Why Is This Newly Released Zoom With a Gargantuan Reach Causing a Stir?

Why Is This Newly Released Zoom With a Gargantuan Reach Causing a Stir?

Sometimes I am sent lenses to test, and I can’t wait to send them back. Others stay attached to my camera for as long as possible before they are returned. What I chose to do with this 150-600mm lens took me by utter surprise, and there is good reason why it is making a mark.

The Lens

It wasn’t just me that was surprised by the release of the new OM System M.Zuiko 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS. The company’s roadmap had hinted at two lenses with a shorter range, and lots of people, including me, anticipated the next release to be a 50-200mm f/2.8; the old Olympus Four Thirds DSLR lens in that range was a doozy. However, a couple of months back, when I was told what was going to be released, it took me a moment to consider whether I was pleased or disappointed. I reserved that judgment until I got to try it.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, living in a cave, or sitting at the top of a mountain for the last couple of years, you should know that OM System is a rapidly growing Micro Four Thirds system that inherited all the products from Olympus. Since then, it has been steadily adding to its range of cameras and lenses and concentrating on photographers who work in the great outdoors. So, this lens is already becoming a huge hit with wildlife photographers, and it is going to boost the steady migration of photographers moving over to the OM System.

Where Does the OM System 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 Fit Into The M.Zuiko Lineup?

There’s a temptation when reviewing a lens to compare it to others of the same category. Is it similar to, better, or worse than other lenses that fit that system? The most obvious comparison is the superb OM SYSTEM M. Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25 IS PRO Lens, which is a beautiful and hugely popular piece of professional-grade glass. Although that lens costs far less than close equivalents in quality from other systems, its price tag will still make some photographers’ eyes water. Although that pro lens has a slightly shorter reach than the new release – 500mm with the teleconverter activated – it is much faster at f/4.5 across its entire range and has internal focusing.

The other obvious comparator is the non-pro M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS. This is also a fabulous and more affordable non-professional piece of glass that I reviewed a few months ago. In style and features, the new lens is much closer to that but with more reach and faster at 400mm.

The Lens and Its Amazing Image Stabilization

The new M.Zuiko 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS has OM System’s unique image stabilisation (IS). Sync IS allows the lens’ IS to work in conjunction with the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) of the camera.

Sync IS gives 7 steps of IS at 150mm and 6 steps on the longest end. Without Sync IS, such as when mounted on another brand's Micro Four Thirds camera, the lens alone offers 6 steps of stabilization on the wide end and 5 steps on the long.

That huge amount of IS should prove invaluable because this new lens is now the longest telephoto zoom in the OM System stable. Remember that a 600mm lens has the same field of view as a 1,200mm lens on a 35mm sensor camera, effectively giving you twice the reach. Historically, that length would have been nearly impossible to handhold, but now it is perfectly feasible.

Furthermore, the new lens is compatible with OM System’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. So, in theory, you have the equivalent reach of up to 2,400mm.

The Changing Lens-Speed Paradigm

Of course, image stabilization is only half the story when it comes to getting sharp photos of wildlife. F/5.0 at 150mm to f/6.3 at 600mm brings both advantages and disadvantages. Sure, it’s not super-fast, although it is by no means slow when compared to some other similar lenses. The disadvantage of a slower lens is the inevitable higher ISOs needed to achieve fast shutter speeds to stop subject movement. However, I found that was easily offset by the better noise control of the newest OM System sensor and the fabulous noise reduction software that is available.

An advantage that is rarely mentioned is those smaller f-stops also mean there is a greater depth of field, making it easier to get the entire subject in focus. A larger aperture would also mean a bigger lens and, consequently, more cost.

Furthermore, the latest noise reduction software developments have revolutionized low-light photography, allowing for fabulous results with fast shutter speeds to be shot at higher ISOs than were previously dreamt of. Especially so, when a lens like this is partnered with the OM-1 or the OM-1 Mark II, which gives the added benefit of the stacked sensor.

Putting the Lens Through its Paces.

In my recent review of the OM-1 Mark II that you can read here, you'll see that I took the lens with me on my visit to Finland where I was shooting at temperatures as low as -30° C. It performed exceptionally well in all weathers. I was grateful for its IP-X1 weather sealing, especially when shooting in blizzards and carrying it, covered in snow, back into a warm house.

Much of the time there I was in the far north and the days were short. The sun was never very high in the sky and was mostly hidden by snow clouds. So, the light was low. Despite that, it was fast to focus on subjects and I came home with some very pleasing shots.

Since then, I have carried it on bird-spotting hikes and found it’s fast to focus, especially with the OM-1 Mark II and its newly improved subject detection algorithms.

There were features I particularly liked. The rotating foot collar is useful, although it would have been nice for that to have been indexed, like on the 150-400 which clicks into position on every quarter turn. The lens lock switch, which includes a friction control for the zoom, was invaluable. I would lock the barrel closed when I was walking, use it on the tighter setting when having the lens mounted on a tripod, and photographing distant shorebirds without disturbing them. Meanwhile, for birds in flight, the looser setting was far more helpful. Both the zoom and focus rings turn with ease and smoothness. There’s no unwelcome jolt when you start turning them.

Heavily cropped, shot at 600mm f/6.3, ISO 200. The curlew was approximately 55 yards from the camera.

On the lens barrel are pre-focus buttons that will lock your lens onto a preset distance. That, coupled with the focus limiter, really helps with achieving focus quickly.

Another switch on the camera is the image stabilizer. As I mentioned before, mounted on an OM System camera, this works together with in-body image stabilization, and the resulting performance is incredible.

Is It Easy to Use?

The size and weight of this lens are not typical of other MFT lenses. It’s not back-breaking, but at 2,065 g, it’s by no means a light lens to carry. It's also larger, especially when zoomed in. However, I found it was perfectly balanced on the tripod foot with the OM-1 Mark II attached, and I didn't find it arduous to carry on a long walk, especially when I attached a shoulder strap to it.

It focuses quickly and, with the camera's superb subject detection activated, it latched onto selected subjects and stayed there.

Eider shot at 400mm f/5.6 1/1600 approximately 20 yards from the camera.

Are Images Sharp?

This is a unique Micro Four Thirds lens. Featuring 21 elements in 15 groups, including 3 ED elements, 2 HR elements, and 2 Super HR elements, the images are crystal sharp. Amazingly, even shooting wide open, that applies throughout the focal length range with only a tiny softening at the long end that's detectable if pixel peeping. I’ve used other long zooms with a wide focal length range, and the image quality shots at the longest end of their range have been too soft to use. However, although there is a very slight difference at the longest focal lengths with this lens, it is negligible.

The lens is compatible with the OM System 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. It comes with a robust lens hood, front and rear lens covers, and a strap that attaches to the lens; when carrying a lens of this size, you don’t use the strap on the camera body.

I’ve used it for both wildlife and telephoto landscapes, and the results are sharp. Out of focus areas are pleasing, and I found no evidence of chromatic aberrations.

What I Liked and What Can Be Improved Next Time

What I Liked

  • Great image quality
  • Fast focusing
  • Outstanding IS when coupled with OM System IBIS
  • Robust build
  • Weather-sealing
  • Comes with a wide strap
  • Good quality accessories
  • Arca-Swiss style tripod foot
  • Minimal single-use plastic
  • Easily recycled box without glossy coverings
  • Ergonomically designed with everything in easy reach

What Could Be Improved Next Time

  • I would not have objected to a strong composite body to reduce weight
  • An indexed tripod collar would be a good change
  • Other additional features like IP53 weather sealing would be nice, but they are available in 150-400mm pro lens

It's realy important to keep your distance from birds so not to disturb their feeding. The 600mm reach allows you to do this, and there is plenty of scope for cropping. This was shot at ISO 400 1/640 f/9. The lens is going to be an attractive tool for bird watchers to catalog their finds.

In Conclusion

Historically, zoom lenses were never that great at their longest reach. However, right across the focal length range, this lens gives superb image quality. Any shortcomings it has are minimal, and one might wonder whether this would have hit the sales of the 150-400mm f/4.5 pro lens had they both arrived on the market at the same time. Saving several thousand dollars, this 150-600mm holds its own in many respects. The pro lens is better specced, but is it $4,000 better?

I suspect a lot of photography enthusiasts will buy the OM System M.Zuiko 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS instead with only the top pros buying the 150-400mm. I do own the pro lens and am very happy with it, but I would not have been disappointed with this one either.

I think the new lens with the additional 200mm of reach will also persuade people to upgrade from the OM System 100-400mm lens, which itself is a big step up from the OM System 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II Lens.

(The above shot is of Warkworth Castle, 1.6 miles away, shot at ISO2000, 600mm, 1/640, f/16. The right-hand image is cropped to show the detail.)

That reach at its longest end is something else and, other photographers who have tried it on my OM-1 Mark II were wowed by it. It's subsequently become a big talking point and that 1200mm equivalent reach has caused quite a stir among them. Yes, I agree that it is better to get closer to the subject than zooming, but why not do both?

I really enjoyed using it, and although I won't be swapping it for my big pro lens, I kept it attached to my camera for a long time.

When OM Digital Solutions launched, it did so with the promise of releasing high-quality products for the system's users. Like with its other new gear, with this lens, it has kept that promise.

Me, using the lens and the OM-1 Mark II in Finland. It was -20°C on this day.

You can order the OM System M.Zuiko 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS here in the US where it retails at $2,699.99.

In the UK it is available for £2,499.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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I'd be interested to see how it does in challenging situations where a tiny bird is flying towards the camera.

The below clip starts off at normal speed to show real time view. Then, 4x slow motion. Then, frame by frame. It's about 40 second long. Ridiculously amazing how the AF stuck to the eye.

Best viewed fullscreen at 4K:


Not an OM user but back in the film days was jealous of Olympus users. I am glad that OM users have this long range beast! I know they will love it the same as I a Sony user when I first got the Sigma 150-600mm then the Sony 200-600mm both with 1.4x and 2X teleconverters that where just as good as the lenses. For some help using that I just found is to use a monopod vs a tripod and one with feet on the bottom. Also use a gimbal on top. It will be easier on the go from spot to spot especially if on a slope. Adjustable up and down and using bench chair or portable chair you will be less tangled with adjusting three legs. Sitting and watching a nest for coming and goings or the hatching of eggs or seeing a flyer and locking on is faster. A hint get a heavy duty binocular harness and attach to the lens so it lays down on your chest while walking about, you will be fast on the draw with rested hands and arms and camera and lens will not be in your bag. Also out of harm's way if under a photo vest or jacket.
Think also of Lunar shots like eclipses but stay at 600mm for you get stars also. Most will also want to Solar eclipses that are not the same as Lunar stay around 200-300 also for some stars, remember you can always crop, for solar I use the 24-240mm for the area capture as well as the diamond ring capture being so big of light you will want to pull back some for all the color and stars. Solars are only minutes but Lunars are hours and in the cold sometimes. Just saying and giving a reality check for your runaway imagination once in your hands, happens to everyone!
1st at 600mm + 2x from FF to APS-C 1800mm to fill frame but if not available just crop.
2nd easier to track a 600mm
3rd birds at 100+ yards using 2X and APS-C
4th pull back for flyers coming out of tree with nesting material.
A lot to figure before using hope the imagination stays under control, wish I had help when I got mine.

Good review. I would like to see a shoot-out between OM1 with this lens vs Canon R7 200-800mm. Similar size, weight, cost and reach.

I’d say it’s causing a stir for being $1200 more expensive (nearly twice) as the lens it’s a re-housed variation of. It was icky when Nikon slapped a ~$500 upcharge on the white-labelled Tamron lenses it released the last year or two, but this type of gouging is next level. At least when Oly white-labelled Sigma’s 100-400mm the last group of lens elements were altered, so one could make an argument that some additional costs were incurred, but $1200? Yikes. I’ve used the 150-600mm and it is nice for a $1500 lens, but I wouldn’t relish paying $2700 for it.

What other option do you have for 600mm with SYNC IS, full WR and AF compatibility in M43? They are in such high demand I have to wait behind all the other pre-orders to get my copy.

Nikon didn’t do a $500 up charge on the rebadged Tamrons. They did a $50-400 upcharge ($50 on the 70-180, $300 on the 17-28 and $400 on the 28-75). The latter two are marked up way too much, but none are $500.

If this is just an adapted full frame lens then it really is a rip off. Especially with the huge mark-up. At least for us pixel peepers. Id assume without any proper knowledge, every glass element would need to be changed to be considered a m4/3 lens.

What till Christmas and price will be discounted, or wait and pick up a used one. Yes it my understanding it is the full frame body. Internally I believe there are differences, one important one is the IS sync with the body. No doubt a big lens priced similar to the 300 F4. In a perfect world we could all own the Olympus 150-400 Pro. I don’t live in a perfect world. For me the 100-400 and 300 F4 meet my needs. The 150-600 is just too big for me to hike with so I will pass. But for someone that shoots primarily from blinds or doesn’t hike this could be a great lens. Time will tell

Ivor, any truth in the comments saying this is 'just' a re-badged lens? Your comments?

Hi Chris, thanks for the question and I'll explain why I decided to ignore the topic in the article.

It's what's been floating around on the internet. Although there are some differences, the basic design appears to be based on a Sigma lens. It is not unusual for other manufacturers to ask Sigma to make lenses for them, and it makes sense not to completely reinvent the wheel, so to keep the development costs down.

This is a lens that is configured for the Micro Four Thirds format. Furthermore, the Sigma does not have Sync IS, a huge advantage of this lens. So it's not a simple rebrand, it's much more than that.

If they are identical, the Sigma, although sharp in the middle, is very soft around the edges of the frame, and this version would seem to crop that softness away.

My answer to that question is that it is not a simple rebrand. There is much more to changing a lens from being configured from a 35mm sensor to Micro Four Thirds, and especially the OM System, than that.

The reason I ignored it was: does it matter? It's a lens with a huge reach, and if it shares components with another lens that fits a 35mm camera, so what?

The feedback I get from those buying it is the same as mine: it is a fabulous lens.