Hands on: Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x

It’s here! We’ve known that the Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x was coming for a long time, and mockups have been on display here and there at trade shows (remember those?) for a year or so, but now it’s official. Designed for professional and advanced amateur photographers, especially fans of wildlife and sports, the Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x is shaping up to be a seriously impressive lens for serious Micro Four Thirds shooters.

Click through this article to learn more.

Focal length range

First let’s start by going over its focal length range. This is a 150-400mm tele-zoom, which covers an equivalent range of 300-800mm in full-frame terms. Meanwhile, its constant maximum aperture of F4.5 works out equivalent (in full-frame depth-of-field terms) to F9. The built-in teleconverter provides a boost in magnification of 1.25X, and when activated, the lens effectively becomes a ~190-500mm F5.6, or an equivalent 380-1000mm zoom.

Up to 8 stops of stabilization

That kind of focal length reach is impressive, despite the relatively slow aperture, and Olympus insists that the lens is fully hand-holdable, even at an equivalent focal length of 1000mm. Boasting a claimed 4.5 stops of stabilization as standard and up to eight stops of stabilization at the 150mm setting in combination with Olympus’s newest high-end ILCs (dropping to a claimed six stops when zoomed all the way), our experience so far suggests that this is indeed a lens which can be shot without a tripod. At least for a short while…

Size and weight

A tripod is still a good idea for extended shooting, because while undoubtedly smaller and lighter than an equivalent lens for full-frame would be, at 4.1lb (1.9 kg) you will quickly feel the weight of the 150-400mm around your neck – especially if it’s mounted on an E-M1X. Olympus has kept the weight down as much as possible by liberal use of reinforced plastics (including a ‘Heat Shielding Coating’ to stop sunlight from heating up the internals) over a magnesium-alloy chassis, with carbon fiber employed for the large detachable hood.

Weather-sealing

As we’d expect from a lens in Olympus’s ‘PRO’ lineup, the 150-400mm is sealed against dust and moisture, and is rated for use in conditions as cold as -10°C (14°F).

Despite its long reach, the 150-400mm accepts conventional 95mm screw-in filters. Several third-party options are available, but Olympus will be selling one alongside the new lens for $324.99.

Optical construction and autofocus

Optical construction of this tele-zoom lens is complex, consisting of 28 elements in 18 groups. The optical design comprises several special glass elements, including four ED elements and two ‘HR’ high refractive-index elements. The built-in 1.25X TC alone accounts for seven elements, in four groups.

Olympus’s ‘Z Nano’ coating is used to keep transmission and contrast high, and the front element is coated with fluorine to help repel dust and moisture.

The 150-400’s focus group is driven by a stepping motor. We found focus speeds to be very quick (Olympus claims that this lens is 25% faster than the 300mm F4 Pro) and the motor is nearly silent.

Minimum focus and max magnification

Minimum focus is 1.3m (51″) across the entire focal length range, which equates to a maximum magnification of 0.57X, increasing to 0.71X when the built-in teleconverter is used. While it wouldn’t be our first choice for true macro photography, this is impressive for a tele-zoom lens, and makes the 150-400mm very versatile when it comes to smaller subjects like butterflies.

Customization

Being a professional-grade lens, the 150-400mm features no fewer than four customizable L-Fn buttons, as well as preset focus buttons to quickly recall a saved focus position. The new Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x will be available at the end of January, 2021, at an MSRP of $7,499 ($10,000 CAD).

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