Monday, December 14, 2015

Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Mini Review

I have recently done my quick impression write-up for the two long lenses from Olympus M.Zuiko line up, the M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 and 14-150mm F4-5.6 II. Since then, I have received many requests to do similar mini-review for the budget friendly, super compact M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R. I intended to complete this blog entry much earlier, but work obligations plus lots of procrastination on my part had delayed the progress of shooting with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R lens. 

M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6 R on my new, shiny Silver OM-D E-M10 Mark II

I am not going to exaggerate and just go straight to the point here: there really is not much to write about this lens. The biggest advantage of this lens is the small size and extremely lightweight design. The M.Zuiko 40-150mm R is no bigger than any standard kit lenses from DSLR basic entry level kit, and it covers considerably equivalent long focal length of 80mm to 300mm, which is impressive for a lens of such small footprint. Being an Olympus M.Zuiko lens, though priced at the lower point in comparison, I expected the images to be sharp and technically well corrected, though not to the same level of sharpness and lens flaw control of the higher grade 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens (which, obviously is much bigger and heavier, and there is no point to compare further). 

The 40-150mm R has been sold often as a bundle with many Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras, thus this lens is seen as a value for money lens, and I am sure many people already have this lens. 

In this blog entry, I am sharing images I have taken during my limited shooting run with the lens on my new OM-D E-M10 Mark II. 

F4, 1/25sec, 40mm, ISO1250

Small Size & Light Weight

What I find amazing, as I have mentioned, the one and most important advantage of this M.Zuiko 40-150mm R is the tiny size and light weight. Adding this lens into your bag practically does not take much space in your bag or add any strain to your shoulder and back, yet you gain much flexibility in shooting with expanded longer focal length, all the way up to 300mm! The lens being not expensive, makes it a compelling choice for many entry level shooters to consider. I have been a frequent user of the older DSLR Zuiko Digital version of 40-150mm lenses, both the Zuiko 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 and the newer version 40-150mm F4-5.6, both mounted on my E-520 and E-5. Coming from such history of utilizing Olympus Zuiko quality budget telephoto zoom lenses, I expected nothing less from the new M.Zuiko 40-150mm R which is designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds system. 

Lens Sharpness

The first thing I tested the lens for was, as always, sharpness. 

To do so, I brought the lens to the KL Bird Park, and I know some of the birds are getting bored of seeing me popping by so often. Nonetheless, being a city kid I am not too keen on venturing into the wilderness and find myself stuck in the middle of the hazardous rainforest, just for the sake of photography. I wanted to stay connected to the Internet at all times and I wanted my hot Flat White after the shooting session, so I opted for the zoo-like setup of Bird Park. To me, it was good enough and the location served the purpose for me to test the lens, as we do need longer lenses to shoot the birds. 

The M.Zuiko 40-150mm R is a sharp lens. I would rate the sharpness as being very similar from what I observed from the M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ kit lens. Throughout the zoom range from 40mm to 150mm, the output is adequately sharp, but I also suspect that there is a significant amount of JPEG sharpening involved. The lens managed to squeeze out the fine details (feathers on the bird) but the fine details are not looking anywhere as refined as what I normally observe from higher grade M.Zuiko lenses (eg, 45mm F1.8, or the PRO lenses). Still, the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R does an amazing job capturing pleasingly sharp, contrasty and punchy images, and all the signature Olympus look is well presented. 

I know someone will ask this question, so let me answer it, but please bear in mind this is based only entirely on my shooting experience, and personal opinion. So which of the Olympus long lenses is the sharpest? M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO is still the king in terms of sharpness and far surpasses all other long zoom lenses from Olympus, no doubt about that. Coming down from that, I believe 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 is slightly, but noticeably sharper than the other two remaining lenses, M.Zuiko 40-150mm R and 14-150mm II. The 40-150mm R and 14-150mm II are very similar indeed, and I almost see no difference between these two lenses. That was what initially surprised me in the first place when I was testing the 14-150mm II lens, I thought being an all purpose full range zoom lens from wide angle to telephoto would show some signs of compromise, but the lens was surprisingly performing well throughout all zoom range. 

F5.6, 1/20sec, 150mm, ISO200
Utilizing the in body 5-Axis Image Stabilization, I can hand-hold all my shots of the birds without the aid of a tripod, even at full 150mm end. I do not need to boost my ISO ridiculously high, since I can shoot at slower shutter speeds. Typically, at 300mm equivalent focal length, you would need at least 1/300sec shutter speed to counter camera shake. at 1/20sec, that was an effective of almost 4 steps of IS compensation. 

100% crop from previous image

F5.1, 1/30, 108mm, ISO200

F5.4, 1/25sec, ISO100
The sharpness of the 40-150mm R lens is very good. However, I do suspect that the JPEG engine added some aggressive sharpnening. The images looked punchy, contrasty and pleasing, but the fine details lack the smooth, natural look that I usually get from higher grade prime lenses and PRO lenses. Nonetheless, considering an output from a low-priced point telephoto lens, I'd say it did a splendid job, and there really is nothing much to complain about. 

100% Crop from previous image

F5.6, 1/30sec, 150mm, ISO250

F5.6, 1/40sec, 150mm, ISO200

F5.4, 1/100sec, 132mm, ISO1250

F5.6, 1/20sec, 150mm, ISO320

F4, 1/40sec, 40mm, ISO200

F5.6, 1/50sec, 150mm, ISO1600

100% crop from previous image


Focusing on the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R was blazingly fast, and that was an impressive feat considering the lens is covering long focal lengths reaching up to 300mm equivalent. The great thing about focusing with OM-D/PEN bodies is the dead-on accuracy, I rarely find miss-focused shots, if there were any, those were probably my own fault (setting the focusing point at the wrong place, or not being fast enough to react to the subject). The focusing does slow down a little in dark shooting conditions, but still averagely fast enough without causing much impact in getting the shots done.


One of the best things about Olympus latest cameras is surely the JPEG engine. I think the Truepic 7 Image Processing engine is doing a fantastic job at countering all the technical lens flaws. I almost do not see any Chromatic Aberration (CA), even if there was color fringing in high contrasty area, they were not too intrusive and are very efficiently controlled. There is no noticeable distortion (usually not a big issue with long lenses). Also, the overall look of the photograph resulting from this lens looked punchy and lively straight out of the camera. I did not do much post-processing to the images I am showing in this blog entry, they are all almost as good as straight out of camera.


Being a 300mm equivalent focal length lens, zooming in allows rendering of compressed background in the photographs captured, as well as shallow depth of field. The bokeh quality is smooth, rounded and quite pleasing. If you do not have a prime lens (75mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8), you can still accomplish shallow depth of field shots to isolate your subjects, but zooming into the longer end of the lens.


The 40-150mm R is not a macro lens, and it does not pretend to be one. You can still do a little bit of close up shooting, but do not expect miracles to happen. To get higher magnification, you do need to use the longer focal lengths. If you are considering this lens, or if you already have this lens, chances are that you have one of the kit lenses from Olympus (either 14-42mm EZ, 12-50mm EZ or 12-40mm PRO lens). All the kit lenses outperform the 40-150mm R lens in terms of close up shooting capability, resulting in higher magnification shot.

F5.6, 1/50sec, 150mm, ISO200
The not too impressive magnification of a spider shot. I believe I can get better magnification with the 14-42mm EZ lens, and surely even better close up capability from 12-50mm EZ and 12-40mm PRO lens. 

F4.7. 1/50sec, 78mm, ISO1000
The bokeh rendering is smooth, and buttery. 

F5.6, 1/30sec, 150mm, ISO1000
Another example of the largest magnification this 40-150mm R lens can do. Nothing to should about. 

F5, 1/15sec, 40mm, ISO640
The great thing about having a small lens, it does not look ridiculous when you use it in a casual environment: shooting a cup of coffee would look too scary with a much larger, DSLR lens. 

F5.6, 1/15sec, 53mm, ISO640
Rendang Chow Mein in Italian Style

F5.6, 1/40sec, 40mm, ISO200
Briyani with Fried Chicken. 

F5.6, 1/80sec, 150mm, ISO200

F4.3, 1/320sec, 53mm, ISO200

F5.6, 1/100sec, 40mm, ISO200

F4, 1/125sec, 40mm, ISO250
Amir blending in, like a ninja. 

F4, 1/40sec, 40mm, ISO200

F4, 1/160sec, 40mm. ISO640

What I Do Not Like About The Lens?

The only complain I have enough this M.Zuiko 40-150mm R lens, is the "cheap" feel that you get when you hold it, and the plasticky feeling did not exactly promote much confidence during the shoot. The construction of the lens does not exactly scream "well-built", or anything close to "solid". I'd prefer if the lens was constructed with higher grade plastic or other hybrid material, and the design could have been better (the prime lenses surely look much better). 

While I do understand that this is a budget friendly, designed for entry level use, zoom lens, I somehow wish that the aperture opening was slightly larger. Olympus, in the DSLR days, had an amazing 40-150mm F3.5-4.5. I loved that lens, and have used it extensively over the years. While the lens is not as bright as a constant F2.8 PRO lens, the F3.5-4.5 vs F4-5.6 does make a huge difference, when shooting in not so favourable lighting circumstances. 

And I also wished that the lens can do a 0.5x magnification, so I can use it as a pseudo-macro lens. 

I acknowledge that if all my requestes above were integrated into the lens: better material/build quality, faster aperture and higher close up magnification, the lens would probably ended up costing double the price of what it is selling for now, or even more. But you know what? I am sure the customers are willing to pay for it. I know I would. 

Final Words

The winning factors of this lens is the versatility: the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R complements the M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ kit lens so well, that anyone can start and cover a huge area of photography with just these two lenses combo. Yet these lenses are so small, light and easy to carry around. With a 300mm in such tiny package, there is no excuse to leave the lens at home, and not use it when you are out there shooting. The image quality is sufficiently good, with adequate sharpness and well controlled lens technical flaws. There is nothing much to complain about this lens, it just performs and delivers beautiful photographs, straight out of camera. 

The session always ends with an overpriced cup of coffee. 

Do you have the M.Zuiko 40-150mm R lens? Do you agree with my findings? Do you have anything else to add? Please do let me know in the comments below, I am eager to hear your experience. 

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  1. Hi Robin,
    Again, you make the lens look good. I bought it with the EM5 and the 12-50 and have always loved it's light, compact versatility. I think it performs very well and it's qualities make it perfect for a travel telephoto zoom. I think it's underrated. Thanks!

    1. It is underrated indeed! Ahhh I can see why it is a good travel lens.

  2. Hello Robin! Greetings from Poland! I have a 40-150 4-5,6R and it's funny, well optically lens. I perform by this lens a dog's and birds photos and after some part of "Lightrooming" I am happy for the final effects. And finally...I bought that lens for 70$...
    I have too 9 mm fisheye 8.0 (thanks for your review!It's a good, good optically, funny "toy lens" but...very usefeull), 14-42IIR and Panasonic 20 1.7.
    Unfortunatly I don't use usually KIT zoom 14-42...I want to buy a little wider lens(example 12mm or wider) but system lens are very expensive. 9-18- good but expensive, 12 2.0...urgh! I think about good reviewed Samyang 12 2.0(manual) or...12-50 3.5-6.3. But after reading and watch of many review this lens is'nt the sharpnesst one on wide end:( What do you reccomend?

    1. I think the 12-50mm lens is a superb choice. Yes, it is not that sharp, the 1442mm EZ is slightly better overall in image quality. However, you gain 12mm wide angle, you get weather sealing, and also a very impressive MACRO mode! I am quite happy with 12-50mm lens.

    2. Robin, Honestly I don't plann to use weather sealed body and macro function is only a little +(i am not a macro photography fan). I will use lens especially in 12mm to lanscapes photography then I want a good sharpness in centre and acceptable in corners. Maybe you can test a KIT product of...Panasonic- 12-32 3,5-5,6. It's small and light(idea of m4/3) and after reads and watch of few reviews- it's have a batter optical performance than a 14-42/14-45/12-50 zooms. It is very interesting lens and in my "wishlist" it in 1st place now. In Poland I can buy second hand for 120-150$.

    3. I have tried the 12-32mm lens before, and believe me i doubt it is better than Olympus 1442mm kit lens. But then again, it is a good lens and I am sure you won't be disappointed with it.

  3. I was torn between this lens and the Panasonic 35-100 f4-5.6 recently.
    Went for the Panasonic for better build (metal mount) and its much smaller form factor.
    Still wonder if I should have saved cash with the Olympus lens though.
    By the way do you really like the supplied om strap you are using?

    1. I have no experience with that panasonic 35-100mm! Though I would have opted for Olympus, due to the longer tele end of 150mm (it does make a difference in some situations)
      Nope, I do not like the supplied strap. Looking for a new one soon.

    2. Glad to hear the strap is not liked, removed my one for a paracord woven wrist strap, which is really nice.

    3. I wouldnt go for a wrist strap, as my shooting style requires changing lenses, which will be inconvenient.

    4. Hi Robin, I don't like neck straps and have gone over entirely to an OpTech utility sling strap. It's like the Black Rapid in concept, but more versatile as well as being less expensive. More than strong enough for an M43 camera. I have the heavier Utility Sling Strap because I used to use it with a Canon 7D. This one is better suited to mirrorless.

      I even clip lens pouches to the sling so I can travel light yet have an extra lens or flash handy. Much more comfortable than a neck strap.

    5. Dear DaMacGuy, your OpTech utility sling strap seems a very interesting alternative, thanks for sharing.
      I went for this, instead, because I love the freedom of using my E-M10 with one hand only:

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  5. Robin,
    It has been 1 year and a half since you did a photo walk in KL bird park.
    I was extremely thankful that day happened.
    For it was the day you brought some of this lens for test.
    I Immediately fell in love with what it can do and how light it is.
    A saved up and bought my copy after a month.
    Since then I have captured great memories with it.
    We should promote this lens more. Those who own one, almost always love it.
    And feel that this lens is under rated. However Every chance I can get, I always recommend this lens.
    I can easily say this lens and the 45mm 1.8 spend more time in my body.
    I simply love the focal length.

    1. Thanks for coming to our events Robert, it was always a pleasure seeing you around. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for spreading the good news about the 40-150mm R lens! Indeed it is underrated and deserves more mention.

  6. Hello Robin! Great photos, again! Did you have noise filter off or low with those?

    1. Hey Esa,
      Yes, noise filter was set to OFF.

  7. Hi Robin,

    Appreciate your thorough and concise reviews. And, another great set of photos.

    For birding shots I used Canon DSLR gear for some time before down-sizing to my EM5 a couple of years ago. If you and/or your readers are interested my recent blog post shares my recent "field" experience with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO.

    Thank you for your inspiration photography.

    1. Thanks for sharing your blog and photos and glad that you like the new 40-150mm F2.8 PRO! And those bird photos look awesome!

  8. Hi Robin, very nice pictures! I do have this lens, and use it for landscape and wild fauna. I find it excellent especially in view of the fact that I have to carry all my equipment in my backpack for many hours when I go to the mountainside. It is fantastic how little my present photographic equipment weights! I bring with me my e-pm1, 14-42 kit lens, 40-150 and w-con wide converter and I have with me focal lengths from 22 mm to 300 mm (equivalent) in less than a kg! Add a spare battery, a couple of filters and that's it. For this type of shooting high aperture is not required, and the optical quality is excellent (to me).

    1. The key advantage of Olympus Micro Four Thirds, having plenty of coverage in small footprint and still weighing light!

  9. I didn't have to read all the text to know the praise. The images did all the talking. This is a great lens and a bargain.

  10. I have had the lens since traveling to Colorado in October this year. I only paid $119 and believe it is certainly well worth it. Your pictures are more interesting than those I shot - well the birds seemed to know you and pose so perfectly. I don't have a bird park but I do shoot food for books so I think I'll try it out on some veggie burgers cooked not as burgers but as a vegetarian roast for the holidays. Then update my website: eBook with 31 burgers, vegetarian, and vegan and gluten free optins. Thanks for the review and amazed at shots you took at 1/20 sec. I have EM1 and OMD-10
    Love your site... hope you do review on new firmnware update after holidays.

  11. Hi Robin, that's a great review with splendid images. Congratulations.
    I own a EPL-3 camera and a few lenses:14-42 mm II R kit lens, 45 mm 1.8 and 40-150 mm R. But, I'm sad because the 40-150 lens does not working properly now; first all I didn't get focus with it, auto or manual mode, and finally I don't get any image from it, the camera screen remains completely black. The electric contacts look in good shape. I have tested the camera with the another lenses and all is working fine. Can you advise me about this problem? Thank you. Jairo Millen

    1. ...mine did the same. Sent it to Oly repairs in Sydney. Lens was out of date warranty . They kindly fixed it free of charge in 5 days return. Good service.

  12. Hi Jairo!

    I had similar troubles with the 60mm Macro. And different effects (fresh charged but shows empty) but same reason with all my batteries. Try to clean the contacts of the lens with a humid cloth. DON'T USE ANYTHING AGRESSIVE! It could change the surface of the contacts and destroy the contacts.

    Anyway, for me it solved the problem and it is now part of my routine, something like once a month, if I'm a lot in dirty environement (just now in Patagonia there's a lot of volcanic ashes) I even clean more.

    Hope it helps you.


    1. Andy,
      Thank you. I will try to clean the contacts according your suggestion and I hope that fix the problem.
      Enjoy Patagonia and its impressive landscapes!


  13. With the current fashion for gazillion dollar super-fast lenses made from unobtanium it's great to see a review of a more humble lens. On a trip to India the year before last I wanted to travel light so I took this lens as my only longer-than-standard focal length option. I was absolutely delighted with the quality of the images that it delivered. Thanks, Robin, for making others aware of this lens!

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  16. Robin, These are absolutely beautiful photos. I have this lens and like it very much, especially as I got it on sale for half price. What is your secret to getting such vivid colors and sharpness.

  17. Hi Robin, I have just upgraded from a point and shoot camera to an omd em10 with both the 14-42mm and 40-150mm kit lenses, being so new to photography in having to change lenses can I ask a silly question ..... do I use the 14-42mm lens for everyday/holiday photos and the 40-150mm lens for landscape and distance photos? I have found your blogs to be so interesting and am having fun playing with my new camera

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  19. I have the 2,8 and gave my son this lens from a kit.

    While not matching the 2,8 lens, this lens is sharper than it has any RIGHT to be :)