M.Zuiko 150-600 Sync-IS

This article discusses the use of M.Zuiko 150-600 Sync-IS technology and shares a selection of images captured handheld at Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls, Canada.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-3200, full frame capture, subject distance 4.7 metres

On a personal basis I think it is rather pointless to test Sync-IS in an artificial setting by photographing test patterns and other static subjects. Folks who are interested in the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS will be using it out in nature, photographing living subjects.

One of the challenges when using a lens of this type is how shallow the depth-of-field can be. For example, the large beaks of some birds can quickly go out of focus. Stopping the 150-600 down slightly when capturing the image above would have helped to get the righthand edge of the beak in better focus. The beak of the bird in image 5 could also have benefitted from me stopping my lens down slightly.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 373 mm, efov 746 mm, f/6.1, 1/13, ISO-160, full frame capture, subject distance 2.5 metres

To get as many image opportunities as possible, I decided to make Bird Kingdom my very first photographic venue to field test the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS. While it is a captive venue, the vast majority of birds are free flying. Some of the birds can be skittish which can add to the challenge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, -0.3EV, 1/20, ISO-800, full frame capture, subject distance 6.2 metres

The M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS is rated for 6 EV stops of Sync-IS at the telephoto end of the zoom when used with a compatible camera body. And 7 EV stops when used at the short end of the range. Most of the images featured in this article were at the longer end of the focal length range, with many of them captured at 600 mm (efov 1200 mm).

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, -0,3 EV, 1/20, ISO-320, full frame capture, subject distance 6.7 metres

Since the 150-600 mm has an equivalent field-of-view of 1200 mm, 6 EV stops of image stabilization would result in the use of a shutter speed of about 1/20 of a second. That became my target shutter speed for this Sync-IS test.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5, 1/13, ISO-250, full frame capture, subject distance 1.2 metres

One subject bird, a Laughing Kookaburra, was in a wire mesh cage. I had to take my lens hood off and shoot with the front of my lens up against the wire mesh so I could shoot through it, and not have it obstruct the bird. This turned out to be a good test as the subject bird was only 1.2 metres away from my camera. I was able to use a handheld shutter speed of 1/13.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-125, cropped to 4371 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres

I had to use the same technique to photograph an iguana that was also in a wire mesh cage. It stayed towards the back of the enclosure and I was able to capture an image with my 150-600 fully extended to 600 mm (efov 1200 mm). I was able to maintain the shutter speed of 1/13 of a second which is slightly better than what the Sync-IS is rated to deliver.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, 1/20, ISO-1250, full frame capture, subject distance 3.4 metres

Using the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS at slower shutter speeds was reasonably easy to do. When fully extended to 600 mm (efov 1200 mm) I was able to capture very good images with shutter speeds ranging from 1/100 down to 1/40 without any issues at all. As I pushed my shutter speeds slower, the timing of my shutter release became increasingly important as even slight subject movements could cause some noticeable blurring.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 548 mm, efov 1096 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-1000, full frame capture, subject distance 2.7 metres

Some of the small birds were constantly on the go and it didn’t make any sense to even try to capture them at slower shutter speeds. I didn’t bring my stool with me, so most of my images were captured from a standing position. I tried some image captures at 1/10, 1/8 and 1/5 of a second. I was able to get some success, but not on a consistent basis.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5, 1/8, ISO-250, full frame capture, subject distance 1.1 metres

If I would have had my stool with me, I think I could have gotten reasonably consistent success at 1/8 of a second with my lens fully extended. That’s a challenge for another day.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, 1/13, ISO-800, full frame capture, subject distance 5.3 metres

With my M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 fully extended to 600 mm (efov 1200 mm) I was able to get good captures on a consistent basis using shutter speeds of 1/20 down to 1/13.. On a personal basis I would be comfortable using this zoom lens these slower shutter speeds with little hesitation.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 240 mm, efov 480 mm, f/5.7, 1/20, ISO-640, full frame capture, subject distance 3.1 metres

Every photographer will need to do their own testing to determine where their individual slow shutter speed threshold lies. With good handheld technique I think many folks would be able to be successful using shutter speeds of 1/40 to 1/100 on a regular basis.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-640, full frame capture, subject distance 2.8 metres

Using the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 handheld at slower shutter speeds is a joy. There is no comparison at all with using the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm in this type of situation. The Sync-IS in the 150-600 is superb. I captured a couple of hundred images at Bird Kingdom that I probably wouldn’t have even attempted with the 100-400 mm.

Just look at the detail in the image above. It was captured at 600 mm (efov 1200 mm) at f/6.3, from a distance of 2.8 metres… using a shutter speed of 1/13. The M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS definitely expands photographic potential with its increased reach, and Sync-IS performance.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.9, 1/13, ISO-2500, full frame capture, subject distance 2.5 metres

I was at Bird Kingdom for about 3 hours shooting handheld with very few pauses in the action. I was wearing my Cotton Carrier G3 Harness but pretty much only used it when I was moving from one display area to another.

After 3 hours of shooting handheld with the 150-600 mm I had no arm, neck or back fatigue at all. This is a testament to the comfort, handling and ergonomics of my E-M1X.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I could not have achieved these results if I had been using my wife’s OM-D E-M1 Mark III.  Everyone is different of course, and other photographers may be better suited to using a smaller camera body with this super telephoto lens.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the equipment noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,363 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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15 thoughts on “M.Zuiko 150-600 Sync-IS”

  1. I haven’t found any documentation that explains which camera bodies the 150-600’s sync IS is compatible with. Do you have anything you can share on this point?

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I could not find any information either, so I contacted OMDS directly to get a confirmation on the Sync-IS compatibility with my E-M1X before I purchased my copy of the 150-600. I have contacted OMDS so see if they can add this information to their various websites as it strikes me as a fundamental consideration for current OM/Olympus camera owners. I will keep you posted with anything that I receive back from OMDS.

      Tom

  2. Tom,

    As a side note, I took your lead and tried turning off the lens IS on the 100-400 lens last evening, and got substantially more birds-in-flight in focus as you had indicated, even in low light conditions. The only issue I had was that I forgot to turn it back on for a long exposure flower close-up, which ended up blurry. I imagine that you can leave Sync-IS on all the time with the 150-600.

    Best,
    Steve

    1. Hi Steve,

      A lot of this depends on the camera body used and how much IBIS it delivers. The only time that it would logically make sense to turn off the IS with the 150-600 is if a photographer uses it on a tripod.

      Tom

    2. Hi Steve,

      I forgot to mention that when Sync-IS is turned off on a lens like the 150-600 it will also turn of the IBIS in the camera body to which it is mounted. Since the IS on the 100-400 is not Sync-IS turning it off does not affect the IBIS in a camera body.

      Tom

  3. Hi Thomas,
    Fantastic article as always! I’m also an Olympus/OM photographer, still with an E-M1 Mark II that I haven’t upgraded yet just because it still does everything I want, however I haven’t gone fully into bird photography (yet). I’m wondering about one of your final comments, in which you state that you don’t think you could have achieved these results with the E-M1 Mark III .. do you think that would be the case even with the battery grip allowing similar hand-holding in portrait mode? I fully understand your preference for the E-M1X, I’m just asking because when it it finally time for me to upgrade, I might consider the OM-1 with battery grip. Thanks, best regards, and I appreciate your work here.

    1. Hi Doug,

      I have large hands and my wife’s E-M1 Mark III isn’t comfortable for me to use. Last fall I used her camera with an M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 PRO which most folks would not consider a ‘heavy’ lens. After an hour of continuous shooting I was getting some cramping in my right forearm.

      David Tipling, who is a professional British bird photographer, uses a grip with the OM-1 Mark II as he finds that it helps to better balance the 150-600 lens. Ultimately this comes down to personal choice. Logically using a grip with an OM-1 or OM-1 Mark II would provide more handholding surface which should provide more stability and comfort.

      Tom

  4. Hi Thomas,
    Very nice photos as per your usual quality and technique.
    I just got the 100-400 and THAT is my last lens (so I said before), But I really want this lens. Not sure about the weight tho, as I sold my Nikon kit because of the heavy lenses. The 300 f4 and the 100-400 is about as far as I can go these days with my EM1Xs.
    I am relearning my long zoom lens technique, which is much different than the 300.
    I am looking forward to the BIF photos you create with this lens, as this is my real test of a lens for BIF.

    Cheers,

    Randy

    1. Hi Randy,

      Before ordering the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS I was initially concerned about the weight as it is close to 7 lbs. when mounted on an E-M1X.

      I’ve been shooting with it for a couple of days now and logged over 10 hours handheld during the first two days (five hours on each day). I have yet to experience any arm, neck or back fatigue. The outstanding comfort of the E-M1X’s grip is really noticeable with this lens, even though this combo weighs more than the D800/Tamron 150-600 that I used back in my full frame days.

      After 3 hours with my D800 I would have very noticeable fatigue with my left arm. Since I can support a lot of M.Zuiko 150-600’s weight with my right hand/arm it really balances out the overall weight of the set-up. It is a bit heavier in the hand than the 100-400 but the handling of the 150-600 easily blows the 100-400 out of the water.

      I’m right in the middle of reviewing some of my initial BIF images captured with the 150-600… watch the site for more…

      Tom

  5. I’m very impressed with your handheld technique! Rock steady, especially when it comes to birds! You’re inspiring me to push myself in this regard. Thank you for the article.

    1. Thanks Jim… I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      The Sync-IS on the M.Zuiko 150-600 is excellent which is a huge benefit. I used a single, small AF point and did my best to focus on high contrast spots on the birds to aid focus acquisition. Shutter timing was also important as I had to wait for those fleeting mini-moments when birds basically freeze after doing some kind of movement.

      Tom

  6. Greetings,
    Have you noticed any differences in the results using the three different shutter types: mechanical, electronic and mechanical with electronic first curtain?
    Thanks,
    Riccardo Antonelli

    Salve,
    ha notato differenze nei risultati usando i tre diversi tipi di otturatore: meccanico, elettronico e meccanico con la prima tendina elettronica?
    Grazie

    1. Hi Riccardo,
      All images were captured using mechanical shutter.
      Tom

      Ciao Riccardo,
      Tutte le immagini sono state catturate utilizzando l’otturatore meccanico.
      Tom

      Tom

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