OM System 100 400mm lens review

April 12,2024

Digital Photography

OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS: Should you buy it? 

Ultimately, it depends on how you shoot photos. The OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS is certainly a competent lens and it offers a unique telephoto zoom option that combines the benefits of portability and a useful close focus capability. 

The Micro Four Thirds format's smaller sensor has some advantages when working with long telephotos. Notably, it allows manufacturers to produce relatively small, light, and more affordable optics that still deliver remarkable reach. The 2x crop factor effectively doubles a lens's focal length. A 100-400mm zoom in this format behaves like a 200-800mm zoom on a full-frame camera, yet it will often come at a fraction of the cost and size. 

So, if you already own an OM System/Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, need a long telephoto zoom, and want to save on cost and weight, the 100-400mm could be a good option. But if you're open to other options, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph Power OIS would make a great alternative. Its higher price tag may be worth it to many photographers thanks to a brighter maximum aperture and its overall lighter design. 

OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS: Ideal users 

This lens has a particular appeal to specific types of photographers. Here are a few ideal users: 

Wildlife photographers: The long reach, close focus capability, and portability make it a good option for photographing smaller wildlife subjects such as birds in your garden. However, this lens's slower maximum aperture (especially at longer focal lengths) can make it challenging to capture fast-moving wildlife, particularly in low-light environments which are common in many wildlife scenarios. 

Travel photographers: This lens's compact size (relative to other telephoto options) and weather-resistant design make it well-suited for those looking for a long-reach option while packing light. It will certainly offer more flexibility than a shorter prime, giving you flexibility as your photographic opportunities reveal themselves. 

Budget-conscious enthusiasts: If you want the extra reach of a telephoto zoom, don't own any of OM System's pro line of telephoto lenses, and have limited funds, the 100-400mm offers a more affordable entry point. 

OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS: Users to avoid 

This lens won't be a good fit for everyone. Here are a few situations where you may want to look for a different lens: 

Sports and action photographers: Unless you are consistently shooting sports or action subjects in excellent lighting conditions, the maximum aperture of this lens will likely become a limiting factor. Its AF system will struggle to keep up with quick changes in subject distances, while high ISO settings will likely be needed to maintain fast shutter speeds and freeze the action. In this circumstance, a lens like OM System's M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO R with its wide constant aperture would be a better choice. 

Frequent low-light shooters: If you find yourself commonly shooting in difficult lighting conditions with a need for the telephoto reach, you'll likely be disappointed with this lens. While its IS system works fairly well, the slow aperture will almost certainly require you to increase ISO to undesirable levels. This will likely introduce excessive noise into a capture, diminishing image quality. 

Videographers: While this lens will work for basic video capture, videographers will want to use a faster telephoto with a constant aperture for more consistent exposures throughout the zoom range. Additionally, while this lens does have IS, it doesn't work in conjunction with most OM System camera bodies' IBIS systems for optimal stabilization, which could lead to more jittery footage than a similar lens designed for full-frame mirrorless or DSLR systems. 

OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS: Using the M.Zuiko with other brands 

The portability and reach of the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS might leave some photographers wondering about its adaptability to cameras from other manufacturers. Since the lens is designed for Micro Four Thirds (MFT), the answer depends on the system you're looking to use it with. 

Other Micro Four Thirds cameras: The lens can readily be used with other Micro Four Thirds cameras without issue. The lens mount's compatibility spans brands like Panasonic, Leica, and Sharp, all of which make MFT cameras and lenses. You'll have full functionality across different camera bodies, including autofocus and image stabilization, although in some instances performance may vary slightly across brands. 

Full-frame cameras: To use this lens on a full-frame camera, you'd require a Micro Four Thirds to full-frame adapter. Popular, well-known manufacturers include Metabones and FotodioX. While autofocus will function when paired with some adapters, speeds will be slower than on a native MFT body. Also, the smaller MFT image circle will result in significant vignetting unless you crop the image significantly, effectively turning that full-frame sensor back into a smaller cropped-sensor. This will further diminish the lens's reach as you crop in-camera or during post-processing. 

Adapting this specific lens to a full-frame camera is less than ideal. If you own both a full-frame body and a Micro Four Thirds body, it's far better to consider a long telephoto lens designed specifically for the full-frame format. 

Understanding the crop factor 

One of the main differences when it comes to lenses on different camera formats is the concept of crop factor. If you're a full-frame shooter moving to Micro Four Thirds, or are simply trying to wrap your head around how a lens behaves across formats, here's a quick primer: 

The Micro Four Thirds format has a 2x crop factor. This means the sensor is half the size of a full-frame sensor. Any lens you use on an MFT camera will deliver a field of view equivalent to double the focal length printed on the lens. 

For example, the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS on an MFT camera provides the same field of view you'd get from a 200-800mm f/5-6.3 lens on a full-frame camera. This "doubling" effect is a core advantage of MFT: it lets you use smaller, lighter, and often less expensive lenses to get the same reach as larger full-frame systems. 

OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS : Final Thoughts 

Ultimately the decision of whether to buy the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS rests on identifying your individual needs, shooting style, and budget. 

It may not be the fastest or the sharpest ultra-telephoto lens available, but it certainly strikes a balance of performance, portability and affordability for the Micro Four Thirds system. If you're an MFT photographer wanting affordable, long-range telephoto capabilities in a compact package, this lens is worth serious consideration. Also, its compatibility with the OM System MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters adds extra versatility, pushing your telephoto reach even further. 

Image samples 

Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to judging a lens's image quality and character. OM System and Olympus have shared several image samples shot using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS and other cameras. You can find these on their Flickr page: [invalid URL removed]. You can sort the images by various lenses in the "Albums" section to find samples captured with the 100-400mm specifically. 

Here's a quick analysis of the qualities you'll find across many of these samples: 

Sharpness: Overall, the lens delivers pleasing sharpness, especially in the center of the frame. As is common with telephotos, sharpness does diminish slightly as you move toward the corners of the frame and when shooting at the longer focal lengths. Stopping down a stop or two generally improves overall sharpness. 

Background blur (Bokeh): While not known for producing creamy bokeh like some portrait or wider-aperture lenses, the 100-400mm produces relatively smooth and pleasing background blur. The circular aperture blades help render out-of-focus highlights as round rather than polygonal shapes, which contributes to a smoother, less distracting background blur. 

Color and contrast: Color rendition remains vibrant and true to life, while contrast is generally good. As with many modern lenses, the M.Zuiko benefits from in-camera (and post-processing) correction profiles that address various optical imperfections, contributing to more accurate color and reduced distortion. 

Flare and chromatic aberration: OM System/Olympus's ZERO coating does a relatively good job at suppressing lens flare when shooting in harsh lighting situations, however, it's not perfect. When shooting bright subjects against a darker background, or including bright light sources in the frame, some flaring and ghosting can still appear. Chromatic aberration (color fringing) seems quite well-controlled in most instances. 

OM System 100 400mm

Tips for getting the most from the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS 

Embrace bright light: Like most lenses, this one performs at its best in good light. If you are shooting in dim or challenging lighting conditions, be prepared to push the ISO to obtain faster shutter speeds and mitigate motion blur. 

Use steady support: Due to the long focal length, good technique is critical. Utilize a sturdy tripod for maximum stability, ideally with an easily adjustable tripod head. Even with IS engaged, taking steps to mitigate your own movements (breathing, holding the camera/lens steady) will help maximize sharpness. 

Know your subject's behavior: If photographing wildlife that moves rapidly or unpredictably, switch to continuous AF modes, and engage sequential shooting (burst mode) to help ensure you freeze the perfect moment. 

Experiment with the teleconverters: If you need the extra reach, try using the MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters. Expect images taken with the MC-20 to have significantly less resolvable detail due to the limitations imposed by the extreme focal length and smaller aperture, but for certain casual uses (like capturing the moon!), it can still be a fun creative tool. 

Post process with care: While the lens itself handles distortion and chromatic aberration fairly well, you'll still want to utilize lens correction profiles in your image editing software to get the most out of your RAW image files

Alternatives to the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS 

It's always prudent to consider alternatives before committing to any lens purchase. Here are a few other lenses worth evaluating, depending on your needs and budget. 

Micro Four Thirds Options: 

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph Power OIS: This is the OM System lens's most direct competitor. It provides a slightly faster maximum aperture (especially at shorter focal lengths), has better usability features, comes in a significantly smaller and lighter package, and sells for less. However, it's not compatible with teleconverters like its OM System counterpart is. 

OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO R: If the reach is less important to you, and speed is a priority, this professional-grade zoom is a fantastic option. Its constant f/2.8 aperture delivers better low-light performance and the ability to create shallower depth of field, especially at the shorter focal lengths. 

OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro: If you need excellent reach in a smaller package but don't require the flexibility of a zoom, this prime (fixed focal length) telephoto is extremely sharp, has a bright f/4 aperture, and also works with OM System teleconverters for even greater reach. 

Adapting from other systems: 

While adapting a full-frame telephoto to Micro Four Thirds is possible, it's not recommended for the reasons mentioned previously (vignetting, poor AF performance). Stick with lenses designed specifically for the MFT format for the best results. 

Should I upgrade from my existing lens? 

If you already own one of OM System or Panasonic's other telephoto zooms, it's a tougher decision. Here are some questions to help you decide if it's worth upgrading to the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS: 

Do you need more reach? If you find yourself consistently wishing for longer reach than your current lens provides, the upgrade could certainly be justifiable. 

Do you need better portability? If smaller size and weight are high on your priority list for a telephoto lens, the 100-400mm makes a good case as a more compact option. Consider whether the loss in maximum aperture is an acceptable trade-off. 

Is close-focus ability important to you? This is one of the areas where this lens excels – few, if any, similar telephoto options offer such useful close focus capability. 

Are teleconverters important? If you foresee yourself needing even more reach than the 400mm equivalent, the compatibility with the MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters adds another compelling dimension. 

Budget Considerations 

The price of a lens is often the deciding factor for many photographers. If affordability is a major driver in your decision, there are strategies to consider: 

Look at used options: Buying a used OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS in good condition will save money compared to buying new. Always purchase from reputable online retailers or local camera shops to ensure quality and recourse in case of issues. 

Consider alternatives: If the price tag on this lens stretches your means, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph Power OIS offers comparable features and performance in a slightly smaller package for a lesser price. 


The OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS is a competent telephoto zoom lens offering a unique combination of portability, reach, and close-focusing capability within the Micro Four Thirds system. It performs best in good light and when properly supported. The ability to use teleconverters for additional reach makes the lens that much more versatile for some photographers. 

While not perfectly suited to all photographers and shooting scenarios, it strikes a compelling balance between performance, affordability, and size. This makes it a worthwhile option for photographers looking to extend their telephoto capabilities without breaking the bank or breaking their backs carrying hefty gear. 


Capable optics that deliver good sharpness, color, and contrast. 

Weather-sealed, robust construction. 

Convenient close-focus capability for interesting subject compositions. 

Compatibility with OM System/Olympus teleconverters, offering extreme telephoto flexibility. 

Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount allows direct connection to many tripod heads. 


Slower maximum aperture that necessitates higher ISOs in some lighting conditions. 

Larger and heavier design compared to its direct competitor, the Panasonic 100-400mm, making it feel a bit front-heavy on smaller bodies. 

Autofocus system and image stabilization are not best-in-class, which could lead to missed shots when capturing fast-paced action or shooting in very low light. 

Should you buy the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS? 

The decision of whether or not to add this lens to your arsenal boils down to a few key factors: 

Your budget: If you have a limited budget for telephoto options, this lens strikes a good balance of cost and performance. 

Your shooting habits: If you shoot predominantly in good light outdoors, and don't specialize in sports/action photography where fast, reliable AF is imperative, then the lens will likely work well for you. 

Your priorities: If you value a lightweight telephoto setup, have a need for close-focusing ability, and will utilize the teleconverters, then this lens makes a strong case for itself. 

Ultimately, the best way to decide if this lens suits you is to try it before you buy it. Head to a local camera shop and request to try the lens mounted on a representative camera body. Alternatively, reputable online retailers often offer rental options allowing you to field-test lenses for a reasonable fee. 

If, after trying the lens or conducting thorough research, you determine that the OM System/Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/-5.6.3 IS is a good fit for your specific photographic needs, it could prove a valuable tool for capturing a diverse array of subjects – from nature and sports to even occasional macro photography. 


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