|M.Zuiko MSC 75-300mm 1:4.8-6.7 II zoom (photo Olympus)|
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: Here we go again...
The Long Version: You're looking at the Mark II version of Olympus' only long native µ4:3rds zoom lens of any description. You can look over at Olympus' older 4:3rds mount lenses and note Olympus has at least three to choose from; the SG 70-300mm 1:4-5.6, the HG 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 and the SHG 90-250mm 1:2.8. Unfortunately, not so much choice with µ4:3rds.
In the beginning all µ4:3rds Olympus zooms stopped at 150mm (14-150mm 1:4-5.6 and 40-150mm 1:4-5.6). It wasn't until the original 75-300mm was released 31 August 2010 that Olympus had a "real" zoom that gave the Pen user a long focal length that at least matched the 4:3rds reach. The problem with the original 75-300mm was the initial MSRP of $900, for what was perceived by many (including me) as small and optically slow, especially at 300mm. I for one even refused to consider buying the lens because of the cost, its slow speed (especially when compared to the 50-200mm for just $200 more) and the unforgivable lack of weather sealing, especially for a lens that cost that much.
|Original M.Zuiko MSC 75-300mm 1:4.8-6.7 zoom (photo Olympus)|
At the time of the original zoom's release I was greatly unimpressed, so much that I even refused to go to a nearby camera store and even try it out.
Time passed and it would appear that the original 75-300mm languished on many a store shelf. Panasonic released it's own long zoom, the Lumix 100-300mm 1:4-5.6 zoom. The Panasonic zoom was interesting in that it was a half to two-thirds of a stop faster at both ends. Depending on who's review you read, it would appear that the Zuiko might have an edge in overall image quality, but then the Panasonic was good enough and was (and continues to be) offered for a mere $500, $400 less than the Olympus equivalent. A large majority have voted with their pocketbooks and purchased the Panasonic, while a very few, such as Torontowide, have embraced the 75-300mm and created quite good work with it. Yet here we are, 2+ years after its initial release, with the second version close to the Panasonic 100-300mm in price. Things that make you go "hmmm".
I actually need at least a 200mm native µ4:3rds lens, and the 75-300mm II is at least inexpensive enough to pull me into a camera store to try it out. Even though the optical speed is still the same slow values as before, the release of the Olympus E-M5 with excellent image quality all the way to ISO 3200 takes some of the sting out of the slowness of the zoom. Granted I would love to purchase a native µ4:3rds equivalent to the 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5, I can live with a zoom that's one stop down from that.
Here's one for anyone who's listening in Olympus' marketing department: I would have paid $900 for the Mark I if it had been 1:4-5.6, it had come with a lens hood, and if it had been weather sealed. In fact, if they'd kept the price for the Mark II as the same for the Mark I and added weather sealing (and a lens hood) it would have drawn my credit card out of my wallet. I swear it appears form the outside that the Olympus lens engineering group and the body engineering group don't talk to one another. The E-M5 was released a year ago January 2012, which means that this new release could have been the third weather sealed lens to go with the E-M5, along with the 12-50mm and the 60mm macro. It isn't the amount of money I object to spending, it's the value for money spent. The older 75-300mm just didn't have a high enough value for the asking price, while the Mark II just barely based on the printed specifications...
I will probably try out the Mark II when it arrives on local camera store shelves, but I will not pre-order one. I'll put it on my E-M5 body and see how it performs. If its IQ is reasonable, especially at 200mm and beyond, then I'll more than likely purchase a copy. If anything, all Olympus has done is convince me to give the Mark II a try, something I never did with the Mark I.
Update 2 February
Call me fickle. I went to my local camera shop, the one that has the Mark I in black. They pulled it out and handed it to me to look at, and I have to admit it was very well built and of very high physical quality. Every seam was tight, and with the barrel fully extended to 300mm there was no play in the inner barrel. I almost broke down and and purchased it right there except someone had left a scratch (a rather noticeable divot, actually) on the front element. I guess the universe really doesn't want me to own this lens.
last updated 2 feb 2013