Imaging Resource Breaks Down Olympus 150-400mm Zoom

Posted Mar. 20th, 2021 by Daniel J. Cox

Dave Etchell from Imaging Resource has always provided great information on the newest photo gear. His latest Blog post titled “A deep look at the tech behind the Olympus 150-400mm super-tele zoom (Engineer interview!)” is just the most recent. For this “deep look” Mr. Etchell interviews OM- Digital Solutions engineers and shares their responses.

As some of you know I’m also using the new Olympus 150-400mm. I was intrigued by some of the answers in this interview, since I’ve definitely noticed specific things the engineers mention they were trying to accomplish.

I’m still working on a detailed review of the Olympus 150-400mm compared to the Sony 100-600mm. But I’m not done yet, so I thought many of you would enjoy seeing how this lens came to be. I’ve added a few insights of my own on specific details directly related to the post by Imaging Resource. Make sure you take in the entire blog post by Dave Etchell of Imaging Resource for an insightful breakdown of this amazing new lens.

Details I’ve noticed while using this lens

Built-in 1.2x teleconverter

How in the heck do they get the built-in teleconverter so small? There’s a bulge on the left rear part of the lens. That bulge is the space the teleconverter ducks into when not in use. But the space is tiny. Especially when compared to the same mechanism seen on the Nikon 180-400mm and Canon 200-400mm lenses.

Photo courtesy of Imaging Resource

8 Stops of Sync Image Stabilization

Handholding this lens and getting exceptional results is nothing short of amazing. I’ve even been shooting some video without a tripod, at the long end of the zoom range. In other words, video at 800mm. That’s unheard of. I’m shooting more and more video everyday, and to be able to handhold telephotos is very, very unusual. Not all the video clips are completely smooth but a simple run through Final Cut Pro’s stabilize tool fixes any shake beautifully.

This video of the Wapiti pack was shot handheld at 800mm. I backed the lens off to about 600mm as more members of the pack came over the ridge and the the group increased.

Weight and Balance are Superb

The engineers talked about making sure the balance of the lens was just right. And boy did they nail it! In my ongoing comparison of the Olympus 150-400mm and the Sony 200-600mm, the difference in balance of the two lenses is very noticeable. The Sony has so much more frontal weight. It’s a subtle difference that makes handholding the Olympus a very pleasant experience.

The following is a quote from the engineers to Imaging Resource, “One challenge in the optical design was finding the best position for the center of gravity for hand-held shooting. Thanks to the internal zoom mechanism, the change of the center of gravity as you zoom was reduced. In order to reduce the change of the center of gravity more effectively, we selected as small a lens unit as possible to move during zooming. We also designed the optics so that the position of the center of gravity can be as close as possible to the camera body for more comfortable handheld shooting.”

That’s it for now. I’ll be releasing my comparison report on the Olympus 150-400m and the Sony 200-600mm in the next few weeks. Hopefully this excellent piece by Imaging Resource will tide everybody over for now.

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There are 4 comments on this post…
  1. Robert HollyerOn Mar. 28th, 2021

    I couldn’t agree more regarding the weight balance. I received my Olympus 150-400mm and was astonished at how much nicer it felt in hand compared to my Sony 200-600. The Sony is just slightly heavier than the Olympus but the actual feel of the camera/lens combo is entirely different. Excellent work Olympus!

  2. Rick PophamOn Mar. 21st, 2021

    How long did they let you keep the loaner? I look forward to hearing about your experience with this lens.

    Are you gonna spring for one? 😎

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 21st, 2021

      They let me keep the loaner for about 4 weeks. I returned it just as the one I bought arrived. So yes I did spring for one. And loving it!

  3. Jeffrey McPheetersOn Mar. 21st, 2021

    I appreciate you bringing your perspective. It’s helpful as I consider my own needs and at what price a preowned 150-400 might work in my budget constraints and usage now that I’m no longer doing much action and mostly any wildlife work is purely personal interest and choice. The video is helpful. It reminds me of the smooth work possible with the 300mm. The 100-400 is an good affordable lens for intermediate level and can sometimes get outstanding images with some practice but it does not make as good a hand held video platform due to the limitations in the stabilization abilities.

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