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Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)

  
 
AlanD
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


“Big Tuna” 300mm f/2.8 SHG
“Great White” 150-400/4.5 1.25x PRO

Summary: The 300/2.8 SHG beats the 150-400/4.5 at image quality except the SHG has more chromatic aberration in the out-of-focus areas and is disproportionately heavy and slower to focus. The 300/2.8 SHG’s chromatic aberration can be improved in Lightroom so I don’t know if that just means that the 150-400 has a better lens profile. You will get more successful shots with the 150-400/4.5 takes to weight and AF but any shots you do get with the 300/2.8 are better. This is a combination of center sharpness, bokeh, as well as any advantages you get from faster shutter speeds or lower ISO.

Build
I have owned Canon EF 200/1.8L and Nikon Ai-S 200/2 as well Canon FL-F 300/2.8 Fluorite SSC and the Canon FD 800/5.6L. On top of that I have had APO telescopes from Astro-Physics, TEC, and Takahashi.

In terms of pure build quality, the SHG 300/2.8 beats them all. The focus by wire nature of the SHG is a wild card for long term viability but just in general, the 300mm SHG precision of everything is subjectively better. The drop in filter mechanism for the 300mm has less play than those in my Canon and Nikon systems. The hood fits very securely and straddles between being too tight and just right. It feels just a tiny bit too tight even at its age. The FujiFilm XF200/2 has exceptional build quality too, but the pearlescent paint finish seems like it will be more fragile.

Early marketing information for the Zuiko ED 300mm 2.8 noted that the front element is polished to nanometer level precision with deviations being less than a human hair if scaled up to the size of the Tokyo Dome. Since everything is spherical, you theoretically should be able to get λ/10 to λ/20 wave surface P-V with automated polishing. Without manual focus, it will be hard to get it on an interferometer to actually test it. The number of hours on the automated polisher just get higher and higher with precision.

For comparison, the Leica M historical standard is λ/4 only. (https://www.overgaard.dk/pdf/Leica-M-Lenses-Their-Soul-and-Secrets_en.pdf).

What is also important beyond automated polishing is the alignment of the lens elements and lens figure. Given how sharp my copy of the 300/2.8 is, I expect that most of the weight in the 300/2.8 can be attributed to the mechanical design to maintain the proper alignment and centering of the lens elements. This component of the build is why some lenses have wider or narrower tolerances.

Lens figure can be understood as the smoothness of the polish in relation to the target curve. Imagine if I had a curved lens and I polished it until it was a flat piece of glass. You can have a smooth surface with minimal disturbances but it wouldn’t reproduce the actual bending of light that is needed.

Optics
The 150-400 and 300/2.8 are/were “Made to Order” products in Japan. I have read that there are only three opticians certified to assemble the 150-400. I don’t know what the numbers are for the 300/2.8 but reports of 2 year wait lists were described in archived forums. The laws of physics indicate that clear aperture is a critical factor in maximum resolution. The 150-400 has a front element that is ~86mm while the 300/2.8 is ~105mm based upon the patents. So, the 300/2.8 should deliver more resolution than the 150-400/4.5 even though the angle of view is wider.

https://www.cloudynights.com/documents/Understanding%20Resolution.pdf

In addition to theoretical resolution delivered by the front aperture, you have diffraction related to the f/ratio and size of the Airy disc. A f/4.5 lens has an airy disc of 6 microns, which is larger than pixels of the OM-1. The f2.8 lens will have an Airy disc of 3.9 microns.

By the math, the SHG should deliver superior resolution. It does both in the center and the edges in my early impression for static subjects.

The 150-400/4.5 is sharper than even a Nikon Z100-400 on a Z9 (https://www.oxbowphoto.com/articles/micro-four-thirds-vs-full-frame-which-gives-you-more-telephoto-reach) so to say the 300/2.8 is even sharper says something.

There is a more chromatic aberration on the 300/2.8 under high contrast backlight out of focus scenes (green/purple) fringing which is pretty easily corrected with Lightroom. There is minimal to no CA when in focus.

The added light from the 300/2.8 allows faster shutter speeds and/or lower ISOs so you also gain image quality from there.

Autofocus is slow and loud relative to the 150-400/4.5 which is considered to be one of Olympus’s fastest focusing lenses. I was able to track a distant Boeing 787 with ease in the 300/2.8 and I found the OM-1 single point focus precision to be exceptionally good with both lenses. On the other hand, tracking objects coming toward the camera was worse on the 300/2.8 compared to the 150-400/4.5.

I would generally say that an EM1X with C-AF+TR and the 150-400/4.5 is the speed of the OM-1 in C-AF with AI with the 300/2.8. I only get about 10-15% keeper rate with the E-M1X and 150-400 although I know more experienced have had better success.

Handling
Everything about the 300/2.8 is awkward. The hood straddles between just right and too tight whereas the 150-400 is just right. To mount the hood on the 300/2.8 requires careful alignment. You cannot just slide it on.

The lens is heavy and then front heavy. You need a long lens plate to have proper balance and handholding the lens is really tough. In contrast, the 150-400/4.5 allows me to handhold to 1000mm with a 1.25 and 2x stack of the teleconverters.

Final Thoughts.
The 150-400/4.5 is a $7500 lens where you are paying $1500 for IP53 certification, lightweight design, and go anywhere capability. The replacement lens hood is $750 after all. There are better lenses out there, but none with the flexibility or weight savings. The trade off of the zoom isn’t image quality — it’s cost.

The 300/2.8 is a $11,000 lens that when adjusted for inflation is 2003 dollars. The E-1 from 2003 would be $2800 accounting for inflation. This, it’s pretty clear that the SHG 300/2.8 reflects a higher tier product than 150-400/4.5. But unlike the 150-400 where a premium is paid for lightweighting, the 300/2.8 incurs a penalty for its weight and slow AF. I cannot emphasize enough how heavy the 300/2.8 SHG is. 7.2 lbs all biased to the front. The Sony and Canon RF 600/4 are lighter. It’s pretty much the same weight as the RF 1200/8.



May 10, 2022 at 12:20 PM
Chuck Eklund
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Very interesting. Thank you doing this. The 150-400 is possible for me and you gave me some new insights.


May 10, 2022 at 02:20 PM
MEDISN
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Alan,
Agree on all fronts. Summed it up nicely. My 300/2.8 is nearly 20 years young and shows no signs of stopping. Amazing considering it is used mostly in and around salt water. If the AF motor dies on me, I'll just have to perfect my manual focus technique.

The 150-400 is a brilliant zoom. I recently wrote up my impressions here so I won't repeat:
https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4645555


They each have their uses, and I do use them differently. At 300mm I don't see a difference in sharpness but the way the SHG renders at f/2.8 is sublime. There's an intangible quality I just can't seem to replicate with M43 lenses. That's not a complaint, just an observation. M43 lenses are more practical in every way. As a sometimes Leica shooter, who the h3ll needs practicality anyway



May 10, 2022 at 06:24 PM
whumber
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


MEDISN wrote:
If the AF motor dies on me, I'll just have to perfect my manual focus technique.


Does the 300 2.8 focus without power to the AF motors? That was always my concern with the 200 f/1.8 on the Canon side. If the AF motors die you're left with a fixed focus lens.



May 10, 2022 at 06:28 PM
MEDISN
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


whumber wrote:
Does the 300 2.8 focus without power to the AF motors? That was always my concern with the 200 f/1.8 on the Canon side. If the AF motors die you're left with a fixed focus lens.


Hmmmmm good question. Would I press and hold the lens release button then try and manual focus to find out?



May 10, 2022 at 09:43 PM
AlanD
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)




whumber wrote:
Does the 300 2.8 focus without power to the AF motors? That was always my concern with the 200 f/1.8 on the Canon side. If the AF motors die you're left with a fixed focus lens.


It is focus by wire sadly. That said, I haven’t heard of failing 300/2.8 SHG motors yet.

That said, OMDS acknowledges the existence of classic Four Thirds lenses which is promising.

https://olye.fotografierer.com/olye/download/tools/replistfebr2021.pdf



May 11, 2022 at 12:07 AM
AlanD
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


I will add the following comment now that I've done some more comparisons.

Don't get the 300mm f/2.8 SHG since it will only create frustration. Stay ignorant. I say this sarcastically because the more I compare head-to-head the 300/2.8 to the 150-400/4.5, the more areas I can identify the superior image quality of the 300mm f/2.8 SHG. It makes sense since I point out that the SHG was $11K retail adjusted for inflation, you're dealing with a prime not a zoom, and the SHG was overbuilt for image quality such that it is as heavy as a full frame 1200mm f/8 lens from Canon and heavier than the current 600/4's. (Even more impressive knowing it was built in the 5 megapixel era!)

The f/2.8 really allows you to keep ISOs lower and the image quality is better for distant objects. It seems to punch through the atmospheric distortion which really suggests that the wavefront error is super small and the cumulative wavefront error is small.

The reason it gets frustrating is that the focus isn't as good as the 150-400/4.5 and the weight isn't as nice as the 150-400/4.5.

Whereas the 300/4 PRO and 150-400/4.5 PRO is an easy comparison (the f/4 to f/4.5 change is minimal in contrast to the sharpness jump/AF focus). The 300/4 has much worse bokeh than the 150-400/4.5. Essentially, the 300/4PRO is the best "value" while the 150-400/4.5 PRO gives you the best performance if you can get it/afford the luxury.

The 300/2.8 SHG is the image quality I want, but I want it with the weight of the 150-400/4.5 and focus of the 150-400/4.5. Sadly, I don't think that's in the cards. If the 2022 300mm f/2.8 SHG Version II has to keep the same image quality, it'll likely be $11k and it'll be hard to cut down the weight.



May 11, 2022 at 12:26 PM
 


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Bobby V
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


AlanD wrote:
I will add the following comment now that I've done some more comparisons.

Don't get the 300mm f/2.8 SHG since it will only create frustration. Stay ignorant. I say this sarcastically because the more I compare head-to-head the 300/2.8 to the 150-400/4.5, the more areas I can identify the superior image quality of the 300mm f/2.8 SHG. It makes sense since I point out that the SHG was $11K retail adjusted for inflation, you're dealing with a prime not a zoom, and the SHG was overbuilt for image quality such that it is as heavy as a full frame 1200mm f/8
...Show more

Thank you for sharing your findings on this. Your comparisons remind me somewhat of my experiences with the Fuji 200/2 and Oly 150-400/4. While in my experience the 150-400 is an outstanding zoom lens that performs throughout the range (and excellent sharpness across the frame), it still can't match exotic primes if you can deal with the loss of versatility.

The Fuji is a different beast with respect to FOV but I would bet similar in terms of DOF rendition and optical quality as that SHG lens offers. The Fuji is still a relatively hefty 5 lb, and I consider 7 pound is quite beastly without support (been there done that). Then of course there are times where the single focal length feels quite limiting, in my case I notice it most when I zoom during a shot sequence I.e., bird or mammal coming towards or away, or I can't move for some reason (i.e. stuck in a boat or in a car).

Clearly some compromises are made to support such a huge range of focal lengths, even the venerable Nikkor 180-400/4 has some of these weaknesses. There is also something special about the images coming from a high-quality prime that I can't always put my finger on, that makes me want to shoot primes all the time. Nature of the beast I guess!




May 12, 2022 at 11:02 AM
Lleuallen
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


I have the 150 f2.0, "Little Tuna". Would the same comments apply? It is a beast to hold so I can imagine what the 300 f2.8 would be like.


May 12, 2022 at 04:09 PM
AlanD
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Bobby V wrote:
The Fuji is a different beast with respect to FOV but I would bet similar in terms of DOF rendition and optical quality as that SHG lens offers. The Fuji is still a relatively hefty 5 lb, and I consider 7 pound is quite beastly without support (been there done that). Then of course there are times where the single focal length feels quite limiting, in my case I notice it most when I zoom during a shot sequence I.e., bird or mammal coming towards or away, or I can't move for some reason (i.e. stuck in a boat
...Show more

The Fuji is heavy but since it is stout, it feels much more balanced than the Olympus 300 SHG because the Olympus is all front heavy whereas the Fuji just feels heavy.

Along with the GF250/4, one of the common threads of these made to order lenses are

1) all spherical elements. Aspherical elements are better (for correcting spherical aberration of course!) but the problem is that the very best aspherical grinding/polishing cannot match the very best spherical grinding/polishing. More important than polish is “optical figure.” If you have a curved glass surface with peaks and valleys of 30 nm, it’s not as smoothly polished as a curved glass surface that is polished to 10 nm. But what if you polished the curved surface into a flat surface where the roughness was 5 nm? There is no onion skinning or roughness but your actual optical performance is compromised.

If you look at telescopes which have 10+ year wait lists, shifting from needing aspherical to just using spherical elements is very helpful. But again the alignment and collimation of those elements is just as critical and this is where I think the made to order performance comes in. You can see head to head comparisons between movie and cinema versions of the same lens having different sharpness characteristics, again due to the precision.

2) vague descriptions of above-average-polishing
Even though automated polishing is very good, the is an exponential curve to the number of hours on a polisher to achieve the target surface. If you look at λ/4 Vs λ/8 spheres you can see difference in pricing between standard and high polished spherical mirrors.

https://www.edmundoptics.com/f/lambda4-precision-spherical-mirrors/12013/

https://www.edmundoptics.com/f/lambda8-precision-spherical-mirrors/11891/

Leica standard is 1/4 wave but Astro Physics is 1/10 wave
https://youtu.be/QX91KAAgFew

There are definitely more Noctilux’s in production than SHG lenses or the XF 200/2. In contrast, the Cine lenses from Leica aren’t simply priced at a higher point for marketing reasons.

I would say that the XF200 is likely to better than 300/2.8 optically from the standpoint that it has better chromatic aberration control from newer glass technologies and has the same kind of super resolution capabilities. When the new 40MP APS-C sensors come out, it’s going to be a really interesting question to see how well the Fuji punches above it’s weight.

The FD 800/5.6L has obvious purple fringing in high contrast areas with 3.76 Micron sensors but it is sharper than the EF 800/5.6 L IS and pretty darn impressive in terms of sharpness. My standardized test pattern is to shoot the serial number on my neighbor’s solar panel

3) “Built to order” low volume production.

—-
The SHG zooms are supposed to be inferior to the PRO lenses, but I think some of this is the contrast enhancement you get from better coatings and glass types to control CA. I think the actual resolution and microcontrast is better on SHG but compromised by glass technologies. In practice, I suspect the SHGs have a smoother look because of better microcontrast compared to the newer designs with more global contrast.

Olympus was famous for having really impressive lenses. The Zuiko 180/2 and 250/2 for manual focus are truly legends. As I understand, the OM manual focus system had a very transient Af transitions but Olympus never really entered interchangeable AF SLRs in the film era and just jumped to Four Thirds.

As for the 150/2, that wasn’t made to order, but it was a high priced lens that should be very impressive as well.



May 13, 2022 at 11:15 AM
Robin Smith
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Why would cine lenses need better performance than equivalent lenses for stills? I'm not looking at 60 or 100 MP movies. Even if movies are shot with very high resolution, 8K video is still uncommon. I don't follow this argument. Aren't the cine lenses meant to have accurate and consistent T stops one to another in the range and have better focusing helicals? The argument about optical mirrors and astronomical perfection I can see.


May 13, 2022 at 01:56 PM
MEDISN
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Lleuallen wrote:
I have the 150 f2.0, "Little Tuna". Would the same comments apply? It is a beast to hold so I can imagine what the 300 f2.8 would be like.


Yes but with worse AF performance! 🤣

When I first bought the m43 40-150/2.8 PRO, I tested against little tuna. Even wide open (f/2) it had more detail than the m43 zoom at 150. The rendering of the SHG is miles ahead even at f/2.8. Worse CA though. The 40-150/2.8 lens is my most used year after year but if I could make it render like little tuna I would never take it off!



May 13, 2022 at 03:16 PM
AlanD
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)




Robin Smith wrote:
Why would cine lenses need better performance than equivalent lenses for stills?


It’s not clear. I suspect part of it is the Ferrari mindset. Since these lenses can be a $100k, presumably the concept of being future proof against 6 and 8k can help or for bragging rights.
What is interesting is that while 1080p shows no difference between CN-E and EF glass, 4K does.



May 13, 2022 at 05:02 PM
Bytesmiths
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Big Tuna vs. Great White : 300mm/2.8 vs 150-400/4.5 (sorry no images)


Thanks for the excellent information!

I've just put $500 down on a ZD 300/2.8 that I'm picking up later this month. It looks like a good deal, with perfect optics and just a few scratches near the mount.

My only experience with glass this big is the ZD 150/2, which is possibly the sharpest lens I've ever used, and the old OM Zuiko 350/2.8 — which gives the 150/2 a decent run for the money, but which has a lot more CA.

Do you have any insight as to how either of these might compare with the 300/2.8?

[EDIT: I see where you responded about the 150; still curious about the 350…]

Also, I don't do Adobe products. Can you describe (or point me to) the generic process of getting rid of green/purple CA that would work with other image editors?



Jun 06, 2022 at 02:09 PM







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