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Olympus 150mm f/2 Zuiko Digital

 
Lens Reviews / Olympus Lenses i Lab tested

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Buy the Olympus 150mm f/2 Zuiko Digital
Drawing Info

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
150mm $2,999
average price
image of Olympus 150mm f/2 Zuiko Digital

(From Olympus lens literature) A high-performance telephoto lens that boasts high image quality and carrying ease. Extremely portable and designed specifically for digital photography - like all of its Zuiko Digital counterparts - this lens features a large maximum aperture of f/2 (perfect for low light situations as well) and both ED and Super ED glass lens elements for outstanding sharpness and color.

Introduction
At three and a half pounds, this lens is very large: in practice, you end up attaching the camera body to the lens, rather than attaching the lens to the camera body. The 150mm ƒ/2 is listed in the "Super High Quality" lineup, developed for more advanced optical/precision technology and exquisite picture quality. It's also listed as being dust and splash-proof, to allow usage in harsh conditions. The lens itself is comprised of 11 elements in 9 groups, with one ED ("extra-low dispersion") lens element and one Super-ED Available to offer sharper, higher-contrast imaging performance. Available for around $2,200.

Since Olympus digital SLR cameras employ the four-thirds imaging sensor, any lens attached to the body will have an effective focal length (in 35mm terms) of double the listed length. Thus, for this particular lens, it will exhibit an effective focal length of 300mm. The lens takes 82mm filters, and comes with several accessories: a giant bowl-style lens hood, a lens carrying case and a lens-collar tripod mount.

Sharpness
When you're looking to buy a lens of this caliber and price tag, sharpness, especially wide open, is critical. Looking at the blur graph, the lens delivers incredibly sharp results: from wide open at ƒ/2 to ƒ/11, it barely surpasses one blur unit. Diffraction limiting starts to set in at ƒ/16 where it hits 2 units on the blur scale, and by ƒ/22, the lens still produces very good results, registering just over 3 units (the odds are you wouldn't end up using this lens at ƒ/22 anyway). Overall, absolutely superb performance.

Chromatic Aberration
Resistance to chromatic aberration is superb. In the worst case at ƒ/11, it only ranks at just over 4/100ths of a percent. The lens appears to be specially tuned to its wider range of apertures, ƒ/2 and ƒ/2.8, where chromatic aberration is barely detectable. Exceptional.

Shading ("Vignetting")
Our vignetting chart shows a quarter-stop of light fall-off in the corners when shooting the 150mm at ƒ/8, but I had a hard time finding any practical evidence of it. At other apertures, there is no statistically signficant shading.

Distortion
Because the lens is fixed at 150mm, the distortion is also fixed. The maximum distortion is 0.25% pincushion (in the corners), where the minimum is distortion less than 0.1%. You would be hard-pressed to even notice this level of distortion, even when taking photographs of straight lines, and if it was a crucial issue, the image could be corrected in post-processing.

Autofocus Operation
The 150mm ƒ/2 Zuiko has quite a range of focus distance to cover, but it does so very quickly, racking through the entire range in just over one second. In practice, point-to-point autofocus was very quick when mounted on the E-510 body. There is some mechanical noise (a higher-pitched whine) during a full rack-focus, but point-to-point focusing is fairly subtle. With its fast ƒ/2 aperture, the 150mm macro performs excellently in low-light.

On the left side of the barrel there exists a switch to enable the lens to limit the range through which it will focus, with three options: infinity to 4 meters, 4 meters to 1.4 meters (its minimum focusing distance) and the full range of infinity to 1.4 meters. Obviously, you would move this switch off the default setting if you could guarantee you wouldn't need to focus outside of either of these ranges.

The 150mm ƒ/2 Zuiko is also equipped with four "focus-stop" buttons on the outside ring of the lens barrel. According to the manual, "by holding down one of the focus stop buttons, you can deactivate autofocus operation and fix focus at the point where the button was pressed." In practice, you would autofocus on your preferred subject as usual, and then you would have the option to recompose and maintain focus at your original focus point (the normal way you might do this would be to focus, adjust your focus operation to manual, then recompose).

Macro
With a close-focusing distance of 1.4 meters (just over four and a half feet) from the image sensor, the 150mm ƒ/2 is a poor substitute for a dedicated macro lens. At this range the lens achieves 26% image magnification when considered in 35mm film terms. An extension tube (EX-25) is available which extends this maximum image magnification to 31% (in 35mm film terms), and reduces the close-focusing distance to 0.79 meters (just over two and a half feet).

Bokeh

150mm, ƒ/2
150mm, ƒ/8
150mm, ƒ/22

Build Quality and Handling
The 150mm ƒ/2 weighs 1,610 grams (56.7 oz, three and a half pounds), making it quite a hefty lens. It's put together well, with a combination of metal and plastic parts; the parts that see the most wear are metal, such as the filter ring and lens mount, while textured items such as the barrel and lens ring are a comfortable plastic. The focus ring turns with a silky smoothness, though it gets obscured when the lens hood is reversed for storage, making it obligatory to remove the hood for manual focus work. As with all Olympus "Super High Grade" lenses there is a focus range display. The lens hood looks to be particularly effective as preventing flare, given its size - over four inches deep and three and a half inches in diameter.

It is possible to shoot hand-held with this lens, especially with an image-stabilized body such as the E-510. However, this is a three-and-a-half pound lens we're talking about here; it is going to produce a fair amount of strain on the arm. The tripod mount is a high-quality piece, which be loosened to enable rotation of the body.

Alternatives

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro ~$540
This lens is the only real alternative for Olympus users looking for something with this focal length and constant aperture. The sharpness results for this lens tell the whole story; tack sharp almost all the way across from f/2.8 to f/22, neck-and-neck in terms of a comparison with the Olympus. Excellent results for chromatic aberration and distortion-free images; if we were splitting hairs, the Olympus distorts slightly more than the Sigma, but we're talking in the decimal points. Some slight vignetting at f/2.8 shows up on the Sigma, but mounted on a four-thirds sensor, you might not see this. With a much lower price tag, half the weight and the added bonus of impeccable macro performance, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 is an attractive option, but you do get an extra stop of aperture with the Olympus.

Olympus 300mm f/2.8 Zuiko Digital ~$5,700
If you were looking at spending over two thousand dollars for a lens, perhaps you're in the market to spend over five? We haven't tested the 300mm f/2.8 from Olympus, but I can't imagine the results would be anything less than excellent.

Conclusion
There is no question that the Olympus 150mm ƒ/2 Zuiko is a well-built, high performance telephoto lens. The results from the labs show excellent performance across the board in terms of sharpness, resistance to chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting. Of course, when paying over two thousand dollars for a lens, you should expect nothing less. The big question would be whether or not to consider the Sigma 150mm ƒ/2.8; it's much less expensive, but matches the Olympus in terms of quality. However, that extra stop of speed, and the high quality inherent in the Super High Grade lens lineup, would make the Olympus 150mm ƒ/2 an excellent addition to an Olympus owner's collection.


Sample Photos!
Sample photos are available of two laboratory test targets to help in our readers' evaluation of the lenses we test. The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and f/8. For the "VFA" target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

To see the sample shots from this lens captured with this lens on our test body, just click on either of the thumbnails below, and scroll as needed in the window that appears.


Still Life shot


VFA target

Olympus 150mm f/2 Zuiko Digital User Reviews

9.6/10 average of 5 reviews Build Quality 9.6/10 Image Quality 10.0/10
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  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (21 reviews)
    extreme sharp, good construction, even very good with converters
    no SWD-AF, cheaper plastics

    very sharp - even with converters - much to like about it - but I would prefer SWD-AF
    we will need this lens for mFT!

    reviewed December 30th, 2012 (purchased for $2,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (31 reviews)
    F2.0, weather sealing, IQ, size, weight
    nothing really

    Now, thats my lens. The 300 f/2.8 I can get for free when I need it.

    Stellar performance. 300mm of reach with an aperture of F2 is really cool. Not speaking about the price I paid for.

    After adjusting the Front-focus on my E-5, putting in -4, this lens performs outstanding. IQ is fantastic and AF is fast an accurate.

    It size makes it very portable. I can put it side by side in my Lowepro Fastpack 350, with 12-60 and 50-200

    I still got to test the EC-20. The EC-14 and the EX-25 is perfect match.

    Gives you a great telemacro lens too.

    Works well, but not as fast on the E-M5. Tested it on that one too.

    reviewed September 15th, 2012 (purchased for $1,300)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    My favourite prime on FT
    Not the most sensible choice if you only need a 300 f/4 (see details)

    I like super-long teles and I've also used the ZD 300 2.8 too but the 150 f/2 was a more satisfying lens to use for general shooting. Even the general apperance of the lens is great. The bokeh, sharpness and colours were all very very good. This would be the first lens I'd buy if I get a FT camera.

    All nice things aside, one still has to think about the practicality of such a lens. A 150 f/2 on a FT system is equivalent to a *300 f/4* (not a 300mm f/2) on a 35mm DSLR, both in terms of noise and DOF. If the buyer is not currently tied to the FT platform and just wants a stabilised 300 f/4, the ZD 150 f/2 is not a sensible option for the following reasons:

    1. While there's no doubt about the image quality of the ZD 150/2, it is not better by a factor of approx 3.8x than a good 300/4 available for 35mm DSLRs. (The 35mm full-frame area is 3.8x larger than that of FT and so it is 3.8x less demanding in terms of spatial resolution). So a good 300 f/4 lens on a 35mm FF body will easily match or surpass the resolution of this lens at a much cheaper price. Demosaic'ing artifacts will also be much smaller on higher resolution FF images when final images are reproduced at the same size.

    2. The lens is too big and heavy when compared to an equivalent lens on a 35mm DSLR.

    3. The lens has no built-in image stabilisation or SWM despite point #2 above.

    Conclusion: If you want this lens, by all means, go for it. You won't be disappointed. But if your motive is application-oriented and you have the freedom to choose another platform, go for a good, stabilised 300 f/4 on a FF body instead.

    reviewed June 14th, 2010
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    Compact and light (when compared to 300mm f/2.8 lenses), beautiful bokeh, sharp wide open
    Expensive. No SWD version available.

    There are certain lenses that can constitute a reason to own the accompanying camera system. This is one of those lenses. At under six inches in length and under three pounds it's about half the size of most 300mm f/2.8 lenses, as well as being a stop faster and providing excellent results wide open with the DOF associated with f/4 on a 35mm lens. Using the in-body image stabilization on my E-3 I can shoot blur-free photos with this lens at 1/30th of a second. A lens with this field of view should require shutter speeds starting at about 1/300th of a second, but the IS works like a charm. IMO there's never been a better lens for concerts, sporting events, plays and press conferences.

    reviewed June 22nd, 2008 (purchased for $1,401)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Fast lens with F=2, Very good optic quality, Fast AF
    Heavy and expensive but there is due to physical laws

    A very good tele lens, high contrast and very sharp. Can be used with TC-14 and with TC-20 without visible loss in quality, even with maximum aperture! So you can get an very good 2,8/210 and a very good 4/300, too!

    reviewed January 23rd, 2008