Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shooting Animals with Olympus 40-150mm F3.5-4.5

I took a bus down to Malacca over the weekend, and spent some time away from the hectic city. Work has become more and more stressful lately, thus getting away for a while was crucial for me to maintain my sanity. Of course, shutter therapy sessions did help a lot too.

I decided to go to the Malacca Zoo, to utilize the Olympus Zuiko 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, which has been spending a lot of time idling in the camera bag lately. It may only be a kit lens, which has been discontinued, and not so much of anyone's favourite lens, but I love this lens tremendously. Not only is it cheap (yes, for a budget conscious person like me, this is an important point), the performance is nothing short of stellar. It may not outperform Olympus 50-200mm or 70-300mm, but coming from the "standard lens" category, the sharpness and overall quality of this 40-150mm lens was really something to praise about.

All photographs in this entry were taken with Olympus E-5 and the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lens, except for the first image which was taken with 11-22mm F2.8-3.5. Do take note that all the images have been post-processed. I am not longer doing reviews, and it is time for me to truly let myself loose and do what I want with the camera without any restrictions.

Smell the lens.

How can he walk with his eyes closed?

Many Colours

Mousedeer, a favourite amongst local folklore tales.

Looks like a type of chicken. Yummy.

I did not come home with that many keepers this time. I believe many photographers must have faced the similar problems as I have:
1) Many of the animals were sleeping.
2) Most of them have their backs facing us.
3) Some of them hid in the corners, and just stayed there forever.
4) Too many clutters, especially man-made structures surrounding the animals, making it difficult to obtain natural looking photograph.
5) The cages are ugly.
6) The animals look... sad, somehow.

Well, I have a dozen more reasons, but I do not see the point of going on, and you can get the gist of what I am trying to say here. Not all were lost, I still managed to salvage a few shots that I really liked.

Looking at the photographs, I must say 40-150mm did not fail to deliver. The reach of 150mm may not be enough especially when the subjects were too far away, but it was more than good enough for general shooting. I really treasure the wider than usual for a kit lens aperture range: F3.5-4.5, as opposed to popularly available range of F4-5.6 from many other manufacturers. Brighter aperture allows higher shutter speed, thus helping to mitigate blurring due to shaking. Oh did I mention the bokeh? For a kit lens, surely this was more than anyone could ask for.



Curious, and unafraid.

I found that the non-zoo residents were a lot more energetic and lively.

Looking comfortable.

Another non-zoo resident.

One of the main reasons why I purchased Olympus in the first place was due to the high quality kit lenses. I have both 14-42mm and the 40-150mm (mk1 version), and those two lenses stayed with me for very long time before I decided to add anything to my gear collection. Even if I do not have my 11-22mm and 50mm now, and shoot solely with 14-42mm and the 40-150mm, I would still continue shooting because they provide me enough coverage for most of my photography needs. Of course, if you can afford more expensive and better lenses, by all means go for it. I will slowly, but surely move to High Grade lenses too. Coming home from the zoo, I can safely say that the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 will stay with me for my tele-photo needs, for now. It is still doing good, and I am happy with it.

Generally, if people were to complain or have any dissatisfaction with this lens, their reasons would be: slow auto-focus, not sharp enough, chromatic-aberration issues, and probably some vignetting. Yes, the autofocus is not something you can use for fast action shooting, such as sports. I do not shoot sports, so that is not a problem for me. Not sharp enough? It is true it is not as sharp as my other lenses, such as the 11-22mm and especially the 50mm F2 macro, but for its use on long zoom, I believe it is more than sufficient. I am not that particular when it comes to other technical aspects such as distortion, vignetting and CA. Come on, the more you go deeper into technical obsession, the less time you will spend in actually making good images happen.

Approaching friend.

Anyone else had good experience with the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lens? Please share your thoughts, or any complains you have with it. I would love to hear it from you.


  1. i love the dragonfly photo.. the 2nd dragonfly at the background make this photo sing! :D

  2. Hi Daniel,
    It is definitely my favourite photo too !! Thanks.

  3. I use the 40-150 Mark 2. It's a sharp lens, no buts, even for a tele kit lens. It's light, it takes the same filter diameter as the wide-normal kit lens.

    The issue with any lens as you have demonstrated is that we and the camera must focus correctly and avoid motion blur and have relevant DOF. Many people get less sharp because one of those is not satisfied. We can get less sharp even with a good camera and a good lens - I believe the photographer is 80% of the image quality. As you prove in this series of shots, you know how to make very sharp shots whatever equipment you use.

    The weakness with this lens is the big f/no when at max aperture. If you compare against the 50-200, you can get nearer f/2.8 while the 40-150 is nearer f/5.6 - this makes the background not smooth blur enough so reduces the impact...

  4. Hi Ananda,
    I have yet to use the 40-150mm mk2 extensively. I chose the 40-150mm mk1 due to its wider aperture.

    As you have highlighted, I do agree it depends heavily on the technique the photographer employs to focus on his subjects. Many modern/fresh photographers expect miracles to happen whenever, and however they point the lens. It is crucial to understand how the Af system works.

    Of course there is no denying the 50-200 has better bokeh, hence isolating the background from the subjects better, but at possibly 4 times the cost of the kit zoom lens !!

  5. Hi Robin,

    Found your blog from a friend, as I am very keen to know about the E-5's colors, compare to that famous E-1's colors. Can you give comment on that matters?

    The ZD 40-150mm (mine is the MK II) is a very underrated lens. In my opinion; the "kit lens" stamp is responsible for that. Even the ZD 14-42mm doesn't deserve the "kit lens" stamp! From my experiences of using kit lens from 3 others different brands; the 14-42 and 40-150 are both excellent lens interm of quality, versatility, and portability. Second to none!

    The only cons is it's plasticky build. But, I don't care about that as long as it can produce pleasing images I want.

    I'm pity to see most people buy camera and lens solely based on what majority of people are using. It may looks safe, but it is actually a very expensive decision.

    It is often hard for me to convince some friends (who use non-ZD more expensive tele lens), that I took the shot with the cheap 40-150mm and minor PP. But once they see the OOC files, then -most of the time- they realized that they been investing in a wrong direction with the system they choose.

    I own the ZD 50-200 SWD, and rarely use it due to it's size and weight (yeah.. what a waste! Getting old here!). Of course the quality is 'different', but not that far, considering it's price is 10 times of 40-150 (in our local camera stores).

    Sorry for this long writing, I do enjoy your pictures here, especially your E-5's shots. Thanks a lot for sharing those beautiful images. And I do recommend people to spend more time with the ZD 40-150mm to really understand how lucky we are to have that kit lens!

  6. hello Ralf,

    Do not hesitate to comment, or write as much as you feel like it !! I always encourage interaction and feedback from anyone, this is what keeps this blog going. Thanks so much for sharing your input, and experience with your kit lenses, I am sure a lot of people will benefit from this.

    It is true that the 14-42 and 40-150 should not be labeled as just kit lens, optically their quality is superb, and really sharp. I have always loved Olympus kit lenses, and hey, I am still using them !!

    Wow, you have a 50-200mm, that is amazing. I wish to have one, but I need to save up a lot, obviously going to take some time before I have enough to buy one. Nonetheless, it is not an absolute need for now, and definitely 40-150mm will be more than good enough to cover the longer zoom range for me.

    As for your question regarding the colour comparison between E-5 and E-1, I cannot give you a comment because I have not shot extensively with an E-1 before. I have used it for very brief shooting. Nevertheless, coming from Olympus, I am sure the colours will not disappoint.

  7. Thanks for your reply, Robin!

    Yes, I am sure that the E-5's colors will never failed to impress me. Just curious if it's have that special 'colors feeling' like my old trusty E-1. :D

    I am seriously thinking of upgrading sooner rather than later, especially after seeing many incredible pictures it has produced!

    I also think that the E-5 will not only makes the SHG glass more shinning, it also makes the kit lens shine more - judging from your own photos taken with the E-5 and ZD 40-150mm.

    Have a nice Monday, my friend!

  8. Hi Ralf,
    If you can afford it, you should go for the E-5, it is indeed the best 4/3 camera up to now. I am sure you wont regret getting one.
    I am still exploring my E-5, and loving it to bits !!

  9. The squirrel photos. Me likey.

  10. Wow, impressive photos!!! Never thought 40-150mm can be this good (I used to own the f4-5.6). Could it be because of E5?

  11. Thanks Chong !!
    I was darn close to tht squirrel la !! It felt like it was going to jump on me ahahah

    Hey Nghia,
    Thanks mate. Yes, both E-5 and 40-150mm played their parts.
    E-5 with superb details reproduction and great colors, while the 40-150mm was sharp and produces nice bokeh due to its F3.5-4.5, so yeah its a little bit of both.

  12. I like my 40-150 II very much, but my pictures never reach the quality of your shots, Robin. Perhaps the old lens is the better one ;-)? Well done!
    Funny, the monkey does not belong to the zoo? Okay, you live on the other half of the sphere...
    All the best from Germany

  13. hi SvenReinhold,
    I believe the 40-150mm Mk2 is also as sharp, if not sharper than the mk1 version. Nonetheless, put it on E-5, the resolution just bumps up a few notches !!
    We have wild monkeys running around the secondary forest which is adjacent to buildings and roads. Yes, that monkey was not in a cage, it was running freely everywhere. They can be a nuisance, I heard stories of the monkeys breaking into houses to steal food.

  14. The great kit lenses were the reason I chose Olympus as well. For a long time the 14-42 and 40-150 MK2 lenses were all I needed. Now my Mom uses them with her e620.

    I miss the 40-150 now even though I have both the 70-300 and the 50-200!
    It is just so small and tiny it is a great lens to use in combination with the 12-60 to walk-around.

    If Olympus made their kit lenses weather proof like the Pentax WR kit lenses, I would buy them again to use on my E1.


  15. Hi Andre,
    Wow you mum uses a DSLR !! How cool is that !!
    I do agree, it would be awesome if Olympus comes up with weather sealed kit lenses, I am sure people would not mind paying that extra for better construction (rather than just all plastic) and resistant design. We treasure built quality and durability of the lenses as well. It is a shame, because the optics quality is so good already, it just does not have the appropriate casing to house the glasses.

  16. Robin, I've written about you in my blog:

    It's in polish :)



  18. Hi Robin,
    great shots once again. Really amazing what you and your eyes can do with a camera. Unfortunately, the last picture (the Dragon fly?) wouldn't open for me. But I loved most of the others.
    Anyway, now I've got a question. Since I'm shooting a lot of dog action I mainly use the 50-200 SWD. But often, when I'm walking the dogs for several hours, I'm kind of fed up by the weight.
    So could you tell me if the focus speed of the 40-150 is accelerazed by the E-5 as the one of the 50 2.0.
    As always kind regards

  19. Hello Bartosz,
    Wow !! You have got a blog now, congratulations !! No worries, I shall use a translator to view it. Thanks so much for the mention, really appreciate it.

    Hey Nicolaus,
    Thanks so much for the compliments.
    The last shot of the dragonfly is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but I do love it a lot. It is the kind of photograph that tells a story, and conveys an idea other than just plain dragonflies.
    There is improvement on 40-150mm lens using it on the E-5, but I did not feel the improvement to be as significant as the 50mm. The autofocusing speed was fast, but not blazing fast. I am afraid to capture motion and action shots, you will still need to carry the 50-200mm SWD.

  20. Great photo of the anteater.

  21. Hi Ian,
    Thanks, I would prefer the eye to be open though, I waited for 10 minutes for that and I gave up in the end ahahahha.

  22. Those are very nice shots, but I am very jealous of your (first) squirrel shot, and the one with the monkey... ;)

  23. Hi Monkey,
    Thanks so much for your compliments !! There is nothing to be jealous about, I was just lucky, those animals just appeared out of nowhere.

  24. Ken Thomas Photography11/29/2010 03:49:00 AM

    I have used my E-1, 40-150mm f3.5-4.5 combo to photograph racing motorcycles and cars at Summit Point Raceway, West Virginia with Magnificent results. If anyone says that this combo can't handle this type of high speed action, I'd say that they shouldn't knock it until they try it. I also used this body/lens combo to photograph the many monuments around the National Mall in Washington D.C. Including Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Iwo Jima, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial etc. Once I learned the characteristics of this lens/body combination, the rest was up to my photographic eye and skill to bring home the prize. I will be an Olympus user for Life!!

  25. Hello again Ken !!
    Wow, finally yet another person who have loved and maximized the use of the Olympus 40-150mm mk1.
    A lot of people have this stereo-typical mindset that for sports and fast actions we need those large bazookas, but obviously you have proven them wrong.
    Do share your passion and great work with Olympus system with the world.