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Olympus takes its pro lenses out to 300mm at CES 2016 with some neat tech

Its 300mm f4 IS Pro sounds great for birders and sports photographers who shoot Micro Four Thirds.

To emphasize the lens' weather resistance, Olympus offers this shot of it gently covered with morning dew.

This story is part of CES 2016. Our editors bring you complete CES 2016 coverage and scour the showroom floor for the hottest new tech gadgets around.

While writing about Panasonic's new 100-400mm lens I couldn't help comparing it to Olympus's later-in-the-day announcement of its M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS Pro, at a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 600mm the first real pro-level supertelephoto lens for the Micro Four Thirds mount. Granted, it's bigger and heavier than Panasonic's (and fixed focal length rather than zoom), but in exchange you get better dust-and-weather sealing, more sophisticated stabilization, pro coatings and a faster aperture.

You've really got to want it: the lens will run you $2,500 (but you can get it right now!) compared to Panasonic's $1,800.

Olympus claims that this is the company's "highest resolving lens ever" with "very little edge distortion" and that it supports a maximum of 6 stops of stabilization with its hybrid Sync IS system. In supporting cameras, such as the E-M1, it combines two-axis optical and three-axis sensor-shift stabilization for a total of 5 axes using a new IS control unit and gyros in the lens and body. If you want to slip it onto your Panasonic, you'll still get the typical 4 stops.

There's a switch on the lens to disable stabilization entirely, which is nice since digging into menus to find the stabilization settings on sensor-shift cameras is one of my least-favorite testing tasks.

The lens also incorporates a new coating, Z Coating Nano, with -- you guessed it -- a layer of nanoparticles and air on the front of selected lens elements to reduce the amount of light that gets reflected off the elements' surface (coatings reduce flare and fringing).

Other notable specifications:

  • It can focus as close as 1.4m/4.6 ft; 1.2m/3.8 ft from the front of the lens.
  • While it's small compared with standard dSLR lenses, it's still fairly large for a Micro Four Thirds model, with a 93mm/4 inch diameter and 227mm/9 inches long and weighing 1,270 g/2.8 pounds without the tripod collar.
  • It has all the physical perks of Olympus' pro line of lenses, including a focus collar that quickly swaps between manual and auto focus, a focus-limiter switch, a programmable function button.
  • It's dust-and-weather sealed like all the M.Zuiko Pro line, including coldproofing down to -10°C/14°F.
  • Maximum magnification is 0.48x.

If you miss the stretch to 400mm, you can always use Olympus' 1.4x teleconverter for an effective focal length of 420mm, and though you'd lose some light (down to f5.6), it's still a wider aperture than Panasonic's. There's also a dot-sight accessory (EE-1) to help keep subjects in frame without moving your head too much.