Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro Preview

November 18, 2014 | Jack Baker | Comment |

At a recent press event held at Cheltenham race course, we got our hands on Olympus’ new M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro telephoto lens. Click through to read our first impressions and see full-size sample images...

This latest addition to Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds lens line-up is design to perfectly complement the weatherproof OM-D E-M1 camera body. To that end, the lens is fully sealed to be dust, splash and freezeproof, whilst its tough metal build will sustain the rough and tumble of life off the beaten track.

And the features don’t stop there. You get a snap-focus manual focus ring, rather than a fiddly switch. Just snap the focus ring backwards to move to manual mode and push it forward for auto focussing. In manual mode the ring has hard stops at both ends of the focussing spectrum, as well as focus distance indicators.

On the left side of the lens is a customisable function button which can be programmed to control one of numerous possible camera settings, reducing the need to take your hand off the lens when shooting.

Included with the lens is a hood, but this isn’t just any old hood. A quick-release ring enables it to slide back down the lens and lock in place when not in use, or you can remove the hood completely if you prefer. It’s a really neat trick and despite the retractable design, the hood is still sturdy enough to support the weight of the lens and an OM-D body.

Although the 40-150mm f/2.8 is by no means bulky, Olympus also includes a removable tripod collar for optimal balancing when shooting supported.

The professional-grade design is continued on the inside, where 16 lens elements ensure maximum sharpness and optical quality thanks to multiple ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and Super ED elements. All elements have Olympus’ ZERO (Zuiko Extra‑low Reflection Optical) coating to minimise reflection and flare.

It isn’t just optical quality that gives this lens professional credentials though. Fast, smooth autofocussing is critical for capturing fast-moving distant subjects, so Olympus has equipped the 40-150mm f/2.8 with its excellent dual VCM (voice coil motor) autofocus system. This eliminates gears and corresponding friction, making autofocussing impressively smooth and rapid.

The first thing that strikes you when using the 40-150mm f/2.8 – apart from the superb build quality – is its size. At 79.4x160mm and 760g (880g with tripod collar), it’s significantly lighter and more compact than an equivalent pro-spec DSLR lens. Internal zooming means the lens length stays constant, as does the f/2.8 maximum aperture at all focal lengths.

The focal range is equivalent to 80-300mm in 35mm-camera terms, making it ideal for wedding, wildlife or sports photography. A 70cm minimum focussing distance is also impressively close for a telephoto lens and gives the 40-150mm f/2.8 plenty of versatility.

Shooting fast-paced horse racing action was an ideal test for the lens, and it passed with flying colours. Autofocussing is near-instantaneous and also very accurate when coupled to an OM-D E-M1 body, which is all the more important when shooting with a shallow depth of field at f/2.8.

The smooth background bokeh at such wide apertures also accentuates the lens’ superb sharpness. Although the 16MP OM-D EM-1 isn’t capable of resolving the same amount of detail as larger, more pixel-packed sensors; the 40-150mm f/2.8 certainly maximises its potential. Fine detail and textures are captured with excellent clarity which extends to the corners of frame, even at apertures wider than f/4.

You’ll also be hard-pressed to spot any distortion at extreme focal lengths, and flare is minimal too, even when shooting into direct sunlight. Those high-quality coated lens elements also do a great job of reducing chromatic aberration. You’ll spot some minor fringing on very high contrast boundaries, but only when viewing larger than 75% image size.

At £1299/$1499, the 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro isn’t as light on the pocket as it is in the hand, but it does offer terrific performance, build quality and usability in a refreshingly portable package.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro Preview JPEG Images

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