Michael Rammell

Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Review

Olympus, Gear, MicroFourThirdsMichael Rammell3 Comments

More and more professional photographers are making the switch to mirrorless cameras than ever before. With cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 being sturdy and built to take on the rigors of professional assignments, yet considerably smaller and lighter than DSLR's, photographers are reaping the benefits of such systems. However, it's one thing for the camera body itself to be up to the task - but what about the lenses?

One must-have lens in any wedding, event or wildlife photographers' arsenal is a 70-200mm f/2.8, whether it be Canon's 70-200 L Class offering or Nikon's 70-200 f/2.8 Nikkor: These lenses provide us with a convenient focal range and great low-light ability. They're typically built to very high standards, making use of metal bodies and quality optics. They can take a real beating in everyday use and continue to produce excellent images. These are the tools of the pro photographer.

Now, Olympus have introduced their professional-grade, weather sealed, constant f/2.8 aperture telephoto offering, giving professional mirrorless photographers the lens they've been waiting for.

Enter, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm ED f/2.8 PRO!

Specs & Details

  • 40-150mm focal range provides an 80-300mm, 35mm equivalent field of view
  • The 40-150 ED f/2.8 PRO is available for around £1,150 on it's own
  • Also available with a 1.4 teleconverter for around £1,300 all together 
  • 9 Blade Aperture for circular bokeh
  • 16 elements, 10 Groups
  • Splash, Freeze and dust proof the same as the M.Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 PRO
  • Metal construction
  • All-metal tripod mount collar included. Removable.
  • Intelligently designed extending lens Hood. This is removable, just like a regular hood that you may find on the Canon 70-200, but the mechanism simply allows you to store it on the lens, without having to remove it and reverse mount it for storage. Very clever
  • Internal focusing mechanisms (no extending parts, unlike the 12-40 f/2.8 PRO)

Size

The lens weighs in at 880 grams and is 160mm long, making it both shorter and much lighter than Canon's 70-200 (weighing 1490 grams) and even more so than Nikon's (weighing 1540 grams). Considering the Olympus has a field of view up to 300mm, this makes this a pretty impressive feat indeed. If you're reading this and you shoot with a DSLR, it would be a nearer comparison in weight and size to Canon 24-70 f/2.8 (weighing 805 grams, and is 113mm long)

The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm ED f/2.8 PRO towering over the rest of the Olympus lenses

As Micro Four Thirds lenses go, the 40-150 is certainly the largest. In fact, it does somewhat go against the idea of what Micro Four Thirds is all about in that it isn't as small as many of the other lenses, but in a way, on this occasion, it isn't such a bad thing: the size and weight of the 40-150 when mounted to any of the OM-D's, especially when fitted with a grip, feels very neatly balanced. Coupled with the E-M1 it also makes for a serious looking setup too. So, if you're conscious about how you and your gear look on a wedding day, this will probably go some way to compensating for you feeling inadequate. (not that this should matter though). In short it looks the business!

First Impressions

When you pick the lens up you'll immediately be pleasantly surprised by how dense the lens feels. The quality of the build and the materials is instantly apparent. The focus and zoom rings aren't too loose or too tight, they're just about right. These also have a metallic, textured feel to them so you can both find them without having to take your eye away from the EVF and also to allow you to get a good grip when you've been working with the lens for long periods and may be a bit sweaty. Although having said that - I do feel that rubber zoom and focus rings would have been a better option (I'll expand on this in my criticisms below)

If you remove the tripod mount collar you instantly shed a fair amount of weight from the lens. So for those of us that will use this for weddings and portraits we can instantly make the lens lighter. I've personally no need to mount this lens to a tripod during a wedding, so mine usually ends up in the back of the car. The collar itself keeps up with the excellent build quality and feels like a very solid, chunky piece of metal. Which is reassuring when that is the part that will keep your precious gear sitting atop a tripod!

Remove the lens hood completely and the lens becomes even more compact.

Image Quality

When it comes to lenses a good one will often outlast the cameras you own. I'd say this is the case with the 40-150. It's incredibly sharp both at 40mm and at 150mm, which isn't common in a lens with this range of zoom. Here are some real-world photographs I've made with the 40-150 over the past few months. These photographs were all made in a variety of surroundings too: an engagement shoot, a model shoot in a studio environment and of course street photography:

As you can see from these photographs a good shallow Depth of Field is present thanks to the useful focal length and f/2.8 aperture. The photographs are all superbly sharp as well. The 40-150 in combination with the E-M5 and E-M1 really makes this lens come to life.

Who is this lens for?

The 40-150 is a must have for any MFT photographer shooting professional assignments or for any serious enthusiast shooting sports or wildlife. To be honest the lens is so versatile that it's going to be useful to a variety of photography niches.

The lens is designed to be able to continue to work in adverse conditions, so you're investing in a lens that can really do a professional job. It will certainly be around for many years and in my opinion, it's set to be a lens that many look back on as one of the great telephoto lenses of this generation: sealed, sturdy and up for the task, yet lighter and smaller than a DSLR equivalent. This lens is perfect for those who shoot portraits, weddings, wildlife or sports.

If you are in the Panasonic side of the MFT camp, then this lens may not be of as much interest to you owing to the fact it doesn't have stabilisation built into the lens (of course, when you shoot with Olympus the stabilisation is in-body and all lenses are stabilised). However, a Panasonic shooter will still find their stabilisation in their lenses, instead of the body. Effectively, this isn't stabilised when used on Panasonic cameras.

Criticisms

It wouldn't be fair to review this lens without at least pointing out something negative about it. Much like my review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 when I first bought that last year, I really do have to be picky to find faults with this lens. I can't fault the build quality. I can't criticise the optical performance and the size is a positive. I guess If I had one thing to say, it would would be about the aforementioned zoom and focus rings (I would emphasise I am being hypocritical here):

Canon and Nikon's DSLR and Lens systems are very mature and have been around for a while, so naturally, as they have iterated they've made small, but useful enhancements and adjustments to their equipment that just adds to an overall feel. Things that we don't even realise as useful, because, well they've been that way forever. It's only when you move to a different system, such as the E-M1 and Olympus M.Zuiko lenses that you realise certain things about the other systems. Such as rubber zoom and focus rings on their lenses.

Olympus have opted to use plastic or metal on a majority of their lenses for these components. Whilst on smaller primes and even the 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro this isn't an issue, the larger circumference of the 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro perhaps warrants a different material for the rings on the barrel of the lens.

Again, this is me trying to find a fault. Sometimes, in a bid to be different and do things their own way, Olympus opt for a design or a method that perhaps is just that - different, but not better. Having said that though the PRO line of Olympus M.Zuiko lense have a theme to them; all black, metallic finish, professional feel. If they updated or adjusted the way one lens from that range looked, you'd have to update the others too. As a lens lineup, they look stellar.

I would also point out some chromatic aberration when you shoot into strong light as well. I've only had CA on a couple of photographs I've made using this lens and fortunately it's not apparent in some of the more common CA-causing scenarios (such as portraits with a strong and contrasting rimlight, or a cool, blue window light), but if you shoot a branch with the sky as the background, or if you photograph a building, looking upward, you may spot some aberration along the edges. Now, I know what you're thinking: "CA is easily removed in Lightroom" - and you're right. But this does have to be mentioned. So, this does become less of an issue, but I still wanted to point it out.

Now, I have probably gone on too long about the rings on the lens and through fear of risk of me sounding like you can't operate this lenses zoom and focus rings (you can, with ease), I would simply say that rubber would have perhaps been a better option. That's all.

So, those two very picky things aside, we have an absolute marvel of a lens here.

Conclusion

Quite simply, if you were ever hesitant to switch to Olympus, or Micro Four Thirds because of a lack of a constant aperture professional grade telephoto, you've now got it and there shouldn't be much to hold you back at all.

This is the lens that could push any photographer at war with themselves whether to switch to mirrorless, to switch. If you're having a dilemma and worry about lens selection when moving to Olympus - you shouldn't be concerned. This lens adequately replaces the 70-200 offerings on the table from Nikon and Canon. Whilst doing so it offers a greater focal range in a smaller package with apparent better edge-to-edge sharpness. 

As a previous DSLR shooter with a heavy investment in Canon, I was reluctant to sell my Canon gear purely because I didn't believe there was an equal and equivalent lens to my Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS USM ii. It was a lens that cost a good amount of money and worked excellently when paired up with the Canon 1.4 EX ii as well. Sure, the lens stopped down to f/4 when used with the adaptor, but it was built like a space rocket and was amazingly responsive. The resulting image quality from that lens was also unmatched by any other lens I had in my bag at the time.

My own migration to Olympus hinged on this very lens being as good as it is. Without a quality Olympus 70-200 challenger I wasn't prepared to move. My Canon 70-200L f/2.8 was the jewel of my kit bag. It was the one thing I'd save from my house if it were on fire (photographically speaking that is). After testing this lens at the Olympus Image Space last year I had seen enough to convince me it was capable. When I bought it and used it for an engagement shoot and some portraits, the Canon 70-200 was sold immediately.

The Olympus 40-150 is a feat of optical engineering and an incredibly well-considered design. The lens hood, the size, the very near minimum focussing distance of 70cm which is maintained throughout the entire zoom range make this a must-have tool for any Olympus photographer. The fact is goes to 300mm is a very welcome bonus indeed!

It's not as expensive as Canon or Nikon's 70-200's, but it's every bit as good a lens and one I would recommend without hesitation.



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