The Cheap Little Telephoto That Could: A Bargain Basement 600mm for the OM-1 Mark II

600mm Olympus 75-300mm II lens and a Great Blue Heron image it captured

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded from the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II to the OM System OM-1 Mark II. One of the reasons was for the OM-1 Mark II’s greatly enhanced wildlife tracking functions.

The first few times I took the new camera out for a spin I used my Olympus PRO telephotos. Then a few days ago when I was rummaging around in my lenses drawer, I came upon an 11-year-old Olympus 75-300 f/4.8-6.7 II that I graduated away from years ago. It’s the 35mm equivalent of 600mm.

I wondered how it would perform on the OM-1 and I was also curious to see how it measured up to the current crop of wildly expensive 600mm telephotos. The 600mm market niche is a really big deal right now. Every brand has one or more versions currently for sale. And think about some of the prices; Olympus/OM System’s PRO is $2,799; Sigma’s latest for 600mm Canon is $1,699; Nikon’s is $4,796; Canon’s own is $12,999; Sony’s is $12,998; Tamrom’s $1,399.

Meanwhile, the lowly, Olympus 75-300 f/4.8 II retails for $450. It’s shockingly small — only 4 3/4 inches long unextended for focus; its lens diameter is 2 1/4 inches. Overall, it doesn’t seem something you’d expect a lot from.

But, I put it on the OM-1 and headed out for the nearby Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Galloway, NJ. There, I was as blown away by the OM-1’s truly remarkable ProCapture and Bird Tracking system as I was by the cheapo 75-300’s performance. It seemed that the camera’s 8.5 stops of stabilization eliminated the disadvantages of the lens’ 4.8 maximum aperture. Its images seemed to benefit from the OM-1’s improved resolution as well. And its response with the OM-1’s ProCapture and bird tracking functions was simply perfect.

These images were some of the shots I took. I know many high-end equipment purists will scoff and note that when you magnify the 75-300 images against those of the Olympus 40-150mm or 150-400mm telephotos the differences can readily be seen. I respond that the 75-300 images seen at normal viewing range on a screen simply look great and, if you can’t afford a wildly expensive longer lens (because you’ve blown your wad on the $2,300 OM-1 camera body), they are more than you would have ever dreamed of achieving with a cheapo $450 600mm lens.

The OM-1 Mark II with the Olympus 75-300mm lens attached.