Olympus goes long with new telephoto

New 70-300mm lens, due in September, also will work on Panasonic and Leica SLRs.

Olympus announced a $400 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens Tuesday for digital SLR camera owners who like to do more than just squint at distant wildlife.

Olympus' 70-300mm zoom lens will ship in September.
Olympus' 70-300mm zoom lens will ship in September. Olympus

Because of the properties of the Four Thirds system lens mount and image sensor Olympus helped develop, the lens behaves somewhat like a 140-600mm lens on a traditional film SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. It also means the lens will work on SLRs from Panasonic and Leica, which build Four Thirds cameras.

The Zuiko ED 70-300mm supertelephoto lens, whose aperture ranges from F/4.0 to F/5.6, will be available in September, Olympus said. The company's digital SLR lenses have a built-in processor as well as accompanying firmware that communicates with the camera's processor to help compensate for lens problems such as vignetting, in which the corners of an image are darker than the center, or barrel and pincushion distortion, in which parallel lines bow outward and inward, respectively.

The lens uses three extra-low dispersion glass elements to minimize chromatic aberration problems resulting from different colors traveling through the lens optics on different paths.

Unlike SLR leaders Nikon and Canon, Olympus builds image stabilization technology into its camera bodies as a way to compensate for camera shake. That means it doesn't need to be built into each lens, but Canon and Nikon argue that lens-based image stabilization works better, particularly on telephoto lenses.