The Olympus 40 - 150mm Lens
by Kevin Raber
The 40-150mm lens with the lens shade extended
Times Are Changing . . .
By now if you are a regular reader you know Michael, and I have been working with mirrorless cameras quite a bit. Michael has focused primarily on the Sony mirrorless line, and I have focused on the Olympus and Fuji line-up. There are a lot of reasons to go mirrorless and according to friends in the camera retail business I am told that many photographers are trading in their full frame DSLR’s for a lighter and more compact mirrorless options. We have covered in previous articles a lot of news on all the mirrorless options, and we have a few articles in the works that will be published soon on some of the latest and newest mirrorless products. What I want to share with you today is my experience withe new Olympus 40-150mm lens.
The lens shade retracted
Olympus like Fuji has been very public with their lens roadmaps. Earlier this year Olympus introduced its first Pro designated lens and announced three other lenses at that time These were the 40-150mm, 7-14mm and 300mm. Recently the long awaited 40-150mm lens was released and is now available. I had my name in at Roberts Photo in Indianapolis and was lucky enough to grab the first one they received. It has a list price of $1,499.00 USD and is a very good value for the price. The 1.4 Tele-extender will be around $350.00 USD additional.
Kevin Raber gives a three and half minute overview of the Olympus 40-150mm lens
I had a chance to handle this lens at Photokina and ever since I was anxiously waiting for the lens to be shipped. I’ll start this report out by saying I have not been disappointed. The engineering, build, and optical performance of this lens is simply stunning.
The 40-150mm has an equivalent 35mm full frame focal length of 80-300mm. That’s a remarkable range and with the 1.4 Tele-extender you have a reach of 420mm, all in a remarkable compact lens. This lens weighs in at 1.94 lb. With the tripod collar attached. It has a f/2.8 - f/22 range. It is a little over 6.25 inches in length and about 3 inches in diameter. The filter diameter is 72mm. The lens as you can see in the video above has a very clever lens shade. I must tip my hat to Olympus as they have been ahead of the curve in many aspects and the thought process of engineering the lens hood into the lens as they have is very cool.
There is a lot of talk now about IBIS that will be a photographic term that will be thrown around a lot in the coming months. In Body Image Stabilization is the newest feature being added to cameras. Olympus was the pioneer of 5 - axis IBIS with the must be experienced to be truly appreciated. Sony just announced 5-axis IBIS in the Ar II camera that will be shipping December 12. We are testing that camera now.
Since using the Olympus, I have been shooting long exposure handheld images at shutter speeds I would not think possible even with normal lens stabilization. This is even more evident in the images I have been making with the 40-150mm lens. I was able to shoot handheld with this lens at 1/8th of a sec. and produced great results. (see the image of my cat Pixel below).
Focal Length 142mm at ISO 1600
I have fallen in love with this lens. Using the Dual Phase and Contrast detection AF in the E-M1 body, this lens focuses very quickly and follows subjects very well. The E-M1 is a very versatile camera and allows for a few different ways to use auto focus. I tested the lens by putting it on a tripod and using the touch screen I selected close and far away focus points and watched how fast it could adjust as I touched the screen at different locations. I was very impressed by the responsiveness.
This is important because I am about to journey to Antarctica and on this trip I am taking the Olympus E-M1 and The Fuji XT-1 systems. Last year Michael used the Olympus E-M1 in Antarctica and missed some crucial images because he was using 4/3 lenses that did not use the Dual Phase-Contrast auto focus. By the time the lens focused, the shot was gone. This was most noticeable when shooting a whale breaching against a dark ocean background. I am convinced with the 40-150mm and 12-40mm Olympus Pro Lenses that this kind of shot won’t be missed this year when I take this gear to Antarctica.
Closer to our departure for Antarctica Michael and I will do an article on what gear we will be taking and how we will be getting it there. The Olympus with the 12-40mm and 40-150mm lens along with the Panasonic 100-300mm will certainly be part of my kit.
The feel and build of this lens are incredibly nice. It must be seen to be appreciated. The lens, unlike some other zooms, does not telescope when being used. It maintains a 2.8 aperture through-out the zoom range. And, all of this is in a nice compact lens. Comparing this lens in size and weight to a Nikon or Canon 70-200mm lens will wake you up to where the industry is going and what you are missing.
The image quality that this lens produces has blown me away. In the end no matter how well a lens performs the proof is in the print. I made a series of 17x22 inch prints from different focal lengths and f-stops and found the quality exceptional. I saw no fringing, or artifacts or aberrations and sharpness was quite exceptional. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this lens at all f-stops even down to f/22. I used Capture One 8.x to process the images and output them to 16 bit ProPhoto tiff before printing using an Epson 9900 and ImagePrint RIP.
While it is totally a different topic, I am more convinced than ever that the differences between prime and zooms in narrowing significantly. I have seen this with Fuji, Olympus, and Sony zooms. When the 7-14mm Olympus Pro lens and the 300mm Pro lens join the 12-40 and 40-150mm existing lenses, Olympus will have an amazing high-performance line up. Now if they can only figure out how to squeeze more mega-pixels into a micro 4/3 sensor.
I should mention that 5 years ago I was loaded with primes. Now I am finding that the zooms are so good, that I can carry fewer lenses, cover a wider angle of view and do all of this with 3-4 lenses in a small compact easy to carry kit.
The images below will give some perspectives on zoom range, focus and depth of field.
At 200% 150mm 5.6 (hand held) 1/750th sec, ISO 400 (sign in doorway)
These last few images show the framing (zoom range) as well as depth of field
100% Crop Of Above
100% Crop Of Above
Sharpness Is Very good
I wouldn't hesitate to shoot this lens wide open - Very nice background blur
The above images were shot hand held at 1/750th sec. - Background blur
at each of the F/stop ranges. The focus is very good and I would not hesitate to
shoot wide open. I love the background blur at 3.5 and 4.5
About 3.5 feet distance
Very nice close focus and zoom ability
Minimum focus distance at 40mm
Minimum focus at 150mm, Nice ability to close focus using the long focal length
If you already are an Olympus user, then you shouldn’t wait any longer. Go out and get this lens and if you don’t have the 12-40mm lens purchase that one too along with the Tele-extender. The image quality, the build and overall experience of using these lenses won’t disappoint you.
If you don’t own Olympus and are considering moving to a mirrorless option then it is worth your time to look at this system. The only handicap I see is the small sensor size. However, the image quality I have been able to obtain up to 17x22 inches has been exceptional and surprisingly good. The overall weight and size factors when traveling with a system like this should be a serious consideration. Remarkably light and compact with high end DSLR performance. Your options are a Fuji X-T1 or other X system camera and the Sony Ar series of mirrorless cameras. And, let’s not forget the new Samsung NX-1.
It’s funny how things change and how much they stay the same. Many years ago (during the seventies) back in the film days I moved to Olympus from my big Nikon systems. Their original OM series cameras specifically OM-3 and 4 were ground breaking as far as size and performance. Now it seems we are seeing this evolution happen all over again. My full frame Nikon DSLR system hasn’t seen action for a number of months now. Olympus has won me over with its feature rich E-M1 camera and Pro series lenses.
I am left to wonder what Nikon and Canon are doing as the mirrorless revolution seems to be leaving them in the wake. Maybe, they will surprise us all.
Published December 7, 2014