Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 review

Olympus seems committed to their system with the launch of a full range of fast, high quality, weather sealed Pro lenses and they show no signs of slowing down.  The new 40-150 f/2.8 Pro telephoto lens is an absolute masterpiece with great design, fantastic build and stunning optical quality.

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Below: 100% crop from above image  – crisp & detailed with great bokeh

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We used the 40-150mm lens over a few days and took it to an anti-austerity demonstration and to a mud race for charity. This would give us a good chance to evaluate the lens’s reach, speed, optical performance and how it performs in combination with the E-M1.  Mark took along his Canon 1D mkIII with 70-200mm f2.8 L lens to use as a rough comparison.

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Below: 100% crop of above image

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Picking up the lens it is immediately clear how well built it is.  While not heavy, it has a very solid feel with all metal construction and smooth zoom & focus rings which feel great.  The focus ring can be clicked back to switch instantly to manual focus in exactly the same way as the 12-40 Pro lens, which is a great feature. Also like the 12-40, it features a function button on the side which can be set to a range of different functions from within the cameras menu.  The lens hood is made from a very high quality plastic, and for sure, has one of the coolest designs I have seen.  Once attached, a ring on the hood is used to release a mechanism allowing the hood to side back for easier storage and back again very quickly and easily. Brilliant!

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The lens balances very well on the E-M1 with battery grip attached, giving it a fairly ‘Pro DSLR’ look, in fact you can see in the review video how similar in appearance it becomes to Mark’s  Canon 1D mkIII with 70-200mm.

My first impressions as I started to use the lens were very positive, in combination with the E-M1, the focus was just lighting fast!  Everywhere I point the lens and whether it’s at 40mm or 150mm, the lens snaps into focus instantly. At the charity mud race I got a chance to test out how the lens would perform with the E-M1’s continuous auto-focus. While I do not use C-AF very often I was very impressed with the speed, and in fact, I believe the lens is capable of performing faster than the camera’s auto-focus.  As in the E-M1 review, I found an 80-90% hit rate, but I believe a chunk of the missed images were down to me rather than the camera/lens.  The longer I shot the higher the hit rate became as I got used to tracking moving subjects. I felt a real sense of confidence with this combination and would have no hesitation to use and recommend for professional use.

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The Image quality from this lens is nothing short of stunning.  SHARP!!  Really, this is a tremendously sharp lens, producing crisp images with gorgeous creamy bokeh and great colour & contrast.  We could not see any fringing, chromatic aberration or really much vignetting, if any!  Close inspection of the images on their own is impressive enough, but when we compared with images from Mark’s 1D mkIII with 70-200mm, for me it was clearly better. Now, it should be noted that the 1D mkIII is a much older camera with 10mp, where as the E-M1 is only 2 years old with 16mp and no low-pass filter. But the 1D would still be considered a professional tool and shows that the E-M1 is more than capable of being used professionally and I believe people who dismiss or hate on it, haven’t tried it.  Use this combo for a day and I believe you’d fall in love, or at least be impressed with it’s capabilities.

100% crops (OOC jpegs) from Canon & Olympus – for me, the Olympus combo is clearly better.

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At the end of our time with the lens, I really did not want to give it back.  I really love this lens and want to order one asap, but I also have a requirement for wide angle so it may have to wait until after I get the new 7-14mm f2.8 first.

Olympus is really on a roll right now, producing seriously high quality, weather sealed, fast aperture, Pro lenses to go along with the already impressive range of great Olympus/Panasonic primes and third party lenses.
The Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 has to be the sharpest, fastest & best built Olympus lens yet. It is on another level of performance and is probably the best telephoto zoom I have ever used.  Smaller and lighter than it’s closest DSLR rivals, the 70-200mm f2.8 lenses, but I would say, sharper and just as fast on the E-M1.  An instant classic and a must have if you like telephoto.

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