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Date: 06/10/2014 | By: Mathieu

Olympus ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro and MC-14 Teleconverter – First impressions, images and video samples

m.zuiko 40-150mm review

Olympus ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro and MC-14 Teleconverter – First impressions, images and video samples

Update: check out our complete review about the 40-150mm Pro!

After two hands-on videos, we can finally share a first impressions from the field about the highly anticipated 40-150mm PRO zoom lens. We received a sample to test a few days ago and I used it the very same night for a contemporary dance show. Then, the day after we paid a visit to the Stork and Anatidae Wildlife Center in Racconigi near Turin. In between, some pictures taken for random jobs allowed me to gather together some thoughts about the new telephoto zoom.

Since I can keep it for another week and a half, I will share with you my thoughts from the first days of use. Just as a reminder, the lens covers the equivalent focal length of 80-300mm in 35mm format, is weather and freeze proof, and has a new dual linear focus motor. The MC-14 is a 1.4x teleconverter (112-420mm), the first designed for a MFT lens.

m-zuiko-40-150mm-2

  • The build quality is fantastic: everything you would expect from a lens labeled as “professional”.
  • Don’t be fooled by the hood and the tripod mount. Yes, it is the biggest MFT zoom lens but it is still compact for what it does. I am using it on purpose without the OM-D E-M1 battery grip to see how comfortable it is and so far I have no complaints.
  • It is sharp at f/2.8 and capable of rendering a very nice bokeh depending on the focal length used, the distance from the subject and the distance of the background from the subject.
  • Autofocus is really fast on the E-M1 and almost totally silent. You need to put your ear near to the lens to hear the focus motor. In low light, it has more difficulty at the longest focal lengths.
  • MC-14: the fastest aperture is f/4 so you lose one stop. At f/4, it seems slightly softer than at f/2.8 without the teleconverter, but becomes sharper from f/5.6. The autofocus performs the same but you can get some back and forth behaviour at the longest focal length.


Impressions 01: wildlife

Due to the nature of the lens and the new MC-14, I was really curious to test the lens in a wildlife environment to see how well the E-M1 plus lens combo could work for this genre of photography. I am not a wildlife photographer but the layout of the park made it really easy to photograph the birds. There were many different kinds of birds, including very small ones. To be able to shoot some of them, you might need an even longer lens and more importantly, vast knowledge about their behaviour. In this field, I am a rookie really.

The first thing I noticed for sure was that the 5-axis stabilisation reaches its limits really quickly, especially with the MC-14, which of course makes sense since you are shooting at 400mm (equivalent). Due to the cloudy day, I almost always had to keep a fast aperture and even raise the ISO a little when in the shade.

Update: after running some low shutter speeds tests, I can say that the 5-axis stabilisation can work really well and that the results can be altered by either the photographer’s position or some shutter shock. More about this in the final review to come.

All the pictures are full resolution JPGs converted from RAW files with minor adjustments. The first examples below were taken with the MC-14 teleconverter.

E-M1, 1/320, f/ 4/1, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/320, f/ 4, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 210mm
E-M1, 1/640, f/ 56/10, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/640, f/ 5.6, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 210mm
E-M1, 1/500, f/ 4/1, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/500, f/ 4, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 210mm

And below a couple of 100% crops.

, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/1600, f/ 4, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 100% Crop
, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/640, f/ 5.6, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 100% Crop
, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/400, f/ 4, ISO 200 – MC-14 – 100% Crop

Now we continue with a series of pictures taken without the MC-14, mainly at the fastest f/2.8 aperture.

E-M1, 1/200, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/200, f/ 2.8, ISO 200 – 130mm
E-M1, 1/160, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/160, f/ 2.8, ISO 200 – 150mm
E-M1, 1/800, f/ 28/10, ISO 400
E-M1, 1/800, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 150mm

You need faster shutter speeds to ensure sharpness and using a tripod is recommended. The lens can be very sharp at f/2.8 but the pictures can of course be more subject to micro shakes. See a couple of 100% crop examples below.

, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/160, f/ 2.8, ISO 200 – 100% Crop
, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/250, f/ 2.8, ISO 640 – 100% Crop
, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/800, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 100% Crop

Impressions 02: portraits

I took the occasion to shoot some portraits of Heather. The zoom range suggests it can be a very versatile lens for events, weddings, portraits and wildlife. Portrait photographers will certainly prefer the Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 or the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 also because an f/ 2.8 aperture might not look as nice on a MFT sensor. But if you take advantage of the 150mm, you can get really nice results and overall I really like the look and rendering of the lens.

E-M1, 1/100, f/ 28/10, ISO 400
E-M1, 1/100, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 97mm
E-M1, 1/200, f/ 28/10, ISO 400
E-M1, 1/200, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 150mm

Another interesting aspect is the minimum focussing distance of 70cm (maintained with the MC-14) throughout the entire zoom range. The eye close up below is not a crop!

E-M1, 1/200, f/ 28/10, ISO 400
E-M1, 1/200, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 150mm
E-M1, 1/320, f/ 28/10, ISO 400
E-M1, 1/320, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 150mm
, , f/ , ISO
E-M1, 1/320, f/ 2.8, ISO 400 – 100% Crop

Impressions 03: random work and low light

As I said before the lens can focus quickly and it does so even in low-light conditions depending on the situation and the camera’s capabilities of course. The contemporary dance show that I shot had worse lighting than usual and as a result, the E-M1 also had more trouble than usual. Especially at the longest focal length, the combination of fast movements and poor light on the front of the subjects produced some out-of-focus results. I also experienced the occasional back and forth movement of the lenses here as well, especially near 150mm. But overall my first impressions in low-light situations are positive. I cannot share lots of pictures yet but below you can find two samples.

E-M1, 1/160, f/ 28/10, ISO 6400
E-M1, 1/160, f/ 2.8, ISO 6400 – 55mm
E-M1, 1/100, f/ 28/10, ISO 1600
E-M1, 1/100, f/ 2.8, ISO 1600 – 70mm

Finally, here is a gallery of random pictures taken during the last few days for different events.

E-M1, 1/160, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M1, 1/160, f/ 2.8, ISO 200 – 64mm

Impressions 04: video shooting with the Panasonic GH4

At the Racconigi wildlife park I couldn’t resist shooting some 4K footage with this lens. I find it equally interesting for stills as for video and the addition of the MC-14 might be interesting for many filmmakers. I also tried the autofocus and with the GH4 in AF-C I has some issues with the camera not following the subject as it should. That said, I don’t have the latest GH4 firmware installed so I will reserve comments about it for the final review.

Update: with the latest firmware and more video tests, the lens works fine in AF-C with the GH4. See the video here.

Below you can see a short video that I edited. The images were shot in Cinema 4K at 24fps with the CineV-Like profile. It was edited and slightly colour graded with Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

 

Early conclusions

I think that the image samples speak for themselves. The 40-150mm PRO zoom lens can deliver impressive results in terms of sharpness and bokeh and proves to be a very versatile lens especially with the MC-14 teleconverter. There are many usages I can think of.

Certainly it is the biggest MFT lens ever designed for the system and while it is still small considering the focal length range, it is an unusual size for MFT shooters. I can fit it inside my camera bags without any issue so it isn’t a drastic change. But certainly depending on the kind of photography you do, you might wonder if it is really worth having a lens of this size, and more importantly, how much more it can give you in comparison to the Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8, whose size certainly represents the best of a MFT lens: high quality in a tiny package.

Check out our in-depth complete review about the 40-150mm Pro and our comparison with the Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8!


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Mathieu

    Bonjour Jean-Pierre, je n’ai pas testé l’objectif avec un follow focus mais la bague de mise au point est mécanique donc cela devrait bien marcher.

  • Jean-Pierre

    Bonjour Mathieu et merci beaucoup pour ce test !
    J’aurais besoin d’une précision en ce qui concerne la mise au point en mode manuel :
    est-ce que la bague fonctionne comme celle mécanique des vieux objos
    en d’autres termes et faisant plutôt de la vidéo, pourrais-je utiliser avec cet objectif un follow-focus avec hard stops programmés ?

    Merci pour la réponse et pardon d’écrire en français…
    Jean-Pierre

  • http://alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog Alpha Whiskey Photography
  • http://www.snowhenge.net David Mantripp

    I’d love to see this compared to the 4/3 ZD 50-200SWD. Seems about the same size….

  • Albert

    Complete (size) comparison:
    – Canon EOS 6D + Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
    – Olympus OMD E-M1 + Olympus M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
    – Panasonic Lumix DMC GH4 + Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 Asph.
    http://j.mp/1CXiovY

  • Mathieu

    Thanks. I think the lens can produce very pleasant bokeh, like the first pictures with the MC-14 and the first without shown in the articles. Of course you will most likely need to use the longest focal lengths or focus close to the subject to get the best results.

  • Albert

    You are misleading. I’m not talking about the Canon 80-200. See here http://j.mp/1u2YoGC.
    I’m comparing the Oly 40-150mm f.2.8 PRO to a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens that, it m43 terms is a 35-150mm (5 mm more excursion).
    – Equivalent DOF (in respective systems even if Canon is shallower at wide end)
    – The advantage of f2.8 light gathering is compensated by the larger FF sensor (= better ISO performance)
    – High quality (Canon L series Lens)
    – Comparable dimension (Canon is heavier, 1kg, but shorter, 2 cm less)

    If you want big stuff go SLR, MFT is not made for this.

  • http://ohm-image.net ohm image

    This is a great review. (Just linked to it.)

    I like that you use natural camera processing, good real-world subjects, and get down and dirty with the animals. What do you think of the bokeh? Some people call it ‘busy’.

    I’m looking forward to your next review.

  • wolfie

    Albert,
    Why compare a 40-150 constant f2.8 with a slow 80-200 f4-5.6? The point is that this is fast lens, so compare it with a f2.8 constant Canon that weighs 1.4 kg versus Zuiko 880 grams. As you have declared yourself to be a Panny-fanboy there is not much use discussing with you, but you are obviously trying to mislead people with bogus comparisons.

  • Mathieu

    That’s one way of putting it I suppose… 😀

  • Albert

    I will not buy it, for shure. This lens is for guys who suffer of “penis envy” versus FF cameras! 😉

  • Mathieu

    You don’t have to buy it if you don’t need it :) Granted the lens is bigger than the usual MFT lenses, but no other MFT lens has the same characteristics in terms of focal length range, build quality and let’s not forget the optional MC-14 teleconverter.
    That being said, I don’t know myself if I will buy it or not after the review is complete. I am not sure if I need those extra 50mm, I am not a wildlife shooter and for my events work I always use the 75mm 1.8 when I need a telephoto and it is usually enough. But there are many other use I can think of and the size might push away amateurs and enthusiasts but not necessarily professionals.

  • Albert

    Well ok it is heavier, and an SLR (FF) body should be heavier than E-M1 (even with battery grip?).
    But the point is, Why do I need to go MFT and buy a lens big like a FF equivalent lens?
    I think a Canon L lens IS a good quality lens (bokeh, sharpness etc.). It has dust and water resistant sealing like Oly lens + is stabilized. And… it costs 50$ less (at B&H)! 😉

    If you know someone who can borrow you the Canon lens (and body) it should be interesting a side by side comparison of those two world. I’ll bet on the Canon as the winner!

  • Mathieu

    but that canon lens is heavier 😉 and while the DOF might be similar that doesn’t mean the bokeh or the quality of the lens will be the same.
    Certainly the Panasonic 35-100mm is a great competitor. I own it so I will do a comparison with both lenses very soon.

  • Albert

    This lens is way TOO big for an MFT camera, you can find smaller equivalent quality lenses even for FF SLR!
    This lens for example http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/732106-USA/Canon_4426B002_EF_70_300mm_f_4_5_6L_IS.html is 2cm shorter than Oly 40 – 150, and offer same FOV (on FF), shallower DOF at the wide end and similar price.
    So Oly PLEASE try something better next time!

    For a size comparison have a look at camera size: http://j.mp/1u2YoGC

    P.S. Pany 35 – 100 rules! 😉

  • Mathieu

    As shown in the article, I did get good pictures with these shutter speeds (1/400, 1/200, 1/100 etc.). The problem isn’t that the IS doesn’t work but that you have to be more careful than usual. It can be related to different things: I wasn’t stable enough myself or it is because this lens is bigger and heavier than other compact telephoto lens. The 5 axis stabilisation is great and this is one of the main reason I use the E-M1. I managed to get perfectly sharp images with very slow exposures (even at 1,5s with a wide angle of course). But that doesn’t mean that with the same shutter speed it will come out sharp all the time.

  • Ronnie

    I am thinking the IS problem is either your camera or bad technique. While I recently got my E-M1 I have no problem handholding it while using the 75-300 and getting sharp photos down to 1/400 (good keep rate below that even) while at 300mm. I also spent a year using my adapted Canon FD 400mm on my E-M5 and regularly used it handheld for sharp photos. I have also not heard anyone mention this while using the bigger 4/3 lenses on the E-M1.

  • Mathieu

    I will do more test regarding this but I think the 5-axis is more limited with very long focal lengths. I am not saying it didn’t work because as you can see from some image samples, I did use slower shutter speeds even without a tripod. But I wouldn’t count on it as I do with shorter focal lengths.

  • http://www.bobrockefeller.com Bob Rockefeller

    Mathieu,

    If that’s the necessary shutter speed, it would suggest that the in-body OIS is doing nothing. :( Is that a “win” for lens-based OIS?

    Bob

  • Mathieu

    Yes there are within the rule of thumb because I posted the best results :) But I had many shots slightly blurred because my shutter speed were too slow. Hand held I would say you need a shutter speed of at least 1/400 especially with the MC-14. Then I also shot in burst mode with slower shutter speeds, that usually helps. And I shot other pictures with the tripod which helps as well for slower speeds around 1/160 or 1/200.

  • http://www.bobrockefeller.com Bob Rockefeller

    You mentioned that the body OIS for the E-M1 was reaching it’s limits at the long end of the lens. Do you feel like it was past it’s limits, if you had to increase the ISO? I ask because the shutter speeds in the EXIF data where still within the rule of thumb (1/equivalent focal length).

  • Dharma Singh

    Thank you Mathieu for this first impressions, looking forward to a more definite one.

    Beginning next month I’m going to a workshop in Rotterdam [NL] get an experts explanation about the new Olympus Capture program and can try this lens, also on some life models.

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