Our staff shooter test drives several Olympus 4/3 system digital Zuiko lenses
at the US Open but finds them limited for sports by the E-330 DSLR.
I was recently given an offer I couldn't refuse: an invitation to test out several Zuiko Digital lenses for the Olympus 4/3 series cameras. At the US Open, of all places. From the photo pits at Center Court. From the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the press section of Field Court Seven. And from the comfort of the Olympus Box.
Olympus had pretty much every lens in the lineup available for the invited photographers, writers and editors to play with. As it was a major sporting event, the three lenses I was most interested in were the Zuiko 150 f/2.0 (Street: $ 2,199), the Zuiko 90-250 f/2.8 (Street: $5,499), and the Zuiko 300 f/2.8 (Street: $ 5,995).
Remember that there is a 2x lens factor with the 4/3 system, so double the focal length to get the 35mm equivalent.
That's right, that's the equivalent of a 300mm f/2.0, a 180-500 f/2.8, and a 600mm f/2.8!
(In an economy of space, the 300 f/2.8 at 7.25 pounds is of comparable size and weight to its competition's 300mm f/2.8 -- but has twice the reach.) The 7.2 pound 90-250 f/2.8 is closer in size and weight to a 300mm f/2.8 than a 70-200 f/2.8, and the 150mm f/2.0 is smaller and lighter than either of its sisters, but still quite heavy at about 3.6 pounds, due to the large maximum aperture and necessarily large front optics required for such light-gathering.
Add the Olympus EC-14 1.4x teleconverter into the equation, and the 300mm f/2.8 effectively becomes an 840mm f/4 lens in the similar weight and space that you'd get 420mm reach using Canon's and Nikon's 300 f/2.8s plus 1.4TX. That's a whole lot of reach in a (relatively) small package.
All three lenses feel very solidly constructed, with well-damped manual focusing rings and buttons placed at 90-degree increments near the front of the lens barrel that can be programmed for various shooting conditions. I set my Olympus E-Volt 330 to employ the lens buttons as Autofocus Stop.
After setting up the camera to my chosen settings -- spot metering, continuous autofocus, manual mode (maximum aperture), and ISO 400 (initially, due to overcast conditions), it was time to run the lenses through their paces.
Due to a rainout the day before, there was a lot of tennis being played, with marquee players pretty much everywhere you turned. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Amelie Mauresmo are but a few of the players I got to see in action.