Gear review: Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens

Olympus recently released its second PRO level lens: the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom lens


Note: This review is written as a casual review based on user experiences. I don’t intend to provide a calibrated, scientific description of this lens.

In 2014, Olympus came through on their promise to bring a second PRO-version zoom lens to market. After the heralded debut of the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens late in 2013, the natural companion lens, the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom lens began shipping in November.

This 40-150mm zoom lens (hereafter called the “40-150”) has all the engineering and design aspects of its older sibling. Made with polished black metal and high-grade plastics, the 40-150 feels solid and well-balanced in hand. The zoom and focus rings are dampened and turn smoothly without play. The focus ring features the manual focus clutch that’s also seen on the 12-40 lens – with a simple snap backwards the lens shifts into manual focus mode and reveals a distance scale. The manual focus ring has stops at both ends and the focus throw is a bit short. Push the focus ring forward to return to auto focus mode.

The lens remains at one physical length while focusing and zooming; both functions are internal movements and do not extend the length of the lens.

The earlier 40-150mm R f/4-5.6 lens (left) in less than half the size and weight of the new 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens (right).

Weather sealing is part of the design, providing splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof protection.

The included (Yes!) lens hood has a very unique design to it. Rather than deal with the usual clumsy method of twisting, removing, turning around and remounting the lens shade, the shade on the 40-150 stays attached and simply retracts backward until the front of the shade is even with the front of the lens. The lens shade can be removed completely, if desired. This is a very simple and convenient way to store a lens shade.

Mounted on an Olympus E-M1, the lens hood has been removed. The tripod collar mount on the lens is in use here.
The lens hood is attached and extended in this image.
When retracted, the front of the lens hood aligns with the front of the lens. Very clever design feature.

Wouldn’t it be great if Olympus offered a retro-fit lens shade like this for the 12-40mm PRO lens?

The maximum aperture of this lens is a constant f/2.8 and the 40-150mm range provides a 35mm equivalent field of view of 80-300mm. Coupled with the Olympus in-body image stabilization, this lens is comparable to the ubiquitous “70-200 f/2.8 IS/VR” lens genre that is popular among DSLR crowds. One distinction of this Olympus version is the relatively smaller size and weight compared to the full frame tribes. The Olympus 40-150 weighs just under 2 pounds (with the tripod collar included) and measures about 6 1/4″ in length and 3″ diameter. The filter size is 72mm. This lens is definitely larger than other Micro 4/3 lenses and approaches the limits of satisfying the “small/light” aspect that attracts many users to M4/3 systems.

The 40-150 lens is constructed of 16 elements in 10 groups, with one aspherical ED lens, and two aspherical lenses.

In use, the lens complements the Olympus OMD E-M1 body nicely. When attached to the E-M5 or E-M10 body, the lens dominates the presence of the camera in the hands. Adding an accessory grip to either of these bodies will provide a more secure way to hold onto the rig. I don’t have any of the Olympus PEN cameras, but I expect this lens would overpower those smaller bodies.

The auto focus is extremely fast and silent. So fast, I needed to perform a couple of deliberate focusing moves to confirm that it was actually operating. I had previously upgraded the E-M1 firmware to version 2.2; this version reportedly supports improved auto-focusing for the 40-150 lens. It was a bit of a surprise to see how closely this lens can focus on a subject. The lens specs list this distance at 27.5 inches and this allows for some near-macro effects. (The 12-40mm PRO lens also features a very close focus range, apparently another family trait.)

Image quality of the 40-150 lens is excellent, even at wide-open. The image acceptably holds its sharpness into the corners of the frame. When used for portraiture at a wide aperture, the out of focus areas in the background look smooth and soft. With the smaller M4/3 sensor, the depth of field at the widest aperture is not razor thin; it shows a bit more sharpness than a larger sensor would display.

I used the lens for an editorial assignment the day after it arrived. ISO 100, 1/125, f/3.5 @100mm
ISO200, f/2.8 1/1600 @150mm, handheld about 3′ away from flower
100% crop from above image.
ISO400, 1/1250, f/2.8 @82mm
ISO400, 1/1600, f/4.5 @150mm handheld
100% crop from above image.
ISO100, 3.2 seconds, f/11, @70mm on tripod

Overall, the Olympus 40-150mm PRO lens delivers as promised. When paired with the 12-40mm PRO lens, a photographer can have a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture spanning across an effective field of view of 24-300mm.

Many comments on discussions forums raise the question, “With these two lenses, how much will you use your fast prime lenses?”

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