New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here

Posted May. 14th, 2022 by Daniel J. Cox

The new Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is finally here, thanks to the equally new Olympus OM-1. Ok so not an “official” updated version of the old lens but a totally new version based on the unbelievably improved performance when used with the impressive OM-1. Go ahead, accuse me of clickbait. I say whatever it takes to get the word out to as many as possible.

Olympus OM-1 breathes life into what seems like a new and improved Leica 100-400mm

The video was produced for the original Leica 100-400mm several years ago.

How did I get my hands on the new lens?

It all came together while planning my camera kit for our recent photo tour to Ireland. Many already know I have the relatively new Olympus 150-400mm zoom, the best wildlife lens ever produced in my humble opinion. And though the 150-400mm is the lightest lens in its equivalent class, it is still larger than I wanted to carry on what we call a Cultural Landscape Tour.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
Dan shooting the Olympus 150-400mm zoom from a kayak. Minnesota

As I pondered my options, it occurred to me that the old Leica 100-400mm was sitting patiently on my gear shelf in the studio. Actually, it was whispering my name having been shelved since the video I released comparing the G9, E-M1X, and Sony A9 predictive AF capabilities. The old girl, that LUMIX Pro Liaison Tom Curley called the “Daniel Cox” lens at the 2015 Luminary Summit in Sarasota, Florida, wanted back in the game. Ireland was the perfect opportunity to give her another chance

Tom Curley and Kevin Gilbert, Lumix Luminary Summit, Sarasota, Florida

I feel it important to mention I’ve been trying to get my hands on the new Olympus 100-400mm since it was released over a year ago. That would have been my first choice for a downsized kit had I had one. Alas, no such luck so the old gal from LUMIX was called up.

Leica 100-400mm for birds in light

My reason for wanting a substantial telephoto was the falconry presentation we had scheduled with Ireland’s School of Falconry at Ashford Castle. The guys and gals there are always helpful for getting the birds to fly straight to the camera when possible.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
Conal Dixon of Ireland’s School of Falconry discusses falconry with our group as his Eurasian eagle-owl assistant looks on.

The only animal opportunities I expected in Ireland would be at the falconry exhibit. With so few potential subjects, I lost all enthusiasm for bringing the larger lens. Being forced to do something different can often be very positive. Shooting the Leica 100-400mm with the OM-1 was certainly outside the box for me, especially since the same lens with Lumix bodies never did well with action. But I put the two together, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was floored. Below is just one sample.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
Harris hawk coming at the camera. Olympus OM-1 with Leica 100-400mm

I’m not going to go into all the autofocus details in this blog post. I’m working on a separate post about the OM-1 and the Leica 100-400mm combination for birds in flight. But I will say that the results were the best action images I’ve ever shot with an MFT camera. And amazingly it was done combining products from the two major players in the MFT game. The ability to combine products has always been one of the main benefits of MFT. As good as all this is, there’s one issue that needs to be fixed.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
Gannet in flight. Shot with the OM-1 and 100-400mm zoom at 400mm

OM-1 and 100-400mm with static subjects

As I mentioned, the falconry exhibit was my main interest in taking this long telephoto to Ireland. But I had other opportunities as well. Opportunities that gave me insight in to the Static AF (AF-S) capabilities of the OM-1 when using Back Button AF.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
Mute swan mother and her cygnet on the nest. Shot at 400mm

Switching to AF-S even when using back button AF

In the early 90’s, I started using Back Button AF on my Nikons, and it’s still my preferred method for activating AF. Back Button AF is simply removing autofocus activation from the front shutter button allowing you to use the rear AF button instead. It’s most useful for locking AF on a static subject, then recomposing. But it also works well for being able to keep the camera in AF-C, allowing instantaneous predictive AF when your subject decides to fly, run or move quickly. All you have to do is push on the rear AF button, and you’re now in AF-C, the mode that follows the subject.

New Leica 100-400mm Mark ll is Finally Here
A fishing trawler makes its way along the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Nice sharp image at 400mm. Something virtually impossible when I was shooting the same lens with my Lumix cameras.

During my years shooting the Lumix cameras and now the Olympus, I’ve seen issues with AF accuracy when capturing static subjects using Back Button AF and AF-C. I recently spoke to Olympus about this and they quizzed me on whether I was shooting static subjects on AF-S. I said, “No,” and gave the reason I explained above.

Fulmar shot at 400mm with no crop.

They informed me that it was possible that AF-C accuracy may be slightly off when using the Back Button AF. It seems the camera may not stop focusing at the exact point you want when you release the AF button. If true, this explains why I see problems with AF accuracy on maybe 20% of my “Static” images. And it needs to be fixed. The reason being that one of the major benefits of shooting Back Button AF combined with AF-C is that your camera works in a way similar to AF-S but is always ready for action. It’s just not possible to switch from AF-S to AF-C as quick as an animal can move. I’m hoping they can solve this problem with a firmware update.

Mute swan, Galway Bay, Ireland. OM-1 with Leica 100-400mm zoom

Conclusion

The fact that the Leica lens works so well with the new OM-1 has been a big surprise. And it drives home the benefit of having two different companies making lenses and cameras that work well together. Unfortunately, both Lumix and Olympus seem to have become more territorial, not wanting to share their respective technology. That hurts the consumer and in the long run Micro Four Thirds. The idea of these two companies cooperating was one of the reasons I got excited about MFT clear back in 2008. I’ve always said that neither Olympus nor Lumix will crack the Nikon/Canon nut without the benefit of sharing their ideas. The Leica zoom’s new life was most certainly not planned. But it’s a big benefit to all of us who shoot telephotos and it’s exactly what we need.

Add Your Voice!
There are 22 comments on this post…
  1. ChrisOn Jun. 16th, 2022 (2 weeks ago)

    I just switch the Fn switch from 1 to 2 to change from S-AF to C-AF (customized buttons). That’s really quick. I use back AF button for S-AF but the shutter release for C-AF, as that seems most logical. The explanation of why C-AF static focusing may be less accurate for focus and recompose makes sense.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jun. 20th, 2022 (2 weeks ago)

      I’ve also set the FN Switch in the manner you suggested. That’s helpful but I just got off a shoot that had lots of action opportunities that I missed because I was in S-AF to try and get accurate AF on static subjects that took off and flew or ran.

  2. Lucas lOn Jun. 9th, 2022 (3 weeks ago)

    Daniel, I just saw a video by Mike Lane on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap-azoSgt90 and it reminded me of your thoughts on the OM-1. Mike Lane is an enthiusiastic birder with birds in flight being his speciality. He compares the new OM-1 with the fabulous Sony A1, which is regarded as the pinnacle of Autofocus. It is very interesting to see which camera he ultimately chooses, and why…

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jun. 10th, 2022 (3 weeks ago)

      Thanks for this Lucas.

  3. Luis MesaOn May. 26th, 2022 (1 month ago)

    I don’t have the 100-400 from either brand, but I use a pany-leica 50-200 with a 2x Panasonic teleconverter that gives me great results. I know that makes for f8 at 800 mm equivalent, but since I also have the 1.4 teleconverter, it gives me great flexibility, and when I need less reach the 50-200 2.8-4 does a great job. I bought the teleconverters in Japan and had them shipped. This combo works very well with the OM-1, the EM1 m3, and the g9. It is amazing that these two teleconverters work so well. I was expecting that sharpness and autofocus would suffer, but the quality I get is quite good.
    I’m selling the EM1 m3 because I don’t need it. Like Daniel I still use the G9 for certain types of photography, and I love it.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 27th, 2022 (1 month ago)

      Thanks for the input, Luis. I have no idea why Luix does not sell their teleconverters in the US. I have several people who travel with us who also bought them off of Ebay from Japan. They love them. So strange that Lumix refuses to offer them in the states. So many strange things about what and why Lumixdoes what they do.

  4. LucasOn May. 19th, 2022 (1 month ago)

    That PL 200mm 2.8 is an incredible lens to work with. Insanely sharp, has great IS, beautiful colours and stays relatively sharp with the MC14 (therefore competing with the Oly 300mm).

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 19th, 2022 (1 month ago)

      Thanks for your input, Lucas. I used to have the 200mm Leica but sold it. I’m now wishing I had kept it, but then again, I use the 150-400mm so much it probably wouldn’t get all that much use. glad to have you in on the conversation.

  5. Tom GrossOn May. 18th, 2022 (1 month ago)

    My 100-400 was purchased in 2016. So hopefully I can get a new one with smooth zoom.

  6. Tom GrossOn May. 17th, 2022 (1 month ago)

    I am confused. Is there really a new 100-400 (MkII?)? Or has the OM1 simply improved the original?
    I have the original, and hate the zoom. I have even been thinking of replacing it with the Olympus 100-400 for smoother zooming.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 18th, 2022 (1 month ago)

      Sorry for the confusion Tom. There is not an actual new version of the Leica 100-400mm lens. My less than accurate title was simply to get peoples attention. Not for my own benefit but for the benefit of others to get the message out. It’s true that the OM-1 actually makes the older Leica lens seem like a totally new updated optic. I’m not sure how old your version is but the one that I have is probably 2 to 3 years old. I had two other versions of the same lens and the current one I have is much smoother than the original and the second copy that I had. If your lens is truly unacceptable rough when you zoom this new camera may not be enough to encourage you to keep it. But I was very happy I had kept mine.

  7. RuairiOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    My PL 200mm f2. 8 has better AF responce on my E-M1iii than my superb Oly 300mm f4. I’m sure of it.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

      Very interesting.

  8. Larry LeuallenOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    Is the zooming action smoother than the original which was quite stiff.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

      Yes, the most recent 100-400mm is much smoother than the original I purchased when the lens was first announced.

  9. TerryOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    Great news Daniel re: Lumix 100-400, like you I would like the dual IS to work between brands. Did not know about the back button focus issue. Just waiting for my OM-1 to ship which will replace my G9.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

      I still use my G9 for general photography, just not action. I really do love the quality and build of Lumix cameras but without sharp photos, what’s the point? Hopefully they’ll get their act together and will have two great micro 4/3 companies.

  10. Louis BerkOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    Great post, Daniel. The 100-400 is a great lens and one I miss. Sadly, it went west with my Panasonic bodies when I felt I could no longer cope with the C-AF issues of the G9. You are breathing new life into my lapsed interest in m43rds with these posts!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

      Louis, did you give up on MFT completely? If so what are you now shooting.

  11. Portrait of Jay Murthy

    JayOn May. 15th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    Love the write up Dan! I am glad the old adage- keep the glass, change the camera bodies still holds true. I am too blown away by the accuracy of CAF on OM-1 , but I am now using it all with my olympus glass (except, i am still loving lumix leica 8-18) . I hope Lumix makes significant strides with the CAF and also collaborates with OM system to make MFT stronger than ever. I think protection of their intellectual property at the cost of collaboration will ultimately cost them market share and innovation. I am just hoping they don’t need another “nikon moment” to realize their folly and backpedal. But what do i know ?

  12. Sue CroOn May. 15th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    I’ve not tried my Leica 100-400 yet but I love to use the Leica 200mm f2.8 on my OM-1, in my opinion one of the best IQ lenses out there.

  13. JohnOn May. 15th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    This was also the case with the 5D series of Canon cameras (and I think, even the 1D series). The late Chuck Westfall confirmed that AFS was slightly more accurate on these cameras.

Add your voice to this conversation

Your email address will not be published.

In an effort to combat spam, your comment may be held for a brief moderation period.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Let's Stay In TouchNew Photo Tours, Photo Tips, Conservation News

Sign up for the most current news on our latest photography tours, photo tips and Daniels’s work in the world of conservation. 

css.php