The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R lens is the definite budget telephoto offering for Olympus in the micro four-thirds format. As it is succinctly described on the Olympus website, this is a “compact and affordable telephoto lens”. This the lowest cost telephoto lens offered for micro four-thirds by any current manufacturer. As a landscape photographer that shoots at large apertures, often on a tripod, and values lightweight and small gear, this is actually my go-to telephoto when shooting micro four-thirds.
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R Specifications
- Minimum Aperture: f/22
- Maximum Aperture: f/4
- Format: Micro Four-Thirds
- Field of view: 30°-8.2°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 2.95 ft (90 cm)
- Elements/Groups: 13/10
- Aperture Blades: 7
- Weight: 6.70 oz (190 g)
- Approximate Dimensions: 2.5 x 3.27 in (6.35 x 8.31 cm)
- Filter size: 58mm
The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R lens is a budget grade telephoto zoom designed specifically for micro four-thirds. This is the upgraded “R” version of the lens which is cosmetically a bit more attractive than the original, and has upgraded autofocus technology, specifically to improve focusing while shooting video.
Accounting for the micro four-thirds 2x crop factor, this has the full-frame equivalent of a 80-300mm field of view.
Featuring a variable maximum aperture ranging from f/4 to f/5.6 depending on the focal length, this is not a fast lens, and therefore will not perform well if attempting shoot handheld in low light.
This is not intended to be a professional grade lens, although professional quality results can be achieved if the lens is used within the bounds of its limitations. As such, this lens will be reviewed those qualities in mind.
What I Like!
Small Size and Weight
The true beauty of this lens is it’s small size and light weight. It’s not as tiny some of the prime, pancake, or kit lens offered for micro four-thirds, but it is definitely small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. On smaller micro four-thirds bodies, it may feel a bit front heavy, yet is not nearly as unbalanced as strapping on a typically large telephoto lens.
Weighing in at a mere 6.7 0z / 190 g, this is a lens that can easily stow in a camera bag seemingly unnoticed. I’ve literally had it in a bag with only an Olympus OM-D E-M10 body and swore that the bag was empty. Considering that this lens gets up 300mm full-frame equivalent zoom range, this is indeed a very small weight penalty to pay to have a long focal length in your back pocket.
For such a cheap lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R can achieve reasonably sharp images if used correctly.
First off, it’s good idea to use the lens stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/8. When wide open, the edges of the image tend to be on the soft side. Even stopped down, the edges won’t be tack sharp, but a little more acceptable. In the image center, where it really matters, this lens exhibits nearly excellent sharpness from 60-100mm.
And yes, the sweet spot for this lens is the focal lengths between 60-100mm. Once you zoom in or out from this range, the image sharpness deteriorates a bit. For my purposes, I have found the sharpness outside of the sweet spot to still be acceptable, but it is beneficial to be aware of this limitation. If you can “foot zoom” and frame your desired composition while shooting in the 60-100mm range, you can ensure that your photos come out a bit sharper.
Working within these bounds, professional quality images of reasonable sharpness are in fact achievable.
Long Focal Length
Once again, this lens has a full-frame equivalent focal range of 80-300mm. Most landscape photographers are comfortable with a 200mm focal max (full frame), and this lens reaches an extra 33% farther. While the sharpness drops a bit once you zoom past the lens’ 100mm (200mm full frame) mark, it sure is handy to have that extra reach, especially in a small package.
While the retail pricing for this lens is modest, getting it as in a kit, or on sale is definitely the way to go. Doing so cuts the price of this by a quarter, or even in half if you wait for the best sales. The M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R is often offered in a kit, such as this one with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and the M.Zuiko 14-42mm II R. It’s a screaming deal! Check out that bundle here.
And the dirty secret is that if you are a landscape photographer that shoots stopped down and on a tripod when in low light, you can get professional quality images out of both of these lens, plus the small but feature-packed E-M10 II body all for a reasonable price. If you are doing true pro quality work, upgrading to true pro grade gear will be inevitable, but this little system is capable of producing impressive images regardless.
What I Dislike!
Extended Barrel When Zooming
To be honest, it’s hard to be too hard on a lens priced this cheap, but I do have one real annoyance with this lens. As you zoom in, the barrel extends to an obnoxious degree, making the lens nearly twice as long as its packed size. While this is not an uncommon characteristic in a cheap telephoto lens, it definitely looks goofy. I understand there are limitations when designing telephoto lens in a small package, but I personally would be willing to take on a slightly larger lens for the trade-off of lens barrel that does not extend so far.
What I’m Neutral About
There other attributes to this lens that, given the price point, I see as neither positives or negatives, just factors that should be considered before purchasing this lens.
This lens is all plastic. Given the cost, that is not surprising, either. And while you definitely can’t drop this lens off a cliff and expect it to survive, the build quality is quite reasonable. Despite being all plastic, it is put together well, has a well-dampened focus ring, and zooms in and out with acceptable ease. It does feel a little rough when zooming, but is still within reason given the price of the lens.
Slow, Variable Aperture
If you’re looking for a fast aperture lens, you won’t find it here. Of course, if you are trying to find a fast aperture telephoto lens in this price range, your search will undoubtedly come up empty. For a lens of this price point, a variable aperture of the “slow” variety is standard. This lens has an aperture range of f/4-5.6, which is typical. While this might not work well for shooting video, or handholding in low light, the slow aperture is just fine if shooting landscapes via a tripod. The fact, you can credit the fact that this is a slow, variable aperture lens as a key reason why this lens is so small and portable. If you want faster and fixed, you also pay the price in size and weight.
The Bottom Line
The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-4.5 R lens is a definite budget-grade telephoto lens that can be coaxed into producing great photos. For novice photographers, it’s a great starter telephoto that will mostly get the job done. I also suggest it for landscape photographers that hike a lot and need a small telephoto zoom to throw in the bag. It can be a life-saver when you need it, and you won’t lugging around a huge fast aperture lens that weighs too much and takes up too much room. Use it correctly, and it might just blow you away.
Most pros will turn their nose up at this lens. And rightfully so if you need a fast aperture or excellent edge to edge sharpness at every focal length. However, I think the value of a small, portable lens can be of much more use than a fast aperture for a great many photographers.
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