Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
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Lab Test Results
by William Brawley
To follow up on our hands-on look at the new Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 M.Zuiko Pro telephoto zoom lens, our full, in-depth review is now complete, including test results, sample test-chart images and our final conclusion!
Officially announced this year just prior to Photokina in September, this telephoto zoom lens is the latest move in Olympus's drive to sway professional photographers away from their big, bulky DSLRs and into the more compact yet still high-performance OM-D family. Boasting a versatile 80-300mm-equivalent focal length range, a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture and a rugged, all-metal build with comprehensive weather sealing (splashproof, freezeproof and dustproof), the 40-150mm Pro lens is a serious optic for OM-D and other Micro Four Thirds photographers.
The Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 M.Zuiko Pro, as well as the MC-1.4x teleconverter (review coming soon) are currently available for pre-order for $1,499 and $349, respectively. Olympus's own online store indicates that both items will begin shipping in mid-November. The lens ships with front and rear caps, lens hood and a detachable metal tripod collar. Pre-order from one of our trusted affiliates: Amazon (lens, teleconverter), Adorama (lens, teleconverter), and B&H (lens, teleconverter) -- Purchasing this lens, or any other product from these retailers, helps support the site!
You want a sharp zoom lens? You got it. The Olympus 40-150mm lens is not only stunningly sharp by zoom lens standards, but also sharp by prime lens standards. And this is wide open at ƒ/2.8 at practically every other focal length. So while the 40-150 lens is very sharp wide open at all focal lengths, our graphs indicate an extremely subtle drop in sharpness at 150mm ƒ/2.8. It's so minimal, though, that it will most likely not impact real-world shooting at all.
Corner-to-corner sharpness is also tremendously good, with almost no change in sharpness from center softness at every focal length. The blur characteristics are very flat. For all intents and purposes, this lens is sharp, everywhere, all the time from ƒ/2.8 to around ƒ/11-ƒ/16, where we see minor diffraction softness coming into play.
Compared to other Olympus primes and zoom lenses, the 40-150 is top notch. At 40mm, the 40-150mm edges out the 12-40mm @ 40mm at ƒ/2.8 with better corner sharpness, for instance. At 70mm, the 40-150mm displays nearly identical sharpness characteristics to the well-regarded Olympus 75mm ƒ/1.8 prime @ ƒ/2.8. And at 150mm, the 40-150mm is very similar to, if not just slightly sharper than the Olympus 150mm ƒ/2 Four Thirds lens @ ƒ/2.8 and stopped down.
Perhaps the only downside with this lens is the appearance of some chromatic aberration. It's mostly visible as light purple and green fringing at the shorter focal lengths and most seen in the corners both wide open and stopped down to ƒ/8. By the time you zoom into 70mm, however, the visible corner CA is greatly reduced and continues to be very minimal to virtually invisible at longer focal lengths and at all apertures.
In real-world shooting, the chromatic aberration does not appear to be a severe issue, though it can pop up in troublesome spots such as along high-contrast edges in front of bright backgrounds. We also saw some axial chromatic aberration along out of focus edges. In both cases, testing a few sample photos in Lightroom 5, the CA was quickly and easily removed.
Vignetting is very much NOT an issue with the Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 lens. At ƒ/2.8, there's a hint of vignetting at all focal lengths -- hovering around 0.25EVs of corner shading. When the lens is stopped down to ƒ/4 and beyond, the vignetting drops to around zero.
Similar to vignetting, geometric distortion is practically nonexistent on this lens. At all focal lengths, the level of barrel distortion sits just a hair above the zero mark. If you're looking for a distortion-free zoom lens for portraiture, for example, or don't want to stretch or crop your images with distortion correction post-processing, the 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 is a clear winner.
Autofocusing is excellent with the Olympus 40-150mm. The 40-150mm features an "industry-first" Dual Voice-coil AF motor (Dual VCM) which uses a pair of linear motors to move two small, independent groups of lens elements (no gears involved). This makes autofocus not only very fast, as the lens therefore doesn't have to move larger, heavier elements and over a longer distance, but also extremely quiet. In our assessment, the lens was indeed very quick and accurate to acquire focus, taking well under a second to rack from minimum focus distance to infinity.
The lens features Olympus' MSC ("Movie & Still Compatible") designation, for full-time AF in both stills and video that's also very quiet so as not to introduce focusing noise in video recordings.
For manual focusing, you have two options with this lens. Like the Olympus 12-40mm ƒ/2.8 Zuiko Pro and other Zuiko Premium lenses, the 40-150mm has a clutched focus ring. Simply snap the ring back toward the camera to reveal the focus distance markings and quickly enable true, mechanically-controlled manual focus. However, you can also simply leave the ring in "AF mode" and if you set your camera body, you can have electronic manual focus as well as the ability to have AF with MF override. This also works with Panasonic cameras as well, when "AF+MF" is enabled.
The lens is completely internally focusing, and during AF, the front element does not extend or rotate, making accessories such as circular polarizers easy to use with this lens.
While not technically a macro lens, the Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 is rather unique for its close-focusing ability. From the end of the front of the lens, photographers can focus down as close as 20 inches (though considering the length of the lens, the true minimum focus distance to the focal plane is 27.6 inches, or 0.7 meters). This provides a magnification ratio of 0.21x (1:4.8) or 0.42x (1:2.4) in 35mm eq. for some great near-macro shooting capabilities.
Build Quality and Handling
Like the 12-40mm Zuiko Pro lens, the 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 follows a similar sleek black design. Constructed entirely from metal, this new Zuiko Pro lens is fully weather-sealed for splashes and dust and is freezeproof as well (though we don't have a temperature spec for that, the E-M1 for instance is freezeproof down to -10 degrees Celsius or 14 degree Fahrenheit). Olympus states that there are a total of 11 separate seals around seams, the L-Fn button and lens mount. With the solid metal construction and weather sealing, the 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 should be able to withstand knocks, bumps and jostles as well as the rainforest, desert or the tundra.
In the hand, the build quality of the 40-150 ƒ/2.8, like the 12-40mm Pro, is excellent, with a very solid feel, buttery smooth zoom and focus rings. The large 1.5-inch wide metal zoom ring has a fine ribbed texture for a secure grip and is light and smooth enough to rotate with your thumb and forefinger, yet there's enough resistance to stay in place. The focus ring is further out past the zoom ring and has a similar metal construction and texture. Pulling back on the focus ring has a nice, satisfying "snap" to it and reveals the focus distance marking as well as engaging the mechanical manual focus ability. When in manual focus mode, the ring has hard stops and minimum and infinity distances, otherwise the lens will rotate freely in either direction while in the AF position.
Compared to its DSLR counterparts, the Olympus 40-150 ƒ/2.8 lens is refreshingly lightweight. If you're used to lugging around a large 70-200mm ƒ/2.8-type lens for a full-frame DSLR, the Olympus 40-150 ƒ/2.8 is a nice change not only for weight, but also for sheer compactness. (To be fair, the 70-200mm f/4 variants for DSLRs are very similar in size and weight to the Olympus lens.) Even with the clever retractable lens hood, the lens is able to pack away into small camera bags with ease, making it much more convenient to carry around. The balance is great with the E-M1 and handholding this combo is very comfortable for extended shooting periods.
Speaking of lens hood, the included hood with this lens is indeed rather clever. While it's a removable bayonet-style hood just like many other lens hoods, it isn't reversible. Instead, what you attach to the front of the lens is actually an inner bracket mechanism and with a little leftwards twist the lens hood disengages and slides down over the lens barrel. To extend the hood, simply slide it straight out and it will solidly click into place. To remove the hood, simply rotate rightwards and it will unsnap just like any other lens hood. Cool! Nevertheless, the lens hood still adds bulk with about 7.5 cm (2.95 inches) in extra length and about three inches in diameter, but it sure makes it easier to carry and engage the hood when you need it.
There are a couple alternative lenses to the new 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 lens, though not an outright 1:1 competitor that will provide the same combination of features, such as focal length range, a bright constant aperture or robust weather sealing all in one package.
Olympus has made a number of 40-150mm lenses for the Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds system. If you're looking to save a substantial chunk of money but want an 80-300mm-equivalent lens, the Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/4-5.6 "R" lens is a lens to consider. While it has the same focal length range as the ƒ/2.8 Pro version, the "R" model has a much slower and variable ƒ/4-5.6 aperture, so you won't have the nice background blur or subject isolation nor the same low light performance. There's some other trade-offs as well. While the "R" model is a sharp lens, it displays more CA, more vignetting, and more distortion (stronger barrel distortion at shorter focal lengths before transition to some pincushion distortion at the longer end). However, the size and weight is significantly less compared to the Pro version thanks to the variable aperture and polycarbonate construction. It's also tremendously more affordable. Whereas the ƒ/2.8 version comes in at around $1,499, the ƒ/4-5.6 model can be had for a mere $199!
Now, if you're dead-set on having a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture, there's another option for M4/3 photographers: the Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8. Being Panasonic's professional-level telephoto zoom lens, the 35-100 ƒ/2.8 is dust- and splash-proof, has a strong metal construction and, of course, provides a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture. It also has built-in optical image stabilization (whereas the Olympus 40-150 ƒ/2.8 relies on Olympus' body-based sensor-shift IS). However, the focal lengths are slightly different. The Olympus isn't as wide but zooms out further, while the Panasonic sticks to the more traditional 70-200mm-equivalent focal length range. The Panasonic lens is also very sharp and has very little distortion and very minor CA, but vignetting is higher than the Olympus, at least at the shorter focal lengths.
Olympus is making a big splash with the new Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 Pro lens. No longer are professional and enthusiast photographers beholden to their large, heavy DSLR telephoto zooms if they want a tele lens with bright apertures, rugged weather-sealed build quality and compatibility with teleconverters. Not only are images tack sharp and the build quality outstanding, but the size and weight is also refreshingly light for such a lens. The Olympus lens measures up at around 6.3 long and weighs just a bit over 2 lbs (with hood and tripod collar attached), whereas a comparable 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 DSLR lens, such as the Canon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 Non-IS lens is 7.6 inches long and weighs almost 3 lbs. (for the IS Mk II version, you tip the scales at about 3.3 lbs.).
For Micro Four Thirds shooters, the 80-300mm-equivalent focal length range on the 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 is tremendously versatile, and when you factor in the addition of a 1.4x TC, it makes this lens quite a powerful and flexible, shoot-almost-anything lens. From portraits with nice, out of focus backgrounds, to sports and even wildlife, the 40-150mm ƒ/2.8 is able to "reach" all of these subjects, for the most part. And the fact that it's a fixed ƒ/2.8 lens makes it great not only in lower light shooting but also for increased subject isolation (and we found the bokeh on this lens to be very nice as well). In short, if you want the best, premium telephoto zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds currently available, this is the one.
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 ƒ/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.
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by coma (22 reviews)sharpness, build quality, close focusbokeh, not best of class - price
It's a really good lens. And there are some nice innovations in it, that make gear heads like me go nuts. Dual element focus (two groups each with linear motors). There seem to be some improvements in autofocus speed but primary a really, really close focus distance. This is great!reviewed December 7th, 2015 (purchased for $1,400)
Furthermore the lens is good optically. It might not compete with the best of the class (Canon 70-200, Fuji 50-140), but it covers a greater range than those two.
But it's not cheap - I'd say it's worth it but probably should be few hundert bucks less.
Again - the thing that disappointed me the most was, that this lens seems (like the 12-40) be optimised for close focus distances. The sharpness (while still great) gets a bit worse, when focussing at infinity. But the Bokeh is the main problem. If you have a busy background the out of focus rendering gets really bad. Don't know why Olympus is having so much problem with this
9 out of 10 points and recommended by jamesdike (9 reviews)Very sharp at all focal, strong builtnone
I purchased this lens in order to shoot fast action sports and feel free to keep my ISO where I want to. I've waited along long time before ordering it and after many many comparison and hesitations I've made the jump. With a lot of anxiety, I've started to test it and after shooting a hundred pictures with it, I must say, I thoroughly enjoy the surprises around every corner. Amazing. Sharpness at it's highest, bright and full colors, fabulous pics at all focal lengths. Stunning lens, very solid and versatile, event for I purchased this lens in order to shoot fast action sports and feel free to keep my ISO where I want to. I've waited along long time before ordering it and after many many comparison and hesitations I've made the jump. With a lot of anxiety, I've started to test it and after shooting a hundred pictures with it, I must say, I thoroughly enjoy the surprises around every corner. Amazing. Sharpness at it's highest, bright and full colors, fabulous pics at all focal lengths. Stunning lens, very solid and versatile, event for sports games. Pic 1,reviewed June 2nd, 2015 (purchased for $1,399)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by dom8632 (2 reviews)Sharp, fast, close focussing, retractable lens hoodNone
Brilliant lens in all aspects. Two outstanding things you won't find in many or maybe even any other lenses are the ability to shoot as close and the unique lens hood that saves time every time you use the lens. Both features help make this a very useable and enjoyable lens to work with. Olympus PRO lenses have the push/pull AF/MF switching that I find particularly useful.reviewed May 13th, 2015 (purchased for $1,500)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Lightweaver (2 reviews)Solid, fast, weather resistant, very high optical quality. Tripod collar Excellent micro contrast and detail rendition.A little heavy for the m4/3 system but not too much so. Keep in mind it is equivalent to an 80-300 F2.8 full frame angle of view.
I haven't used this lens a lot yet but what I have shot with it has been of exceptional quality. Fast, reliable, well built, weather resistant, top level optical quality, excellent micro-contrast and detail rendition. Love the focus clutch so that can use it in full autofocus or pull back on the focus collar for smooth manual focus. Used with my OM-D E-M5 Mark II, I usually use it in auto mode with manual fine tuning. Olympus PRO lenses are all top quality and can compete with the best that anyone else produces. Oh, and let me not forget the excellent close focus at all focal lengths. (20" from the front of the lens). It is internal focus and internal zoom. The autofocus is lightning quick using two separate focus motors to adjust different lens groups and maintain the IQ regardless of the focal length or distance. The best lens I have ever owned in almost 50 years of photography.reviewed May 4th, 2015 (purchased for $1,499)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by jmoule (1 reviews)Super sharp and lightweightThe OM-D E-M1 body does not year support continuous autofocus
Field tested this lens photographing sea otters. Took 700 frames with this lens and the OM-D E-M!. Took 700 frames with the Nikon D810 and the new Nikkor 80-400 mm VR II. Could not see and difference between the two set ups in terms of image sharpness, overall image quality, or single shot autofocus delay.reviewed February 26th, 2015
10 out of 10 points and recommended by MartinM (31 reviews)IQ, AF, SealingNone really
Awesome lens. Perfect for my OMD E-M1. Worth every penny.reviewed February 19th, 2015 (purchased for $1,440)