Now we are going to look at the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 Pro lens. From here on out called the 2.8. In the first part of this review we looked at its little sibling, the 5.6 lens. Now we’ll examine just the Pro lens. In part 3 I will show some direct comparisons of images.
The 2.8 is the bread-and-butter pro zoom. This is the focal range that pays the bills for a lot of professionals. The “70-200” lens has been the staple lens for wedding, portrait, sports, event, news, and close wild life photographers for years. A zoom in this range is just useful. Plain and simple. With a fast aperture, it lends itself to so many applications. Everyone has seen these lenses, and it is usually the lens everyone associates hanging off a camera when you see a “big white lens.” Olympus has taken this concept and upgraded us a bit. They gave us a “70-300” equivalent focal length while keeping the fast F/2.8 aperture. The Pro build quality, weather sealing, manual focus clutch, and an internal zooming finish this lens off nicely. Internal zooming means this lens does not extend when you zoom. It is always the same size. Very nice. The lens hood also has a neat trick to it…you turn a ring on it and it slides backwards over the lens to retract. You just push it forward to re-engage it. This is much faster than twisting it off and reversing. The only problem is the lens has a VERY complicated design utilizing multiple ball bearings, and spring like pieces…and has been known to explode in to a million pieces when you least need it to. Just being honest. I’ve discussed this before, so now is not the time…but we can explore that later in more detail and how to prevent this from happening. It’s an awesome design overall. I really don’t need to say much about this lens’ build… if you know the 12-40 Pro…this lens is the 12-40 but 40-150. I feel they are the same lens almost. They go together as a set perfectly and the look and rendering of images is virtually identical to my eyes. The zoom ring and focus feels similar too.
The 2.8 is large when compared to most M43 lenses. The lens is actually very similar in size to a Canon 70-200 F/4 or similar. Only difference is we have F/2.8 and a reach equivalent to 300mm. So…yeah I’ll take the size. In reality, the lens is not overwhelmingly large and quite comfortable to use. Note however, the lens mounts on these cameras and lenses are small. Holding the camera and lens only from the camera grip is tiring. You will be better off holding the whole kit from the lens. It makes sense when holding it. It also relieves any stress from the mount. Especially if you have the tele-converter attached. More on that in a bonus part 4 of this review. I can hand hold this lens all day. Often if I am not going to be using a tripod, I just take the lens collar and foot off completely. It makes hand holding a lot nicer and more secure. Then again, you can always rotate it up and out of the way and then use it as a handle to carry the lens and camera. I do that often too.
With the lens hood on, and especially retracted, the 2.8 is quite a bit larger in diameter than the other lenses. If you have the lens foot on, then this takes some serious space in a bag. Do not underestimate this. It will be the largest object by far in your bag. 7″ high by 5″ wide or so. Let’s put those numbers into perspective. This lens will take the same room in your bag as a Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX with a small prime or pancake lens attached. No, you won’t be putting this in your pocket…jacket pocket, or vest pocket. Then again, if you leave the hood and lens foot off, it will definitely be slimmer and smaller and fit in a vest pocket for instance. It will also take up much less space in a bag.
The 2.8 is nice and weather sealed. I can certainly attest to that. It may not look it from the photo…but the camera was soaked. The lens had no issues whatsoever. Also take notice in this photo the lens foot. I have added a Really Right Stuff lens plate to the foot. This is not necessary on the Olympus 300 Pro since they made the foot arca-swiss compatible. The 2.8 is not however, so an added plate is necessary. Also take note…below the foot I have a direction-changer clamp. This lets me keep the lens plate facing the correct orientation for my panoramic setup. I normally would have had to turn the camera, but the direction changing clamp allows me to keep it clamped in the proper direction. It’s an extra piece, but everything is still aligned and very solid. The ability to make some amazing panoramas like this is worth the extra bit of kit.
Let’s look at some images and I will comment a bit on how the lens performs in the real world.
This lens naturally finds itself in the event space. School plays, conferences, theater, musical performances, etc… Being able to zoom in an isolate your subject is great. Generally lights are not bright in these events so the fast aperture is nice. I don’t like to over flash when shooting events. I will only use flash to fill or raise the ambient if I cannot get a solid exposure at f/2.8, 1/125, at 5000 ISO. If its darker than that I use lights…but otherwise I can shoot this lens at 1/125 with the IBIS at 150mm and get perfectly sharp images hand held. Subject isolation and bokeh is pleasing. The lens is very comfortable to use for extended periods of time in these scenarios.
Telephotos used as nature lenses are great. I love compressing backgrounds and foregrounds with this lens. This shot is a great example. It was a freezing day and this tree seemed to be the last with leaves on it. It just glowed golden among the bare surrounding trees. Even pushing the white balance colder the vibrant yellows remain. The detail and color this lens captures is impressive.
I have actually been using this lens a lot for my product clients. I never imagined I would use such a long telephoto for products but I find I like it more and more. Especially since this lens can focus so close. Lets talk about that for a second as well. This lens can focus as close as 2.3 feet. That is insanely close at these focal lengths. Most other lenses like this stop at around 4 feet or so. If you were to shoot a small subject at minimum focus distance with the 12-40 at 40mm and the same object at 150mm minimum focus distance with this lens… you would get the same image roughly. Yes you heard that correct. I actually have comparison images of this somewhere in my archive from when I first bought the lens. I was so amazed. This makes the lens amazingly useful for products as well as nature shooting. Try that with any other long telephoto! It really lets you bring out details and features on subjects in an impressive way without having to switch over to another lens or macro. Though this is certainly not a macro lens… it does a great job pretending.
Note the smooth bokeh in the background in this shot and the following. The facial detail is great too. I love the rendering of this lens.
Take note of the mosquito above the bird’s head. On the 100% you can see detail on the little guy! I didn’t even notice it when taking the image.
Here is a panorama that was about 8 shots or so. The lens is very even across the frame and vignetting is hardly worth discussing. This makes panoramas even better since you don’t have to worry about that in sky sections.
These previous two images are at 1/30th of a second at F/2.8, 1600 ISO at 150mm. I got the motion blur I wanted in the hands, but the rest of the image was sharp. That means I hand held a 300mm equivalent focal length at 1/30th of a second. Read that statement again. I normally couldn’t hand hold a 300 F/2.8 on a Canon period…but if I flexed my muscles and tried…I would need at least 1/500 of a second. I know because i’ve done that before. 1/30th of a second!!!! In body stabilization is amazing…but still…being able to solidly hold the lens helps. This lens lets you shoot in ways you are not accustomed to with telephotos in this range. You get spoiled very fast. And that is what I love about Olympus…I can use the gear and shoot in ways I normally wouldn’t be able to. I can just keep shooting and be creative and pass usual limits and still get the shots.
Here is another shot I just love. I pushed the surround darker to really focus on the feathers. The light was just perfect that day and I felt this was a studio capture. Totally wasn’t. Quick handheld grab. The detail is remarkable.
These last three shots are close ups of ice. I love the contrast between the soft background and the hard details rendered in the subjects. I found even though this is a telephoto, I find myself using it at its closest focal distance all the time at 150mm. It really opens up some interesting possibilities.
I have so many images I can show of this lens, but I will limit it to this for now. I will have some more to show with the teleconverter. I use this lens every day pretty much. It is now my go to lens for professional portraits and often for products as well. I make no attempt to hide how much I love this lens. I will also not sugar coat it…it is a pain in the rear to carry around if you want to go anywhere light and compact. Is it worth it? It’s not a cheap lens either. Just how much better can this lens be over the 5.6? I will answer these questions and really see if there is a material difference in the final part of this series. I was surprised, that’s for sure. I think you will be too. I will also lay down what I feel are the true strengths and uses for these two lenses.