Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40–150mm f/2.8 PRO: Brilliance Personified

 
Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO

Shridhar Kunte takes a close look at the Olympus 40–150 mm/2.8 PRO, the company’s attempt at serious optics, to find out what it has to offer.

During the last couple of visits to the Olympus booth at the international trade shows, we kept hearing about the efforts being made to strengthen their lens line-up. We saw a big step in that direction with the new 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO, during the Photokina 2014 show.

This lens is an ideal companion for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1 cameras. Together with this lens, the cameras will offer resistance against dust and moisture, and work in sub zero temperatures as well.

Features
The premium quality of the metal lens is easily appreciable when one picks it up for the first time. It boasts of the world’s first Dual VCM (Voice Coil Motor) autofocus mechanism. This motor drives the AF at fast speeds and is noiseless. This motor is similar in construction to the motors used for image stabilisation.

The lens contains 16 elements arranged in 10 groups, which includes Olympus ZERO-coated HD, ED, EDA, and for the first time in a M.ZUIKO lens, a Super EDA glass element. Super EDA glass keeps chromatic aberration, ghosting and flare to a minimum.

In 35mm parlance, this lens offers an extremely versatile focal length of 80mm to 300mm, along with an excellent constant maximum aperture of f/2.8.

There were two features that impressed me at the very first glance. The first is a constant close focus distance of 0.7metre (2.3 feet) at all focal lengths. The maximum magnification ratio is 1:2.3.

The second is the lenshood design. Regular lenshoods need to be removed and reversed back onto the lens before the lens is packed into a bag. In the case of the 40-150, a simple twist allows it to collapse over the lens, making it easier and quicker. It becomes particularly useful while using a circular polarizer. Simply retract, adjust the polariser, and then push the hood forward before you shoot.

Handling
I tried this lens on both the OM-D E-M1 and the E-P3. Using this lens necessitates an electronic viewfinder, to steady the lens by holding it up, against the eye. The tripod collar rotates and can be fixed to any position on the barrel, for easy rotation on as tripod, from the horizontal to the vertical shooting positions. It also helps you shoot handheld without the collar getting in the way. Once you mount the lens on the camera, the collar cannot be removed.

The lens is perfectly sealed against the elements with seals at 11 different locations. By default, the L-Fn switch on the lens barrel is set to stop focus. This button can be very easily reached with left hand thumb, but as soon as you start shooting vertically, it gets tough to reach.

The zoom ring is large enough to grab and operate. The focusing ring is ahead of the zoom ring. Zoom as well as the focusing action takes place internally ensuring that the lens does not extend. The focus ring can be pulled back to switch from AF to MF.

Performance
The lens balances well. The image sharpness even with the wide open aperture (f/2.8) is remarkable. And it improves as you stop down. The focusing speed, even in low light is fast, and the focusing was spot on. Even at 100%, images display plenty of details with no trace of colour fringing. This performance was consistent throughout the entire focal length.

The special elements did wonderful job in correcting chromatic aberration. I noticed the slightest hints of it only in images shot against the light. Light falloff is barely noticeable wide open, and by f/4, there is zero trace of it. Geometrical distortion is nonexistent in this lens.

The lens exhibits excellent sharpness, and colour contrast wide open, and it only improves when stopped down to mid-aperture ranges. Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/6.3 (ISO 200). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The lens exhibits excellent sharpness, and colour contrast wide open, and it only improves when stopped down to mid-aperture ranges. Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/6.3 (ISO 200). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

This lens has MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) tag and while shooting video I found the lens was completely noise-free during focusing.

Conclusion
The closest competition to this lens is the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8. In my opinion, the extra reach of the 40-150mm can prove very useful in many situations, such as sports, wildlife or portraiture. Despite the weight, the 40-150mm handles very well. Optically, the lens exceeded my expectation. It is also superbly designed. The lens is available at a MRP of Rs. 1,05,000, and is well worth the price. You can also buy a kit with an extremely useful 1.4x teleconverter by spending an additional Rs. 14,000.

FINAL RATINGS
Features: Fast focusing speed, dual VCM motors, innovative lenshood, tripod collar  18/20
 Performance: Sharpness, contrast, speed  34/35
 Build Quality: Metal construction, Weather sealing  24/25
 Ergonomics: Large and easy to grab zoom ring  13/15
 Warranty & Support: Replaceable in case of manufacturing defect for 3 years  3/5
 OVERALL  92%

MRP: Rs.1,05,000

Who should buy it? Those who want an extremely versatile zoom with great performance for stills and video.

Why? The 40–150mm is designed extremely well, with an overall performance that is difficult to match in a zoom of this range.

Tags: Olympus, Shridhar Kunte, January 2015, Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40–150mm f/2.8 PRO, Olympus lens, Olympus 40-150, Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40–150mm f/2.8 PRO MRP, Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40–150mm f/2.8 PRO review]