TrekPak Divider System ($159) for my Pelican Case. It may be a better option to buy a 2nd Pelican Air 1535 case and configure it for traveling with the Olympus 150-400mm lens.

This additional cost is definitely a down side of purchasing the 150-400mm lens.  So, as you consider purchasing the 150-400, make sure you also measure your current backpacks and travel cases to see if this lens will fit.

Sharpness

I do not own the Olympus 150-400mm lens to test the sharpness of the lens.  I have watched multiple YouTube video, read a bunch of reviews, and looked at sample images.  Many of the reviews and videos compare the sharpness of the 150-400 to the 300mm f/4 lens.

The Olympus 300mm f/4 is the sharpest bird and wildlife lens that I have shot, and that includes the Canon 500mm f/4 lens.

Focal Length Range

The focal length range is one of the biggest reasons to consider purchasing the Olympus 150-400mm lens.  A lens with a range of 300mm – 1,000mm without adding an external teleconverter and is as sharp as the Olympus 300mm f/4 makes purchasing this lens very tempting.

Below is a comparison of the focal length range for the different Olympus Long Lenses.

Olympus Long Lens Focal Length Comparison (Full Frame Equivalent)

LensFull Frame Focal Length EquivalentWith 1.4x TeleconverterWith 2.0x Teleconverter
Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm w/ 1.25x TC Pro300-800mm, 375-1000mm with the built-in 1.25x Teleconverter420-1120mm, 525-1,400mm with 1.4x & 1.25x Teleconverter600-1600mm, 750-2,000mm with 2.0x & 1.25x Teleconverter
Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro600mm840mm1,200mm  
Olympus 100-400mm f/5 – 6.3200-800mm280-1,120mm  400-1,600mm
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro80-300mm112-420mm160-600mm

On several occasions I have used two bodies for bird and wildlife photography by using a Dual Black Rapid Camera Strap.  On one side I would have the Olympus 300mm f/4 with the 1.4x Teleconverter and on the other side either the Olympus 100-400mm f/5.6-6.3 or the Olympus 40-150mm with the 1.4x Teleconverter.  This gives me a good focal length range in case birds / animals would move closer to me.

The Dual Black Rapid Camera Strap worked well if I was relatively stationary.  But it was a lot more challenging if I was hiking or photographing marine birds and mammals on a boat in wavy conditions.  Having one lens with a range of 300-1,000mm would be a lot easier in those conditions. 

Olympus 1.4x and 2.0x Teleconverter
Olympus 1.4x and 2.0x Teleconverter

Using Teleconverters

As you add teleconverters the widest aperture for your lens will be reduced which will result in a reduction of the light captured by the camera.  This means you will need to raise your ISO or shoot at slower shutter speeds in darker lighting conditions which is not ideal for bird and wildlife photography.

Below are the widest apertures for the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 with the different teleconverter combinations.

Widest Aperture with Teleconverters for the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Lens

TeleconverterWidest ApertureFocal Length Range (Full Frame Equivalent)
Nonef/4.5150-400mm (300-800mm)
1.25x Internal TCf/5.6187.5-500mm (375-1,000mm)
1.4x TCf/6.3210-560mm (420-1,120mm)
1.25x internal TC + 1.4x TCf/8262.5-700mm (525-1,400mm)
2.0x TCf/9300-800mm (600-1,600mm)
1.25x internal TC + 2.0x TCf/11375-1,000mm (750-2,000mm)

For comparison purposes, below are the widest apertures for the 300mm f/4 and 100-400 f/5.6-6.3 lenses.

Widest Aperture with Teleconverters for the Olympus 300mm f/4 Lens

TeleconverterWidest ApertureFocal Length Range (Full Frame Equivalent)
Nonef/4300mm (600mm)
1.4x TCf/5.6420mm (840mm)
2.0x TCf/8600mm (1,200mm)

Widest Aperture with Teleconverters for the Olympus 100-400mm f/5.6-6.3 Lens

TeleconverterWidest Aperture @100mmWidest Aperture @400mmFocal Length Range (Full Frame Equivalent)
Nonef/5.6f/6.3100-400mm (200-800mm)
1.4x TCf/7.1f/9140-560mm (280-1,120mm)
2.0x TCf/10f/13200-800mm (400-1,600mm)

The Olympus 150-400mm lens has a big advantage over the 100-400mm f5.6-6.3 with the constant f/4.5 aperture when using teleconverters.  The 100-400mm lens can shoot at 1,600mm with the 2.0x Teleconverter but its widest aperture is f/13 when zoomed out to 400mm.  This means you need a lot of light to shoot at that focal length.

The 150-400mm lens can shoot at 1,600mm with the 2.0x teleconverter with a widest aperture of f/9 and at 1,400mm with the 1.4x Teleconverter and 1.25 Teleconverter with a widest aperture of f/8.

With the 1.25x teleconverter in the 150-400mm lens, you can stack an external teleconverter to gain extra length.  This is not something that can be done with 2 external teleconverters.

Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro Lens
Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro Lens

Price

The Olympus 150-400mm lens is expensive at $7,499.  It is more than double the price of the 300mm f/4 at $2,999. 

So, is it worth the price?  That’s a decision that everyone needs to make for themselves. The Olympus 150-400mm is a terrific lens.  But you have to decide whether it’s worth it for you. Some of questions that I’m asking myself are:

  • How much will I use it?  I do a lot of bird and wildlife photography.
  • Would the Olympus 300mm f/4 and / or the Olympus 100-400 f/5.6 – 6.3 suffice for the photography that I’m doing?
  • How else can I use the money from trading in my Canon photography gear?  I can go on a few nice photography vacations for $7,499. 

Did I Reserved the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro Lens?

I carefully weighed the purchase using the above criteria and decided to reserve the lens.  I plan on doing a lot of travel for bird and wildlife photography in the future and traveling and using one sharp lens with a large focal length range is worth it for me.

Also, selling my Canon DSLRs and Lenses will greatly help in funding this expensive lens and makes the decision a lot easier.

Now the wait begins.  Researching the wait time online, it appears that it will be at least 10 months before I receive the lens.  On the positive side, it will give me plenty of time to sell my Canon gear.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Blog Posts
Field Test Results of the Olympus 100-400mm f/5.0 – 6.3 Telephoto Lens for Bird and Wildlife Photography
Comparing the OM Systems OM-1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1X for Bird Photography
How to Use the Olympus / OM System Internal AF Limiter to Improve Your Bird Photography

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11 Comments

  • RT

    Certainly the 150-400 is my dream lens. Currently shooting 100-400 on OM-1. Thinking hard of picking up used 300 F4 to add to bag. Winter lighting is a struggle for 100-400 in middle Tennessee this time of year. Congrats on pending purchase, hope it shows up soon

    • Martin Belan

      Thanks for leaving the comment. I hope it comes soon too! The 300mm f/4 is a terrific lens especially if you can find it used or refurbished.

  • John Stull

    It took a long time after initial ordering for mine to come (6 months ago) and I LOVE the lens!! Used it for wildlife especially bird in flight on our recent trip to Chile & Antarctica and it worked beautifully!! I also love the 300 mm, but the zoom in-out make birds in flight much ‘easier’ (and more successful!!!

    John

  • John Stull

    I received mine (after a long wait) 6 months ago and used it for wildlife, especially birds in flight on our recent trip to Chile & Antarctica; it worked beautifully!! I also live the 300, but being able to zoom in-out give flexibility (and greater success!) to birds in flight! Happy anticipation!!😎

  • Carbonman

    I own both the 300mm f4 and 150-400mm f4.5 plus the MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters. I used to shoot with the 300mm f4 + MC-14 TC as my normal wildlife setup. It gave very sharp, flare-free results but always presented a problem with target aquisition for BIF, even without the TC. I really like this lens and recommend it for anyone shooting wildlife as long as they can draw a bead on whatever they’re stalking. (I mounted a Picatinny rail and dot sight for rifles on the tripod collar to make this possible.)
    I bought the 150-400mm f4.5 (ordered in early January, picked up in early March) and haven’t used the 300mm f4 since. The zoom allows picking up and tracking a fast moving target, then increasing magnification to get the shot. Autofocus is very fast with or without the 1.25x TC. There is zero softness or loss of contrast with the teleconverter introduced into the optical path.
    I’ve shot with the lens at 400mm + 1.25TC + 1.4 TC (700mm f11, 1/250 @ ISO 500) and there’s some loss of contrast and hazy appearance. It’s easily fixed in post processing because the image is still very sharp.
    My biggest beefs with this lens are the fabric lens cap and the way the lens hood attaches to the lens. I’ve taken to using a cheap 95mm plastic lens cap and not using the hood at all. As with my other M.Zuiko Pro lenses, lens flare or loss of contrast is negligible in any circumstance I’ve encountered so far. I only wish I could get out shooting more!

    • Martin Belan

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with the 150-400mm. Your feedback makes me even more impatient for the lens to arrive. I’ve gotten use to shooting Birds in Flight with the 300mm f/4. I shot with the Canon 500mm f/4 prior to Olympus. I do admit, it is a lot easier to find the target with a zoom.

  • Malcolm Panthaki

    Hi Martin,
    Thank you for your detailed reviews of the Olympus equipment. I’ve been a loyal Nikon photographer for a long time and I’m looking to upgrade my DSLR D500 +200-500mm Nikon gear that I use for BIF photography. And finally looking at mirrorless options.

    Olympus is tempting for BIF photography, but that means a complete change of gear which is expensive! I know you’ve just moved from Canon to Olympus, so you understand.

    Do you know the Nikon gear enough to answer to question: why go with the OMD and the M.Zuiko lens(es) rather than the R9 and the F mount lenses which I already have? How do they compare on AF and tracking, in particular?

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Malcom,

      I would say the biggest advantages of moving to Olympus / OM System is size, weight, and the computational photography. Although, Canon and Nikon gear have been getting lighter with the switch to mirrorless. I do not have enough knowledge of the Nikon system to comment on AF and Tracking. Thank you! Martin

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