Sunday, March 1, 2015

The New Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO Lens Revew

Looks like our work with the Olympus gear keeps increasing!

For those who may not be aware, I had one of my images taken with Olympus gear used in an email advertisement and that same image may potentially be used in print ad campaigns.  Given this, I had some talks with Olympus America (a great crew of people over there) and they gave me a great deal on the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

Out of all the zooms for Olympus, this is the one that I had most interest in using.  For the wider to medium focal lengths, the primes seem to fit the bill quite nicely.  

I have coverage of the Arnold Classic coming up soon and this year decided with the acquisition of the Olympus gear that I would try to shoot it Olympus only.

Last year I shot the Arnold with Nikon, using the 24 and 50 primes and the 80-200/2.8 zoom.  We knew we would need a fast longer zoom, so we started looking.  The 40-150/4-5.6 and 75-300/4.8-5.7 we already had would be too slow, so the 40-150/2.8 seemed like the perfect choice.

Here are some sample images that will show the sizes of different 135 lenses versus the m43 40-150/2.8 PRO.  Please forgive the crappy cellphone captures of the images.  :D

Left to right:
Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC, Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO, Nikon 80-200/2.8D
No lens hoods
Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 extends when zoomed.  Olympus does not. The Tamron would not stay extended sitting in this position.
Tamron 70-300 and Olympus with the hood added on.
Before shooting any major events, I always like to test out new equipment.  So first outing, took the lens to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Remember that I don't do charts and pixel peeping.  I review a lens based on what it is capable of providing me as an end result.  Keep that in mind when reading further.

Some notes:
I did not get the chance to shoot this lens with the newest firmware on the OM-D EM-1.  It was still version 2.2.  A lot of the habitats have glassed in viewing areas.  While better than fences in some instances, they tend to be very dirty and can degrade final image quality.

Image Quality
I can't really find a lot of fault with the IQ at any aperture or any focal length.  You have your normal IQ drop off at f/11 and above due to diffraction, but beyond that, I find it stellar.

The bokeh is also really nice and smooth.

I think you can see from the sample images above, that shot wide open and in the challenging conditions, this lens is fantastic in the IQ department.
Nanuq and Aurora flirting
1/1600, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 46mm
First impression was that it feels an awful lot like shooting with the Nikon 80-200/2.8, but without the bulk.  

The zoom ring is smooth and dampened.  It is a little stiffer than the 80-200, which I am able to change the focal length with one finger.  The Olympus required a solid grip and turn, but you definitely will not move it accidentally.

The focus ring is smooth and moves from one point to the other very quickly.  I like the AF/MF clutch as well for those times when you want to quickly switch over to MF.  No menu diving and you get the added bonus of snap focusing.  For those curious, the MF ring does have hard stops at either end.

Mexican Wolves playing in the snow
1/2000, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 64mm
Tripod Ring
The tripod ring is convenient as it can be removed if you don't need it.  What I like is the ability to rotate the ring all the way around the  lens, so you can get it out of the way when you are shooting with it handheld.  It also feels very stable, so should be solid when used on tripods.

Aurora the polar bear
1/1600, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 150mm
Compared to other m43 lenses, this one is on the heavy side.  Compared to an APS-C or 135 equivalent f/2.8 lens, it is down right small and light.

Humbolt Penguins
1/1250, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 82mm (cropped)
Auto Focus Speed
Single point AF is lightning fast in all but the poorest of light.  Even in poor light, though it is slow, but tends to hit the mark.  There is some hunting, but only when the lighting is so dark it is hard to see your target with the naked eye.
Continuous AF worked much better than expected, even given shooting through glass, which was our first shooting experience.  With the EM1 firmware at 2.2, a DSLR is still going to out focus it.  Once we get a chance to run it with the 3.0 firmware, we will let you know if there is a definite difference and what those differences are.

As it stands, the AF is so good and quick that you can hit most sport shots with just that.  CF was used without the tracking option and it was adequate for use in non-mission critical uses(again, with the 2.2 firmware).  There were some missed sequences, but given the shooting conditions, I'm not sure if the misses were the lens, my lack of experience using the m43 C-AF systems or the dirty glass I was shooting through.  If there is any deficiency that we find we will report it.

AF capable of keeping up with these running Mexican Wolves
1/3200, f/2.8, ISO 800 @ 150mm(heavily cropped as well)
Lens Hood
I like the fact that the lens hood can be retracted with a twist of the ring.  It stays locked in the deployed position until you use the ring.  I wish it did the same when retracted.  There were times just pulling the lens out of the bag that the hood would deploy.  That is just me being nitpicky, though.

So far, just from this one day of shooting and seeing the results, I am sold on the capability of this lens.  It is sharp, handles well, everything is in a great place and the AF performance is top notch.  I'm not sure if Olympus could have made a better lens.

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