The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R ($199.99 direct) is one of the less expensive lenses you can attach to your Micro Four Thirds camera. It’s designed to complement the entry-level M.Zuiko 14-42mm zoom that ships with Olympus PEN bodies like the E-PL5. It gives you the telephoto reach that the standard kit zoom can’t manage, covering an 80-300mm field of view in terms of traditional 35mm photography. It doesn’t have an ambitious aperture, and it’s not as sharp from edge to edge as more expensive lenses, but it performs well in good light, bringing distant objects into clear view.
The lens is light and compact when you consider its focal range. It measures 3.3 by 2.5 inches (HD), weighs just 6.7 ounces, and supports 58mm filters. The front element doesn’t rotate when zooming or focusing, so using a polarizing filter is not an issue, but the lens does double in height when zoomed to the 150mm position. The barrel is plastic, with a large textured zoom ring and a narrower manual focus ring. There’s no optical stabilization, but that’s only a concern if you want to pair the lens with a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera; Olympus bodies have built-in stabilization.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness 40-150mm when paired wth the OM-D E-M1. At 40mm f/4 it manages a center-weighted score of 1,746 lines per picture height, which is just a smidge shy of the 1,800 lines we used to qualify an image as acceptably sharp. Edge performance is weak here at just 1,233 lines. Stopping down to f/5.6 improves the performance; it scores 2,047 lines there, with edges that approach a more respectable 1,600 lines. If the light allows for it, you’ll want to shoot at f/8 for the sharpest results. You get 2,281 lines across the frame, with edges that cross the 1,900-line mark. Barrel distortion is just barely a concern here. The lens exhibits 1.1 percent, which won’t be noticeable in most situations, and can be easily be corrected for in Lightroom or similar software when perfectly straight lines are a requirement.
The lens sharpens as you zoom to 70mm. The maximum aperture here is f/4.6, and the Imatest score is 2,425 lines, with edges that top 1,800 lines and minimal distortion. That performance carries over to 100mm f/5; the sharpness score is 2,300 lines there with sharp edges. But there’s a bit of a drop at 150mm. The aperture narrows to f/5.6 and the sharpness drops to 1,891 lines. Edge performance at 150mm is weak at just 1,396 lines. Stopping down to f/8 improves the overall score to just over 1,900 lines, but edges improve considerably—the 1,558-line score is still on the soft side, so you’ll want to avoid framing your subject at the extreme edges of the frame when you’re zoomed all the way in.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R doesn’t capture as much light as more expensive lenses, and its performance suffers a bit at its widest angle and its telephoto extreme. But it delivers solid performance through the rest of its zoom range. Its aperture isn’t that wide, so the lens is best used in ample light; you’ll need to increases your camera’s ISO in order to get a sharp shot in dim light. But at $200 it’s a good value, especially if you’re willing to work within its limitations.
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