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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS – first impressions

4 August 2020
Maciej Latałło

2. Build quality

The following chart presents a comparison between different 100-400 mm lenses available currently on the market. Most of them are full frame instruments, with an exception of the Fujinon, designed for APS-C sensors, and the Micro 4/3 mount PanaLeica. The Olympus 100-400 mm should have sprung a surprise on us with its low weight and small dimensions – after all it is supposed to cooperate with the smallest sensor and, along with the Sigma, it is the slowest of all devices, presented in the chart. There is no surprise. The new lens is distinctly heavier than the PanaLeica, weighing practically as much as full frame Sigma and Tamron constructions. All these three lenses, mentioned above, are also smaller than the Olympus.

The lens, described here, features a minimum focusing distance of 1.3 meters – once again nothing exceptional, that value positions it behind the Canon, the Sony, and the Sigma. However, in case of Olympus it is constant for whole focal length range. Looking at just dry numbers it seems the Olympus cannot offer anything special, certainly nothing more than its rivals.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

The Olympus 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS ED MSC starts with a metal mount surrounding contacts embedded in a black part of the casing and an inscription “MADE IN JAPAN”. Looking a bit deeper you have a good view of the interior of the tube because the small, rear element of the lens is positioned about 3.5 cm deep with the focal length set at 100 mm and as much as 8 mm deep when you pass to 400 mm. Glancing inside you can spot a lot of mechanical and electronic parts and forget about air tightness or perfect blackening. Still, it should be mentioned that the tube itself is indeed black and matt.

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

The proper body starts with an immobile ring covered by black plastics. It gets wider after a while and on its surface you can find several inscriptions with the serial number of the lens, a red dot, making an alignment with a camera easier, an inscription “SPLASH PROOF”, and information about the focusing range (1.3m/4.26ft–∞).

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

The next part of the lens, a black ring made of metal, enables you to attach a very solid tripod adapter, also made of metal. Further on you see a relatively smooth, black tube and on its left there are a nuber of switches: one that controls the autofocus limiter (1.3–6 m, 1.3–∞ i 6m–∞), a stabilization switch (IS ON/OFF) and a focusing mechanism mode switch (AF/MF). On the opposite side of the tube you also get a LOCK switch to block the zoom in one position. Still we admit that it wasn't needed because even vigorous shaking of the lens didn't produce any zoom creep effect.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

The biggest part of the lens is a zoom ring, as wide as 62 mm, most of its surface covered by comfortable ribbing, making your grip easier. Below the ribbed part you find a smooth area with focal length markings at 100, 150, 200, 300, and 400 mm.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

Further on you see a narrow ring with the name and parameters of the lens which turns quite smoothly into a ribbed manual focus ring, 19 mm wide. The ring is a focus-by-wire construction, it moves smoothly with slight but still acceptable resistance. If you turn it quickly the full range needs an angle of less than 90 degrees but if you move it slowly you can get a better precision with a focus throw of over 200 degrees.

Behind the focusing ring you see a blue and sliver, narrow ring which doesn't move. It ends the proper barrel of the lens. Then there is just the front element system that, with the increase of the focal length, extends on an homogeneous tube made of plastics, making the whole instrument by 62 mm longer.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

The front element of the Olympus 100-400 mm is 61 mm in diameter and around it you find an inscription with the name and parameters of the lens along with a non-rotating filter thread, 72 mm in diameter and a hood mount. The hood is a part of the accessory kit.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality

Overall the lens seems to be solid enough but not of the same build quality as, say, the Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Build quality