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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

3. Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Autofocus

The Olympus 100-400 mm was sent to our editorial office along with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III camera as only that instrument allowe us to check its full potential. Other camera models, available on the market, have to be updated with the newest firmware and that firmware wasn't available at the time of our first impressions check.

The autofocus of the tested lens joined with the E-M1 III is noiseless but when it comes to its speed the results are mixed and they depend on many factors. If you employ the full distance range from 1.3 meters to infinity then running through the whole distance range and confirming the focus takes from 0.4 of a second at 100 mm to 0.9 of a second at 400 mm. At the longest focal length, especially when you move from infinity to shorter distances, that time can increase to significantly over 1 second in weaker lighting conditions. We also noticed some auto-focus hunting tendencies.

The performance of the focusing mechanism can be improved with the help of the focus limiter – after choosing the range from 6 meters to infinity, at shorter focal lengths the mechanism becomes flash quick, sometimes simply too quick to measure. Unfortunately at bigger focal lengths and in weaker lighting conditions the situation, described in previous paragraph, is repeated. Going from infinity to the minimum focusing distance, 6 meters in this case, the autofocus can slow down so much that the focusing time exceeds one second.

Ghosting and flares

In case of 100-400 mm class lenses it is difficult to ensure good performance against bright light and for several reasons. Firstly, such lenses are always very complex optical systems with a high number of elements so also many air-to-glass surfaces where light can be reflected. Secondly, these are zoom lenses and they change their dimensions so it is impossible to insert diaphragms and light-trapping baffles in all the right places. Thirdly, usually at the front of such a lens there is a huge front element which fills the tube to its full capacity and is not sheltered by anything.

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We usuallly check a lens's performance against bright light while taking a stroll in Warsaw's Old Town, our favourite place for shooting sample photos. The images produced by the Olympus 100-400 mm can be found below and I have to say the new lens cannot be praised in this category. There are a lot of problems at different combinations of focal lengths and apertures. Flares are visible even when the sun is situated far away from the frame and the photos didn't avoid distinct lowering of contrast.

It's true that none of 100-400 mm instruments, tested by us so far, performed well in that category but, nevertheless, the Olympus seems to be at the bottom of this group. We feel that only the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. fared weaker.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400 mm f/5.0-6.3 IS  – first impressions - Autofocus, ghosting and flares