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.
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
AUTOFOCUS SPEED & ACCURACY
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.
LENS TECHNICAL CONTROL (CA, DISTORTION, ETC)
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.
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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